What’s Trending: Shuffling Of The Top Five

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on February 24th, 2020

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Matthew Eisenberg (@matteise) is your weekly host.

Prior to Saturday’s game in Waco, Kansas had won 11 consecutive contests since its loss to Baylor in Lawrence. The rematch between the Big 12’s two best teams also pitted the #1 and #3 ranked teams in the national polls against each other.

In the first match-up, Baylor held Udoka Azubuike to only six points on 3-of-6 shooting, and Devon Dotson to just nine points before he left the game with an injury. Kansas, however, was quick to establish both of its stars in the rematch. Azubuike contributed 13 first-half points on 6-of-7 shooting en route to a game-high 23 points, and, as a team, the Jayhawks scored 42 points in the paint — 16 more than they had in the first match-up.

After the impressive win, Kansas seemed to solidify itself as the “team to beat” in the eyes of many national media. A year removed from having its run of regular season Big 12 championships ended, Kansas is now in prime position to again finish at the top of the conference.

As dominant as Udoka Azubuike was down low against Baylor, there are still reservations in the one-game setting that is the NCAA Tournament. He remains a sub-50 percent free-throw shooter who has scored 12 or fewer points in 14 games this season. Hack-a-Doke will be present in the NCAA Tournament, so the question is whether he will let that impact his ability to alter a game defensively and on the glass?

While Azubuike and Dotson make all the difference on the floor, the other thing that few can argue with is the genius that is Bill Self on the sideline. According to Synergy Sports data, the Jayhawks rank in the 97th percentile in side out of bounds sets and in the 85th percentile in after time out efficiency. Self’s ability to tweak things can make all the difference for what is already an immensely talented team.

While Kansas was able to pass its road test on Saturday, Gonzaga did not have the same luck, falling in Provo against a hot BYU team. After shooting 62 percent on its two-point attempts in its first match-up against Gonzaga, BYU made another strong 63 percent of its shots from inside the arc in this match-up. With 11 made threes on 40.7 percent shooting from deep, BYU posted 1.25 points per possession total on its way to 91 points.

Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Ten Questions To Consider: Tests For the Top Teams

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on February 21st, 2020

Selection Sunday is now fewer than 30 days away. This weekend includes a number of resume-building opportunities for some teams and big tests for others at the top of the projected NCAA Tournament seed list. Here are 10 questions I have for some of what will take place this weekend.

