Monday Madness: Best & worst of the weekend

Aaron Harrison (Getty Images)

If you're tired of Alabama owning the No. 1 spot in every college football poll, you'll like what college basketball has in store. Two weeks into this season, one No. 1 (Kentucky) has already gone down, and days later the presumptive next No. 1 (Michigan State) almost went down. In college hoops, it seems, there is a lot of room at the top. Here is the best and worst of the weekend that was:

4 GAMES I WISH YOU WATCHED

Belmont 83, North Carolina 80: Five minutes into the second half on Sunday, the Bruins took an 11-point lead over the Tar Heels. In Chapel Hill. UNC rallied -- led by Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson and James Michael McAdoo -- to erase the deficit and actually led by eight with two and a half minutes remaining. Cue Belmont senior J.J. Mann, who scored his team's next 11 points, including three straight threes and the go-ahead trey with 13 seconds left to give the Bruins the upset victory. Mann finished with 28 points, nine rebounds, five threes, and has already been cast to star in the Hollywood remake of Hoosiers.

Creighton 83, St. Joseph's 79: Doug McDermott is to college basketball's Player of the Year race what Baylor QB Bryce Petty is to the Heisman Trophy race. He's putting up big numbers (25.7 ppg) and plays in a power conference (Big East), but he's going to have to produce some signature "Heisman moments" to overtake the more hyped and intriguing candidates. Moments like Saturday's game-winner. With five seconds left and Creighton down by one, McDermott hit a 20-foot jumper while being fouled. He made the ensuing free throw, St. Joe's turned the ball over on their next possession, and the Blue Jays added two more free throws to seal the win.

Michigan State 62, Columbia 53: This felt like a first-round NCAA tournament game, except there wasn't a neutral-site crowd rooting for the Ivy League underdogs to upset the big, bad powerhouse program. It was more like 15,000 Spartans fans in East Lansing feeling nauseous as their team almost let a national No. 1 ranking slip away. "We proved tonight we're not ready to handle any kind of success," Tom Izzo said after the game, referencing State's win over Kentucky last week that was expected to vault them to the nation's top spot. Columbia led by four at halftime and was ahead for most of the second half before Michigan State's defense clamped down in the final five minutes, and the Spartans won the free-throw shooting contest down the stretch to eke out a win that wasn't supposed to be that tough.

Grinnell 173, Crossroads 123: Jack Taylor did it again. Last season, the 5-10 guard put himself, the Division III Grinnell program and coach Dave Arseneault's bombs-away system on the map when he scored a NCAA-record 138 points in one game. On Sunday, Taylor dropped 24 threes and scored 109 points (in 29 minutes!) on Crossroads. And he's only a junior. Think he'll top the century mark another time or two before he's done?

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4 FUTURE PROS YOU KNOW

Aaron Craft, Ohio State: The senior point guard was all over the place in the Buckeyes' win over Marquette on Saturday, finishing with 10 points, seven rebounds, 10 assists and two steals. Don't be surprised if Craft gets drafted too late next summer -- or if he doesn't get drafted at all -- but also don't be surprised when he plays his way onto a roster and sticks in the NBA for 10 years.

Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky: None of the five freshman starters who took the floor for the Wildcats on Sunday were around for UK's embarrassing first-round NIT exit at Robert Morris last season. Cauley-Stein was. The seven-foot sophomore got his redemption by grabbing 13 rebounds, blocking four shots and scoring seven points. Cauley-Stein is an athletic center who pro scouts will like for his potential to be a Tyson Chandler-like defender/rebounder.

Marcus Paige, North Carolina: With P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald being held out of the lineup, Paige has had to step up as a scorer for the Tar Heels. The 6-1 lefty point guard scored 23 points in Friday's win over Holy Cross, and 17 in Sunday's loss to Belmont. The early-season uncertainty might actually pay off later for UNC, as Paige is building his confidence as a scorer now, and he's not going to forget how to be a facilitator when Hairston and McDonald return.

