After struggling through the beginning of ACC play, Duke routed NC State on Saturday. (Gerry Broome/AP)
No. 23 Duke 95, NC State 60: Jabari Parker is back. The freshman struggled in recent games, but broke out against an NC State team trying to find an identity. Parker finished with 23 points, showed confidence in his drives and was consistently looking for his shot, a positive sign for a Blue Devils team that needed to use this week to get back on track. Duke has a tough stretch at Miami, vs. FSU, at Pitt and at Syracuse staring it down.
The Blue Devils didn't shoot particularly well, but went back to the type of play Mike Krzyzewski would like to see more often -- pushing the tempo, using pressure out near halfcourt to force mistakes and creating easy looks.
The Wolfpack had 21 turnovers on the day and looked lost in their offensive sets throughout. They were clearly bothered by Duke's defensive effort.
The problem isn't that NC State lacks players. The issue is that nothing makes sense when it's all put together. It's like attempting to make chicken parmesan out of vanilla extract, a strip steak, two quail eggs and truffle oil. Those ingredients don't fit, and the recipe is all wrong. Some of that isn't Mark Gottfried's fault. You can't anticipate transfers and early-entries. But at the same time, the roster as assembled just doesn't work. There's a fast point guard who can't shoot, a volume scorer who wants to slash, a couple of perimeter guys who don't really know what they're supposed to be doing and beefy post players who are basically taking up space.
The Wolfpack aren't built to beat Duke; they're barely built to win any games in the ACC right now.
No. 25 Oklahoma 66, No. 12 Baylor 64: Coming in with two teams ranked in the top 20 of KenPom's adjusted offensive rankings, a more polished scoring output could've been expected from both the Bears and Sooners. Ultimately, Oklahoma was able to grind out the victory, thanks in large part to an inspired 19 points from guard Buddy Hield. The Sooners are scrapping together a pretty impressive season in year three under Lon Kruger despite lacking the wow factor of some of the other teams in the Big 12.
For Baylor, it's more of the same as inconsistency did the Bears in again. They're a nightmare to face when they're playing well with their speed and length, but they go through stretches in games where they look like they forget how fast and big they really are. There will undoubtably be a couple more odd losses on their schedule before the season ends, but based on talent alone they'll likely sit in that second tier of teams you still don't want anything to do with come tournament time.
No. 13 Kentucky 74, Tennessee 66: Despite being out-rebounded by 15 and Julius Randle not scoring a point for much of the second half, Kentucky grabbed an important bounce back win after an overtime dunk loss to Arkansas earlier in the week. The Wildcats couldn't find much flow early on, giving up a ton of offensive rebounds and missing outside shots. But a run sparked by the Harrisons (Aaron and Andrew combined for 40 points) deep in the second period gave Kentucky the push it needed to best a feisty Tennessee team. The Vols could've used a win like this one to bolster their resume, but poor outside shooting (2-of-13) and an inability to convert second-chance opportunities into points kept the door open for the Wildcats to regain control.
Virginia 78, Florida State 66: After dropping a close one at Cameron on Monday, Virginia bounced back in a big way with an impressive win over the 'Noles. The Cavs capped off the season sweep, winning the two games over FSU by a combined 24 points. Florida State continues to be one of the more perplexing teams in the ACC. While they are capable of out-muscling just about any team in the country on a given day, if the Seminoles can't hit shots and the offense stalls, it's not only ugly basketball, it's also losing basketball. Virginia now sits at 4-1 in ACC play and has made a pretty clear case that it's a top four team in the conference.
No. 21 Colorado 83, USC 62: After a mini two-game slide, the Buffaloes got back on track with an easy win over the Trojans. Colorado carried a 17-point halftime lead and coasted in the second half as USC dropped to 9-9 and 0-5 in the Pac-12. Entering a big game against undefeated No. 1 Arizona on Jan. 23, this was a win Colorado definitely needed to have, and it's how the team did it that should make Tad Boyle happy. The Buffs had four scorers in double figures and held USC under 37-percent shooting.
Kansas State 78, West Virginia 56: The Wildcats moved to 14-4 with a convincing win over West Virginia, as Bob Huggins' team is still searching for answers. The Mountaineers shot just 32.7 percent on the day, while Kansas State got 20 points from Shane Southwell. The Wildcats are a sneaky wild card in the Big 12, but they'll have to win as many as they can in January and early February. That late-season schedule is looking tough.
UNC 82, Boston College 71:
The Tar Heels
needed Marcus Paige
to get right, and a game against the Eagles
did just that. Paige scored 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting as UNC won its first ACC game of the season. Inconsistency has plagued Carolina all year, but the most concerning problem has been a lack of a go-to perimeter scorer in critical moments. The return of Leslie McDonald
has softened the blow somewhat, but if Paige and/or McDonald are off, too much of UNC's offense is passing the ball around and guys waiting for someone else to make a move. The Tar Heels need a good showing in the next two games -- Monday's game at Virginia and at home against Clemson on Jan. 26 -- to prove they can make some noise down the stretch.