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Barstool College Hoops Mailbag: Phil Booth Injury, SEC Tournament Hopefuls, Arizona State's Problems and More

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Just another ho-hum week of college basketball in which there were plenty of upsets and crazy finishes. Been a pretty fun season, hope everyone joins in watching before March. That said, we won’t waste any time getting into the weekly mailbag questions. Reminder this goes up every Friday and you can submit your questions via Twitter.

This was some major news that came out earlier in the week. During the game against Providence, Phil Booth fractured his hand and Jay Wright is saying it’s a 4-6 week timetable for his return. Booth’s injury makes it now the 3rd person on Villanova to miss time with a fractured hand – somewhat of a ridiculous stat there. Booth has also battled injuries during the duration of his Villanova career, missing practically all of last year with a knee injury. That said, if Booth is able to come back in late February, that is such a win for Villanova. That gives him a couple of regular season games then the Big East Tournament and by the time the NCAA Tournament rolls around he’s back in game shape and good to go. Booth is probably the fourth best guard on this Nova team behind Brunson/Bridges/DiVincenzo, but the fact that Wright has four guards he can rotate through 3 positions makes what they do so special. More importantly, gone is the Nova ‘death lineup’ of those four plus Eric Paschall where they can switch everything 1-5 and have 5 shooters. It’s going to be vital for Collin Gillespie to play about 15 minutes per game and be something during those 15 minutes. He has to buy time so the other 3 guards aren’t worn out come March. I still think this ends up being a No. 1 seed and a favorite to win the title and do think Nova should be able to tread water without Booth.

Yeah, this is a significant storyline that is starting to get some traction. You have two teams in Purdue and Michigan State who are likely top-2 seeds come March. Then there are only two other teams (Michigan, Ohio State) that are locks for the NCAA Tournament. Ohio State does have the win over Michigan State and Michigan, but don’t really have a great nonconference win. I think they are easily one of the 20 best teams in the country, but with only getting Michigan State and Purdue once in the Big 10 they have limited chances to get quality wins. That’s why it’s hard to imagine them higher than a No. 3 seed barring a run in the Big 10 Tournament plus a win at Purdue. Michigan will likely fall somewhere in that 6-8 range. Other than that, I don’t see a fifth team getting in without the automatic bid.

Depending how they lose, yes. Granted, a road loss doesn’t kill you, but you need to win this game against DePaul and start to right the ship if you’re Seton Hall. The last couple of games something has been off with the senior class and Kevin Willard. That has to change and the break between the Xavier loss and the DePaul game should be a good barometer as to where this team is from a mental standpoint. Seton Hall is too good and experienced for losses at Creighton and to Xavier (neither are bad losses) ruin its season. Start the game by getting the ball to Delgado in the post and Rodriguez driving left. Then open it up for Powell and Carrington to hit some jumpers. I still think this is one of the 25 best teams in the country, so let’s see what happens.

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So there are a couple things here with Arizona State and the 3-5 record it currently has in the Pac-12. First, the loss at Arizona isn’t a bad loss, it was expected. We won’t go too much into that. Even the loss at Colorado wasn’t terrible, simply because sweeping the mountain road trip in the Pac-12 isn’t an easy task. However, home losses to Utah and Oregon aren’t great. Even a road loss to Stanford is whatever, but it’s how the Sun Devils are losing. This is a team that is shooting 39% from the 3-point line. In the 5 losses, they are shooting 35%. This is a team that has to shoot the ball well in order to win. If they are hitting threes, that opens up the lane for Shannon Evans and Tra Holder to attack the paint off the bounce and either get to the rim or kick for open shots. The other thing is the nonconference hid how bad this team is defensively. They shot the ball so well in nonconference, people overlooked their inability to truly stop people. They simply outscored teams. That’s starting to catch up to them. They are still a NCAA Tournament team and can get hot and win a couple games, but that top-5 ranking looks so long ago.

Right off the bat I want to say Vermont and Buffalo are two teams to really watch. Vermont has one of the best coaches in the country in John Becker who is just so damn good with his defensive schemes. They also have two guys in Trae Bell-Haynes and Anthony Lamb who can go win you games. They challenged themselves in the nonconference with games at Kentucky, Marquette, Bucknell and St. Bonaventure while playing neutral court games against Bradley and Northern Kentucky. They are also an excellent 3-point shooting team, ranking 11th in the country at 41.2% as a team. Buffalo is currently undefeated in the MAC and they like to really get up and down the court. They play one of the fastest tempos in the country and that’s due in large part to having a guy like Wes Clark running point now that he’s back in the lineup. There’s also guys like CJ Massinburg and Jeremy Harris. Those are two teams I’d keep an eye on.

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So we’re going from the 2013-14 season to this year, I’m going:

1. 2015-16

2. 2017-18

3. 2014-15

4. 2016-17

5. 2013-14

If Goodin plays like he did against Marquette, Xavier can move into the legit national title contender spot. The thing to watch for Xavier going forward is if him and Naji Marshall can start hitting threes – most notably corner threes for Marshall and top of the key for Goodin. You know what you’re getting out of Trevon Bluiett and JP Macura at this stage. You even know what Kerem Kanter and Sean O’Mara brings you. The X-factors are those two guys. If they are able to spread the floor by hitting a couple threes a game consistently it completely changes how you focus your attention on Bluiett. What makes Xavier strong is the fact that almost any guard/wing can get into the lane, the question is who are you kicking it to? I thought that was arguably the best game I’ve seen Goodin play, so if that’s his ceiling and he can hit that, Xavier should be just fine.

Yeah, there are a handful of teams that make this list. A&M is up top along with teams like UCLA, Northwestern, Minnesota, Georgia Tech and Miami. Those would be the ones that I’d sort of key in on for biggest disappointment.

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Locks: Florida, Kentucky, Auburn, Tennessee

Likely in: Arkansas, Alabama

Bubble: Missouri, Texas A&M, Georgia, LSU

Likely out: South Carolina

Out: Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt

I think both teams are favorites to get to the Final Four, but I’m going Nova here. The reason is because 1) Nova is also incredibly good defensively and have a guy in Mikal Bridges who can absolutely shut down your best wing. Another reason is Nova has the two best players on the floor out of this group. Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges are better than anyone Virginia has – as much as I love Virginia’s backcourt. That’s not a knock on Hall/Guy/Jerome, just sort of how it is. I think with Booth coming back in 4-6 weeks (if it goes as Wright says) plus already getting Gillespie back and in the rotation, Nova would be my lean here.