No. 2 Arizona takes lumps in paradise in crazy hoops week
By DAVE SKRETTA
Nov. 27, 2017
Good luck finding anybody who has ever had a worse week in the Bahamas than Sean Miller.
His second-ranked Arizona team headed to the Battle 4 Atlantis poised for a championship showdown with No. 5 Villanova. Instead, the Wildcats dropped three games in three days to finish last in the eight-team tournament, and could plummet all the way out of the Top 25 on Monday.
"I wouldn't have predicted we would come down here and finish 0-3. That wasn't the goal," Miller said before heading home, "but nothing's ever as bad as it seems."
Indeed, the Wildcats (3-3) lost close games to North Carolina State and SMU before getting routed by No. 18 Purdue in the seventh-place game. But that's still three straight losses, and that could make Arizona the first team since Louisville in 1986 to go from No. 2 to unranked in the AP Top 25.
"Hey, look, I want to win," said Miller, whose team still has back-to-back games against No. 16 Texas A&M and No. 25 Alabama before Pac-12 play. "We have to make it so we don't lose four."
The Wildcats weren't the only ranked team to take some lumps last week.
The Boilermakers lost twice in the Bahamas before beating Arizona. Sixth-ranked Wichita State rallied to reach the finals of the Maui Invitational, where the Shockers lost a nip-and-tuck game to No. 13 Notre Dame. No. 15 Xavier was throttled by Arizona State in the finals of the Las Vegas Invitational, and No. 20 Seton Hall, No. 21 Saint Mary's and No. 23 UCLA all tasted defeat.
Then there are the Top 25 teams that had no problem whatsoever.
Third-ranked Kansas beat Texas Southern and Oakland by an average of 43 points. No. 11 Miami won a pair of games easily, while No. 12 Cincinnati rolled to the title of the Cayman Islands Classic.
Yes, Bearcats coach Mick Cronin was far happier heading home from paradise.
"This is a good start to the season," said Cronin, whose team is one of the favorites in the American Athletic Conference. "You practice winning three in row, but down here you have to focus especially with fun in sun."
Just ask Arizona how difficult that task can be.
Perhaps the most bizarre matchup of ranked teams took place Saturday in New York, when the Crimson Tide's bench was ejected for coming out to scuffle in a loss to No. 14 Minnesota. When the Tide's Dazon Ingram fouled out and John Petty hurt his ankle, they were down to three players the rest of the way.
They still trimmed a 14-point deficit to three before ultimately losing, 89-84.
"We fought to the very end," Crimson Tide coach Avery Johnson said. "There was no surrender in our team. That's the bright spot in today's game."
HANDING OUT HARDWARE
No. 16 Texas A&M rolled through Oklahoma State and Penn State to win the Legends Classic in New York, while No. 22 Baylor beat Wisconsin and Creighton to win the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City. Virginia topped Rhode Island in the NIT Season Tip-Off, where No. 23 Seton Hall finished third.
POISED TO POUNCE
The Cavaliers' tournament title in New York should get them ranked this week; they were the top team receiving votes last week. Texas Tech and TCU were next in the pecking order and both improved to 6-0 with easy wins last week, giving the Big 12 a chance to flood Monday's new Top 25.
Move over, NFL. You'll have a hard time finding a bigger day of big-time college basketball — until March Madness, at least — than on Sunday, when 11 ranked teams were in action.
Six of them played each other on the West Coast.
The Aggies headed to California, where they beat No. 10 Southern California 75-59 at the Galen Center on Sunday night, while the championship games of the two-bracket PK80 tournament in Portland featured No. 4 Michigan State toppling No. 9 North Carolina 63-45 and top-ranked Duke rallying for an 87-84 victory over No. 7 Florida.
No. 17 Gonzaga beat Texas 76-71 in OT in a consolation game of Nike founder Phil Knight's tournament. No. 23 West Virginia defeated Missouri 83-79 in the Advocare Invitational; Georgia beat the Gaels 83-81 in overtime in the Wooden Legacy; and eighth-ranked Kentucky routed Illinois-Chicago 107-73 in the Adolph Rupp Classic.