2020-21 RTC16: Week 9

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on January 25th, 2021

While the top four remains unchanged this week, the rest of the top 16 was not without shuffle. A loss to Indiana sends Iowa back out of the top five, while Michigan, now headed for a two-week break, moves back into the top five. Alabama extended its winning-streak to nine games and jumps from 13th to 7th, appearing in the top 10 in each ballot cast. Kansas tumbles to a tie for 16th this week, appearing on just 50 percent of the submitted ballots. Kansas gets a home game against TCU mid-week before a test in the Big 12/SEC Challenge against an equally struggling Tennessee team, which dropped from #7 to unranked in the RTC16 this week.

CONFERENCE BREAKDOWN: Big 12 (5), Big Ten (4), ACC (2), Big East (2), SEC (2), AAC (1) WCC (1)

RISING

  • Florida State: The Seminoles climb from outside of the top 16 all the way up to #10 this week. Leonard Hamilton’s team not only put together back-to-back double-figure wins, but did so in dominant fashion. Florida State led Louisville by a margin of 40-16 before winning 78-65; and then over the weekend led Clemson by as many as 38 points on its way to a 80-61 victory.
  • Loyola Chicago: As of today, the Ramblers have a top 30 NET Ranking and a top 25 KenPom ranking. Senior center Cameron Krutwig is averaging a career-best 15.3 points per game, while shooting 62.7 percent from the field. Porter Moser’s squad is playing tenacious defense, holding MVC opponents to a league-low 83.8 points per 100 possessions.
  • Oklahoma: Despite Austin Reaves shooting 3-of-11 from the field, the Sooners grabbed a big win at home over Kansas over the weekend. De’Vion Harmon matched his season-high of 22 points. More impressively OU limited Kansas to just two offensive-rebounds.

FALLING

  • Virginia Tech: Virginia Tech falls out of the RTC16 after a lopsided loss at Syracuse over the weekend. The Hokies leading scorer on the season Keve Aluma scored just two points and shot 1-of-10 from the field. Earlier today, the Hokies were dealt a blow when Tyrece Radford was suspended indefinitely from the team as he is dealing with off the court issues.
  • Tennessee: The Volunteers were 0-2 this past week with losses to Florida and Missouri. Tennessee turned the ball over 18 times in both games, finishing the week with a turnover margin of -8. Additionally, the Volunteers really struggled at the free-throw line, making just 25 of their 50 free-throw attempts during the week.
  • The top of the Pac-12: While the middle and bottom of the Pac-12 had been largely criticized for being lackluster, prior to this past week the top of the conference seemed to be running strong. Then Colorado, Oregon, and UCLA each lost games last week. Oregon hits the road for a Southern California trip which will feature two games against UCLA and another at USC over the next eight days in what will be important action for the conference.

NOTABLE GAMES OF THE WEEK

  • Monday: Syracuse @ Virginia, 7 PM EST, ESPN
  • Tuesday: Oklahoma @ Texas, 7 PM EST
  • Wednesday: Wisconsin @ Maryland, 9 PM EST, Big Ten Network
  • Thursday: Oregon @ UCLA, 9 PM EST, ESPN
  • Friday: Iowa @ Illinois, 9 PM EST, Fox Sports 1
  • Saturday: Big 12/SEC Challenge, All-Day
  • Sunday: SMU @ Houston, 1 PM EST

2020-2021 RTC16: Week 8

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on January 18th, 2021

The state of Texas had the attention of the college basketball world much of the past week. First it was the showdown between Texas and Texas Tech, with Tech’s Mac McClung taking over in the final minutes. Over the weekend, Texas Tech and Baylor played a tight game before the Bears proved to be too much. Attention remains on the Big 12 heading into this week with Baylor hosting a Kansas team who is coming off of a loss against Oklahoma State. Elsewhere, Minnesota rebounded from a 25-point defeat at the hands of Michigan 10 days prior with an 18-point win of its own. While Gonzaga and Baylor continue to roll around, anything has remained possible outside of the top two.

Conference Breakdown: Big 10 (4), Big 12 (4), ACC (2), SEC (2), AAC (1), Big East (1) Pac-12 (1), WCC (1)

Risers

  • Alabama: Riding a seven-game winning streak, the Crimson Tide jump from the “also receiving votes” category and into this week’s RTC16. Alabama knocked down 29-of-66 (43.9%) three-point attempts last week in what were convincing wins over Kentucky and Arkansas. Now sitting atop the SEC at 5-0, Alabama hits the road for the fourth time in sixth games on Tuesday against second-place LSU.
  • Florida State: The Seminoles returned to the court after a two-plus week hiatus and went 2-0 with wins against NC State and North Carolina. The win over the Tar Heels came without Scottie Barnes, but that proved not to be an issue with five Seminoles finishing the game with 10 or more points.
  • Virginia: December losses to San Francisco and Gonzaga seem to be a thing of the past now as Virginia has rattled off five consecutive wins. Their most recent victory came in dominating form at Clemson. Tony Bennett’s team shot 65.5% from inside the arc and 55.6% beyond it on 27 attempts against what was a top five defensive efficiency team in Clemson. After scoring 70 or more points in just two ACC games last season, Virginia has now done so three times in its past four games.

