2020-21 RTC16: Week 12

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on February 15th, 2021

Gonzaga returns to a unanimous #1 in the RTC16 following another 2-0 week on the road. While Baylor enters a pause, Michigan returned to action and showed it belongs among the top four teams that have separated from the rest of the pack. While neither team remains in the RTC16, perhaps the biggest outcome of the past week came in the Missouri Valley Conference where Drake and Loyola (Chicago) split their matchups, leaving the possibility of a two-bid MVC.

CONFERENCE BREAKDOWN: Big 12 (5), Big Ten (4), Big East (2), AAC (1), ACC (1), Pac-12 (1), SEC (1), WCC (1)

RISING

  • Creighton: After receiving zero votes in last week’s RTC16, Creighton climbs back into the top 16 and again appears on all ballots. Creighton made 17 of its first 22 field-goal attempts against Villanova to build a 10-point first-half lead that they never would relinquish. While Marcus Zegarowski and Mitch Ballock led the way in scoring, the performances of Christian Bishop and Damian Jefferson again proved that Creighton is a dangerous team on any given night.
  • LSU: Will Wade’s squad went 2-0 this past week with a pair of double-figure SEC victories. The Tigers are now tied for second in the SEC at 8-4 while boasting a top 10 offensive efficiency ranking. Freshman Cameron Thomas is averaging 22.6 points per game, the fourth highest mark in the country.
  • USC: The Trojans’ rise to the top of the Pac-12 has been matched with a new season best showing in the RTC16. Having now won six straight and 12 of its past 13 games, USC is holding opponents to an average of 60.1 points per game over its last seven outings. Evan Mobley continues his show his immense talent, dominating on each end of the floor.

FALLING

  • Missouri: An 0-2 week for Missouri drops the Tigers out of the RTC16. Missouri was without third-leading scorer and the team’s best rebounder Jeremiah Tilmon in the weekend loss to Arkansas, as Tilmon was away from the team following a death in his family.
  • Penn State: Prior to this week, Penn State was 7-8 and 4-7 in Big Ten play with recent wins over Wisconsin and Maryland. With no bad losses and several resume-building wins, the Nittany Lions had a chance to play their way into bubble consideration. Then this week happened. First Penn State blew a four-point lead late Michigan State and then they became the first Big Ten team Nebraska had beaten since January of last year.
  • UCLA: Recent lackluster play carried into this week for the Bruins beginning with a poor showing in Pullman against Washington State and carrying over to a game against Washington in which the Bruins barely walked away victorious. They face an important week ahead as the desert schools travel to Los Angeles.

NOTABLE GAMES OF THE WEEK

  • Monday: Virginia @ Florida State, 7 PM EST, ESPN
  • Tuesday: Texas @ Oklahoma, 9 PM EST, ESPN
  • Thursday: Iowa @ Wisconsin, 7 PM EST, ESPN
  • Thursday: Houston @ Wichita State, 7 PM EST,
  • Saturday: West Virginia @ Texas, 3 PM EST, ABC
  • Saturday: Texas Tech @ Kansas, 2 PM EST, ESPN
  • Sunday: Michigan @ Ohio State, 1 PM EST, CBS

Ten Questions to Consider: A Resume Building and Protecting Weekend

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on February 12th, 2021

With the Super Bowl behind us, the focus of the sports world shifts fully to college basketball for the next month. For those just tuning in, this weekend presents several key match-ups across numerous conferences. For those who have been following the sport all season long, this weekend’s slate of action provides another glimpse into action of teams that have brought intrigue throughout the season. Here are 10 questions I have, questions that could go a long a way to helping answer a teams plans for March:

  1. Can West Virginia continue to torch the nets from beyond the arc? (Oklahoma @ West Virginia, Saturday, 1 PM EST, ESPN+) After starting the year making 30.3 percent of their three-point attempts through their first 10 games, the Mountaineers are now shooting 43.8 percent from deep over their last nine games. The percentages flipped once Oscar Tshiebwe left the team. West Virginia made 14-of-24 from deep against Oklahoma earlier in the season, but made a season-low 27.8 percent of shots attempted inside the arc.
  2. Can Creighton continue to keep Villanova ineffective from three-point range? (Villanova @ Creighton, Saturday, 5 PM EST, Fox) While Villanova is 2-1 in its last three games against Creighton, those wins have not been easy as one came in overtime and the other came after trailing by 10 points with just over 11 minutes to go. One cause for concern for Villanova heading into this match-up is the way they have recently shot the three against the Bluejays. In these past three contests, Villanova is shooting just 24.7 percent on its three-point attempts.
  3. Can Arkansas do a better job of slowing Xavier Pinson and Jeremiah Tilmon this time around? (Arkansas @ Missouri, Saturday, 4 PM EST, ESPN2) In the first match-up between these two teams, Missouri’s pair of Pinson and Tilmon scored 48 points on 14-of-24 shooting, including 19 made free throws. Both Pinson and Tilmon have shown flashes of becoming dominant scorers for Missouri, while at other times both have been held in check. Slowing the pair can go a long way in Arkansas adding its second Quad 1 win to its resume.
  4. After last playing on January 22, how will Michigan look in its return to action? (Michigan @ Wisconsin, Sunday, 1 PM EST, CBS) Michigan has the nation’s best two-point field-goal percentage defense and it showed in its first match-up of the season with the Badgers. Wisconsin was held to 11-of-37 shooting from inside the arc en route to a season-low 54 points, 25 of which came in the final 10 minutes.
  5. Will this AAC battle again prove to be an offensive struggle? (Memphis @ Houston, Sunday, 1 PM EST, ESPN) In last season’s two games against one another, points were always at a premium. Houston shot 33.6 percent from the field against Memphis, while the Tigers shot just 35 percent in the two games against Houston. A big key last year was turnovers. In Houston’s win, they were +9 in the turnover battle, while they finished -6 in the Memphis win.
  6. If a team seizes control early, will they be able to maintain it for 40 minutes? (Louisville @ Virginia Tech, Saturday, Noon EST, ACC Network) In the first game of the year between these two ACC foes, Virginia Tech jumped out to an 11-0 lead before Louisville responded with a 47-22 run of its own. While the Hokies ultimately lost by two points, they finished the rest of the game on what amounts to a 49-26 run of their own. Jalen Cone’s sharpshooting gave the Hokies a chance with his season-best six made threes, while the rest of the team went just 3-of-18 from deep.
  7. Does the road to the top spot in the A-10 run through defending one’s own backboard? (St. Bonaventure @ VCU, Friday, 7 PM EST, ESPN2) Entering midweek, St. Bonaventure and VCU were tied with three other teams for first place in the Atlantic 10. The Bonnies beat VCU earlier in a game where each team had 15 or more offensive rebounds. In A-10 play, both teams rank among the bottom three in opponents’ offensive rebounding rate, while ranking among the top three in offensive rebounding rate.
  8. Can Clemson clean up its turnovers and avoid being swept by the Yellow Jackets? (Georgia Tech @ Clemson, Friday, 8 PM EST, ACC Network) Earlier this season, Clemson shot 52 percent from the field, made 9-of-18 from deep and still lost to Georgia Tech by 18 points. The Tigers committed 20 turnovers and could not stop the Yellow Jackets from anywhere on the floor, including watching three different Georgia Tech players score 20 or more points. Georgia Tech (5-5) and Pitt are the only remaining Clemson opponents to be at least .500 in ACC play.
  9. After playing against one another on Saturday, is Sunday’s game a must-win for one of these teams? (Loyola Chicago @ Drake, Sunday, Noon EST, ESPN2) After losing to Valparaiso last week, Drake’s NET Ranking fell by nearly 30 spots. Loyola (Chicago) sits inside the top 15 for now, but they lack a Quad 1 win and are just 3-3 vs. Quad 1 and Quad 2 opponents. While both have strong arguments today as bubble teams, avoiding being swept this weekend will go a long ways towards keeping themselves in bubble consideration a month from now.
  10. At what point will Ohio State need CJ Walker to find his touch from beyond the arc? (Indiana @ Ohio State, Saturday, Noon EST, ESPN) While EJ Liddell has made tremendous strides this season and Justice Sueing’s presence in Columbus has been a valuable addition, one thing that has been missing has been the three-point shot of guard CJ Walker. Walker made 34 percent of 194 three-point attempts the last two seasons, but is shooting just 21.4 percent this season (15.4% in Big Ten play). Walker has a chance to change things against an Indiana defense that ranks dead last in Big Ten play in opponents’ three-point percentage.

Ten Questions to Consider: Rivalries, Rematches & Opportunities

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on February 5th, 2021

From Monday through Wednesday, AP Top 25 teams had won just 10 of 19 games played during the week. Heading into the weekend, will chaos continue to rule the college basketball landscape? Rivalries, rematches and teams streaking in both directions lead the way of the 10 questions I have for games taking place over the next few days.

