Welcome back to the Starting 5. The Starting 5 is written multiple times per week by Adam Spencer to keep you up-to-date on all the news and events in the world of college hoops. You can follow Adam on Twitter at @AdamSpencer4.

1. The Opening Tip

Auburn continues to pile up the victories, sporting a robust 22-2 overall record. However, the Tigers have also shown a penchant for playing in games that are unnecessarily tight.

In fact, Auburn’s last 3 games have all gone into overtime. Four of their last 5 games have gone to overtime. In total, 5 Auburn games have gone into extra time, and the Tigers have won all 5 of those contests.

On Wednesday against Alabama, in a game the Tigers won 95-91 in overtime, Austin Wiley played like an absolute beast in the paint. He finished with 18 points, 17 rebounds and 5 blocks. Look at some of these grown-man plays:

He’s one of the strongest guys in the SEC, and has some of the most vascular shoulders you’ll ever see. More importantly, he is one of the only players who has been able to slow down Kentucky big man Nick Richards this season.

When Kentucky lost to Auburn a couple of weekends ago, Richards only had 7 points and 7 boards, while Wiley posted a 12-point, 10-rebound double-double.

Auburn and Kentucky are set to play in Lexington on Feb. 29. That game could end up deciding the SEC regular-season title, and if you ask me, Wiley is the most-important player in that matchup. He’ll need to have another night like he had against Alabama on Wednesday.

Now, let’s move on to some more SEC news.

2. Home-Court Advantage

On Jan. 29 in Lexington, Vanderbilt took a 35-28 lead into halftime against Kentucky. However, the Wildcats came storming back in the second half, winning the game 71-62.

On Tuesday night, Vanderbilt took a 36-27 lead into halftime against Kentucky in Nashville. Surely, the Commodores learned from their past mistakes, right?

Wrong. Kentucky absolutely owned the second half once again, outscoring the Commodores 51-28 after the intermission. That made the eventual final score 78-64.

The Commodores had no answer for Ashton Hagans, who finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists. Here are 2 of those assists, off some of the smoothest passes you’ll see from a college player:

So, for those of you keeping score at home, that’s an advantage of 94-55 for Kentucky over Vanderbilt in the second halves of their 2 matchups. That shows why Kentucky is on top of the SEC standings and Vanderbilt is in dead last.

Now, for some other SEC stories:

  • Speaking of second-half collapses, how about that Mississippi State loss at Ole Miss on Tuesday night? The Bulldogs held a narrow 34-33 lead at halftime, but by the end of the game, they had lost by a score of 83-58. Yikes. The problem? Mississippi State had absolutely no answer for Ole Miss star Breein Tyree, who scored 40 points. When he’s hitting shots like this, it’s impossible to stop him:

  • Kentucky is going to have its hands full trying to stop Tyree on Saturday, especially if he’s hitting shots like that.
  • Yes, Alabama lost to Auburn, but Kira Lewis Jr. had a night to remember. He became only the second Alabama player ever (seriously) to record a triple-double, with 10 points, 10 rebounds and 13 assists:

  • It’s incredible that Alabama hasn’t had more players record triple-doubles. What a special performance by the talented point guard.
  • LSU flipped its season-long script against Mizzou on Tuesday night. Instead of taking a big first-half lead only to watch the opponent make things close in the second half, LSU trailed 43-37 at halftime before battling back to win 82-78. Still, that’s not exactly a good sign, as the Tigers face a tough next couple of games, traveling to Alabama on Saturday and hosting Kentucky on Tuesday.

Plenty of exciting SEC action coming up over the next couple of weeks! Now, for some non-SEC stories.

3. Road Game

Michigan State was the preseason No. 1 team, but fell out of the rankings entirely this week. Needing a big win, the Spartans headed to Champaign to take on a tough Illinois squad.

The game was a battle, but Michigan State took the lead late with an incredible putback slam by Xavier Tillman:

Then, as Illinois gave the ball to playmaker Ayo Dosunmu with a chance to win, disaster struck. Dosunmu drove down the court before he slipped, causing his knee to do things no knee should ever do:

Somehow, Dosunmu escaped that ugly slip with no structural damage to his knee, but it is still a letdown that his slip defined the game. Dosunmu has a history of heroics against Michigan State, so I wish we could have seen what that possession would have turned into without him hurting himself.

Fortunately, he seems relatively OK, considering the circumstances, so we’ll see if he’s able to return to action for the Big Ten Tournament.

