The Dagger

  • Grayson Allen threw down an impressive dunk at UNLV on Saturday (AP)
    Grayson Allen threw down an impressive dunk at UNLV on Saturday (AP)

    So much for any concerns about Grayson Allen’s lingering injuries.

    The Duke standout looked plenty explosive throwing down this vicious one-handed slam on Saturday during the first half of Duke’s matchup with UNLV.

    Goodness. One angle isn’t enough on that one.

    Allen, a preseason All-American who averaged 21.6 points last year, has been hampered by a toe injury and other unspecified ailments the past few weeks. He is averaging 15.9 points and shooting only 35.7 percent from the field so far this season, a drop-off that many believe is related to those injuries even if he has refused to make excuses so far.

    Maybe Allen is feeling better. Maybe

    Read More »from Dunk of the year nominee: Duke's Grayson Allen
  • Josh Hart scored a career-best 37 points on Saturday (AP)
    Josh Hart scored a career-best 37 points on Saturday (AP)

    The last four times Notre Dame had faced the reigning national champ, the Irish sprung an upset.

    Only because of the brilliance of Josh Hart did that streak end Saturday afternoon.

    With top-ranked Villanova trailing by nine midway through the second half and in desperate need of a spark, Hart hoisted his team onto his back. Eighteen of the senior guard’s career-high 37 points came during the final 13 minutes of the game, rallying the Wildcats to a 74-66 victory in a battle of two of college basketball’s final eight unbeaten teams.

    Hart had a hand in almost every key basket of Villanova’s comeback, from a steal and layup to cut the deficit to five, to a deep 3-pointer that sliced it to three, to a driving layup that pulled the Wildcats within one. It was his two free throws with six minutes to go that gave Villanova the lead for good in a game in which the Wildcats had trailed the first 31 minutes.

    The way most of Hart’s teammates

    Read More »from Josh Hart's one-man onslaught rallies No. 1 Villanova past Notre Dame
  • Trevon Bluiett will try to help Xavier snap a two-game losing streak Saturday against Utah. (AP)
    Trevon Bluiett will try to help Xavier snap a two-game losing streak Saturday against Utah. (AP)

    It’s a big Saturday for the Big East.

    Three of the league’s top teams will try to validate strong starts against dangerous opponents and rapidly improving Marquette will seek its first marquee win of the season against in-state rival Wisconsin.

    Here’s a deeper look at those four games, as well as two other Saturday showdowns that do not involve Big East teams:

    No. 1 VILLANOVA (9-0) vs. No. 23 NOTRE DAME (9-0) (Saturday, 12 p.m. EST)

    Players to watch: Josh Hart, Villanova (17.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg); Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame (17.1 ppg, 11.1 rpg)

    One big question: Can Notre Dame add to its reputation as a giant killer?

    Eight times in its giant-slaying history, Notre Dame has toppled the No. 1 team in the AP Top 25. The Irish will try to add another victim to that list when they take on reigning national champion Villanova in a matchup of two of this season’s eight remaining unbeaten teams. Whereas

    Read More »from What to watch this weekend: Four big tests for the Big East
  • Saint Mary's suffered its first loss of the season in one-sided fashion (AP)
    Saint Mary’s suffered its first loss of the season in one-sided fashion (AP)

    Maybe it was the eight-day layoff for final exams. Maybe it was the quality of the opposing defense. Maybe it was just an unusually poor shooting night.

    Whatever the reason, 12th-ranked Saint Mary’s was a shadow of itself Thursday night during a surprising 65-51 home loss at the hands of quality mid-major Texas Arlington.

    A Saint Mary’s team that entered play leading the nation in points per possession didn’t crack 50 points until less than a minute remained in the game. The previously unbeaten Gaels shot 32.7 percent from the field and committed 16 turnovers, costly mistakes on a night when even open shots weren’t falling.

    Texas Arlington’s aggressive zone confounded Saint Mary’s the way few opposing defenses have in recent years.

    Jock Landale led the Gaels to an impressive 6-0 start by averaging a team-best 19.7 points and 9.0 rebounds, but the 6-foot-11 junior floundered Thursday when double teamed in the

    Read More »from A rare poor night on offense dooms Saint Mary's to its first loss
  • The Huskies are off to a dismal 4-4 start despite the presence of transcendent freshman Markelle Fultz (AP).
    The Huskies are off to a dismal 4-4 start despite the presence of transcendent freshman Markelle Fultz (AP).

