Ten Questions to Consider: Making Statements to Close the Regular Season

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on March 5th, 2021

The first weekend of March brings the final weekend of the 2020-21 regular season. Seeding, both in terms of conference and NCAA Tournament positioning, is on the line as conference foes look to make a final statement before heading into sudden death territory. With pressure mounting, here are 10 questions I have for the weekend ahead:

  1. With or without Ayo Dosunmu, can Illinois carry over its performance against Michigan to this game? (Illinois @ Ohio State, Saturday, 4 PM EST, ESPN) The Illini put together one of the most impressive performances of the season on Tuesday night with their lopsided victory at Michigan. Freshman Andre Curbelo has scored 17 points in consecutive games off of the bench and senior Trent Frazier is coming off of tying his season-high with 22 points.
  2. Can D’Mitrik Trice fare better against Iowa the second time they meet? (Wisconsin @ Iowa, Sunday, 12:37 PM EST, Fox) In Wisconsin’s loss to Iowa in mid-February, D’Mitrik Trice went 3-of-15 from the field and was held to just 11 points. Trice’s offense is needed to offset the always difficult Luka Garza and Joe Wieskamp, who made 30-of-57 three-point attempts in February.
  3. Can Texas Tech lessen Baylor’s bench advantage and steal a win on the road? (Texas Tech @ Baylor, Sunday, 4 PM EST, ESPN) While Mac McClung’s 24 points matched the combined offensive production of Davion Mitchell and Jared Butler last time out, Baylor’s bench outscored the Texas Tech bench by 21 points. Limited scoring outside of McClung, combined with 20 turnovers doomed the Red Raiders.
  4. Can the Memphis defense carry the Tigers to a statement AAC victory? (Memphis @ Houston, Sunday, Noon EST, CBS) Heading into Thursday’s action, no team has a better adjusted defensive efficiency ranking than Memphis, as the Tigers have won six straight and nine of their last 10 games. Over that stretch, five Memphis opponents have been held to their lowest offensive efficiency outputs. While there are few questions about the Tigers’ defense, their offense las far behind. They will need both sides to click to beat Houston.
  5. Can UCLA’s lack of depth in the frontcourt handle USC better the second go around? (USC @ UCLA, Saturday, 4 PM EST, CBS) The Bruins were without both Cody Riley and Jalen Hill in the first match-up with the Trojans, and while Hill remains away from the team, Riley is back. A win for either team means the #2 seed in the conference tournament, while a loss likely pushes the losing team behind Colorado for the fourth seed.
  6. Will LSU defensively be able to hold up around the rim? (LSU @ Missouri, Saturday, 3 PM EST, SEC Network) Will Wade’s LSU team allows opponents to shoot 66.5 percent on field-goal attempts near the rim, which ranks among the top-20 highest percentages in the nation. For Missouri, its offensive field-goal percentage on shots around the rim ranks among the top-50 nationally.
  7. Can Colorado State avoid a slip-up in its final MWC game of the season? (Colorado State @ Nevada, Friday, 9 PM EST, CBS Sports Network) While the Rams are currently 14-3 in the MW, they travel to Nevada where the Wolf Pack are 9-2 on the season. For Colorado State, a win would keep the Rams in position to be an at-large selection a week from now.
  8. Quite simply, can Rutgers avoid disaster? (Rutgers @ Minnesota, Saturday, Noon EST, Fox) The Scarlet Knights are coming off of a horrific loss at Nebraska and now head to Minnesota to face a Gophers squad that has lost six straight games. Rutgers trailed Minnesota by four points with 2:22 to go in the first meeting, but used a 10-2 run to close the game out.
  9. Can Tennessee’s John Fulkerson find his scoring touch? (Florida @ Tennessee, Sunday, Noon EST, ESPNU) In Tennessee’s first 15 games of the season, John Fulkerson was averaging 11.2 points per game. In the eight games since February 1, Fulkerson is averaging just 5.9 points per game, having scored more than four points twice. This is clearly a problem, as Tennessee has fallen down the rankings over the same period.
  10. How close to the bubble is Ole Miss? (Vanderbilt @ Ole Miss, Saturday, 7 PM EST, SEC Network) With a win against Vanderbilt, Ole Miss would be 15-10 and 10-8 in the SEC. As of Thursday, the Rebels have a NET Ranking of #57 and, while a Quad-3 win against Vanderbilt would not enhance the Rebels’ resume, a second defeat at the hands of Vanderbilt would be crippling. In the recent loss to the Commodores, Ole Miss was 4-of-13 from deep while Vanderbilt made 11-of-23 three-point attempts.

