Tony Carr Hands Ohio State First Loss in Big Ten Action

College basketball is a lot of fun. In the span of five seconds, Ohio State went from pure jubilation to having their collective hearts ripped out. Thank you, Tony Carr. In a game that didn’t have much hype coming in, Carr and Penn State gave us one of the best finishes of the season. Ohio State’s Keita Bates-Diop set the stage with a game-tying three. They left just enough time for Carr to come down with no time-outs and bank home a three at the buzzer. He finished with 28 points and added 5 assists and rebounds in the upset over Ohio State. On the season, Carr has been Penn State’s most crucial player, averaging 19 points, along with 5 assists, 5 rebounds and a steal a game.

With the Hoop Group Lehigh Valley Showcase set for this weekend, it was a former #HGShowcase star that gave the college basketball world excitement last night. Carr’s play this year is no surprise, as it was something he was accustomed to all throughout high school. This weekend’s games at Parkland will be no feature several more players with promising collegiate futures. Division 1 commits include Cam Reddish (Duke), Jake Forrester (Indiana), Tyrese Martin (Rhode Island), Ryan Young (Northwestern), Rasir Bolton (Penn State) and more. Fill your football void with great high school basketball. Tickets are still on sale.

7 Teams That Have Surprised Us This College Basketball Season

By now it’s pretty widely agreed upon that this season has been crazy in college basketball. Upsets all over, blue chip programs struggling to put it together, and teams that were overlooked, turning heads. You often see teams start hot and fade away once conference play begins, but let’s look at seven teams who appear to be legitimate here in mid January.


Take a second to realize just what Bruce Pearl has done this year at Auburn. His program was linked to the FBI report that was released in the Fall. He lost one of his assistant coaches just before the start of the season. And, his two best players are out for the entire season. Recipe for success? For sure not. However, the Tigers have a 16-1 record, and a perfect 4-0 record in SEC play this season. While they played a relatively soft non-conference schedule, Auburn has two strong SEC wins at Tennessee and against Arkansas. This team is playing with confidence and their head coach is coaching with a swagger. Auburn may be the most surprising team so far this season.

Ohio State

Speaking of non-ideal scenarios, take a look at what Chris Holtmann inherited at Ohio State. In June, he took over a team that won just six Big Ten games, and were losing their top four leading scorers. His only option would be to weather the storm and begin making serious changes after what was expected to be a rough first season, right? Wrong. Although they got off to a shaky start, failing to secure any signature non-conference wins, what Holtmann has done at Ohio State so far is fantastic. Behind the All-American play of Keita Bates-Diop, the Buckeyes already have six conference wins, and are tied with Purdue at the top of the standings. And while they may not have been able to secure any resume boosting non-conference wins, they announced themselves as contenders with an absolute drubbing of Michigan State a few weeks ago.


The Clemson Tigers were supposed to make the NCAA tournament last season, at least that’s what their expectation was. Jaron Blossomgame was finally a senior and be was going to lead them to the Big Dance before he left. Unfortunately that story never panned out, but Clemson appears to be on their way this season. What losing Blossomgame did was turn them into one of the more balanced scoring teams in the country. They have five players who average 11 points a game or more. They hold wins over Ohio State, Florida, Louisville and Miami. Three of those four wins were at home, a place they defended pretty well this season.


If you watch a lot of college basketball, you know the Oklahoma Sooners are a lot more than Trae Young. Sure, Young is a sensational player and well on his way to being named Player of the Year, but this team is blossoming after going through many growing pains last year. After being extremely young last season, Oklahoma is seeing a lot of players make big jumps in their game, year over year. Young might be a straw that stirs the drink, but his strong supporting cast is the reason the Sooners are a top 5 team in the country.

Arizona State

Arizona State has had a humbling start to Pac 12 play, but they are still light years ahead of where anyone thought they would be. They have a top 10 offense in the country, though that has slowed down some as well. Despite their conference struggles, the Sun Devils still have wins against Xavier and at Kansas to hang their hat on. They have a favorable stretch coming up that should (hopefully) be what this team needs to get back on track. Regardless, this team is 14-3 and a real threat to win the Pac 12. That is something not many people expected coming into the season.

Texas Tech

If you are unaware, the Big 12 Conference is really, really good. One reason why is the ridiculous play of Trae Young. Another reason is the emergence of Texas Tech and the tenacious defense Chris Beard has instilled in this team. While they don’t generate the turnovers that West Virginia does, the Red Raiders defense is Top 10 in the country in terms of points per game. A mix of strong senior leadership and tough defense can take a team far. This Texas Tech team is good enough to reach a Final Four, just ask Kansas, Baylor, Nevada and West Virginia.


