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Titus’s Top 12 NCAA Power Rankings: Guess Who’s No. 1

A deep dive on the best teams in college basketball today.

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I can’t put a finger on it, but I’m more excited than usual for this season. Maybe it’s because Kentucky might go undefeated. Maybe it’s because Chris Obekpa is bringing back short shorts. Maybe it’s because Ben Howland is calling games for NBC Sports, which is the first step toward eventually getting Howland and Bill Walton to call a game together spend two hours insulting each other on air. Or maybe it’s just because college basketball is the greatest thing in the world and each season is better than the last (assuming you’re not a Boston College fan). Whatever it is, I couldn’t be more excited to watch the next 18 weeks unfold. As Jay Bilas would say, this isn’t going to be a good season; it’s going to be a GREAT season.

So let’s celebrate by cracking open the first power rankings of the year. SPOILER ALERT: Kentucky is included somewhere on this list.

12. North Carolina

If it weren’t already obvious, the secret is now out: North Carolina can’t shoot. This can be problematic, since shooting is generally how points are scored and scoring points is the goal of basketball. It can be even more problematic against teams like Butler, who play packed-in, physical defenses and dare opponents to make outside shots. That’s why I won’t overreact to Carolina’s loss to the Bulldogs. The Heels ran into a team whose strengths feed into their weaknesses. That doesn’t mean that the Heels suddenly stink. It means that Carolina had better hope it can avoid teams like Butler, Virginia, and Wisconsin when March rolls around.1


1.

To be fair, Butler out-rebounded Carolina by 17, and that’s inexcusable. When you have as much size as Carolina does, letting a team that plays only one guy taller than 6-foot-8 obliterate you on the boards is embarrassing.

The strange thing about this North Carolina team is that it appears to be built like a defensive juggernaut that plays grind-it-out basketball. The Heels have so much length and athleticism that they could have one of the best defenses in America. But instead of focusing on defense, Carolina insists on pushing the ball up the floor, trying to dunk, drawing fouls, and then throwing their free throws off the backboard. It goes against everything Roy Williams believes in, but I’d love to see North Carolina slow the game down and play physical defense to help alleviate their offensive struggles. Carolina could still push the ball in transition after stops and look for easy buckets. But why not play like a Tom Izzo team? Why not get nasty on defense, grab every rebound in sight, set vicious screens, and just sprinkle in some opportunistic transition basketball? That’s the style that seems to fit this Carolina roster. There’s no chance of it happening, but I would love to see Williams recognize this and stop trying to force a square peg into a round hole.

11. Kansas

Was the Kentucky game a wake-up call for Perry Ellis, or is he just doing what he always does: building up our hopes before crapping on them with an oh-fer game in a Kansas loss? The Jayhawks play Florida, Georgetown, and Utah in their next three, so we’ll know soon enough.

In the meantime, you have to hand it to Ellis for how he’s played since he was humiliated by Kentucky two weeks ago. Following that game, I wondered if a team led by Ellis could make a Final Four. I questioned whether Ellis was just destined to be a top-notch role player. In the four games since, Ellis has averaged 18.8 points and 7.5 rebounds, and Kansas has gone 4-0 with wins over Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Michigan State. Best of all, Ellis is playing great defense, which Kansas fans know is anything but a guarantee. Ellis vs. Branden Dawson was the matchup to watch in the Michigan State game, and Ellis dominated it on both ends.

Kansas isn’t there yet. Wayne Selden is learning exactly what the Jayhawks need him to do on the wing. Frank Mason is getting better at balancing his point guard duties of scoring and facilitating the offense. Cliff Alexander remains pretty raw. Kelly Oubre is more of a myth than an actual contributor at this point. And we don’t need to be reminded that Sviatoslav “The Ukrainmaker” Mykhailiuk is only 17, because he makes a few boneheaded plays every game that do the reminding for us. But Kansas is coming around after the Kentucky beatdown, and it should put up a serious fight in the Big 12.

10. San Diego State

chol-angelo-san-diego-stateKent C. Horner/Getty Images

Stop me if you’ve heard this before: San Diego State plays tough defense but struggles to score.

I once described Angelo “Cholberg” Chol as “the kind of guy who would show up to a street fight with nunchakus, psychotically wave them around to intimidate the opposing gang, and then accidentally knock out all of his guys and himself before the fight starts.” Cholberg is averaging 16.5 minutes per game for San Diego State this season. That’s really all you need to know about the Aztecs. If you put two TVs side by side, with one screen showing a rock fight and the other a San Diego State game, I’m not sure most people would be able to tell the difference.

