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Titus’s Top 12 NCAA Power Rankings: Featuring the Seven Stages of Kevin Pangos’s Hair

Who is the second-best team in the Big 12? Seriously, who?

When Notre Dame beat Duke last week, Jerian Grant told the Irish student section not to storm the court. They listened. Three days later, Pitt beat eighth-ranked Notre Dame to give the Panthers their only marquee win of the season. Pitt fans also refrained from storming the court. And with that, my two biggest pet peeves in sports — court-storming etiquette and calling things “classy” — have joined forces. Wow, such a CLASSY move by Jerian Grant! You don’t storm the court when you’re ranked, the game is on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., and Digger Phelps is in the house. Everyone knows that’s just not classy.

Here’s my official stance on court-storming for anyone who hasn’t already heard it: Who gives a shit? There should be no rules. I support court-storming on the road. I support court-storming after losses. If Kentucky played Florida A&M tomorrow at home, won by 100, and UK fans stormed the court, I wouldn’t flinch. It’s my dream to one day see a student section storm the court after every game, no matter the circumstances or outcome. I’m so against court-storming rules that I feel guilty for saying there shouldn’t be rules, because saying there shouldn’t be rules feels like a rule.

The notion that storming the court makes a program look weak needs to die. The “program” doesn’t storm the court — college students looking for a good time do. It hurts my brain to think about how dumb this debate is. Court-storming doesn’t make you weak, just like not storming the court doesn’t make you classy. Everyone calm down and stop pretending to care about this.

12. North Carolina

williams-royGrant Halverson/Getty Images

After a six-game winning streak that propelled the Tar Heels into second place in the ACC, North Carolina has lost two straight, including a game at Louisville that Carolina led by 18 points in the second half. Naturally, the sky is falling in Chapel Hill, which is why I’d like to provide some optimism.

Tar Heels fans: Stop thinking of this as a two-game losing streak that includes a blown 18-point lead. Instead, think of it as a top-10 road loss in overtime and a loss to a team that started the season 19-0. Think of how great the Heels looked as they built that lead at Louisville. Think of how they hung with Virginia for almost 30 minutes. Shoot, for all we know, if Marcus Paige wouldn’t have rolled his ankle in the second half against Louisville, Carolina would have won both games. It’s not like the Heels lost to Virginia Tech and Boston College. Carolina is a game and a half back of first place, and even though the Tar Heels still have to play Duke twice, the toughest part of the ACC schedule is behind them. I know it’s hard to imagine right now, but I promise that the Heels will still finish third or fourth in the ACC, get a 3-seed in the NCAA tournament, and then lose to Kansas in the Sweet 16.

11. Whoever Is the Second-Best Big 12 Team

My vote is for the ACC as the best conference in the country, but the Big 12 is certainly the deepest and most unpredictable. Here’s the problem with that, though: I have no idea how to power-rank the Big 12. Kansas is the best team, but where do I go from there? The Big 12 deserves another spot in the most powerful power rankings in college basketball, but who gets that spot? The rest of the league is beating up on each other so badly that the most logical solution is to give the spot to the conference as a whole.

I know what you’re thinking: The most powerful power rankings in college basketball didn’t get all that power by flaking on picks. And you know what? You’re right. Let’s eliminate team-by-team until we have an answer. It can’t be TCU or Texas Tech, because … well … I’ll let Tubby Smith provide an appropriate visual.

smith-tubby-motorcycle

It can’t be Texas, because Rick Barnes is Barnesing this season more than any season Barnes has Barnesed before. Oklahoma State has lost four of six, including a home loss to Oklahoma on Saturday. Kansas State has lost three of four and lost to Texas Southern not long ago. Oklahoma has lost four of eight. That leaves us with Baylor, Iowa State, and West Virginia.

Baylor is 1-0 against Iowa State and the Bears haven’t played West Virginia, but Baylor sucks on the road. West Virginia is second in the standings, but also got whipped by Oklahoma on Tuesday night. Iowa State has the highest ceiling and is the only team in the conference to beat Kansas, but the Cyclones have also lost two of four, with one of those losses coming against Texas Te—

Screw it. We’ll never find a team that makes sense. Let’s go with Iowa State and call it a day.