    Less than two minutes into the second half of his team’s 98-71 demolition of Washington on Wednesday night, Gonzaga’s Przemek Karnowski found himself in a position he has seldom experienced before.

    The plodding center beat every Huskies player down court, caught a perfectly weighted pass in stride and threw down an uncontested two-handed transition dunk.

    That sequence perfectly captured the essence of what’s wrong with Washington. Only a team as undisciplined as the Huskies could allow a 7-foot, 300-pound man to blow by them on a fast break. And only a coach as lenient as Lorenzo Romar would let that slide without calling timeout to yank each of his players off the floor.

    Disorganized offense and lackluster defense quickly doomed Washington’s hopes of staying competitive in Spokane. Eighth-ranked Gonzaga led by 21 points after eight minutes, by 25 at halftime and by as many as 34

    Read More »from Underachieving Washington has too many issues for Markelle Fultz to fix
  • VCU suffered a damaging loss to Georgia Tech on Wednesday night (AP)
    VCU suffered a damaging loss to Georgia Tech on Wednesday night (AP)

    In the past nine years, the Atlantic 10 has never received fewer than three NCAA tournament bids.

    That streak could be in jeopardy this season the way the league has sputtered out of the starting blocks the past four weeks.

    Only one Atlantic 10 team has notched a victory over an opponent in Ken Pomeroy’s top 50, Rhode Island’s 76-71 neutral-court win over Cincinnati on Nov. 19. The closest thing the league has to a marquee win besides that is Dayton’s road win over middling Alabama, VCU’s rout of disinterested LSU or George Washington’s victory at erratic Temple.

    The Atlantic 10’s best teams have compensated a bit by avoiding sub-100 losses, but the rest of the league has been far more generous. Among the most damaging of the league’s 15 sub-100 losses include Fordham falling to Sacred Heart, St. Bonaventure falling to Arkansas-Little Rock and La Salle falling to Texas Southern.

    Those results leave the Atlantic 10

    Read More »from Poor non-league performance could haunt the Atlantic 10 in March
  • As he walked back on defense late in Tuesday night’s 84-74 victory over Florida, Duke guard Luke Kennard could not resist mouthing off a little.

    He flashed a cocky grin, shook his head back and forth and shouted, “Cmon man!”

    Kennard has earned the right to talk trash given his contributions to a Duke team riddled with injuries. The 6-foot-6 sophomore has teamed with senior forward Amile Jefferson to carry the Blue Devils at a time when preseason All-American Grayson Allen has been hampered by an ailing toe and elite freshmen Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles and Marques Bolden are recovering from offseason injuries.

    In 10 games this season, Kennard has averaged a team-high 20.4 points per game on ultra-efficient 52.2 percent shooting. Kennard has has scored in all sorts of ways too, from the spot-up 3-pointers that were his trademark as a freshman, to smooth mid-range pull-ups, to deft floaters in the lane.

    What’s even more impressive about Kennard is his versatility. While he will never be

    Read More »from Luke Kennard has emerged as an unlikely savior for injury-plagued Duke
  • The Owls were 2-5 with only one Division I victory prior to Tuesday night (AP)
    The Owls were 2-5 with only one Division I victory prior to Tuesday night (AP)

    Ohio State’s bid to avoid missing the NCAA tournament for a second straight season veered off course Tuesday night.

    The Buckeyes suffered a damaging upset loss that will shrink their margin for error in the coming months.

    With the score tied late in overtime, Florida Atlantic coach Michael Curry called a play for sophomore guard Nick Rutherford and told the rest of his team to get out of the way. Rutherford got Ohio State’s Kam Williams off balance with a crossover dribble, attacked the basket off the bounce and banked in the go-ahead runner with one second left, giving the Owls a stunning 79-77 road victory.

    To put into perspective how dismal a loss this was for Ohio State, consider how bad Florida Atlantic has been recently.

