What’s Trending: Shuffling Of The Top Five

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on February 24th, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on January 27th, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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What’s Trending: Tar Heel Troubles and a Tumbling Top 10

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on December 16th, 2019

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

North Carolina has made 15 NCAA Tournament appearances over the past 16 seasons with Roy Williams as the head coach. After starting the season 6-1, however, the Tar Heels suffered back-to-back losses to start December. While the panic level remained relatively low heading into the weekend, that changed Sunday morning when the following news broke:

Without Cole Anthony, the team’s leading scorer, questions quickly arose about the Heels’ future. This is a team that, despite owning a top-50 adjusted offensive efficiency, ranks 297th or worse in two-point, three-point and free throw shooting percentages. Without Anthony in the lineup, North Carolina’s losing streak reached three games…

https://twitter.com/marchmadness/status/1206347619641036804?s=20

In the loss, North Carolina shot 38.6 percent from two-point range, 31.6 percent from three-point range, and just 60 percent at the line. The defeat brought out what would have been an unthinkable question prior the season. Might North Carolina miss the NCAA Tournament? While it is still just December, Williams is going to have to earn his paycheck — especially if his team is without Cole Anthony.

This past week was full of trouble for teams near the top of the rankings. A previously undefeated and #1 Louisville club had a midweek match-up against Texas Tech at Madison Square Garden. While Louisville’s 3-of-17 performance from deep did the Cardinals no favors, the storyline of the game came in the form of the surprise performance from Texas Tech’s Avery Benson.

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Ten Questions to Consider: Old Rivalries, In-State Battles and Teams Facing Challenges

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on December 13th, 2019

This has been a week that has already seen three of the AP‘s top five teams suffer a defeat. This weekend’s slate of games includes several match-ups of heavyweights, plenty of rivalry intrigue, and teams facing challenges of injury and circumstance. Here are 10 questions I have for the action to come over the weekend:

  1. Can Gonzaga replicate last year’s success against Arizona? (Gonzaga @ Arizona, Saturday, 10 PM EST, ESPN2) Last season, Gonzaga convincingly beat Arizona, 91-74, in Maui, as the Zags outscored Arizona by 15 points in the final 10 minutes of the game. Of Gonzaga’s 91 points scored, only seven were by players still on the roster (Corey Kispert and Filip Petrusev).
  2. Is defending the three-point line the key against Michigan? (Oregon @ Michigan, Saturday, Noon EST, CBS) In Michigan’s pair of recent losses, the Wolverines went 6-of-37 (16.2%) from three-point range. In the team’s eight wins, Michigan is shooting a more robust 42.2% on 194 three-point attempts. Task #1 is simple for Oregon to win on the road at the Crisler Center.
  3. How much of last season’s hostility will remain in the Volunteer State rematch? (Memphis @ Tennessee, Saturday, 3 PM EST, ESPN) A timeout late in last year’s game set off fireworks between Tennessee and Memphis. In the week following the game, Rick Barnes and Penny Hardaway each had a series of salty quotes directed at the other. With the future of the rivalry unclear, this is a chance for each school to make a regional statement.
  4. Can Utah State slow down Yoeli Childs? (BYU @ Utah State, Saturday, 8 PM EST) In a match-up between these teams last year, Childs scored 31 points on 11-of-18 shooting, grabbed seven rebounds, and logged five steals. Since coming back from his NCAA suspension, Childs has been very productive, posting back-to-back double-doubles. Utah State will need Neemias Queta to be able to produce in this game.
  5. Old Rivalry Part 1: Did Syracuse turn a corner last weekend? (Syracuse @ Georgetown, Saturday, 1 PM EST, Fox) Jim Boeheim’s team had lost three straight contests prior to its 34-point win at Georgia Tech last weekend. In that win, both Elijah Hughes (33) and Buddy Boeheim (26) posted season highs in points, combining to make 12-of-24 three-point attempts.
  6. Old Rivalry Part 2: What will UCLA look like on the road? (UCLA @ Notre Dame, Saturday, 3 PM EST, ABC) UCLA’s trip to South Bend marks its first true road game under new head coach Mick Cronin. This is a Bruins squad that ranks 328th in opponent three-point percentage, taking on a Notre Dame team that made 20-of-39 from deep in its last game — a win against Detroit.
  7. How impacted will Seton Hall be without Sandro Mamukelashvili? (Seton Hall @ Rutgers, Saturday, 4 PM EST, Big Ten Network) Mamukelashvili broke his wrist early in Seton Hall’s last game, a loss at Iowa State. Other than Myles Powell, he was the only Pirate averaging more than 10 points per game. This is a team that needs secondary scorers to show up or the offensive burden will be even too much for Powell to carry.
  8. Will Oklahoma State have point guard Isaac Likekele? If not, can they fix their recent struggles? (Oklahoma State @ Houston, Sunday, 3 PM EST) After winning its first seven games, Oklahoma State has dropped its last two contests, with lead guard Isaac Likekele missed both of those games due to an illness. His status remains unclear for this weekend. Likekele leads the Cowboys in scoring and assists, and also chips in with five rebounds a game.
  9. Can Ohio State continues its early season roll? (Ohio State @ Minnesota, Sunday, 6:30 PM EST, Big Ten Network) For Ohio State, the only thing standing in its way of likely becoming the new #1 team in the nation is a road test at Minnesota. This is the Buckeyes’ first road Big Ten game of the season — last year, they were a team that went just 3-7 away from home in league play.
  10. Can North Carolina make easy work of Wofford or will recent struggles and a look ahead cause some troubles? (Wofford @ North Carolina, Sunday, 4 PM EST, ACC Network) Coming off of disappointing performances against both Ohio State and Virginia, North Carolina hosts a Wofford team that, while anemic defensively, possesses offensive talent. Wofford’s Nathan Hoover is shooting just 25.4 percent early in the season, but is a player who made 47.5 percent of his 177 attempts last season.