Even so, Steve Fisher has another Aztecs team that should win about 25 games this season and another Mountain West title. In the past two weeks alone, the Aztecs beat Utah while holding Delon Wright to the worst game of his career, they beat a really good BYU team in Maui, they destroyed Pitt, and they played Arizona tough before coming up short (stop me if you’ve heard that before). As much as I like to make fun of the Aztecs offense, it should be noted that San Diego State has some talented offensive players. Winston Shepard would probably average 17 points per game if he played anywhere else; Aqeel Quinn proved against BYU that he can get hot in a hurry; Dwayne Polee has shown so many brilliant flashes in his career that one of these days he’s going to put it together and go nuts; and J.J. O’Brien is a great passer for his size. But defense will always be San Diego State’s priority, which works out well because they’re really freaking good at it.

By the way, a heads-up for everyone: San Diego State plays at Cincinnati on December 17. If you don’t have plans and you hate yourself, check that game out. First to 15 wins!

9. Gonzaga

Here we go again. Two years after the best team in Gonzaga history inspired phrases like “but how many games would they win in the Big Ten?” before ultimately flaming out in the NCAA tournament, this year’s Zags are inspiring buzz that they could be even better than the 2013 Bulldogs. Much like that Kelly Olynyk–led team, this Gonzaga squad is loaded with so many offensive weapons (the Zags could conceivably go 11-deep once their entire roster is healthy and eligible) that Mark Few will struggle to figure out how to get them all minutes. Kevin Pangos is a top-five point guard in college basketball, even though he looks like some guy your uncle works with who invited himself to your pickup game. Przemek Karnowski (who is Polish) and Domantas Sabonis (who is Lithuanian) are a nightmare tandem down low, and they’ll have a killer nickname once I convince the world to call them the “Low Bloc.”2 Gary Bell is a knock-down 3-point shooter who can also create off the dribble. Byron Wesley, a USC transfer, was a 1,000-point scorer before he even set foot on Gonzaga’s campus.


2.

All I want for Christmas is for one of the three nicknames I recently made up  the Low Bloc, “Little Balls” for Sam Cassell Jr., and “The Ukrainmaker” for Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk  to be used on air during a game.

And then there’s Kyle Wiltjer. You remember him from his two years at Kentucky, right? Here’s a shot of him celebrating the 2012 national championship to refresh your memory.

nation-of-domination-wwe

Well, the same guy who was better known for his “White Boy Academy” videos than anything he did on the court at Kentucky (except for this) now averages 16 points per game for a top-10 team. Here’s a sentence I bet you never thought you’d read: Kyle Wiltjer shot 26 times against an SEC team and his coach didn’t make him find his own ride back to campus. It’s almost unfair to think that Gonzaga has all the weapons they have AND they get the Wiltjer that was so highly regarded coming out of high school instead of the Wiltjer who was an afterthought at Kentucky.3


3.

By the end of this year, Wiltjer will have played on a “Could Kentucky beat [insert worst NBA team here]?” team and a “How many games would Gonzaga win if they had to play a Big Ten schedule?” team. He’s destined to become the nation’s ultimate authority on pointless college basketball debates.

Gonzaga’s big question mark, as usual, is defense. When Gonzaga played St. John’s on Friday, the Red Storm could’ve gotten any shot they wanted. Fortunately for the Zags, Steve Lavin has a team full of chuckers who are often happy to create their own terrible shots. Mark Few eventually dropped the man-to-man for a zone defense that worked well enough. But even then, Gonzaga’s zone looked like a Scott Drew zone, which is to say that some of the Zags thought they were playing in a 2-3, some thought they were in a 3-2, some thought they were still playing man-to-man, and some wondered why they should play defense at all since you don’t get points for stops.

Gonzaga has some decent individual defenders, including Pangos and Bell. But until the team can show consistent and coordinated effort on defense, it won’t matter if one or two guys can guard. Then again, with all the offensive firepower that Gonzaga has, it might not matter how good their defense is either.

