2020-21 RTC16: Week 6

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on January 4th, 2021

Gonzaaga’s Joel Ayayi had two double-doubles through his first two seasons in Spokane. After an 18-point, 10-rebound performance against San Francisco over the weekend, however, Ayayi now has four double-doubles in 10 games this season. While the likes of Corey Kispert, Jalen Suggs and Drew Timme rightfully dominate the headlines, Gonzaga’s spot at #1 in the RTC16 remains firmly gripped thanks in part to its premier depth. #2 Baylor picked up its second KenPom top-100 win on Saturday at Iowa State, and the Bears next six opponents are ranked inside of the top 65. Villanova is currently dealing with COVID issues which include head coach Jay Wright, but chaos within the RTC16 moves the Wildcats up to #3. Here’s a look at the first RTC16 of 2021.

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

Risers

  • Texas: After missing five of its final six three-point attempts in the first-half at Kansas, the Longhorns began the second-half by drilling their first six attempts after the break. While Greg Brown was held to just five points, five of his Longhorn teammates scored in double-figures. Shaka Smart’s second win over Kansas while at Texas sent a statement to the rest of the Big 12 — after sitting at #10 in the RTC16 last week, Texas now appears ranked at #4 in all seven ballots cast this week.
  • Iowa: Since collapsing late against Minnesota, Iowa has compiled a pair of quality wins against Northwestern and at Rutgers. Jordan Bohannon scored in double-figures in each game, including tying his season-high of 24 points against Northwestern. While both the Wildcats and Scarlet Knights each averaged 1.06 points per possession against Iowa, it was an improvement from the 1.32 PPP allowed by the Hawkeyes against Minnesota.
  • Michigan: The Wolverines added a pair of victories against KenPom top-60 teams last week, and they are now 5-0 against top-100 teams, with four of those victories coming by more than 10 points. Freshman Hunter Dickinson is now averaging 16.6 points per game with a 72.6 percent field-goal percentage. After appearing among the top-10 in just a single RTC16 ballot last week, the Wolverines now appear at #5 in over half of the ballots this week.

Fallers

  • Houston: Houston’s fall this week comes after a narrow loss at Tulsa. While the Cougars rebounded with a win over SMU on Sunday, the team learned that Caleb Mills would be stepping away from the team. While Mills has been limited early in the year, he averaged more than 13 points per game last season and made north of 35 percent of his threes.
  • Kansas: The Jayhawks’ 25-point home loss to Texas tied the school’s largest margin of defeat at home (Feb. 1, 1989, vs. Missouri) going back to the 1949-50 season. David McCormack’s struggles continue as he is now shooting just 32.9 percent from the field, a steep drop from the 52.1 percent notch he shot last season.
  • West Virginia: Not only has West Virginia lost two of its last three games, including this past weekend’s matchup with Oklahoma, but the team was dealt the blow of Oscar Tshiebwe leaving the program. Jalen Bridges saw his minutes rise against Oklahoma and while the Mountaineers lost the game, Bridges scored 19 points, made 5-of-6 three-point attempts and showed that he can bring a spark to the WVU offense moving forward.

Notable Upcoming Games

  • Monday: West Virginia @ Oklahoma State, 9 PM EST
  • Tuesday: Rutgers @ Michigan State, 9 PM EST, ESPN2
  • Wednesday: Minnesota @ Michigan, 8:30 PM EST
  • Thursday: USC @ Arizona, 9 PM EST
  • Saturday: Texas @ West Virginia, TBA
  • Sunday: Minnesota @ Iowa, TBA
  • Sunday: Loyola-Chicago @ Drake, 6 PM EST

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Ten Questions to Consider: Is This the Weekend When the Marquee Matchup Is Played?

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on December 18th, 2020

First it was Gonzaga vs. Baylor, then it was Baylor vs. Texas, and while Villanova vs. Virginia was been wiped away from the schedule, we still have (for now) #1 Gonzaga set to take on #3 Iowa this weekend. Scoreboard operator be ready, a match-up of my preseason National Championship Game teams. Along with the headliner, this weekend also brings the CBS Sports Classic, an in-state battle from Indiana, and other matchups with plenty on the line. Here are 10 questions I have for the action on the court over the next few days.