10. Louisville

Serious question, Louisville fans: Do you enjoy watching this team? I’m not asking if you support this team or if you think it’s good. I’m asking if you ever watch the Cardinals play and then say to yourself, “What a great way to spend two hours!” Or is it more, “I guess we’ll take it”? If Louisville’s jerseys said “Syracuse,” how often would you watch their games? Because, as a neutral observer, I would say the Cards can be brutal to watch. Rick Pitino has proven he’s one of the all-time great coaches, and I’m not ripping his abilities. But half the time Louisville looks like an AAU team that formed 10 minutes ago. The Cardinals have played a handful of aesthetically pleasing games, but those tend to be when Terry Rozier and/or Chris Jones are going one-on-one on offense and scoring. Even when the Cards made their comeback against North Carolina on Saturday, it was tough to watch. Well, I guess one play was enjoyable.

And look, I appreciate good defense and I respect Louisville’s press. It just feels like Louisville’s offensive strategy often boils down to “make 3s” or “get Montrezl Harrell some dunks.” And when that doesn’t work, the Cardinals’ backup plan is to just run around like their nuts are on fire and hope the ball magically ends up in the basket. It seems to be working for them, and I guess I’d rather win ugly than lose pretty, so I’m not saying they need to change. I’m just curious. Do Louisville fans like watching this team?

9. Notre Dame

There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of Notre Dame’s Final Four chances. Mike Brey has been to the Sweet 16 once in his career and has never made the Elite Eight. The Irish are seven-deep and start a 6-foot-5, 214-pound minor league pitcher at power forward. They shoot a lot of 3s and don’t play defense, which is another way of saying that they’re begging to be upset in the first round. What’s worse, they always seem to find themselves in close games or having to play from behind. What if Notre Dame flips that switch to make a late push for the win and nothing happens? In a tournament that takes one off night to end a season, how confident can you be in a team that shoots 22 3s per game? How confident can you be in a team that isn’t very good on defense yet often needs crucial stops at the end of close games? The Pitt game on Saturday — when Pitt’s big shot at the end fell and Notre Dame’s didn’t — shows just how fragile the Irish can be.

But Notre Dame’s other game this past week — versus Duke — provided a counterargument to all of those concerns: Jerian f’ing Grant. Before I say anything else, let’s take a second to look at this.

grant-jerian-bomb

What you see there is a man who is so far beyond hero mode, there’s no name for what he’s doing. There are 18 seconds left on the shot clock, and a 6-foot-9 defender has a hand up. Even taking this shot as a heat check requires a sack big enough to have its own gravitational pull. But this was no heat check — Grant was just 1-of-2 from the field when he pulled up for that shot. This was a hero check that stands as the culmination of his entire season to this point. This was Grant checking to see if he’s officially entered Shabazz territory. This was a man saying, “My entire 22 years of existence have led to this moment, where Catholic Notre Dame fans around the world will question their faith and seek information about the Church of Jerian.” And as Notre Dame fans beg for Grant to save some for the NCAA tournament, he just laughs and tells them this isn’t even his final form.

(What’s that? Did he make it? Are you serious? He’s Jerian Grant. Of course he made it.)

The most insane thing about Grant taking and making that shot is that the ACC Digital Network put together a video of Grant’s most remarkable plays from the Duke game and that shot finished third.

Watching that got me thinking: How much should “holy shit” moments matter in determining the national player of the year? We argue over whether the award should go to the most talented player, the guy who is the most valuable to his team, the player with the best statistics, the best player on the best team, or if it should be a career achievement award. But what about the guy whose name trending on Twitter immediately makes you think, What insane thing did he do now? Grant is definitely one of the most talented players in the country, he’s as valuable to his team as anybody,1 and his stats jump off the page. But the same could be said for a handful of other players too. Grant has set himself apart by becoming a one-man spectacle.


1.

Notre Dame was 8-4 last year before Grant was ruled academically ineligible. The Irish finished 15-17, reinstated Grant for this season, essentially added nobody else, and are now 20-3.

