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College basketball notebook: Weekend with the George's

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College basketball notebook: Weekend with the George's

Having spent Saturday night with Georgetown at Verizon Center before catching Atlantic 10 rivals George Washington and George Mason battle in Fairfax, here are some thoughts on those and other local men's college basketball teams with the madness of March just one month away...

* Georgetown coach John Thompson provided an important reminder amid the pain following the 73-69 Big East loss to No. 10 Providence.

"We’re at the halfway point," he said in reference to the conference schedule. "There’s a whole lot of basketball left to be played."

The Hoyas (13-9, 6-3), now tied with the Friars for third in the Big East standings, have nine games remaining. Plenty of chapters remain, as do enough games against RPI and strength of schedule helpful opponents to help with the NCAA Tournament at-large scenario. Previous wins over Syracuse and Xavier help the big picture cause. Even some of the surprising losses aren't true killers (no losses against teams outside the RPI top 175).

But there's another way to look at that halfway point comment. That is, overall, the Hoyas are actually 23 games into the season and it's still hard figuring out this team's identity. Are they about feeding big men inside or firing away from beyond the 3-point arc? Are they about speeding up the pace by putting a bevy of wing threats on the court or grinding out wins? The answer to all depending on the game, half or possession is yes.

Forget tactics for a moment. Let's talk personnel. Imagine this goal: simply put out the best Hoyas lineup for five minutes of loosely defined good basketball. Other than that unit including senior guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, it's not clear who else is out there or which players work best together.

Isaac Copeland's scoring punch disappeared throughout January. The offense in theory functions best with freshman center Jessie Govan's perimeter game in the lineup, but his interior skills are lacking. 7-footer Bradley Hayes provides low-post scoring and rebounding, but he's not exactly mobile, which becomes problematic defensively when guards allow consistent penetration. That's where L.J. Peak helps with his ferocious energy, but the swingman can't always control his own pace and decision-making in halfcourt sets. Tre Campbell scored 21 points against Xavier, but just 10 over the next three games.

This uncertainty contributes to the identity problem, as does a stated willingness to, when on offense, take what the opponent gives you. The ability to adjust is valuable, but dictating terms isn't a bad thing. For this season, the question is which players can help get that done. We're way more than halfway through the season as coach John Thompson still searches for the right combinations.

Next up: Winnable road games Tuesday at Butler and Saturday night at Seton Hall.

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* Sunday's matchup between George Mason and George Washington was striking because of specific similarities. The Patriots (7-14, 1-7 Atlantic 10) start three freshmen. While that probably wasn't coach Dave Paulsen's plan for his first-year with the program, roster issues dictated such tactics.

Based on where the Colonials are these days, that's a good thing.

Mike Lonergan knew he would take some hits with wins and losses when he started four freshman for chunks of the 2012-13 season. He also knew that early exposure would help mature those players. Since then, the Colonials reached the NCAA Tournament and NIT in consecutive seasons and are poised for another postseason berth in 2016. Three of those freshmen -- Patricio Garino, Kevin Larsen, Joe McDonald -- remain starters.

Otis Livingston, the most impressive of Paulsen's kids, nearly led George Mason to an upset Sunday before GW held on for a 76-70 win. The freshman point guard had 18 points and seven assists without committing a turnover. His shot needs work, but the 5-foot-11 sparkplug knows how and when to find teammates with the pass.

Wing threat Jaire Grayer, the son of former NBA player Jeff Grayer, leads the Patriots with 33 3-pointers. Lengthy 6-foot-7 guard DeAndre Abram looks like a future matchup nightmare. Another freshman, Danny Dixon, played 10 minutes off the bench against GW.

"I said all week, we didn't practice like a 1-6 and now a 1-7 team," Paulsen said. "This group really embraced it, fought, competed, worked on getting better, so it's disappointing not to see our guys rewarded."

Lonergan was once on the building end of that scenario.

"They're going to get better," Lonergan said of Mason, "so we wanted to beat them now."

Next up: Mason plays at Richmond Wednesday before hosting Dayton Saturday.

