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The biggest game of the week might be the one going down Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. No. 10 Baylor vs. No. 21 Duke. I'll be on hand to see if 9-1 Baylor can restore itself after being oddly obliterated by Michigan State over the weekend. 

While Baylor is intriguing, Duke is the bigger story — win or lose. More than seven weeks in, nobody knows if the 7-3 Blue Devils are legit. They've been given the benefit of the doubt, having remained in the AP Top 25 despite taking three Ls in their first eight games and claiming only one notable win (Michigan State in Chicago). The best news for Duke in the past two months was the commitment of No. 1 2024 recruit Cooper Flagg. But his time and that hype cycle is at least 10 months away. 

In the here and now, Duke has fallen short of preseason projections. From No. 2 in early November to a team still figuring a lot out. 

"We haven't jelled yet the way that we can," Jon Scheyer told CBS Sports recently. "It's not just another step to make. I think we have a few steps to make."

Those "steps" double as opportunities provided by big games. Games like playing at Arkansas (an 80-75 loss) and getting Baylor in Manhattan

"I think that's what Arizona, Michigan State games did for us early," Scheyer said, adding, "I think there's an edge I'd like to see us have. There's a toughness, there's a togetherness that you can only get from being in moments like this together. ... The Arizona game comes down to getting a rebound. Just had to body-up and get a rebound. One stop. In the history of our program, you need one stop, you get it. It's developing that mentality. It's not like it's a tangible thing where you can look at and say it's this stat or that stat. There's a collective edge I still want us to develop."

Duke losing to Baylor would trigger the first true chapter of adversity for Scheyer. (In the only other Duke-BU game ever, Duke won in the 2010 Elite Eight. Scheyer, then a senior, scored 20 points and played every minute.) Duke is coming off a season where it didn't lose at home, won the ACC Tournament and was the strongest No. 5 seed. Kyle Filipowski, Jeremy Roach and Tyrese Proctor returning to campus set the table for Krzyzewski-level expectations in Scheyer's second season.

But he knew it was never as simple as outsiders made it seem heading into November. 

"When you're in a position where you return a core group — and, look, Carolina just did the year before — you can assume you pick up where you left off, where that couldn't be further from the truth," he said. "That's something I've learned firsthand. You have to work at it. It doesn't just happen where, all right, pick up where we left off, win 10 out of 11 games, chemistry. It's a different team. When you're a freshman in college you have a different personality when you come back as a sophomore, you feel more confident. That's been the stuff that's been, from a health perspective, we didn't have that time in the summer and that was probably a little bit more valuable than I would have given it credit for."

Even though a lot of big pieces returned, their place in the program is elevated. More is expected, and they're now being paid a lot of money in NIL to produce. At Duke, that compounds. This team is a few levels removed from the one that peaked last March.

"These guys have so much more on their plates now than when I did when I played," Scheyer said. "The freshmen, they're still learning how to be really good in college. For the guys that are returning — Kyle, Mark (Mitchell), Tyrese and Jeremy — they're in different roles than last year. So they're adjusting to: 'We're depending on you every day to be a big-time player.'" 

Scheyer told me Filipowski needs to be an All-American in order for Duke to be a top-10 team. He's playing at that level right now (coming off a season-high 28 points, plus 12 boards and eight assists vs. Hofstra), but everyone else is has been inconsistent. Flip's strong start hasn't been the barometer for Duke's win/loss ledger.

The Blue Devils will need that edge against Baylor. The Bears are high-octane with the ball, scoring 88.4 points and ranking second in 3-point accuracy (42.1%). Six BU players average double figures. The Bears are the last high-profile nonconference foe on Duke's schedule. If it were to lose, it would be just the second time since 1982 Duke lost four of its first 11, just as this year was the second time in 41 years Duke lost three of its first eight. 

Duke's won six straight at MSG. The building will be abundantly blue. Feels like a lot is riding on this game.

Haliburton showed glimpses of greatness at Iowa State

The Court Report loves to annually highlight early season surprises in college hoops — but how about the plot curl that is Tyrese Haliburton playing like a First Team All-NBA point guard? 

