Just a thought to ponder as March and the NCAA tournament get closer: Who would you want taking the last shot? This week provided plenty of clutch players to choose from, and these guys are shooting daggers.
Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield, even with everyone knowing he was getting the ball, delivered a 3-pointer with 1.3 seconds left in the Sooners’ 63-60 win over Texas on Monday.
Monmouth’s Justin Robinson completed a 17-2 run in a 79-78 win at Rider with a game-winning step-back 3-pointer instead of going for the tie with 3.4 seconds left on Friday.
Dayton’s Darrell Davis did the same thing on the road at Rhode Island. With 21.1 seconds left, his 3-pointer gave the Flyers the lead for good in their 68-66 win.
If pulling up for 3-pointers is too bold for your taste, Duke’s Grayson Allen came through in the Blue Devils' 63-62 win over Virginia with a more conventional drive and bank shot at the buzzer.
Your weekly campus tour into what is and what was in college hoops begins now:
Coach of the week
Texas Tech had been ever so close to getting a momentum-building win over a ranked team. In its first meeting with Baylor, the Red Raiders outplayed the Bears in the second half, only to watch Lester Medford make his only 3-pointer in the game at the buzzer in a 63-60 loss. Tech led West Virginia by four with 1:10 left, only to allow a 10-2 run to close the door in an 80-76 loss.
Tubby Smith and the Red Raiders finally got their breakthrough this week. After hanging on to beat No. 14 Iowa State 85-82 in overtime on Wednesday, they toppled No. 21 Baylor 84-66 on the road Saturday to avoid being swept in their series for the sixth time in the past nine seasons.
The last time the Red Raiders won consecutive games against Top 25 teams was back in the 2006-07 season, when they beat No. 5 Kansas and No. 6 Texas A&M.
“We’ve been playing well against teams all year long, we finally found a way to win,” Smith told ESPN after Saturday’s game. “... It’s amazing what can happen when you believe and trust in each other.”
It’s amazing that Smith kept the team believing after it dropped seven of eight games last month and had fallen to 2-6 in the Big 12. Now at 5-7 in the Big 12, Texas Tech can believe it has a chance to earn its way into the NCAA tournament. Both Texas and Oklahoma State earned bids last season with 8-10 records in the Big 12. Not even a .500 league record would guarantee a bid, but the Red Raiders are positioned to at least have hope. And that's more than could be said a month ago.
Number to know
18. Baylor is about as feast-or-famine as it gets in college basketball. Entering their game against Texas Tech, the Bears were 18-0 in games in which they’ve held a lead at any point in the second half and 0-6 when they didn't. That trend held true in Saturday's loss, in which they trailed Texas Tech by one point (33-32) at halftime and Rico Gathers missed two free throws that would have put them ahead seconds into the second half. Taurean Prince missed a 3-pointer a minute later that also would have given them the lead. They tied the game twice at 34 and at 36, then came five straight turnovers that led to a 10-0 run for Texas Tech, and it never got any closer.
The place to be
Dean E. Smith Center, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. As North Carolina celebrates 30 years since the Smith Center first opened, it welcomes back its first opponent on Jan. 18, 1986. The Tar Heels, ranked No. 1 at the time, beat third-ranked Duke 95-92 on that day, behind 28 points from Steve Hale and Brad Daugherty’s double-double (23 points, 11 rebounds).
Not too long ago, it appeared this season's first installment of the rivalry that sets the standard in college basketball looked like it would be a bit lopsided. Duke had suffered three straight losses and North Carolina was dominating during an 8-0 start in ACC play. Both of those narratives have changed since then, which should make for an interesting game on Wednesday.
The Blue Devils have regained a bit of their swagger, with home wins over Louisville and Virginia. A shooting slump and inability to finish games cost the Tar Heels in losses at Louisville and Notre Dame -- and nearly at cellar-dwelling Boston College, too.
Given Duke’s week, there’s a chance they vault back into the Top 25 polls on Monday. If that happens, it would mark the 21st time in 26 meetings since Roy Williams took over in Chapel Hill that both teams faced off as ranked teams.
Under Williams, Carolina is 6-2 against Duke when the Heels enter as the higher-ranked team, as they will this week. But Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski owns an 8-4 record against Williams in Chapel Hill.
Big man on campus
It was starting to seem unfair.
Michigan senior guard Caris LeVert missed the final 14 games of his junior season with a left foot injury. And here he was cruising along his senior year, scoring 22 points with 10 assists in a 78-68 win over Illinois on Dec. 30, when he suffered a lower left leg injury in the game. LeVert had turned down the chance to enter last year's NBA draft with the thoughts of having a stellar senior year, and he was filling that promise by leading the Wolverines with 17.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game before his injury.
Michigan went 7-4 in his absence, but his presence was sorely missed in games against the Big Ten’s top teams. That won’t be the case moving forward.
LeVert made his 2016 debut on Saturday by playing 11 mostly unspectacular minutes -- all in the first half -- against Purdue.
It doesn’t matter that he missed the only shot he took and finished scoreless for the first time since the team's 2013 national championship loss to Louisville in his freshman year. And it’s OK that he’ll have to work his way back into playing shape after being sidelined for so long. The fact that he’s back after missing six weeks with a leg injury will give the Wolverines a big boost as they gear up for the postseason.