2020-21 RTC16: Week 14

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on March 1st, 2021

The lengthy run of Baylor and Gonzaga holding down the top two spots in the RTC16 has finally come to an end with Michigan jumping the Bears this week for the #2 spot. The Wolverines moved up after overpowering victories against Iowa and Indiana last week. Sophomore Franz Wagner has upped his production since Michigan returned from its COVID pause, having now scored 20 or more points in three of Michigan’s five games. While Illinois remains in the top five, the Big Ten was not without a shakeup in the RTC top 10, as Iowa climbed and Ohio State fell this week.

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

RISING

  • Georgia Tech: A win at Virginia Tech was followed up by a home win against Syracuse to move Georgia Tech to 13-8 (9-6 ACC). The Yellow Jackets began February ranked outside of the top 60 in the NET Rankings but now enter March ranked 40th.
  • Oklahoma State: No team in the country has a better overtime record than Oklahoma State (4-0), which needed five extra minutes to beat both Texas Tech and Oklahoma this past week. In the Bedlam battle, Cade Cunningham delivered his best performance of the season, dropping 40 points to go along with 11 rebounds and six assists. Oklahoma State prepares for a challenging week with games against Oklahoma, Baylor and West Virginia on the schedule.
  • St. Bonaventure: After beating A-10 contender Davidson to start the week, the Bonnies picked up their most lopsided conference win in program history with a 47-point win over George Washington. With some help via a VCU loss, St. Bonaventure has clinched the A-10 title and the top seed in the conference tournament. Sharpshooter Dominick Welch comes into the week hot having made 12-of-20 from deep over his last three games.

FALLING

  • Indiana: On Wednesday night the Hoosiers got off to a hot start against Rutgers leading the Scarlet Knights 23-8. From there, nothing went right for IU. Rutgers outscored the Hoosiers 62-27 over the next 25 minutes en route to a 74-63 Rutgers win. Archie Miller’s team followed that up with a home loss to Michigan. Now having lost three straight and six of their last nine, the Hoosiers resume continues heading in the wrong direction.
  • Oklahoma: The Sooners stumbled in the RTC16 this week after an 0-2 week which included a loss against lowly Kansas State, a game in which OU led by six points with under four minutes to go. After losing to Oklahoma State in overtime on Sunday, the in-state rivals meet again on Monday night.
  • USC: The Pac-12’s “mountain trip” is often described as the toughest road test in the Pac-12 and it proved to be just that to USC. The Trojans dropped a pair and fell out of first place in the league. SC was outscored from beyond the three-point line by 42 points in the two games. The month of February has not been kind to Andy Enfield as his Trojans are just 20-20 in the month over the past five seasons.

NOTABLE GAMES OF THE WEEK

  • Monday: Oklahoma @ Oklahoma State (9 PM EST, ESPN)
  • Tuesday: Illinois @ Michigan (7 PM EST, ESPN), Baylor @ West Virginia (5 PM EST)
  • Wednesday: Creighton @ Villanova (8:30 PM EST, Fox Sports 1), UCLA @ Oregon (9 PM EST, ESPN2)
  • Thursday: Oklahoma State @ Baylor, 7 PM EST
  • Friday: Georgia Tech @ Wake Forest, 8 PM EST
  • Saturday: Illinois @ Ohio State, 4 PM EST
  • Sunday: Atlantic Sun, Big South, and Missouri Valley Conference Title Games

2020-21 RTC16: Week 13

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on February 22nd, 2021

Michigan picked up its most impressive victory of the season with its five-point win over the weekend at Ohio State. The two teams combined to shoot 53.4 percent from the field and used tremendous ball movement to each find open shots all game long. Elsewhere, Ayo Dosunmu picked up his second triple-double of the season; West Virginia came roaring back from another double-figure deficit to pick up a win at Texas; and Florida State put up 80+ points on Virginia. With just one week left in February, the RTC16 continues to fluctuate outside of the top three.

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

RISING

  • Duke: After losing its opening three games of the month, Duke has now won three contests in a row, including a weekend win over Virginia. The Blue Devils made 60.7 percent of their two-point field-goal attempts against the Cavaliers, becoming just the second Virginia opponent to eclipse the 60 percent mark, joining Gonzaga.
  • Florida State: Leonard Hamilton’s team jumps back into the RTC16 with a 2-0 week, which included a 21-point win over Virginia. Junior Raiquan Gray is averaging 16.8 points per game and nine rebounds per game over his last five outings. Now with a one game lead in the loss column in the ACC standings, the Seminoles stay on the road for a pair this week.
  • Maryland: A 3-0 week pushed Maryland to 14-10 and 8-9 in league play. They avoided the obstacle that was back-to-back against resume-killing Nebraska and then won at Rutgers over the weekend. Aaron Wiggins posted a pair of double-doubles and Jairus Hamilton was productive off of the bench, knocking down 6-of-12 three-point attempts last week.