  1. Can Illinois get transition opportunities against Wisconsin? (Wisconsin @ Illinois, Saturday, 2:30 PM EST, Fox) Hoop-Math data shows that Illinois ranks among the top 20 in both percentage of shots that come in transition and transition field goal percentage. In Wisconsin’s five losses they have allowed an average of 13 fast break points to opposition. In Badgers’ victories, opponents are averaging just 6.6 fast break points.
  2. Can Cade Cunningham carry the Cowboys over the Longhorns? (Texas @ Oklahoma State, Saturday, 3 PM EST, ABC) After a pair of early fouls against TCU on Wednesday, Cunningham played just eight minutes in the first half without scoring a point. He finished the game with 15 points over the final 10 minutes, but an ill-advised shot attempt with the clock winding down in a tie game ultimately cost the Cowboys. Cunningham finished with a season-low two rebounds and two assists.
  3. Will UCLA be able to get post scoring from Cody Riley up against Evan Mobley? (UCLA @ USC, Saturday, 10 PM EST, Pac-12 Network) The Bruins picked up a win against Oregon State last week despite shooting just 32.7 percent from the field. Mick Cronin wants to use Cody Riley’s time on the court with the ball in the big man’s hands. Riley, a strong but undersized big, will be challenged by the talented Evan Mobley who is averaging over three blocks a game over his previous eight games.
  4. Which part of the first matchup will carry over into the Big Ten tilt between Iowa and Indiana? (Iowa @ Indiana, Sunday, Noon EST, Fox) In the first matchup between these teams, Iowa led and seemed to have control for the opening 28 minutes of action. Then Indiana went on its 27-6 run which flipped control of the game. The Hoosiers lived at the free-throw line with a free-throw rate of 66 percent, which led to 21 makes on 35 attempts.
  5. Can Maryland win back-to-back league games for the first time this season? (Maryland @ Penn State, Friday, 7 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) Maryland has followed up each of its three previous Big Ten wins by losing its next game. The Terps will be challenged by the Penn State duo of Izaiah Brockington and Myreon Jones, who are both averaging more than 18 points per game over their last four home games.
  6. Can Alabama make a run at a #1 Seed? (Alabama @ Missouri, Saturday, Noon EST, SEC Network) As of Thursday, the Crimson Tide have 10 wins across Quad 1 and Quad 2 teams, the most in the nation. Missouri is one of two remaining teams on Alabama’s regular-season schedule that would qualify as a Quad 1 opponent. These teams are polar opposites of one another from beyond the three-point line, with Alabama ranking first in offensive and defensive three-point percentage in SEC play, while Missouri ranks 12th in both categories.
  7. Will Villanova be focused at the tip following its loss at St. John’s? (Georgetown @ Villanova, Sunday, 2:30 PM EST, Fox) Villanova’s offensive efficiency against St. John’s was a season low by more than 15 points. In the first matchup with Georgetown, the Wildcats trailed at the half, 46-33, before coming back to win the game by 13. It truly was a tale of two halves with Georgetown shooting 58 percent in the first and just 27 percent in the final 20 minutes.
  8. Can Posh Alexander continue his hot play and further push the Johnnies into bubble contention? (St. John’s @ Providence, 2 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) The St. John’s freshman guard is averaging 16.8 points per game during the current five-game winning streak of the Red Storm. During this stretch, Alexander has found his stroke from three-point range having made 10-of-23 (43.5%). In the team’s first 14 games, Alexander was just 5-of-22 (22.7%) from beyond the arc.
  9. Can LSU end its recent funk and find its three-point shot? (Florida @ LSU, Saturday, 2 PM EST, ESPN) On the one hand, three of LSU’s four recent losses have come against top 15 ranked opponents. On the other hand, over their last five games, the Tigers are shooting just 27 percent from beyond the arc. One player the Tigers particularly need to improve from deep is Cam Thomas. Over LSU’s first seven games, Thomas was making 36.8 percent of his three-point attempts, but since the calendar hit 2021, Thomas is just 17-of-74 (23%) from deep.
  10. Can the Tar Heels avoid the trap that is a struggling Duke team? (North Carolina @ Duke, Saturday, 6 PM EST, ESPN) North Carolina heads to Durham without a Quad 1 win. While Duke sits at just 7-6, with a NET Ranking of 66th prior to action on Thursday, the Blue Devils would qualify as a Quad 1 opponent. The Tar Heels must be cognizant of their turnover woes, especially coming off committing 17 in the loss at Clemson.

2020-21 RTC16: Week 10

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on February 1st, 2021

Teams that began the week ranked among the AP Top 25 lost a combined 13 games this past week, with a handful of other games being too close for comfort. While the RTC16 top five went unscathed, last week’s rankings have undergone a shakeup following the up-and-down week. No one climbed higher in a week than Oklahoma which used wins against Texas and Alabama to vault into the top 10. The state of Texas continues to dominate the RTC16 with four teams ranked among the top 12, but it is now Houston who is ranked second among Lone Star State teams. Kelvin Sampson’s Cougar team is now 15-1, with its lone blemish coming by a point against Tulsa.

CONFERENCE BREAKDOWN: Big 12 (4), Big Ten (4), ACC (3), SEC (2), AAC (1), Big East (1), WCC (1)

RISING

  • Illinois: The Illini picked up a signature win with their victory over Iowa on Friday. Trent Frazier scored a season-high 24 points and matched his high-mark with four made three-pointers. Prior to Friday, Frazier had been averaging just 7.3 points per game over his previous seven games.
  • Ohio State: After a shaky performance on Wednesday against Penn State, a game in which the Buckeyes overcame an eight-point deficit in the final ten minutes, Ohio State defeated Michigan State with ease. At 8-4 in Big Ten play, second-place is within reach for Chris Holtmann’s squad. Sophomore EJ Liddell has stepped up his game recently having scored 20 or more points in each of the last three games.
  • Virginia Tech: The Hokies had scored 34 points in the opening 28 minutes against Virginia over the weekend. In the final 12 minutes, Virginia Tech outscored UVA 31-7 to grab a key ACC win. Tech’s 2-0 week comes following the suspension of Tyrece Radford. Keve Aluma’s presence was large scoring 14 against Notre Dame and then 29 against Virginia. Aluma was coming off of a two point, 1-of-10 showing in a loss at Syracuse the weekend prior.

FALLING

  • Kansas: Kansas snapped its three-game skid midweek against TCU, but came crashing back down with an uninspiring and lopsided loss against Tennessee. While the at-times maligned David McCormack was productive, the Jayhawks trio of Ochai Agbaji, Christian Braun, and Jalen Wilson could not buy many makes from three-point range, combining to go 6-of-32 from deep in KU’s two games last week.
  • Marquette: After a 5-2 start which included wins against Creighton and Wisconsin, Marquette’s season continued in the wrong direction this past week with losses to Providence and St. John’s. Now sitting at 8-9 and 4-7 in the Big East, the Golden Eagles are headed for their worst season since Steve Wojciechowski’s first year at Marquette.
  • Michigan State: Thursday night’s 30-point loss at the hands of Rutgers was the most lopsided loss to an unranked team during Tom Izzo’s tenure at Michigan State. It was only the fourth time an Izzo coached Spartan team had lost by 30 or more points, the last time having come in December of 2008 against #1 North Carolina. Michigan State followed up its loss at Rutgers with a 17-point loss against Ohio State. Michigan State’s six-conference losses have come by an average margin of defeat of 16 points.