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Ten Questions to Consider: A Weekend of Statement Games

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on December 6th, 2019

Over the next three days action on the hardwood includes conference games, battles among intrastate rivals, and teams looking to either snap skids or prove they are the real deal. Here are 10 questions I have for what’s to come over a busy college basketball weekend.

  1. Will Gonzaga be able to get out in transition? (Gonzaga @ Washington, Sunday, 7 PM EST, ESPN2) Nearly a third of Gonzaga’s shots have come in transition this year, representing a top-20 rate on the season. The Zags will be up against a Washington zone defense that has only allowed three squads a lower rate of shots in transition.
  2. What will Cole Anthony vs. Virginia’s defense look like? (North Carolina @ Virginia, Sunday, 4 PM EST, ACC Network) The freshman star struggled against Ohio State earlier this week, going 0-for-7 from inside the arc. With Armando Bacot dealing with an injury, how will Anthony perform against the nation’s best defense?
  3. Can Vernon Carey, Jr. continue to mirror the freshman season had by Jahlil Okafor? (Duke @ Virginia Tech, Friday, 7 PM EST, ACC Network) Through Vernon Carey’s first nine games at Duke, he has scored 11 more points, grabbed six more rebounds and blocked seven more shots than former Duke great Jahlil Okafor. In Okafor’s first ACC game, he logged 28 points, eight rebounds and four blocks against Boston College — what will Carey do against Virginia Tech?
  4. How does Michigan respond from its lackluster Big Ten/ACC performance? (Iowa @ Michigan, Friday, 6:30 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) After making 33 three-pointers on 47 percent shooting in their three games at Atlantis, the Wolverines shot a season worst 15.8 percent from deep against Louisville. It led to Michigan posting its worst single-game offensive efficiency total since a Big Ten Tournament loss against Wisconsin in 2008.
  5. Will there be a home court advantage for this under the radar, mega-matchup? (Arizona @ Baylor, Saturday, Noon EST, ESPNU) Just as the basketball tips at the Ferrell Center on Saturday afternoon, Baylor’s football team will be kicking off in its Big 12 title game. The Bears are offering free tickets to anyone who wants to watch the match-up with Arizona, which includes a dazzling backcourt battle of Nico Mannion vs. Baylor’s plethora of guards.
  6. What will the Crosstown Shootout look like without Mick Cronin on the sidelines? (Cincinnati @ Xavier, Saturday, 5 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) For the first time in 13 years, the Cincinnati/Xavier rivalry will not include either Mick Cronin or Chris Mack. Can new Bearcats’ coach John Brannen do something that Cronin never did and win at Xavier? The Musketeers have won each of the past seven home match-ups.
  7. Quite simply, will the free throw line be the deciding factor in USC-TCU? (USC @ TCU, Friday, 9 PM EST, ESPN2) Entering play on Thursday, both USC and TCU ranked outside of the top 240 nationally in free throw percentage. In USC’s nine-point loss against Temple, the Trojans went 11-of-20 at the line. In TCU’s only loss — an overtime loss against Clemson — the Horned Frogs missed eight of their 15 free throw attempts.
  8. Can Wisconsin fix its troubles around the three-point line? (Indiana @ Wisconsin, Saturday, 4:30 PM EST, Big Ten Network) Greg Gard’s Badgers are in the midst of a three-game losing streak in which the Badgers have shot a measly 18.4 percent on 76 three-point attempts. Wisconsin’s three-point attempt rate is up nearly 10 percent from last season, while their success rate is down six points. They get an undefeated Indiana team which includes a red-hot Devonte Green from deep.
  9. Who will win the battle at the rim at Allen Fieldhouse? (Colorado @ Kansas, Saturday, 7 PM EST, ESPN2) According to Hoop-Math, Kansas has logged 45.9 percent of its shots at the rim, a top-10 rate nationally. On those attempts, the Jayhawks are converting a robust 68.3 percent. Defensively, only a few teams in the nation allow more shots at the rim than the Colorado defense. That said, Tad Boyle’s squad holds opponents to a field goal percentage of just 46.3 percent at the rim — a top-20 ranking.
  10. Can DePaul continue to use turnovers its advantage? (Buffalo @ DePaul, Sunday, 5 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) DePaul looks to start a season 10-0 for the first time since the 1986-87 season (when it began 16-0). The Blue Demons own a top-50 defensive turnover rate, which has led to double-figure points off turnovers in each of its first nine games.

