2018-19 RTC16: Week Fourteen

Posted by Walker Carey on February 25th, 2019

It is never a good thing to have your season flash before your eyes because of a key injury, but it is especially troubling when the scare occurs during the stretch run. #3 Duke was presented with that possibility last Wednesday night when freshman phenom Zion Williamson exited the court less than a minute into its home rivalry showdown with #5 North Carolina. Suddenly, it did not matter all that much that the Tar Heels went on to dominate the Blue Devils throughout an 88-72 victory. What really mattered was Williamson’s prognosis — because while Duke has plenty of talent, it would be an incredibly tall task for it to reach Minneapolis without the services of the nation’s top player. Luckily for the Blue Devils, the high-flying freshman only suffered a sprained knee and he is expected back in action soon, even though he did not play in Saturday’s 75-65 win at Syracuse and has been ruled out of this Tuesday’s game at Virginia Tech. Duke showed over the weekend that, even without Williamson, it still has the necessary firepower available to beat a likely NCAA Tournament team on the road, so it would be unwise to write off the team’s chances in Blacksburg. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

  • Gonzaga is the new #1. The Bulldogs have ascended to the top spot in the RTC16 on the strength of 18 straight victories. The most recent pair came last week in Spokane via a 28-point win over Pepperdine and a 34-point slaughter of BYU. Gonzaga closes out its regular season this week with road trips to Pacific and Saint Mary’s. Considering the fact that the Bulldogs beat those two teams by a combined 79 points in their first contests, it is fair to believe they will finish the regular season with a 29-2 record on a 20-game winning streak.
  • #5 North Carolina is playing its best basketball of the season. A legitimate argument can be made that no one turned in a better week than the Tar Heels. Roy Williams‘ group went to Duke and thrived in the big game atmosphere of Cameron Indoor Stadium en route to a dominant 88-72 win. North Carolina returned to Chapel Hill on Saturday and showed no signs of a letdown in a 77-59 victory over a Florida State squad that entered on an eight-game winning streak. The Tar Heels’ recent surge has been spearheaded by veteran forwards Luke Maye and Cam Johnson. Having your upperclassmen play their best at the end of the season normally bodes well for a team’s postseason forecast, so it appears North Carolina will be a team to watch, as usual, when March Madness commences.
  • The Big 12 is — probably — going to have a new regular season champion. Everyone knows Kansas has won a share of 14 straight regular season Big 12 championships, as the Jayhawks have dominated the league since Bill Self landed in Lawrence in the 2003-04 season. While there have been indicators throughout conference play that the streak could end this season, that possibility gained more likelihood over the weekend with Kansas suffering a blowout loss at #10 Texas Tech on Saturday. Its 9-5 record puts the Jayhawks two full games behind conference leader #15 Kansas State and a full game behind #10 Texas Tech. Stranger things have happened in college basketball and you cannot say the streak is over until it is mathematically impossible for the Jayhawks to earn a share of the title, but it will now be a major surprise if the streak moves to 15 straight years.

Game of the Week. #4 Kentucky vs. #7 Tennessee. Just two weeks after Kentucky earned a commanding 86-69 win over the Volunteers in Lexington, it will travel to Knoxville looking to complete the season sweep. Star performances from sophomore forward P.J. Washington and freshman swingman Keldon Johnson were major keys to the victory in Lexington, but it must be noted that senior forward Reid Travis did an excellent defensive job, holding Tennessee star forward Grant Williams to three field goal attempts. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, it is not known whether Travis will be able to play after suffering a knee injury in last Tuesday’s win at Missouri. If Travis cannot go, how John Calipari chooses to defend Williams will likely be a major factor in determining the winner of the rematch.

Keep Tabs On. #15 Kansas State vs. Kansas; #3 Duke vs. Virginia Tech; #5 North Carolina vs. Syracuse; #7 Tennessee vs. Ole Miss; #11 Marquette vs. Villanova; #15 Kansas State vs. Baylor; #1 Gonzaga vs. Saint Mary’s; #9 Michigan vs. Maryland.

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

WCarey (299 Posts)

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