NOTABLE GAMES OF THE WEEK

  • Monday: Oklahoma @ Texas Tech, 9 PM EST, ESPN
  • Tuesday: Baylor @ Texas, 7 PM EST, ESPN
  • Thursday: Ohio State @ Iowa, 7 PM EST, ESPN
  • Saturday: Alabama @ Missouri, 8:30 PM EST, Network
  • Saturday: UCLA @ USC, 10 PM EST,
  • Sunday: Xavier @ Villanova, 2:30 PM EST, Fox

Ten Questions to Consider: Challenges In and Across Conferences

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on January 29th, 2021

The final weekend of January brings important conference tilts with teams trying to stay at the top of their leagues, others trying to end skids, and those in the Big 12 and SEC playing for conference bragging rights. With under 50 days to go until Selection Sunday, here are 10 questions I have for games this weekend:

  1. Can Iowa play enough defense to leave Champaign with a victory? (Iowa @ Illinois, Friday, 9 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) The Hawkeyes led Indiana 53-44 with 12 minutes to go last week before surrendering the lead from a 23-3 Hoosiers’ run over the next nine minutes. The Illini’s Kofi Cockburn enters this game with seven consecutive double-doubles and 11 on the season, matching Western Kentucky’s Charles Bassey for the most in the nation. Entering play on Thursday, Illinois is one of three teams to rank among the top 20 in both two-point and three-point field-goal percentages.
  2. Will Alabama exploit the percentages surrounding the Oklahoma defense? (Alabama @ Oklahoma, Saturday, Noon EST, ESPN) Over 47 percent of Alabama’s field-goal attempts come from behind the three-point line. And while they are making 36 percent of those attempts on the season, the Crimson Tide have made an SEC best 41.2 percent during a 9-0 start to league play. In this Big 12/SEC Challenge, the Tide face an Oklahoma defense that both sees opponents attempt more threes than the national average and make them at a clip of 35.8 percent, ranking 258th in the nation.
  3. Can Santiago Vescovi snap out of his recent shooting troubles? (Kansas @ Tennessee, Saturday, 6 PM EST, ESPN) Tennessee’s Santiago Vescovi is 5-of-19 (26.3%) from beyond the arc over his last four games. In all other games this season, Vescovi has gone 24-of-55 (43.6%). A hot Vescovi could send Kansas to its fourth loss in five games.
  4. Will Sharife Cooper’s excellence be slowed by the tenacious Baylor defense? (Auburn @ Baylor, Saturday, 4 PM EST, ESPN) Since becoming eligible six game ago, Auburn freshman Sharife Cooper is averaging 22.3 points, 8.7 assists and 5.0 rebounds a game. In his last game, Cooper scored 28 points in just 28 minutes, thanks in part to an 18-for-21 night at the line. Baylor’s suffocating defense led by Davion Mitchell rarely gives up looks around the rim, putting pressure on Cooper to show a three-point stroke that has not been there yet this season.
  5. How much of Boise State’s great start to the season was a product of its schedule? (Boise State @ Colorado State, Friday, 11 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) Boise State began the year 13-1 overall and 9-0 in Mountain West play before dropping a game Wednesday night to Colorado State. Of the Broncos’ 13 wins, only one (BYU) has come against a team with a KenPom ranking of #175 or better. In Wednesday night’s game, Boise State had no answer for Colorado State’s David Roddy, who logged 27 points and 15 rebounds. Roddy is one of seven players in the nation averaging 16 or more points, nine or more rebounds, and two or more assists per game.
  6. Can West Virginia continue its hot shooting from beyond the arc? (Florida @ West Virginia, Saturday, 2 PM EST, ESPN) Since shooting 2-of-21 from deep against Oklahoma six games ago, the Mountaineers have made 52-of-112 three-pointers since. Miles McBride is making a Big 12 best 53 percent in league play, including 12 of his last 19 attempts.
  7. Can Missouri State throw a wrench into the Ramblers 8-1 start to MVC play? (Loyola Chicago @ Missouri State, Sunday, 3 PM EST, CBS Sports Network) Last week, Missouri State played undefeated Drake on back-to-back nights. In the first game, the Bears blew a 15-point second-half lead and on the next wasted a two-point lead with under six minutes to go. Missouri State has the MVC’s top-two scorers in Isiaih Mosley (22.9 PPG) and Gaige Prim (17.1 PPG) and the league’s top rebounder (Prim, 9.8/G).
  8. What Michigan State team will show up in Columbus? (Michigan State @ Ohio State, Sunday, 1 PM EST, CBS) Prior to Thursday night’s no-show against Rutgers, Michigan State had last played on January 8. Through the Spartans’ first six Big Ten games, they have shot 40.8 percent from the field and just 32.5 percent on three-point attempts.
  9. How far can St. Bonaventure ride its defense? (George Mason @ St. Bonaventure, Saturday, 2 PM EST, CBS Sports Network) The Bonnies are 8-1 overall and 6-1 in the A-10. With a defensive effective field-goal percentage which ranks among the top 25 nationally, St. Bonaventure is allowing an A-10 low 87.6 points per 100 possessions in A-10 games. The Bonnies are still waiting for more from the team’s leading scorer Kyle Lofton, who is just 3-of-29 from three-point range this season, a year after he made 41 percent in conference-play.
  10. Which Creighton team shows up on the road this weekend? (Creighton @ DePaul, Saturday, 8 PM EST, CBS Sports Network) Creighton overcame a 16-point second-half deficit on Wednesday to beat Seton Hall. While the Bluejays are 4-2 on the road, a pair of those wins have been by a mere two points. Creighton scores 6.7 fewer points per game on the road while also allowing its opponents to score 5.3 more points per game when playing away from the CHI Health Center.