FALLING

  • Louisville: Louisville returned from a near three-week break and lost by 45 points at North Carolina, the most lopsided defeat in program history going back to the 1949-50 season. Louisville, the ACC’s worst three-point shooting team, shot 6.3 percent on its 16 three-point attempts. This was the worst three-point shooting performance of any Louisville team since 2010 (min. 10 3PA).
  • Minnesota: The Golden Gophers led at Indiana, 45-39, with 17:14 to go in the game before they were on the wrong side of a 36-16 run over the next 15 minutes which flipped the game. The Gophers returned home over the weekend and never were in the game against Illinois. Having lost eight of their last 11 games, what was once a strong resume is becoming a much bigger issue with each new loss.
  • Saint Louis: A 19-of-70 shooting performance against Dayton was a major factor in the Billikens’ 23-point loss to the Flyers. The loss was the team’s third in the A-10 and with the way the conference has been ravaged with cancelled games, its a loss that could become costly with respect to conference tournament seeding. Saint Louis gets a shot at boosting its resume this week with games against VCU and Richmond.

NOTABLE GAMES OF THE WEEK

  • Monday: Oregon @ USC, 9 PM EST, Fox Sports 1
  • Tuesday: Kansas @ Texas, 9 PM EST, ESPN2
  • Wednesday: Alabama @ Arkansas, 9 PM EST
  • Thursday: Iowa @ Michigan, 7 PM EST, ESPN
  • Saturday: UCLA @ Colorado, 10 PM EST
  • Sunday: Iowa @ Ohio State, 4 PM EST, CBS

Ten Questions to Consider: Premier Match-ups Across the Country

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on February 19th, 2021

After starting the week with a Monday slate that left much to be desired, this week ends with several great games across the land. A match-up of #3 Michigan vs. #4 Ohio State in the Big Ten leads the way, but plenty of other leagues are also scheduled to have their top teams battling it out. With the end of February fast approaching, here are 10 questions I have for the action taking place over the next few days.

  1. Can Ohio State continue to dominate Michigan in Columbus? (Michigan @ Ohio State, Sunday, 1 PM EST, CBS) Going back to 1950, Michigan is 1-18 on the road against a ranked Ohio State club. Last season, Ohio State big man Kaleb Wesson made seven threes against the Wolverines. With Hunter Dickinson’s size down low, the Buckeyes may need to rely on this again with EJ Liddell going 2-of-4 from deep last weekend against Indiana.
  2. How does Virginia respond from its loss early in the week against a Duke team without Jalen Johnson? (Virginia @ Duke, Saturday, 8 PM EST, ESPN) Florida State’s 81-60 victory over Virginia on Monday marked just the 12th time in Tony Bennett’s 392-game tenure at Virginia that the Cavaliers have given up 80 or more points. With Jalen Johnson shutting things down in Durham, a Duke team that ranks second in ACC play in offensive efficiency will be challenged by a hungry Virginia defense.
  3. Can David McCormack’s recent success continue against against Texas Tech? (Texas Tech @ Kansas, Saturday, 2 PM EST) McCormack is averaging 16.4 points per game over his last seven games while shooting 54 percent from the field. In the December match-up between these teams, Texas Tech held the big man to just seven points on 3-of-10 shooting.
  4. If weather permits, how will Texas fare against West Virginia following a week of obstacles? (West Virginia @ Texas, Saturday, 3 PM EST) After having its midweek game with Oklahoma cancelled, CBS Sports‘ Matt Norlander tweeted that Texas has been unable to practice much of the week because of the snowfall and and power situation in Texas. In the first game between these Big 12 foes, Texas overcame a 54-45 second-half deficit to win.
  5. Will Minnesota continue to be a different team at home than on the road? (Illinois @ Minnesota, Saturday, 3:30 PM EST) Richard Pitino’s Golden Gophers’ squad continues to perform vastly different at home than on the road this season — averaging 80.6 points per game at home and a paltry 64.6 on the road. Defensively, the same trend is true with Minnesota allowing 68.3 points per game at home and giving up 80.3 per game on the road.
  6. Will both Davidson and St. Bonaventure again get balanced scoring or will someone steal the show? (Davidson @ St. Bonaventure, Sunday, 3:30 PM EST, NBC Sports Network) Davidson and St. Bonaventure are two of the A-10’s six teams to have three of fewer conference losses while having played six or more league games. Davidson has four players averaging at least 10.0 points per game while the Bonnies comes into the matchup with five double-figure scorers.
  7. Can Missouri end its tailspin? (Missouri @ South Carolina, Saturday, 2 PM EST, ESPN2) Having now lost three straight games, Missouri’s NET Ranking has dropped nearly 20 spots over the past 10 days. Xavier Pinson has been a barometer of Missouri success, having made 37.7 percent of his three-point attempts in wins and just 25.8 percent in losses.
  8. Can Utah State get production from someone other than Neemias Queta and leave Boise with a split? (Utah State @ Boise State, Friday, 10 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) The Broncos grabbed a win on Wednesday night against Utah State in a game in which Neemias Queta scored a career-best 32 points. While Queta was dominant, it was a lackluster shooting night for the Aggies in shooting under 20 percent from deep for just the second time this season.
  9. Will North Texas be able to attack the rim with the presence of Charles Bassey looming defensively? (Western Kentucky @ North Texas, Friday, 8 PM EST) The Hilltoppers and Mean Green head into the weekend tied at the top of the Conference USA as they prepare to play each other on both Saturday and Sunday. North Texas is shooting 68.3 percent on shot attempts near the rim, a top 15 percentage nationally, which helps them maintain a top-25 two-point field-goal percentage. Defensively, Western Kentucky’s Charles Bassey has a top-10 blocked shot rate and has blocked at least four shots in eight games this season.
  10. New year, same question, why does the NCAA persist on “transition years” for new D-I teams? (Bellarmine @ North Florida, Friday, 7 PM EST, ESPN+) Last season it was Merrimack; this year it’s the Bellarmine Knights of the Atlantic Sun. In Bellarmine’s first year at the D-I level, the Knights have an A-Sun best 10-2 record in league play. They are one of six teams to rank in the top 50 nationally in two-point, three-point, and free-throw percentage.