    Read More »from Stunning loss to Florida Atlantic could be damaging for Ohio State
  • Arizona State forward Obinna Oleke (AP)
    Arizona State forward Obinna Oleka (AP)

    At 5-foot-10, Purdue guard P.J. Thompson isn’t exactly a fearsome rim protector.

    Thompson found that out the hard way Tuesday night when he foolishly attempted to break up an alley-oop pass from Arizona State’s Shannon Evans to 6-foot-8 Obinna Oleka.

    Of course, Thompson isn’t the first player to land on the wrong end of a YouTube clip at the hands of Oleka. The bouncy Arizona State forward did the same thing to Arizona’s Ryan Anderson in a Pac-12 game last January.

    More consolation for Thompson: His team was humbling Arizona State with just as much authority as Oleka embarrassed him. Purdue led the hapless Sun Devils 47-21 at halftime on Tuesday night.

    – – – – – – –

    Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at

    Read More »from Dunk of the year nominee: Arizona State's Obinna Oleka
  • Villanova could be poised to take an unbeaten record into Big East play. (Getty Images)
    Villanova could be poised to take an unbeaten record into Big East play. (Getty Images)

    Three years ago, Wichita State completed the regular season undefeated. Two years ago, it was Kentucky who did it. There’s probably too much parity this season for anyone to match that feat, but 11 teams still have a chance.

    Below those 11 remaining undefeated teams are ranked from strongest to weakest with projections on when they’ll lose first.

    1. VILLANOVA (9-0): The reigning national champs remain a serious threat to become the first college basketball team to repeat since Florida in 2006 and 2007. The Wildcats own an impressive road win at Purdue and seven other double-digit victories over lesser competition. The strength of this year’s Villanova team is a perimeter-oriented attack led by All-American candidate Josh Hart, title game hero Kris Jenkins and former McDonald’s All-American point guard Jalen Brunson. Nearly half the Wildcats’ field goal attempts are 3-pointers, and they’re shooting a

    Read More »from Ranking the 11 unbeaten teams and projecting when each will lose first
  • A judge dismissed charges against Mateen Cleaves on Monday (AP)
    A judge dismissed charges against Mateen Cleaves on Monday (AP)

    Mateen Cleaves has won the fight for his freedom without standing trial.

    A judge dismissed sexual assault charges against the ex-Michigan State basketball star on Monday because of insufficient evidence. Prosecutors have the right to appeal Flint district court judge Cathy Dowd’s ruling.

    Cleaves, 39, had been accused of unlawfully imprisoning and sexually assaulting a 24-year-old woman at a Flint-area motel last September after a day of partying at a charity golf event. If found guilty, Cleaves could have faced up to 15 years in prison.

    Cleaves met the woman at the golf event and joined her, her boyfriend and some friends and coworkers for drinks at a nearby bar afterward. She then left the bar with Cleaves while her boyfriend drove another friend home.

    Prosecutors alleged that the woman thought Cleaves intended to drive her back to the golf club. He instead drove to a nearby motel, where the woman claimed she was held

    Read More »from Judge dismisses sexual assault charges against Mateen Cleaves
  • Johnathan Motley has helped Baylor rise from unranked in the preseason to No. 4 today. (Getty Images)
    Johnathan Motley has helped Baylor rise from unranked in the preseason to No. 4 today. (Getty Images)

    Having lost his leading scorer to the NBA, leading rebounder to the NFL and starting point guard to graduation, Baylor coach Scott Drew wasn’t sure how good his team would be this season.

    Only after the Bears began stacking quality wins like pancakes the past few weeks did Drew gain confidence that this year’s team could be special.

    “We felt good about our group, but some teams play better when the lights come on and some teams don’t play as well when the lights come on,” Drew said. “We’ve had a group that has showed great maturity when the lights have come on. Normally with a lot of newcomers and underclassmen, you get a lot more inconsistency, turnovers and bad plays. We haven’t had that, so I’ve been very pleased so far.”

    Baylor is on pace to surpass the accomplishments of last year’s 22-win team despite the departures of Taurean Prince, Rico Gathers and Lester Medford. The unbeaten

    Read More »from How Baylor has emerged as this season's biggest early surprise
  • Johnathan Williams and Gonzaga ended a three-game losing streak against Arizona (AP)
    Johnathan Williams and Gonzaga ended a three-game losing streak against Arizona (AP)

    LOS ANGELES — In addition to toppling a marquee opponent and preserving its undefeated record, Gonzaga achieved something far more satisfying Saturday evening.

