2018-19 RTC16: Week Seven

Posted by Walker Carey on January 7th, 2019

Winning conference road games is difficult — it always has been and always will be. #8 Kansas and #11 Nevada were reintroduced to that notion on Saturday, with both top-10 teams falling hard in hostile road environments. The Jayhawks’ loss at Hilton Coliseum to a strong #15 Iowa State squad was not necessarily surprising — the Cyclones closed as a two-point favorite — but it was the way in which Bill Self‘s group faltered that raised some eyebrows around the country. Kansas finished the 77-60 defeat with an astounding 24 turnovers while also hitting just six of their 20 three-point attempts, while usual standout performers Lagerald Vick and Dedric Lawson combined for just 19 points on 7-of-19 shooting. The weekend went from bad to worse for Kansas on Sunday when Self announced that big man Udoka Azubuike — who was sidelined in Saturday’s loss — will miss the remainder of the season with a hand injury. Nevada’s loss was more unexpected, as the Wolf Pack dropped an 85-58 laugher to a New Mexico team that entered the contest with a paltry 7-6 record. Eric Musselman‘s team suffered through an uncharacteristically poor offensive outing — shooting just 33 percent from the field — and it let a 12-point halftime deficit balloon to the final margin with a no-show second half. Standout forward Caleb Martin had a particularly brutal evening, finishing with just eight points on 2-of-14 shooting. It was a rough weekend for these two teams, but knowing college basketball, a majority of the other top squads will also stumble on the road at some point over the balance of the season. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

  • Duke remains #1. The Blue Devils did not show any rust in their first game since December 20, as they easily dispatched Clemson en route to an 87-68 win. Duke is now 12-1 with its lone loss coming by just two points to #5 Gonzaga in the Maui Invitational title game. It is difficult to argue any team being more worthy of the top ranking at this juncture, as the Blue Devils are the only squad currently ranked among the top 10 in both offense and defense, per KenPom. Duke continues ACC play this week with road trips to Wake Forest on Tuesday and #16 Florida State on Saturday. That trip to Tallahassee on Saturday will provide the Blue Devils with an opportunity to grab their first impressive road victory of the season, which is the only minor deficiency on an otherwise sterling résumé.
  • #6 Michigan State continues to impress. The Spartans scored arguably the most impressive victory of the week with an 86-77 triumph at Ohio State on Saturday. Tom Izzo‘s team was already behind the eight-ball to begin the game, as junior guard Joshua Langford missed his second straight contest with an ankle injury. Things got more dire for the Spartans early with Ohio State building a seven-point halftime lead on its home floor. Undeterred, Michigan State showed remarkable poise and urgency throughout the second stanza, outscoring the Buckeyes by 16 points and emerging with a terrific resume-enhancing road win. The Spartans have now won eight straight games and look to be right there with #4 Michigan as the class of the Big Ten.
  • #9 Virginia Tech deserves more of your attention. It is peculiar to consider a 13-1 ACC team as flying under the radar, but that has been the case this season with Virginia Tech. The Hokies’ lone loss was a one-point defeat on the road at Penn State in late November, but since then, Buzz Williams‘ team has been red hot. Victories over Notre Dame and Boston College last week moved Virginia Tech’s win streak to eight games and counting. Sophomore guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker has emerged as a premier scorer and junior forward Kerry Blackshear, Jr. is a versatile presence on both ends of the floor. The Hokies might not get the same national attention as conference foes #1 Duke and #2 Virginia, but they are certainly a team to keep an eye on as ACC play progresses.

Game of the Week. #10 North Carolina vs. #13 NC State. Tuesday’s intrastate showdown is normally contentious, but this early conference clash will hold even greater significance than usual with the Tar Heels and Wolfpack both fighting for position in the upper echelon of the ACC. A key factor in this battle in Raleigh will be NC State’s ability to deal with North Carolina’s size advantage. The Wolfpack often play with a four-guard lineup, which could allow Tar Heels forwards Luke Maye and Garrison Brooks to use their edge in length to dictate the game on both ends of the court.

Keep Tabs On. #3 Tennessee vs. Missouri; #7 Texas Tech vs. Oklahoma; #8 Kansas vs. TCU; #10 North Carolina vs. Louisville; #1 Duke vs. #16 Florida State.

Conference Call: ACC (6), Big 12 (3), SEC (3), Big Ten (2), WCC (1), Mountain West (1).

WCarey (318 Posts)

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