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The 2019-20 RTC16: Week Two

Posted by Walker Carey on November 25th, 2019

It is not uncommon for teams breaking in new pieces to experience some peaks and valleys early in the season, but that does not appear to be the case thus far for #2 Duke and #6 Virginia. The mostly new-look Blue Devils rode a star in the making turn from freshman big man Vernon Carey Jr. to throttle California and survive an inspired effort from Georgetown at the 2K Empire Classic at Madison Square Garden this weekend. Carey was far and away Duke’s best player, contributing averages of 25.5 points and 11.0 rebounds to the winning efforts. With most of the scoring production from last season’s national championship squad now gone, Virginia has relied on its famous defensive intensity in its 6-0 start. The Cavaliers suffocated Massachusetts on Saturday en route to a 58-46 win, and then brought that vigor up another another level Sunday when they held Arizona State to just seven points over the final 11:33 in a plodding 48-45 victory. While Virginia’s offense still needs some work, it did receive a noteworthy contribution from freshman guard Casey Morsell, who tallied 19 points against the Sun Devils. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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What’s Trending: The NCAA Tournament is Closer Than You Think

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on February 11th, 2019

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

Saturday marked the initial release of the Selection Committee’s top 16 seeds for the upcoming NCAA Tournament. While the choices lacked much in the way of surprise, the release was followed by five of those teams losing later that day.

Earlier in the week, the college basketball world was reminded of the drama that comes along with NCAA violations, as Arizona decided to place assistant coach Mark Phelps on administrative leave. The Wildcats have struggled both on and off the court this season.

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Ten Questions To Consider: Mid-Season Tests and Challenges

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on January 26th, 2019

With no NFL Playoff games on tap this weekend, all eyes will be glued to the young men on the hardwood. With several marquee matchups, conference intrigue, and a star at Murray State all in action, here are 10 questions I have ahead of this weekend’s action.