8. Virginia

We can’t quite call Virginia the best defensive team in the country, because Kentucky and Louisville have length and athleticism that the Hoos can’t match. Virginia doesn’t have a great shot-blocker and it doesn’t force a ton of turnovers like you’d expect from an elite defensive team. But there’s no question that Virginia plays the most fundamentally sound defense in college basketball. What the Hoos lack in overwhelming physical ability, they more than make up for by being hard-nosed SOBs who are all on the same page. Their players thrive on great defense, they move their feet well, they never give up on plays, and they always seem to be in the right position. Running offense against Kentucky or Louisville is like driving through a tornado  it’s complete chaos, things are flying at you from all angles, and you’re probably crapping your pants as it’s happening. But if you keep your cool and get a little lucky, you can survive. Meanwhile, running offense against Virginia is like driving into a brick wall  you can stay where you are and be perfectly safe, but there’s only one way to get where you want, and that wall isn’t going anywhere.

It’s easy to see scores like “Virginia 45, Rutgers 26” and dismiss Virginia as a team that wins ugly. But what the Hoos do isn’t ugly. Ugly is that Memphis vs. Wichita State/Utah vs. San Diego State doubleheader from two weeks ago. Ugly is a Big Ten game where the refs swallow their whistles, Derrick Nix and Cody Zeller lean on each other until they start looking like two manatees trying to mate, and the game ends in an argument about Zeller’s balls. Playing defense that looks as if it were pulled from an instructional video is the opposite of ugly. Watch the first half of Virginia’s Friday game against La Salle or its second half against Rutgers and tell me that this isn’t the most beautiful defense you’ve seen all year. Virginia’s offense can be uninspiring, and I understand that its style of play isn’t for everyone. But winning with defense isn’t the same as winning ugly. Virginia is a legitimate national title contender with loads of talent and the soundest defense in America. Don’t get fooled into thinking it can win only by throwing gimmicks at opponents and mucking things up.

7. Villanova

Something bizarre is happening at Villanova and nobody is talking about it. Remember Tyler Ennis? Of course you do  Syracuse point guard, averaged more steals than turnovers as a freshman, went in the first round of the draft last summer. But do you remember his older brother, Dylan, who played at Villanova? If so, you probably just remember him as Tyler’s brother. He was in the Wildcats’ rotation, but if he hadn’t been related to one of the best point guards in the country, you probably wouldn’t have noticed him. Either way, Dylan had a solid career for Villanova before going undrafted last year.

Well, you’re never going to believe this, but apparently there’s a third Ennis brother who might be better than both Dylan and Tyler. Here’s where it gets crazy: The third brother plays for Villanova and HE’S ALSO NAMED DYLAN. How insane is that?!?! Why is nobody talking about how there are apparently two brothers with the exact same name who played the exact same position at the exact same school one year apart? This is probably my favori—

Wait, what?

The Dylan Ennis playing for Villanova right now is the same guy from last year? Stop. That’s impossible. I watched Villanova closely last season, and I assure you that last year’s Dylan Ennis could never have led Villanova in scoring and been the best shooter on the team. Last year’s Dylan Ennis scored 5.1 points per game. You’re telling me that someone who had eight blocks all last season is suddenly making plays like this?

ennis-dylan

That can’t possibly be true. Look, I just Googled Ennis’s name and it says that he …

Oh. You were serious. It really is the same guy?

Well, that’s somehow even more insane than there being a third Ennis brother with the same name. That means that Villanova is beating ranked teams with their seventh man (Ennis) and ninth man (Kris Jenkins) from last year’s team leading the way, while JayVaughn Pinkston and Darrun Hilliard aren’t even playing that well yet? Holy smokes. The Wildcats are going to be scary in March.

Halftime

vitale-dick-dukeStreeter Lecka/Getty Images

It’s halftime, which can mean only one thing: It’s time for Dick’s Degrees of Separation, the most mildly amusing Internet game involving college basketball! You know the drill: I give you the endpoint of a Dick Vitale tangent and you pick the path he took to get there. Let’s get down to business.

During Sunday’s Kansas–Michigan State game in Orlando, how did Dick Vitale and Dave O’Brien end up talking about Nebraska?

A. A graphic promoting an upcoming game between Syracuse and Michigan appears onscreen. Vitale uses it to discuss the job that John Beilein has done at Michigan. O’Brien says how Michigan vs. Michigan State has become an intense rivalry again, prompting Vitale to agree that the state of Michigan has great basketball these days. After a beat, O’Brien says we shouldn’t forget about Kansas, either, which has Kansas State and Wichita State to go along with the Jayhawks. Vitale then mentions how Kentucky and North Carolina aren’t too bad, either, before offering up his pick for the state that is most on the rise: Nebraska.

