Ten Questions to Consider: Christmas Weekend

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on December 22nd, 2017

Other than the eight teams participating in the Diamond Head Classic, there will be a three-day break from action beginning on Sunday. Here are 10 things to watch while binging to basketball and Christmas carols on Friday and Saturday.

Texas Is a Tough Team to Figure Out (USA Today Images)

  1. How concerned should Texas be with its offense? Texas currently ranks among the bottom 20 nationally in both three-point and free-throw percentage, is 141st in adjusted offensive efficiency, and only one Big 12 team since the 2006-07 season has finished conference play with both a winning record and offense outside the top 100 (2014 Kansas State).
  2. Will the third time be the charm for Northern Iowa? Northern Iowa and Xavier met twice in a span of six days last season with the Musketeers handily winning both games. Xavier held Northern Iowa to 32.7 percent shooting on two-point attempts while forcing the Panthers’ third- and fourth-worst turnover rates last season. The one thing going for Northern Iowa? Xavier has only played one true road game so far this season (a win at Wisconsin).
  3. What will Trae Young do next? Oklahoma’s Trae Young is coming off of a 26-point, 22-assist game against Northwestern State earlier this week. The sensational freshman guard currently leads the country in both points and assists per game, and no player has finished among the top 10 nationally in both categories dating back to the 2001-02 season. Only five players have finished among the top ten in scoring and top 20 in assists over that same time period. What’s next?
  4. Has Marshall’s Dan D’Antoni found his Steve Nash? Under Dan D’Antoni, Marshall has consistently been one of the fastest-paced teams in college basketball. The high-octane offense is led by Jon Elmore. Elmore, like Oklahoma’s Young, currently ranks among the top 10 nationally in both points and assists per game. Elmore’s 23.5 PPG could see an uptick as well, as he is currently shooting a lousy 25.7 percent from three-point range — nearly 10 percent lower than his first two years at Marshall.
  5. Can USC end its non-conference schedule on a high note? Having lost four of its last six games, USC is not playing its best basketball heading to Hawaii for the Diamond Head Classic. In a loss earlier this week to Princeton, USC allowed the Tigers to shoot 69 percent on two-point attempts and 38 percent on nearly 40 three-point attempts. Akron shoots a lot of three-pointers and makes them at an above average rate, so a losing streak, a long trip to Hawaii, and the recent news that De’Anthony Melton has been declared ineligible all have the potential to submarine USC’s resume.
  6. Will Kentucky give UCLA another CBS Sports Classic beatdown? The last time that Kentucky and UCLA played in the CBS Sports Classic, the Wildcats held the Bruins to a measly seven first-half points. The match-up will look vastly different this year, as only four players who played a combined 53 minutes in the 2017 Sweet Sixteen game return. Both teams have struggled at times in securing the ball, but Kentucky has a big advantage in forcing turnovers while UCLA ranks among the bottom 30 nationally in doing so.
  7. Will North Carolina be affected by its midweek loss to Wofford? In its shocking home loss to Wofford earlier this week, North Carolina was held to a season low offensive rebounding rate of 25 percent. The combination of few second chance opportunities and a poor shooting night proved to be too much for the Tar Heels. They must recover quickly to face an Ohio State team that has won five straight games. While Ohio State sits among the top 30 in opponents’ offensive rebounding rate, they are coming off of a game in which they allowed The Citadel to grab 17 of its own misses.
  8. Will Connecticut be ready for Auburn? Two days removed from a game at Arizona and with an AAC opener against Wichita State next weekend, this tricky game at Auburn could prove even more difficult than usual for Connecticut. The 10-1 Tigers have six wins against teams outside of the KenPom top 150 thus far, with four players averaging double-figures and six players averaging at least eight points per game. Without a win against either Arizona or Auburn, Connecticut would be looking at a non-conference resume that includes only a single win against an NCAA Tournament hopeful (Oregon).
  9. Will Missouri State protect its home court against Loyola-Chicago? Missouri State, the Missouri Valley Conference’s preseason favorite, begins conference play against a Loyola-Chicago team that beat Florida earlier this season. The Bears have arguably the conference’s toughest conference schedule to begin conference play, with Loyola followed by games against Valparaiso, Northern Iowa and Illinois State. Missouri State’s defense will be tested as Loyola-Chicago is ranked among the nation’s top five in three-point percentage.
  10. Was the struggle against Furman a sign of things to come for Tennessee? Tennessee owns an RPI in the top 20 with a quality win over Purdue and no bad losses. While Tennessee has a defensive efficiency that ranks among the top 30 nationally, it also ranks among the bottom 100 in both opponents’ offensive rebounding rate and opponents’ free throw rate. Tennessee faces a Wake Forest team that rebounds well and gets to the line often. The Demon Deacons are an above-average shooting team across the board and are led by a duo of Bryant Crawford and Keyshawn Woods who combine to score 32.2 points per game.
Matthew Eisenberg (143 Posts)

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