ACC Stock Report: Volume V

Posted by Matthew Auerbach on January 22nd, 2020

Back to back losses by previously unbeaten Duke have opened up the standings at the top of the league, as Florida State and Louisville are now tied for the conference lead at 6-1. Below those three schools, however, is an unusually soft middle, littered with a number of teams that have proven capable of pushing their respective seasons in either direction during the final six weeks.  One of those teams leads our stock report this week.

Stock Rising

C’mon, Boeheim, You Team is Looking Up (USA Today Images)

Syracuse. After an 8-7 start, the Orange have reeled off three consecutive victories, putting themselves squarely back in the conversation for an NCAA Tournament berth. Generally speaking, Syracuse seasons turn most often on a tightening of the defensive screws, but this turnabout has been sparked by an offensive renaissance, highlighted by an uncommon adeptness from beyond the arc.

In the last nine seasons, Syracuse finished among the top 100 in three-point shooting just once. This year, however, the Orange rank 49th, at a respectable 36.3 percent, with 170 total makes. Armed with the league’s two most prolific long-range shooters in Buddy Boeheim and Elijah Hughes, Syracuse has shifted its style to fit those pieces, taking nearly 46 percent of its field goal attempts outside of the arc. This represents the highest percentage of those shots by a Jim Boeheim squad in the KenPom era.

While Hughes was the centerpiece of any Syracuse success this year, the coach’s son was far from a known commodity after experiencing some struggles. But, Boeheim came into his sophomore year confident and improved, and his recent heater has resulted in 67 made triples, good for fifth nationally. His 16.2 PPG, combined with Hughes’ 19.3 PPG, make the duo the highest scoring pair in the ACC, giving aid to a Syracuse defense which rates surprisingly low this season (96th) in defensive efficiency. In fact, if the Orange finish in that range, it would represent the second-worst defensive unit for Boeheim in the KenPom era.

In an unusually mediocre year for the league, the team that captures the ACC crown may just end up being the hottest outfit, warts and all. Syracuse may have found something here, playing to its strengths offensively and hoping that its historically good defensive scheme can overcome non-ideal personnel. Its remaining schedule is manageable enough, but if the two sharpshooters remain hot, it is conceivable that Syracuse could head to Greensboro in March as a top-three seed.

Stock Also Rising

David Johnson Spent Ample Time on the Rims at Duke (USA Today Images)

David Johnson, Louisville. Let’s stay positive this week: Hello to Virginia’s presence on the bubble, and North Carolina’s cellar-dwelling. But even the most pollyanna of Louisville supporters acknowledged that the team’s point guard play could prove to be the factor that holds the team back from achieving its maximum potential. But, following his two best games as a collegian, freshman David Johnson went a long way in allaying some of those concerns.

Good in the mid-week victory at Pittsburgh, Johnson was dynamite in the upset of Duke, leading the Cardinals with a career-high 19 points and seven assists. Named the league’s Freshman of the Week after nearly eclipsing his entire year’s production in two victories, Johnson is a player who possesses elite size at the point guard position. Johnson sustained a shoulder injury with three minutes remaining in Saturday’s contest, but all indications are the injury is reportedly nowhere near as serious as the shoulder ailment that caused him to miss the first four games of his rookie campaign. If healthy, Johnson could be the missing ingredient to elevate Chris Mack’s club back into the conversation of the nation’s elite.

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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).

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…

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…

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

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Weekend Notebook: Big 12 Elite Hit the Road

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 17th, 2020

It’s been a strange year around college basketball, and in some ways, the Big 12 is no different. Yes, Baylor and Kansas are leading the league, as expected, but with the Bears and Jayhawks flanked by West Virginia, three teams rank among the top five of KenPom‘s overall adjusted efficiency rankings, which is definitely something new. Similarly, whereas we’re used to seeing depth and NCAA Tournament-caliber teams down to the seventh or eighth spot, this year the middle looks more hollow with Kansas State, Iowa State and Oklahoma State really scuffling.