    The Zags secured sweet revenge against a non-conference nemesis that has tormented them in recent years.

    Przemek Karnowski scored 18 points and Josh Perkins had 16 as Gonzaga hung on for a 69-62 victory over a 16th-ranked Arizona team decimated by injuries and other issues. The eighth-ranked Zags led by as many as 16 points early in the second half and never trailed the entire game.

    Only once did Arizona mount any semblance of a charge, pulling within five with just over a minute to go after a 12-4 spurt aided by six Gonzaga missed free throws. Point guard Nigel Williams-Goss halted the Wildcats’ momentum with a driving layup and then the Zags sank 4 of 6 foul shots to douse the threat and stave off disaster.

    “There isn’t a program I have more

    Read More »from Gonzaga gets revenge at last on its longtime non-conference nemesis
  • Eight of Rivals.com’s top 25 freshmen. Four projected lottery picks. Two of college basketball’s most storied programs. Bill Raftery on the call.

    Saturday afternoon’s showdown between UCLA and Kentucky featured all the ingredients of an early-season classic, and the game itself did not disappoint.

    Overcoming an unsteady, turnover-plagued start and a mistake-prone, needlessly anxious finish, 11th-ranked UCLA stunned No. 1 Kentucky, 97-92, in Lexington. The Bruins led by as many as 14 points in the second half en route to becoming just the fifth team to defeat the Wildcats at Rupp Arena during John Calipari’s seven-year tenure.

    What was even more impressive than the outcome was the way UCLA did it. The fast-paced, freewheeling Bruins outgunned a Kentucky team that prides itself on excelling in transition, shooting 53 percent from the field and piling up the most points any visiting team has scored on the Wildcats during the Calipari era.

    UCLA's Lonzo Ball, left, shoots while defended by Kentucky's Wenyen Gabriel (32) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, in Lexington, Ky. UCLA upset No. 1 Kentucky 97-92. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
    UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, left, shoots while defended by
    Read More »from Fast-paced, freewheeling UCLA topples No. 1 Kentucky in Lexington
  • Virginia Tech is off to an impressive 6-1 start in Buzz Williams' third season (AP)
    Virginia Tech is off to an impressive 6-1 start in Buzz Williams’ third season. (AP)

    ANAHEIM, Calif. — As referees struggled to coax a pair of young ball boys into mopping up a wet spot underneath the basket last Sunday afternoon, Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams began to grow impatient.

    “Let’s solve this,” he screamed from the sideline. “Our guys know how to wipe.”

    Seconds later, a Virginia Tech player grabbed a towel, dropped to his knees and began scrubbing the floor. It was a perfect example of the selfless, blue-collar mentality Williams has instilled in his players while transforming the Hokies from perennial laughingstock to budding NCAA tournament contender.

    When Williams made the stunning decision to leave Marquette and come to Virginia Tech in March 2014, the Hokies were in the midst of a stretch of four straight last-place finishes in the ACC. Not only did they make an improbable eight-game leap in the league standings last season, they’re also poised to take another step

    Read More »from How Buzz Williams has transformed long-struggling Virginia Tech
  • Nineteen days after upsetting Kansas, the Hoosiers toppled another elite team (AP)
    Nineteen days after upsetting Kansas, the Hoosiers toppled another elite team (AP)

    Indiana rocketed to No. 6 in the polls three weeks ago with a season-opening upset win over third-ranked Kansas. The Hoosiers then plummeted right back out of the top 10 a mere eight days later with a stunning loss at Fort Wayne.

    So who’s the real Indiana? At last, the Hoosiers have offered some clarity.

    Indiana reasserted itself as an elite team Wednesday night with an impressive 76-67 victory over previously undefeated North Carolina. The Hoosiers controlled the game from start to finish, opening a 17-point cushion midway through the first half and holding the lead the rest of the game.