Haliburton's averaging 24.9 points, 11.9 assists, leads the NBA in offensive win shares and — yeah, yeah, yeah, Norlander: what are you getting at here?

Well, some are viewing Haliburton's star emergence as a stunner — and on some level, it definitely is — but college hoops ball-knowers will remember the skinny scorer as an efficiency monster in his two seasons at Iowa State. It's like Haliburton's taken what he did as a Cyclone and spun it into a mutant superpower as a pro. 

I caught up with two college gents who got to see and know Haliburton before he realized his NBA dreams: his former coach, Steve Prohm, and Neill Berry, the former Iowa State assistant who recruited him to play for ISU.

In 2016, Perry spotted a wiggly, rawboned kid with effortless glide at an Atlanta-based grassroots tournament. It was the summer going into Haliburton's junior year of high school. It was also Berry's first year on the road at Iowa State. 

"Tiny," said Berry, "from a physicality standpoint. … Back then it was an even lower (shot) release but he would just bomb them in."

At that point Northern Iowa was way ahead of everyone else in Haliburton's recruitment. Eventually, Prohm went to watch. Two minutes into the game, he texted Berry. 

We gotta have him.

"He was joking with the ref, playing with pace, could really shoot," Prohm said. "I laugh all the time, you hear all these NBA scouts and people talking about, man, could he get his shot off? He shot 40% or better from 3 two years in a row in the best league in the country." 

"You never know, projecting what a player's going to become, but you could tell he was going to bring an incredible personality to our program," Berry said.

Haliburton finished high school as a three-star prospect ranked 177th nationally. He believed in Prohm because Deonte Burton came from the same pipeline, and he saw guys like Monte Morris thrive, in addition to Prohm putting Isaiah Canaan and Cam Payne into the NBA from Murray State. Iowa State managed to win out over UNI, Nebraska and Cincinnati.

Haliburton had an infectious personality. Seemingly everyone in his Oshkosh, Wisconsin community knew him. The family lived a couple blocks from school and his single-story house was the one where all the kids would pile into after schooldays. 

He got to campus weighing less than 150 pounds on a 6-4 frame. A forgotten story from his arrival, and one that's laughable in retrospect: Haliburton had an unwarranted worry that summer that he might be redshirted. He asked multiple times for assurances he would get a chance to play, just so he could prove himself against the veterans. 

"It goes to show you where his humility level was," Berry said. "Steve could tell early on how good he was." 

Haliburton played 57 games in two seasons at ISU. His traditional numbers were ordinary-looking (10.1 ppg, 4.7 apg, 4.4 rpg) but his player efficiency rating was high for a guard (20.3) and he shot 42.6% from 3-point range, 50.9% overall. In advanced metrics, he was conspicuously special. The data suggested a clever player who was especially valuable because he had length, didn't force bad shots and seldom fouled. If anything, he was underused. As a freshman, Haliburton posted a 136.8 offensive rating — the highest of any first-year player in KenPom history, going back two decades in that data set.

Haliburton was inserted into the starting lineup in his second game after an injury prompted Prohm to improvise. He remembers it being a no-brainer decision. After that game, a win at Missouri, Prohm was stunned to realize: Haliburton had just played 40 minutes. He never left the starting lineup after that. That team would go on to get a 6-seed. 

"He gives you a calmness on the floor by the way he plays and by the way he can process the game," Prohm said.

Haliburton was an efficiency machine in two seasons at ISU. Getty Images

Prohm remembers early during Haliburton's freshman year, a Western Conference executive came in to look at Talen Horton-Tucker and Marial Shayok. At the end of practice, Prohm asked if he needed anything.

"You know who your best player is?" the man asked Prohm. "Haliburton's going to be your highest draft pick." 

"What makes you say that?" Prohm asked. 

"The way he lets you coach him, the way he listens to the older guys, the way he catches on to things and how he is on the floor. I'd take him right now."

