2018-19 RTC 16: Week One

Posted by Walker Carey on November 26th, 2018

The college basketball season really got cooking during a Feast Week that featured two top-five match-ups that could easily be played again at the Final Four in Minneapolis. #1 Gonzaga and #3 Duke tipped things off Wednesday evening in what was an extremely entertaining Maui Invitational title game. The veteran Bulldogs led by as many as 16 points before withstanding a furious Blue Devils rally to escape with a thrilling 89-87 victory. Not to be outdone, #2 Kansas and #5 Tennessee turned in their own early season classic on Friday in the title game of the Preseason NIT. The Jayhawks used a dynamite performance from star forward Dedric Lawson — coupled with the good fortune of Tennessee star big man Grant Williams fouling out prior to overtime — to emerge victorious with an 87-81 result. The college hoops regular season is much more of a marathon than a sprint, but these early season treats serve as a good reminder of how compelling it can be when we have the pleasure of watching some of the best teams in the country face off against one another.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

  • Gonzaga is the new #1 team. Following its impressive win over #3 Duke in the Maui Invitational title game, Gonzaga is the new #1 team in this week’s RTC16. Mark Few‘s squad is loaded with the talent all over the court, highlighted by sophomore guard Zach Norvell Jr. and junior forward Rui Hachimura. What might be the most impressive aspect of the current Bulldogs is that they have emerged to these heights without the services of excellent junior forward Killian Tillie, who remains sidelined with an ankle injury. Gonzaga’s non-conference slate does not get much easier this week, as it faces a good North Dakota State program on Monday before hitting the road to play in what will be a raucous environment at Creighton on Saturday.

  • Unbeaten #5 Michigan is making early season waves. Many figured the Wolverines could take a step back this season with Mo Wagner, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahman, and Duncan Robinson gone from last season’s national runner-up squad. That has not been the case thus far, however, as John Beilein continues to show he is one of the best coaches in the country in player development. Junior guard Zavier Simpson and senior swingman Charles Matthews have shown sizable improvement at both ends of the court while freshman forward Ignas Brazdeikis looks like he could be the next great Michigan scorer. The 6-0 Wolverines have a tough week ahead of them, as they are set to host #10 North Carolina on Wednesday before welcoming a strong Purdue team in an early Big Ten battle on Saturday.
  • The Big 12 remains loaded. #2 Kansas drew a majority of the conference’s preseason attention, so it is fair if the casual fan did not realize the Big 12 is once again projected to be the deepest league in the country. #13 Texas, #14 Texas Tech, and #15 Kansas State have all shown in the early season that they will be legitimate challengers to the Jayhawks in the Big 12. Bill Self’s group has won 14 straight Big 12 titles, so it is logical to say that the conference will still go through Lawrence, but early signs indicate Kansas will have to be on its game each time out in conference play.

Poll Defenses.

  • “From a resume standpoint, it is hard to argue against the Zags as they just knocked off the previous number one team, Duke, on neutral court. Duke looked like the clear top team by a considerable margin and Gonzaga’s win was extremely impressive, especially without Killian Tillie. Gonzaga’s talent and experience also make it a legitimate choice to be ranked number one, so it is not just the resume. I also don’t think it is an overreaction to place it at one because it was ranked so high in the preseason. As to why I had Gonzaga jump Kansas, that is a little more subjective. From watching both teams multiple times so far, I feel Gonzaga is the better team and I still have some reservations regarding Kansas’ point guard play and the consistency of Quentin Grimes.” – RTC16 pollster Brad Cavallaro, explaining his reasoning for putting Gonzaga at #1.
  • “I understand that North Carolina lost to a previously unranked Texas team at a neutral site, but I’m not going to overreact to a Thanksgiving Day loss in Las Vegas to the first good opponent the Heels have faced – especially one that has their number for some reason (7-1 vs UNC with Roy Williams in Chapel Hill). It is also worth noting that the Longhorns made 45.8 percent of their three-point attempts in that game, yet haven’t made over 32.2 percent in any other outing. Finally, North Carolina throttled UCLA in the second half the next day so I think it is just fine.” – RTC16 pollster Brad Jenkins, advising not to overreact to #10 North Carolina falling from the ranks of the unbeaten.

Game of the Week. #5 Michigan vs. #10 North Carolina. This top 10 battle on Wednesday night in Ann Arbor as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge will tell us where both teams are in the early season. The Wolverines are currently unbeaten and have easily won all six of their games, while the Tar Heels lost a close neutral site game to #13 Texas but have otherwise been dominant. Something to keep an eye on here will be how North Carolina freshmen Coby White and Nassir Little handle both Michigan’s ferocious defensive pressure and their first experience playing in a hostile road environment.

Keep Tabs On. #9 Michigan State vs. Louisville; #7 Nevada vs. Loyola-Chicago; #3 Duke vs. Indiana; #4 Virginia vs. Maryland; #15 Kansas State vs. Marquette; #5 Michigan vs. Purdue; #7 Nevada vs. USC.

Conference Call: Big 12 (4), ACC (4), SEC (3), Big Ten (3), WCC (1), Mountain West (1).

WCarey (318 Posts)

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