Around the Top 25 MBB: The road to Champ Week gets closer 


We’re a week away from the first conference tournaments beginning and the regular season title races are heating up. Miami (FL) is half a game behind Virginia in the ACC standings. The same is true for Texas, behind Kansas in the Big 12 standings. As we get down to the wire of the regular season, let’s take a look at the past week in this edition of Around the Top 25. 

Best Games 

No. 24 Providence snaps No. 18 Creighton’s win streak in double overtime thriller, 94-86 

Both teams were putting a streak on the line in Amica Mutual Pavilion that night: Creighton’s eight-game winning streak and Providence’s undefeated home record. South Carolina transfer guard Devin Carter looked like one of the best players in the Big East, recording a game-high 25 points. Despite all five of Creighton’s starters scoring at least 12 points, including a 21-point double-double from guard Ryan Nembhard, the Bluejays weren’t able to stay close the entire way with the Friars for 50 minutes. Providence will visit UConn tonight. 

No. 10 Tennessee takes down No. 1 Alabama… in basketball, 68-59 

When Tennessee upset the top-ranked Crimson Tide at nearby Neyland Stadium, the students stormed the field and played “Dixieland Delight” by Alabama to mock the Tide. Last week, it was deja vu, except on the hardwood this time. Forward Brandon Miller had a 15-point double-double, but that wasn’t enough to take down the Vols in Knoxville. Guard Zakai Zeigler was responsible for most of Tennessee’s points with 15 points and eight assists. Alabama will visit South Carolina tonight. 

No. 11 Marquette beats No. 16 Xavier in final seconds, 69-68 

The Big East recently has been such a pleasure to watch, with every marquee game coming down to the wire. With Zach Freemantle still out, Sean Miller only played seven players. Big East Player of the Year candidate Souley Boum played phenomenally in Milwaukee, scoring 24 points and four 3-pointers. However, seven turnovers became costly for the Musketeers. The player of the game was Marquette guard Stevie Mitchell, who had a team-high 17 points, and a whopping six steals in the game. Olivier-Maxence Prosper only had two shots made in the win, but the last one was a putback dunk with one second remaining after a Kam Jones missed layup. That win may be what makes Marquette the Big East regular season champions. 

No. 5 Kansas comes back, knocks off No. 9 Baylor, 87-71 

If you looked at the halftime score, you wouldn’t have thought Kansas would win this game. Baylor was up 13 points, 45-32 at the half. Kansas ended up winning by 16 points, thanks to a 55-point second half. Star freshman Keyonte George had 20 points and five 3-pointers for the Bears, while Adam Flagler had a game-high 22 points and seven assists for Baylor to lead the way. However, Kansas guard Dajuan Harris Jr. scored all 14 of his points in his second half, along with Jalen Wilson finishing the game with 21 points and 13 rebounds. Kansas avoided a season series sweep thanks to Harris, Wilson, and the home-court advantage Allen Fieldhouse has to offer. 

No. 3 Kansas puts No. 24 TCU away, 63-58 

Star guard Mike Miles Jr. returned after being injured, but TCU’s struggles continued as they fell to the red-hot Jayhawks on Monday night. Despite a poor offensive night from Wilson, star freshman guard Gradey Dick scored 19 points and had two blocks to avoid a sweep from the Horned Frogs, who upset Kansas in Lawrence back in January. The Jayhawks will host West Virginia on Saturday, while TCU will travel to Lubbock to take on Texas Tech that same day. 

Best Performances 

Jarkel Joiner, G, NC State (at Syracuse: 15 pts, 11 ast, 10 reb, 3 stl) 

Joiner has been incredible for NC State, and he was the best player on the floor for the Wolfpack against Syracuse. Despite the loss, Joiner had his first career triple-double as he stays red hot leading NC State down the stretch of the regular season. Joiner is having the best season of his college career after two seasons at CSU Bakersfield and Ole Miss, respectively. 

Nijel Pack, G, Miami (FL) (vs. Wake Forest: 24 pts, 4 stl, 4 3-pt) 

Pack had a season-high 24 points on Saturday against the Demon Deacons, including four steals which tied for his career high. The Kansas State transfer has now made four 3-pointers in three consecutive games. He’s getting hot at the right time, as the regular season concludes in just a couple of weeks. 

Trayce Jackson-Davis, F, Indiana (vs. Illinois: 26 pts, 12 reb, 5 blk, 3 stl) 

Jackson-Davis is one of the best players in college basketball, leading the Hoosiers to a bounce-back victory over Illinois on Saturday. The star forward was doing it all for Indiana, with a tied-career high three steals and an impressive five blocks. Jackson-Davis averages three blocks per game, ranking third in the nation. 

Bryce Hopkins, F, Providence (vs. Villanova: 19 pts, 12 reb, 4 stl, 2 blk) 

Hopkins is one of the best players in the Big East, averaging roughly 17 points and nine rebounds per game. He was all over the floor, contributing to nearly every column of the box score. The Kentucky transfer had a career-high four steals in the win over the Wildcats as he continues his case for the conference’s player of the year award. 

Zach Edey, C, Purdue (vs. Ohio State: 26 pts, 12 reb, 3 blk) 

Another week, another incredible performance by Zach Edey. The frontrunner for national player of the year recorded his 21st double-double of the season on Sunday against Ohio State, as the Boilermakers steamrolled the Buckeyes. Even if Edey were to get hurt for the rest of the season, he would still be my pick for the Wooden Award. 

Upcoming Games 

No. 20 Providence at No. 18 UConn (6:30 p.m., FS1) 

Providence upset the Huskies on Jan. 4 at the Amica Mutual Pavilion. They come into Gampel Pavilion, a place they haven’t won since the early-2000s, in hopes of sweeping UConn for the first time since 2008. These teams hate each other, and Providence forward Hopkins and UConn forward Adama Sanogo go up against each other in a star-studded Big East matchup. This could very well be a preview of the Big East Tournament quarterfinal game that is in a few weeks. 

No. 8 Texas at No. 9 Baylor (Saturday, 2 p.m., ESPN) 

The Bears are in yet another Saturday top-10 matchup, facing in-state Texas for a battle of two of the best teams in the loaded Big 12 Conference. The Longhorns are looking for a season series sweep against Baylor, previously defeating them by five in late January. The matchup features two of the best guards in the conference: Baylor freshman George, and Texas senior Marcus Carr. 

No. 17 Indiana at No. 5 Purdue (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., FOX) 

This rivalry is one of my favorites, as it normally features two nationally-ranked teams. At the beginning of the month, these two teams faced off in Bloomington, where the Hoosiers stormed the court after upsetting the former No.1 Boilermakers. Purdue seeks revenge as Indiana comes to Mackey Arena, one of the toughest environments in college basketball. 

No. 15 Saint Mary’s at No. 12 Gonzaga (Saturday, 10 p.m., ESPN) 

There will be two teams from the West Coast Conference in the field of 68. Here’s a hint: it’s both of these teams. The Zags have struggled this season, considering their standards. At the beginning of the month, Saint Mary’s took down the Bulldogs in Moraga, but now these two teams will meet inside The Kennel in Spokane. Can the Gaels sweep Gonzaga and end the debate on who’s the best in the conference this season? We’ll find out late Saturday night. Stay tuned to this one. 

Leave a Reply