Haliburton was pass-pass-pass as a freshman, then asked to be a scorer as a sophomore. The most absurd detail about Haliburton's college career: Per Prohm, he didn't play one possession at point guard as a sophomore. Yet he still logged 3.6 assists per game. A wrist injury sidelined him in the back half of that second season. Iowa State suffered because of it and didn't make the NCAAs. It speaks to Haliburton's numbers, reputation and pre-draft process that he still wound up being selected 12th overall by the Kings.

Why has Haliburton hit so big? What was there at Iowa State that's been enhanced by NBA schemes?

"Basketball IQ, basketball IQ, basketball IQ. He's brilliant," Prohm said. "He'll have a legitimate chance to be a Hall of Famer one day if he can stay on this trajectory."

Returning to the Midwest has also helped, Prohm said. Haliburton manifests success. He won a state championship in high school, was an immediate click at Iowa State, and now we're seeing him elevate to top-tier NBA point guard. Haliburton and the Pacers play Wednesday night against the Hornets. Prohm will be watching. 

"Amazing smile, amazing spirit and an ability to connect people," Prohm told me. "I always said he could be the governor of Wisconsin if he wanted — and an NBA All-Star."

Top 10 NPOY candidates

This is Week 8 of the season, and with nonconference play nearly 90% wrapped up, why not take quick stock of the national player of the year race? Is anyone going to challenge Zach Edey, who is attempting to become the first player since Ralph Sampson to win multiple back-to-back NPOY awards? Right now it seems the answer is no, but we've got three months to find out if that'll change.  

The race for No. 2 is pretty freaking good right now. I whittled it down to 10 guys. My as-of-now power rankings: 



Key stats

1. Zach Edey


24.5 ppg, 10.6 rpg, 2.5 bpg, 39.1 PER  

2. Tristen Newton


21.0 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 6.0 apg, 127.3 ORtg

3. PJ Hall


20.2 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 2.7 apg, 2.4 bpg, 32.5 PER

4. Kyle Filipowski


18.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 3.0 apg

5. Kevin McCullar Jr.


19.2 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 4.9 apg, 38.1 3-pt%

6. Xavier Johnson

Southern Illinois

24.8 ppg, 5.7 apg, 3.7 rpg, 43.6 3-pt%, 32.5 PER

7. David Jones


20.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 2.2 spg, 39.7 3-pt%

8. Isaiah Stevens

Colorado State

17.5 ppg, 7.4 apg, 42.9 3-pt%

9. Hunter Dickinson


19.2 ppg, 12.7 rpg, 61.7 FG%

10. Tyler Kolek


15.5 ppg, 5.8 apg, 5.3 rpg, 43.2 3-pt%

Some guys just outside the rope: Vonterius Woolbright (Western Carolina), Jaedon LeDee (SDSU), Terrence Shannon Jr. (Illinois), LJ Cryer (Houston), KJ Simpson (Colorado), Wade Taylor IV (Texas A&M), Caleb Love (Arizona). Expanding out for the three All-American teams, there's an impressive collection that's established itself so far. Jones at Memphis, Newton and UConn and LeDee at SDSU are some of my favorite stories of the first two months.

@ me

The Court Report's weekly mailbag! Find me on X/Twitter or Bluesky and drop a Q anytime.

Welp, we'll see how well this one ages in the next 12 hours, but I would choose the school I ranked highest in the preseason of those not listed. The team that has a NPOY candidate, a veteran guard and multiple NBA picks on the roster. Yep: Duke. But that said, I'm 94% confident that the national champion in 2024 isn't coming from outside the top 12 teams in the Week 6 AP poll. (Covered this in last week's Court Report.)

Evan's own rankings system has Houston ranked first, just like all other mainstream metrics. Define "for real." If it means a team with Final Four DNA, a team that can sit at the table as one of the 10 best squads in the sport, then we have no debate. It seems more likely than not that Houston finishes as a top-10 team in metrics on Selection Sunday. Houston has proven this three years running — and was top-20 good the three years before that. However, the Cougs losing Terrance Arceneaux for the season to an Achilles injury is a big enough hit that I think it prevents UH from winning the Big 12. 