  1. What impact will a healthy Devon Dotson have on the rematch between the best two teams in the nation? (Kansas @ Baylor, Saturday, Noon EST, ESPN) Dotson played in only 28 minutes in the first match-up against Baylor as he was dealing with discomfort from a hip pointer. Over his last 10 games, though, Dotson is averaging 19 points per game on 49 percent shooting from the field. The likely All-American will be tested by the ferocious Baylor defense.
  2. Can BYU’s defense keep up with its offense? (Gonzaga @ BYU, Saturday, 10 PM EST, ESPN2) In the first game of the season between BYU and Gonzaga, the Cougars made 62.2 percent of their two-point attempts, hit 6-of-20 from beyond the arc, and yet still lost to the Zags by 23 points. Unfortunately for BYU, its defense simultaneously surrendered 1.24 points per possession to Gonzaga, and that was with Filip Petrusev only scoring five points. Since that game, Petrusev has scored at least 15 or more points in each of his last six games.
  3. Can the Wolfpack solidify their Tournament hopes with another big home win? (Florida State @ N.C. State, Saturday, 4 PM EST, ACC Network) Following up on its convincing victory against Duke with a subsequent win over Florida State would almost certainly put NC State on the right side of the bubble. Kevin Keatts’ team has held visiting teams to an average three-point percentage below 30 percent, including against a Duke squad on Wednesday night that made just 23.5 percent of its three-point attempts.
  4. Will Oregon’s season-long road struggles surface again at the McKale Center? (Oregon @ Arizona, Saturday, 9 PM EST, ESPN) After Thursday night’s loss to Arizona State, Oregon is now just 6-7 away from Eugene. While the Ducks outscore opponents by 17.6 points per game at home, they have been outscored a couple points per game on the road.
  5. Will the “35%” mark be the key in Columbus? (Maryland @ Ohio State, Sunday, 4 PM EST, CBS) Ohio State is shooting 37.8 percent from three-point range on the season, and a Big Ten-best 36.7 percent in league play. The Buckeyes are 15-1 when they make more than 35% of their three-point attempts in a game and just 2-8 when they do not. In the team’s eight Big Ten defeats, Kaleb Wesson has made just 8-of-31 (25.8%) of his attempts, a far cry from his season mark of 41.6 percent.
  6. Have the Gators turned a corner or has their recent success been the result of a favorable stretch? (Florida @ Kentucky, Saturday, 6 PM EST, ESPN) After a 4-4 record in January, Florida has won five of six games in February. The Gators are shooting an SEC best 38.2 percent from beyond the arc in SEC action.
  7. Is VCU facing a must-win game this weekend? (VCU @ Saint Louis, Friday, 9 PM EST, ESPN2) After VCU’s January 28 win at Richmond, the Rams sat at 16-5 (6-2 Atlantic 10) and had a NET Ranking of 33rd. Since that game, VCU has lost four of five contests and its NET Ranking has fallen to 49th. The Rams are 2-8 in Quadrant 1 and 2 games and need to end their recent skid quickly to stay relevant. Friday night’s game against Saint Louis is one of two remaining games that currently would qualify as a Quad 1 or 2 game on VCU’s schedule.
  8. Can Cincinnati put an end to its recent stretch of nail-biters? (Wichita State @ Cincinnati, Sunday, 1 PM EST, ESPN) The Bearcats have now played four consecutive overtime games (2-2), pushing their season total of overtime games to an incredible seven. In Cincinnati’s most recent loss to UCF, it had a half-court shot in double-overtime waved off after the ball was determined to still be in the hands of Jarron Cumberland.
  9. Will USC’s Isaiah Mobley continue to show his recent improvements if teammate Onyeka Okongwu returns from injury? (USC @ Utah, Sunday, 6 PM EST, ESPNU) With Okongwu out of the USC lineup over the last two games, freshman Isaiah Mobley has stepped up his game. Mobley scored 19 points and grabbed 18 rebounds in last week’s wins against the Washington schools. In USC’s five games prior to that, Mobley had scored just 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds during 91 minutes of action.
  10. Which version of Trevion Williams will Purdue get this weekend? (Michigan @ Purdue, Saturday, 2 PM EST, ESPN) While Michigan got the best of Purdue in double-overtime in the first match-up between these two teams, it was nearly spoiled by the Boilermakers’ Trevion Williams, who scored 36 points and hauled in 20 rebounds. Since that game, Williams has been held to under 10 points in five of 11 games.

Share this story

What’s Trending: A Week of Statement Like Performances — Both Good and Bad

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on February 17th, 2020

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Matthew Eisenberg (@matteise) is your weekly host.

After beginning conference play 3-3, many were ready to dismiss Maryland’s chances of contending in the Big Ten this season. Since then, the Terrapins had completely turned things around, winning seven straight games including three straight on the road. Over the weekend, Maryland built a 39-24 lead with 2:57 to go in the first half, but the Spartans seemed to take control of the game as Michigan State led 60-53 with just 3:24 to go. That’s when Maryland’s Anthony Cowan took over…

Over Cowan’s last six games, he is averaging 20.5 points per game on 42 percent three-point shooting. Over that period, he has also tallied 31 assists to just 15 turnovers. He has attacked the paint relentlessly, having made eight or more free throws in four of the six games during this stretch.

Note to future Maryland opponents, slapping the floor late would not be advised…

As far as Michigan State goes, they began the week on a three-game losing streak. After blowing a 20-point second-half lead at Illinois, they found themselves down a point against Illinois, but Xavier Tillman’s 11th rebound of the game proved to be the difference…

For Michigan State — a team that started the year 13-3 and 5-0 in league play — this past week and the college basketball season as a whole can best be summed up like this…

Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Ten Questions To Consider: Resume Building, Season Saving, Slump Busting Weekend

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on February 14th, 2020

With Selection Sunday now just five weekends away, the importance of each and every game increases. This weekend some teams will look to solidify their spot on the right side of bubble, while others will look to keep their position at the top of their conference standings. Here are 10 questions I have for just some of the meaningful action to take place.