Grant is the one player in college basketball who consistently compels me to call my buddies and tell them to turn on the game. That has to count for something, right? Even if that’s not enough to win Grant a POY award, he’s a senior guard who can put the team on his back in the clutch, and that alone makes Notre Dame a serious Final Four threat. So when the time comes to fill out your bracket, remember that the Irish have a bunch of red flags, but they also have Jerian Grant.

8. Kansas

ellis-perry-kansasRich Sugg/Kansas City Star/Getty Images

Remember when you played whatever Mario game was hot during your childhood? For me, it was Super Mario World. If you’ve ever tried beating that game, you’ve reached a point when you start figuring out what special powers are needed to beat each level. Maybe you need a cape, maybe you need fire, maybe you need Blue Yoshi, or maybe you need some combination of all three. For most levels, you don’t need these powers, but you’ve failed so many times that you’ve given up on trying to beat certain of them without first stocking up on specials. So you go to the Top Secret Area, load up on what you need, and trek back to whatever level you’re working on. And inevitably, within 10 seconds of starting the level, some asshole Koopa makes you lose Yoshi, you run into the Koopa again and lose your cape, Yoshi disappears forever, and just like that your plan goes to hell. It’s still possible to beat the level, but you’ve played enough to know that you might as well just run Mario off a cliff and start over.

When the Jayhawks were massacred by Kentucky and Temple, and other Big 12 teams had solid nonconference seasons, it seemed like the rest of the Big 12 teams had the Blue Yoshi and cape they needed to finally beat the impossible level they called Kansas. But now it’s February, those special powers have fizzled, and Kansas appears to be rolling to another Big 12 title. Sure, Kansas holds only a two-game lead in the conference standings, and sure, it feels like the Jayhawks will probably lose badly once more before the NCAA tournament. But we know where this is headed. Why bother going through the frustration of trying to beat an impossible level, only to come up short yet again? Wouldn’t it just be easier to run Mario off a cliff and start over next season?

7. Villanova

On December 17, I argued that Ryan Arcidiacono was simultaneously Villanova’s best and worst player. Seven weeks later, Arcidiacono looks like completely different. It’s like he planned to coast for the first six weeks of the season and then turn it on when conference games began. In nonconference play, Arcidiacono averaged 7.7 points and 3.7 assists, and shot 32 percent from the field (including 20.9 percent from the 3-point line). So far in Big East play — against tougher competition — he’s averaging 12.8 points and four assists, and shooting 47.6 percent from the field (including 50 percent from the 3-point line).

Arcidiacono continues to play great defense. His assist-to-turnover ratio is 3.2:1, which isn’t quite on Monte Morris’s level, but is pretty good nonetheless. He doesn’t force anything. Arcidiacono finished Saturday’s game at DePaul with 18 points, yet he shot only twice in the first half. Outside of one bad game at Seton Hall, he’s been consistently that good in Big East play. I’m convinced he had mono or something in November and December, because I don’t know how else to explain such a dramatic turnaround. Either way, now we can say that Arcidiacono is definitely Villanova’s best player.

Or is he? Villanova has six players averaging 9.6 or more points per game, including five who are averaging between 9.6 and 9.9 points per game. That balance is ludicrous. Even if the Wildcats were trying to make every player score the same amount, they wouldn’t come this close.2 So who is the best player? It depends on what you value. If you like assists and managing the game, it’s Arcidiacono. If you like blocks and rebounds, it’s Daniel Ochefu. If you like steals and versatile scoring, it’s Darrun Hilliard. If you like a little bit of everything, it’s Josh Hart, JayVaughn Pinkston, or Dylan Ennis. Aside from Arcidiacono, I would probably go with Hilliard because he’s the leading scorer at 13.3 points per game, and he’s the obvious choice to take big shots at the end of close games. But a case could be made for every Villanova starter, and that makes this team pretty great.

Halftime


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Warren Buffett’s $1 billion challenge this year should be to pick both which team will finish second in the Big 12 and which Villanova player will finish second on the team in scoring.

vitale-dickKevin C. Cox/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 Saturday’s Louisville–North Carolina game, how did Dick Vitale and Dave O’Brien end up talking about Syracuse?