The Purdue Boilermakers are tied for first place in the Big Ten. They haven’t lost since the day after Thanksgiving. In that time they’ve beaten Arizona (albeit without Rawle Alkins), Louisville, Michigan and Butler. The Boilermakers made a statement in a 34 point slaughter of a Minnesota team that has some problems. With Purdue, you have another rare exception of a team losing an All-American (Caleb Swanigan) and seemingly being better without him. Despite the departure of Swanigan, Matt Painter still had the pieces to have a successful season. Right now he is getting the most out of all those pieces, with three upperclassmen averaging over 13 points a game, and a sophomore, Carson Edwards, leading them with 16 a game. The Big Ten was supposed to be a bad league dominated by Michigan State. Three weeks into conference play however, it is Purdue that looks dominant.

We’re still a long way from March. That is fortunate and unfortunate news for some teams. And as I mentioned before, there are plenty of teams who have played better than expected. Right now though, these seven teams and coaches deserve a lot of credit for the the job they’ve done in the first half of the season.

Steve Pikiell Agrees to Extension at Rutgers

Rutgers fans rejoice. Head Coach Steve Pikiell has agreed to a long-term contract extension keeping him in Piscataway for the foreseeable future. This is huge news for a program that has been a laughing-stock in college basketball for many years, but is finely beginning to trend in the right direction. The number of years or salary of this extension are unknown right now. The deal is expected to be approved later today.

In 2016, Pikiell left Stony Brook after reaching the NCAA tournament and signed a five-year contract with Rutgers. His average salary on his initial deal was $1.6 million per year. While the school had him locked in until 2021, they were wise to extend him sooner rather than later. Pikiell is certainly moving the program in its most promising direction since 2013, when they were still a part of the Big East Conference.

Pikiell hasn’t turned RU into a powerhouse in two years on campus. He hasn’t made them a tournament team or a threat to win the Big Ten. No coach could have done that in two years with the program he inherited. What Pikiell has done however, was change that attitude within the locker room and outside perspective surrounding the program. In doing so, it’s led to the type of marquee wins that help move a program out of the basement.

In year one at Rutgers, Pikiell went 15-18 and 3-15 in the Big Ten. Those are numbers on par with that of Eddie Jordan in his tenure at RU. This year Rutgers is sitting at 11-6 and 1-3 in early Big Ten play. Only time will tell if this season is much different from last from a record standpoint, but it’s clear this team is different.

Corey Sanders hoists the Garden State Classic trophy after Rutgers shocks Seton Hall in Piscataway

One of those 11 wins came against in-state rival, Seton Hall. The Scarlet Knights upset the nationally ranked Pirates at home in December, claiming bragging rights in the state of New Jersey for at least one year. The win was followed by a court storming, something junior guard Corey Sanders said he hasn’t seen in his time on campus. And while wins like this are great for the program, Pikiell knows there is still a lot of work to be done.

And that’s another reason Rutgers was smart to lock him up. He’s a good recruiter.

Pikiell was fortunate to inherit Sanders, who has been the team’s leading scorer each of the last three seasons. This year however, Sanders is getting some help from the outside. Freshman guard Geo Baker has been great, averaging 11.6 points a game and leading the team with 3.7 assists per contest. Mamadou Doucoure has also provided solid role minutes in his first collegiate season. These are pieces that Pikiell and his staff brought in themselves. And there’s more help coming.

Pikiell has landed the commitment of John Carroll’s Montez Mathis, ranked the 93rd best player in the Class of 2018 by ESPN. Mathis, along with Baker and Sanders, will give Rutgers a three-headed attack from the outside. Mathis committed to Rutgers because he wanted to be a part in turning the program around. He will hopefully start a trend of top ranked recruits choosing Rutgers as a destination.

This isn’t an article handing out a participation trophy. Pikiell and Rutgers don’t get moral victories for winning one game or landing one recruit. There’s still a lot to be written in the story of Steve Pikiell and Rutgers Basketball. Today’s news told us that this story will be extended a couple of chapters. Based on the early recruitment, change in culture and overall vibe surrounding the program, Rutgers made the right decision in extending that story.

Recapping Tuesday Night in College Basketball

Photo via @VisionsByJeff

A lot happened last night for a Tuesday night in December. We had the Jimmy V Classic, which always features great basketball and a greater cause. We had two Top 10 teams fall, and two more teams in the Top 15 suffer losses. Let’s quickly recap what you may have missed last night.

Villanova Pounded Gonzaga

Villanova punished Gonzaga on a night where Jalen Brunson struggled and Donte DiVincenzo was in foul trouble. Granted, Jonathan Williams only played 18 minutes for the Zags, but this game was all Wildcats. Mikael Bridges was sensational, going off for a career high 28 points. Bridges was 5-9 from three point land and came up with big buckets every time Villanova needed one. The win showed both how short Jay Wright’s bench is, but also Nova’s ability to stay in games without a true point guard for stretches.

Tyus Battle Leads Cuse in Rivalry Game

The second game of the Jimmy V Classic featured an old Big East rivalry, as UConn and Syracuse met once again. In front of a terrific MSG crowd, it was the New Jersey product, Tyus Battle, who led ‘Cuse to a win. Battle had 22 and fellow Hoop Group alum Matt Moyer had a career high 18. The unexpected outburst from Moyer was huge, as Frank Howard struggled again for Syracuse. On the other end, the Huskies continue to struggle to pick up a resume building win. Jalen Adams led the way with 22 of his own, but it was not enough.

