Ten Questions to Consider: Teams Battle For Positioning As Others Fight for a Chance to Dance

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on March 6th, 2020

This weekend will send the first few teams dancing as conference tournaments are already underway in several leagues. Elsewhere, the power conferences enter their regular season finales with conference titles on the line. Here are 10 questions I have for just some of what will take place on the hardwood this weekend:

  1. Which Big East front-runner will gain the edge for a Big East Tourney run? (Seton Hall @ Creighton, Saturday, 2:30 PM EDT, Fox) With a win in Omaha, Seton Hall would guarantee itself a Big East title and the top seed in the upcoming Big East tournament. The #1 seed will open next week’s event against one of the three Big East teams not currently positioned to make the NCAA Tournament. In Creighton’s win at Seton Hall, the four Bluejays scored 18 points.
  2. After clinching no worse than a share of the Big 12 title, will Kansas be focused as it heads to Lubbock? (Kansas @ Texas Tech, Saturday, 2 PM EDT, ESPN) The Jayhawks have won 15 straight games and are a win away from winning the Big 12 regular season title outright. In Kansas’ two most recent games, they trailed with a little more than 14 minutes to go. Despite getting just five points from Udoka Azubuike in the first match-up with Texas Tech, Kansas never found itself behind on the scoreboard.
  3. Can Jay Huff keep up his recent level of play? (Louisville @ Virginia, Saturday, 4 PM EDT, ESPN) After dominating Duke on the defensive end of the floor last week, Virginia’s Jay Huff put an offensive show against Miami in the Cavaliers’ midweek win. Huff tied his career-high of 17 points while also grabbing nine rebounds. The big man has now scored 32 points over his last two games, the most of any two-game stretch during his career.
  4. Will UCLA’s recent improbable run of success continue? (UCLA @ USC, Saturday, 3:15 PM EDT, CBS) Mick Cronin’s Bruins can earn at worst a share of the Pac-12 title with a win over USC this weekend. UCLA has won seven straight games, but they will take on a Trojans team that beat the Bruins by 11 points in early January. In that match-up, foul trouble limited USC’s Onyeka Okongwu to just four points, yet the Trojans still posted 1.17 points per possession behind a 60 percent day from inside the arc and 7-of-14 shooting beyond it.
  5. Can West Virginia find any offense as it hosts Baylor? (Baylor @ West Virginia, Saturday, 1 PM EDT, ESPN+) There is no denying that West Virginia is an elite defensive and rebounding squad, capable of frustrating any opponent to great lengths. Unfortunately for Bob Huggins, this Mountaineers team is one of his worst offensive groups. Going back to the 1996-97 season, no Huggins team has logged a worse three-point or free-throw percentage. Poor shooting and a high turnover rate have derailed what was a very promising start.
  6. Will returning home help Maryland turn its play around? (Michigan @ Maryland, Sunday, Noon EDT, Fox) Had Minnesota not collapsed against Maryland last week, the Terps would be heading into their regular season finale with four straight defeats. After catching fire late from three-point range in the win at Michigan State, Anthony Cowan has made just 3-of-21 from distance over his last four games. Maryland returns to the Xfinity Center, however, where it has gone 15-1 so far on the season.
  7. Can Richmond keep its bubble hopes alive? (Richmond @ Duquesne, Friday, 7 PM EDT) After going 25-40 over the last two seasons, Chris Mooney now has Richmond sitting at 23-7 heading into its season finale. A win at Duquesne would make the Spiders 3-2 against Quad 2 opponents. Richmond currently has the second best in-conference defensive efficiency of any Atlantic 10 team over the past five years.
  8. Will San Diego State make it through the Mountain West Tournament unscathed? (MWC Final, Saturday, 5:30 PM EDT, CBS) A San Diego State Mountain West tournament championship would almost certainly lock up at least a #2 seed for the Aztecs in March Madness. Brian Dutcher’s squad has needed recent second-half rallies to avoid picking up their second loss, though. A title game matchup against a Utah State team that is among the Bracket Matrix’s first four out could be the final Mountain West test for San Diego State.
  9. Will the Missouri Valley Tournament come down to another thriller between Loyola (Chicago) and Northern Iowa? (MVC Final, Sunday, 2:10 PM EDT, CBS) Top seeds Loyola (Chicago) and Northern Iowa sit on opposite sides of the draw in “Arch Madness.” Both regular season matchups required overtime, with each team winning at home. Conference Player of the Year AJ Green of Northern Iowa made 39.4 percent of his three-point attempts on the regular season, but connected on just 6-of-18 attempts against the Ramblers.
  10. Can Liberty hold off a red-hot Ahsan Asadullah of Lipscomb? (A-Sun Final, Lipscomb @ Liberty, Sunday, 3 PM EDT, ESPN) Ritchie McKay’s Liberty Flames are the defending Atlantic Sun champs and the conference’s top seed this season. They take on a Lipscomb squad that is coming off a recent upset at North Florida. Lipscomb’s Ahsan Asadullah had 40 points and 14 rebounds in the Atlantic Sun quarterfinals and followed that up with 27 and 19 at North Florida.