2020-21 RTC16: Week 12

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on February 15th, 2021

Gonzaga returns to a unanimous #1 in the RTC16 following another 2-0 week on the road. While Baylor enters a pause, Michigan returned to action and showed it belongs among the top four teams that have separated from the rest of the pack. While neither team remains in the RTC16, perhaps the biggest outcome of the past week came in the Missouri Valley Conference where Drake and Loyola (Chicago) split their matchups, leaving the possibility of a two-bid MVC.

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

RISING

  • Creighton: After receiving zero votes in last week’s RTC16, Creighton climbs back into the top 16 and again appears on all ballots. Creighton made 17 of its first 22 field-goal attempts against Villanova to build a 10-point first-half lead that they never would relinquish. While Marcus Zegarowski and Mitch Ballock led the way in scoring, the performances of Christian Bishop and Damian Jefferson again proved that Creighton is a dangerous team on any given night.
  • LSU: Will Wade’s squad went 2-0 this past week with a pair of double-figure SEC victories. The Tigers are now tied for second in the SEC at 8-4 while boasting a top 10 offensive efficiency ranking. Freshman Cameron Thomas is averaging 22.6 points per game, the fourth highest mark in the country.
  • USC: The Trojans’ rise to the top of the Pac-12 has been matched with a new season best showing in the RTC16. Having now won six straight and 12 of its past 13 games, USC is holding opponents to an average of 60.1 points per game over its last seven outings. Evan Mobley continues his show his immense talent, dominating on each end of the floor.

FALLING

  • Missouri: An 0-2 week for Missouri drops the Tigers out of the RTC16. Missouri was without third-leading scorer and the team’s best rebounder Jeremiah Tilmon in the weekend loss to Arkansas, as Tilmon was away from the team following a death in his family.
  • Penn State: Prior to this week, Penn State was 7-8 and 4-7 in Big Ten play with recent wins over Wisconsin and Maryland. With no bad losses and several resume-building wins, the Nittany Lions had a chance to play their way into bubble consideration. Then this week happened. First Penn State blew a four-point lead late Michigan State and then they became the first Big Ten team Nebraska had beaten since January of last year.
  • UCLA: Recent lackluster play carried into this week for the Bruins beginning with a poor showing in Pullman against Washington State and carrying over to a game against Washington in which the Bruins barely walked away victorious. They face an important week ahead as the desert schools travel to Los Angeles.

NOTABLE GAMES OF THE WEEK

  • Monday: Virginia @ Florida State, 7 PM EST, ESPN
  • Tuesday: Texas @ Oklahoma, 9 PM EST, ESPN
  • Thursday: Iowa @ Wisconsin, 7 PM EST, ESPN
  • Thursday: Houston @ Wichita State, 7 PM EST,
  • Saturday: West Virginia @ Texas, 3 PM EST, ABC
  • Saturday: Texas Tech @ Kansas, 2 PM EST, ESPN
  • Sunday: Michigan @ Ohio State, 1 PM EST, CBS