Arizona Picked up a MUCH Needed Victory

Sean Miller’s seat has been on fire since the Battle 4 Atlantis. Not literally, his job is safe, but Arizona’s struggles have been put under a big microscope this year. The Cats quieted some of that talk last night with a win over #7 Texas A&M. Positively speaking, Arizona had four players score 13 points, and none of them were Allonzo Trier. DeAndre Ayton recorded another double-double, and a bonehead play that almost gave A&M a chance to tie it in the final seconds. With Rawle Alkins cleared for full contact, this could be the win that turns Arizona around.

Notre Dame Upset

In what was by far the upset of the night, the #9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish fell to Ball State in South Bend. Tayler Persons led Ball State with 24 points, none bigger than the 3 he hit with 1.7 seconds remaining. The Cardinals led by as much as 9 in the second half, surrendered that lead, and held on thanks to Persons’s heroics. The Irish will look to rebound this weekend against Delaware before an in-state battle with Indiana.

West Virginia is Streaking

It was defense vs defense as West Virginia picked up a big non-conference win against the #15 ranked Virginia Cavaliers. After giving up 88 points in a blowout loss on the first night of the season, Bob Huggins’s team has held teams to just 63 points per game and 37% shooting. None of these teams have as potent of an offense as Texas A&M , but it’s clear defense is still the key in West Virginia. In addition, Jevon Carter has been extraordinary. Last night was no different, as he recorded 23 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists.

Shaka Smart Returns to VCU Victorious

In what was an emotional game in front of a raucous crowd, Shaka Smart returned to Richmond and was victorious against his former team. The Longhorns look like they have a serious three headed attack with Andrew Jones, Dylan Osetkowski and Mo Bamba. This looked like Bamba’s most complete game, recording a double-double (13 points and 13 rebounds) and tallying 4 blocks. His defense has been a constant all season, averaging over 3 blocks a game, but his offense appears to be coming around now as well. Oh, and then he also did this…

Big Ten Takes Another Hit

The Big Ten’s struggle as a conference has been mentioned on multiple occasions so far. The early take on the conference has been that it has three definite tournament teams in Michigan State, Minnesota and Purdue, and question marks everywhere else. Well one of those teams suffered a bad loss last night, as Minnesota lost on the road to Nebraska. Jordan Murphy was held in check for the Gophers, finishing with 10 points on just 4-12 shooting. Meanwhile, Glynn Watson Jr. went off for the Cornhuskers, recording a game high 29 in the win. The Big Ten looks clearly to be Michigan State, and then everyone else.

ACC/Big Ten Challenge: Good News or ACC or Bad News For Big Ten

The ACC/Big Ten “Challenge” has been around for 10 years now. A non-conference event that matches up a Big Ten team against an ACC team so see which conference can take home the bragging rights. It’s a bit of a mismatch, as the ACC is typically the deepest conference in college basketball year in and year out. This year however was different. The ACC blew the doors off the Big Ten. This makes us wonder, is the ACC really that good? Or is the Big Ten worse than expected?

The ACC won the challenge 11-3, with the only wins coming from Nebraska, Purdue and Michigan State. Otherwise, it was not close. There were moral victories, sure. Indiana went toe-to-toe with Duke for 35 minutes. It showed us a much different team than the one that gone manhandled by Indiana State at the beginning of the year. However, there were not many other positives to take away from this challenge for the Big Ten.

Minnesota, a favorite in the conference, lost at home, albeit to a good Miami team. Michigan got pounded by a Tar Heel team that was embarrassed by Michigan State a few days prior. Shows the gap between those two rival schools. NCAA Tournament hopeful Northwestern lost to Georgia Tech at the buzzer. Wisconsin managed just 37 points against Virginia’s defense. And the list goes on.

Is the ACC Good? Is the Big Ten Bad?

Such a lopsided result poses the question: Is the ACC that good, or is the Big Ten that bad? We knew the Big Ten was top heavy. Michigan State is a title contender, and Purdue and Minnesota are expected tournament teams. Outside that though, there are major question marks that were not answered. Michigan did not look capable of competing with top teams, Northwestern suffered its third non-conference loss, and Illinois lost to a struggling Wake Forest team. There’s not much to take away.

Don’t get me wrong, the ACC is tough. Duke, UNC, Notre Dame, Miami are VERY good. They will all sit around the top 15 much of the year, as will Lousiville. We learned Syracuse is more real than we thought, thanks to the emergence of Frank Howard. Virginia is Virginia, and their defense will have them dancing again. But outside them, who else is legit? Clemson, Florida State, Virginia Tech are not locks by any means. Wake Forest has had major struggles and Georgia Tech is still a question mark with their suspensions.

It’s not expected for the Big Ten to win this challenge. I’m not sure any conference can beat the ACC in this challenge. But the Big Ten’s inability to keep it close at all, shows there are major weaknesses in the conference. It’s possible we only see three, maybe four teams make the big dance come Selection Sunday.