2018-19 RTC16: Week Eight

Posted by Walker Carey on January 14th, 2019

The early portion of conference play often comes with observations about how new coaches are working out in their programs. Those quick-hit observations can often be misguided because of a small sample size, but there are times where such declarations can clearly be taken as a sign of positive things to come. For example, take a look at what Kermit Davis is doing in his first season at #13 Ole Miss. The Rebels went just 12-20 last season and were picked to finish dead last in the SEC preseason media poll, but a 13-2 start featuring a resounding 82-67 home win over #11 Auburn on Wednesday and a comeback victory over archrival Mississippi State on Saturday have gotten everyone’s attention. It will be interesting to see how Davis’ squad handles the role of the hunted now that it has earned a national ranking. That said, the Rebels have not experienced defeat since the week of Thanksgiving and figure to be home favorites this week in games against LSU and Arkansas. The regular season is far from over, but Davis has already shown in his first year that he is ready to make Ole Miss a contender in a very competitive SEC race. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

  • Duke remains at #1. The Blue Devils remain in the RTC16 top spot after moving their record to 14-1 with wins at Wake Forest and Florida State. The victory in Winston-Salem was never in doubt, as Duke coasted in the second half to the 22-point final margin. But Saturday in Tallahassee was a different story, as the Blue Devils were locked in a back-and-forth affair for a majority of the game before freshman swingman Cam Reddish sprang free to drain a wide open three in the final seconds. It should be noted that Duke was without freshman phenom Zion Williamson for the entire second half after he left the game late in the first stanza with an eye injury. Head coach Mike Krzyzewski is hopeful Williamson will be cleared to play when his team hosts Syracuse tonight. Reddish and fellow freshman R.J. Barrett made up for Williamson’s limited minutes by finishing with a combined 55 points, and both freshmen made winning play after winning play to keep the game within Duke’s grasp.
  • #4 Michigan is now 17-0, which is good for the best start in program history. John Beilein‘s team continued its dominance this week with easy victories at Illinois on Thursday and at home over Northwestern on Sunday. The Wolverines continue to be a balanced outfit with senior Charles Matthews, sophomore Jordan Poole and freshman Ignas Brazdeikis all averaging over 13 points per game. Where Michigan has recently shown its strength has been with its role players stepping up with strong performances. Junior guard Zavier Simpson is known for his defensive tenacity, but he showcased his offensive prowess with 16 points at Illinois and a career-high 24 points against Northwestern. Beating the Wolverines is already a tall task, but if they keep getting strong production from Simpson in addition to junior forward Jon Teske, their unbeaten start could continue for weeks to come. The next step for Michigan will be a road date Saturday with a talented Wisconsin team. The Kohl Center has given the Wolverines fits in the past, but the Badgers have been scuffling a bit at home recently with losses in its last two home games.
  • #16 Villanova has rebounded from its shaky start. The defending National Champion made waves for all the wrong reasons during non-conference play, as the Wildcats were blown out at home by Michigan before suffering uncharacteristically baffling losses to Furman and Penn. Jay Wright‘s team was always going to take a step back in replacing so much of its talent, but losing to teams from the SoCon and Ivy League set off some legitimate alarms. A month later, it looks like doubting the Wildcats may have been a mistake. They are now 13-4 overall and sit alone atop the Big East with a 4-0 conference record. Senior guard Phil Booth and senior forward Eric Paschall have elevated their games and provide the team with one of the best scoring tandems in the league. Villanova will look to improve to 5-0 in Big East play this week with a Friday night home game against Xavier. The Wildcats have owned the Musketeers since Xavier entered the Big East, winning 10 of the teams’ 11 match-ups.

Game of the Week. #1 Duke vs. #2 Virginia. The game of the year thus far in college basketball will take place Saturday evening in Durham. You might think of this contest as Duke’s explosive offense battling Virginia’s defense, but while that is true, it should be noted that Virginia is also very good offensively — sixth nationally, per KenPom — and Duke also plays stifling defense — third nationally. No matter how you slice it, these are two excellent and complete teams that have excellent chances at winning the national title in Minneapolis this spring. What to watch in this battle include how the Blue Devils’ freshmen deal with the Cavaliers’ pack-line defense and how Virginia guards Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome respond to the length of Duke’s perimeter defenders. This game should be appointment television for everyone, so go ahead and cancel any plans that do not revolve around watching a prime-time duel between arguably the two best teams in the country.

Keep Tabs On. #1 Duke vs. Syracuse; #13 Ole Miss vs. LSU; #2 Virginia vs. #9 Virginia Tech; #7 Texas Tech vs. Iowa State; #5 Michigan State vs. Nebraska; #15 Maryland vs. Ohio State; #3 Michigan vs. Wisconsin; #11 Kentucky vs. #12 Auburn.

Conference Call: ACC (4), SEC (4), Big Ten (3), Big 12 (2), Big East (1), WCC (1), Mountain West (1).

WCarey (318 Posts)

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