Welcome to the VICE Sports College Basketball Grab Bag, where every week we'll round up the biggest news stories in the sport. Random stuff, too, because it's college basketball. Enjoy!
The court storming conundrum
I'm a very big proponent of fun, which means I'm also a very big proponent of court storming. Oftentimes, people will argue whether a win was "big enough" for students to storm the court. That doesn't make any sense to me. Court storming is enjoyable, so if you're going to storm the court when you beat Kansas, go ahead and storm the court when you beat Mississippi Valley State, too.
This week, Arizona coach Sean Miller asked a different question: Is any game worth court storming? The Wildcats are a big name in college basketball, so when they lose on the road, opposing fans often rush the floor. It happened again on Wednesday, after Arizona lost a close game at Colorado, and Miller sounded fed up:
"Eventually what's going to happen in the Pac-12 is this: an Arizona player is going to punch a fan," Miller said. "And they're going to punch the fan out of self-defense."
Miller continued, "When it happens, only when it happens, will everybody take a deep breath and say, we have to do something to protect both teams so that when the game ends, that we have a deep breath to be able to leave the gym. Or at least shake the other team's hand, and then get to our locker room."
Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne backed Miller:
This is a tough situation. Court storming is a blast, and part of what makes college basketball special. Typically, nothing bad happens, but there have been incidents, like when Iowa State stormed the court after beating Iowa and a reporter broke his leg in the ensuing ruckus. Eventually, a player probably is going to punch a fan, or vice versa, as Miller suggested.
If and when that happens—and let's hope it never does—court storming will become a relic of the past. Enjoy it while you can.
Grayson Allen won't stop tripping people
Duke star Grayson Allen is officially the new Blue Devils white guy everyone loves to hate. While most of this hate is unwarranted (even though Allen looks like Zodiac Killer Ted Cruz), Allen is actually proving to be a dirty player.
To wit: he's now tripped opponents twice!
The first was against Louisville and was fairly subtle:
But the trip against Florida State's Xavier Rathan-Mayes on Thursday was far more obvious and malicious:
I don't really care that Allen yells at refs or plays hard—I would yell at refs, too, if I played—but damn, dude, stop tripping people.
What do we make of Xavier?
To be clear, Xavier is a very good team. The Musketeers have proved that over their 25-3 season, and they just knocked off No. 1 Villanova.
But there's a difference between very good and elite, and although the NCAA tournament is not great at determining who the best teams are—there's a lot of dumb luck in winning six games in a row—it will, for better or worse, define Xavier's legacy.
With the win over Villanova, Xavier is one of a handful of teams pushing for a No. 1 seed, and with such a stellar record, they might get it. However, the Musketeers played a fairly weak schedule. Their best win outside of Villanova was at Michigan early in the season, and other than that it's neutral-site games against Alabama, USC, and Dayton. The Musketeers also lost at Villanova by 31 points, lost to Georgetown at home, and were blown out at Creighton.
Every team slips up, but the advanced stats don't really believe all that much in Xavier. The Musketeers rank No. 11 in the KenPom.com ratings, even after the Villanova win, and they aren't particularly dominant in any statistical category.
Yes, this is a very good team, and one that absolutely deserves a high seed in the NCAA tournament. But validation for Xavier won't come from that; it will come from advancing deep into March. With a little luck, the Musketeers can do it, but they're still less proven than most of their top-seeded counterparts.
Best week: Indiana
The Hoosiers are now a win away from clinching at least a share of the Big Ten title, and if they can beat both Maryland at home and Iowa on the road, they'll win it outright. They got a lot of help from Iowa losing to Penn State and Wisconsin, and Maryland losing to Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Worst week: LSU
LSU has been disappointing all season, hovering around the NCAA tournament bubble despite having sure-fire No. 1 NBA Draft pick Ben Simmons. This week, they fell off the bubble altogether, losing to Tennessee and Arkansas. Coach Johnny Jones should have a fun time explaining this one to his bosses.
Because of the way the NCAA tournament selection committee chooses teams, it's almost impossible for some small schools to make the field without winning their conference tournament. This week, we're ranking the small schools that are good enough to get at-large bids but won't because of a lack of "resume-building" wins:
1. Hawaii: Hawaii absolutely should not be good. The Warriors have a first-year coach in Eran Ganot, they have very few athletic department resources, and their travel for games is insane. Yet as we've written about at VICE Sports, they're dominating the Big West, are 2-0 against the SEC, and they beat Northern Iowa. They lost to Oklahoma by only three points. This team could hold its own in a major conference.
2. Arkansas-Little Rock: Hardly anyone will play UALR, but the Trojans are 25-3 and have proved themselves with dominating wins. They beat possible at-large inclusion Tulsa, won at San Diego State, and then obliterated DePaul as if they were a Big East power. This is a top 35 team, according to KenPom. If they make the NCAA tournament and upset one of the sport's bigger names, don't say we didn't warn you.
3. Yale: After struggling early in the season, Yale has come into its own, winning all but one Ivy League game. The Bulldogs don't have the resume for the NCAA tournament, but they're playing well enough that they could probably have competed for an at-large spot in the Big East or another major conference.
4. Valparaiso: The Crusaders have some bad losses, because they play mostly bad teams in the Horizon League and in-conference losses are bound to happen. Still, they knocked off Oregon State in non-conference season.
5. Stony Brook: Stony Brook has been the dominant team in the American East for the past half-decade, and the Sea Wolves have just one conference loss this year. They also beat a solid Princeton team in non-conference season. If this team played in the ACC, not the American East, it would have a shot to pick up some pretty good wins.
VICE Sports Tom Crean Photo of the Week
As always: you're welcome, America.