What’s Trending: Mid-Season Madness Continues

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on January 20th, 2020

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Matthew Eisenberg (@matteise) is your weekly host.

After Auburn’s loss on Wednesday night, San Diego State became the only remaining undefeated team in college basketball. Brian Dutcher’s Aztecs added two wins to their resume this week, pushing their overall record to 19-0. It is San Diego State’s best start since the 2010-11 season in which they began the year 20-0 en route to a Sweet Sixteen appearance. Led by Washington State transfer Malachi Flynn, the Aztecs currently only have one remaining game against a team ranked inside of the KenPom top 100 (Utah State).

The top four teams in the NET Rankings remain stable at the end of the week. While Baylor and Kansas were tested over the weekend, both made it through unblemished. The same cannot be said for the rest of the top 10.

As top teams continue to fall, one question repeatedly finds itself leading the narrative of the season: Is all this parity good for the game?

The answer should be an unequivocal yes.

While offensive efficiency and shooting percentages have dropped, the corresponding result has been the unpredictable. Talent alone is not serving as determinative. Transfers, early departures, NCAA eligibility issues and key recruits opting to play overseas all have impacted the landscape and consistency of play, but the result has been that teams need to come prepared to win every night out. This season, on any given night, anything is possible, and that is a good thing.

While the unexpected has ruled the land this college basketball season, there has been one player who has remained anything but surprising: Oregon senior point-guard Payton Pritchard. After beginning his career 3-0 in games at Washington, Pritchard’s Ducks were down three points late in the game when the All-American took things into his own hands…

In overtime, with the game tied, it was again Pritchard coming through in the clutch…

As far as the unexpected goes, there were a pair of games on Saturday that challenged the wildest of imaginations.

First, USC found itself down by five points with a mere 15 seconds to go when Stanford had the ball and a chance to ice the game away. Then, this happened…

While USC trailed by as many 21 points in that game, the Trojans at least had most of the second-half to claw their way back. Unlike USC, Boise State found itself down big but without much time left on the clock. Trailing 66-48 with 3:52 to go, the Broncos chipped the lead down to just five points with 8.9 seconds to go. Well, that’s when things really got weird…

Strange and funny things followed Kentucky this week as well. First, on Wednesday night, after leading by double-figures in the second half at South Carolina, Kentucky collapsed and trailed by six points with just over a minute to go. Thanks to some missed free-throws by South Carolina, Kentucky managed to tie things up in the closing seconds. While it looked like overtime was imminent, South Carolina’s Jermaine Couisnard had another idea…

After that difficult loss at South Carolina, Kentucky found itself at Bud Walton Arena on Saturday to face a hot Arkansas squad. After leading by nine points at the break, Arkansas fought itself to a tie game with just over eight minutes to go. With the tide seemingly turning, John Calipari had enough with the referees and got himself tossed from the game. While it cost the Wildcats the lead momentarily, Kentucky ultimately rallied and took control the rest of the way. All part of Cal’s master plan?

Entering this season, DePaul basketball had last beaten a team ranked inside of the KenPom top 20 on December 2, 2006 (a 64-57 win over Kansas). After early season wins against a pair of KenPom top 20 teams, DePaul picked up its third such win over the weekend in a trouncing of Butler. The win snapped a four-game losing streak and gives DePaul a chance to turn things back around as they spend the week at home with games against Creighton and St. John’s.

