EDITOR’S NOTE: Fo, Fo, Fo is more than just a nod to legend Moses Malone. It’s columnist Kyle Tucker’s weekly college basketball rundown: Four No. 1 seeds for the NCAA Tournament, four other dangerous teams and four games he can’t wait to watch.
A season of chaos continues. Two of my top four teams last week — West Virginia and Michigan State — have hit the skids. The Mountaineers have dropped two in a row, including a total collapse at home against Kansas, and the Spartans have lost two of three, including a whupping at the hands of rival Michigan.
What is there to do but press on, naming new top teams that will soon be toppled?
Fo No. 1 seeds
Villanova (16-1) — The Wildcats won the first of three straight road games on Saturday at St. John’s thanks to a breakout game by 6-foot-5 sophomore guard Donte DiVincenzo off the bench. He had 25 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and was 6 of 9 from 3-point range. This is what makes Nova so scary. Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges get all the attention — even big man Omari Spellman is a bigger name — but DiVincenzo is averaging 13.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.2 steals and shooting 41 percent from long range. So many weapons.
Virginia (16-1) — The Cavaliers have won eight straight since suffering their only loss of the season (at West Virginia), and they lead the nation in scoring defense (52.9 ppg) and adjusted defensive efficiency. Opponents shoot 36.4 percent against Virginia, second worst in Division I. Combine that with the second-best 3-point percentage in the ACC — Kyle Guy, Devon Hall and Ty Jerome all shoot it better than 43 percent — and you have a team that is beating opponents by almost 18 points per game.
Purdue (17-2) — The Boilermakers won consecutive Big Ten road games at Michigan and Minnesota last week, narrowly escaping the Wolverines (who then won at Michigan State) and demolishing the Golden Gophers by 34 points. Purdue has won 13 in a row, leads the nation in scoring margin (plus-22.3 ppg), ranks seventh in 3-point percentage (41.5) and is the only team in the country that ranks top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. Matt Painter’s team has 9 RPI top-100 wins, 5 against the top 50: Arizona, Michigan (away), Louisville, Butler and Marquette (away).
Duke (16-2) — The Blue Devils still have issues, and they still have the 2 weird losses at Boston College and N.C. State, but their wild comeback Monday night at No. 25 Miami was impressive. And it was their fifth RPI top-50 win, adding to a list that includes Michigan State, Florida, Florida State and Texas. Duke’s ability to turn it on and erase a second-half deficit is fairly remarkable, demonstrated again Monday: Down 13 with 7:59 to go on the road, the Devils scored 18 unanswered points and ran away with it. Gary Trent Jr. poured in 30 points, and on a pedestrian night by Marvin Bagley III’s standards, the other freakish big man, Wendell Carter Jr., went for 15 points, 14 rebounds, 4 blocks, 3 assists and 2 steals.
Fo mo’ dangerous teams
Oklahoma (14-2) — The Sooners followed their first loss in 10 games (at West Virginia) with consecutive wins over ranked Big 12 opponents, Texas Tech and TCU. Their home date with Kansas on Jan. 23 looms, but first come a pair of road trips to Kansas State and rival Oklahoma State. Superstar freshman Trae Young rebounded from a couple of poor-shooting games to drop 43 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists on the Horned Frogs — sinking 10 of 18 3s. As long as he’s playing, Oklahoma has a shot against anyone.
Texas Tech (15-2) — The Red Raiders split a pair of games against top-10 opponents last week, losing at Oklahoma before coming home to squeak out a 1-point win over West Virginia. They’re also the only team in the Big 12 to beat Kansas this season — and did it by a dozen at Allen Fieldhouse. In a loaded league, Chris Beard’s team appears poised to contend for a title that the Jayhawks have won 13 consecutive times. Senior guard Keenan Evans, who scored 29 against Boston College, 25 on Northwestern, 21 against Seton Hall, 32 on Nevada, 27 against K-State and 20 on West Virginia, is the name to know.
