Welcome to another edition of the Rauf Report, where I will share my biggest takeaways from the past week in college basketball. There's a ton to sort through on a week-to-week basis, so I'm here to make things easier and tell you what you need to know. 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:
1) Is Villanova the only team you can rely on?
This is a thought I've had over the last week and, right now, I think the answer is a resounding yes. Villanova plays smart, efficient basketball on both ends of the court and doesn't have any real apparent weakness. You know what you're going to get from them every single time they take the floor - and they're the only team you can say that about.
They're not the most talented team in the country, but Villanova is at No. 1 (and will be for most of the season) because of their business-like approach.
2) What is wrong with Kansas?
Kansas is another one of those top teams that you can't trust for reasons that have become blatantly obvious over the past two weeks in their losses to Washington and Arizona State and the one-point win over Nebraska. The biggest weakness is with their depth, particularly in the frontcourt, but reinforcements might be coming with head coach Bill Self saying the team expects to get five-star freshman Billy Preston and four-star Silvio De Sousa for the start of Big 12 play.
However, those two won't fix the biggest problem this team has - poor guard play. KU's backcourt was badly outplayed by Arizona State's star guards and, even more alarming, were exposed defensively by the backcourts of both Washington and Nebraska - two teams expected to finish near the bottom of their respective conferences.
Devonte' Graham has not looked anything like the Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year he was expected to be, star Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman is averaging just 7.4 points over the last five games, and neither Svi Mykhailiuk or Lagerald Vick is good enough to really carry the load.
So, KU's best players are playing poorly offensively and aren't making up for it on the defensive end. I expect this to change given the talent on the roster, but the Jayhawks need to fix their issues on the perimeter or they'll be exposed in the Big 12.
3) Oklahoma is - currently - the best team in the Big 12
Those issues are why Kansas is not the best team in the conference at the current moment. I will be shocked if this continues for the rest of the season, but the way Oklahoma is playing right now, they're the top dogs in the Big 12. Trae Young (28.5 ppg, 10.2 apg) is the best player in the country and the Sooners have proven their worth with wins over Oregon, USC, and Wichita State. There are plenty of teams in the conference that could end KU's 13-year run at the top of the conference, but none of them have OU's resume and firepower.
4) Trae Young is a top 10 pick. Period.
Young was projected to be a late first or early-second round pick by scouts at the start of the season due to questions about his size and his reputation as a ball-dominant scorer. Now, there's no way he won't be a top-10 pick.
His size really isn't a huge problem (6-2 with a 6-4 wingspan) and has a body that can easily add weight and strength as he fills out. Young has also killed the notion of him not being a true point guard, leading the country in assists and tying the NCAA record with 22 times in Oklahoma's win over Northwestern State on Tuesday. That vision is an incredible and underrated part of his game. He's excellent at finding the open man in the pick-and-roll (whether it be the roll man or someone on the perimeter) and knows how to put his teammates in scoring positions in transition.
Of course, he's a phenomenal scorer, leading the country in that category as well. Young routinely demonstrates his ability to create his own shot, has unlimited range, and a lightning-quick release. Plus, he's athletic enough to get to the rim and is a crafty finisher.
Simply put, Young is already playing an NBA-style game at the collegiate level and doing it better than anyone else. He checks all the boxes you'd want in a point guard in today's NBA.
5) The Big 12 is stronger than the ACC this year
Sticking with the Big 12, they've taken over as the best conference in the country. The ACC has held that mantle for the past couple of years and was expected to be that again, but the Big 12 has been incredible through the first month and a half. They have six teams ranked in the top 21 - over half the league and more than anyone else in the country - and Texas (8-3) is the only team that has already suffered more than two losses.
The depth of the conference is incredible and every game is going to be a high-profile showdown.
6) This week epitomized what the season will be for Indiana
We need to expect inconsistency from Indiana this season, and that was on perfect display this week. Over the weekend, they beat Notre Dame in overtime on a neutral court in Indianapolis. Things looked to be trending in the right direction - then they lost at home by 20 to Fort Wayne on Monday. The Hoosiers have shown they can play well, going toe-to-toe with quality teams like Duke and Louisville. However, they also have two terrible losses to Indiana State and now Fort Wayne. IU will have a few big wins this year...but will also lose some more games that will make you scratch your head.
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7) The bottom half of the Top 25 is just going to be a revolving door of teams
This has been the case all season and will continue to be. There are a clear-cut top 15 or so teams in the country and the teams at bottom of the polls will rotate all season. Five teams ranked 15 or lower in the AP poll lost at least one game last week after three did so the week before. It's a trend we'll continue to see at the bottom of the rankings thanks to the parity in the sport.
8) We need conference play to start
We're in the middle of that three-week window after all the Thanksgiving holiday tournaments before conference play starts at the end of December, and in that window, there aren't many high-profile matchups due to finals and winter break. Oklahoma and Wichita State was a nice treat last weekend, but I'm tired of all these high major vs. directional school games. Bring on conference play and the nightly top-level showdowns that come with it.Back to the NCAA Newsfeed