Welcome to another edition of the Rauf Report where I will share my biggest takeaways from the past week in college basketball. The stakes are being raised with less than a month until Selection Sunday, making every game that much more meaningful. You can (and should) follow me on Twitter for real-time college basketball updates and analysis, but here are my eight biggest takeaways from the week.
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1) I'll be shocked if Deandre Ayton isn't the No. 1 pick in the draft
Early in the season, especially right after the PK80, many of the NBA people I talked to thought Marvin Bagley III would be the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft. Now, I'll be shocked if Deandre Ayton isn't that guy.
The Arizona center already has an NBA-ready body and is a dominant offensive post player and rebounder, but also has shooting touch out to the three-point line and - more importantly - is quick enough to defend smaller big men on the perimeter. Athletic big men like him are the most valuable players in the NBA and whoever gets that top pick will use it on him.
2) What's behind UNC's turnaround?
Three weeks ago, when North Carolina was struggling, I wrote that the Heels were a prime candidate to be upset early in the NCAA Tournament. All they've done since then is win four consecutive games (including impressive wins over Duke and NC State). So what changed?
UNC's offense has absolutely gone off during this stretch, averaging 89.25 points per game - up from their 83.3 per game season average - thanks to Roy Williams' switch to a small ball lineup, which has resulted in incredible performances by Luke Maye and Joel Berry along with some hot shooting from Kenny Williams. However, that offensive outburst has masked the fact that Carolina's perimeter defense is still, well, bad.
They're still 317th nationally in opponent's three-point percentage and opponents are getting 41.7 percent of their points from behind the arc, which is the second most in the country. Unless the Heels suddenly fix this flaw in the next two weeks, they'll need their offense continue this torrid pace if they're going to make a run.
3) Nebraska still needs to go on a run in the Big Ten Tournament to make the NCAAs
Nebraska is on the bubble and Huskers fans certainly think they're a tournament-caliber team, but their resume is incredibly weak. They only have three top 100 RPI wins, zero Quadrant 1 wins and only four Quadrant 2 wins - and don't have a game remaining against a top 50 team.
At 20-8 with no bad losses, the Cornhuskers certainly have a case to make the field of 68. However, we saw with Syracuse last year that the committee cares more about who you beat opposed to who you didn't lose to. And we saw how the committee feels about the Big Ten this year when they gave Michigan State a three-seed in their top 16 seed early reveal last weekend.
So, barring a run in the Big Ten Tournament where they pick up that marquee win, I'd feel very uncomfortable about Nebraska's chances.
4) Penn State is the only Big Ten bubble team with a legit case
On the flip side, Penn State is the only Big Ten team that has a legit bubble case right now. They have two big-time wins over Ohio State with opportunities for wins over Purdue, Michigan, and Nebraska left on their schedule. That Penn State-Nebraska game will obviously loom large, but if the Nittany Lions can pick up another Quadrant 1 win over Purdue or Michigan, they have a resume that's comparable to other bubble teams. There's still work to do but they have the opportunity, while Nebraska does not.
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5) Does Kentucky have to start worrying about their NCAA Tournament chances?
I touch on this in the video above, which I highly recommend you watch. In short, I don't think Kentucky's tournament chances are in jeopardy - but they're certainly trending that way. The Wildcats have lost four games in a row and are currently projected as a No. 9 seed due to their 2-6 record against Quadrant 1 teams. Kentucky still has plenty of opportunities to improve their resume (vs. Alabama, at Arkansas, vs. Missouri, at Florida) but going anything less than .500 in those games will severely hurt their chances.
6) Marvin Bagley III's injury is something worth monitoring
Bagley suffered a mild knee strain in Duke's loss to North Carolina and has missed the Blue Devils' last two games - wins over Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech - to rest that knee. Duke doesn't seem to think the injury is all that serious, but they sat him out of the Georgia Tech game with the intention that that was the only game he would miss. Obviously, the Blue Devils want to be extremely cautious with him to make sure he's healthy for March and don't want to do anything to jeopardize his NBA future, but this is something that could linger for a while.
When Coach K says things like "hopefully, he'll be back soon" and that there's no timetable for his return, it makes me think that this is something that will drag on. It's definitely something to monitor here in the coming weeks.
7) Michael Porter Jr. could change Missouri's tournament outlook
I also discuss this in the video above, but news that Michael Porter Jr. plans to play for Missouri before the end of the season is huge. The Tigers have been better than expected this season without Porter, a projected top-five pick, and having him back would give them a huge boost with dark horse potential. Obviously, there needs to be some time for Missouri to get used to playing with him again, but his return would suddenly make the Tigers a very dangerous team.
8) Don't be surprised about the number of schools that will be hit by the FBI investigation
Two reports broke yesterday, one from ESPN's Mark Schlabach and one from Yahoo Sports' Pete Thamel, about the FBI investigation into college basketball and how as many as 50 major college basketball programs could be hit by some sort of penalty by the NCAA as a result of the findings. There's a chance the NCAA doesn't get the FBI's information, which I discuss in the video above, but that's highly unlikely.
The scope of this investigation shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, as I've been saying all along. Shady recruiting tactics and shoe company involvement had simply been the way business had been done. I break down what it means in the video.Back to the NCAA Newsfeed