2020-21 RTC16: Week 9

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on January 25th, 2021

While the top four remains unchanged this week, the rest of the top 16 was not without shuffle. A loss to Indiana sends Iowa back out of the top five, while Michigan, now headed for a two-week break, moves back into the top five. Alabama extended its winning-streak to nine games and jumps from 13th to 7th, appearing in the top 10 in each ballot cast. Kansas tumbles to a tie for 16th this week, appearing on just 50 percent of the submitted ballots. Kansas gets a home game against TCU mid-week before a test in the Big 12/SEC Challenge against an equally struggling Tennessee team, which dropped from #7 to unranked in the RTC16 this week.

CONFERENCE BREAKDOWN: Big 12 (5), Big Ten (4), ACC (2), Big East (2), SEC (2), AAC (1) WCC (1)

RISING

  • Florida State: The Seminoles climb from outside of the top 16 all the way up to #10 this week. Leonard Hamilton’s team not only put together back-to-back double-figure wins, but did so in dominant fashion. Florida State led Louisville by a margin of 40-16 before winning 78-65; and then over the weekend led Clemson by as many as 38 points on its way to a 80-61 victory.
  • Loyola Chicago: As of today, the Ramblers have a top 30 NET Ranking and a top 25 KenPom ranking. Senior center Cameron Krutwig is averaging a career-best 15.3 points per game, while shooting 62.7 percent from the field. Porter Moser’s squad is playing tenacious defense, holding MVC opponents to a league-low 83.8 points per 100 possessions.
  • Oklahoma: Despite Austin Reaves shooting 3-of-11 from the field, the Sooners grabbed a big win at home over Kansas over the weekend. De’Vion Harmon matched his season-high of 22 points. More impressively OU limited Kansas to just two offensive-rebounds.

FALLING

  • Virginia Tech: Virginia Tech falls out of the RTC16 after a lopsided loss at Syracuse over the weekend. The Hokies leading scorer on the season Keve Aluma scored just two points and shot 1-of-10 from the field. Earlier today, the Hokies were dealt a blow when Tyrece Radford was suspended indefinitely from the team as he is dealing with off the court issues.
  • Tennessee: The Volunteers were 0-2 this past week with losses to Florida and Missouri. Tennessee turned the ball over 18 times in both games, finishing the week with a turnover margin of -8. Additionally, the Volunteers really struggled at the free-throw line, making just 25 of their 50 free-throw attempts during the week.
  • The top of the Pac-12: While the middle and bottom of the Pac-12 had been largely criticized for being lackluster, prior to this past week the top of the conference seemed to be running strong. Then Colorado, Oregon, and UCLA each lost games last week. Oregon hits the road for a Southern California trip which will feature two games against UCLA and another at USC over the next eight days in what will be important action for the conference.

NOTABLE GAMES OF THE WEEK

  • Monday: Syracuse @ Virginia, 7 PM EST, ESPN
  • Tuesday: Oklahoma @ Texas, 7 PM EST
  • Wednesday: Wisconsin @ Maryland, 9 PM EST, Big Ten Network
  • Thursday: Oregon @ UCLA, 9 PM EST, ESPN
  • Friday: Iowa @ Illinois, 9 PM EST, Fox Sports 1
  • Saturday: Big 12/SEC Challenge, All-Day
  • Sunday: SMU @ Houston, 1 PM EST

2020-2021 RTC16: Week 8

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on January 18th, 2021

The state of Texas had the attention of the college basketball world much of the past week. First it was the showdown between Texas and Texas Tech, with Tech’s Mac McClung taking over in the final minutes. Over the weekend, Texas Tech and Baylor played a tight game before the Bears proved to be too much. Attention remains on the Big 12 heading into this week with Baylor hosting a Kansas team who is coming off of a loss against Oklahoma State. Elsewhere, Minnesota rebounded from a 25-point defeat at the hands of Michigan 10 days prior with an 18-point win of its own. While Gonzaga and Baylor continue to roll around, anything has remained possible outside of the top two.

Conference Breakdown: Big 10 (4), Big 12 (4), ACC (2), SEC (2), AAC (1), Big East (1) Pac-12 (1), WCC (1)

Risers

  • Alabama: Riding a seven-game winning streak, the Crimson Tide jump from the “also receiving votes” category and into this week’s RTC16. Alabama knocked down 29-of-66 (43.9%) three-point attempts last week in what were convincing wins over Kentucky and Arkansas. Now sitting atop the SEC at 5-0, Alabama hits the road for the fourth time in sixth games on Tuesday against second-place LSU.
  • Florida State: The Seminoles returned to the court after a two-plus week hiatus and went 2-0 with wins against NC State and North Carolina. The win over the Tar Heels came without Scottie Barnes, but that proved not to be an issue with five Seminoles finishing the game with 10 or more points.
  • Virginia: December losses to San Francisco and Gonzaga seem to be a thing of the past now as Virginia has rattled off five consecutive wins. Their most recent victory came in dominating form at Clemson. Tony Bennett’s team shot 65.5% from inside the arc and 55.6% beyond it on 27 attempts against what was a top five defensive efficiency team in Clemson. After scoring 70 or more points in just two ACC games last season, Virginia has now done so three times in its past four games.