Marshall Henderson, Ole Miss: In his first game back from an offseason suspension, Henderson had 19 points, four threes and four steals in the Rebels' win over Coastal Carolina on Saturday. The 6-2 senior hasn't lost any of the fearlessness and charisma on the court that made him a breakout star last season; but his professional future depends on his ability to contain that wild side off the court.

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4 FUTURE PROS YOU MAY NOT KNOW

Roscoe Smith, UNLV: Rangy, high-energy, versatile and possessing a nose for the ball, Smith has tangible and intangible tools reminiscent of fellow UNLV product Shawn Marion. The 6-8, 215-pound UConn transfer filled the stat sheet in Friday's win over Nebraska-Omaha with 17 points, 22 rebounds and three blocks.

Mackey McKnight, Lehigh: The next C.J. McCollum? McKnight, a 6-foot senior, is averaging 21.0 points and 5.7 assists through four games -- including 31 points against Fordham on Friday, and 14 points and seven assists against Houston on Sunday. McCollum, however, turned himself into an NBA lottery pick thanks in large part to a breakout NCAA tournament in 2012. McKnight averaged 15.5 points in Lehigh's tourney run that year, but he may not get a chance to repeat the feat this season, as the Mountain Hawks are already 1-4 and not looking good.

Quinton Pippen, Chicago State: Last season's Great West Defensive Player of the Year, and perhaps more important for his NBA prospects, nephew of Scottie Pippen. The 6-4 senior scored 15 points and had two steals in Friday's loss to Bradley, his fourth straight game with at least two thefts.

Omar Oraby, USC: After splitting time with DeWayne Dedmon last season, Oraby is now the Trojans' full-time starting center. The 7-2 senior had eight points, seven boards and five blocks in Friday's win over Northern Arizona. If he keeps it up, Oraby could be in position to -- as he said in a recent Los Angeles Times feature -- "bust the door open" for Egyptian ballplayers in the U.S.

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4 FAB FRESHMEN

Aaron Harrison, Kentucky: One-half of the heralded Harrison twins -- the lower-ranked half, according to most experts -- led the Wildcats with 28 points in Sunday's rout of Robert Morris. After struggling in last week's loss to Michigan State to the tune of 1-for-7 shooting from the field and just three points, Harrison went 10-for-10 from the free-throw line Sunday and knocked down four threes.

William Gates Jr., Furman: Yes, he is the son of William Gates from Hoop Dreams. And yes, that makes a lot of us feel old. The 6-1 guard scored 11 points off the bench in Friday's loss to Florida Gulf Coast.

Jabari Bird, California: Schools like Kentucky and Kansas are usually the only ones that know what it's like to lose a conference Player of the Year and replace him with someone better, but the Golden Bears might have pulled it off. Last season's Pac-12 P.O.Y. Allen Crabbe is gone, and in his place is 6-6 freshman Jabari Bird. After scoring 24 points and hitting six threes in Friday's win over Oakland, Bird is leading the team in scoring (15.3 ppg) and hitting 50 percent of his shots beyond the arc.

Nigel Williams-Goss, Washington: The McDonald's All-American point guard from Nevada by way of Canada got off to a rough start after being handed the keys to UW's offense. In his debut, Williams-Goss was outplayed by Seattle U junior Isiah Umipig, and in his next game the Huskies were beaten soundly by UC-Irvine. On Sunday, he finally played like the star UW recruited, putting up 22 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals in a win over Eastern Washington.

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4 TEAMS RUNNING TOWARD THE FINAL FOUR

Louisville: Kevin Ware is back from his injury, Chane Behanan is back from his suspension, and the Cardinals are back in the national title picture. Behanan and Montrezl Harrell combined for 27 rebounds in Friday's rout of Cornell, while Wayne Blackshear -- the All-American recruit who'd been a role player for two years -- scored a career-high 20 points. The Cardinals forced 19 turnovers and limited the Big Red to 29 percent shooting from the field. How deep is Louisville? Luke Hancock, the Final Four Most Outstanding Player, is coming off the bench and playing less than 15 minutes a night.