Fallers

  • Arkansas: The Razorbacks ended the 2020 calendar year a perfect 9-0, but since 2021 began the team is just 1-4. This past week Arkansas dropped a pair on the road by 16 and 31 points. Arkansas ranks 12th in league play in both offensive and defensive effective field-goal percentage.
  • Indiana: Archie Miller’s Indiana team fell to 8-6 (3-4) after dropping a home game to Purdue last Thursday. Since taking over in Indiana, Miller is now 0-6 against Purdue. While Trayce Jackson-Davis’ production has remained high, it’s a team that needs more out of junior Rob Phinisee. In IU victories, Phinisee is 11-of-27 (40.7%) from deep, but in losses he is just 3-of-18 (16.7%).
  • San Diego State: A pair of lackluster offensive performances led the Aztecs to an 0-2 week against Utah State. After finishing last season with an offensive efficiency ranking of 11th in the nation, the Aztecs currently sit at 71st and eighth best in the Mountain West Conference. With Matt Mitchell sidelined for the next week or two with a hyperextended knee, the Aztecs could face challenges on the offensive side of the floor.

Notable Games This Week

  • Monday: Kansas @ Baylor, 9 PM EST, ESPN
  • Tuesday: Alabama @ LSU, ESPN2
  • Tuesday: Seton Hall @ Villanova, 9 PM EST, Fox Sports 1
  • Thursday: USC @ Stanford, 5 PM EST, Fox Sports 1
  • Friday: Michigan @ Purdue, 7 PM EST, Fox Sports 1
  • Saturday: Ohio State @ Wisconsin, 4 PM EST
  • Saturday: Baylor @ Oklahoma State, 2 PM EST

Ten Questions to Consider: Marquee Games and Marquee Opportunities

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on January 15th, 2021

While some of this weekend’s action has already been cancelled due to COVID, there remains plenty of games to keep an eye on. Battles at the top of several conferences are taking place and teams coming off of losses have a chance to make quick turnaround statements. Here are 10 questions I have for the games set to take place over the next few days:

  1. How will Wisconsin respond following its disastrous game at Michigan? (Wisconsin @ Rutgers, Friday, 9 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) After a Nate Reuvers basket at the 6:19 mark of the first half put Wisconsin down three points to Michigan, the Badgers were on the wrong end of a 43-6 run over the next 15:36 of action. Wisconsin’s Brad Davison is averaging just 5.3 points per game over his last four games, having shot 8-of-31 from the field.
  2. Can Texas Tech steady the hot shooting its opponents have had beyond the arc in league play? (Baylor @ Texas Tech, Saturday, 4 PM EST, ESPN) Heading into Wednesday’s game against Texas, the Texas Tech defense has forced opponents to shoot under 30 percent on the season from beyond the arc, a percentage that is among the top 50 nationally. However, in conference play, that number has risen to 36.2 percent, third worst in the Big 12. Baylor is shooting above 42 percent from deep on the season, currently ranking second in college basketball.
  3. Can Clemson’s top-ranked defense slow what is currently a one-dimensional Virginia offense? (Virginia @ Clemson, Saturday, 6 PM EST, ESPN) As of Wednesday, no team in the country has a better defensive efficiency than Clemson. While the Tigers are allowing under 87 points per 100 possessions on the season, that has climbed to a tick above 96 points in ACC play, ranking just sixth among ACC teams. For Virginia, while the Cavaliers’ offense is among the nation’s best inside the three-point line, they come in struggling beyond it, shooting an ACC worst 29.5 percent heading into its game against Notre Dame.
  4. Like Gonzaga has been doing to everyone else, will they simply run Saint Mary’s out of the gym? (Gonzaga @ Saint Mary’s, Saturday, 8 PM EST, ESPN) While the Gaels have been a perennial second banana to Gonzaga in the WCC over the last decade, recent matchups between these teams have not been close. Since the start of the 2016-17 season, Gonzaga has won 9 of the 11 games, with those nine victories coming by an average of 21.6 points.
  5. Is the Ziaire Williams and Oscar Da Silva pairing the best duo in the country that no one is talking about? (Stanford @ Colorado, Saturday, 2 PM EST, Pac-12 Network) While Stanford five-star freshman Ziaire Williams made headlines with his recent triple-double, not enough attention is being given to senior Oscar Da Silva. Through five Pac-12 games, Da Silva is averaging 21.4 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game, while shooting above 55 percent from the field, numbers that no recent player has managed to compile throughout a league season.
  6. Like they have done twice before this season, will Kansas quickly bounce back from its loss earlier in the week? (Iowa State @ Kansas, Saturday, 8 PM EST, ESPN+) Following losses to Gonzaga and Texas, Kansas responded by beating Saint Joseph’s by 22 points and TCU by 29. In the Tuesday night loss against Oklahoma State, Kansas players other than Ochai Agbaji were 1-of-12 from beyond the arc. Over his last two games, freshman Jalen Wilson has scored just 13 total points while committing 10 turnovers.
  7. Can Minnesota end its skid and takedown the red-hot Wolverines?(Michigan @ Minnesota, Saturday, 2 PM EST, ESPN2) In the first matchup between these teams just 10 days prior, Michigan won 82-57. While three of the four 10-minute segments were played tight, the Wolverines went on a 29-8 run to start the second-half which blew the game open. In that span, Michigan made 12-of-15 from the field, while Minnesota made just 3-of-15 shots. Marcus Carr was the only Golden Gopher to score more than 10 points in the game.
  8. In Bedlam, which star shines brightest? (Oklahoma @ Oklahoma State, Saturday, 8 PM EST) Oklahoma’s Austin Reaves and Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham are the only two players in the Big 12 to currently be averaging at least 15+ points, 5+ rebounds, and 3+ assists per game. Reaves is again off to a poor start from beyond the arc shooting just 27.7 percent, something that plagued him last year as well. In Reaves’ two years at Wichita State prior to joining Oklahoma, he had made 45 percent of his 182 three-point attempts.
  9. Can Buffalo and Bowling Green manage to defend without fouling? (Bowling Green @ Buffalo, Friday, 7 PM EST, CBS Sports Network) The Bulls and Falcons each currently sit a game behind Toledo in the MAC. Bowling Green and Buffalo have the MAC’s #1 and #2 ranked defensive efficiencies in league play, despite sitting in the bottom two spots in opponent free throw rate. In Bowling Green’s win over Buffalo earlier in the season, its 20 point per game scorer Justin Turner was a perfect 15-of-15 at the line, with Bowling Green finishing the game making 31-of-40 as a team.
  10. Will North Carolina’s relentless attacking of the offensive glass be too much for Florida State to stop? (North Carolina @ Florida State, Saturday, Noon EST) North Carolina has finished each of the past six seasons with an offensive rebounding rate that was among the top 20 in the nation. North Carolina’s current offensive rebounding rate ranks second in the nation and would be the program’s highest percentage under Roy Williams. In Tuesday’s win over Syracuse, UNC grabbed 24 offensive rebounds, a rate that was above 50 percent for the game. Heading into Wednesday’s action, Florida State ranks 236th in the nation in clearing its defensive glass.

