Breaking down some of the biggest takeaways from the final week of the college basketball regular season in a new Rauf Report.

We’ve officially made it to March and conference tournaments are underway (shoutout to the eight leagues that have started already). There’s day *tournament* basketball in nine of the next 10 days.

It’s the best time of the year for a reason.

But it also means teams are running out of time. There might only be one more opportunity for a resume-changing win (or loss) but, at this point, teams generally are who they are. So, with that in mind, we’re going to take a quick look at some potential hiccups for highly ranked teams, dangerous bubble teams and more – starting with the Penn State Nittany Lions.

Champ Week: Complete conference tournament schedule
—Bracketology: Projected field | Bubble Watch
Tournament Index: March Madness projections, Cinderella picks

Penn State might be the most dangerous team on the bubble

Penn State is likely on the outside of the NCAA Tournament field looking in right now. Things may have been different had it not blown a 19-point second-half lead against Rutgers, but Cam Wynter’s late 3 in overtime gave Micah Shrewsberry’s squad a needed Quad 1 victory over Northwestern.

The Nittany Lions now have four Quad 1 victories on the season and don’t have a loss outside the top two quadrants. That essentially means they haven’t let their play slip to a disastrous level at any point this season, while many other bubble teams have.

But they’re in this position because of a lack of elite wins. Penn State has just one victory against the top half of Q1 and has a losing record (8-12) against the top two quadrants. PSU would not be the only team in the field that fits that mold should they make the Big Dance, yet it does put the Nittany Lions in a less-than-stellar position.

There is still time to fix things, though. Penn State is one of the few teams where that opportunity remains. It will host Maryland over the weekend – another Q1 opportunity — and the Terps have struggled mightily on the road. If the Nittany Lions can win that game and potentially another in the Big Ten Tournament, I have to believe they’ll make the field.

Looking ahead to that Maryland game and both the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments, this is a group the poses a lot of problems for opponents, making them incredibly dangerous.

For starters, no other team in this position has an All-American like Jalen Pickett. He leads the Big Ten in assists, ranks second nationally in assist rate and is fourth in the conference in scoring. The fifth-year senior also leads Penn State with 7.3 rebounds per game, good for ninth in the league. His all-around play makes him one of the sport’s most unique and dangerous weapons, and everything PSU does offensively runs through him.

In the last few weeks, Pickett nearly had a triple-double (32 points, nine rebounds, eight assists) against Minnesota — it would’ve been his second of the season — and scored a career-high 41 against Illinois.

But Penn State is more than just The Jalen Pickett Show — it’s also an elite 3-point shooting team. The Nittany Lions rank in the top-10 nationally in both 3-point percentage and 3-point rate, meaning they shoot (and make) a lot of shots from beyond the arc. Five different players shoot over 40 percent from long range, and Pickett isn’t far behind at 38.8.

In short, Penn State has an elite point guard with an elite offense (top-15 nationally) and is elite in one of the game’s most crucial areas. Yes, it has lost games because of a lack of size and poor defense, but in the one-game do-or-die situations of March, this is a bubble team with dangerous potential because of what it does well.

West Virginia’s interesting resume

Elsewhere on the bubble, I want to take a look at West Virginia’s resume because it’s one of the most fascinating I can remember.

The Mountaineers are just 6-11 in Big 12 play and only picked up one Quad 1 victory during non-conference play (at Pitt, and there’s a chance it could slide to Quad 2 by Selection Sunday), yet they enter the final weekend in pretty good shape! Every bracket in the BracketMatrix has them in the field of 68, earning a No. 11 seed. However, some (including our own Lukas Harkins) think WVU is more in line for a No. 9 seed.

Why is that the case?

Well, analytical metrics love West Virginia. It ranks No. 24 in the NET, which is higher than any team in the ACC other than Duke and higher than any team in the Big Ten other than Purdue. That’s incredibly strong!

The Mountaineers also have five Quad 1 wins, which is top-20 in the country, and they only have one loss outside the top quadrant (a Q2 loss at home against Texas Tech). Playing a tough schedule in the Big 12 has hurt their overall record, yet it also eliminates the possibility of a bad loss.

Simply put, West Virginia has largely handled its business against one of the toughest schedules in the country. Victories over Pitt, TCU, Auburn and a sweep of Iowa State show the kind of team the Mountaineers can be, while the lack of bad losses show they consistently play at a high level. That combination is what the selection committee wants to see.

Texas’ slow starts might cost it in the postseason

Staying in the Big 12, Texas is starting to stumble at the wrong time. The Longhorns have lost four of their last seven games, all of which came on the road. One of those victories was also an overtime victory over Oklahoma, a game in which Texas needed to rally late to get in position to win/get into overtime.

