Ten Questions to Consider: MLK Weekend Hoops

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on January 13th, 2018

Last weekend 11 of the 25 teams in the AP Poll lost a game. As we already know, in conference play, anything is possible. Here are 10 things to watch for this weekend.

Mike Brey Really Needs His Point Guard Back (USA Today Images)

  1. Can a short-handed Notre Dame find a way to stay close against North Carolina? Without the injured Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell available in its last two games, Notre Dame has shot 38.2 percent on two-point attempts and 23.1 percent on three-point attempts (yet still managed to beat Syracuse — go figure). With Farrell’s status still unclear heading into this weekend, the Irish will need production from T.J. Gibbs, Rex Pflueger, and Martinas Geben.
  2. Will the Cintas Center be the difference for Xavier? After dropping two straight games on the road, Xavier returns home to play Creighton. The Musketeers allowed both of their opponents last week (Providence and Villanova) to shoot the ball considerably better than what they typically allow.
  3. Can Texas A&M avoid an 0-5 start in the SEC?  Since starting the year 11-1, Texas A&M has lost its first four SEC games. The Aggies are coming off of a pair of one-point losses and need to find a way to turn its fortunes around very quickly. A&M hosts a Tennessee team that has struggled to keep its opponents off the offensive glass all season long, an area in which Texas A&M has shined.
  4. Is this an early “must-win” if Michigan State plans on winning the Big Ten? At 4-1 in the Big Ten, Michigan State is off to a fine start. That said, with the only loss coming to Ohio State and only a single game against Purdue to come, the Spartans could find themselves on the short end of several tie-breakers if they lose some games at home. Michigan State barely defeated Rutgers this week and now intrastate rival Michigan comes to town. Last season, star forward Miles Bridges shot over 54 percent on two-point attempts in conference play, but so far this year he is shooting just 37 percent on those same shots.
  5. Might Kansas be stuck in a bad situation on Saturday? Last season’s home win for Kansas against Kansas State ended with a missed call that would have forced overtime. Gary Bedore of The Kansas City Star recently wrote that Kansas head coach Bill Self brought up that game: “I know that coaches and players use every motivational tactic that they can that is natural. That is certainly a natural one. I can certainly understand why they were upset and disappointed last year leaving Lawrence.” With a trip to West Virginia to follow on Monday, Kansas better not look past a Kansas State team that has plenty of motivation on its side.
  6. Will Gonzaga continue to shine in the game leading up to Saint Mary’s? Before next Thursday night’s showdown between Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s, the Zags must handle San Francisco on Saturday. In its last 10 regular season conference games prior to the St. Mary’s game, Gonzaga is undefeated with a winning margin of 22.3 points. Coming off of a four-point performance in his last game, watch for Gonzaga to try to get Johnathan Williams going early.
  7. Can Texas weather the emotional storm as it heads to Oklahoma State? A double-overtime win can often lead to a team coming out slow in its next game. Not only is Texas doing just that this weekend, they are also dealing with the news of teammate Andrew Young battling leukemia. While Shaka Smart‘s team has been among the best in the country defensively, his offense continues to lag behind.
  8. Is Oklahoma’s defense the key moving forward for the Sooners? While Trae Young is the first, second and third thing discussed when Oklahoma basketball is mentioned, the Sooners’ defense deserves attention as well. They have a top 40 defensive efficiency and have held five of their last seven opponents to under 30 percent shooting on three-point attempts.
  9. Can Northwestern get itself back on the right side of the bubble? Northwestern sits at one game below .500 in Big Ten play and without a KenPom top 100 non-conference victory on its resume. The Wildcats travel to Bloomington to deal with an Indiana squad that has been wildly inconsistent all season long. With Big Ten co-leader Ohio State coming right after that, this is where Northwestern can turn things around.
  10. Can N.C. State take their recent strong play on the road? NC State is coming off of home wins against Duke and Clemson, a considerable improvement to how the Wolfpack started ACC play — with a pair of double-digit road losses. The difference has been with the Wolfpack’s offense, as NC State logged an average offensive efficiency of 121 in the wins and 85 in the losses. The Wolfpack must find a way to produce points against the nation’s best defense, Virginia.
Matthew Eisenberg (57 Posts)

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