  1. Did the win at Illinois turn a corner for Michigan State or will it prove to be a bit of a mirage? (Maryland @ Michigan State, Saturday, 6 PM EST, ESPN) Michigan State played a tremendous opening half at Illinois on Tuesday night, as the Spartans led by 20 points early in the second half before falling apart and needing a Xavier Tillman putback to win in the final seconds. This is Michigan State’s first of five games remaining on the schedule against teams currently in the KenPom top 20.
  2. Can West Virginia dominate the glass and find a way to steal a win at Baylor? (West Virginia @ Baylor, Saturday, 4 PM EST, ESPN+) Baylor and West Virginia each rank among the nation’s top 10 teams in offensive rebound rate. Rebounding has been a key factor for the Mountaineers all season, especially on the defensive glass. West Virginia has gone 13-1 when holding its opponent to an offensive rebounding rate below 28 percent. When that rate exceeds that mark, Bob Huggins’ team has gone just 5-5.
  3. How will the Louisville’s starting five respond to its lackluster performance against Georgia Tech? (Louisville @ Clemson, Saturday, 4 PM EST, ACC Network) In Louisville’s surprising loss Wednesday at Georgia Tech, the Cardinals’ starting five combined for just 18 points. Jordan Nwora logged a season-low two points while committing four turnovers. In Louisville’s win against Clemson on January 25, the same five starters combined to score 48 of Louisville’s 80 points.
  4. Can Stanford find a way to save its season? (Arizona @ Stanford, Saturday, 10:30 PM EST, Pac-12 Network) After starting the season 15-2 and 4-0 in Pac-12 play, Stanford has dropped five of its next six games since. While the Cardinal maintain a top 30 NET Ranking as of Thursday night, a pair of home losses to the Arizona schools would likely serve as a knockout punch to its lingering Tournament hopes.
  5. Will the Illini have Ayo Dosunmu to help end a three-game skid? (Illinois @ Rutgers, Saturday, 4:30 PN EST, Big Ten Network) The final seconds of the Illinois/Michigan State game were not kind to Brad Underwood’s squad — from the game-deciding basket of Xavier Tillman to an injury seconds later to Illinois’ leading scorer Ayo Dosunmu. Dosunmu’s status is unclear heading into the weekend, but without him, Illinois is in great danger of picking up its fourth consecutive loss.
  6. If Boise State protects the ball, can they become the first team to knock off the Aztecs? (San Diego State @ Boise State, Sunday, 4 PM EST, CBS Sports Network) In the first match-up of the season between these two teams, Boise State made 60.7 percent of its two-point field-goal attempts, the highest percentage of any Aztecs opponent. Unfortunately for the Broncos, 18 turnovers (a season-high turnover rate of 26.3%) was far too much to overcome.
  7. Can the Hoosiers find a way to improve its offense away from Assembly Hall? (Indiana @ Michigan, Sunday, 1 PM EST, CBS) The Indiana offense has looked vastly different on the road than at home this season. While the Hoosiers have scored north of 78 points per game at home, their road average sits at just 60.3 points per game. Archie Miller will need more from his four leading scorers this weekend, who average 50 points per game at home and just 36.1 points per game away from Bloomington.
  8. Will Colorado make it out of the state of Oregon with at least one win? (Colorado @ Oregon State, Saturday, 10 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) Saturday’s game at Gill Coliseum will be an opportunity for Colorado salvage one win to remain on top of the Pac-12. The Buffaloes led Oregon State 63-52 with just under eight minutes to go in the first match-up before Colorado closed on a 24-5 run end the game.
  9. Can the Razorbacks end recent struggles and add a Quadrant 2 win to their resume? (Mississippi State @ Arkansas, Saturday, 1 PM EST, SEC Network) Arkansas sat at #28 in the NET Rankings on January 28, but since then, the Razorbacks have gone 1-4 with a pair of those losses coming in overtime and another by a mere two points. Their current NET Ranking is now just barely inside the top 50. With a 4-8 record against Quadrant 1 and 2 teams, Saturday could amount to a must-win game for the Razorbacks.
  10. Can Porter Moser’s Ramblers slow Northern Iowa from beyond the arc or will it grab a stranglehold on the MVC’s top spot? (Northern Iowa @ Loyola Chicago, Saturday, 8 PM EST, ESPN2) On the season, Loyola ranks outside of the top 300 in opponents’ three-point percentage, making this a difficult match-up against a Northern Iowa squad that is among the five best three-point shooting teams. Northern Iowa has three player who have made 40 or more threes at a clip of 40 percent or better.