Are These the Best Two Teams in College Basketball? (USA Today Images)
  1. As it turns out, all three of those teams will be on the road this weekend, with Baylor paying a visit to Oklahoma State, Kansas flying down to Austin and West Virginia doing battle with Kansas State in Manhattan. All three are also expected to win, which probably says more about the quality of the league’s bottom half than anything else. If the season ended today and this were a normal year, you wouldn’t see seven or eight teams getting into the NCAA Tournament like usual. The Cowboys have been completely overmatched in league play with Cameron McGriff and Lindy Waters underperforming and Isaac Likelele still limited after missing four games with an undisclosed illness. Texas is looking feisty, but while Kansas State was expected to have a down year, the Wildcats are still trying to find their way, and it doesn’t help that the team has no idea what to expect out of Cartier Diarra on a nightly basis. I expect the bottom of the league to get better as we get into February, but the top should maintain its stranglehold this weekend.
  2. Announcers have been quick to note it, as have many in the national media, but I continue to be fascinated by the two-way consistency of Udoka Azubuike. Oklahoma shot a paltry 1-for-8 on dunks and layups Tuesday night with the Jayhawks’ big man moving incredibly well to disrupt close looks. Not only is he blocking shots at a higher rate than last season, but he’s somehow found a way to be even more efficient on offense, putting up a shooting percentage (or let’s just be real – dunking percentage) of 76.9 percent. The next few games should provide some opportunities for him to do well on offense as the team continues to work without a fully healthy Devon Dotson.
  3. Iowa State is really going through it as the Cyclones have had a terrible time stringing together any semblance of consistency. Smart defenses have realized that Tyrese Haliburton can’t hit a jump shot to save his life and are hedging away on pick-and-rolls, daring him to connect. In Haliburton’s defense, other playmakers have been tough to come by on the Iowa State roster, which I suppose is what can happen when you lose two talents like Lindell Wigginton and Talen Horton-Tucker. But the rest of the team isn’t exactly young, and as much as some fans are ready to move on from the head coaching tenure of Steve Prohm, that’s not happening anytime soon (nor should it). The Cyclones just don’t have a lineup that works against quality opponents and things only appear to get tougher from here. Wednesday’s loss at Baylor marked the beginning of a stretch of five road games out of seven. My guess is that this time next month, the team will have dug itself too big a hole to return to the NCAA Tournament, but I do think there remains some untapped potential with this squad.
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Ten Questions To Consider: Bumps in the Road Lead to Weekend of Opportunity

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on January 17th, 2020

With each passing week, familiarity breeds competitive action everywhere one looks. This weekend provides opportunities for players and teams to overcome some of their recent struggles. Here are 10 questions I have for this weekend’s action.