https://twitter.com/DePaulHoops/status/1218620020961562625?s=20

2019-20 RTC16: Week 10

Posted by Walker Carey on January 20th, 2020

It is often stated that college basketball is where the unexpected becomes the ordinary and that was on full display last week as three members of the previous top five of the RTC16 suffered a pair of defeats. #9 Duke entered the week as winners of nine straight games, but that came to a screeching halt on Tuesday night at Clemson when the Blue Devils fell behind early and were unable to right the ship in a 79-72 loss. A tough week became even tougher on Saturday when #8 Louisville took a 15-point lead a little over 10 minutes into the game and then made enough winning plays down the stretch to leave Cameron Indoor Stadium with an impressive 79-73 victory. #12 Butler looked like it was going to survive #7 Seton Hall at home on Wednesday, as the Bulldogs jumped out to a 10-point halftime lead and seemed to be in complete control of the game. That was until Pirates star guard Myles Powell came up with some other plans. Powell scored 19 of his game-high 29 points in the second half, lifting Seton Hall to a formidable 78-70 win. There is an old adage about never letting one team beat you twice, but that seemed to be the case with Butler when it was subsequently dominated at DePaul on Saturday en route to a 79-66 loss. #16 Auburn began the week as one of the sport’s two remaining unbeaten teams, but the Tigers saw their hot start cool down significantly in a pair of uncompetitive losses at Alabama and at Florida. It will be interesting to track Duke, Butler and Auburn in the coming weeks to see if last week was just a blip on the radar or if it was the start of a troubling trend that will impact their seasons. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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Ten Questions To Consider: Bumps in the Road Lead to Weekend of Opportunity

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on January 17th, 2020

With each passing week, familiarity breeds competitive action everywhere one looks. This weekend provides opportunities for players and teams to overcome some of their recent struggles. Here are 10 questions I have for this weekend’s action.

  1. How does Cassius Winston respond following his subpar game against Purdue? (Wisconsin @ Michigan State, Friday, 7 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) After averaging 24.8 points per game through his first five Big Ten outings, Cassius Winston was held to just 10 points in Michigan State’s blowout loss at Purdue. Winston failed to make any of his five three-point attempts and tied his career-high by committing nine turnovers.
  2. Will turnovers help Eric Musselman pick up his first marquee SEC win? (Kentucky @ Arkansas, Saturday, 4 PM EST, ESPN) Eric Musselman’s Razorbacks squad ranks among the top 20 in opponents’ turnover rate, having forced 86 more turnovers than they have committed through 16 games. Kentucky comes in after a loss at South Carolina, a game in which the Wildcats were -6 in the turnover battle. On the season, Kentucky has forced just one more turnover than they have committed.
  3. “No Place Like Home” – Will returning home be what fixes Maryland’s recent struggles? (Purdue @ Maryland, Saturday, 2 PM EST, ESPN2) Maryland returns to College Park where the Terps are a perfect 10-0 on the season. As Mark Turgeon’s seat heats up, Maryland will need more scoring from someone other than Anthony Cowan and Jalen Smith. On the most recent 0-2 road-trip, Maryland’s three other starters totaled just 20 points on 7-of-33 shooting in 144 minutes of game action.
  4. After struggling to slow Clemson’s Tevin Mack and Aamir Simms, how will Duke fare against ACC Preseason POY Jordan Nwora and Steven Enoch? (Louisville @ Duke, Saturday, 6 PM EST, ESPN) Duke’s top-10 defensive efficiency ranking has been aided by blocking 15.2 percent of its opponents’ shots, as their opponents have taken 46.3 percent of their field goal attempts at the rim (7th nationally). In its recent loss at Clemson, Duke only managed to block two shots.
  5. Can BYU make enough from beyond the arc to challenge Gonzaga in Spokane? (BYU @ Gonzaga, Saturday, 10 PM EST, ESPN2) A finger injury will keep BYU’s Yoeli Childs from playing against Gonzaga. Without Childs, the Cougars will look to rain threes against the Zags. BYU enters action Thursday night with five players who have made 20 or more three-pointers and a team three-point percentage that ranks well inside the top 10 nationally (39.6% 3FG).
  6. Can Auburn be the latest team to end a lengthy losing streak at a certain venue? (Auburn @ Florida, Saturday, 1:30 PM EST, CBS) Last weekend it was Baylor winning at Kansas and Clemson overcoming history at North Carolina. This weekend, Auburn has a chance to end a 12-game losing streak at Florida. During this streak, the Gators have won eight of those games by 15 or more points.
  7. Is it time to start taking Stanford seriously as both an NCAA team and Pac-12 threat? (Stanford @ USC, Saturday, 6:30 PM EST, Pac-12 Network) Behind a top-20 defensive efficiency ranking and a top-10 effective field goal percentage, Stanford sits at 15-2 (4-0 Pac-12). When the Cardinal avoid turning the ball over, they have been lethal from the floor, led by the outstanding play of freshman guard Tyrell Terry and the sharpshooting of Spencer Jones (46-of-102 from beyond the arc on the season).
  8. Can Minnesota ends its struggles on the road and pick up a quality win against Rutgers? (Minnesota @ Rutgers, Sunday, 1 PM EST, Big Ten Network) The Golden Gophers are 1-6 away from home so far this season as they head to Piscataway to take on a Rutgers team that is a perfect 12-0 there. While Rutgers owns a top-10 defensive efficiency, the Knights can struggle offensively, especially from deep. Minnesota, on the other hand, comes in with Marcus Carr and Daniel Oturu combining for 104 points over their last two games,
  9. Can Arizona find scoring beyond its “Big Three” freshman? (Colorado @ Arizona, Saturday, 2:30 PM EST, FOX) The freshman trio of Zeke Nnaji, Nico Mannion and Josh Green are averaging 43.8 points per game and are the the only three Wildcats averaging more than nine points per game. Seniors Dylan Smith and Chase Jeter continue to be plagued by bouts of inconsistent play.
  10. Can St. Louis find its interior defense that was present in the non-conference season? (Dayton @ Saint Louis, Friday, 7 PM EST, ESPN2) The Billikens have held opponents to a two-point field-goal percentage of 42.1 percent on the season, a rate that ranks among the top 20 in the nation. That said, through four Atlantic 10 contests, Saint Louis opponents have managed to shoot a healthy 49.2 percent from inside the arc. The recent lull will be tested by the nation’s best shooting team from inside the arc, Dayton, at 62.1 percent.

