This was supposed to be the CBB weekend with close, hard-fought top-25 battles across the board, right? Well, most of what we got were blowouts.
Blowouts mean someone probably played well, though, and plenty of top programs made statements. Duke played more zone against Louisville than it had in Coach K’s previous 997 wins combined. The result was a stout defensive performance from the offensive juggernaut.
Arizona destroyed Utah and protected its perch atop the Pac 12 while Kansas lost some ground in the Big 12 race with a road loss to Iowa State. Here’s what we learned in those games and more as we continue the march towards March.
The best keeps learning.
I’m not saying Mike Krzyzewski just learned how to play a zone, but he implemented it more in the game against Louisville than any other game of his coaching career. The Cardinals have struggled from outside all season long and could be one of Coach Pitino’s worst three-point shooting teams ever. That was enough to have Coach K make the change from his typical man defense, and it worked to perfection.
The Cardinals shot 29 percent from the floor and 16 percent from beyond the arc. The Blue Devils didn’t force many turnovers or win the battle on the glass, so holding the Cardinals to just 52 points should be attributed to the switch to a zone. I guess old dogs can learn new tricks.
The beast has awoken.
Since back-to-back overtime wins last week, Kentucky has won its last two contests by a combined 156-85. That’s not very close for those who struggle with math.
So, what’s the difference? It really just comes down to the team waking up and playing smarter basketball. The Harrisons are taking better shot and not settling for contested outside looks, Willie Cauley-Stein is getting stops down low and not bailing out opponents with fouls, and Devin Booker is still going widely unnoticed while making all the right plays for Coach Calipari. The Wildcats are meshing, and that doesn’t bode well for the rest of college basketball.
The Longhorns are rediscovering their identity.
When starting point guard Isaiah Taylor missed most of December with an injury, Texas was forced to rely on its frontcourt to provide the scoring punch. The team played some of its best basketball during that stretch and even gave Kentucky a battle, equalling its physicality down low.
With Taylor’s return, the Longhorns got away from that identity….until Saturday. The Texas frontcourt of Jonathan Holmes, Myles Turner, and Cameron Ridley combined for 51 points and 24 rebounds against West Virginia. The Mountaineers had no match inside and Texas won by 27 points. If they maintain that bullish style inside, the Longhorns will be tough to beat in the Big 12.
Stanley Johnson can score in bunches.
Wildcats fans have been hoping for this all season since the freshman arrived in Tucson, but his second half against Utah finally flashed that potential. Johnson scored all 18 of his points in the final 20 minutes to lead Arizona to a blowout victory over no. 8 Utah.
If the Wildcats can get that kind of performance from Johnson more consistently, they will have no trouble running through a down Pac 12 outside of Utah.