A. A promo for an upcoming game between the Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets is shown, and Vitale says he thinks the Cavs and the Warriors will meet in the NBA Finals. After O’Brien argues that the Hawks are the team to beat in the East, Vitale mentions that Steve Kerr made the right decision by choosing Golden State over New York. O’Brien laughs as Vitale adds that he can’t believe the year Carmelo Anthony’s team is having. After a beat, he says that Anthony’s college team isn’t having a great year either, as Syracuse’s NCAA tournament chances are in doubt.

B. North Carolina beats Louisville’s press by throwing a full-court pass to a streaking Marcus Paige. O’Brien compliments an excellent pass by Kennedy Meeks, prompting a discussion about great passing big men. Vitale says that one of the best was Bill Walton, whom Vitale says he enjoys watching call games with Dave Pasch. Vitale then points out that Pasch, like O’Brien, is a Syracuse alum.

C. Following a made 3 from Nate Britt, Vitale mentions Britt’s switch from shooting left-handed to right-handed. He says it doesn’t matter which hand Britt shoots with as long as it goes in. Speaking of shots going in, Vitale says, Doris Burke — who is calling the game with Vitale and O’Brien — got the better of Vitale when they shot around before the game. Vitale adds that Burke is so good that when she was at Providence, she was the best point guard on campus — even though Billy Donovan played for the men’s team. Donovan, Vitale reminds us, led the Friars to the Final Four in 1987, where Indiana ultimately beat Syracuse for the national title.

6. Arizona

Both of Arizona’s games this past week were on the Pac-12 Network, which sucks for me because I’m a DirecTV customer and the Pac-12 Network and DirecTV still haven’t come to terms on broadcast rights. So I had to sit around refreshing box scores while Arizona hung 90 on Oregon and then held Oregon State to 34 points. Since I missed both games and they were blowouts, anyway, I’m using Arizona’s section to show the world the greatest college basketball video ever made. Arizona fans have probably already seen this a few dozen times, but whatever. Someone out there will be watching for the first time, and that someone’s life is about to change forever.

On my list of favorite lyrics from this, “Ask the Gumbies,3 ask the rest / We don’t do drugs ’cause we’re the best,” is tied for first with EVERY OTHER LYRIC. I really liked the “Bitch, I’m Frank Mason” video, and I loved the “Nobody Does It Better” Tony Bennett video. But I want to settle down and start a family with this video. It has terrible ’80s rap, it includes recognizable NBA names actually rapping, it needlessly shoehorns in antidrug propaganda, and it was made by the no. 1 team in the country. It’s flawless. I want to grow old with this.

5. Gonzaga


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“Gumbies” was apparently a nickname that Arizona’s bench players gave themselves. I don’t know what’s more confusing: how the name came to be or why the name ever went away.

I can’t go another week without discussing Kevin Pangos’s hair. As soon as the season started, I noticed he was growing it out, but I thought he was going for the Jim Halpert look. It’s now clear to me that Pangos has no look in mind. He’s just growing out his hair and letting it go wherever this magnificent ride will take us. Before we check in on his mop’s current status, let’s review the evolution of Pangos’s hair.

pangos-kevin

Here’s Pangos in high school. With a buzz cut as perfect as that, I’ll never understand how Pangos didn’t end up at Wisconsin. It makes you wonder if the buzz cut was just for show. Did he really have a no-nonsense approach to hair, or was he trying to look serious and tough for college coaches on the recruiting trail? Makes you think.

pangos-kevin

Here we have Pangos as a freshman. Notice how he’s growing the bangs out. Perhaps he was testing Mark Few’s limits? But that seems unnecessary, since Few’s Gonzaga teams have frequently had the best hair in college basketball, thanks to legends like Dan Dickau, Ronny Turiaf, Adam Morrison, Matt Bouldin, and Kelly Olynyk. Did Pangos think long hair was something that had to be earned? I guess — and this might be hard to wrap your head around — it’s possible that he simply preferred that style.

pangos-kevin

“’Sup, ladies? Name’s Kevin. Listen, we’re both adults here, so why don’t I just cut to the chase: I was Gonzaga’s starting point guard as a freshman last season. I led the team in scoring and assists and won us an NCAA tournament game. My place or yours?”

