College Basketball

CSN's Buckets List: For starters, it was a week to remember


CSN's Buckets List: For starters, it was a week to remember

Each Monday through the Final Four, our own Robbie Buckets -- known in some circles as Rob Snyder, associate producer at CSN -- will take a look at the world of college basketball: Games to watch each week, players who might be on the Celtics' radar come draft time, what's going on locally . . . and, of course, power rankings (which will eventually morph into bracketology). Enjoy!

It's been two weeks since we last spoke because I released the first edition of the Buckets List five days prior to the opening of the season. I wasn't going to have any fine points to go through after three days of action, but now, in the wake of a phenomenal week, there's plenty to talk about. Great games all around (see: Indiana vs. Kansas, Arizona vs. Michigan State and Duke vs. Kansas, to name a few). Unfortunately, not the best week for New England. I'll get to that later.


1. Kentucky (4-0) -- Their youth will eventually give them some problems, but right now, the 'Cats are far ahead of where John Calipari thought they'd be. The coach who expected them to "pee down their leg" against Michigan State (his words, not mine) ended up with a 21-point victory instead. Malik Monk is the real deal.

2. Villanova (5-0) -- Fun fact: Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins and Darryl Reynolds have never lost a November game in their four-year collegiate careers. 'Nova would be No. 1 this week except for some defensive lapses. I fully expect those to be fixed, but for now, they'll end up here.

3. North Carolina (4-0) -- They haven't really been tested, but the Tar Heels have done what they're supposed to do: Destroy everyone. The talent they have has shown up big time, and the combination of Joel Berry, Justin Jackson and Isaiah Hicks is a force to be reckoned with.

4. Indiana (3-0) -- Huge leap. I could put Duke or Kansas here, but I firmly believe in "You beat 'em, you stay ahead of 'em."  Indiana has been offensively ridiculous and James Blackmon is leading the way. The overtime win over Kansas was impressive.

5. Kansas (2-1) -- Speaking of the Jayhawks, they're just a few defensive slipups from being a few spots higher. Oh, and by the way, they followed up that loss to the Hoosiers with a win over short-handed Duke. And Frank Mason looks like a man on a mission.

6. Duke (4-1) -- I know they'll be better once they get everyone back, but I can't judge teams based on how they MIGHT be later on in the season. I can only go off what I have in front of me. The Blue Devils will be fine and have played great considering they've been without any depth whatsoever. One concern: Grayson Allen has been bad.

7. Virginia (3-0) -- Tony Bennett threw Austin Nichols off the team in a surprise move this week. Virginia, however, went right back to doing what Virginia does: Suffocating opponents with the pack-line defense and winning by massive margins.

8. Xavier (5-0) -- The Musketeers are undefeated, but they've let their opponents hang around in virtually every game. They aren't getting enough out of their front line and are depending solely on Trevon Bluiett, Edmond Sumner and J.P. Macura to do virtually everything.

9. Arizona (3-0) -- For about two TV timeouts I was right about these Wildcats. But then they came back big time and beat Michigan State in their opener. Sean Miller deserves a ton of credit for keeping this program together in tough times.

10. UCLA (4-0) -- Freshman Lonzo Ball may literally be the best player in the country. He is putting up insane numbers (see below) and is drawing comparisons to Russell Westbrook. The Bruins' offense is putting up scorching numbers, but the defense needs to improve.

11. Creighton (4-0) -- Speaking of high-octane offense, Creighton has put up over 100 points in each of its past two games. The backcourt is as dominant as advertised, and the Bluejays are reminding a lot of people of the team Doug McDermott played on. Oh, and by the way, they beat Wisconsin.

12. Syracuse (3-0) -- So many "experts" had Syracuse ranked low in the ACC this year. Not the case, folks. This team is legit again, and -- despite some experimenting with man-to-man during the preseason -- the zone is back in business and as good as usual.

13. Oregon (2-1) -- The Ducks really missed Dillon Brooks last week. It showed big time in a loss to Baylor in which they failed to hit the 50-point mark. Luckily, Oregon was able to follow up the loss with a nice win over Valpo.

14. Wisconsin (2-1) -- The Badgers will still be solid in the Big Ten, but proved they still aren't a top 10 team when they were eaten alive by Creighton. As I said in my previous Buckets List: You can return everyone from a team that earned a 6-seed, but it doesn't automatically turn you into a 2-seed.

15. Gonzaga (3-0) -- It was tough picking the last team here but I have to go with the Zags. I wasn't overly high on them coming in after they lost their two best players, but they proved me wrong with a dominating win against San Diego State.

Just missed:  Louisville, Purdue, Saint Mary's, West Virginia, Iowa State.


Rhode Island -- The Rams will be just fine. On Sunday, they lost to Duke by 10 points in a game where they really shot the ball poorly. It's a shame, because Duke had basically only five guys and it was the Rams' best shot to steal one. But they'll still be fine. A really nice comeback win over Cincinnati showed us that.

UConn -- Um . . . so I'm not as confident that this team will be fine. I was very wrong about assuming all the Huskies' new players would mesh together. They're 1-2 after opening the season with losses to Wagner and Northeastern (not a misprint). And if it wasn't for some clutch trips down the floor in their third game against <sarcasm>powerhouse Loyola-Marymount</sarcasm>, the Huskies would be bageled after a week-and-a-half. Kevin Ollie needs to turn things around quick.