2020-21 RTC16: Week 7

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on January 11th, 2021

After trailing most of the second-half, Texas rallied from five down in the final two-minutes to escape West Virginia with a win. Shaka Smart’s team has now picked up road wins at both Kansas and West Virginia over the past 10 days. While Michigan, Iowa and Wisconsin escaped any damage in the Big Ten this past week, the middle of the conference continued to beat on each other with Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern and Rutgers all losing at least one game over the last seven days. The RTC16 has plenty of consensus on the top 12 teams, while the bottom four spots this week are filled with varying opinions.

Conference Breakdown: Big 12 (5), Big Ten (4), ACC (2), Big East (2), AAC (1), SEC (1), WCC (1)

Risers

  • Gonzaga: While Gonzaga cannot rise any higher than its position at the top of the RTC16, they continued to show just how dangerous they can be. In Saturday’s win over Portland, Joel Ayayi’s triple-double was the first in Gonzaga program history. After averaging 10.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game a season ago, Ayayi is averaging 11.8 points and a team-best 8.1 boards per game. Flying under the radar behind Corey Kispert, Jalen Suggs and Drew Timme, Ayayi is another piece to the puzzle that makes this team special.
  • Clemson: Clemson makes its first appearance in the RTC16 after an overtime win this past week against NC State. Clemson now has five wins over KenPom top-50 ranked opponents, with its lone loss coming on the road against Virginia Tech. After shooting 46.3 percent from the field in his first three years at Clemson, senior Aamir Simms is shooting 56.1 percent while averaging 12.6 points per game.
  • UCLA: After escaping with an overtime win in Tempe, the Bruins led much of the second half in a win against Arizona in Tucson. UCLA is now 5-0 in Pac-12 play, having won 12 of its last 13 league games going back to last season. While the defense still has room to grow, the Bruins have the league’s best offensive efficiency, effective field-goal percentage, and three-point percentage. The Bruins sit just outside the top 16, but picked up multiple votes this week.

Fallers

  • Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights had an 0-2 week with a pair of double-figure losses. It was a tough shooting week for Ron Harper and Geo Baker who went a combined 3-of-17 from beyond the arc. The team’s struggles at the free-throw line also continued, as the Knights were a mere 11-of-27 at the line. The struggles allowed Ohio State and Michigan State to outscore Rutgers by 25 points with the clock stopped.
  • Minnesota: Minnesota finished the week 0-2 after dropping both of its games away from home. The Golden Gophers’ offense did not crack the 1.0 PPP mark in either game, while the defense allowed 1.21 and 1.19 points per possession. Through seven Big Ten games, the Minnesota offense now ranks 13th in three-point percentage and last in two-point field-goal percentage.
  • Missouri: Cuonzo Martin’s Missouri club led Mississippi State 43-29 with 18:28 to go in a game last Tuesday night. The Tigers saw State finish the game on a 49-20 run. After committing just one turnover in the first half, Missouri turned it over seven times after the break.

Notable Upcoming Games

  • Tuesday: Wisconsin @ Michigan, 7 PM EST, ESPN
  • Wednesday: Texas Tech @ Texas, 9 PM EST, ESPN2
  • Thursday: San Diego State @ Utah State, 9 PM EST, CBS Sports Network
  • Thursday: Washington State @ UCLA, 5 PM EST, Fox Sports 1
  • Friday: Villanova @ Connecticut, 9 PM EST, Fox Sports 1
  • Saturday: Baylor @ Texas Tech, 4 PM EST, ESPN

Ten Questions to Consider: Rematches and Road Tests

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on January 8th, 2021

As the season progresses, teams are beginning to face many different challenges. From injuries to key players, to rematches against conference foes and battles against ongoing trends, teams must adapt and grow to have continued success as the calendar continues to move on. Here are 10 questions I have for the action set to unfold over the next few days:

  1. Can Texas erase last season’s nightmarish trip to Morgantown with a dominant performance of its own? (Texas @ West Virginia, Saturday, 1 PM EST, ESPN) Last season, the Longhorns’ road trip to West Virginia ended with a lopsided 97-59 loss. Texas had a -10 turnover margin and surrendered 23 offensive rebounds. West Virginia is coming off of a win against Oklahoma State, a game in which the Mountaineers trailed by 19 points with 11:15 to go.
  2. After a tale of two halves in the first match-up, can either the Buckeyes or Scarlet Knights assert control for 40 minutes? (Ohio State @ Rutgers, Saturday, Noon EST, Big Ten Network) In the first match-up between these teams on December 23, Rutgers won the first half by 10 points while Ohio State won the second half by 22. One key for Ohio State was its ability to get to the free throw line in the second half, making 17-of-21 after going just 5-of-8 at the line in the first half.
  3. Can Clemson keep up its terrific start by doing something that it has done just once before? (Clemson @ North Carolina, Saturday, 7 PM EST, ESPN) Clemson is currently 9-1, has five wins against the KenPom top 50, and as of Thursday morning, boasts the nation’s best adjusted defensive efficiency rating. Clemson’s defense creates a high-rate of turnovers, an area that can trouble the Tar Heels. The Tigers ended a 40-game losing streak at North Carolina with its win in Chapel Hill last season.
  4. How will the loss of Chris Smith impact the Bruins’ trip to the desert? (UCLA @ Arizona, Saturday, 9 PM EST, ESPN) UCLA learned of Chris Smith’s torn ACL shortly before its game last week against Colorado. This week they begin the desert trip with Arizona State before taking on Arizona on the weekend. The Bruins have won three straight in Tucson for the first time since the early 1980’s. Earning either a split or a sweep in Arizona will tell a lot about UCLA moving forward.
  5. As well as Alabama has been playing, might they have room to get even better? (Alabama @ Auburn, Saturday, Noon EST, ESPN2) The Crimson Tide are 3-0 in SEC play with wins already over Tennessee and Florida. Alabama is shooting 32.3 percent on its three-point attempts for the season, but have been making 39 percent of their attempts in league play. Among those to find their shot has been John Petty, who after starting the year 11-of-39 from deep, has made 10 of his last 20 three-point attempts.
  6. Can the undefeated Drake Bulldogs continue to roll against its stiffest competition? (Loyola Chicago @ Drake, Sunday, 6:30 PM EST, ESPN2) The Drake Bulldogs are a dominant 13-0 with an average margin of victory of 24 points to start the season. Loyola-Chicago’s top-50 KenPom ranking will be the highest of any Drake opponent by roughly 100 spots. For Drake, a trio of former Florida Southwestern players led by Shanquan Hemphill’s 14.2 points per game has been a big reason for the early success of the Bulldogs.
  7. Will this Big Ten battle come down to the stars again? (Minnesota @ Iowa, Sunday, 2:30 PM EST, Big Ten Network) In the Christmas day matchup between Iowa and Minnesota, Minnesota dug itself out of a seven-point deficit in the final minute behind Marcus Carr’s shotmaking which forced overtime and eventually gave the Golden Gophers the win. Carr finished with 30 points and six made threes, while Iowa’s Luka Garza had a game-high 32 points. Garza grabbed 11 offensive rebounds in the game, with Iowa as a team tallying 27.
  8. Can Fatts Russell work his magic on the road or will VCU remain undefeated in the A-10? (Rhode Island @ VCU, Saturday, 2 PM EST, CBS Sports Network) The last time these teams played last season, URI’s Fatts Russell scored 30 points, with 16 coming at the free-throw line. The Rams come in struggling having lost four of six, with one of those wins coming after trailing Saint Joseph’s by four with just 20 seconds to go. VCU comes in having won seven straight games and with its defense creating plenty of frustration with an average of 19.2 forced turnovers over its last five games.
  9. Can UConn take advantage of what has been an ineffective Butler defense? (Connecticut @ Butler, Saturday, 4 PM EST, CBS Sports Network) After having a top-30 ranked effective field-goal defense last season, Butler’s eFG% defense currently ranks among the bottom 50 nationally. If Butler is able to force misses, keeping a Huskies team that ranks among the top five nationally in offensive rebound rate could lead to constant pressure on the Butler defense.
  10. How will UC San Diego fare in its first game in league play at the D-1 level? (UC Irvine @ UC San Diego, Friday, 7 PM EST, ESPN3) The Tritons have played just two games on the year, both coming before Christmas against Saint Katherine of the NAIA. UCSD gets UC Irvine on both Friday and Saturday for its “welcome to the Big West.” UCSD went 30-1 last season and finished the year ranked third in the final D2SIDA rankings

2020-21 RTC16: Week 6

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on January 4th, 2021

Gonzaaga’s Joel Ayayi had two double-doubles through his first two seasons in Spokane. After an 18-point, 10-rebound performance against San Francisco over the weekend, however, Ayayi now has four double-doubles in 10 games this season. While the likes of Corey Kispert, Jalen Suggs and Drew Timme rightfully dominate the headlines, Gonzaga’s spot at #1 in the RTC16 remains firmly gripped thanks in part to its premier depth. #2 Baylor picked up its second KenPom top-100 win on Saturday at Iowa State, and the Bears next six opponents are ranked inside of the top 65. Villanova is currently dealing with COVID issues which include head coach Jay Wright, but chaos within the RTC16 moves the Wildcats up to #3. Here’s a look at the first RTC16 of 2021.