It’s Always Fun When Kentucky and Kansas Get Together (USA TODAY Sports)
  1. Can Creighton find its defense? (Butler¬†@ Creighton,¬†Friday¬†8:3o¬†PM EST,¬†Fox¬†Sports¬†1)¬†Creighton ranks 61st in NET Rankings, is 2-4 in the Big East and was among Joe Lunardi’s “Next Four Out” in his latest Bracketology. A large reason for Creighton’s inconsistent play has been a defensive efficiency rating that ranks in the 200s. In conference play, however, Greg McDermott’s defensive efficiency rating of #120 is nine points worse than the next closest Big East team. (Ed. note: Creighton held Butler to 0.84 PPP last night¬†in¬†a¬†14-point¬†victory.)
  2. Does Mississippi State’s upcoming schedule make Auburn a must win game? (Auburn @ Mississippi State, Saturday 8:30 PM EST, SEC Network)¬†If the season ended today, Mississippi State would comfortably make the NCAA Tournament. That said, the Bulldogs will go on the road before returning home for LSU and Kentucky. A win against Auburn today would take quite a bit of pressure off of Ben Howland’s team as they prepare to travel next week.
  3. Is Kentucky’s Reid Travis set to have a big game against Kansas?¬†(Kansas¬†@ Kentucky,¬†Saturday¬†6¬†PM EST,¬†ESPN)¬†In arguably Kentucky’s three biggest games to date (Duke, North Carolina and Louisville) Reid Travis has scored 17 points per game. The graduate transfer has eclipsed just 15 points in two of the Wildcats’ other 15 games. Beyond scoring, Travis’ ability to rebound (10 games with three or more offensive rebounds) could put added pressure on the Jayhawks’ All-American Dedric Lawson.
  4. Who is the favorite to win the SEC? Top-ranked Tennessee had a scare midweek at Vanderbilt; LSU remains unbeaten in conference play; and Kentucky sits just a game back through the first three weeks. One thing to consider moving forward is that LSU only plays the other two schools once each, while Tennessee and Kentucky will play each other twice down the stretch.
  5. Can Ohio State end their recent skid at a hostile Pinnacle Bank Arena? (Ohio State @ Nebraska, Saturday Noon, Fox Sports 1) In a game between a pair of Big Ten teams that cannot afford to drop another conference game, the Buckeyes will look to snap a five-game skid. Ohio State has turned the ball over a whopping 63 times in its last four games.
  6. Can Purdue’s stars figure out the Michigan State defense? (Michigan¬†State¬†@ Purdue,¬†Sunday¬†1¬†PM EST,¬†CBS)¬†Purdue’s last loss came at the hands of the Spartans in early December. Michigan State held the pair of Carsen Edwards and Ryan Cline to 23 points on 28 shots, and the 11 points scored by Edwards was his season low.
  7. What will Ja Morant do this weekend?¬†(Tennessee¬†State¬†@ Murray¬†State,¬†Saturday¬†8¬†PM EST,¬†ESPN+)¬†The Tigers of Tennessee State are one of the worst defensive teams in the country, but they will have the pleasure of attempting to stop Murray State’s dynamic Ja Morant. Heading into Thursday’s game against Belmont, Morant is averaging 26.7 points per game in conference play. According to Hoop-Math, the 6’3″ Morant is 100-for-148 (67.6%) on shots at the rim on the season.
  8. After a disastrous outing against rival USC last weekend, will UCLA show any resistance to Arizona? (Arizona¬†@ UCLA,¬†Saturday¬†10¬†PM EST,¬†ESPN2)¬†Last weekend, the lifeless Bruins fell behind 16-2 to start their rivalry game against USC, and Arizona has won three consecutive games at Pauley Pavilion by 11 points. With Thomas Welsh no longer there to torment the Arizona big men, UCLA’s disastrous season could get considerably worse by the end of the weekend.
  9. Will Iowa’s mindset be right when they hit the road this weekend? (Iowa @ Minnesota, Sunday 5 PM EST, Fox Sports 1)¬†Sandwiched between home games against Michigan State and Michigan is a road test for the Hawkeyes at Minnesota. After starting conference play 0-3, Iowa has now won five straight heading into Thursday night’s game against Michigan State. Iowa is the only Big Ten team with five players averaging double-figure points per game.
  10. Can VCU avoid a road slip-up when they take on Duquesne? (VCU @ Duquesne, Saturday 2 PM EST, ESPN Plus) The Rams are coming off of a narrow defeat at Rhode Island where they turned the ball over 19 times. VCU’s offense has been abysmal all year long and is only bogged down further as they have the worst turnover rate among Atlantic 10 teams in conference play. A road loss at Duquesne could be crippling come March for VCU.
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Ten Questions To Consider: Christmas Comes Early With Plenty of Hoops

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on December 21st, 2018

With Christmas, the New Year and conference play all firmly in the sights of players and teams, this weekend’s slate of games brings plenty of questions to the table. Kick off the holidays with plenty of hoops on Friday and Saturday.

