As strange as it may seem, there are only six weeks left in the college basketball regular season, heightening the importance of every game for teams across the country. There were plenty of impactful games over the weekend, and each one taught us something. Here are the five biggest takeaways from the college basketball weekend:
1) The Pac-12 runs through Tuscon
Perhaps the most surprising result of the day was Arizona's 96-85 win on the road against UCLA. The Wildcats needed the win to put a marquee victory on their resume, and the way they did it was impressive. Arizona's defense was able to somewhat limit UCLA's explosive offense, but the fact they were able to put 96 points on the board was the biggest takeaway for a number of reasons.
First, it shows what a difference Allonzo Trier makes to this team. Arizona's leading returning scorer made his season debut against the Bruins (PED suspension) and didn't miss a beat, scoring 12 points off the bench. That doesn't sound like a lot, but he's a dynamic scorer - and just the threat of him being on the floor opened up a ton of opportunities for other players (specifically big man Lauri Markkanen). Arizona has struggled to score all season, and this made them look like a Final Four contender.
Of course, the game also exposed how bad UCLA's defense was - particularly that of Bryce Alford. But Arizona showed they're the most dominant team in the Pac-12, and will look to claim first place for themselves on Feb. 4 at Oregon.
2) Duke may have turned the corner
In the first half of Duke's win over Miami, they showed all the reasons why some were wondering if the Blue Devils would even make the NCAA Tournament this year. They played almost exclusively one-on-one on offense, couldn't defend anyone off the bounce and showed very little fight. They were down 36-25 at halftime (at home) as a result - then everything suddenly clicked for Duke.
They went on a huge 20-0 run at the start of the half and outscored Miami 45-22 in the second 20 minutes, coming back for the 70-58 win. They played much better defensively, forcing 12 turnovers in the first 12 minutes of the half and moved the ball offensively, which led to them shooting 67 percent in the second half.
At the end of the year, we could look back on that second half run as the defining moment of Duke's season. They finally looked like the team we all though they would be before the season. We'll see if that continues tonight when they host NC State.
3) Florida State is legit and are a real Final Four contender
Looking elsewhere in the ACC, the Seminoles are the No. 6 team in the country and should be considered the favorites to win the conference despite their loss to North Carolina. A 73-68 win over Louisville on Saturday capped off six straight games against ranked teams for the Noles, a stretch in which they went 5-1 (with UNC being the lone defeat). They handled good teams at home, went on the road to beat Virginia and projected lottery pick Jonathan Isaac is finding his own, averaging 14.2 ppg, 9.0 rpg and 2.2 bpg during that stretch.
Before the season, I wrote that Florida State had serious Final Four potential, and they have only strengthened their resume for that. Isaac is now forming a one-two punch with ACC Player of the Year favorite Dwayne Bacon and the Noles have tremendous depth, with 12 players averaging at least 10 minutes per game. This stretch proves that FSU is a real force to be reckoned with.
4) Malik Monk should be in the conversation for the No. 1 pick in the draft
The conversation for the top pick in the NBA Draft has been between Washington's Markelle Fultz and UCLA's Lonzo Ball, but I think Kentucky's Malik Monk should be in that conversation as well. With his three-point shooting (51.4 percent) and athletic ability that allows him to get to the rim whenever he wants, he's unstoppable offensively.
He showed that on Saturday against South Carolina. When De'Aaron Fox went down with an ankle injury, Monk took over the game and dropped 27 points against the top defense in the country. In my mind, he's clearly third behind Fultz and Ball in that No. 1 conversation, but Monk's play should make it a three-man conversation instead of a two-man debate.
5) Get familiar with Central Michigan's Marcus Keene
If Central Michigan finds their way into the NCAA Tournament, Keene is going to be the guy who takes over the first weekend and becomes a star. The nation's leader scorer (29.8 ppg) dropped 50 points against Miami (OH) on Saturday, showing an absurd amount of range and shot-making ability.
As good as that performance was, it wasn't the first time Keene has gone off this season. He has scored 40+ points two other times his year and 30+ eight more times. Those stats haven't led to wins (Central Michigan is 12-7 overall, 2-4 in MAC play), but if the Chippewas get hot, Keene is a name you'll want to remember.Back to the NCAA Newsfeed
Related Topics: Arizona Wildcats Basketball, SEC Basketball, Kentucky Wildcats Basketball, MAC Basketball, UCLA Bruins Basketball, ACC Basketball, NCAA Basketball, Florida State Seminoles Basketball, Duke Blue Devils Basketball, Marcus Keene, Central Michigan Chippewas Basketball, Pac-12 Basketball