The TV deal for the Big East expires in June of 2025. The conference is set to engage first with Fox (its primary TV partner) in the coming weeks before talking to CBS, ESPN and maybe others to get an indication of what the appetite will be for the Big East from a rights-holder's perspective to close out the 2020s. With women's basketball becoming a more coveted TV product, the UConn men returnining to prominence and newfound optimism at St. John's and Georgetown, some see viable increased value. Others are skeptical if a basketball-only league can get a spike with some TV uncertainties looming by the end of the decade. If the Big East can get out with $75 million/year (nearly $7 million per school), that's a huge win and you take it, no questions asked.

1. Billy Donovan
2. Scott Drew
3. Dusty May

The Wildcats are 8-3 and play Wichita State on Thursday. If Jerome Tang can navigate a hellish Big 12 and make the NCAAs for a second straight season there, he would get an A for the second year in a row. In that scenario, Tang would be on my top-five call list for Louisville

I have no real rooting interest, other than compelling storylines. You're also talking to a guy who adores the fact that, for a decade running, a team seeded No. 5 or worse has made the Final Four. I'll take that surprise every year. In 2024, the Four will be in Phoenix. I think having Arizona involved is a good storyline. One down. Team two: Purdue. End the March horror vibes and get Matt Painter to Purdue's first Final Four in 43 years — with the NPOY there to boot. Team three: UConn. Blue blood two games away from being the first repeat champion in 17 years? Yes, that would be great for the sport. Team four: Creighton. Really good starting five, guys came back after losing by one in the Elite Eight. CU has never made a Final Four and would be another basketball-first school getting there. 

I wrote about Eric Montross' passing on Monday. In Chapel Hill his legacy won't be forgotten. His charity work was substantial and his passing will linger with the program for the remainder of the season. I could argue he was a bit underrated in retrospect. Montross was a prototypically reliable big man, the kind of old-school center every Top 25 team chased in recruitments. Without him, Dean Smith doesn't win a second national championship. He was that vital. The best piece on him this week was written by the News & Observer's Andrew Carter

Norlander's news + nuggets

• Forty-four days into the season, here are my picks for the five best games so far

1. Nov. 22: No. 2 Purdue 78, No. 4 Marquette 75 (Maui championship)
2. Dec. 9: No. 4 Purdue 92, Alabama 86 (in Toronto)
3. Dec. 1: No. 5 Kansas 69, No. 4 UConn 65 (at Kansas)
4. Nov. 10: No. 12 Arizona 78, No. 2 Duke 73 (at Duke)
5. Dec. 1: Northwestern 92, No. 1 Purdue 88 (OT, at Northwestern)

• Purdue is creeping in on rare territory. The Boilermakers are 5-0 vs. top-10-ranked teams this season. In the past 20 years, the record for most consecutive wins vs. top-10 opponents to open a season is seven by Baylor in 2020-21. The longest such streak in the past 20 years is nine, done by Villanova (2016-18) and Baylor (2020-22).
• If Alabama loses close to Arizona on Wednesday, it would be 6-5, still ranked in the top 20 in every predictive metric — and not have an NCAA Tournament résumé. Massive game.
• It took until Dec. 18 to find the best sentence I've read in a press release in 2023: "If there is still a tie following the calculation of margin of victory, the two commissioners will compete in an arm-wrestling contest at the Final Four to determine the champion." Here's why.
• Fred Hoiberg's Nebraska Cornhuskers are 9-2 and likely to wrap up non-con play at 11-2 with home games awaiting vs. North Dakota and South Carolina State. If it happens, it'll mark just the third time in 30 seasons ('10-11, '18-19) NU won 11 of its first 13. Even if the non-con slate ranks poorly, at Nebraska it's still notable. Hoiberg needed this kind of start.
Texas Tech and Texas A&M announced Tuesday they'll have a home-and-home the next two seasons. The teams have played 125 times but not since 2012. Great job by Grant McCasland and Buzz Williams to revive.
• What are the sports-playing backgrounds of every D-I coach? My kind of chart here. Shoutout to the coaches with D-II and D-III backgrounds. And yeah, we've got some non-hoops coaches as well — the most famous being Scott Drew (tennis at Valpo).