BOW TO THE PANGOATEE.

pangos-kevin

This is Pangos heading into the 2013 NCAA tournament his sophomore year, when Gonzaga was a 1-seed and had the best team in school history. Knowing he’s about to step into a bright spotlight with thousands of women watching, Pangos pulls a veteran move by rocking the stubble and putting a little product in his hair. No wonder he’s a four-year starter.

pangos-kevin

After getting upset by Wichita State in the second round of the 2013 NCAA tournament, Pangos went back to a clean look for his junior year, presumably to convey the gravity of his pursuit to avenge the early March Madness exit.

And then it happened:

pangos-kevin

After three years as Gonzaga’s starting point guard and almost 1,400 career points, Pangos finally earned the right to grow the legendary Gonzaga shag. But it didn’t stop there. As it grew, the hair took on a life of its own and a middle part started to emerge.

pangos-kevin-few-mark

Along the way, Pangos experimented with a Fu Manchu mustache, a little stubble, and the Pangoatee to go with his salad, until his hair became so glorious that no side dishes were needed. And that’s how we arrived at the present. I give you Kevin “Hockey Hair” Pangos.

pangos-kevin

What a journey it’s been. I can’t wait to see where he’ll take us from here. Just so you fully appreciate his transformation, here’s a side-by-side of Pangos when he first arrived at Gonzaga and Pangos as he looks today.

morrison-adam-pangos-kevin

Long live Kevin Pangos.

4. Virginia

Virginia is 20-0 in games without me in attendance. The Hoos are 0-1 with me in attendance. As I talked with Virginia’s walk-ons in the UVa. weight room Saturday morning, Justin Anderson walked over, introduced himself, and shook my hand. At the risk of sounding like Peter King, I thought this was really cool of Anderson. He wasn’t prompted to come talk to me by a coach or athletic department PR flack, nor did he know that I was a college basketball writer. As far as he knew, I was just some random visitor to Virginia’s weight room, which was all he needed to know to welcome me. I know I’m making way too much of this — “HE’S SO CLASSY!”— but it caught me off guard and stuck with me because it doesn’t happen as often as you’d think. Anyway, before shaking my hand, Anderson was shooting 51.8 percent from the 3-point line. Later that night, he went 1-for-6 from the 3-point line against Duke. I enjoyed my trip to Charlottesville, but it seems as though I’ll never be welcomed back. I’m so sorry, Virginia fans.

I’ll use the Duke section to analyze Saturday’s game. In the meantime, I want to recap things I noticed during my first trip to UVa.

1. John Paul Jones Arena is my favorite gym in college basketball that never shows up on “best arenas in college basketball” lists.

I’m not exactly sure what I expected from JPJ, but I know I was completely blown away by what I saw. The student section layout was great, the arena possessed modern functionality without being a cookie-cutter pro arena, it was much bigger than I expected, and the atmosphere as a whole was perfect. But what really impressed me was how nice the locker room, practice gym, and weight room were. Virginia was 80-71 in its last five seasons in University Hall before switching over to JPJ. It would’ve been understandable if the school didn’t want to provide its non-elite basketball program with top-of-the-line everything. Instead, every aspect of the facility is as nice as anything I’ve seen, which is crazy when you consider it’s nine years old and has never been renovated.

2. Tony Bennett is a human being.

My favorite moment of the entire weekend — including anything from the Duke game and the kid hitting the half-court shot at the end of College GameDay — came when Tony Bennett emerged from the bowels of JPJ to address the GameDay crowd. He grabbed a mic and spoke for about 20 seconds, but that was enough to tell how affected he was by the moment, probably because the crowd was so huge. He even said something along the lines of, “When you set out to build a program, this is what you hope to one day have.” When it comes to showing appreciation to the fans, nobody does it better than Tony Bennett.

We see these big-time coaches on TV so much that it’s easy to forget they’re real people with real dreams and emotions. I assumed that as the coach of a second-ranked undefeated team, he would have these appearances down to a science by now. Instead, Bennett looked almost overwhelmed that thousands of people cared enough about his team to wake up early and stand in the cold for hours just to watch a TV show get recorded. It’ll be hard to forget about this moment when the Tony Bennett–to-Wisconsin talk heats up in a few years. I’m not saying he’ll never leave UVa., but it was clear that he’s emotionally attached to the program he’s built in Charlottesville.