Ten Questions to Consider: A Resume Building and Protecting Weekend

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on February 12th, 2021

With the Super Bowl behind us, the focus of the sports world shifts fully to college basketball for the next month. For those just tuning in, this weekend presents several key match-ups across numerous conferences. For those who have been following the sport all season long, this weekend’s slate of action provides another glimpse into action of teams that have brought intrigue throughout the season. Here are 10 questions I have, questions that could go a long a way to helping answer a teams plans for March:

  1. Can West Virginia continue to torch the nets from beyond the arc? (Oklahoma @ West Virginia, Saturday, 1 PM EST, ESPN+) After starting the year making 30.3 percent of their three-point attempts through their first 10 games, the Mountaineers are now shooting 43.8 percent from deep over their last nine games. The percentages flipped once Oscar Tshiebwe left the team. West Virginia made 14-of-24 from deep against Oklahoma earlier in the season, but made a season-low 27.8 percent of shots attempted inside the arc.
  2. Can Creighton continue to keep Villanova ineffective from three-point range? (Villanova @ Creighton, Saturday, 5 PM EST, Fox) While Villanova is 2-1 in its last three games against Creighton, those wins have not been easy as one came in overtime and the other came after trailing by 10 points with just over 11 minutes to go. One cause for concern for Villanova heading into this match-up is the way they have recently shot the three against the Bluejays. In these past three contests, Villanova is shooting just 24.7 percent on its three-point attempts.
  3. Can Arkansas do a better job of slowing Xavier Pinson and Jeremiah Tilmon this time around? (Arkansas @ Missouri, Saturday, 4 PM EST, ESPN2) In the first match-up between these two teams, Missouri’s pair of Pinson and Tilmon scored 48 points on 14-of-24 shooting, including 19 made free throws. Both Pinson and Tilmon have shown flashes of becoming dominant scorers for Missouri, while at other times both have been held in check. Slowing the pair can go a long way in Arkansas adding its second Quad 1 win to its resume.
  4. After last playing on January 22, how will Michigan look in its return to action? (Michigan @ Wisconsin, Sunday, 1 PM EST, CBS) Michigan has the nation’s best two-point field-goal percentage defense and it showed in its first match-up of the season with the Badgers. Wisconsin was held to 11-of-37 shooting from inside the arc en route to a season-low 54 points, 25 of which came in the final 10 minutes.
  5. Will this AAC battle again prove to be an offensive struggle? (Memphis @ Houston, Sunday, 1 PM EST, ESPN) In last season’s two games against one another, points were always at a premium. Houston shot 33.6 percent from the field against Memphis, while the Tigers shot just 35 percent in the two games against Houston. A big key last year was turnovers. In Houston’s win, they were +9 in the turnover battle, while they finished -6 in the Memphis win.
  6. If a team seizes control early, will they be able to maintain it for 40 minutes? (Louisville @ Virginia Tech, Saturday, Noon EST, ACC Network) In the first game of the year between these two ACC foes, Virginia Tech jumped out to an 11-0 lead before Louisville responded with a 47-22 run of its own. While the Hokies ultimately lost by two points, they finished the rest of the game on what amounts to a 49-26 run of their own. Jalen Cone’s sharpshooting gave the Hokies a chance with his season-best six made threes, while the rest of the team went just 3-of-18 from deep.
  7. Does the road to the top spot in the A-10 run through defending one’s own backboard? (St. Bonaventure @ VCU, Friday, 7 PM EST, ESPN2) Entering midweek, St. Bonaventure and VCU were tied with three other teams for first place in the Atlantic 10. The Bonnies beat VCU earlier in a game where each team had 15 or more offensive rebounds. In A-10 play, both teams rank among the bottom three in opponents’ offensive rebounding rate, while ranking among the top three in offensive rebounding rate.
  8. Can Clemson clean up its turnovers and avoid being swept by the Yellow Jackets? (Georgia Tech @ Clemson, Friday, 8 PM EST, ACC Network) Earlier this season, Clemson shot 52 percent from the field, made 9-of-18 from deep and still lost to Georgia Tech by 18 points. The Tigers committed 20 turnovers and could not stop the Yellow Jackets from anywhere on the floor, including watching three different Georgia Tech players score 20 or more points. Georgia Tech (5-5) and Pitt are the only remaining Clemson opponents to be at least .500 in ACC play.
  9. After playing against one another on Saturday, is Sunday’s game a must-win for one of these teams? (Loyola Chicago @ Drake, Sunday, Noon EST, ESPN2) After losing to Valparaiso last week, Drake’s NET Ranking fell by nearly 30 spots. Loyola (Chicago) sits inside the top 15 for now, but they lack a Quad 1 win and are just 3-3 vs. Quad 1 and Quad 2 opponents. While both have strong arguments today as bubble teams, avoiding being swept this weekend will go a long ways towards keeping themselves in bubble consideration a month from now.
  10. At what point will Ohio State need CJ Walker to find his touch from beyond the arc? (Indiana @ Ohio State, Saturday, Noon EST, ESPN) While EJ Liddell has made tremendous strides this season and Justice Sueing’s presence in Columbus has been a valuable addition, one thing that has been missing has been the three-point shot of guard CJ Walker. Walker made 34 percent of 194 three-point attempts the last two seasons, but is shooting just 21.4 percent this season (15.4% in Big Ten play). Walker has a chance to change things against an Indiana defense that ranks dead last in Big Ten play in opponents’ three-point percentage.