Conference Breakdown: Big Ten (5), Big 12 (4), Big East (2), SEC (2), AAC (1), Pac-12 (1), WCC (1)

Risers

  • Texas: After missing five of its final six three-point attempts in the first-half at Kansas, the Longhorns began the second-half by drilling their first six attempts after the break. While Greg Brown was held to just five points, five of his Longhorn teammates scored in double-figures. Shaka Smart’s second win over Kansas while at Texas sent a statement to the rest of the Big 12 — after sitting at #10 in the RTC16 last week, Texas now appears ranked at #4 in all seven ballots cast this week.
  • Iowa: Since collapsing late against Minnesota, Iowa has compiled a pair of quality wins against Northwestern and at Rutgers. Jordan Bohannon scored in double-figures in each game, including tying his season-high of 24 points against Northwestern. While both the Wildcats and Scarlet Knights each averaged 1.06 points per possession against Iowa, it was an improvement from the 1.32 PPP allowed by the Hawkeyes against Minnesota.
  • Michigan: The Wolverines added a pair of victories against KenPom top-60 teams last week, and they are now 5-0 against top-100 teams, with four of those victories coming by more than 10 points. Freshman Hunter Dickinson is now averaging 16.6 points per game with a 72.6 percent field-goal percentage. After appearing among the top-10 in just a single RTC16 ballot last week, the Wolverines now appear at #5 in over half of the ballots this week.

Fallers

  • Houston: Houston’s fall this week comes after a narrow loss at Tulsa. While the Cougars rebounded with a win over SMU on Sunday, the team learned that Caleb Mills would be stepping away from the team. While Mills has been limited early in the year, he averaged more than 13 points per game last season and made north of 35 percent of his threes.
  • Kansas: The Jayhawks’ 25-point home loss to Texas tied the school’s largest margin of defeat at home (Feb. 1, 1989, vs. Missouri) going back to the 1949-50 season. David McCormack’s struggles continue as he is now shooting just 32.9 percent from the field, a steep drop from the 52.1 percent notch he shot last season.
  • West Virginia: Not only has West Virginia lost two of its last three games, including this past weekend’s matchup with Oklahoma, but the team was dealt the blow of Oscar Tshiebwe leaving the program. Jalen Bridges saw his minutes rise against Oklahoma and while the Mountaineers lost the game, Bridges scored 19 points, made 5-of-6 three-point attempts and showed that he can bring a spark to the WVU offense moving forward.

Notable Upcoming Games

  • Monday: West Virginia @ Oklahoma State, 9 PM EST
  • Tuesday: Rutgers @ Michigan State, 9 PM EST, ESPN2
  • Wednesday: Minnesota @ Michigan, 8:30 PM EST
  • Thursday: USC @ Arizona, 9 PM EST
  • Saturday: Texas @ West Virginia, TBA
  • Sunday: Minnesota @ Iowa, TBA
  • Sunday: Loyola-Chicago @ Drake, 6 PM EST

2020-21 RTC16: Week 5

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on December 28th, 2020

The gap separating #1 Gonzaga and #2 Baylor from the rest of the country continued to widen this past week as the Bulldogs and Bears went a combined 4-0 with an average margin of victory of 33.8 points. Gonzaga’s offense continuously broke down Virginia’s defense in ways that few teams have in the Tony Bennett era. #3 Kansas backed up its win against Texas Tech with a convincing performance over West Virginia, while #4 Villanova enters this week with COVID-19 concerns, they moved to 3-0 in the Big East with a 17-point victory at Marquette last week.

Conference Breakdown: Big Ten (5), Big 12 (5), Big East (2), SEC (2), AAC (1), WCC (1)

Risers

  • Houston: The Cougars began AAC play with a 26-point win against Temple and overcame a slow start to beat UCF on the road, 63-54. Houston is a perfect 7-0 and is just one of seven teams with an adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency ranking of 20th or better. After being ranked in the top five in just one of eight RTC ballots a week ago, Houston this week earned six top-5 votes.
  • Texas Tech: After last week’s narrow loss at the hands of Kansas, Chris Beard’s squad squared up its Big 12 record with a two-point win against Oklahoma. Terrence Shannon’s team-high 21 points was the second time this season he has scored 20 or more, tying the number of times he did it last season. Last week Texas Tech appeared on just four RTC ballots, this week they made all but one.
  • Creighton: After starting league play with a loss to Marquette, Creighton has rattled off three straight wins, including a five–point win this past week against Xavier. The Bluejays’ balanced attack has seen four or more players score in double-figures in each of the team’s past three games. Creighton rises from out of the RTC rankings and into the top 12.

Fallers

  • Iowa: Despite leading 80-73 with just 44 seconds to go, Iowa could not escape Minnesota with a win. Iowa’s defense saw Minnesota make 17 three-point attempts, none bigger than Marcus Carr’s game-tying three in the final seconds of regulation. After going 2-8 on the road in Big Ten play last season, giving away a game the Hawkeyes seemingly had wrapped up has dropped Iowa to an average RTC ranking that is outside of the top 10.
  • Michigan State: Friday’s loss to Wisconsin dropped Michigan State to 0-2 in Big Ten play for the first time since the 2006-07 season. The 85 points allowed by the Spartans was the fifth-most the school has allowed in regulation in a league game since the 2002 season began. The Spartans fall out of this week’s RTC poll after coming in at #12 last week.

Notable Upcoming Games

  • Monday: Michigan State @ Minnesota, 8 PM EST, Big Ten Network
  • Tuesday: Houston @ Tulsa, 9 PM EST, ESPN 2
  • Wednesday: Tennessee @ Missouri, 9 PM EST, SEC Network
  • Thursday: Colorado @ USC, 9 PM EST, ESPN 2
  • Saturday: Iowa @ Rutgers, 2 PM EST, ESPN 2
  • Saturday: Texas @ Kansas, Noon EST, ESPN 2

Ten Questions to Consider: Is This the Weekend When the Marquee Matchup Is Played?