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Ten Questions to Consider: Will Rematches Lead to Similar Results?

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on February 28th, 2020

The end of February and beginning of March is upon the college basketball world. As the number of days remaining in the regular season dwindles to single digits, the importance of each game grows. Here are 10 questions I have for some of the meaningful match-ups this weekend:

  1. Coming off of its late rally against Minnesota, will Maryland be ready for a full 40 minutes of Michigan State? (Michigan State @ Maryland, Saturday, 8 PM EST, ESPN) In the earlier match-up between these two teams in East Lansing, Maryland jumped out to an early 15-point lead before falling behind 60-53 with 3:24 to go. Anthony Cowan’s heroics from deep ultimately saved the Terps and led to pole position atop the Big Ten. It was a game in which Michigan State made just 21 percent of its three-point attempts.
  2. Will Penn State’s bench be a difference-maker as it looks to sweep Iowa? (Penn State @ Iowa, Saturday, Noon EST, Big Ten Network) The Nittany Lions’ bench is averaging 21.6 points per game over the team’s last five games. In their win against Iowa earlier in the season, the Penn State bench scored 46 of the team’s 89 points, while Iowa’s bench managed just eight points of its own.
  3. Will Marquette get productive showings from anyone other than Markus Howard? (Seton Hall @ Marquette, Saturday, 2:30 PM EST, Fox) In the first showdown between Markus Howard and Myles Powell this season, each dynamic scorer finished with more than 20 points (Howard: 27, Powell: 23). For Marquette, though, the rest of the team went just 3-of-11 from inside the arc, 6-of-19 from beyond it, and 4-of-9 at the charity stripe.
  4. After dropping its last two road games at NC State and Wake Forest, how does Duke fare at Virginia? (Duke @ Virginia, Saturday, 6 PM EST, ESPN) As Rush the ACC noted earlier in the week, Duke on the road has been a very different looking team compared to Duke at home. In Duke’s nine road ACC games, the Blue Devils have trailed after the opening 10 minutes in eight of those games. At home, Tony Bennett’s team has held its ACC opponents to an average of just 9.4 points in the opening 10 minutes of action.
  5. Can UCLA slow the Arizona offense again and gain a big win for its resume? (Arizona @ UCLA, Saturday, 10 PM EST, ESPN) In UCLA’s win at the McKale Center earlier this month, the Bruins held Arizona to just 52 points on 25.4 percent shooting from the field. It was the worst home shooting night in Arizona history. The Bruins limited Arizona freshman Nico Mannion to a season-low five points on 2-of-14 shooting.
  6. Will any defensive changes for Saint Mary’s work in slowing Gonzaga? (Saint Mary’s @ Gonzaga, Saturday, 10 PM EST, ESPN2) In Gonzaga’s lopsided win over the Gaels earlier in the year, Corey Kispert’s jumper at the 8:03 mark of the first half pushed the lead to 22 points as Gonzaga led 34-12. Mark Few’s squad made 16 of their first 17 shots from the field. The only thing that slowed Gonzaga in the opening minutes was turnovers, as the Bulldogs committed seven in the first 10 minutes.
  7. Will Auburn be able to win the battle of the backboard and free throw line on the road at Rupp? (Auburn @ Kentucky, Saturday, 3:45 PM EST, CBS) In Auburn’s home win over Kentucky on February 1, the Tigers were +11 in free-throw makes (33 FTM), +20 in free-throw attempts (44 FTA), +14 on the glass, and won the turnover battle. On the season, Kentucky has averaged 9.6 more made free throws at home than its opponents.
  8. Can Michigan keep winning on the road? (Michigan @ Ohio State, Sunday, 4 PM EST, CBS) After dropping its first four road tests in league play, Michigan has won its last four Big Ten tests away from the Crisler Center. In its loss against Ohio State earlier in the season, 31 of Michigan’s 60 field goal attempts were from three-point range, its highest three-point rate on the season, a rate much higher than its season average.
  9. Has Stanford stabilized itself after its tough midseason stretch? (Colorado @ Stanford, Sunday, 6 PM EST, ESPNU) The Cardinal have won three straight games after a stretch where it lost seven of eight. Stanford takes on a Colorado team it lost to earlier in the month. That match-up is remembered for a scary scene involving Oscar da Silva’s head injury. Since returning from the injury suffered in that game, da Silva has scored 15 or more points in each of his four games.
  10. Can Davidson ruin Dayton’s quest for A-10 perfection? (Davidson @ Dayton, Friday, 7 PM EST, ESPN2) Bob McKillop’s Wildcats are shooting an Atlantic 10 best 37.3 percent from beyond the arc in league play while also holding opponents to a league-low 44.2 percent on field goal attempts from inside the arc. Slowing Dayton is easier said than done as the Flyers lead in the nation in effective field goal percentage and two-point shooting percentage.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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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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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Ten Questions To Consider: The Final Weekend of 2019