* As for the Colonials (16-5, 5-3 Atlantic 10), it's fair to believe their next four games - Davidson (Wednesday), at VCU, St. Joseph's, at St. Bonaventure - will dictate which direction their season unfolds. Three of those four opponents are, along with GW, among the top five in the A-10 standings. Davidson is one game behind the Colonials. This stretch will boost GW's RPI and SOS, but too many losses can end its at-large chances, which is Lonergan implored his players to take their level up a notch.

* American (5-15, 3-6) escaped the basement of the Patriot League with three straight wins. Holy Cross (9-12, 4-6) visits Bender Arena Monday night.

* Howard guard James Daniel still leads the country in scoring, averaging 27.7 points, outpacing Oklahoma star Buddy Hield (26.2). Daniel and the Bison (10-11, 4-2 MEAC) play at UMES Monday.

St. Joseph's vs. Richmond Basketball: TV Channel, Live Stream How to Watch

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St. Joseph's vs. Richmond Basketball: TV Channel, Live Stream How to Watch

After a disappointing 7-11 start to the 2018-19 men's college basketball season, the Richmond Spiders hope to snap a two-game losing streak when they travel to the City of Brotherly Love on Wednesday night to take on the St. Joseph's Hawks at Hagan Arena.

The Spiders hope to start off their Three-Saint-Strech on the right foot against St. Joseph's prior to heading back home to host St. Bonaventure (1/23) before their road trip to take on Saint Louis (1/30). Richmond Head Coach Chris Mooney is aiming to lead his club to their third straight victory at Hagan Arena.

St. Joseph's vs. Richmond will tip off at 7:00 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Washington Plus.

St. Joseph's Hawks vs. Richmond Spiders How to Watch

What: St. Joseph's Hawks vs. Richmond Spiders
Where: Hagan Arena, St. Joseph's University. Philadelphia, PA.
When: 7:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC Sports Washington Plus (Channel Finder, Daily TV listings)
Radio: (99.5 FM; 950 AM)


St. Joseph's Hawks vs. Richmond Spiders Preview

Conference: Atlantic-10
Record: St. Joseph's (8-10, 1-5), Richmond (7-11,1-4)
Last Game: 68-57 Loss vs. Saint Louis, 1/18 (St. Joseph's), 75-62 Loss at Davidson, 1/19 (Richmond)
Leading Scorers: Charlie Brown Jr., 18.9 ppg (St. Joseph's), Grant Golden, 17.7ppg (Richmond)


 

Maryland's seven game winning streak propels Terps to top-15 ranking in latest AP Poll

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Maryland's seven game winning streak propels Terps to top-15 ranking in latest AP Poll

With the winning streak continuing for the Maryland Terrapins in the Big Ten, so do their ascent in the Associated Press Top 25. 

With a bunch of schools falling this past week Maryland is up to No. 13 in the AP Poll, rising six spots from last week. 

Top-ranked Duke went down early in the week. No. 2 Michigan and No. 4 Virginia, the last of Division I's unbeaten teams, both fell over the weekend. In all, six top-10 teams lost.

Tennessee kept rolling amid chaos across the AP Top 25.

The Vols are the new No. 1 in The Associated Press men's college basketball poll on Monday, climbing three spots to earn their first top ranking since the 2007-08 season.

Tennessee received 48 of 64 first-place votes from a media panel in the poll released Monday, well ahead of No. 2 Duke with 11. No. 3 Virginia received three first-place votes and No. 6 Michigan State two. Gonzaga and Michigan rounded out the top five.

"The guys playing right now built this thing," Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said.

Expectations followed the Vols into the 2018-19 season. With its top six scorers back from a team that shared the SEC title, Tennessee had its highest preseason ranking at No. 6 and was eyeing a deep NCAA Tournament run in Barnes' fourth season.

The Vols have lived up to the forecast so far, bouncing back from an overtime loss to then-No. 2 Kansas to win 12 straight games. Tennessee knocked Gonzaga from atop the AP Top 25 with Barnes' first win over a No. 1 team in early December and won its two games last week, rolling over Arkansas and holding off Alabama .