B. After showing a replay of Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk finishing a drive to the basket, Dave O’Brien mentions that the Ukrainmaker is only 17 years old and that he’s only going to get stronger. Vitale agrees and explains how weight training will affect the Ukrainmaker’s game. Speaking of weight training, Vitale continues, Kansas is currently looking for a new football coach, and Vitale knows just the guy  Will Muschamp. Vitale believes that Muschamp is going to be great wherever his next stop is, which prompts O’Brien to mention that Nebraska also needs a football coach.

C. O’Brien mentions that the game is being played at the Disney World resort, prompting Vitale to joke that no matter what happens in the game, both teams will be going to Disney World. He then recalls that his favorite “I’m going to Disney World!” declaration came from Trent Dilfer, when Dilfer won a Super Bowl for the Ravens. Vitale explains how much he likes Dilfer before asking O’Brien a trivia question: Who was drafted immediately before Dilfer in the 1994 NFL draft? When O’Brien comes up empty, Vitale reveals the answer: Trev Alberts from Nebraska.

6. Texas

Texas probably won’t be given much of a chance Friday against Kentucky. The Longhorns will be without Isaiah Taylor, and Kentucky is so good that you can’t help but wonder if the Wildcats could beat the Philadelph—

You get the idea. I wouldn’t bet on Texas, but the Horns should be able to test Kentucky. Texas plays great defense, and it’s one of the few teams in America with the size to match the Wildcats on the glass. The Horns also have big men who can stretch the floor, which will be huge against Kentucky. If Jonathan Holmes, Myles Turner, and Connor Lammert can pull Kentucky’s shot-blockers away from the rim, driving lanes will open up for Demarcus Holland and Javan Felix to attack the paint (and for Kendal Yancy to throw up that finesse garbage he usually tries instead of just powering to the basket).

As dominant as Kentucky has been, don’t forget that it’s shooting just 32 percent from the 3-point line this year. Texas played a lot of zone against UConn and had success doing so, which is why I hope that Rick Barnes incorporates plenty of zone into his defensive game plan for the Wildcats. It has become cliché to say this, but it’s still true: The best chance to beat Kentucky comes from making its young guys think and by daring them to consistently hit 3s. Texas needs to slow the game down and switch up defenses, but Barnes needs to make sure that whichever defense the Horns play, it stays compact.

If Texas can do this and sustain it for 40 minutes, and if the Longhorn big men can hit some 3s, Friday’s game could get interesting.

5. Louisville

I should’ve gone to bed at halftime of Louisville’s game with Ohio State on Tuesday night. I should’ve thrown in the towel after 20 minutes of watching the Buckeyes dribble off their shins, let passes slip through their hands, get their shots stuffed in their faces, and throw up contested nonsense from the 3-point line. That first half of Louisville is the stuff nightmares are made of. I honestly worried that Ohio State might dissolve its basketball program at halftime. I mean, check out Thad Matta’s reaction as he watched Louisville rip his team to shreds in the first half.

matta-thad

But I didn’t go to bed. I stayed up to watch Ohio State finally show some stones (and to watch referee Karl Hess call lane violations). In doing so, I saw a different side of Louisville. When Ohio State finally got used to the Cardinals’ pressure, the game became more of a half-court affair. And as is often the case with Louisville teams, the Cardinals became stagnant on offense and nowhere near as effective on defense. Terry Rozier wound up saving the day with some clutch shooting, and the Cardinals stretched their final margin of victory at the free throw line. But the weaknesses had already been exposed.

I’m now curious about how good Louisville can be if its press isn’t working. What happens when a team with disciplined guards can get the ball to the frontcourt and run the offense? What happens when easy transition buckets for the Cardinals are minimized? What happens when a team keeps Louisville off the offensive glass and the Cards can’t just chuck up shots and play volleyball on the backboard until they score? There’s a certain opponent 80 miles down the road from Louisville that should be able to answer these questions, which is why December 27 can’t get here soon enough.

4. Arizona

It’s amazing that Arizona has so many elderly fans, since I’d bet that anyone who’s cheered for the Wildcats for more than a year has endured at least 493 heart attacks. I’ve gotten so used to watching Arizona games come down to the wire that I almost get surprised when I turn on a game and see the Cats winning easily. Arizona is down 19 to Drexel? No biggie. They’ll find a way to win. Remember that stretch last season when Arizona beat Stanford by three, lost at Cal by two, beat Oregon by two, beat Oregon State by 22, lost by three in double overtime to Arizona State, and then beat Utah by four in overtime? If that happened to my team, I’d fill my bathtub with whiskey and just lie in it for days. Yet with Arizona, I don’t even bat an eye. This is why there’s no need for concern over Arizona’s two close wins to close out the Maui Invitational. It’s just business as usual.

