Ten Questions to Consider: First Weekend of December

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on December 1st, 2017

The first weekend of games in December is upon us. Here are 10 things to consider throughout the weekend.

Xavier (USA Today Images)

  1. Will Cincinnati get a win at Xavier? Cincinnati has lost their last six true road games at Xavier in the Crosstown Shootout, and this will be the first true road game of the season for the Bearcats. Xavier will be the second Cincinnati opponent with a top 100 KenPom rating and the first within the top 50.
  2. Will Wichita State make a statement against the Big 12? A weekend trip to Baylor starts a stretch for Wichita State in which three of their next four opponents come from the Big 12. The Shockers demolished Savannah State last week, but several consistency questions arose while they were in Hawaii. Wichita State needed a second-half rally to beat California, but just days later sleptwalk through a second-half collapse against Notre Dame.
  3. Who will control the pace in SMU vs. USC? Last year’s matchup between these two teams had 73 possessions, 9.5 more than the SMU season average and its highest total of the season. Coming into this year’s match-up, SMU ranks among the bottom 50 nationally in pace, while USC ranks in the top 75 overall (and top 20 in offensive pace).
  4. Which Arizona team shows up in Las Vegas? Arizona has had no problems winning at the McKale Center this season (4-0) but its recent trip to the Bahamas resulted in three straight disappointing losses. The Wildcats have a marquee game upcoming against top-10 Texas A&M, but will they avoid looking past an interesting UNLV team? The match-up to watch will be down low between freshman bigs DeAndre Ayton of Arizona and Brandon McCoy of UNLV.
  5. Is Syracuse any good or simply winning against a bad schedule? At 6-0, Syracuse received just six points in the latest Coaches Poll, placing the Orange 42nd overall. Jim Boeheim’s team travels to south Florida to take on #2 Kansas Saturday. In Syracuse’s narrow two-point win against Maryland earlier this week, it shot just 3-of-18 from beyond the arc. On the flip side, Kansas comes into the game ranked among the top 10 nationally from distance and the top 20 inside the arc. This game in Miami will represent the first trip away from the Carrier Dome for Syracuse and only the second game outside of Lawrence for Kansas.
  6. Can the Atlantic 10 grab a quality win? The conference as a whole has gone 5-25 against KenPom top 100 teams and will have 10 games against top 100 opponents this weekend. The two games that could hold the most importance are Rhode Island hosting Providence and VCU hosting Old Dominion. VCU’s best win to date has come against a mediocre California team. The Rams cannot afford to look ahead to their next game, a match-up against former head coach Shaka Smart and Texas.
  7. Who will stop the bleeding in the Big Ten? Eleven of 14 Big Ten teams enter conference play this weekend having just lost a game to an ACC opponent, and only five of those teams currently sit in Joe Lunardi’s latest bracketology. The mid-tier pack of Iowa, Michigan, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin have a combined two wins so far against KenPom top 100 teams. Each team has to play one of its first two conference games on the road, so it is imperative that they end their losing streaks sooner rather than later.
  8. Will the free throw line be the difference in Seton Hall vs. Louisville? After missing nine free throws in its opener, Louisville has missed a total of just 11 in its last four games. Seton Hall missed 17 freebies in its two games last week at the Barclays Center, including 10 in a win against Vanderbilt. In a game in which points will come at a premium, making a healthy number of free throws could be the difference.
  9. Will Michigan State protect the ball in conference play? A year ago, Michigan State ranked outside the top 300 nationally in turnover percentage, and that deficit has continued into this season. Michigan State begins Big Ten play against a Nebraska team that ranks among the top 100 in opponents’ turnover rate. Sparty would do well this weekend to really focus on taking care of the ball to get off to a good start in conference play.
  10. How good is Arkansas? Arkansas already has logged four top 100 wins even though RealTimeRPI gives the Razorbacks no such wins. While the different analytic systems have differing opinions on this team, one thing is for certain — two of its seniors are deadly from beyond the arc. Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon are each shooting better than 50 percent on more than 30 attempts from three-point range. Arkansas faces a Houston team that allowed its only top 100 three-point shooting opponent Wake Forest to nail 11-of-26 attempts from distance earlier in the season.
Matthew Eisenberg (110 Posts)

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