That is something Texas has struggled with all season. The Longhorns have consistently put themselves in disadvantageous positions — particularly early — making comebacks necessary.

Sometimes they can pull it off! That’s an ode to the talent on this roster. But sometimes they dig themselves too big of a hole, and that’s something they can’t afford to do in the postseason.

Texas has been trailing at halftime in 12 of the 18 games it has played since Dec. 31 and was tied at the half in another yet has managed to go 11-7 during that span thanks to some incredible comebacks. For example, Rodney Terry’s squad…

  • trailed TCU by 18 on Jan. 11 and won;
  • trailed Texas Tech by 12 on Jan. 14 and won; and
  • trailed Kansas State by 14 on Feb. 4 and won.

Relying on those double-digit comebacks isn’t a sustainable formula for success because so much has to go right just to get back into the game. Let’s look at those last four losses:

  • Trailed by 14 against Kansas in the first half, tied the game in the second half but never took the lead
  • Trailed by 13 against Texas Tech in the second half, tied the game but never took the lead
  • Trailed by 18 against Baylor, cut deficit to seven but never took the lead
  • Trailed by 16 against TCU in the first half, cut deficit to two but never took the lead

Texas somehow found a way to be in all those games despite facing massive deficits yet failed to get over the hump because of how much energy it took just to get back in the game.

Now, it is a good thing that Texas has proven it can respond to in-game adversity this well — because it’s going to face some in the postseason. Every team does. At the same time, the Longhorns can’t continue to fall behind early and expect to make a long NCAA Tournament run.

Iowa’s Magic Number

It’s possible that the #FranStare may have saved Iowa’s season.

I mean, sort of. But there’s no denying that Iowa’s offense has been on fire since that incident.

The Hawkeyes made six 3-pointers in the final 1:34 of regulation in their miracle comeback victory over Michigan State last weekend, then followed that up with a 22-point road victory over Indiana in which they shot 55.6 percent from the floor and made 13 threes.

It should go without saying that shooting at a high clip is a good thing! But generating offense is especially important for Iowa because of how bad it is defensively. The Hawkeyes rank third nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency, per KenPom, but are a lowly 153rd on the defensive end (only Minnesota is worse in the Big Ten).

As such, Iowa’s gameplan for success is to be so good offensively that most other offenses can’t shoot a high enough percentage or get to the foul line enough to match them. There’s definitive line when that happens, too – at 80 points.

Iowa is 15-1 this season when it scores at least 80, including a perfect 9-0 in conference play. When the Hawkeyes are held below that number — and defense becomes more important — they’re just 4-10.

Moving forward, that appears to be the magic number for Iowa. Every game is a race to 80.


Detroit Mercy lost to Youngstown State in the quarterfinals of the Horizon League Tournament on Thursday night, likely ending the Titans’ season — and star Antoine Davis’ pursuit of the men’s Division 1 all-time scoring record. Davis scored 22 points against the Penguins, finishing just three points shy of tying Pete Maravich’s mark.

Detroit may still find its way into a postseason tournament (it won’t be the NCAAs or NIT given their 14-19 record), but it appears for now that Davis has played the final game of his college career. Breaking the record would’ve been an incredible accomplishment, and you have to feel for Davis given the opportunity to make history and falling just short of it.

But it’s probably for the best.

A lot of records don’t really matter in sports and it’s fun to see them get broken. This record, however, is one of the ones that felt different, particularly in this situation.

Maravich compiled the record of 3,667 points in just three seasons at LSU at a time when there wasn’t a 3-point line. He averaged 44.2 points in his 83 career games. The absurdity of all that — the average, only making two-point shots, the fact no player had really come close in a four-year career even with the help of the 3-point shot — makes it unique.

It feels like an unbreakable record.

Davis is a phenomenal scorer worthy of being mentioned among the best in college basketball history. But he also benefitted from a fifth year of full eligibility thanks to the NCAA’s COVID rule. His 3,664 career points have been accumulated in 144 games, 61 more than Maravich. Davis breaking the record would’ve felt manufactured in an unsettling way.

It’s hard to think the record will ever be broken given that the sport’s most talented players only stay for one season (for the most part). Davis had a lot of external factors line up for him and still came up short.

I’m not celebrating Davis’ failure to accomplish this historic feat, by the way. It would’ve been awesome for him. I am happy, though, that we don’t have to endure the “asterisk” conversation around the record that would’ve come from Davis breaking the record.