Wichita State (15-2) — The Shockers have won seven in a row since losing to Oklahoma, and after five straight by double digits (and three consecutive routs) they won a nail-biter at Tulsa on Saturday. WSU has 6 RPI top-100 wins — including at Baylor, Oklahoma State and Connecticut — but is light on top-50 victories (just 1, against Marquette). Two meetings with Cincinnati late in the season (Feb. 18 away, March 4 home) offer big résumé-boosting opportunities for a team that ranks in the top 25 in offensive and defensive efficiency.
Kansas (15-3) — I’ve been down on the Jayhawks all season, and with good reason, but it’s hard to argue with a comeback win at No. 6 West Virginia on Monday night. They trailed by 16 in the first half and by 12 with less than 9 minutes to go in the game. Devonte Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk, who combined for 33 points, 11 assists, 7 rebounds, 4 steals and hit 6 of 12 3s against the Mountaineers, are a terrific combo. Kansas added a big man last week, too, in 6-9, 245-pound freshman Silvio De Sousa, adding some desperately needed front-court depth. So here we are again: Bill Self contending for a 14th straight Big 12 title.
Fo games to watch
No. 20 Clemson (15-2) at No. 15 North Carolina (14-4) on Tuesday, Jan. 16, at 7 p.m. ET on ACC Network. The Tigers have incredibly never won at UNC in 58 attempts. For the Tar Heels, it is the longest home winning streak against an opponent in NCAA history. Clemson is enjoying a resurgent season, ranked No. 6 in the RPI thanks to 4 top-50 wins, including Florida, Louisville and at Ohio State. After a 1-point loss at N.C. State last Thursday, they answered with a win over ranked Miami. North Carolina has stabilized after losing consecutive ACC road games by blowing out Boston College and escaping by a point at Notre Dame.
No. 17 Auburn (16-1) at Alabama (11-6) on Wednesday, Jan. 17, at 7 p.m. ET on SEC Network. Too bad the Crimson Tide have faltered lately or this would be on everyone’s must-see list, but it’s still worth watching because the Tigers have earned some attention. They’ve won 14 in a row, the program’s longest winning streak in 18 years, and stand alone in first place in an SEC expected to be ruled by Kentucky, Florida or Texas A&M. They’re 4-0 on the road and beat Tennessee and Arkansas back to back when both were ranked. Alabama, meanwhile, muddied its NCAA Tournament profile with consecutive road losses to Vanderbilt and Georgia, but they just won a big one at LSU. And they have star freshman Collin Sexton, who seems due for a big game.
Saint Mary’s (17-2) at No. 13 Gonzaga (16-3) on Thursday, Jan. 18, at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN. Consecutive losses in November to Washington State and Georgia — by 4 points and 2 points — took a big bite out of the Gaels’ postseason credentials. But now they’ve won 12 in a row, led by 6-foot-11 star Jock Landale (21.7 ppg, 10.3 rpg), and have a chance to record a monster road win. The Zags have a weird loss (San Diego State) and a what-if loss (Florida in double overtime), but also RPI top-50 wins over Ohio State, Texas, Creighton and Washington. Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga are 6-0 in the West Coast Conference, so this one is for first place.
Florida (12-5) at No. 18 Kentucky (14-3) on Saturday, Jan. 20, at 8:15 p.m. ET on ESPN. Every time we’re ready to say the Gators are rolling again, they stumble. After a thrilling, double-OT win over Gonzaga early in the season, they dropped three straight. After a 4-0 start in SEC play — including a rout at Texas A&M — they fell at 7-loss Ole Miss on Saturday. But Florida remains a contender in this league, with arguably its best back court, and will come to Rupp Arena with a chance to validate that. ESPN’s College GameDay will be in town, and the young Wildcats will likewise try to prove they’re trending toward a run in March. Oh, and this might just be 5-star freshman Jarred Vanderbilt’s greatly anticipated debut.