By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
A WEEK of upsets is expected to produce a shakeup atop the NCAA Division I college basketball polls and several Bahamian players should figure prominently in the new rankings.
Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn and the Michigan State Spartans (14-1) are now the No.1 team in the Associated Press poll while DeAndre Ayton and the Arizona Wildcats continued their rise in the rankings after they defeated the No.3 team in the country.
Nairn finished with four points and five assists in the Spartans’ 108-52 win over Savannah State in their final non-conference game of the regular season.
It is only the fifth time in programme history that they achieved the No.1 ranking, the last time in 2015.
Following the game, Spartans coach Tom Izzo told reporters on MLive.com that the top spot in the poll is a special recognition to the players.
“They came here because this programme was ranked No. 1 before, we’ve played in big games before, that’s why they came here,” Izzo said. “So unless they’re in that stage of ‘watch what you wish for’, I think it is a good thing.”
Michigan State’s ascension to No. 1 is all but assured after current No. 1 Villanova fell at Butler on Saturday night. The only other would-be challenger for the top spot, No. 3 Arizona State, fell at No. 17 Arizona on Saturday in its first loss of the year.
Ayton and the No.17 Wildcats (11-3) won the in-state battle over the No.3 Arizona State Sun Devils (12-1), 84-78 on Saturday to hand them their first loss of the season.
He finished with his 10th double double of the season with 23 points and 19 rebounds. His tip in with 11 seconds left to go was the deciding score as the Wildcats protected home court at the McKale Center in Tucson, Arizona.
Allonzo Trier followed with free throws to seal the win in an raucous atmosphere for the Pac-12 opener.
“It was nice,” Ayton said of the environment for one of the most anticipated games of the rivalry, “It was intense. I couldn’t hear myself for a few minutes.”
Ayton set the tone early and was dominant with 11 points and eight rebounds at the half.
“I would say they’re undersized big men,” Ayton said of the Sun Devil’s front line, “so I took advantage on both ends of the floor.”
His 19 rebound total was the most by an Arizona freshman since 1973. It was also his fourth game with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. He also had two additional games where he was one point shy of an additional 20/10 games.
After beginning the season at No.2 and dropping out of the top 25 with three losses at the Battle 4 Atlantis, the Wildcats are now ranked No.16 and have not lost since their return to the United States.
Dwight Coleby turned in a career high performance with 20 points and seven rebounds in the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers’ 82-66 win over Southern Mississippi.
The Hilltoppers (10-5) improved to 2-0 in conference play for the fifth time in the last six years. They also reached 10 wins before January for the first time since the 2012-13 campaign.
Coleby shot 5-7 from the field and shot a perfect 10-10 from the free throw line.
“His performance at the line was big because our bigs are going to get fouled a lot. He came out in the second half and had a great statline,” Hilltoppers head coach Rick Stansbury said, “We are going to throw it to the paint and drive it to the paint, so fouls are coming to come and making free throws will always be an important stat.”
In addition to Coleby’s efficiency from the floor and at the line, WKU made a season high 12 three pointers and finished with 22 assists on 26 field goals.
The Hilltoppers led 32-25 at the break and got out to a 20-8 run to begin the second half en route to the blowout win.
Charles Bain also set a scoring career high on Sunday as his Robert Morris Colonials concluded a successful two-game road trip through Northeast Conference play with a 71-57 victory over Central Connecticut State.
Bain came off the bench and led the Colonials with a career-high 18 points and also added four rebounds in 20 minutes of action. He shot 7-10 from the field, including 3-4 from beyond the arc, and was 1-2 at the free-throw line.
In improving to 2-0 in league play for the first time since 2013-14, the Colonials pushed their overall record back over .500 at 8-7.
Bain scored six points on a 15-4 second half run to pus the Colonials’ lead over 20 and make the score 51-30 at the 13:34 mark.
“I thought we did an excellent job defensively,” Colonials head coach Andrew Toole said. “Our ability to be in gaps was great. We had good activity. There wasn’t too many shots in the game were I looked and thought guys were completely wide open. We contested everything.”
In the Sun Belt Conference, Travis Munnings and his University of Louisiana Monroe Warhawks have struggled with two losses in conference play, but Munnings has put up some of his best shooting games of the season.
He finished with a team high 18 points in Sunday’s 71-62 loss to Arkansas Little Rock. He shot a perfect 4-4 from three point range and was 6-7 from the free throw line. In a 75-64 loss to Arkansas State, Munnings finished with 22 points. He shot 9-13 from the field, 3-4 from three and added seven rebounds and three assists.