Share this story

What’s Trending: The Wild and Crazy Continues On and Off the Floor

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on February 10th, 2020

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Matthew Eisenberg (@matteise) is your weekly host.

In a season in which North Carolina was sitting at 3-8 in the ACC — its worst start to conference play since the 2009-10 season — expectations of an upset of Duke were far from high, even in Chapel Hill. That said, in a season where the only thing expected is the unexpected, the Tar Heels were clicking on all cylinders and appeared to be in total control of the rivalry game on Saturday evening. With just over four minutes to go, North Carolina led Duke, 77-64. Then Tre Jones took over. An 18-7 Duke run cut the lead to just two with a mere four seconds left on the clock. Then, this happened…

https://twitter.com/espn/status/1226314721319620614?s=20

A series of runs in overtime resulted in the game being tied again, with just 6.6 seconds left on the clock and Jones back at the charity stripe. Another miss, another tip-out, and another instant classic in the Duke-North Carolina rivalry.

While the unexpected has been the norm nearly everywhere this season, one of the few teams that has avoided the crazy has been Gonzaga. Mark Few’s squad sat at 24-1 heading into a weekend rivalry match-up at Saint Mary’s. Behind a blistering start, the Zags blew out the Gaels in a contest that was never close.

Gonzaga made a blistering 73.7 percent of its two-point attempts against Saint Mary’s. The Bulldogs have score 80 or more points in 16 of their past 17 games and currently lead the nation in offensive efficiency, a statistic of which they also led the nation in last season.

Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Ten Questions to Consider: Will the Wild and Crazy Continue?

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on February 7th, 2020

As February moves along, the college basketball season hits a key weekend of rivalry matchups and games among conference foes. From teams battling for conference superiority to schools looking to fight their way back to the right side of the bubble, here are 10 questions I have for this weekend:

  1. Will Saint Mary’s be able to get the necessary stops against Gonzaga? (Gonzaga @ Saint Mary’s, Saturday, 10 PM EST, ESPN) After finishing as KenPom’s top-ranked offense last season, the Zags find themselves in the top spot once again this season. In last season’s three match-ups between WCC foes, Saint Mary’s struggled to slow Gonzaga inside the arc, as Gonzaga made 61.6 percent of its two-point attempts. In Saint Mary’s loss last weekend at BYU, the Gaels allowed the Cougars to shoot a blistering 57.9 percent from the field.
  2. Can Villanova claw its way back into the Big East title race? (Seton Hall @ Villanova, Saturday, 2:30 PM EST, FOX) Villanova has lost two straight contests, including a home loss last weekend at the hands of Creighton. The Wildcats last lost consecutive home games during the 2011-12 season. In three career games at Villanova, however, Myles Powell has scored an average of nine points per game and has made just 4-of-20 shots from beyond the arc.
  3. Quite simply, which Purdue team shows up? (Purdue @ Indiana, Saturday, 2 PM EST, ESPN) The Boilermakers are 10-2 at home, outscoring opponents by an average of 20.4 points per game. On the road, though, Matt Painter’s squad has gone just 3-8, scoring an average of 18.8 fewer points per game away from home. The Boilermakers travel to Bloomington this weekend, where they will look to grab a victory for the fourth straight time.
  4. Can Illinois remain perfect at home? (Maryland @ Illinois, Friday, 8 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) The Terps escaped with a victory over Illinois earlier this season despite trailing by seven points with under four minutes remaining. Illinois will need Kofi Cockburn on the floor to try and slow a red-hot Jalen Smith — the Illini star played a season-low 21 minutes in the first match-up while hampered with foul trouble.
  5. Is Davidson the team Atlantic 10 front-runners do not want to see on their schedule? (Davidson @ VCU, Friday, 7 PM EST, ESPN2) While Davidson remains iffy defensively, its offense is clicking. Senior guard Jon Axel Gudmundsson is shooting 37 percent from three-point range over his last five conference games after starting league play making just 4-of-28 (14.3%). The preseason pick to finish second in the league could be clicking at just the wrong time for its opponents.
  6. What will Mick Cronin’s first trip to the McKale Center look like? (UCLA @ Arizona, Saturday, 10 PM EST, ESPN2) The Bruins head to the desert winners of four of their last five games, but UCLA’s Jalen Hill and Cody Riley will be put to the test down low by Zeke Nnaji. Tyger Campbell will also be challenged by Nico Mannion, who has several inches on his counterpart.
  7. Will there be any lingering effects of the last match-up between Saint Louis and Dayton? (Saint Louis @ Dayton, Saturday, 2 PM EST, CBS Sports Network) First, Saint Louis led by 13 with 7:40 to go, then Dayton found itself up five with 1:59 left. Saint Louis tied it at the buzzer in regulation, but came up on the short end of the stick because of Jalen Crutcher’s overtime winner at the buzzer. The Billikens’ duo of Jordan Goodwin and Hasahn French combined to grab 12 offensive boards in the first match-up.
  8. Which Big East team adds an important win to its resume? (Providence @ Xavier, Saturday, 8 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) Providence began the season with a very poor non-conference season and has since turned things around in league play. While Xavier entered Big East play at 11-2, it has gone just 4-6 since. Providence’s leading scorer Alpha Diallo (12.8 PPG) is averaging just 7.6 points per game over his last five contests on 13-of-44 shooting from the field.
  9. In a crazy year of college basketball, would North Carolina beating Duke really be THAT crazy? (Duke @ North Carolina, Saturday, 6 PM EST, ESPN) For starters, Cole Anthony is back, and while he has not been efficient since his return, he has enough talent to take over any game. With Brandon Robinson out with a recent injury, even more will be on the plate on Saturday night for Anthony. In the last 13 match-ups between these teams, six games have been decided by five points or fewer, and the margin of victory has been more than 10 points only once over that stretch.
  10. Can Texas add its name to the bubble with a win over the Red Raiders? (Texas Tech @ Texas, Saturday, 4 PM EST, ESPN2) As of Thursday night, Shaka Smart’s Longhorns sit at 3-6 against Quad 1 opponents and 1-2 in Quad 2 games. With wins at TCU and Oklahoma State in precarious spots on the edge of Quad 1, Texas needs to take advantage of its remaining home opportunities against quality opponents.

Share this story

Ten Questions to Consider: A Super Slate of Action Ahead of the Super Bowl

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on January 31st, 2020

While the Super Bowl will have the attention of the sports world on Sunday afternoon across America, there are plenty of critical college basketball match-ups this weekend beforehand. Games involving teams at the top of their conference, schools looking to avoid falling further on to and beyond the bubble, and programs looking to make statements to their doubters. Here are 10 questions I have for the college basketball world this weekend.