Ten Questions to Consider: Rivalries, Rematches & Opportunities

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on February 5th, 2021

From Monday through Wednesday, AP Top 25 teams had won just 10 of 19 games played during the week. Heading into the weekend, will chaos continue to rule the college basketball landscape? Rivalries, rematches and teams streaking in both directions lead the way of the 10 questions I have for games taking place over the next few days.

  1. Can Illinois get transition opportunities against Wisconsin? (Wisconsin @ Illinois, Saturday, 2:30 PM EST, Fox) Hoop-Math data shows that Illinois ranks among the top 20 in both percentage of shots that come in transition and transition field goal percentage. In Wisconsin’s five losses they have allowed an average of 13 fast break points to opposition. In Badgers’ victories, opponents are averaging just 6.6 fast break points.
  2. Can Cade Cunningham carry the Cowboys over the Longhorns? (Texas @ Oklahoma State, Saturday, 3 PM EST, ABC) After a pair of early fouls against TCU on Wednesday, Cunningham played just eight minutes in the first half without scoring a point. He finished the game with 15 points over the final 10 minutes, but an ill-advised shot attempt with the clock winding down in a tie game ultimately cost the Cowboys. Cunningham finished with a season-low two rebounds and two assists.
  3. Will UCLA be able to get post scoring from Cody Riley up against Evan Mobley? (UCLA @ USC, Saturday, 10 PM EST, Pac-12 Network) The Bruins picked up a win against Oregon State last week despite shooting just 32.7 percent from the field. Mick Cronin wants to use Cody Riley’s time on the court with the ball in the big man’s hands. Riley, a strong but undersized big, will be challenged by the talented Evan Mobley who is averaging over three blocks a game over his previous eight games.
  4. Which part of the first matchup will carry over into the Big Ten tilt between Iowa and Indiana? (Iowa @ Indiana, Sunday, Noon EST, Fox) In the first matchup between these teams, Iowa led and seemed to have control for the opening 28 minutes of action. Then Indiana went on its 27-6 run which flipped control of the game. The Hoosiers lived at the free-throw line with a free-throw rate of 66 percent, which led to 21 makes on 35 attempts.
  5. Can Maryland win back-to-back league games for the first time this season? (Maryland @ Penn State, Friday, 7 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) Maryland has followed up each of its three previous Big Ten wins by losing its next game. The Terps will be challenged by the Penn State duo of Izaiah Brockington and Myreon Jones, who are both averaging more than 18 points per game over their last four home games.
  6. Can Alabama make a run at a #1 Seed? (Alabama @ Missouri, Saturday, Noon EST, SEC Network) As of Thursday, the Crimson Tide have 10 wins across Quad 1 and Quad 2 teams, the most in the nation. Missouri is one of two remaining teams on Alabama’s regular-season schedule that would qualify as a Quad 1 opponent. These teams are polar opposites of one another from beyond the three-point line, with Alabama ranking first in offensive and defensive three-point percentage in SEC play, while Missouri ranks 12th in both categories.
  7. Will Villanova be focused at the tip following its loss at St. John’s? (Georgetown @ Villanova, Sunday, 2:30 PM EST, Fox) Villanova’s offensive efficiency against St. John’s was a season low by more than 15 points. In the first matchup with Georgetown, the Wildcats trailed at the half, 46-33, before coming back to win the game by 13. It truly was a tale of two halves with Georgetown shooting 58 percent in the first and just 27 percent in the final 20 minutes.
  8. Can Posh Alexander continue his hot play and further push the Johnnies into bubble contention? (St. John’s @ Providence, 2 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) The St. John’s freshman guard is averaging 16.8 points per game during the current five-game winning streak of the Red Storm. During this stretch, Alexander has found his stroke from three-point range having made 10-of-23 (43.5%). In the team’s first 14 games, Alexander was just 5-of-22 (22.7%) from beyond the arc.
  9. Can LSU end its recent funk and find its three-point shot? (Florida @ LSU, Saturday, 2 PM EST, ESPN) On the one hand, three of LSU’s four recent losses have come against top 15 ranked opponents. On the other hand, over their last five games, the Tigers are shooting just 27 percent from beyond the arc. One player the Tigers particularly need to improve from deep is Cam Thomas. Over LSU’s first seven games, Thomas was making 36.8 percent of his three-point attempts, but since the calendar hit 2021, Thomas is just 17-of-74 (23%) from deep.
  10. Can the Tar Heels avoid the trap that is a struggling Duke team? (North Carolina @ Duke, Saturday, 6 PM EST, ESPN) North Carolina heads to Durham without a Quad 1 win. While Duke sits at just 7-6, with a NET Ranking of 66th prior to action on Thursday, the Blue Devils would qualify as a Quad 1 opponent. The Tar Heels must be cognizant of their turnover woes, especially coming off committing 17 in the loss at Clemson.