2019-20 RTC16: Week Nine

Posted by Walker Carey on January 13th, 2020

Much of the narrative surrounding college basketball this season has been how any team can win on any night and how this uncertainty has allowed several non-traditional powers to become among the best in the country. #2 Baylor definitely fits the non-traditional mold, as the Bears are continuing to establish themselves as one of the nation’s top teams this season. The latest step happened Saturday afternoon when Scott Drew‘s squad went into Allen Fieldhouse and thoroughly dominated #7 Kansas throughout a 67-55 win. The Bears used incredible performances from guards Jared Butler and MaCio Teague to control the game and throw the Jayhawks completely off. The victory was Baylor’s first ever win in Lawrence, as the program had previously been 0-16 at Allen Fieldhouse. The Bears have now won 12 straight since a November 9 loss to Washington and, even before Saturday’s win, they had built quite an NCAA Tournament résumé with wins over #5 Butler, #14 Villanova, Arizona and Texas Tech. There is still a long way to go in Big 12 play, but Baylor’s 4-0 start in the league has already put itself in a solid position to earn the program’s first ever Big 12 regular season title. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis

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What’s Trending: Out With the Old and In With the New

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on January 13th, 2020

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Matthew Eisenberg (@matteise) is your weekly host.

When Clemson hit the floor at North Carolina and Baylor visited Kansas on Saturday, both teams were carrying much more than just a point spread labeling them as underdogs. Rather, these two programs were up against history, as neither school had ever won a game at those locations. That is, until Saturday….

In Chapel Hill, postgame feelings from the head coaches were quite different. For Brad Brownell‘s Tigers, the locker room was full of jubilation and joy as the weight of the long losing streak at North Carolina had mercifully ended…

Roy Williams, on the other hand, was hyperbolic beyond reason, from citing the loss as the lowest moment of his career to suggesting that athletic director Bubba Cunningham should fire him.

In Lawrence, Baylor held Kansas to a season-low offensive efficiency and effective field-goal percentage. After averaging 18.6 PPG through his first 14 contests of the season, Baylor held a banged-up Devon Dotson to just nine insignificant points. The Bears’ ability to slow he, along with Udoka Azubuike, led to an easy Baylor victory. Another streak snapped and the jumping off point for the question that never dies when referencing Baylor basketball: Is Scott Drew a good coach?

