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Mike Lopresti | | January 24, 2022

The good, the bad and the ugly from this weekend in college basketball

Auburn continues to roll in SEC, stays atop Power 36 rankings

So how was your weekend? Better than the Buffalo Bills’ probably. In college basketball, they came in all flavors — good, bad and ugly. Depends on who you ask.

But with February near, many of them set a tone for the future.

The good, the bad and the ugly from this weekend in college basketball

Auburn had a great weekend

The 80-71 win over Kentucky has the Tigers two games ahead in the SEC with a 7-0 record. What was not to like? They scored 51 points in the second half, shot 57 percent and out-rebounded the team that leads the nation in rebound margin. Auburn Nation waited for Monday to see if the voters were impressed enough make the Tigers No. 1 for the first time in school history. And they were, making Auburn the fifth different school from the fifth different conference to land at the top this season.

TIGERS: How the transfer portal helped Auburn become college basketball's best team, right now

Michigan had a good weekend

The Wolverines encountered early turbulence this season, plummeting from No. 4 in the rankings to a 7-7 record. Between COVID stoppages and an inordinate time on the road — eight of the first 14 results came away from Ann Arbor -- it has been hard for Juwan Howard to mix together the ingredients of a team with a veteran presence (Hunter Dickinson and Eli Brooks) and lots of new faces.

But an 83-64 thrashing of Maryland last Tuesday was Michigan’s first home game in a month and suggested progress, and an 80-62 romp Sunday at Indiana — where the Hoosiers had gone 12-0 this season and just stunned Purdue — confirmed the diagnosis. The Wolverines can now continue the task of retrieving the NCAA tournament berth they once seemed to be losing.

“I think this is the team that everybody expected when the season started,” Dickinson said, after 25 points. “We’re young and so we made young mistakes early on in the season, we had a couple of hiccups. But I think now we’re starting to finally play the Michigan basketball that Coach Howard is instilling in us.”

“We’re playing for our season, that’s what Coach Howard was saying.”

Crisis control can be tricky with the virus interrupting weekly. “I’ll tell you this. Enjoy what you’re doing, don’t get into coaching right now during a pandemic,” Howard told the media in Bloomington. “It’s very challenging. But I’m proud of how our young men have really banded together despite a lot of the uncomfortable moments, finding ways to stay together and stay positive. What’s best about it all is that playing basketball is something they love to do. It’s good therapy. It’s very therapeutic for each and every one of us.”

Marquette had a good weekend

Sunday’s 75-64 win over No. 20 Xavier was the Golden Eagles’ sixth victory in a row, four against ranked Big East opponents. Redshirt freshman Justin Lewis led the charge with 20 points and 13 rebounds, four days after he scored his team’s final seven points to beat Villanova. Marquette is now closing on the league leaders with a 6-3 conference record and 14-6 overall. This is the same team that started 0-3 in the Big East. The Golden Eagles could use the momentum. The next four games include trips to Seton Hall, Providence and Connecticut, plus Villanova at home; a buffet of the top tier of the Big East.

“We want to grow as much or more than any team in the country,” coach Shaka Smart said. “It’s not always a linear path. It’s just not up, up, up, up, up. Sometimes there’s setbacks and in fact, the setbacks allow you to grow more.

“You look at these last few games, we can’t take for granted that it doesn’t go the other way if a few plays go differently . . . Proud of our guys, and it’s important we are hungry and want more.”

LATEST RANKINGS: Power 36 |NET rankings | AP Top 25

Illinois had a bad weekend. A bad week, for that matter

The Illini were beaten at home by Purdue in a tough two-overtime loss on Monday, then lost star Kofi Cockburn to concussion protocol, then went to Maryland Friday and were thumped 81-65 by a Terrapins team that was 1-6 in league in Big Ten play. Yeah, Cockburn is pretty valuable. Having gone 20-1 its previous 21 games against Big Ten opponents, Illinois lost twice in five days.

Wake Forest had a good weekend

The Demon Deacons thrashed North Carolina 98-76, their biggest win over the Tar Heels in 20 years and their most points against North Carolina since 1965. It was the sixth time 16-4 Wake Forest — picked to finished 13th in the league — has held an ACC opponent under 40 percent shooting this season.  “A signature win for this program,” coach Steve Forbes called it.

Of course, if you look at it from the other direction, the 12-6 Tar Heels had a really lousy weekend.

They went on the road in the ACC twice last week and lost by 28 to Miami and 22 to Wake Forest.

Kansas had a good weekend. And an emotional one

Bill Self lost his father Friday. On Saturday his Jayhawks came from 16 points back to beat Kansas State 78-75 on Ochai Agbaji’s late jumper. Kansas has owned the in-state rivalry, going 30-5 in the Kansas State arena and winning 14 of the past 15 overall against the Wildcats.

🔮: Check out the latest March Madness men's bracket predictions

Georgetown had a bad weekend

Last March, the Hoyas won the Big East tournament. Saturday, they lost 85-74 to Villanova, dropping to 0-5 in the Big East, the five defeats coming by an average of 16 points. Patrick Ewing is now 68-69 in five seasons at his alma mater.