Fallers

  • Arkansas: The Razorbacks ended the 2020 calendar year a perfect 9-0, but since 2021 began the team is just 1-4. This past week Arkansas dropped a pair on the road by 16 and 31 points. Arkansas ranks 12th in league play in both offensive and defensive effective field-goal percentage.
  • Indiana: Archie Miller’s Indiana team fell to 8-6 (3-4) after dropping a home game to Purdue last Thursday. Since taking over in Indiana, Miller is now 0-6 against Purdue. While Trayce Jackson-Davis’ production has remained high, it’s a team that needs more out of junior Rob Phinisee. In IU victories, Phinisee is 11-of-27 (40.7%) from deep, but in losses he is just 3-of-18 (16.7%).
  • San Diego State: A pair of lackluster offensive performances led the Aztecs to an 0-2 week against Utah State. After finishing last season with an offensive efficiency ranking of 11th in the nation, the Aztecs currently sit at 71st and eighth best in the Mountain West Conference. With Matt Mitchell sidelined for the next week or two with a hyperextended knee, the Aztecs could face challenges on the offensive side of the floor.

Notable Games This Week

  • Monday: Kansas @ Baylor, 9 PM EST, ESPN
  • Tuesday: Alabama @ LSU, ESPN2
  • Tuesday: Seton Hall @ Villanova, 9 PM EST, Fox Sports 1
  • Thursday: USC @ Stanford, 5 PM EST, Fox Sports 1
  • Friday: Michigan @ Purdue, 7 PM EST, Fox Sports 1
  • Saturday: Ohio State @ Wisconsin, 4 PM EST
  • Saturday: Baylor @ Oklahoma State, 2 PM EST

Ten Questions to Consider: Marquee Games and Marquee Opportunities

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on January 15th, 2021

While some of this weekend’s action has already been cancelled due to COVID, there remains plenty of games to keep an eye on. Battles at the top of several conferences are taking place and teams coming off of losses have a chance to make quick turnaround statements. Here are 10 questions I have for the games set to take place over the next few days:

  1. How will Wisconsin respond following its disastrous game at Michigan? (Wisconsin @ Rutgers, Friday, 9 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) After a Nate Reuvers basket at the 6:19 mark of the first half put Wisconsin down three points to Michigan, the Badgers were on the wrong end of a 43-6 run over the next 15:36 of action. Wisconsin’s Brad Davison is averaging just 5.3 points per game over his last four games, having shot 8-of-31 from the field.
  2. Can Texas Tech steady the hot shooting its opponents have had beyond the arc in league play? (Baylor @ Texas Tech, Saturday, 4 PM EST, ESPN) Heading into Wednesday’s game against Texas, the Texas Tech defense has forced opponents to shoot under 30 percent on the season from beyond the arc, a percentage that is among the top 50 nationally. However, in conference play, that number has risen to 36.2 percent, third worst in the Big 12. Baylor is shooting above 42 percent from deep on the season, currently ranking second in college basketball.
  3. Can Clemson’s top-ranked defense slow what is currently a one-dimensional Virginia offense? (Virginia @ Clemson, Saturday, 6 PM EST, ESPN) As of Wednesday, no team in the country has a better defensive efficiency than Clemson. While the Tigers are allowing under 87 points per 100 possessions on the season, that has climbed to a tick above 96 points in ACC play, ranking just sixth among ACC teams. For Virginia, while the Cavaliers’ offense is among the nation’s best inside the three-point line, they come in struggling beyond it, shooting an ACC worst 29.5 percent heading into its game against Notre Dame.
  4. Like Gonzaga has been doing to everyone else, will they simply run Saint Mary’s out of the gym? (Gonzaga @ Saint Mary’s, Saturday, 8 PM EST, ESPN) While the Gaels have been a perennial second banana to Gonzaga in the WCC over the last decade, recent matchups between these teams have not been close. Since the start of the 2016-17 season, Gonzaga has won 9 of the 11 games, with those nine victories coming by an average of 21.6 points.
  5. Is the Ziaire Williams and Oscar Da Silva pairing the best duo in the country that no one is talking about? (Stanford @ Colorado, Saturday, 2 PM EST, Pac-12 Network) While Stanford five-star freshman Ziaire Williams made headlines with his recent triple-double, not enough attention is being given to senior Oscar Da Silva. Through five Pac-12 games, Da Silva is averaging 21.4 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game, while shooting above 55 percent from the field, numbers that no recent player has managed to compile throughout a league season.
  6. Like they have done twice before this season, will Kansas quickly bounce back from its loss earlier in the week? (Iowa State @ Kansas, Saturday, 8 PM EST, ESPN+) Following losses to Gonzaga and Texas, Kansas responded by beating Saint Joseph’s by 22 points and TCU by 29. In the Tuesday night loss against Oklahoma State, Kansas players other than Ochai Agbaji were 1-of-12 from beyond the arc. Over his last two games, freshman Jalen Wilson has scored just 13 total points while committing 10 turnovers.
  7. Can Minnesota end its skid and takedown the red-hot Wolverines?(Michigan @ Minnesota, Saturday, 2 PM EST, ESPN2) In the first matchup between these teams just 10 days prior, Michigan won 82-57. While three of the four 10-minute segments were played tight, the Wolverines went on a 29-8 run to start the second-half which blew the game open. In that span, Michigan made 12-of-15 from the field, while Minnesota made just 3-of-15 shots. Marcus Carr was the only Golden Gopher to score more than 10 points in the game.
  8. In Bedlam, which star shines brightest? (Oklahoma @ Oklahoma State, Saturday, 8 PM EST) Oklahoma’s Austin Reaves and Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham are the only two players in the Big 12 to currently be averaging at least 15+ points, 5+ rebounds, and 3+ assists per game. Reaves is again off to a poor start from beyond the arc shooting just 27.7 percent, something that plagued him last year as well. In Reaves’ two years at Wichita State prior to joining Oklahoma, he had made 45 percent of his 182 three-point attempts.
  9. Can Buffalo and Bowling Green manage to defend without fouling? (Bowling Green @ Buffalo, Friday, 7 PM EST, CBS Sports Network) The Bulls and Falcons each currently sit a game behind Toledo in the MAC. Bowling Green and Buffalo have the MAC’s #1 and #2 ranked defensive efficiencies in league play, despite sitting in the bottom two spots in opponent free throw rate. In Bowling Green’s win over Buffalo earlier in the season, its 20 point per game scorer Justin Turner was a perfect 15-of-15 at the line, with Bowling Green finishing the game making 31-of-40 as a team.
  10. Will North Carolina’s relentless attacking of the offensive glass be too much for Florida State to stop? (North Carolina @ Florida State, Saturday, Noon EST) North Carolina has finished each of the past six seasons with an offensive rebounding rate that was among the top 20 in the nation. North Carolina’s current offensive rebounding rate ranks second in the nation and would be the program’s highest percentage under Roy Williams. In Tuesday’s win over Syracuse, UNC grabbed 24 offensive rebounds, a rate that was above 50 percent for the game. Heading into Wednesday’s action, Florida State ranks 236th in the nation in clearing its defensive glass.