  1. Can Rhode Island’s defense again control VCU for 40 minutes? (VCU @ Rhode Island, Friday, 7 PM EST, ESPN2) In the first meeting between the Atlantic 10’s second and third place teams, Rhode Island came prevailed in a game in which it never trailed. VCU’s starting backcourt of Marcus Evans and De’Riante Jenkins shot a combined 3-of-14 from beyond the arc, and a Rhode Island win would keep the Rams just a game behind Dayton in the conference standings.
  2. Is Kofi Cockburn vs. Luke Garza the best individual match-up of the weekend? (Illinois @ Iowa, Sunday, 1 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) Last season, Luke Garza averaged 13.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. This season, he’s become one of the most dominant players in college basketball, averaging 23.1 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. Illinois will likely throw its tenacious freshman, Kofi Cockburn, at Garza. Cockburn, an elite rebounder and good shot-blocker, could be one of Garza’s biggest challenges to date.
  3. Will Stanford’s defense give it a chance at home in a battle of two of the Pac-12’s best? (Oregon @ Stanford, Saturday, 6 PM EST, Pac-12 Network) Presumptive Pac-12 favorite Oregon and NPOY candidate Payton Pritchard head to Maples Pavilion this weekend to battle Stanford. The Cardinal own the Pac-12’s best defensive efficiency, thanks in part to their highest defensive turnover rate and second-best defensive effective field-goal percentage.
  4. Can Moretti, Ramsey and Shannon replicate their midweek performance for Texas Tech? (Texas Tech @ Kansas, Saturday, 4 PM EST, ESPN) In Texas Tech’s 89-81 win over West Virginia on Wednesday night, the trio of Davide Moretti, Jahmi’us Ramsey and Terrence Shannon combined for 69 points on 18-of-29 shooting. It will be imperative for the Red Raiders that this trio limits their turnovers, an area that has been a particular problem during league play.
  5. Can Wisconsin rally at home around some tough circumstances? (Michigan State @ Wisconsin, Saturday, 1 PM EST, FOX) Not only does Wisconsin have to take on Big Ten leading Michigan State this weekend, but the Badgers now must do so shorthanded. Brad Davison will miss the game as a result of his flagrant foul late in the Iowa game, and Kobe King decided to leave the program on Wednesday.
  6. What has happened to Ohio State’s defense in league play? (Indiana @ Ohio State, Saturday, Noon EST, ESPN) On the season, Ohio State has a defensive efficiency of 91 points per 100 possessions (PPP), ranking 18th in the country. In league play, that has ballooned to 104 PPP, ranking 10th among Big Ten teams. League opponents have made north of 37 percent of their three-point attempts against the Buckeyes.
  7. Can Rutgers pick up a crucial win away from the RAC? (Rutgers @ Michigan, Saturday, 4:30 PM EST, Big Ten Network) With a win on Saturday, Rutgers would guarantee itself a winning record at the end conference tournament season for the first time since 2005-06. The Scarlet Knights will be looking for just their second win away from home this year. On the season, Steve Pikiell’s team is 1-5 away from the RAC, with its lone win coming at Nebraska.
  8. Can Georgetown end its Big East woes in what might be a must-win game at Madison Square Garden? (Georgetown @ St. John’s, Sunday, 1 PM EST, CBS) Georgetown has lost three straight and six of its first eight Big East games. The Hoyas are now 0-4 on the road in league play, having lost each of those contests by nine or more points. After making 32 percent of his three-point attempts as a freshman in Big East play, Mac McClung has made just 8-of-36 (22.2%) through the eight Big East games played so far.
  9. Can Markell Johnson fix his shooting woes? (Louisville @ N.C. State, Saturday, 2 PM EST, ESPN) In Markell Johnson’s previous two seasons at NC State, he converted 41.9 percent of his three-point attempts. Through 20 games this season, Johnson has made just 25.7 percent of his 113 three-point attempts. In order to beat Louisville, Johnson must find a way to snap out of his season-long funk.
  10. Will Yoeli Childs be the difference maker? (Saint Mary’s @ BYU, Saturday, 10 PM EST, ESPN2) Yoeli Childs missed the first match-up of the season between these teams, a three-point Gaels win in overtime. In his nine games played on the season, Childs is putting in just over 21 points and nine rebounds per game. Already with conference losses to Pacific and Santa Clara, this is a game Saint Mary’s really needs to find a way to win.
Share this story

What’s Trending: Brawls, Bulldogs and a Boisterous Brey

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on January 27th, 2020

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Matthew Eisenberg (@matteise) is your weekly host.

As the final seconds ticked away in a lopsided Kansas win over intrastate rival Kansas State last week, what appeared to be normal ending of a blowout turned into anything but normal…

Bill Self spoke on the matter postgame and provided context: While it’s not always seen, every coach should be thrilled with the hustle of his players while time remains on the clock. He felt that DaJuan Gordon stealing the ball as well as Silvio De Sousa running him down and blocking his shot should also be applauded. But the line was crossed when De Sousa taunted Gordon after the clock struck zero, not before that point.

Allen Fieldhouse was not the only place with controversy between players. At Purdue, Illinois’ Alan Griffin blatantly stepped on Purdue’s Sasha Stefanovic in the opening minutes of the game.