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on December 18th, 2020

First it was Gonzaga vs. Baylor, then it was Baylor vs. Texas, and while Villanova vs. Virginia was been wiped away from the schedule, we still have (for now) #1 Gonzaga set to take on #3 Iowa this weekend. Scoreboard operator be ready, a match-up of my preseason National Championship Game teams. Along with the headliner, this weekend also brings the CBS Sports Classic, an in-state battle from Indiana, and other matchups with plenty on the line. Here are 10 questions I have for the action on the court over the next few days.

  1. Will Iowa’s defense be at a level where it can get enough key stops to get by Gonzaga? (Gonzaga vs. Iowa, Saturday, Noon EST, CBS) KenPom data shows that in Iowa’s first six games, four of its opponents have had an offensive efficiency ranking of 275 or worse. Four opponents have had an effective field-goal percentage ranking of 200 or worse and only Western Illinois has had a turnover rate ranking better than the national average. Entering Thursday, Gonzaga is second in offensive efficiency, tenth in eFG%, and among the top 75 in turnover rate. While Luka Garza will get his, Iowa will need to do more than just score to beat Gonzaga.
  2. Will David Johnson continue his trend of extending his range beyond the three-point line? (Louisville vs. Wisconsin, Saturday, Noon EST, ESPN 2) Radford transfer Carlik Jones has had no problems fitting in with Louisville having scored 15 or more in each Cardinal game to date. Alongside Jones is David Johnson. Johnson is coming off of back-to-back games with at least 17 points. After attempting more than two three-point attempts in just a pair of games last season, Johnson has already done so three times through four games.
  3. Can the Buckeyes get by the Bruins if they remain shorthanded? (UCLA vs. Ohio State, Saturday, 4:15 PM EST, CBS) Ohio State’s EJ Liddell (15.5 PPG) has missed back-to-back games with an undisclosed non-COVID-19 related illness. In addition to Liddell, Harvard transfer Seth Towns has yet to hit the floor as he recovers from an injury. The Buckeyes feasted on poor defenses early in the year before struggling against Purdue on Wednesday. It’s a UCLA team that in many metric areas resembles Purdue defensively.
  4. Is the potential matchup between Ayo Dosunmu and Ron Harper the best matchup on Sunday across all sports? (Illinois @ Rutgers, Sunday, 1 PM EST, ESPN 2) Dosunmu, a preseason first-team All-American, has gotten off to a stellar start averaging 24 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. For Rutgers, Ron Harper Jr. has been equally fantastic putting in 23.2 points and 7 rebounds per game. Harper already has three games this season with five made three-pointers, having made 16 of his 32 three-point attempts on the season.
  5. One more time…did Kentucky turn a corner in the second-half against Notre Dame? (North Carolina vs. Kentucky, Saturday, 2 PM EST, CBS) Yes, Kentucky trailed Notre Dame by as many 24 points just ten minutes into its most recent game. Yes, the game was at Rupp and the Wildcats season looked dead on the spot. Then the ‘Cats outscored Notre Dame by 21 in the second-half and had a chance to win the game at the buzzer. This matchup features a pair of teams who are similar in many ways, both facing shooting and turnover woes, while relying on attacking the glass.
  6. Is Minnesota staring at a must-win game in mid-December? (Saint Louis @ Minnesota, Sunday, 8:30 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) The Golden Gophers sit at 6-1, but its best win comes against a 1-5 Boston College team. Saint Louis, a top-40 KenPom team begins a stretch of eight consecutive games against teams ranked in the top 40, including a back-to-back of Iowa and Michigan State after the Billikens leave Minnesota.
  7. Who can win around the rim in a battle of physical teams? (Marquette @ Xavier, Sunday, 2 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) As of Thursday, Hoop-Math has both the Marquette and Xavier defenses among the top-25 in opponent field-goal percentage at the rim. Offensively, Xavier is shooting 73.2% on attempts near the rim, which ranks among the top-25 nationally. Xavier’s four players who average north of ten points per game are a combined 49-of-65 (75.4%) on FGA’s at the rim.
  8. Can Butler’s defense show rapid in-week improvements? (Indiana vs. Butler, Saturday, 11:30 AM EST, Fox Sports 1) After opening the season on November 25, Butler played just its second game of the year on Wednesday in an 85-66 loss against Villanova. While the Bulldogs scored 1 point-per-possession, shot 50% on their two-point attempts, and made 46.7% of their three-point attempts, it was their defense that was torched by Villanova yet again surrendering 1.29 PPP.
  9. Which style of play wins the day in Tuscaloosa? (Western Kentucky @ Alabama, Saturday, 2 PM EST, ESPNU) After being one of the most up-tempo teams in the country a year ago, Nate Oats’ Alabama squad is again pushing the tempo at every opportunity. For Rick Stasnbury’s Hilltoppers team, teams have tried to attack WKU early to avoid playing offense against the defensive menace that is Charles Bassey. While Bassey is a force down low, WKU has seen opponents make 44.7% of their three-point attempts. Alabama is a team that is shooting below 30% from deep, with John Petty struggling, having made just 28% of his attempts following last season in which he made 44% of his 193 attempts.
  10. As good as San Diego State has been, might they have room to get even better? (BYU @ San Diego State, Friday, 5 PM EST, CBS Sports Network) The Aztecs already sport convincing wins against both UCLA and Arizona State. Brian Dutcher’s team has a top 20 defense and a top 50 offense. The team’s three-point percentage is down 5.6% from last season, with Matt Mitchell’s slow start from deep having some impact on the team. If Mitchell can return near to the 39% he shot last season, it’s an Aztec team loaded with weapons. In addition to Mitchell, SDSU’s pair of Terrell Gomez and Jordan Schakel have the second and third best three-point percentage of remaining college players that have attempted 300 or more three-pointers since the start of the 2018 season.