  1. How does Cassius Winston respond following his subpar game against Purdue? (Wisconsin @ Michigan State, Friday, 7 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) After averaging 24.8 points per game through his first five Big Ten outings, Cassius Winston was held to just 10 points in Michigan State’s blowout loss at Purdue. Winston failed to make any of his five three-point attempts and tied his career-high by committing nine turnovers.
  2. Will turnovers help Eric Musselman pick up his first marquee SEC win? (Kentucky @ Arkansas, Saturday, 4 PM EST, ESPN) Eric Musselman’s Razorbacks squad ranks among the top 20 in opponents’ turnover rate, having forced 86 more turnovers than they have committed through 16 games. Kentucky comes in after a loss at South Carolina, a game in which the Wildcats were -6 in the turnover battle. On the season, Kentucky has forced just one more turnover than they have committed.
  3. “No Place Like Home” – Will returning home be what fixes Maryland’s recent struggles? (Purdue @ Maryland, Saturday, 2 PM EST, ESPN2) Maryland returns to College Park where the Terps are a perfect 10-0 on the season. As Mark Turgeon’s seat heats up, Maryland will need more scoring from someone other than Anthony Cowan and Jalen Smith. On the most recent 0-2 road-trip, Maryland’s three other starters totaled just 20 points on 7-of-33 shooting in 144 minutes of game action.
  4. After struggling to slow Clemson’s Tevin Mack and Aamir Simms, how will Duke fare against ACC Preseason POY Jordan Nwora and Steven Enoch? (Louisville @ Duke, Saturday, 6 PM EST, ESPN) Duke’s top-10 defensive efficiency ranking has been aided by blocking 15.2 percent of its opponents’ shots, as their opponents have taken 46.3 percent of their field goal attempts at the rim (7th nationally). In its recent loss at Clemson, Duke only managed to block two shots.
  5. Can BYU make enough from beyond the arc to challenge Gonzaga in Spokane? (BYU @ Gonzaga, Saturday, 10 PM EST, ESPN2) A finger injury will keep BYU’s Yoeli Childs from playing against Gonzaga. Without Childs, the Cougars will look to rain threes against the Zags. BYU enters action Thursday night with five players who have made 20 or more three-pointers and a team three-point percentage that ranks well inside the top 10 nationally (39.6% 3FG).
  6. Can Auburn be the latest team to end a lengthy losing streak at a certain venue? (Auburn @ Florida, Saturday, 1:30 PM EST, CBS) Last weekend it was Baylor winning at Kansas and Clemson overcoming history at North Carolina. This weekend, Auburn has a chance to end a 12-game losing streak at Florida. During this streak, the Gators have won eight of those games by 15 or more points.
  7. Is it time to start taking Stanford seriously as both an NCAA team and Pac-12 threat? (Stanford @ USC, Saturday, 6:30 PM EST, Pac-12 Network) Behind a top-20 defensive efficiency ranking and a top-10 effective field goal percentage, Stanford sits at 15-2 (4-0 Pac-12). When the Cardinal avoid turning the ball over, they have been lethal from the floor, led by the outstanding play of freshman guard Tyrell Terry and the sharpshooting of Spencer Jones (46-of-102 from beyond the arc on the season).
  8. Can Minnesota ends its struggles on the road and pick up a quality win against Rutgers? (Minnesota @ Rutgers, Sunday, 1 PM EST, Big Ten Network) The Golden Gophers are 1-6 away from home so far this season as they head to Piscataway to take on a Rutgers team that is a perfect 12-0 there. While Rutgers owns a top-10 defensive efficiency, the Knights can struggle offensively, especially from deep. Minnesota, on the other hand, comes in with Marcus Carr and Daniel Oturu combining for 104 points over their last two games,
  9. Can Arizona find scoring beyond its “Big Three” freshman? (Colorado @ Arizona, Saturday, 2:30 PM EST, FOX) The freshman trio of Zeke Nnaji, Nico Mannion and Josh Green are averaging 43.8 points per game and are the the only three Wildcats averaging more than nine points per game. Seniors Dylan Smith and Chase Jeter continue to be plagued by bouts of inconsistent play.
  10. Can St. Louis find its interior defense that was present in the non-conference season? (Dayton @ Saint Louis, Friday, 7 PM EST, ESPN2) The Billikens have held opponents to a two-point field-goal percentage of 42.1 percent on the season, a rate that ranks among the top 20 in the nation. That said, through four Atlantic 10 contests, Saint Louis opponents have managed to shoot a healthy 49.2 percent from inside the arc. The recent lull will be tested by the nation’s best shooting team from inside the arc, Dayton, at 62.1 percent.

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ACC Stock Report: Volume IV

Posted by Matthew Auerbach on January 15th, 2020

Stock Rising

What a Wild Four-Day Stretch for Clemson Basketball (USA Today Images)

Clemson. Weeks don’t come much better than this, football results notwithstanding, as the Tigers backed up an historic victory in Chapel Hill with a home stunner over conference unbeaten Duke on Tuesday night. Given the state of North Carolina basketball this winter, there was a reasonable expectation that this year’s opportunity was ripe for Clemson to put a halt to the mind-numbing string of 59 consecutive losses on the road. There was no such assumption, however, when #3 Duke came to town, but the Tigers put together their best 40-minute effort of the season on their way to upending the top-rated KenPom outfit in impressive fashion.

While the headlines were focused on snapping the ignominious and unprecedented losing streak at North Carolina, the details paint a less optimistic picture. The Tigers needed a miraculous comeback — they were down 10 points inside two minutes in Chapel Hill — just to force overtime, where they ultimately outlasted the Tar Heels. But the good vibes and positive momentum weren’t going to be good enough to take down Duke, who has been running roughshod through a very down ACC, and had seemingly separated itself as the team to beat. Instead, though, the 9-7 Tigers put together a remarkably well-balanced performance in handing Duke its first loss since an upset to Stephen F. Austin on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

Clemson shot a scorching 56.6 percent from the floor, the best clip by a Blue Devils’ opponent in nearly six years. Perhaps even more pertinent to the upset was the Tigers’ ability to keep Duke from converting second-chance opportunities. This is not a vintage Duke team from the perimeter, but they have been able to maul teams on the offensive glass, rebounding their misses at the seventh-best rate in the country (37.2% Off Reb). Tuesday, Clemson limited Duke to just four offensive rebounds, and that, combined with its blistering shooting, was the combination that Brad Brownell’s club needed to climb back to .500 in league play and put a bow on one of the school’s most triumphant weeks in hardwood history.