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10 Questions To Consider: A Weekend of Marquee Matchups and Important Conference Games

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on January 10th, 2020

With each passing day March inches closer and closer. As conference play continues, this weekend includes a key match-up between the Big 12’s best, Big Ten surprises, and preseason All-Americans. Here are 10 questions I have in advance of the action ahead.

  1. Which conference play trend gets busted in Iowa City? (Maryland @ Iowa, Friday, 7 PM EST, FS1) Through four league games, both Maryland and Iowa have seen struggles on one end of the floor grow dramatically. For the Terps, their adjusted offensive efficiency has dropped by 12 points in Big Ten action, while Iowa’s adjusted defensive efficiency sits 15 points higher in league play than its season average.
  2. Will Baylor be able to match its season-long success on the opponents’ glass against Kansas? (Baylor @ Kansas, Saturday, 1 PM EST, CBS) Baylor has a top-40 offensive efficiency thanks in part to the team’s top-10 offensive rebounding rate. In a pair of match-ups with Kansas last season, Baylor grabbed 18 and 26 offensive boards. Scott Drew’s squad will be challenged by the length and rebounding ability of Udoka Azubuike and David McCormack.
  3. Have the Gators turned a corner? (Florida @ Missouri, Saturday, 8:30 PM EST, SEC Network) After starting the season 7-4, Florida has now won three straight games, including a pair of SEC contests. In the team’s first 11 games, the duo of Andrew Nembhard and Kerry Blackshear were averaging a combined 23.4 points per game — over the last three games, however, the pair is averaging 35.7 points per game.
  4. Can Providence keep things rolling against a one-loss Butler team? (Butler @ Providence, Friday, 9 PM EST, FS1) After opening the year 6-6 with four losses to teams outside of the KenPom top 100, Providence has now rattled off four straight wins against top-100 teams. Senior guard Maliek White tied his career-high with 19 points in his last game — after shooting 13-for-49 from three-point range in Big East action last season, White has gone 6-of-11 in three conference games.
  5. Which style of play will come out on top between Big Ten foes? (Wisconsin @ Penn State, Saturday, 2:15 PM EST, Big Ten Network) Greg Gard’s Badgers head into the weekend with an adjusted tempo that puts Wisconsin among the five slowest teams in the country. On the flip side, the Nittany Lions will come in ranked as one of the top 40’s fastest teams. Side note: Wisconsin has beaten Penn State 12 times in a row.
  6. Can Rutgers do something it hasn’t done since the 2001-02 season? (Rutgers @ Illinois, Saturday, Noon EST, Big Ten Network) Since an early December loss to Michigan State, Rutgers has now won six consecutive games, including three against KenPom top 30 teams. A win on Saturday would extend that winning streak to seven games, something Rutgers has not done since a stretch in November/December 2001.
  7. Will Michigan State continue to shoot well from beyond the arc in Big Ten play? (Michigan State @ Purdue, Sunday, Noon EST, CBS) Entering Michigan State’s Thursday night tilt at Minnesota, the Spartans are shooting a Big Ten best 38 percent on three-point attempts in league play. This is up from the team’s 33.8 percent in non-conference action.
  8. Which superstar shines brightest in this marquee matchup? (Marquette @ Seton Hall, Saturday, 4 PM EST, CBS Sports Network) Entering the season, Markus Howard and Myles Powell were marquee names as two of the nation’s best volume scorers. In three match-ups between the two teams last season, Howard made just 6-of-28 three-point attempts, whereas Powell made 12-of-30. If one goes off this weekend, it could spell doom for the other team.
  9. Which offense will make enough plays in a game featuring two of the nation’s best defenses? (Texas Tech @ West Virginia, Saturday, 6 PM EST) Points will be at a premium in Morgantown this weekend. Will Texas Tech be able to clean up offensive rebounding attack of West Virginia? Will West Virginia be able to make free throws? Will Texas Tech’s Davide Moretti find his stroke? The junior has gone just 11-of-41 from deep since December 1.
  10. Can Miami get key stops or is it time to start talking about Pittsburgh? (Pitt @ Miami, Sunday, 6 PM EST, ACC Network) In Jim Larranaga’s first eight years at Miami, the Hurricanes had an average defensive efficiency ranking of 55th nationally. As of Thursday, Miami’s defensive efficiency sits outside of the top 200. Last season, Pitt began ACC play 2-2 before it dropped its next 13 ACC games. Coming off of their first win at North Carolina in program history, Pitt has a chance to add its name to the bubble with a win at Miami.