Ten Questions to Consider: Action Continues and Here’s What to Watch

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on December 11th, 2020

Even as games are lost to COVID positive tests and subsequent shutdowns of programs, the college basketball slate remains full of plenty of action. While off the court the likes of Jeff Capel and Mike Krzyzewski are beginning to really question why teams are playing, on the court players are continuing to battle hard and make statements. Here are ten questions I have for ten games that I hope to see played at some point from Friday through Sunday.

  1. Will a pair of elite defenses steal the show in this Big 12 showdown? (Texas @ Baylor, Sunday, 3 PM EST, ESPN) Both Baylor and Texas will head into this matchup with top ten defensive efficiencies. Last season in two matchups, the teams combined to shoot 32.4% from the field on 73-of-225 shooting. A major key last season in their matchup was the free-throw line, where Baylor went 26-of-32 compared to Texas who was just 11-of-26.
  2. Was Jordan Bohannon’s mid-week performance a sign of more things to come? (Iowa State. @ Iowa, Friday, 9 PM EST, Big Ten Network) In Iowa’s win over North Carolina, Bohannon snapped out of the 3-of-14 three-point shooting stretch of the first three games of the season by draining 7-of-16 against the Tar Heels. For Iowa to reach its ultimate goal of playing into the Final Four both improvements on the defensive end and longterm consistency from Bohannon will be key.
  3. Will Florida and Florida State be able to turn one another over? (Florida @ Florida State, Saturday 11 AM EST, ESPNU) Defensively both Floria and Florida State each rank within the top 20 in turnover rate. Florida’s Tyree Appleby is a defensive pest who had four steals in just 20 minutes on Sunday against Stetson. The Gators will be challenged defensively to force turnovers at their usual high clip against a Florida State team that has been fantastic at limiting giveaways early in the season.
  4. After looking dominant at Duke, can Illinois avoid a letdown against an undefeated Missouri team? (Illinois @ Missouri, Saturday, 8 PM EST) Brad Underwood’s squad wasted no time turning things around after the loss against Baylor by walking into Cameron Indoor and showing what the Illii are capable of when firing on all cylinders. Illinois is a different team when they get minutes and production from Kofi Cockburn. He’ll be needed against a Missouri team that has averaged 39 points in the paint per game through its first four games.
  5. Can Marquette successfully attack the offensive glass against a good defensive rebounding Bruin team? (Marquette @ UCLA, Friday, 9:30 PM EST, Pac-12 Network) Marquette’s 34.3% offensive rebound rate sits in the top 50 nationally and it has also helped them post a free-throw rate of 50%, a top 20 rate in the nation. With a pair of players in Justin Lewis and Jamal Cain whom each individually post a top 100 offensive rebound rate, Marquette will challenge a UCLA team that has tremendous length and has done a good job of limiting both second-chance looks and free-throw attempts for its opponents.
  6. Will Stanford and USC come down to a pair of freshman or might a senior be the difference-maker? (Stanford @ USC, Sunday, 9:30 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) Stanford’s Ziaire Williams and USC’s Evan Mobley each came into the season as freshman who were among ESPN’s top 10 recruits. While Williams got off to a great start with 19 points in the opener against Alabama, he has since struggled both with his shot and staying out of foul trouble. For the Trojans, Evan Mobley’s 17.6 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game has been a big reason USC has looked dominant at times. With the freshman stealing the spotlight, Stanford senior Oscar da Silva and his 17.3 points per game could fly under the radar and be the difference in this Pac-12 battle.
  7. Quite simply, will Kentucky show any signs of a pulse? (Notre Dame @ Kentucky, Saturday, Noon EST, CBS) A loss on Saturday would result in just the second four-game losing streak for Kentucky under John Calipari, the last coming in the 2017-18 season. While freshman Terrence Clarke and Isaiah Jackson showed glimmers of hope in the most recent loss, it’s been the play of fellow freshman Devin Askew as well as transfers Oliver Sarr and Davion Mintz which have left much to be desired. Any Kentucky turnaround begins with protecting the ball as the Wildcats are a -31 in turnover margin during the current three-game losing streak.
  8. Will Michigan’s size be too much for Penn State to handle? (Penn State @ Michigan, Sunday, 2 PM EST, Big Ten Network) Penn State has made ten or more three-pointers in three of its first four games of the season, including a 12-of-23 performance from deep against Virginia Tech in the Nittany Lions most recent game. With a lineup that primarily features four players at 6’6″ or under, Penn State will have to find ways to contain the Michigan trio of Isaiah Livers, Franz Wagner, and Hunter Dickinson who range from 6’7″ to 7’1″.
  9. Can Richmond’s Grant Golden stay out of foul trouble and contend with the Mountaineers dynamic duo? (Richmond @ West Virginia, Sunday, 1 PM EST, ESPN) Richmond’s Grant Golden is a skilled big who can score (14.7 PPG), rebound (5 RPG), and get others involved (3.7 APG) and can do all that while only playing 22 minutes per game. Golden will likely need to see more time on the floor against the duo of Derek Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe for Richmond to walk out of Morgantown with a victory. In just five games, the West Virginia tandem have already combined for 37 offensive rebounds.
  10. Will Dayton’s advantage at point guard be too much for Mississippi State to overcome? (Dayton vs. Mississippi State, Saturday, Noon EST, ESPN News) Jalen Crutcher is a senior guard who came into the season regarded as one the best lead guards in the nation. On Saturday, Mississippi State freshman Deivon Smith will be in charge of dealing with Crutcher, a player with a resume far greater than anyone Smith has faced thus far.

