Around the Top 25 MBB: SEC-Big 12 Challenge highlights huge weekend in college basketball 


The Big 12 won the SEC-Big 12 Challenge 7-4, headlined by wins over Alabama and Kentucky. We also saw the matchup of the week between the two schools Rick Barnes coached at. Let’s recap what has happened in college basketball over the past week. 

Best Games 

No. 13 Xavier holds on to sweep No. 19 UConn, 82-79 

The first and second halves of this game couldn’t have been more different. Xavier dominated the first half, heading into the locker room with a 15-point lead. Dan Hurley must have had the halftime speech of his life because the Huskies came out with a 55-point second half. However, the backcourt of Souley Boum and Colby Jones could not be stopped, combining for 41 points. They shot over 55% from the floor and 50% from long-range. The Huskies will take on Georgetown in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, while the Musketeers have a huge home game tonight against Providence. 

Rick Barnes coaches No. 4 Tennessee to victory over No. 10 Texas, 82-71 

The biggest game of the week was on Saturday, where four of Tennessee’s five starters scored double figures. Rick Barnes faced Texas for just the second time since leaving Austin after a long tenure as head coach of the Longhorns. Zakai Zeigler and Olivier Nkamhoua combined for 49 of the Vols’ 82 points as Tennessee moved up to No. 2 in Monday’s AP Poll. They will go on the road to face Florida tonight, while Texas visits Kansas State on Saturday. 

No. 9 Kansas ends three-game losing streak, defeats Kentucky on the road, 77-68 

Kansas was due for a win after a three-game skid, and even in a tough environment like Rupp Arena, the Jayhawks outscored Kentucky in both halves, led by Jalen Wilson, who’s separating himself from the rest of the competition in the Big 12 Player of the Year race. This set up a huge matchup last night against Kansas State, this time at Allen Fieldhouse. The Wildcats will host rival Florida on Saturday night. 

No. 10 Texas hangs on, beats No. 11 Baylor, 76-71 

Sir’Jabari Rice has been terrific in scoring off the bench lately, this time leading the Longhorns with 21 points. Even though the Bears kept themselves in the game from start to finish, the Longhorns kept answering, holding the lead for the majority of the game. Baylor will host Texas Tech on Saturday. 

Best Performances 

Julian Strawther, G, Gonzaga (at Portland: 40 pts, 6 reb, 3 stl, 8 3pt)

Normally, the leader of the Zags is Drew Timme, but Strawther proved that the team goes beyond the power forward. 40 points was a career-high for the junior, who is averaging nearly 15 per game. 

Tyler Kolek, G, Marquette (at DePaul: 24 pts, 10 ast, 9 reb, 3 stl) 

Kolek has emerged as one of the main contenders for Big East Player of the Year and is arguably one of the best point guards in college basketball. He was just one rebound away from his first career triple-double. The sophomore averages nearly 11 points per game but is third in the nation in assists per game (eight per game). 

David Joplin, F, Marquette (at DePaul: 28 pts, 5 reb, 8 3pt) 

According to KenPom, Marquette is the best offense in the country, and it showed in Saturday’s blowout win over DePaul. Joplin led the Golden Eagles in scoring with 28 points, including eight 3-pointers. Both of those stats were career highs for the Milwaukee native. Joplin may not pass the ball like Kolek but he’s been on the receiving end as one of Marquette’s best outside shooters. 

Hunter Tyson, F, Clemson (at Florida State: 27 pts, 7 reb, 2 stl, 6 3pt) 

Tyson helped lead the Tigers in a one-point victory over Florida State, where he was all over the court making plays. He leads the team in points (16), rebounds (9.8), and steals (1) per game. He has been huge in helping Clemson reach first place in the ACC. 

Zach Edey, C, Purdue (vs. Michigan State: 38 pts, 13 reb, 3 stl) 

Another week, another incredible performance by Edey. He scored a career-high 38 points in the rematch against Michigan State, where he scored 30 in each game, leading the Boilermakers to victory. What’s crazy is that Edey has scored double figures in every single game this season, which is just one of the many reasons why he’s the National Player of the Year frontrunner. He averages 22 points and 13 rebounds per game, both top-four nationally. 

Upcoming Games 

No. 17 Providence at No. 16 Xavier (6:30 p.m., FS1) 

It’s a battle between two of the best teams in the Big East, where the Musketeers are looking for a bounce-back win after their loss to Creighton. Two of the best players in the conference will be on the floor: Providence forward Bryce Hopkins and Xavier guard Souley Boum. 

No. 8 Kansas at No. 13 Iowa State (Saturday, 12 p.m., ESPN) 

Jalen Wilson and the Jayhawks are looking to sweep the Cyclones in Ames in a clash between two of the best teams in a loaded Big 12. Can T.J. Otzelberger continue to build his resume for Coach of the Year? This is Iowa State’s biggest home game. 

No. 25 Auburn at No. 2 Tennessee (Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN) 

Auburn has struggled recently, losing back-to-back games by double digits. After a game against Georgia tonight, the Tigers are looking for a signature road win. 

No. 23 Miami (FL) at No. 20 Clemson (Saturday, 3 p.m., ACC Network) 

Both Miami and Clemson weren’t supposed to be this good, but here they are as two of some of the best in the ACC. They both have players who are at an all-ACC level: Miami guard Isaiah Wong and Clemson forward Tyson. 

No. 1 Purdue at No. 21 Indiana (Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN) 

Purdue is the unanimous no. 1 team in college basketball, with Edey being the Wooden Award frontrunner. Trayce Jackson-Davis is one of the best players in the Big Ten, helping the Hoosiers get back in the top 25. One of the Big Ten’s best rivalries, this game is a must-watch. 

No. 10 Texas at No. 7 Kansas State (Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN2) 

You might want to get two screens because this game is a must-watch too. Three Big 12 teams are in the AP Top 10, and this game features two of them. The two best guards in the conference face off: Texas’ Marcus Carr and Kansas State’s Markquis Nowell. The Longhorns lost at home to the Wildcats to begin 2023 in a high-scoring game, so they are seeking revenge in Manhattan. 

No. 12 Gonzaga at No. 18 Saint Mary’s (Saturday, 10:30 p.m., ESPN) 

This is the biggest game of the season in the West Coast Conference, where Saint Mary’s looks to upset Gonzaga to take control of their destiny in the conference. The Gaels are on a ten-game winning streak, one of the longest streaks in the nation. Can they extend that streak to 12 with wins over San Francisco (tomorrow night) and Gonzaga? 

No. 10 Texas at No. 8 Kansas (Monday, 9 p.m., ESPN) 

A marquee Big 12 matchup is set for Monday for the second-straight week. This Monday’s game was Baylor at Texas, and Texas goes on the road to take on Kansas. These two teams won’t meet for another month, so this could potentially be the biggest game of the season in the conference. 

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