Providence -- All right Friars fans, I'm here for you. It will be up-and-down all year for this team, but so far I'd be encouraged. The Friars are getting some big-time production from Rodney Bullock and Emmitt Holt, something they desperately needed after losing Kris Dunn and Ben Bentil. If it wasn't for a close loss to Ohio State, PC would be looking at a 3-0 start.


Maui Invitational: Potential semifinal games
Oregon vs. Wisconsin
UConn vs. North Carolina


Lonzo Ball (UCLA) -- 16.3 PPG, 9.0 APG, 6.3 RPG are his numbers through four games this season. That's insane for college hoops and even more insane for a freshman playing in his first four games. The kid is an athletic, ball-dominant guard with great ups and a relentless pursuit of the basket.

Caleb Swanigan (Purdue) -- This guy could be a very valuable late first-round, early second-round power forward. He has NBA size at 6-foot-9, 270-ish and surprising range as he's been hitting 3s early on this season.  He's averaging over 20 PPG & 13 RPG, so keep your eye on the Purdue big man.

Follow me on Twitter @RobbieBuckets for college hoops musings and off-the-cuff sports takes.

NCAA IN BOSTON: Texas Tech takes down Purdue to advance to Elite 8

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NCAA IN BOSTON: Texas Tech takes down Purdue to advance to Elite 8

BOSTON - Chris Beard has done it to Purdue again.

The Texas Tech coach knocked the Boilermakers out of the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years, this time leading the third-seeded Red Raiders to a 78-65 victory in the Sweet 16. Keenan Evans scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half, when Texas Tech scored 11 straight points to pull away.

The Red Raiders (27-9) will play No. 1 seed Villanova on Sunday in the East regional final for a spot in the Final Four. The Wildcats advanced earlier Friday night with a 90-78 victory over West Virginia.

Beard is in his second year in Lubbock after leaving Arkansas-Little Rock, where he led the Trojans to a double overtime upset over fifth-seeded Purdue in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament.

This time, No. 2 seed Purdue (30-7) was hoping to join Villanova in the Elite Eight, getting 30 points from Carsen Edwards and 12 points and 13 rebounds from Vincent Edwards.

But Beard was in their way again.

Texas Tech trailed for most of the first before scoring the last 10 points of the half to turn a five-point deficit into a 30-25 lead. The Red Raiders led 58-55 with 5:44 left when Evans hit two free throws and then a three pointer to start an 11-0 run that put the game away.

Purdue star center Isaac Haas, the team's No. 2 scorer and rebounder, could only be a cheerleader - and a one-armed cheerleader, at that. After breaking his right elbow in the first-round game against Cal State-Fullerton, he tried to convince Painter he could play; the Purdue engineering department even pitched in, designing a special brace for his right arm.

But Haas remained on the bench, replaced by Matt Haarms, a redshirt freshman who at 7-foot-3 measures an inch taller but at 40 pounds lighter is hardly the force under the basket of that his senior teammate has been.

Haarms finished with four points and three rebounds.


NCAA IN BOSTON: Villanova handles West Virginia to advance to Elite 8

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NCAA IN BOSTON: Villanova handles West Virginia to advance to Elite 8

BOSTON - Villanova's 3-point party rolled past the pressure of West Virginia to bring the Wildcats to the doorstep of another Final Four two seasons after winning a national championship.

The top-seeded Wildcats continued their outside feast, downing the fifth-seeded Mountaineers 90-78 on Friday night to earn their second trip to the Elite Eight in three seasons.

Jalen Brunson led Villanova with 27 points and Omari Spellman had 18 with eight rebounds as Villanova overcame the West Virginia press by hitting 13 of 24 shots from 3-point range.

Jevon Carter and Sagaba Konate each at 12 points to lead West Virginia.

Villanova (33-4) has now made 47 3-pointers for the tournament. The outside shots helped the Wildcats overcome 16 turnovers.

Villanova's Sweet 16 plan for the team nicknamed "Press Virginia": Attack the stifling defense head-on.

The Wildcats struggled at times, especially in the first half, but dug out of a six-point hole in the second half with an 11-0 run.

"What a game, man. I hope that looked as good as it did from the bench, man," Villanova coach Jay wright said. "That was the most physically demanding, mentally draining 40 minutes we've played in a long time. They are so relentless."

The Mountaineers (26-11) stayed close throughout the night, ramping up the pressure and making Villanova play faster than it wanted to early. But foul trouble throughout the second half was too much for West Virginia to overcome after it gave up the lead.

Carter was called for his third with 17:33 left in the game. That was followed by Daxter Miles being whistled for his third and fourth fouls over a two minute stretch that sent him to the bench with 15 minutes remaining.

West Virginia was able to adjust for a while and took advantage of a more than three-minute Villanova scoring drought to take a 60-54 edge with just over 11 minutes left.

But Villanova heated up again. Its 11-point run was capped by a thunderous block and dunk on the other end by Omari Spellman that pushed the Wildcats back in front 65-60.

The Wildcats kept the momentum going, stretching the lead to 76-66 on a 3-pointer by Brunson.

West Virginia never got closer than 4 points the rest of the way.

Villanova led 44-42 at the half after a fast-paced opening 20 minutes. Brunson led all scorers with 16 points in the half, with West Virginia getting 11 points from Daxter Miles.

The Wildcats came out firing, connecting on their first seven field goals. They handled the Mountaineers' pressure well early. But the Wildcats had three turnovers over a 65-second stretch during an 8-0 Mountaineers run that put them in front 33-30.