Ten Questions to Consider: #1 vs. #2 Leads the Weekend Intrigue

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on December 4th, 2020

Rarely do the Champions Classic and Maui Invitational take a backseat to a game later in the week, but with top-ranked Gonzaga taking on Baylor, that will be the case this weekend. In addition to that heavyweight matchup, I’m intrigued by teams leaving bubbles, teams off to shaky starts, and teams just getting going. Here are 10 questions I have for games taking place over the weekend:

  1. What will be the impact of the Jalen Suggs ankle injury as #1 Gonzaga takes on #2 Baylor? (Gonzaga vs. Baylor, Saturday, 1 PM EST, CBS) The ankle injury to Jalen Suggs in Wednesday night’s win over West Virginia had many college basketball fans around the country holding their breath. Suggs ultimately came back and played 16 minutes in the second half, but he did not score upon returning. However, Gonzaga had four other players score 10 or more points in its 53-point second-half to surge from behind for the win.
  2. After playing four games in Bubbleville, how will Villanova fare in hitting the road against the champs of Maui? (Villanova @ Texas, Sunday, 1 PM EST, ESPN) Villanova had its share of ups and downs while playing at Mohegan Sun Arena last week. All told, though, the Wildcats were a second-half collapse against Virginia Tech away from a 4-0 start to the season. After averaging just under 11 points per game a season ago, Jermaine Samuels has yet to hit double-figures yet. Villanova takes on a Texas team that has held opponents to a three-point percentage of just 20.3 percent through its opening four games.
  3. Will Marquette be able to slow the versatile Wisconsin offense? (Wisconsin @ Marquette, Friday, 7 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) In last season’s match-up between these teams, which the Badgers won 77-61, six different Wisconsin players scored 10 or more points. With four of those players back in action, a Marquette defense, which just saw four Oklahoma State players reach double-figures in the Golden Eagles loss, will be put to the test.
  4. Will this be the game that Kentucky finds any outside shooting? (Kentucky @ Georgia Tech, Sunday, 5 PM EST, ESPN) Kentucky is just 3-of-31 from beyond the three-point line over its last two games. The Wildcats last made three or fewer threes over a two-game span in the 2014-15 season (3-of-19 in wins against Providence and Texas). The Wildcats will be up against a Georgia Tech defense that has allowed its first two opponents to make 22-of-55 three-point attempts.
  5. Might Richmond be primed for a letdown following its win at Rupp Arena? (Furman @ Richmond, Saturday, 6 PM EST) The Spiders return home to face a KenPom top-100 Furman squad which returns five of its six leading scorers, including three players who averaged better than 10 points per game. Mike Bothwell of Furman has scored 17 or more points in each of his first three games and has made 21 of his 26 shots inside the three-point line. The disruptive Richmond defense will be tested by a Furman offense that has finished with a top-30 effective field-goal percentage in each of Bob Richey’s first three seasons as its head coach.
  6. Will it be Oregon or Seton Hall who leaves Omaha with an important win? (Oregon vs. Seton Hall, Friday, 9 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) The Ducks dropped their season opener on Wednesday night just hours after preseason all-conference first team guard Will Richardson had surgery on his thumb. For Seton Hall, the start of the season has included road losses to Louisville and Rhode Island — both teams are looking to find their stride after replacing all-everything players Payton Pritchard and Myles Powell.
  7. Will having played just one game impact Oklahoma as they hit the road for its Big 12 opener? (Oklahoma @ TCU, Sunday, 4 PM EST, ESPN 2) The Sooners take on a TCU team that will have played three more games than Oklahoma when the teams meet on Sunday. The Sooners are looking to replace last season’s leading scorer Kristian Doolittle with a group which includes North Texas transfer Umoja Gibson, who averaged 14.5 points per game with the Mean Green last year.
  8. Was Auburn’s loss on Monday against UCF a sign of things to come or more like a hangover from the Gonzaga loss? (South Alabama @ Auburn, Friday, 9 PM EST, SEC Network) Bruce Pearl’s squad sits at 1-2 with its lone win coming in overtime against Saint Joseph’s. In addition to tis on-court struggles, this is an Auburn team that has been without Sharife Cooper whose status remains up in the air. Without the McDonald’s All-American, Auburn has not yet found what it takes to replace the likes of Samir Doughty, Austin Wiley, J’Von McCormick, Daniel Purifoy and Isaac Okoro.
  9. Will home court advantage reign supreme again in the Battle of Cincinnati? (Xavier @ Cincinnati, Sunday, 3 PM EST) The home team has won each of the past five match-ups between Cincinnati and Xavier with the average margin of victory exceeding 10 points. While Travis Steele’s Musketeers’ squad will have played five games prior to Sunday, the Bearcats will be hitting the court for just the second time. It is a Cincinnati team that is replacing a pair in Jarron Cumberland and Tre Scott, each of whom averaged north of 10 points per game a season ago.
  10. Will Georgetown show fight against the tough Mountaineer team or is the beginning of the end of the Patrick Ewing era well underway? (West Virginia @ Georgetown, Sunday, 4:30 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) In the Hoyas’ loss to Navy on Tuesday, Georgetown surrendered 40 points in the paint, lost the turnover battle, was -1 in second-chance points, and only had one bench point. All that could go wrong seemingly did go wrong. Now in his fourth season at his alma mater, Patrick Ewing needs his team to show signs of life very quickly. Jahvon Blair is averaging 20 points per game so far and is showing production inside the arc where he is shooting 56 percent, but his lack of production from beyond the three-point line (4-of-19) has been troubling for the Hoyas’ offense.