2020-21 RTC16: Week 7

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on January 11th, 2021

After trailing most of the second-half, Texas rallied from five down in the final two-minutes to escape West Virginia with a win. Shaka Smart’s team has now picked up road wins at both Kansas and West Virginia over the past 10 days. While Michigan, Iowa and Wisconsin escaped any damage in the Big Ten this past week, the middle of the conference continued to beat on each other with Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern and Rutgers all losing at least one game over the last seven days. The RTC16 has plenty of consensus on the top 12 teams, while the bottom four spots this week are filled with varying opinions.

Conference Breakdown: Big 12 (5), Big Ten (4), ACC (2), Big East (2), AAC (1), SEC (1), WCC (1)

Risers

  • Gonzaga: While Gonzaga cannot rise any higher than its position at the top of the RTC16, they continued to show just how dangerous they can be. In Saturday’s win over Portland, Joel Ayayi’s triple-double was the first in Gonzaga program history. After averaging 10.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game a season ago, Ayayi is averaging 11.8 points and a team-best 8.1 boards per game. Flying under the radar behind Corey Kispert, Jalen Suggs and Drew Timme, Ayayi is another piece to the puzzle that makes this team special.
  • Clemson: Clemson makes its first appearance in the RTC16 after an overtime win this past week against NC State. Clemson now has five wins over KenPom top-50 ranked opponents, with its lone loss coming on the road against Virginia Tech. After shooting 46.3 percent from the field in his first three years at Clemson, senior Aamir Simms is shooting 56.1 percent while averaging 12.6 points per game.
  • UCLA: After escaping with an overtime win in Tempe, the Bruins led much of the second half in a win against Arizona in Tucson. UCLA is now 5-0 in Pac-12 play, having won 12 of its last 13 league games going back to last season. While the defense still has room to grow, the Bruins have the league’s best offensive efficiency, effective field-goal percentage, and three-point percentage. The Bruins sit just outside the top 16, but picked up multiple votes this week.

Fallers

  • Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights had an 0-2 week with a pair of double-figure losses. It was a tough shooting week for Ron Harper and Geo Baker who went a combined 3-of-17 from beyond the arc. The team’s struggles at the free-throw line also continued, as the Knights were a mere 11-of-27 at the line. The struggles allowed Ohio State and Michigan State to outscore Rutgers by 25 points with the clock stopped.
  • Minnesota: Minnesota finished the week 0-2 after dropping both of its games away from home. The Golden Gophers’ offense did not crack the 1.0 PPP mark in either game, while the defense allowed 1.21 and 1.19 points per possession. Through seven Big Ten games, the Minnesota offense now ranks 13th in three-point percentage and last in two-point field-goal percentage.
  • Missouri: Cuonzo Martin’s Missouri club led Mississippi State 43-29 with 18:28 to go in a game last Tuesday night. The Tigers saw State finish the game on a 49-20 run. After committing just one turnover in the first half, Missouri turned it over seven times after the break.