2020-21 RTC16: Week 10

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on February 1st, 2021

Teams that began the week ranked among the AP Top 25 lost a combined 13 games this past week, with a handful of other games being too close for comfort. While the RTC16 top five went unscathed, last week’s rankings have undergone a shakeup following the up-and-down week. No one climbed higher in a week than Oklahoma which used wins against Texas and Alabama to vault into the top 10. The state of Texas continues to dominate the RTC16 with four teams ranked among the top 12, but it is now Houston who is ranked second among Lone Star State teams. Kelvin Sampson’s Cougar team is now 15-1, with its lone blemish coming by a point against Tulsa.

CONFERENCE BREAKDOWN: Big 12 (4), Big Ten (4), ACC (3), SEC (2), AAC (1), Big East (1), WCC (1)

RISING

  • Illinois: The Illini picked up a signature win with their victory over Iowa on Friday. Trent Frazier scored a season-high 24 points and matched his high-mark with four made three-pointers. Prior to Friday, Frazier had been averaging just 7.3 points per game over his previous seven games.
  • Ohio State: After a shaky performance on Wednesday against Penn State, a game in which the Buckeyes overcame an eight-point deficit in the final ten minutes, Ohio State defeated Michigan State with ease. At 8-4 in Big Ten play, second-place is within reach for Chris Holtmann’s squad. Sophomore EJ Liddell has stepped up his game recently having scored 20 or more points in each of the last three games.
  • Virginia Tech: The Hokies had scored 34 points in the opening 28 minutes against Virginia over the weekend. In the final 12 minutes, Virginia Tech outscored UVA 31-7 to grab a key ACC win. Tech’s 2-0 week comes following the suspension of Tyrece Radford. Keve Aluma’s presence was large scoring 14 against Notre Dame and then 29 against Virginia. Aluma was coming off of a two point, 1-of-10 showing in a loss at Syracuse the weekend prior.

FALLING

  • Kansas: Kansas snapped its three-game skid midweek against TCU, but came crashing back down with an uninspiring and lopsided loss against Tennessee. While the at-times maligned David McCormack was productive, the Jayhawks trio of Ochai Agbaji, Christian Braun, and Jalen Wilson could not buy many makes from three-point range, combining to go 6-of-32 from deep in KU’s two games last week.
  • Marquette: After a 5-2 start which included wins against Creighton and Wisconsin, Marquette’s season continued in the wrong direction this past week with losses to Providence and St. John’s. Now sitting at 8-9 and 4-7 in the Big East, the Golden Eagles are headed for their worst season since Steve Wojciechowski’s first year at Marquette.
  • Michigan State: Thursday night’s 30-point loss at the hands of Rutgers was the most lopsided loss to an unranked team during Tom Izzo’s tenure at Michigan State. It was only the fourth time an Izzo coached Spartan team had lost by 30 or more points, the last time having come in December of 2008 against #1 North Carolina. Michigan State followed up its loss at Rutgers with a 17-point loss against Ohio State. Michigan State’s six-conference losses have come by an average margin of defeat of 16 points.

NOTABLE GAMES OF THE WEEK

  • Monday: Oklahoma @ Texas Tech, 9 PM EST, ESPN
  • Tuesday: Baylor @ Texas, 7 PM EST, ESPN
  • Thursday: Ohio State @ Iowa, 7 PM EST, ESPN
  • Saturday: Alabama @ Missouri, 8:30 PM EST, Network
  • Saturday: UCLA @ USC, 10 PM EST,
  • Sunday: Xavier @ Villanova, 2:30 PM EST, Fox

Ten Questions to Consider: Challenges In and Across Conferences

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on January 29th, 2021

The final weekend of January brings important conference tilts with teams trying to stay at the top of their leagues, others trying to end skids, and those in the Big 12 and SEC playing for conference bragging rights. With under 50 days to go until Selection Sunday, here are 10 questions I have for games this weekend:

  1. Can Iowa play enough defense to leave Champaign with a victory? (Iowa @ Illinois, Friday, 9 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) The Hawkeyes led Indiana 53-44 with 12 minutes to go last week before surrendering the lead from a 23-3 Hoosiers’ run over the next nine minutes. The Illini’s Kofi Cockburn enters this game with seven consecutive double-doubles and 11 on the season, matching Western Kentucky’s Charles Bassey for the most in the nation. Entering play on Thursday, Illinois is one of three teams to rank among the top 20 in both two-point and three-point field-goal percentages.
  2. Will Alabama exploit the percentages surrounding the Oklahoma defense? (Alabama @ Oklahoma, Saturday, Noon EST, ESPN) Over 47 percent of Alabama’s field-goal attempts come from behind the three-point line. And while they are making 36 percent of those attempts on the season, the Crimson Tide have made an SEC best 41.2 percent during a 9-0 start to league play. In this Big 12/SEC Challenge, the Tide face an Oklahoma defense that both sees opponents attempt more threes than the national average and make them at a clip of 35.8 percent, ranking 258th in the nation.
  3. Can Santiago Vescovi snap out of his recent shooting troubles? (Kansas @ Tennessee, Saturday, 6 PM EST, ESPN) Tennessee’s Santiago Vescovi is 5-of-19 (26.3%) from beyond the arc over his last four games. In all other games this season, Vescovi has gone 24-of-55 (43.6%). A hot Vescovi could send Kansas to its fourth loss in five games.
  4. Will Sharife Cooper’s excellence be slowed by the tenacious Baylor defense? (Auburn @ Baylor, Saturday, 4 PM EST, ESPN) Since becoming eligible six game ago, Auburn freshman Sharife Cooper is averaging 22.3 points, 8.7 assists and 5.0 rebounds a game. In his last game, Cooper scored 28 points in just 28 minutes, thanks in part to an 18-for-21 night at the line. Baylor’s suffocating defense led by Davion Mitchell rarely gives up looks around the rim, putting pressure on Cooper to show a three-point stroke that has not been there yet this season.
  5. How much of Boise State’s great start to the season was a product of its schedule? (Boise State @ Colorado State, Friday, 11 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) Boise State began the year 13-1 overall and 9-0 in Mountain West play before dropping a game Wednesday night to Colorado State. Of the Broncos’ 13 wins, only one (BYU) has come against a team with a KenPom ranking of #175 or better. In Wednesday night’s game, Boise State had no answer for Colorado State’s David Roddy, who logged 27 points and 15 rebounds. Roddy is one of seven players in the nation averaging 16 or more points, nine or more rebounds, and two or more assists per game.
  6. Can West Virginia continue its hot shooting from beyond the arc? (Florida @ West Virginia, Saturday, 2 PM EST, ESPN) Since shooting 2-of-21 from deep against Oklahoma six games ago, the Mountaineers have made 52-of-112 three-pointers since. Miles McBride is making a Big 12 best 53 percent in league play, including 12 of his last 19 attempts.
  7. Can Missouri State throw a wrench into the Ramblers 8-1 start to MVC play? (Loyola Chicago @ Missouri State, Sunday, 3 PM EST, CBS Sports Network) Last week, Missouri State played undefeated Drake on back-to-back nights. In the first game, the Bears blew a 15-point second-half lead and on the next wasted a two-point lead with under six minutes to go. Missouri State has the MVC’s top-two scorers in Isiaih Mosley (22.9 PPG) and Gaige Prim (17.1 PPG) and the league’s top rebounder (Prim, 9.8/G).
  8. What Michigan State team will show up in Columbus? (Michigan State @ Ohio State, Sunday, 1 PM EST, CBS) Prior to Thursday night’s no-show against Rutgers, Michigan State had last played on January 8. Through the Spartans’ first six Big Ten games, they have shot 40.8 percent from the field and just 32.5 percent on three-point attempts.
  9. How far can St. Bonaventure ride its defense? (George Mason @ St. Bonaventure, Saturday, 2 PM EST, CBS Sports Network) The Bonnies are 8-1 overall and 6-1 in the A-10. With a defensive effective field-goal percentage which ranks among the top 25 nationally, St. Bonaventure is allowing an A-10 low 87.6 points per 100 possessions in A-10 games. The Bonnies are still waiting for more from the team’s leading scorer Kyle Lofton, who is just 3-of-29 from three-point range this season, a year after he made 41 percent in conference-play.
  10. Which Creighton team shows up on the road this weekend? (Creighton @ DePaul, Saturday, 8 PM EST, CBS Sports Network) Creighton overcame a 16-point second-half deficit on Wednesday to beat Seton Hall. While the Bluejays are 4-2 on the road, a pair of those wins have been by a mere two points. Creighton scores 6.7 fewer points per game on the road while also allowing its opponents to score 5.3 more points per game when playing away from the CHI Health Center.

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