Duke: It didn't take long for this to become Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood's team. The pair of frontcourt newcomers are each averaging over 20 points per game, both shooting over 58 percent from the floor and 60 percent beyond the arc, and they rank first and second on the Blue Devils in rebounds. Parker had 21 points and 10 boards in Friday's win over Florida Atlantic, while Hood scored 28 points. And it's not like Duke will only go as far as these two carry them. If Hood or Parker slips, there's Rasheed Sulaimon and Quinn Cook and Amile Jefferson and Andre Dawkins there to pick up the slack.

Indiana: Forget a national championship; everybody wrote the Hoosiers off as Big Ten title contenders as soon as Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo and Christian Watford left for the NBA. Looks like everybody was wrong. Indiana is 4-0 after blowing out Samford and Stony Brook over the weekend, and leads the nation in rebounding. Sophomore point guard Yogi Ferrell (18.0 ppg, 4.0 apg) is the headliner, but he's getting a lot of help from freshman forwards Noah Vonleh (13.7 ppg, 11.7 rpg) and Troy Williams (10.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg), and senior forward Will Sheehey (11.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg).

Ohio State: It was fitting that the Buckeyes played Marquette on a college football Saturday, because everybody knew their game would be as physical enough to need helmets and pads. Ohio State improved to 3-0 with the not-so-pretty 52-35 victory, snapping Marquette's 27-game home win streak that had been the second-longest in the nation. The Buckeyes are gritty and tough on defense as you'd expect, but they also have potential for offensive firepower with Shannon Scott, Sam Thompson and LaQuinton Ross.

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4 TEAMS RUNNING SUICIDES THIS WEEK

Auburn: SEC teams -- even last-place SEC teams -- aren't supposed to lose to teams from the Southland Conference. Especially not at home. The Tigers fell to Northwestern State in Auburn on Friday, giving up 72 points in the second half and 111 total.

Lamar: The Cardinals could be in trouble because they're 0-3. They could be in trouble because they were blown out by 20 at Washington State while committing more turnovers (15) than assists (14). Or they could be in trouble because they're coached by Pat Knight and he can always find a reason.

Notre Dame: Before the 21st-ranked Irish had a chance to make a splash in the ACC, they made the wrong kind of headlines by losing at home to unranked mid-major Indiana State on Sunday. The Sycamores used an 18-3 run in the second half to beat Notre Dame by double digits.

Maryland: Coach Mark Turgeon said it was cool for the university to have Barack Obama and the First Family in the arena for Sunday's home game against Oregon State ... so I'm guessing he didn't think it was cool that the Terrapins lost to a lower-half Pac-12 team in front of the President and a more-interested-than-usual national audience.

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4 QUESTIONS THAT NEED ANSWERS

Is there a better backcourt trio in the country than UConn's Shabazz Napier, Omar Calhoun and Ryan Boatright?

Can we schedule a game between New Mexico State and UC-Irvine? I want to see the Aggies' 7-5 sophomore Sim Bhullar go against the Anteaters' 7-6 freshman Mamadou Ndiaye.

Since Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle and Jabari Parker are almost a lock to be the top three picks in the 2014 NBA draft, is there any chance Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart will come back for his junior year and a realistic shot at being the No. 1 pick?

Seeing as even Duke has now gotten into the business of stockpiling one-and-one types -- Coach K received commitments from top-five Class of 2014 recruits Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones last week -- can we all stop acting like John Calipari is the worst thing to happen to college basketball?

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4 NAMES OF THE WEEK

LaTre'e Russell, Norfolk State

Staccotta Dickerson, Bluefield

Yolonzo Moore II, Hartford

Xan Ricketts, Utah

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MONDAY MADNESS ARCHIVES

Best & worst of the weekend (Nov. 11)

NCAA-to-NBA comparisons

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