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on December 28th, 2019

In the midst of the holidays comes a weekend of action where teams must avoid distraction off the court as they look to answer questions on the court. Highlighted by Louisville’s trip to Rupp Arena, here are 10 questions I have for this weekend’s slate of games:

  1. How will Kentucky’s offense look in the half-court? (Louisville @ Kentucky, Saturday, 3:45 PM EST, CBS) Defensively, no team has a lower opponents’ transition effective field goal percentage than Louisville. On offense, Kentucky’s non-transition effective field-goal percentage ranks outside of the top 200. The Wildcats, one of the nation’s worst three-point shooting teams, must find a way to knock down perimeter shots to beat Louisville.
  2. Can Wisconsin’s “Big Three” be efficient from beyond the arc? (Wisconsin @ Tennessee, Saturday, 1:30 PM EST, CBS) Entering the weekend, the shot making of Nate Reuvers, D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison has been a bellweather for success. In the team’s six wins, the trio has shot 41.2 percent from three-point range; In Wisconsin’s five defeats, however, the trio has made just 21.5 percent of its shots from deep.
  3. Will Ohio State continue to torch the nets from beyond the arc? (West Virginia vs. Ohio State, Sunday, Noon, FS1) The Buckeyes are shooting over 40 percent from three-point range on the season, good for a top 10 ranking nationally. West Virginia will be Ohio State’s first opponent with a defensive three-point percentage ranking of 80th or better, however (Mountaineers rank fourth).
  4. Just how good is Stanford freshman Tyrell Terry? (Kansas @ Stanford, Sunday, 3 PM EST, ABC) Tyrell Terry is averaging over 15 points and five rebounds per game this season while making 40.4 percent of his three-point attempts. The four-star freshman guard has struggled with turnovers recently, however, coughing up the ball 15 times over his last four games.
  5. Can Arkansas keep the Hoosiers off the free throw line and steal a road win? (Arkansas @ Indiana, Sunday, 6 PM EST, Big Ten Network) Only Eastern Michigan has a higher free throw attempt to field goal attempt ratio than Indiana. If Arkansas can avoid fouls and limit one of the nation’s best freshman offensive rebounders in Trayce Jackson-Davis, the Razorbacks have a chance to pick up their first quality non-conference win.
  6. Can Duke’s Joey Baker keep his recent success going? (Brown @ Duke, Saturday, 11:30 AM EST, ESPN2) After scoring just over four points in 10 minutes per game through Duke’s first seven contests, Baker is averaging 12.8 points in 19.5 minutes per game over Duke’s last four. Baker gives Coach K another sharpshooter who can help keep the post clear for Vernon Carey.
  7. Can Liberty’s balanced attack keep the Flames undefeated? (Liberty @ LSU, Sunday, 1:30 PM EST, SEC Network) Ritchie McKay’s Liberty squad features six players averaging nine or more points per game this season. The Flames have had four different players lead the team in scoring over the squad’s last five games.
  8. What can be made of UC Irvine’s start to the season? (Pacific @ UC Irvine, Saturday, 10 PM EST) Russell Turner’s Anteaters were tabbed as the preseason Big West favorite, but after losing only six games last season, they have already lost seven this season. A defense that ranks among the bottom 40 in three-point percentage defense will be challenged by a Pacific squad that ranks among the top 40 three-point shooting teams.
  9. Will Bryant help turn Maryland’s fortunes around as they get ready for Big Ten play? (Bryant @ Maryland, Sunday, Noon, Big Ten Network) After starting 10-0, the Terps dropped consecutive games at Penn State and Seton Hall. In those defeats, senior guard Anthony Cowan went 8-of-31 from the field along with nine turnovers and just six assists. While Bryant struggles to force turnovers and protect its defensive glass, the Bulldogs own a top 40 effective field-goal percentage defense.
  10. Can Cartier Diarra end Kansas State’s recent struggles? (Tulsa @ Kansas State, Sunday, 6 PM EST, ESPN+) The Wildcats have lost five of their last seven games, and three of the team’s six wins have come against KenPom teams ranked 320th or worse. After shooting 38.6 percent on 158 three-point attempts during his first two years at Kansas State, Cartier Diarra is shooting just 25.5 percent on his 25 three-point attempts this season.

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