The only other time Tennessee (16-1, 5-0) was No. 1, it lost the next night to Vanderbilt -- the Vols' opponent on Wednesday.

"Tennessee basketball hasn't been ranked No. 1 in a long time," Vols guard Jordan Bone said. "That's a good feeling, but we can't be so locked in on that. We have to continue to stay hungry. We can't be so focused on that. It's so fleeting. It can change really quick."

The changes in the AP Top 25 came quickly after a wild week.

Duke started by losing to Syracuse in overtime at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils played without a sick Cam Reddish and lost point guard Tre Jones to a shoulder injury in the first half.

Reddish returned against Virginia on Saturday and Duke responded with a superb game, knocking Virginia from the unbeaten ranks with a 72-70 victory despite playing without Jones.

Michigan lost to Wisconsin by 10, also on Saturday, leaving the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers as the last Division I team to go undefeated.

No. 7 Kansas, No. 8 Texas Tech and No. 9 Virginia Tech also lost. The Jayhawks fell two spots after losing to West Virginia. The Red Raiders dropped six spots to No. 14 after losses to Iowa State and Baylor. The Hokies were down one to No. 10 following a loss to Virginia.

In all, 13 ranked teams lost last week.

COMPLETE AP TOP 25 POLL WEEK 12

1. Tennesse 16-1 (48 first-place votes, No. 3 last week)

2. Duke 15-2 (11 first-place votes, No. 1)

3. Virginia 16-1 (3 first-place votes, No. 4)

4. Gonzaga 18-2 (No. 5)

5. Michigan 17-1 (No. 2)

6. Michigan State 16-2 (no change)

7. Nevada 18-1 (No. 10)

8. Kentucky 14-3 (No. 12)

9. Kansas 15-3 (No. 7)

10. Virginia Tech 15-2 (No. 9)

11. North Carolina 14-4 (No. 13)

12. Marquette 16-3 (No. 15)

13. Maryland 16-3 (No. 19)

14. Texas Tech 15-3 (No. 8)

T-14. Buffalo 17-1 (No. 16)

16. Auburn 13-4 (No. 14)

17. Houston 18-1 (No. 21)

18. Villanova 14-4 (No. 22)

19. Iowa 16-3 (No. 23)

20. Ole Miss 14-3 (No. 18)

21. N.C. State 15-3 (No. 17)

22. Mississippi State 14-3 (No. 24)

23. Louisville 13-5 (unranked)

24. Iowa State 14-4 (unranked)

25. LSU 14-3 (unranked)

Dropped from the rankings: Florida State (11), Oklahoma (20), Indiana (25)

KENTUCKY RISING

Kentucky saw a steady slide down the AP Top 25 after opening the season with a blowout loss to Duke. The preseason No. 2, the Wildcats were down to No. 19 just a month ago, but started climbing again.

Kentucky is up to No. 8 after beating No. 14 Auburn and Georgia this week, with games against No. 22 Mississippi State and No. 9 Kansas coming up.

RISING AND FALLING

No. 13 Maryland moved up six spots after beating Wisconsin and Ohio State.

Kentucky, No. 17 Houston and No. 18 Villanova each moved up four spots.

Florida State after stretching its losing streak to three games with losses to Pittsburgh and Boston College, falling out of the poll from No. 11.

MOVING IN

Louisville moved into the AP Top 25 for the first time this season at No. 23 following wins over Boston College and Georgia Tech.

Iowa State's wins over Texas Tech and Oklahoma State put the Cyclones back in at No. 24 after they dropped out from No. 20 last week.

LSU beat then-No. 19 Mississippi and South Carolina last week to return to the poll at No. 25.

MOVING OUT

Oklahoma joined Florida State in dropping out of the poll following losses to Kansas State and Texas. The Sooners were No. 20 last week.

Indiana, No. 25 last week, did not receive a single vote after lopsided losses to Nebraska and Purdue.

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NBC Sports Washington's Tyler Byrum contributed to this story.