Now, for some other news from around the country:

  • Obi Toppin is a player I love, and who I would probably consider my National Player of the Year if I had to vote today. Well, he did something incredibly savage in a win over Rhode Island this week. That’s right, Toppin threw down a windmill slam over his own brother:

  • That’s the sort of play that is going to cause tension at Toppin family Thanksgiving dinners for generations to come. My goodness.
  • Oregon made a huge statement on Thursday night, coming from behind to defend its home court against Colorado. That game was basically for first place in the Pac-12 standings, so the Ducks’ victory was huge. Another potential National Player of the Year candidate — Oregon PG Payton Pritchard — had a big game, scoring 15 points to go with 11 rebounds and 6 assists. Well played.
  • Remember when Evansville beat Kentucky in Lexington earlier this year? That was a huge win for the Purple Aces and surely set them on the path to bigger and better things, right? Well, let’s check in on Evansville and … oh … oh, wow. That can’t be right. The standings say the Purple Aces are 0-13 in Missouri Valley Conference play and have only been within 3 points of winning twice. That bad loss looks even worse for Kentucky with each passing day. That is clearly, without a doubt, the most inexplicable loss of the 2019-20 season.
  • Congratulations to Marquette’s Markus Howard. He became the Big East’s all-time leading scorer this week, draining a three-pointer at the buzzer against Villanova to set the mark:

  • Oh, yeah, about that … Marquette still lost the game, so that shot was meaningless. Still, history is history, and Howard has been an incredible player for Marquette the past couple of seasons.

Now, let’s take a look ahead at the next few days of basketball action.

4. Outlet Pass

Another weekend is upon us, and that means more exciting games! Here’s a look at the 5 games I can’t wait to watch between now and Tuesday:

  1. No. 14 West Virginia at No. 1 Baylor (Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN+) — Another huge Big 12 game is on ESPN+. If you can watch it, this should be a good one, as Baylor continues to try to hold off Kansas atop the Big 12 standings.
  2. No. 9 Maryland at Michigan State (Saturday at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN) — Michigan State is fresh off an exciting win at Illinois. Can the Spartans defend their home court against the Big Ten leader? We’ll find out on Saturday!
  3. No. 22 Illinois at Rutgers (Saturday at 4:30 p.m. ET on BTN) — Speaking of the Illini, they need to bounce back at Rutgers. Unlike in years past, though, Rutgers isn’t a pushover. This will be a tough test, especially if Ayo Dosunmu can’t play.
  4. No. 4 San Diego State at Boise State (Sunday at 4 p.m. ET on CBSSN) — As the Aztecs continue their march toward a perfect regular season record, every game becomes more important. A road trip to Boise State will be a tough one for the Aztecs.
  5. Mississippi State at Arkansas (Saturday at 1 p.m. ET on SEC Network) — This is the bubble game of the week in the SEC. Both the Bulldogs and Razorbacks are fighting for their NCAA Tournament lives, and the winner of this contest in Fayetteville will have a nice victory to add to their resume.

These games are getting more important by the week. We’re going to have plenty of exciting action between now and Selection Sunday.

5. Buzzer Beaters

Now, for a couple of random questions before we get out of here for the day. Here’s question No. 1:

Which major conference will have the fewest teams make the NCAA Tournament?

In Joe Lunardi’s latest bracketology (as of Thursday night), he only has 4 ACC teams making the tournament. That’s crazy, considering the ACC sent 9 teams to the tourney in 2017 and sent 9 more in 2018.

With blue-blood programs like North Carolina and Syracuse not playing up to their standards and reigning champion Virginia living on the bubble, the only sure things from the ACC are Duke, Louisville and Florida State. Virginia will probably make the tournament, too, but teams like Syracuse, Notre Dame, Pitt and NC State have some serious work to do.

I don’t think they get it done, though, so I’ll pick the ACC to finish last among the major conferences by sending only 4 teams to March Madness.

Which current top-10 team is the most overrated team right now?

Finally, an excuse to bash Kansas! The Jayhawks are a good team, sure, but I don’t see what they’ve done to be ranked ahead of San Diego State, Dayton and even Louisville. Losses to Duke, Villanova and Baylor aren’t bad by any means, but the Jayhawks absolutely should not be the No. 3 team in the country right now, in my opinion. Of course, there’s still plenty of time for them to keep winning big games and change my mind.

Enjoy the Starting 5? Have a question? Want to yell at me about something? Follow me on Twitter @AdamSpencer4 or email me at ASpencer@SaturdayDownSouth.com.