2018-19 RTC16: Week Four

Posted by Walker Carey on December 17th, 2018

As full conference play nears, it is becoming increasingly clear what the strengths and weaknesses are among the top teams in college basketball. That was certainly the case Saturday night in Chapel Hill when #8 North Carolina used a first half offensive explosion to pace its way to a 103-90 victory over #6 Gonzaga. The game went a long way to show that the Tar Heels still possess one of the country’s most dynamic offenses and will be reckoned with this season. Senior guard Cameron Johnson and senior forward Luke Maye combined for 45 points in the winning effort, while the team’s duo at point guard – freshman Koby White and junior Seventh Woods – teamed up to contribute 29 points and seven assists. North Carolina still has its defensive flaws, but the Tar Heels have enough firepower to beat anyone. On the other side of the coin, Gonzaga’s defensive issues again presented significant problems, as the Zags allowed 50+ points in both halves and gave up 13 North Carolina three-pointers. Mark Few‘s club will not be exposed on the defensive end of the floor during WCC play this season, but its middling defensive efficiency (63rd nationally) shows the Bulldogs need to work some things out before the NCAA Tournament commences in three months. This week’s Quick n’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Thoughts.

Kansas is the new #1. The Jayhawks are now in the top spot in the RTC16 after a home victory over Villanova moved their overall record to 9-0. Kansas has put together an impressive non-conference résumé that already includes wins over #4 Tennessee and #11 Michigan State, but it must also be noted that the Jayhawks have survived their fair share of close calls. Six of Kansas’ nine wins have been decided by single-digits and a legitimate argument can be made that Bill Self‘s team could probably be 6-3 at this point. The Jayhawks, however, have been able to make just enough winning plays in each game to remain unbeaten, but it could eventually catch up to them. Kansas has another challenging week ahead, as it hosts South Dakota on Tuesday before a road trip to play a solid Arizona State squad in Tempe on Saturday night.

#3 Virginia is still unbeaten. The Cavaliers’ historic upset loss to UMBC in last season’s NCAA Tournament has likely resulted in being underrated this season. Virginia is now also 9-0 after using its trademark stifling defense to hold VCU to just 29.5 percent shooting in Sunday’s 57-49 victory. Much like Tony Bennett‘s teams of the past, the Cavaliers’ strength remains defense but its offensive ability should not be questioned. Junior guard Kyle Guy and sophomore swingman De’Andre Hunter are talented offensive players who can carry the team on their shoulders. Yes, the UMBC loss was embarrassing, but last season is last season. This is a different Virginia club, and you can doubt it at your own peril.

The Pac-12 is having a miserable season. Noting the Pac-12’s struggles at this point might be seen as beating a seriously dead horse, but it needs to be mentioned just how poorly the league is performing this season. Only one league member (Arizona State) got a vote in this week’s RTC16, and preseason league favorite Oregon is among the most disappointing teams in college basketball (now facing even more uncertainty due to an injury to star freshman Bol Bol). Teams like Washington, UCLA and USC have good talent but have thus far been unable to put together a consistent stretch. It is still too early to consider the season a total failure for the Pac-12, but things are rapidly trending in that direction.

Game of the Week. # 2 Duke vs. #10 Texas Tech.  It will be a contrast in styles when the Blue Devils and Red Raiders meet Thursday night at Madison Square Garden. Duke’s star-studded roster is known for its ability to get out in the open court and score points in bunches. The Blue Devils rank second nationally in offense, per KenPom, and have just once finished a game this season with fewer than 80 points. Considering last season’s departures, Texas Tech is a big surprise in entering this game at 10-0. The Red Raiders have been able to get off to the unbeaten start by being relentless on defense (first nationally). The individual match-up to keep an eye on here will be between Duke freshman standout R.J. Barrett and Texas Tech sophomore Jarrett Culver. Both players are dynamic scorers and watching them go head-to-head should be appointment viewing for all college hoops fans.

Keep Tabs On. #16 Buffalo vs. Syracuse; #9 Auburn vs. NC State; #16 Buffalo vs. Marquette; #8 North Carolina vs. Kentucky.

Conference Call: ACC (5), Big Ten (3), SEC (3), Big 12 (2), WCC (1), Mountain West (1), MAC (1).

WCarey (299 Posts)

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