That said, something does feel slightly off about Arizona’s offense this season. It seems fragmented, as if the individual parts aren’t working together smoothly without Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson. Think about what those guys meant for last year’s Wildcats. Gordon was an interior playmaker and a great passer from the post (something Arizona doesn’t really have right now). He also crashed the glass with tenacity. He wasn’t just a big guy who made back-to-basket post moves (Zeus “Zeus” Zeuszeuski), a pick-and-pop guy (Brandon Ashley), or a face-up-and-drive big man (Rondae Hollis-Jefferson). Gordon was the best parts of all of those guys blended into one athletic marvel who would occasionally knock down 3s and always jumped out of the gym (yet for some reason couldn’t make free throws). Losing Nick Johnson has created similar ripples. Arizona has facilitators (T.J. McConnell and Parker Jackson-Cartwright) and shooters (Gabe York and Elliott Pitts) on the perimeter, but not a player, like Johnson, who can do both.

Most of Arizona’s roster consists of guys whose games fit one-word labels like “shooter,” “passer,” “driver,” etc. Gordon and Johnson were more dynamic, and they gave Arizona’s offense much of its continuity last season. This is why Stanley Johnson will play such a huge role for Arizona. He’s the one guy who can be as versatile for the Cats as Gordon and Nick Johnson were. He’s talented enough to do everything on offense, which means he can fill the gaps with whatever Arizona needs from him each night. So far, Johnson has been great, and he seems to get better each game. I have a feeling he’s about to really break out, though, because he needs to if Arizona hopes to make a national title run.

3. Wisconsin

jackson-traevon-wisconsinMike McGinnis/Getty Images

Last year’s Wisconsin team was like a 16-year-old boy who wanted to make his out-of-touch dad (Bo Ryan) seem cool again. Ugh, dad, how many times do I have to tell you that the swing offense isn’t cool anymore? Here  try on this less structured offense that utilizes our talent better. It’s what all the kids are into these days. You’ll be the coolest dad in town!

As the season wore on, though, a familiar saying became more and more relevant for Wisconsin: “Too many cooks spoil the—”

No, wait. That’s not it. What I meant was “father knows best.” The Buzzcuts had enormous success playing looser and more up-tempo than usual, but they did so while still incorporating elements of Ryan’s trusty old swing offense and packed-in defense. When they got too far away from traditional Wisconsin basketball, they ran into trouble. This tension between Ryan’s old-school principles and a more flexible approach lasted throughout the season.

Well, that tension seems to have spilled over into this season too. Thursday against Georgetown, Wisconsin dribbled more in one game than it dribbled in probably every game combined from 2010 to 2013. I’ve never seen so much penetrating-and-kicking that ultimately led to nothing for a Wisconsin team. The Buzzcuts threw up one bad shot after another, didn’t seem to care defensively, and went one-on-one way too much. They pulled out the win thanks to some timely heroics from Duje Dukan, but the Buzzcuts were far from impressive. What’s worse, they were far from Wisconsin.

The next day, though, the Buzzcuts got back to their roots and handled a good Oklahoma team. I have no idea what Ryan told his team between games, but I’m pretty sure the words “stop” and “dribbling” were used in close proximity.

If you want to figure out which Wisconsin team has shown up for any particular game, just count its dribbles. I’m not certain this rubric will work, but let’s test it with the Duke game tonight. Count the possessions in which a Wisconsin player catches the ball in the frontcourt and dribbles five or more times before picking it up. If that number is higher than four, I’ll be shocked if Wisconsin wins. If that number is zero, I’ll be just as shocked if it loses.

2. Duke

Speaking of Duke-Wisconsin, I can’t begin to explain how excited I am for tonight. Louisville and Kentucky fans will kill me for saying this, but this is THE nonconference game of the season. Even if you include conference games, it might be the game of the season. As things stand right now, Kentucky is in a league of its own, Duke looks like the only team that could possibly be better than the Wildcats by March, and Wisconsin is a step or two behind Duke. Think about what changes after tonight, though. If Wisconsin wins, the Buzzcuts stake their claim as the no. 1 contender to Kentucky. And if Duke wins? If a team starting three freshmen playing their first true road game in the most insane atmosphere in Kohl Center history can beat a Wisconsin squad stacked with upperclassmen and ranked second in the nation? We might as well just make Duke and Kentucky play for the national title now.