Speaking of the Tony Bennett–to-Wisconsin talk …

3. Virginia fans are emotionally fragile.

Here’s something I didn’t realize: I’m apparently beloved by Virginia fans because I’m one of the few members of the national college basketball media who appreciates the Hoos’ style of play. I had no idea this was a thing until they treated me like royalty over the weekend. I couldn’t go anywhere in Charlottesville without Virginia fans offering to buy me a beer and talk about the Hoos. It was cool at first, but the more I talked to Virginia fans, the more I began to realize what was happening.

You see, Virginia fans are perpetually afraid. They’re scared of losing Bennett. They’re scared that maybe their team is overrated. They’re scared of an early NCAA tournament exit. They’re worried about what it means to see the most powerful power rankings in college basketball drop the Hoos to fourth this week. They’re scared that Virginia basketball will come crashing back down in the next few years, if not sooner. Virginia’s football team sucks and its basketball team was irrelevant for about 20 years until last season. Now the fans crave positive attention for their teams. This is why they embraced me so willingly after a few glowing remarks about Virginia’s defense, some links to Justin Anderson dunks, and an Evan Nolte joke. I guess the free drinks may have just been a courteous gesture, but I sensed a note of desperation in those pints. The Virginia fans were saying, “People barely even care about us when we’re good because they think we’re boring. Please don’t turn your back on us when we suck again. Because we will suck again. That’s how this always works.”

Relax, Virginia fans. Your team is still among the very best in the nation, with only three seniors on the roster. The future looks bright and the attention will be around for a while.

Unless Tony Bennett leaves. Then you’re screwed.

3. Duke

duke-blue-devilsLance King/Getty Images

I’m still trying to make sense of Duke’s win at Virginia. I saw it happen in person, I read about it after the game, and I’ve rewatched it on TV a couple times. I pretty much have the last 10 minutes memorized at this point, so I know exactly what happened. I just can’t quite believe how it happened. Duke scored more in the final 9:40 of the game than it did in the first 30:20. The Blue Devils held Virginia scoreless in the final three minutes. They were down nine at undefeated Virginia with 5:20 to play and won by six in regulation. That sentence is the scariest part of all of this. The way Virginia plays, being down nine at John Paul Jones Arena with that little time left is a death sentence. When UVa. went on a 7-0 run with the help of a Justise Winslow flagrant foul and built that nine-point advantage, I swear I saw Virginia fans reaching into their khakis to pull out their phones and call their butlers and tell them to bring the limos to the front of the arena. The game was over. Everyone knew it. Except Duke.

For the first time all season, Virginia looked completely broken. Miami figured Virginia out in the second half of their game earlier this season, but that game was different. Miami gave Virginia a serious cut and the Hoos just kept pressure on the wound until it healed. Duke put Virginia in a guillotine. Virginia’s defense was completely cracked. The Hoos couldn’t even set up their defense half the time because Duke kept scoring in transition. And when Virginia managed to get set up, the combination of a dominant big man in Jahlil Okafor and the multitude of 3-point shooters turned the pack line into a free-for-all.

Virginia usually doesn’t think. The Hoos just … are. Something happens, and Virginia just reacts like it’s programmed to react. But against Duke, you could see Virginia thinking: Should I double Okafor or stay attached to the shooter? Should I shoot this? I’m open, but am I open for a reason? Should I crash the boards or get back to stop transition? Excluding the first 10 minutes of the second half, Virginia wasn’t Virginia because Duke wouldn’t let it be.

