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Purdue, Kentucky, Kansas Headline Winners From Saturday In College Hoops | TheSportsDay Purdue, Kentucky, Kansas Headline Winners From Saturday In College Hoops | TheSportsDay

Purdue, Kentucky, Kansas headline winners from Saturday in college hoops

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The best collective day of the season in college basketball to date delivered the goods and served as the perfect pre-Christmas measuring stick for several of the sport’s heavyweights. 

In a top-three showdown between Arizona and Purdue, the Maui Invitational champion Boilermakers added more to an already-loaded resume with a complete performance to hand the Wildcats their first loss of the season, 92-84. In a top-15 blue-blood showdown in Atlanta between North Carolina and Kentucky, John Calipari’s team showed America again just how special they could be with an 87-83 victory over the Tar Heels. At a raucous Assembly Hall, Kansas overcame a 10-point deficit with just over 11 minutes on the clock to earn a gutsy win at Indiana and surge to 10-1 on the year. 

In perhaps the most eyebrow-raising result of the day, Michigan State didn’t just beat #6 Baylor. The Spartans ran the previously unbeaten Bears off the court in a statement-making 88-64 victory behind Tyson Walker’s 25 points. My takeaways from that one are here.

We only listed four games on a complete Saturday buffet. Before we get to the remaining takeaways, it’s an appropriate time to bring this up: there are only four unbeaten teams left in college basketball. Who would have thought it would be this collection of teams when we tipped off on Nov. 6?  

No. 4 Houston – 11-0

No. 11 Oklahoma – 9-0

No. 20 James Madison – 10-0 

Mississippi – 10-0  

I have high confidence in stating that we won’t be seeing a 2020-21 Gonzaga or 2014-15 Kentucky case this year in college hoops with a team holding a perfect record going into the NCAA Tournament.  

What do I not have high confidence in? The No. 1 team in the sport! And that’s a beautiful thing! I have a gut feeling on who will be No. 1 in the AP poll on Monday, and I think my rankings on Sunday will agree with that, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that if you argued for Kansas, UConn, Purdue, Arizona or even Houston right now, I’d listen to your argument. Heck, if you brought Marquette to the table, the Golden Eagles are a special team and came a possession away from winning the Maui Invitational. That’s the charm of college basketball. There is real parity, and this marathon to March will see that No. 1 ranking change more than it stays the same.  

Here are my rapid fire takeaways from a wild Saturday across the country.  

Purdue showed why it can win a national championship on Saturday 

One of the things we don’t talk about with last year’s Boilermakers team is that it wasn’t ranked in the AP Preseason Top 25. You know why? Their backcourt was all freshmen. The duo of Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer surprised everybody early, and then ended up looking like freshmen in key spots as the year went on and the Boilers experienced the gut punch in the NCAA Tournament. But it’s as if a lot of people wrote off the concept that those freshmen who were mostly impressive would evolve as sophomores.  

On Saturday, Purdue’s guards outdid Arizona’s guards. Loyer and Smith scored 27 and 26 points respectively, combining to shoot 20-for-33 from the floor in the 92-84 win over Arizona.  

When Zach Edey is the third leading scorer for the Boilermakers, you can almost always assume what the end result is going to be. All the 7-foot-4, 300-pound reigning national player of the year did was post 22 points, nine rebounds and five assists.  

The Boilermakers now own wins over Gonzaga, Marquette, Alabama, Tennessee and the Wildcats. That means they’ve defeated four of the top 12 teams in the NET rankings, and every one of those marquee wins has come away from Mackey Arena. I think the Boilermakers deserve that No. 1 ranking come Monday.  

Believe the hype: Kentucky’s offense is scary good and John Calipari is back 

“The upside for this team is really up. Let’s see if we can get there.”  

Those were the words of Calipari after Saturday’s win over North Carolina. His team is 8-2 and as lethal as any squad in the country to defend in transition. While a miscommunication turnover by the Tar Heels’ Elliot Cadeau and Cormac Ryan sealed the game, on the other side, Kentucky finished against a marquee opponent. 

It was a similar predicament to the one the Wildcats dealt with in the Champions Classic. They showed they learned from the Kansas loss, trailing 72-71 with five minutes left and getting six straight points from Aaron Bradshaw and Rob Dillingham.  

What stands out to me about this Wildcats team? You don’t know who’s going to hurt you. In the win over UNC, eight players scored at least seven points, with Dillingham delivering 17 off the bench and DJ Wagner posting 14 points, six rebounds and five assists. Bradshaw is only going to keep getting better on the interior now that he’s healthy, and he’s even capable on the perimeter as well.  

Is Kentucky a top-10 team in college hoops? I don’t think there’s any question of that today when they play their best.  

[No. 14 Kentucky edges No. 9 North Carolina in blue-blood battle]

Bill Self and Kansas keep finding ways to win  

The Jayhawks aren’t doing it with a bunch of catch-and-shoot weapons to overwhelm a defense. They’re doing it with experienced guys who have quickly learned how to play together and feed off one another, and the transfer of Hunter Dickinson to Lawrence is allowing returnees KJ Adams and Kevin McCullar Jr. to open up new dimensions to their skillset and cause issues for opponents.  

McCullar Jr.’s leap has been huge, as he led the Jayhawks with 21 points and hit clutch free throws in the 75-71 win over Indiana, going 13-for-16 from the stripe. The 6-foot-7 wing has gone from around 10 points per game to nearly 20. Dickinson, getting booed all afternoon by Hoosier fans, totaled 17 and 14 which has seemingly become automatic in Self’s system, which is geared around their crown jewel offseason add. As Self has said, Dickinson at the 5 is allowing Adams to play at his natural position at the 4. He had 14 points on Saturday.  