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Five Questions: Big East Midseason

Posted by Justin Kundrat & Brad Cavallaro on January 15th, 2020

It feels like just yesterday that the season was tipping off and we were examining the biggest questions each Big East team would face this season, trying to fit new players into the puzzle, and evaluating offseason departures. But here we are at the midpoint of the season, and while there has been plenty of clarity around the conference’s contenders, the questions continue to pop up faster than the answers. Below, Big East microsite writers Justin Kundrat and Brad Cavallaro attempt to tackle the biggest ones at this point of the year.

1. Providence is off to a surprising 3-1 start. Is it too little too late or can you see a path for a tournament bid?

Where Does Providence Go From Here? (USA Today Images)

BC: Unfortunately, I think it’s too little too late for Providence. Despite an impressive 3-1 start that includes two road wins, the Friars likely need to get to 12-6 to make up for their awful non-conference start. Their schedule will only get tougher from here — providing more opportunities — but will also expose their inconsistent offense. Tonight’s game versus St. John’s is basically a must-win at this point because it may be their easiest remaining game on the schedule. Providence needs more contributions from AJ Reeves and Luwane Pipkins, who combined to shoot 1-of-11 against Butler last Friday.

JK: The best part about the Big East is that there’s no shortage of opportunities for quality wins. I’ve seen a record of 12-6 quoted on Providence’s message boards as the golden record, and honestly, it probably gets them there. That puts the Friars at 19-12 overall, ranked among in the top three of the conference standings, and presumably includes eight or so wins over NCAA Tournament teams. The home game loss against Butler last Friday was definitely a missed opportunity, but the Friars have definitely turned a corner. Alpha Diallo is finally getting (creating) good looks around the hoop; guard Maliek White has found consistent scoring; and the defense was successful in forcing opponents to take tough shots. A four-game winning streak featured some of the best two-point defense all season. That said, it’s an uphill climb to get to 12-6 — this team can’t afford any missed opportunities.

2. Marquette and Xavier are squaring off tonight and both stand at 1-3 heading into that game. Which team is more likely to right the ship and continue on the Tournament track?

JK: This is tough. Both teams have significant holes (interior offense for Marquette; shooting for Xavier) but Marquette probably has the higher ceiling and is therefore more likely to right the ship. Xavier is awkwardly constructed by lacking a true point guard, and aside from KyKy Tandy, you more or less know what you’re getting with this team. On the other hand, with Markus Howard consistently putting up 25-30 points per game, there’s a floor for Marquette that hopefully encourages more production from Brendan Bailey or Koby McEwen. But most of all, the team desperately needs Theo John to give something — anything — in the post. The 6’9″ big man has been saddled with foul trouble and awkwardly low efficiency around the hoop, contributing to an offense that ranks 338th (!) nationally in field goal conversions at the rim. No matter how much the defense has improved this season, interior offense is going to hold this team back.

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2019-20 RTC16: Week Nine

Posted by Walker Carey on January 13th, 2020

Much of the narrative surrounding college basketball this season has been how any team can win on any night and how this uncertainty has allowed several non-traditional powers to become among the best in the country. #2 Baylor definitely fits the non-traditional mold, as the Bears are continuing to establish themselves as one of the nation’s top teams this season. The latest step happened Saturday afternoon when Scott Drew‘s squad went into Allen Fieldhouse and thoroughly dominated #7 Kansas throughout a 67-55 win. The Bears used incredible performances from guards Jared Butler and MaCio Teague to control the game and throw the Jayhawks completely off. The victory was Baylor’s first ever win in Lawrence, as the program had previously been 0-16 at Allen Fieldhouse. The Bears have now won 12 straight since a November 9 loss to Washington and, even before Saturday’s win, they had built quite an NCAA Tournament résumé with wins over #5 Butler, #14 Villanova, Arizona and Texas Tech. There is still a long way to go in Big 12 play, but Baylor’s 4-0 start in the league has already put itself in a solid position to earn the program’s first ever Big 12 regular season title. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis

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What’s Trending: Out With the Old and In With the New

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on January 13th, 2020

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

When Clemson hit the floor at North Carolina and Baylor visited Kansas on Saturday, both teams were carrying much more than just a point spread labeling them as underdogs. Rather, these two programs were up against history, as neither school had ever won a game at those locations. That is, until Saturday….

In Chapel Hill, postgame feelings from the head coaches were quite different. For Brad Brownell‘s Tigers, the locker room was full of jubilation and joy as the weight of the long losing streak at North Carolina had mercifully ended…

Roy Williams, on the other hand, was hyperbolic beyond reason, from citing the loss as the lowest moment of his career to suggesting that athletic director Bubba Cunningham should fire him.

In Lawrence, Baylor held Kansas to a season-low offensive efficiency and effective field-goal percentage. After averaging 18.6 PPG through his first 14 contests of the season, Baylor held a banged-up Devon Dotson to just nine insignificant points. The Bears’ ability to slow he, along with Udoka Azubuike, led to an easy Baylor victory. Another streak snapped and the jumping off point for the question that never dies when referencing Baylor basketball: Is Scott Drew a good coach?

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ACC Decade in Review, Part 2: The Five Best Players

Posted by Brad Jenkins on January 10th, 2020

As the new new decade gets under way, it’s a good time to reflect on the past 10 years of basketball in the ACC. Recently, the Rush the Court ACC microsite team — Brad Jenkins (@bradjenk), Matt Auerbach (@mauerbach24), and Mick McDonald (@themickmcdonald) — got together to select the five best teams and players that the league has produced from the 2009-10 through 2018-19 seasons. Today we reveal our choices for the top five ACC players of the decade. Of course, selecting an All-Decade team is always a subjective exercise, but it’s now more difficult than ever, considering the current makeup of college basketball. How does one definitively compare one-and-done freshmen phenoms with solid four-year performers? And what about other players that leave school early after stellar sophomore or junior campaigns? No doubt, this was a much easier process when college basketball’s best stuck around campus for most of their careers. Case in point, in the past 10 seasons, only four players were selected first team All-ACC more than once. An average of 11 players earned that distinction in the prior three decades. With the current state of affairs in the sport, we are forced to put more weight on individual season accomplishments – all five of our selections below were consensus first team All-America selections in their last, or only, year of college action. Four won ACC Player of the Year honors in those decorated seasons, and the only one who did not was beaten out in the voting by another member of our top five. Here are our choices for the ACC’s All-Decade team.

MALCOLM BROGDON, VIRGINIA 2012-16 (Player of the Decade)

Malcolm Brogdon was the only player of the decade to be named a 3-time All-ACC First-Teamer. (Getty Images)

The most accomplished four-year performer of the past 10 seasons, Brogdon was the steady force behind Virginia’s rise to prominence. During his last three seasons, Virginia went 45-9 in ACC play with Brogdon being named first team All-ACC each year by the league’s coaches. As a senior, he not only won ACC Player of the Year, but was also selected as the conference’s top defender. National honors poured in as well – along with earning consensus first team All-America honors, he was named National Defensive Player of the Year by the NABC. During his time in Charlottesville, the Cavaliers won two ACC regular season crowns and captured the ACC Tournament title in 2014. The only blemish on Brogdon’s college basketball resume is the lack of a Final Four appearance. Virginia looked like a shoo-in for the 2016 Final Four, but the Cavaliers squandered a late 15-point lead and lost to Syracuse in the Elite Eight, the final game of Brogdon’s outstanding career.

ZION WILLIAMSON, DUKE 2019

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10 Questions To Consider: A Weekend of Marquee Matchups and Important Conference Games

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on January 10th, 2020

With each passing day March inches closer and closer. As conference play continues, this weekend includes a key match-up between the Big 12’s best, Big Ten surprises, and preseason All-Americans. Here are 10 questions I have in advance of the action ahead.