Roy and Cal Get Together Again (USA Today Images)
  1. Will Buffalo pick up another win over a power conference opponent? (Buffalo @ Marquette, Friday 8:30 PM EST, FS1) Having already picked up Quadrant 1 wins at West Virginia and Syracuse, Buffalo can make it three big victories with a win at Marquette tonight. In those two wins, Bulls guard CJ Massinburg combined to score 68 points on 13 made three-pointers.
  2. Will Oklahoma’s success travel? (Oklahoma @ Northwestern, Friday 9 PM EST, Big Ten Network) The Sooners started the season with true road games at UT-Rio Grande Valley and UT-San Antonio, and they have not played a true game since then. This Friday evening trip to Northwestern could be feisty as the Wildcats gave Michigan all it could handle in the Wolverines’ narrow two-point win at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
  3. How will southern California’s best team do on the road at Butler? (UC Irvine @ Butler, Friday 6:30 PM EST, FS1) The most successful southern California basketball team this season belongs to UC Irvine. The Anteaters are 11-2 heading into their Friday evening match-up with Butler. Irvine has a suffocating defense that includes a defensive two-point field-goal percentage that ranks among the top 10 nationally.
  4. Which offensive rebounding force will come out on top in battle between blue-bloods? (Kentucky vs. North Carolina in Chicago, Saturday 5:15 PM EST, CBS) The CBS Sports Classic pits these two heavyweights against one another yet again. Both teams grab offensive rebounds at a rate that places them among the best in the country. In North Carolina’s convincing win over Gonzaga, the Tar Heels had an offensive rebound rate of 46.7 percent.
  5. Is Kansas ready for its first true road test? (Kansas @ Arizona State, Saturday 9 PM EST, ESPN2) Undefeated and top-ranked Kansas hits the road for its first true road game on Saturday evening. In a loss last season to the Sun Devils, the trio of Tra Holder, Shannon Evans, and Remy Martin combined to score 72 of the team’s 95 points. Of the three, only Martin is back with Arizona State this season.
  6. Will Arizona’s offense make an appearance? (UC Davis @ Arizona, Saturday 7 PM EST, Pac-12 Network) Arizona’s offensive efficiency had ranked among the top 20 in the nation in each of the past six seasons. This year, however, the Wildcats’ efficiency has fallen outside of the top 100. As a team, Arizona is 11-of-40 from beyond the arc in its last two games.
  7. Can the WCC pick up ANOTHER win over a Pac-12 opponent? (San Diego @ Washington State, Saturday 7:30 PM EST, FS1) The quest for the West Coast Conference to becoming a three-bid league continues as San Diego looks to pick the conference’s eighth win over the Pac-12. The Toreros are led by Isaiah Pineiro who has scored double-figure points in 30 of his last 31 games.
  8. How far can Kansas State’s superb defense carry the team? (Vanderbilt vs. Kansas State, Saturday 7 PM, ESPN2) Kansas State’s ability to defend the three, create turnovers and limit second-chance opportunities has allowed the Wildcats to log a defensive efficiency that sits among the top five nationally. They are now a team without one of its best offensive weapons in Dean Wade, however. Vanderbilt does not struggle to score the ball, so will this be the game in which Kansas State needs its offense to wake up?
  9. Will UConn get a win against former Big East foe Villanova? (UConn @ Villanova, Saturday 12:30 PM EST, CBS) After its two-game losing streak earlier this season, Villanova went on to win six straight. Having just lost two in a row again, the Wildcats now face a familiar opponent in former Big East rival UConn. The Huskies are 9-3 but have just one win (Syracuse) against an opponent with a KenPom ranking of #225 or better.
  10. Is Auburn vulnerable coming off of its loss at NC State? (Murray State @ Auburn, Saturday 4:30 PM EST, SEC Network) While Auburn shot 68 percent from inside the arc against NC State earlier this week, the Tigers were also a dismal 5-of-25 beyond the three-point line. Auburn returns home for a match-up against a Murray State team that has the nation’s best three-point defense to date. If the Racers can defend the three well and clean up their defensive glass, an area they have struggled in, Auburn could be in for a very tough 40 minutes.

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