Cam Spencer, a transfer from Rutgers, is leading No. 1-ranked UConn in scoring.
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We’re seven weeks from Selection Sunday. It’s perfect timing because I have seven questions burning a hole in my psyche about this college basketball season.
Is UConn just plain the best team again? Looking up Sunday and seeing the Huskies leading Xavier 61-26 before the first TV timeout of the second half, the question seemed almost moot. They are tearing through the Big East — a great league — as though they were on a throwback tour of the old Yankee Conference. No more Jordan Hawkins, Adama Sanogo and Andre Jackson Jr., no problem? We’ll see.
Who else has that ‘‘it’’? Guard-heavy Houston is reminiscent of the nails-tough Baylor squad that won it all in 2021. North Carolina has RJ Davis, the steadiest hand — and maybe the best closer — out there. Kentucky can shoot down anybody anytime, anywhere. Any of these teams could be the one that peaks late.
Can anyone steal the Wooden Award from Zach Edey? It’s probably Davis or nobody, assuming the Big Ten’s most dominant player in decades stays healthy. Davis might pull it off if UNC cruises to an ACC title and Purdue fails to win the Big Ten.
Who’s fake-good? Go ahead and sell preseason No. 1 Kansas, which isn’t deep at all and doesn’t have nearly enough three-point shooting, and fellow blue-blood Duke, which is far from its best self. And be suspicious of Arizona, which is lights-out when locked in but keeps it in low gear far too often.
Illinois or Northwestern? Each is 6-3 and tied for third place in the Big Ten. They split their regular-season series. The Illini have more dudes — and a higher ceiling — but the Wildcats have Boo Buie, the RJ Davis of the league. The Illini should finish higher in the standings, but the bet here is on both to have top-four double-byes in the conference tournament in Minneapolis.
Will Loyola keep it interesting? The Ramblers are tied for third place in the 15-team Atlantic 10. After their last-place finish last season, it’s totally unexpected. Going above .500 in the league would be a huge step in the right direction.
Will DePaul win another game? Come on, of course it will. OK, maybe not. Put me down for a ‘‘W’’ against Xavier on Saturday, and that’s it.
Buie is 10 points from passing Drew Crawford for second place on Northwestern’s career scoring list. It shouldn’t take the star guard more than a half-dozen games after that to pass John Shurna’s school record of 2,038 points. And that should be enough for everyone to agree that Buie is the best Wildcat of ’em all.
Shurna? He sure could fill it up. Evan Eschmeyer? He was a beast down low. Billy McKinney? Heck of an NBA career. But Buie has the team success, too, which pushes him over the top. . . .
Illinois guard Terrence Shannon Jr. endured pointed chants from the Northwestern student section during the Illini’s 96-91 loss Wednesday in Evanston. Shannon, who’s facing a rape charge in Kansas, seemed to handle it well enough, though one major-college coach worries about the potential for ugliness to ‘‘spill over’’ as the Illini play road games where half the crowd aren’t friendlies clad in orange.
‘‘You hope, at the end of the day, it stays about the game, but these road environments and college kids are tough,’’ said the coach, who asked not to be named. ‘‘It could blow up and spill over, and that’s what nobody wants. Hopefully, it doesn’t get to that.’’ . . .
Indiana’s loss Saturday at Illinois was its fifth in its last seven Big Ten games. Just more of the same for a program that’s 0-6 against Quad-1 opponents this season and has one measly NCAA Tournament victory since 2016.
Are the Hoosiers the Nebraska football of college basketball, or are the Huskers the Indiana basketball of college football? We’ll have to ponder that one awhile. . . .
Ohio State’s Chris Holtmann had a rough go Saturday at Northwestern, but should he be of interest to DePaul?
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Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann stood on the sideline biting his lip toward the end of a blowout loss Saturday at Northwestern. He had the look of a coach who knows he’s in trouble. The Buckeyes have lost 14 true road games in a row and are coming off an under-.500 season. Departing athletic director Gene Smith skipped a chance to offer a vote of confidence when asked by reporters about Holtmann’s status.
Holtmann is having a rough go, but this is someone who has been to seven NCAA Tournaments with Butler and Ohio State. If he goes down, DePaul athletic director DeWayne Peevy better already be dialing. . . .
A tip of the beer helmet to Southern Illinois and scoring machine Xavier Johnson. The Salukis closed with a 25-3 run Saturday at Murray State and won 60-58 on a circus layup by the 6-1 Johnson, who hit his defender with a double-crossover on the way to the rim and laid the ball high off the glass over two taller defenders. Johnson ranks second in the country with 23 points per game.