In this week’s edition of “What Could Go Wrong College Officiating…,” Notre Dame found itself on the wrong end of the truly bizarre and wacky. Trailing by six points, the Irish forced a Florida State miss and grabbed the defensive rebound. Unfortunately for Notre Dame, the clock operator placed just 20 seconds on the shot clock. Somehow no one caught the mistake, leading to this fruitless rushed possession…

Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Ten Questions to Consider: Conference Tests, Busting Trends, and the Quest to Remain Perfect

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on January 24th, 2020

The first standalone weekend for college basketball is finally upon us. Without football on the calendar over the next three days, eyes shift even more to the hardwood. It’s a weekend that includes tests within conference play in addition to between power conferences. Here are 10 questions I have for the games to come.

  1. Can Texas Tech guard Kentucky without sending the Wildcats to the free throw line? (Kentucky @ Texas Tech, Saturday, 6 PM EST, ESPN) Kentucky heads to Lubbock with an offense that gets to the free throw line at a rate north of 42 percent, a figure that ranks among the top 10 nationally. In Texas Tech’s six losses on the season, the Red Raiders have given up an average of 25.4 free throw attempts, an average of 10.8 more attempts than they have taken in those games.
  2. Which streaky Big East club picks up a key win to begin the weekend? (Marquette @ Butler, Friday, 9 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) Marquette began league play by dropping three of its first four games, but since then, the Golden Eagles have now won three straight. On the other side of things, Butler began Big East play 3-0 but has since lost three straight of its own. In order for Butler to turn things around, it begins with trying to slow Markus Howard, who comes in averaging 35 points per game over his last five outings.
  3. What impact will the midweek melee have on Kansas? (Tennessee @ Kansas, Saturday, 4 PM EST, ESPN) The Jayhawks will be without both Silvio De Sousa and David McCormack this weekend, forcing Bill Self’s hand into a more small-ball oriented lineup alongside Udoka Azubuike. Isaiah Moss and Christian Braun are two players who could see more consistent minutes in this type of lineup.
  4. Can Florida get enough defensive rebounds to potentially upset #1 Baylor? (Baylor @ Florida, Saturday, 8 PM EST, ESPN) While Baylor sits at 16-1 with a top five defensive efficiency ranking, it is a squad, however, that has an effective field goal percentage below the national average. In order for Florida to pull the upset, the Gators will have to limit second-chance opportunities. In their last game, Mike White’s team allowed 15 offensive rebounds to LSU.
  5. Will the quick turnaround to their second game against one another lead to a different result in the Big Ten? (Michigan State @ Minnesota, Sunday, 3 PM EST, Fox) Entering play on Thursday, Big Ten home teams have won 44 of 54 conference games, with five of those losses coming from bottom dwellers Nebraska and Northwestern. A little more than two weeks after losing in East Lansing, Minnesota hosts Michigan State. Xavier Tillman was a force for the Spartans in the last game, scoring 19, grabbing 16 rebounds and blocking five shots.
  6. Will Richmond be able to slow Dayton down and keep its hot A-10 start going? (Dayton @ Richmond, Saturday, 6 PM EST) The Spiders have held five of their six Atlantic 10 opponents to under 65 points. That will be a daunting challenge against a Dayton squad that owns the nation’s best effective field goal percentage and two-point percentage. In last season’s only match-up, the Flyers shot 73.7 percent from inside the arc in what was an easy 24-point win.
  7. How will Memphis look coming off of a 40-point loss? (SMU @ Memphis, Saturday, 4 PM EST, CBS Sports Network) In the Tigers’ recent lopsided loss at Tulsa, Memphis shot 2-of-21 from beyond the arc and turned the ball over 20 times. Freshman guard Boogie Ellis began the season by making 9 of his first 21 three-point attempts, but since then, Ellis has shot just 9-of-42 (21.4%). One difference between now and then, of course, is the absence of James Wiseman.
  8. Can Kihei Clark find his groove and help rescue Virginia’s season? (Virginia @ Wake Forest, Sunday, Noon EST, ACC Network) ACC play has not been kind to Virginia’s third-leading scorer. The sophomore guard is shooting just 33 percent from inside the arc and just 28.6 percent from beyond it during league play. Over his last five games, Clark has missed a terrible 26 of his 37 two-point attempts.
  9. Will San Diego State pass its latest test in Las Vegas? (San Diego State @ UNLV, Sunday, 4 pm EST, CBS Sports Network) In 68 prior match-ups between these squads, each team has won 34 times. While the Aztecs have won five of the past eight in Las Vegas, four of those have come by two points or fewer. San Diego State has done a tremendous job all season in creating turnovers, an area of which UNLV has struggled mightily all year.
  10. Can DePaul find a way to end its slump in Big East play? (St. John’s @ DePaul, Saturday, 2 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) DePaul began the year 12-1 but has since run into the Big East buzzsaw, having lost five of its first six league games. In the Blue Demons’ loss to St. John’s on January 11, center Paul Reed was held to a season-low four points. Over the three games since, Reed is averaging 21 points and 12 rebounds per game.