  1. Which conference play trend gets busted in Iowa City? (Maryland @ Iowa, Friday, 7 PM EST, FS1) Through four league games, both Maryland and Iowa have seen struggles on one end of the floor grow dramatically. For the Terps, their adjusted offensive efficiency has dropped by 12 points in Big Ten action, while Iowa’s adjusted defensive efficiency sits 15 points higher in league play than its season average.
  2. Will Baylor be able to match its season-long success on the opponents’ glass against Kansas? (Baylor @ Kansas, Saturday, 1 PM EST, CBS) Baylor has a top-40 offensive efficiency thanks in part to the team’s top-10 offensive rebounding rate. In a pair of match-ups with Kansas last season, Baylor grabbed 18 and 26 offensive boards. Scott Drew’s squad will be challenged by the length and rebounding ability of Udoka Azubuike and David McCormack.
  3. Have the Gators turned a corner? (Florida @ Missouri, Saturday, 8:30 PM EST, SEC Network) After starting the season 7-4, Florida has now won three straight games, including a pair of SEC contests. In the team’s first 11 games, the duo of Andrew Nembhard and Kerry Blackshear were averaging a combined 23.4 points per game — over the last three games, however, the pair is averaging 35.7 points per game.
  4. Can Providence keep things rolling against a one-loss Butler team? (Butler @ Providence, Friday, 9 PM EST, FS1) After opening the year 6-6 with four losses to teams outside of the KenPom top 100, Providence has now rattled off four straight wins against top-100 teams. Senior guard Maliek White tied his career-high with 19 points in his last game — after shooting 13-for-49 from three-point range in Big East action last season, White has gone 6-of-11 in three conference games.
  5. Which style of play will come out on top between Big Ten foes? (Wisconsin @ Penn State, Saturday, 2:15 PM EST, Big Ten Network) Greg Gard’s Badgers head into the weekend with an adjusted tempo that puts Wisconsin among the five slowest teams in the country. On the flip side, the Nittany Lions will come in ranked as one of the top 40’s fastest teams. Side note: Wisconsin has beaten Penn State 12 times in a row.
  6. Can Rutgers do something it hasn’t done since the 2001-02 season? (Rutgers @ Illinois, Saturday, Noon EST, Big Ten Network) Since an early December loss to Michigan State, Rutgers has now won six consecutive games, including three against KenPom top 30 teams. A win on Saturday would extend that winning streak to seven games, something Rutgers has not done since a stretch in November/December 2001.
  7. Will Michigan State continue to shoot well from beyond the arc in Big Ten play? (Michigan State @ Purdue, Sunday, Noon EST, CBS) Entering Michigan State’s Thursday night tilt at Minnesota, the Spartans are shooting a Big Ten best 38 percent on three-point attempts in league play. This is up from the team’s 33.8 percent in non-conference action.
  8. Which superstar shines brightest in this marquee matchup? (Marquette @ Seton Hall, Saturday, 4 PM EST, CBS Sports Network) Entering the season, Markus Howard and Myles Powell were marquee names as two of the nation’s best volume scorers. In three match-ups between the two teams last season, Howard made just 6-of-28 three-point attempts, whereas Powell made 12-of-30. If one goes off this weekend, it could spell doom for the other team.
  9. Which offense will make enough plays in a game featuring two of the nation’s best defenses? (Texas Tech @ West Virginia, Saturday, 6 PM EST) Points will be at a premium in Morgantown this weekend. Will Texas Tech be able to clean up offensive rebounding attack of West Virginia? Will West Virginia be able to make free throws? Will Texas Tech’s Davide Moretti find his stroke? The junior has gone just 11-of-41 from deep since December 1.
  10. Can Miami get key stops or is it time to start talking about Pittsburgh? (Pitt @ Miami, Sunday, 6 PM EST, ACC Network) In Jim Larranaga’s first eight years at Miami, the Hurricanes had an average defensive efficiency ranking of 55th nationally. As of Thursday, Miami’s defensive efficiency sits outside of the top 200. Last season, Pitt began ACC play 2-2 before it dropped its next 13 ACC games. Coming off of their first win at North Carolina in program history, Pitt has a chance to add its name to the bubble with a win at Miami.

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