Notable Upcoming Games

  • Tuesday: Wisconsin @ Michigan, 7 PM EST, ESPN
  • Wednesday: Texas Tech @ Texas, 9 PM EST, ESPN2
  • Thursday: San Diego State @ Utah State, 9 PM EST, CBS Sports Network
  • Thursday: Washington State @ UCLA, 5 PM EST, Fox Sports 1
  • Friday: Villanova @ Connecticut, 9 PM EST, Fox Sports 1
  • Saturday: Baylor @ Texas Tech, 4 PM EST, ESPN

Ten Questions to Consider: Rematches and Road Tests

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on January 8th, 2021

As the season progresses, teams are beginning to face many different challenges. From injuries to key players, to rematches against conference foes and battles against ongoing trends, teams must adapt and grow to have continued success as the calendar continues to move on. Here are 10 questions I have for the action set to unfold over the next few days:

  1. Can Texas erase last season’s nightmarish trip to Morgantown with a dominant performance of its own? (Texas @ West Virginia, Saturday, 1 PM EST, ESPN) Last season, the Longhorns’ road trip to West Virginia ended with a lopsided 97-59 loss. Texas had a -10 turnover margin and surrendered 23 offensive rebounds. West Virginia is coming off of a win against Oklahoma State, a game in which the Mountaineers trailed by 19 points with 11:15 to go.
  2. After a tale of two halves in the first match-up, can either the Buckeyes or Scarlet Knights assert control for 40 minutes? (Ohio State @ Rutgers, Saturday, Noon EST, Big Ten Network) In the first match-up between these teams on December 23, Rutgers won the first half by 10 points while Ohio State won the second half by 22. One key for Ohio State was its ability to get to the free throw line in the second half, making 17-of-21 after going just 5-of-8 at the line in the first half.
  3. Can Clemson keep up its terrific start by doing something that it has done just once before? (Clemson @ North Carolina, Saturday, 7 PM EST, ESPN) Clemson is currently 9-1, has five wins against the KenPom top 50, and as of Thursday morning, boasts the nation’s best adjusted defensive efficiency rating. Clemson’s defense creates a high-rate of turnovers, an area that can trouble the Tar Heels. The Tigers ended a 40-game losing streak at North Carolina with its win in Chapel Hill last season.
  4. How will the loss of Chris Smith impact the Bruins’ trip to the desert? (UCLA @ Arizona, Saturday, 9 PM EST, ESPN) UCLA learned of Chris Smith’s torn ACL shortly before its game last week against Colorado. This week they begin the desert trip with Arizona State before taking on Arizona on the weekend. The Bruins have won three straight in Tucson for the first time since the early 1980’s. Earning either a split or a sweep in Arizona will tell a lot about UCLA moving forward.
  5. As well as Alabama has been playing, might they have room to get even better? (Alabama @ Auburn, Saturday, Noon EST, ESPN2) The Crimson Tide are 3-0 in SEC play with wins already over Tennessee and Florida. Alabama is shooting 32.3 percent on its three-point attempts for the season, but have been making 39 percent of their attempts in league play. Among those to find their shot has been John Petty, who after starting the year 11-of-39 from deep, has made 10 of his last 20 three-point attempts.
  6. Can the undefeated Drake Bulldogs continue to roll against its stiffest competition? (Loyola Chicago @ Drake, Sunday, 6:30 PM EST, ESPN2) The Drake Bulldogs are a dominant 13-0 with an average margin of victory of 24 points to start the season. Loyola-Chicago’s top-50 KenPom ranking will be the highest of any Drake opponent by roughly 100 spots. For Drake, a trio of former Florida Southwestern players led by Shanquan Hemphill’s 14.2 points per game has been a big reason for the early success of the Bulldogs.
  7. Will this Big Ten battle come down to the stars again? (Minnesota @ Iowa, Sunday, 2:30 PM EST, Big Ten Network) In the Christmas day matchup between Iowa and Minnesota, Minnesota dug itself out of a seven-point deficit in the final minute behind Marcus Carr’s shotmaking which forced overtime and eventually gave the Golden Gophers the win. Carr finished with 30 points and six made threes, while Iowa’s Luka Garza had a game-high 32 points. Garza grabbed 11 offensive rebounds in the game, with Iowa as a team tallying 27.
  8. Can Fatts Russell work his magic on the road or will VCU remain undefeated in the A-10? (Rhode Island @ VCU, Saturday, 2 PM EST, CBS Sports Network) The last time these teams played last season, URI’s Fatts Russell scored 30 points, with 16 coming at the free-throw line. The Rams come in struggling having lost four of six, with one of those wins coming after trailing Saint Joseph’s by four with just 20 seconds to go. VCU comes in having won seven straight games and with its defense creating plenty of frustration with an average of 19.2 forced turnovers over its last five games.
  9. Can UConn take advantage of what has been an ineffective Butler defense? (Connecticut @ Butler, Saturday, 4 PM EST, CBS Sports Network) After having a top-30 ranked effective field-goal defense last season, Butler’s eFG% defense currently ranks among the bottom 50 nationally. If Butler is able to force misses, keeping a Huskies team that ranks among the top five nationally in offensive rebound rate could lead to constant pressure on the Butler defense.
  10. How will UC San Diego fare in its first game in league play at the D-1 level? (UC Irvine @ UC San Diego, Friday, 7 PM EST, ESPN3) The Tritons have played just two games on the year, both coming before Christmas against Saint Katherine of the NAIA. UCSD gets UC Irvine on both Friday and Saturday for its “welcome to the Big West.” UCSD went 30-1 last season and finished the year ranked third in the final D2SIDA rankings