Share this story

What’s Trending: Mid-Season Madness Continues

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on January 20th, 2020

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Matthew Eisenberg (@matteise) is your weekly host.

After Auburn’s loss on Wednesday night, San Diego State became the only remaining undefeated team in college basketball. Brian Dutcher’s Aztecs added two wins to their resume this week, pushing their overall record to 19-0. It is San Diego State’s best start since the 2010-11 season in which they began the year 20-0 en route to a Sweet Sixteen appearance. Led by Washington State transfer Malachi Flynn, the Aztecs currently only have one remaining game against a team ranked inside of the KenPom top 100 (Utah State).

https://twitter.com/marchmadness/status/1218310685962186753?s=20

The top four teams in the NET Rankings remain stable at the end of the week. While Baylor and Kansas were tested over the weekend, both made it through unblemished. The same cannot be said for the rest of the top 10.

As top teams continue to fall, one question repeatedly finds itself leading the narrative of the season: Is all this parity good for the game?

The answer should be an unequivocal yes.

While offensive efficiency and shooting percentages have dropped, the corresponding result has been the unpredictable. Talent alone is not serving as determinative. Transfers, early departures, NCAA eligibility issues and key recruits opting to play overseas all have impacted the landscape and consistency of play, but the result has been that teams need to come prepared to win every night out. This season, on any given night, anything is possible, and that is a good thing.

While the unexpected has ruled the land this college basketball season, there has been one player who has remained anything but surprising: Oregon senior point-guard Payton Pritchard. After beginning his career 3-0 in games at Washington, Pritchard’s Ducks were down three points late in the game when the All-American took things into his own hands…

https://twitter.com/marchmadness/status/1218672908379328512?s=20

In overtime, with the game tied, it was again Pritchard coming through in the clutch…

As far as the unexpected goes, there were a pair of games on Saturday that challenged the wildest of imaginations.

First, USC found itself down by five points with a mere 15 seconds to go when Stanford had the ball and a chance to ice the game away. Then, this happened…

While USC trailed by as many 21 points in that game, the Trojans at least had most of the second-half to claw their way back. Unlike USC, Boise State found itself down big but without much time left on the clock. Trailing 66-48 with 3:52 to go, the Broncos chipped the lead down to just five points with 8.9 seconds to go. Well, that’s when things really got weird…

Strange and funny things followed Kentucky this week as well. First, on Wednesday night, after leading by double-figures in the second half at South Carolina, Kentucky collapsed and trailed by six points with just over a minute to go. Thanks to some missed free-throws by South Carolina, Kentucky managed to tie things up in the closing seconds. While it looked like overtime was imminent, South Carolina’s Jermaine Couisnard had another idea…

https://twitter.com/marchmadness/status/1217626379837231106?s=20

After that difficult loss at South Carolina, Kentucky found itself at Bud Walton Arena on Saturday to face a hot Arkansas squad. After leading by nine points at the break, Arkansas fought itself to a tie game with just over eight minutes to go. With the tide seemingly turning, John Calipari had enough with the referees and got himself tossed from the game. While it cost the Wildcats the lead momentarily, Kentucky ultimately rallied and took control the rest of the way. All part of Cal’s master plan?

Entering this season, DePaul basketball had last beaten a team ranked inside of the KenPom top 20 on December 2, 2006 (a 64-57 win over Kansas). After early season wins against a pair of KenPom top 20 teams, DePaul picked up its third such win over the weekend in a trouncing of Butler. The win snapped a four-game losing streak and gives DePaul a chance to turn things back around as they spend the week at home with games against Creighton and St. John’s.

https://twitter.com/DePaulHoops/status/1218620020961562625?s=20

Share this story