    Only once did the third-ranked Tar Heels mount a serious push, a 9-1 surge that closed the gap to four with just under five minutes to play in the second half. It was then that Indiana guard James Blackmon sunk the biggest shot of the game, a 3-pointer that halted North Carolina’s momentum and helped the Hoosiers close

    Read More »from Indiana proves itself once again by dropping surging North Carolina
  • London Perrantes spearheaded Virginia's second-half rally to beat Ohio State (AP)
    London Perrantes spearheaded Virginia’s second-half rally to beat Ohio State (AP)

    Come-from-behind victories from Clemson and Virginia on Wednesday night gave the ACC a 9-5 victory over the Big Ten in the annual challenge between the two leagues. Here’s a look at whose stock rose and fell during this year’s event:

    STOCK UP: LONDON PERRANTES

    No longer does Ohio State coach Thad Matta have only one career loss when his team leads by 15 or more points. Sixth-ranked Virginia handed him his second one on Wednesday night when it rallied from a 16-point first-half deficit to defeat the Buckeyes 63-61. Senior point guard London Perrantes was the catalyst for the Cavaliers’ comeback. Motivated after coach Tony Bennett tore into him for lackadaisical first-half play at halftime, Perrantes scored 15 of his game-high 19 points after the intermission, took better care of the ball and played his customary lock-down defense. It was Perrantes who tied the game on a 3-pointer with four minutes to go. He

    Read More »from Whose stock rose and fell during the Big Ten-ACC Challenge?
  • Duke's Frank Jackson defends Michigan State's Miles Bridges. (AP)
    Duke’s Frank Jackson defends Michigan State’s Miles Bridges. (AP)

    Take three projected lottery picks off preseason No. 1 Duke, and what do you get?

    Apparently, still a pretty good basketball team.

    With McDonald’s All-Americans Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum and Marques Bolden all sidelined by injuries, Duke has still reeled off seven victories in its first eight games against a schedule rife with quality opponents. The fifth-ranked Blue Devils added to their impressive start Tuesday night with a 78-69 victory over visiting Michigan State in one of the marquee games of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

    Despite only using six players against the Spartans, Duke managed to break open a tight game with an 11-0 second-half run fueled by careless Michigan State turnovers that turned into easy transition baskets. Grayson Allen overcame a lingering toe injury to score 24 points on 21 shots, Luke Kennard shook off a rare poor outside shooting night to add 20 of his own and Amile Jefferson dominated the paint

    Read More »from Duke continues to win with ease without three projected lottery picks
  • Syracuse forward Tyler Lydon (Getty Images)
    Syracuse forward Tyler Lydon (Getty Images)

    The ACC and Big Ten are tied one apiece in their annual challenge after Florida State and Northwestern picked up victories on Monday night. Here’s a look at Tuesday’s slate headlined by Duke-Michigan State and Wisconsin-Syracuse:

    MICHIGAN STATE (4-3) AT DUKE (6-1) (9:30 p.m. EST): The unnecessarily brutal November slate Tom Izzo assembled for his team became downright masochistic after a spate of frontcourt injuries struck the Spartans. They’ve suffered losses away from home against Arizona, Kentucky and Baylor while starting an ex-walk-on at center and relying heavily on freshmen. The last leg of Michigan State’s November gauntlet arrives Tuesday night when the Spartans visit a Duke team that has endured some issues of its own so far this season. The Blue Devils have won six of their first seven games despite McDonald’s All-Americans Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum and Marques Bolden not playing a single minute due to injury. All three are expected

    Read More »from What to watch for in Tuesday's six ACC-Big Ten Challenge games
  • Kentucky guard Malik Monk (Getty Images)
    Kentucky guard Malik Monk (Getty Images)

    On a night when Kentucky produced numerous YouTube-worthy highlights, one sequence still stood out among the rest.

    It was a ridiculous assist from Malik Monk midway through the second half of the Wildcats’ 115-69 rout of Arizona State in the Bahamas.

    Falling out of bounds in an effort to grab an errant outlet pass, Monk caught the ball one-handed and flung it to a wide-open Wenyen Gabriel all in one motion. Gabriel then finished the play with an uncontested reverse dunk, two more fast-break points in a night full of easy buckets for the Wildcats.

    Here’s one video of the play:

    Here’s a second angle:

    If Kentucky has been the most impressive team in

    Read More »from Malik Monk delivers one of the season's most impressive assists