2019-20 RTC16: Week Eight

Posted by Walker Carey on January 6th, 2020

The beginning of conference play is always good for temporarily removing the shine from a team or two that had been a non-conference darling. This season that phenomenon applies to #11 Louisville and #13 Ohio State. Louisville started its season 9-0, but has since lost three of its last five games, with the most concerning coming Saturday in a 13-point home loss to #10 Florida State. Guard play continues to be a significant issue for the Cardinals, as Fresh Kimble, Darius Perry and Ryan McMahon combined for just 14 points on 6-of-27 shooting in the loss. Ohio State was another early season standout, as the Buckeyes stood at 11-1 on Christmas Day and looked to be the class of a strong Big Ten. They have since lost two straight, including a puzzling 61-57 home loss to Wisconsin last Friday. While sloppy play was a major reason for the defeat (Ohio State committed 14 turnovers to just eight assists), it must be noted that the Buckeyes are currently without junior starting forward Kyle Young, who had an appendectomy early last week and is game-to-game moving forward. It is certainly too early in league play to speculate whether Louisville and Ohio State will regain their early season form, but it would be wise for both teams to get back on track before their NCAA Tournament résumés begin to take significant hits. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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2019-20 RTC16: Week Seven

Posted by Walker Carey on December 30th, 2019

The final full week of 2019 did not really get going on the hardwood until Saturday when one of the most bitter rivalries in college basketball resumed with #4 Louisville visiting #16 Kentucky. The game did not disappoint, as the Cardinals fought back from an eight-point halftime deficit to force overtime before the home Wildcats grabbed control in the final minute of the extra period to earn a hotly contested 78-70 victory. It was a much-needed win for Kentucky, as it entered riding a two-game losing streak and had not earned an impressive victory since its season opening dispatch of Michigan State. The Wildcats were led by incredible efforts from freshman guard Tyrese Maxey, who tallied a game-high 27 points, sophomore guard Immanuel Quickley, who added a career-high 18 points, and junior forward Nick Richards, who controlled the game inside with 13 points and 10 rebounds. John Calipari‘s squad also did an excellent job frustrating star Louisville forward Jordan Nwora all afternoon, as the standout junior was mostly a non-factor, finishing with just eight points and four rebounds. Kentucky is still far from a finished product, but if it can string together several more impressive efforts, the Wildcats will once again be a factor in both the SEC race and on the national landscape. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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Ten Questions To Consider: The Final Weekend of 2019

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on December 28th, 2019

In the midst of the holidays comes a weekend of action where teams must avoid distraction off the court as they look to answer questions on the court. Highlighted by Louisville’s trip to Rupp Arena, here are 10 questions I have for this weekend’s slate of games:

  1. How will Kentucky’s offense look in the half-court? (Louisville @ Kentucky, Saturday, 3:45 PM EST, CBS) Defensively, no team has a lower opponents’ transition effective field goal percentage than Louisville. On offense, Kentucky’s non-transition effective field-goal percentage ranks outside of the top 200. The Wildcats, one of the nation’s worst three-point shooting teams, must find a way to knock down perimeter shots to beat Louisville.
  2. Can Wisconsin’s “Big Three” be efficient from beyond the arc? (Wisconsin @ Tennessee, Saturday, 1:30 PM EST, CBS) Entering the weekend, the shot making of Nate Reuvers, D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison has been a bellweather for success. In the team’s six wins, the trio has shot 41.2 percent from three-point range; In Wisconsin’s five defeats, however, the trio has made just 21.5 percent of its shots from deep.
  3. Will Ohio State continue to torch the nets from beyond the arc? (West Virginia vs. Ohio State, Sunday, Noon, FS1) The Buckeyes are shooting over 40 percent from three-point range on the season, good for a top 10 ranking nationally. West Virginia will be Ohio State’s first opponent with a defensive three-point percentage ranking of 80th or better, however (Mountaineers rank fourth).
  4. Just how good is Stanford freshman Tyrell Terry? (Kansas @ Stanford, Sunday, 3 PM EST, ABC) Tyrell Terry is averaging over 15 points and five rebounds per game this season while making 40.4 percent of his three-point attempts. The four-star freshman guard has struggled with turnovers recently, however, coughing up the ball 15 times over his last four games.
  5. Can Arkansas keep the Hoosiers off the free throw line and steal a road win? (Arkansas @ Indiana, Sunday, 6 PM EST, Big Ten Network) Only Eastern Michigan has a higher free throw attempt to field goal attempt ratio than Indiana. If Arkansas can avoid fouls and limit one of the nation’s best freshman offensive rebounders in Trayce Jackson-Davis, the Razorbacks have a chance to pick up their first quality non-conference win.
  6. Can Duke’s Joey Baker keep his recent success going? (Brown @ Duke, Saturday, 11:30 AM EST, ESPN2) After scoring just over four points in 10 minutes per game through Duke’s first seven contests, Baker is averaging 12.8 points in 19.5 minutes per game over Duke’s last four. Baker gives Coach K another sharpshooter who can help keep the post clear for Vernon Carey.
  7. Can Liberty’s balanced attack keep the Flames undefeated? (Liberty @ LSU, Sunday, 1:30 PM EST, SEC Network) Ritchie McKay’s Liberty squad features six players averaging nine or more points per game this season. The Flames have had four different players lead the team in scoring over the squad’s last five games.
  8. What can be made of UC Irvine’s start to the season? (Pacific @ UC Irvine, Saturday, 10 PM EST) Russell Turner’s Anteaters were tabbed as the preseason Big West favorite, but after losing only six games last season, they have already lost seven this season. A defense that ranks among the bottom 40 in three-point percentage defense will be challenged by a Pacific squad that ranks among the top 40 three-point shooting teams.
  9. Will Bryant help turn Maryland’s fortunes around as they get ready for Big Ten play? (Bryant @ Maryland, Sunday, Noon, Big Ten Network) After starting 10-0, the Terps dropped consecutive games at Penn State and Seton Hall. In those defeats, senior guard Anthony Cowan went 8-of-31 from the field along with nine turnovers and just six assists. While Bryant struggles to force turnovers and protect its defensive glass, the Bulldogs own a top 40 effective field-goal percentage defense.
  10. Can Cartier Diarra end Kansas State’s recent struggles? (Tulsa @ Kansas State, Sunday, 6 PM EST, ESPN+) The Wildcats have lost five of their last seven games, and three of the team’s six wins have come against KenPom teams ranked 320th or worse. After shooting 38.6 percent on 158 three-point attempts during his first two years at Kansas State, Cartier Diarra is shooting just 25.5 percent on his 25 three-point attempts this season.

2019-20 RTC16: Week Six

Posted by Walker Carey on December 23rd, 2019

Another week of the season has been completed and another #1 team fell victim to an upset. Like Michigan State, Kentucky, Duke and Louisville before it, #4 Kansas had a rather short stay in the top spot of the RTC16. The Jayhawks saw their nine-game winning streak end on Saturday with a one-point loss at #12 Villanova. Following the defeat, Kansas coach Bill Self hypothesized that the parity we are seeing this season is because he believes there are not as many good players as there used to be in the sport. He referenced his own team as an example, noting that star forward Dedric Lawson left Kansas after last season with eligibility remaining. Self’s argument has merit, as the 2019 NBA Draft had 175 early entries while the 2018 NBA Draft had 181, but it does seem premature to conclude that this season will not see a dominant team emerge once conference play fully begins. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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