There are so many intriguing matchups tonight. Frank Kaminsky versus Jahlil Okafor isn’t just two top-20 NBA draft picks going head-to-head. It’s also a senior who took the old-school route to stardom versus an all-everything freshman who could probably sit out the season and still be the no. 1 overall pick. Nigel Hayes versus Amile Jefferson is a lightly recruited player who has quickly transformed into a potential first-rounder vs. a McDonald’s All American looking to turn around what has so far been a disappointing individual career. Sam Dekker versus Justise Winslow is a guy who can rain 3s just as easily as he can dunk all over your face versus a guy who can rain 3s just as easily as he can dunk all over your face. Josh Gasser versus Quinn Cook is a clash between blue-collar seniors.

The matchup that I’m most excited for, however, is between point guards Traevon Jackson and Tyus Jones. When Jackson is at his best, he can go toe-to-toe with any guard in America, especially at home. Problem is, he’s not always at his best. I can envision Jackson trying too hard to be the hero tonight just as easily as I can see him using veteran moves to get the better of Jones.

Jones has started his Duke career better than almost anybody could’ve expected. But playing Wisconsin is an entirely different animal for the freshman. The Kohl Center is a madhouse for noontime Saturday games against low-major cupcake opponents. I can’t even fathom how nuts the place will be when Wisconsin fans have all day to psych themselves up (read: get super drunk) for the biggest game in Kohl Center history. Also worth noting: Jones is from Minneapolis, which is about four hours away from Madison. It’s not like he’ll be playing in his backyard, but this is probably as close to home as Jones will get in his collegiate career, so he could face the added pressure of putting on a good show for friends and family. And he’ll have to put on that show while going against a senior point guard who is a three-year starter.

If you were trying to create the most difficult scenario for Jones’s first career road game, it would be exactly this. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited for an early December game. My body is ready. LET’S DO THIS!!!

1. Kentucky

I’m already bored with Kentucky. I don’t mean that it’s a boring team. I’m just bored of seeing the Wildcats in games that are close early and getting excited for a potential crazy upset, only for them to pull away for easy wins. I’m bored with trying to convince myself that there might be another team in America that’s even in the same stratosphere as them. And while we’re at it, I’m bored with the platoons. Everything is spread out so evenly with this team that I can’t even marvel at the insane numbers that guys like Julius Randle and Anthony Davis put up for past UK teams. Why can’t John Calipari care more about my needs? Why can’t he see that to make Kentucky interesting between now and the NCAA tournament, he needs to let Karl Towns try to average 30 points a game or at least play a few close games? This is Cal’s most evil move to date: He has built a team so dominant that it’s no longer interesting.

Seriously, what am I supposed to write in this space every week? Why should I even pretend to analyze Kentucky blowouts? Kentucky is still undefeated, but hold on, it might not be as good as we think. Aaron Harrison was just 1-of-4 from the 3-point line in his last game. If that trend continues … well … Kentucky is going to win by 30 points per game instead of its current 34.4-point average margin of victory. This means it might actually have to break a sweat to win the national championship! WOULD THE SIXERS HAVE TO BREAK A SWEAT TO WIN THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP?

Don’t get me wrong  the college basketball analyst part of me will appreciate every second of this Kentucky season and the historic ride it just might take me on. If Kentucky can pull off 40-0 and stick with its platoon substitutions all season, it will be something my grandkids’ grandkids tell their grandkids about. But the neutral college basketball fan in me  the one who cheers for upsets, insane individual performances, and suspenseful games  wants to just get it over with and fast-forward Kentucky’s season to March.

The 75-Foot Game-Winning Buzzer-Beater of the Week

With two seconds remaining and Manhattan leading George Mason by two, Manhattan’s Shane Richards missed his second free throw attempt. George Mason’s Jalen Jenkins grabbed the rebound and did this:

The best part about this shot is how it was described in the AP write-up about the game. The first line reads:

FAIRFAX, Va.  Jalen Jenkins sank a 3-pointer with one second left to give George Mason a 64-63 victory over Manhattan on Saturday.

Yep, Jenkins just casually sank a routine 3-pointer, because Manhattan left him wide open. What were the Jaspers thinking? It’s inexcusable that Manhattan couldn’t get a hand in his face with the game on the line. FIRE STEVE MASIELLO.

The Dick’s Degrees of Separation answer is B. See you next week.