By the way, let’s not overlook the job Duke did on defense. Yeah, the big story is that the Blue Devils got hot late and torched one of the best defenses in America. But Virginia runs great offense, too. And Duke — the team whose defense has been doubted all season — shut down the Hoos when it mattered most. Moving forward, I imagine we’ll see more of the “throw everything against the wall and see what sticks” defensive strategy that Coach K used against Virginia. Okafor is so bad in man-to-man that if defenders guarded him the way he defends, he’d average 65 points per game.4 But if it becomes obvious that Duke is going to play 2-3 for 40 minutes, teams will prepare accordingly and pick apart the zone. This is why I think Duke needs to continue mixing up man-to-man, 2-3, and even a little 3-2 like it did for a couple of possessions against UVa. But why stop there? I say the Blue Devils should even throw in some 1-3-1, box-and-1, triangle-and-2, run-and-jump, the Dean Smith point zone, the Jerry Tarkanian amoeba, the Scott Drew “just run around in circles” zone, the Tom Crean “just let them score and we’ll make up for it by hitting 3s” defense, and anything else Coach K can think of.

2. Wisconsin


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To be fair to Okafor, Duke is down to eight scholarship players and his backup is Marshall Plumlee. It’s understandable if he plays passive defense to avoid foul trouble.

Here’s a scary thought: Nobody on Wisconsin is playing poorly right now. That seems like it shouldn’t be a big deal, but ask fans of other top-ranked teams if they wish a particular player would start playing better. Most of them would yell out an answer before you finished the question, because pretty much every team has at least one guy who is having a bad season, is in a slump, or just isn’t very good to begin with. Sure, part of the reason Wisconsin isn’t among that group is because the Buzzcuts have no depth, which means their starters (read: best players) spend a lot of time on the court. But Wisconsin is also just playing phenomenal basketball. I’m a little worried about its defense because it’s not as sharp as usual, and I’ve written frequently over the past two years that the Buzzcuts find themselves in trouble when they stray too far from Bo Ryan philosophies. But Wisconsin’s offense is so efficient right now that I’m not sure it matters what happens on the defensive end.

1. Kentucky

kentucky-wildcatsJoe Robbins/Getty Images

I’ve got a ton of disjointed thoughts on Kentucky with no logical way to string them together, so I’ll just list them one by one.

1. Willie Cauley-Stein is not just the best interior defender in college basketball — he might be the best perimeter defender, too.

2. It’s good to see Andrew Harrison have a huge game against Georgia on Tuesday night so he can silence the Harrison-versus–Tyler Ulis debates for at least a couple days. I understand why those debates are happening, and I probably prefer Ulis over Harrison myself. But it’s an irrelevant discussion because I don’t think John Calipari will considering starting Ulis over Harrison this season. Ulis and Devin Booker are great coming off the bench as a tag team. Why mess that up?

3. Speaking of Booker, on a scale of 1 to “I wish Archie Goodwin were running the point for the Cats,” how insane would it be to say that Booker is Kentucky’s best player?

4. While we’re on Booker, am I the only one who notices his hair dye? I am? So you’re telling me that he just naturally went from this to this? Someone call the Bill Self Toupee Task Force and tell them we’ve got a case.

5. Trey Lyles plays a big enough role for Kentucky that if Florida weren’t hot manure right now, I’d actually be a little worried about a possible upset on Saturday if Lyles’s sickness keeps him out for another game.

6. Dominique Hawkins is starting! I’ve always been a Hawkins fan, and not just in the “cheer for the little guy who wasn’t a McDonald’s All American” way. He plays hard, he doesn’t make mistakes, and he could’ve transferred and started at a lot of other schools, but he chose to stick around to potentially be a part of history. Props to him for that.

7. Would you say that Derek Willis is the 2015 version of 2012 Kyle Wiltjer? Or would Eloy Vargas be a better comparison?

8. Oh no. I just realized that Cal is starting Hawkins only against crappy SEC teams. This is probably a way to show him some gratitude for sticking with the Kentucky program, and when the real games roll around in March, Hawkins will be back on the bench. Dammit.

9. At this point, any Kentucky loss before the Elite Eight would blow my mind.

10. Sam Malone wearing a headband on the bench will never not be funny.

The Buzzer-Beater of the Week

With Georgia Tech clinging to a two-point lead with less than five seconds to play in overtime against NC State on Saturday, Tech’s Quinton Stephens was fouled to stop the clock. He went to the free throw line to ice the game, but missed both shots. And then Trevor Lacey did this.

The Dick’s Degrees of Separation answers are B and C. See you next week.