Iowa State had an awful weekend

The Cyclones got stuck in the mud against TCU and lost 59-44, their lowest point total in the 50-year history of Hilton Coliseum. Remember when Iowa State was 12-0 and the surprise of the nation? The Cyclones have lost five of seven since then.

USC had a good weekend

The Trojans completed the Pac-12 mountain sweep of Utah and Colorado — they’d only done that once before — and now are 16-2. That’s their best record after 18 games since 1971, when USC finished 24-2. Those Trojans didn’t get to play in the NCAA tournament because it was only one team per league back then, and the bid was perma-pressed on John Wooden’s lapel at UCLA. This USC team will likely get its chance.

Florida State had a good weekend

The Seminoles handed yet more frustration to their cousins from the south. They led Miami 43-19 at halftime but were outscored 41-18 in the second half. Add that together and you get a 61-60 Florida State escape, its ninth consecutive win over the Hurricanes. The two neighbors now share the ACC lead, the Seminoles clawing to the top with five wins in a row and a bunch of drama, twice beating the Hurricanes by one point and outlasting Duke in overtime by a point.

WILD SATURDAY: Auburn hunts No. 1 spot, Florida State holds off Miami and more

Michigan State had a good weekend

Picked an uncharacteristically modest seventh in a pre-season Big Ten poll, the Spartans moved into the more familiar surroundings of first place — and the AP top-10 — after winning at Wisconsin 86-74, with a very Spartan-like 39-20 dominance in rebounding. That Michigan State atonement came six days after the Spartans had lost at home to Northwestern, which inspired a rather intense work of practice from Tim Izzo. “It was hell the last three days,” Izzo said after the victory. “That’s the way it’s supposed to be.”

Missouri State had a boffo weekend in a lot of ways.

Between Isiaih Mosley’s 40 points and 61 percent team shooting in the second half, the 15-6 Bears rolled past No. 22 Loyola Chicago 79-69. It not only pulled the pair tighter at the top of the Missouri Valley Conference with a promise of more to come... and not only was Missouri State’s first victory over a ranked opponent in 10 years... and not only snapped Loyola’s homecourt winning streak at 30... but it was another dose of Mosley magic. He is one of the hottest players in the land at the moment. The Bears have had only five 40-point performances in history, but it was his second in five games. The other three games in that span, he went for 33, 32 and 24

Davidson had a good weekend

Another win — 69-66 over Fordham — makes 15 victories in a row and a 16-2 record. It’s Davidson’s best start in 57 years.

Boise State had a good weekend

The offense wasn’t exactly on afire, but the Broncos found just enough points to beat San Diego State 42-37 for their 12th consecutive victory. That completed a slog through the Mountain West, where Boise State won five games in 11 days and five different states, from Idaho to New Mexico.

TOUGH TEST: Why IUPUI had college basketball's toughest test on Saturday

Louisville had a bad weekend

The 82-70 loss to Notre Dame made four defeats in the Cardinals’ past five games. The only win in that stretch was a home game with Boston College that had to be delayed an hour because of a leaky roof. Chris Mack keeps tinkering — 10 different Louisville players have started a game — with no real answers yet. The Cardinals are 11-8. Should they miss the NCAA tournament, that would be three empty Marches in a row, albeit one because of the pandemic. Louisville hasn’t gone three years without a tournament bid in a half-century. And there were these disquieting post-game words from fifth-year senior Malik Williams, when asked by local media if the team was still listening to the coaches through the current hard times: “I don’t think I have a comment for that.”

Virginia had a bad weekend

North Carolina State rolled over the Cavaliers 77-63 to leave Virginia 11-8 overall and 5-4 in the ACC. The assumption is Tony Bennett’s defense will eventually click in for the Cavaliers. It hasn’t yet. They host Louisville Monday so someone will feel better.

Syracuse had an ugly weekend

The Orange were down 31 to Duke and lost by 20. The Syracuse stat sheet is a little misleading. Jim Boeheim has started the same five players every game and they’re all averaging in double figures. That suggests a stable and successful run. But the Orange are 9-10 and in real danger of handing Boeheim the first losing record (not counting vacated games) in his 46 seasons. His closest call so far was 16-13 in 1981-82. By the way, the Syracuse bench is adding only 6.2 points a game.

ACC: Miami and Florida State stand in the way of Duke men's basketball winning the ACC

Memphis had a good weekend

The Tigers shot 71 percent in the second half, missed one 2-pointer, and rallied from 15 points behind to win at Tulsa 83-81. Given the recent storms — a three-game losing streak, coach Penny Hardaway’s widely circulated issue with the media — good news was urgently needed to keep the season afloat. Hardaway used his 13th different starting lineup in 18 games.

Army had a wonderful weekend

Could it get much better than rallying from 38-11 down to win 74-73 in overtime, matching the sixth biggest comeback in Division I history? One way it could: If it were against Navy. And this was.

“My thoughts honestly were just . . . wow,” said coach Jimmy Allen. “I thought it said a lot about the resiliency of our guys and the way they were just able to continue to battle, and you certainly expect that from cadets at West Point.”

Three of their past four meetings in the rivalry have gone overtime.

By the way, there were 13 overtime games Friday-Sunday, and 32 others decided by one possession. College basketball had a grand weekend.

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