That trio has been consistent. Dajuan Harris Jr. got them over the top in a tough road atmosphere Saturday. When the Kansas point guard scores at least seven points in a game in the last two years, the Jayhawks are 23-1. 

He scored 12 points, shooting 5-of-9 from 3 and delivering five assists, in Saturday’s victory. 

Does Kansas have all the answers at the shooting guard spot? No. But that’s what makes 10-1 all that much more impressive. Indiana really fought its tail off at home, but it wasn’t enough. For the Hoosiers big picture though, I think they should be encouraged by Saturday’s performance.  

Penny Hardaway has a legit second weekend caliber team at Memphis  

Remember this: The Tigers were so close to beating Florida Atlantic last year in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, losing a lead and dropping a heartbreaker. I think this Memphis team gives Hardaway, the sixth-year head coach of the Tigers, his best chance to go on a deep March run.  

On Saturday, they handed No. 13 Clemson its first loss of the season, 79-77. David Jones continues to show why he was an invaluable transfer addition, delivering 22 points and six rebounds. What also stands out? Jahvon Quinerly can do some really special things when he gets downhill. He posted 17 points and six assists in the win, helping to drive the Tigers back from a 7-point halftime deficit. Memphis is 8-2 on the year with back-to-back wins over a Clemson team that I think could win the ACC and a Texas A&M squad that I believe could finish in the top-3 of the SEC. 

As Trey Alexander goes, Creighton goes 

Greg McDermott’s Bluejays went to 9-2 on the season with a bounce-back 85-82 win over Alabama on FOX Primetime Hoops. 

[Ryan Kalkbrenner’s return from injury helps No. 8 Creighton edge Alabama]

Where does success start for Creighton? For me, it’s obvious: Trey Alexander. He should hear his name called at the NBA Draft this June. In the two Jays losses to Colorado State and UNLV this season – yes, I think Creighton is done with the Mountain West going forward – the junior wing has shot a combined 3-for-29 from the floor. On Saturday night, he went into attack mode, scoring 22 points and shooting 8-for-15 from the floor. Baylor Scheierman added 20, while Ryan Kalkbrenner poured in 19 and eight rebounds. 

The Jays aren’t loaded with depth, so it’s imperative that their top trio steps up night and night out against top-tier competition. They answered the ball against an Alabama team that has a deceiving 6-4 record.  

[College basketball bad beat: Double OT sinks UNLV-Saint Mary’s Under bettors]

Ho-Hum Houston: Cougars stay perfect at 11-0, hang on over Texas A&M

They’re the best defensive team in college basketball, and when they get going from the perimeter, you can forget about it. On Saturday, sophomore guard Emanuel Sharp showed his rise in year two under Kelvin Sampson, drilling five three-pointers and scoring 21 points in a 70-66 win over Texas A&M. 

Sharp has set a new career-high with back-to-back performances of five triples this past week. The other performance that really stood out: J’Wan Roberts! The 6-foot-7 forward totaled 10 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in the win. On the passing front, because of the shooting Houston has, their bigger players can benefit if they make the right pass. LJ Cryer totaled 17 points while Jamal Shead added 12 and eight assists. 

One piece of bad news: 6-foot-6 sophomore Terrence Arceneaux, a projected breakout player for the Cougars, has a torn Achilles and is out for the remainder of the season. Still, I think this Houston team will absolutely challenge Kansas in what should be a phenomenal Big 12 title race. 

Five tip-ins to close…

Florida Atlantic can win games in a variety of ways. On Saturday, the 15th-ranked Owls used stifling defense to beat St. Bonaventure 64-54 and go to 9-2 on the season. Up next for Dusty May’s team, it gets no easier. They meet Arizona in Las Vegas next Saturday at 3 p.m. ET on FOX.  

Ohio State is quietly 9-2, and UCLA could be in serious danger of missing the NCAA Tournament this year. The Bruins own nothing of quality on their resume from non-conference play and they’re really struggling offensively, falling to the Buckeyes 67-60 on Saturday. OSU shot just 1-for-15 from 3-point range and still found a way to win. What do I like about this Buckeye team? Their sophomore class. Roddy Gayle Jr. led the way with 19 points on Saturday. This team is top 30-35 for me. 

Dylan Disu returned from a foot injury for Texas and the 6-foot-9 senior was phenomenal in his season debut, scoring 17 points with five assists and four rebounds in a 96-85 Longhorns win over LSU. With Max Abmas and Tyrese Hunter combining for 39, that’s a good sign as Hunter really looks like he’s finding a rhythm lately. But at the end of the day, this Texas team has struggled in the frontcourt to have scoring threats. Disu fixes that. 

No. 22 Virginia was down 16-4 close to nine minutes into the game and trailed the majority of the way, but Reece Beekman came up clutch in the final minute to lift the Cavaliers past the CAA’s Northeastern, 56-54. Even in a win, it’s enough for me to remove UVA from my Top 25 this week. They continue to be hard to trust because the offense is inconsistent. 

Don’t forget about UConn: The Huskies’ best, in my opinion, is better than anybody’s else’s best right now.

Friday night’s 76-63 win over Gonzaga caps a 10-1 non-conference season, as Donovan Clingan set the tone with 21 points and eight rebounds while the Huskies started 7-for-9 from 3-point territory and never looked back. The reigning national champions are 27-1 versus non-conference competition in the last two seasons. All 27 wins have come by double-figures.

John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers the sport in a variety of capacities, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.

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