From controversy at Phog Allen Fieldhouse to a pair of game-winning shots by the same player in the same week, college basketball had plenty to offer in its first Saturday in the spotlight this week. Check out who survived, who thrived and who is still looking for answers as the calendar turned to 2024 this week!
1. Purdue (14-1)
The game ended up closer than it needed to be but Purdue showed once again that they can win without Zach Edey being at his best. That is the biggest difference from last season and the biggest indicator that 2024 can be different for Matt Painter and the Boilermakers.
2. Kansas (13-1)
Hunter Dickinson (pictured) continues to improve his range. A few calls went their way Saturday afternoon, but the Jayhawks still get credit for the win in what turned out to be a bloodbath at Allen Fieldhouse. TCU pushed Bill Self’s group to the end but stalwart efforts from their Big Four proved to be enough to escape. The longer this team fails to develop contributors off the bench, the more these games will start going the other direction.
3. Houston (14-0)
Another week, another blowout for Houston. The Cougars are outscoring opponents by 27 this season and are now the lone unbeaten team remaining in college basketball. However, they still haven’t faced a ranked opponent and until they do, I can’t see them climbing much higher in these rankings.
4. UConn (13-2)
Dan Hurley was animated to say the least following UConn’s 88-81 victory at Butler Friday night. Why wouldn’t he be? He just earned a National Championship ring and has the Huskies ready to run it back despite the injuries that have already mounted in the early season. At full strength, this could be the best team in the sport once again.
5. Kentucky (11-2)
Hello, Aaron Bradshaw. After a miserable first half, the five-star freshman put the game away with a huge 3-pointer to put Kentucky up for good in their biggest road test of the year. Not only will his stock soar in response to his effort, but the ceiling in Lexington is raised with a rim-protecting stretch-five who can be the anchor of a defense that needs him to improve.
6. North Carolina (11-3)
The Tar Heels picked up a huge road victory of their own with a late run to knock off No. 16 Clemson. The offense is typically what makes UNC go, but it was the defense that held the Tigers scoreless for the final five minutes and sent them to a tie at the top of the ACC at 3-0.
7. Arizona (12-3)
Well, that was an impressive response. After conceding 100 points to Stanford and picking up their third loss of the season last week, Arizona throttled a pair of legitimate contenders in the Pac-12 in the most impressive team performances of the week. This version of the Wildcats is championship-worthy. Whether this team shows up when it matters most is to be determined, but it’s always nice to know your team can kick it into this gear.
8. Tennessee (11-3)
Was Tennessee’s 90-64 win over Ole Miss an indictment that the Rebels were a tad overrated after their undefeated start? Was it a testament to how elite the Vols are this year? Why not both? That’s seven wins in a row for Rick Barnes who might finally have the team that gets him back to the Final Four.
9. Marquette (11-4)
Seton Hall is starting to become a bit of a giant slayer with another top-10 win over Marquette this time around. The Golden Eagles have been miserable on the road this season since knocking off Illinois in Champaign and will need to figure out these woes if they want to have a chance in March away from their home floor.
10. Duke (11-3)
Kyle Filipowski shot 2-12 from the field and Duke still won a conference game away from home. This team is growing. It was Mark Mitchell who stepped up in Filipowski’s struggles and as Jared McCain keeps improving in his starting role, the Blue Devils will keep growing into the team we thought they’d be early in the year.
11. Baylor (12-2)
Any road win in the Big 12 is something to be proud of. Doing so with your best player shooting 2-11 evokes even more pride. This team doesn’t seem to have the same aura as the national championship team in 2021, or even the group that lost in the second round last year, but it could still do some damage in the tournament if they get hot at the right time.
12. Auburn (12-2)
The top of the SEC is as good as any conference in the sport. We knew about Kentucky and Tennessee but now Auburn is firmly in the race among the elite in the conference. Erase a foolishly scheduled away game at Appalachian State and the Tigers would be 12-1 and serious national championship contenders after their beatdown at Bud Walton Arena Saturday afternoon.
13. Illinois (11-3)
Putting up as much of a fight as they did due to a late surge is a good sign for what’s to come for the Illini, but the loss of Terrence Shannon is sure to have major repercussions eventually.
14. Oklahoma (13-1)
The Sooners narrowly defeated Iowa State to start conference play on the right foot but things are going to get much more difficult with trips to TCU and Kansas next week. How they handle these tests should reveal a lot about how far they can go this season.
15. Wisconsin (11-3)
When Wisconsin learned to play offense is beyond me but things are firing on all cylinders in Madison right now. The seventh most efficient offense in college hoops could be the biggest challenge to Purdue’s conference title hopes this year.
16. Memphis (13-2)
We’ll get into it in a little more detail below, but let’s give it up for Jahvon Quinerly. The Tigers went 2-0 this week, against all odds, thanks to two go-ahead triples in the final three seconds against Tulsa and SMU. FAU’s struggles have opened the door for Memphis to be the favorites in the American Athletic Conference without Houston tormenting them.
Next 5: Utah State, South Carolina, Grand Canyon, San Diego State, Colorado State
Players of the Week:
Trey Alexander, Creighton Blue Jays
The Blue Jays bounced back in the new year, mostly due to Trey Alexander’s outstanding and nearly identical efforts against Georgetown and Providence. The combo guard averaged 23 points, five rebounds and five assists in the wins to put them back in the race for a Big East title.
Isaiah Collier, USC Trojans
In a battle of intriguing prospects in the Pac-12, Collier shined the brightest with 26 points in a 93-79 win over Stanford. The career-high effort came in front of LeBron James and showed why he could be a top-10 pick this Summer.
Hunter Dickinson, No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks
You can make the argument that Dickinson’s flop was actually the biggest play he made all game, but regardless, his game-winning bucket with three seconds remaining propelled the Jayhawks to a thrilling win over TCU on Saturday. The Michigan transfer finished with 30 points and 11 rebounds to lead Kansas to the win.
Marcus Domask, No. 9 Illinois Fighting Illini
Domask did his very best to limit the impact of Shannon’s loss this week as he went for 32 points and six assists in a blowout win over Northwestern on Tuesday. He followed it up with 26 points and a complete takeover in the second half to get the Illini back into the game against Purdue.
Adama Bal, Santa Clara Broncos
You’re looking at the next Santa Clara star who could rise into the lottery this summer. Bal is following in Jalen Williams and Brandin Podziemski’s footsteps with an outstanding junior season for the Broncos. He averaged 24.5 points in two wins this week to raise his scoring average to 16 points per game on the season.
Play of the Week
Jahvon Quinerly came up with not one, but two go-ahead 3-pointers this week in the final seconds of wins for Memphis. The former five-star recruit took clutch to a whole new level and is an honorary player of the week for these two highlights that helped the Tigers improve to 13-2.