  1. Will Iowa’s defense be at a level where it can get enough key stops to get by Gonzaga? (Gonzaga vs. Iowa, Saturday, Noon EST, CBS) KenPom data shows that in Iowa’s first six games, four of its opponents have had an offensive efficiency ranking of 275 or worse. Four opponents have had an effective field-goal percentage ranking of 200 or worse and only Western Illinois has had a turnover rate ranking better than the national average. Entering Thursday, Gonzaga is second in offensive efficiency, tenth in eFG%, and among the top 75 in turnover rate. While Luka Garza will get his, Iowa will need to do more than just score to beat Gonzaga.
  2. Will David Johnson continue his trend of extending his range beyond the three-point line? (Louisville vs. Wisconsin, Saturday, Noon EST, ESPN 2) Radford transfer Carlik Jones has had no problems fitting in with Louisville having scored 15 or more in each Cardinal game to date. Alongside Jones is David Johnson. Johnson is coming off of back-to-back games with at least 17 points. After attempting more than two three-point attempts in just a pair of games last season, Johnson has already done so three times through four games.
  3. Can the Buckeyes get by the Bruins if they remain shorthanded? (UCLA vs. Ohio State, Saturday, 4:15 PM EST, CBS) Ohio State’s EJ Liddell (15.5 PPG) has missed back-to-back games with an undisclosed non-COVID-19 related illness. In addition to Liddell, Harvard transfer Seth Towns has yet to hit the floor as he recovers from an injury. The Buckeyes feasted on poor defenses early in the year before struggling against Purdue on Wednesday. It’s a UCLA team that in many metric areas resembles Purdue defensively.
  4. Is the potential matchup between Ayo Dosunmu and Ron Harper the best matchup on Sunday across all sports? (Illinois @ Rutgers, Sunday, 1 PM EST, ESPN 2) Dosunmu, a preseason first-team All-American, has gotten off to a stellar start averaging 24 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. For Rutgers, Ron Harper Jr. has been equally fantastic putting in 23.2 points and 7 rebounds per game. Harper already has three games this season with five made three-pointers, having made 16 of his 32 three-point attempts on the season.
  5. One more time…did Kentucky turn a corner in the second-half against Notre Dame? (North Carolina vs. Kentucky, Saturday, 2 PM EST, CBS) Yes, Kentucky trailed Notre Dame by as many 24 points just ten minutes into its most recent game. Yes, the game was at Rupp and the Wildcats season looked dead on the spot. Then the ‘Cats outscored Notre Dame by 21 in the second-half and had a chance to win the game at the buzzer. This matchup features a pair of teams who are similar in many ways, both facing shooting and turnover woes, while relying on attacking the glass.
  6. Is Minnesota staring at a must-win game in mid-December? (Saint Louis @ Minnesota, Sunday, 8:30 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) The Golden Gophers sit at 6-1, but its best win comes against a 1-5 Boston College team. Saint Louis, a top-40 KenPom team begins a stretch of eight consecutive games against teams ranked in the top 40, including a back-to-back of Iowa and Michigan State after the Billikens leave Minnesota.
  7. Who can win around the rim in a battle of physical teams? (Marquette @ Xavier, Sunday, 2 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) As of Thursday, Hoop-Math has both the Marquette and Xavier defenses among the top-25 in opponent field-goal percentage at the rim. Offensively, Xavier is shooting 73.2% on attempts near the rim, which ranks among the top-25 nationally. Xavier’s four players who average north of ten points per game are a combined 49-of-65 (75.4%) on FGA’s at the rim.
  8. Can Butler’s defense show rapid in-week improvements? (Indiana vs. Butler, Saturday, 11:30 AM EST, Fox Sports 1) After opening the season on November 25, Butler played just its second game of the year on Wednesday in an 85-66 loss against Villanova. While the Bulldogs scored 1 point-per-possession, shot 50% on their two-point attempts, and made 46.7% of their three-point attempts, it was their defense that was torched by Villanova yet again surrendering 1.29 PPP.
  9. Which style of play wins the day in Tuscaloosa? (Western Kentucky @ Alabama, Saturday, 2 PM EST, ESPNU) After being one of the most up-tempo teams in the country a year ago, Nate Oats’ Alabama squad is again pushing the tempo at every opportunity. For Rick Stasnbury’s Hilltoppers team, teams have tried to attack WKU early to avoid playing offense against the defensive menace that is Charles Bassey. While Bassey is a force down low, WKU has seen opponents make 44.7% of their three-point attempts. Alabama is a team that is shooting below 30% from deep, with John Petty struggling, having made just 28% of his attempts following last season in which he made 44% of his 193 attempts.
  10. As good as San Diego State has been, might they have room to get even better? (BYU @ San Diego State, Friday, 5 PM EST, CBS Sports Network) The Aztecs already sport convincing wins against both UCLA and Arizona State. Brian Dutcher’s team has a top 20 defense and a top 50 offense. The team’s three-point percentage is down 5.6% from last season, with Matt Mitchell’s slow start from deep having some impact on the team. If Mitchell can return near to the 39% he shot last season, it’s an Aztec team loaded with weapons. In addition to Mitchell, SDSU’s pair of Terrell Gomez and Jordan Schakel have the second and third best three-point percentage of remaining college players that have attempted 300 or more three-pointers since the start of the 2018 season.

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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.

https://twitter.com/KUHoops/status/1231619477189615616?s=20

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.

https://twitter.com/RobDauster/status/1231312239573061638?s=20

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

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on February 10th, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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2019-20 RTC16: Week Six

Posted by Walker Carey on December 23rd, 2019

Another week of the season has been completed and another #1 team fell victim to an upset. Like Michigan State, Kentucky, Duke and Louisville before it, #4 Kansas had a rather short stay in the top spot of the RTC16. The Jayhawks saw their nine-game winning streak end on Saturday with a one-point loss at #12 Villanova. Following the defeat, Kansas coach Bill Self hypothesized that the parity we are seeing this season is because he believes there are not as many good players as there used to be in the sport. He referenced his own team as an example, noting that star forward Dedric Lawson left Kansas after last season with eligibility remaining. Self’s argument has merit, as the 2019 NBA Draft had 175 early entries while the 2018 NBA Draft had 181, but it does seem premature to conclude that this season will not see a dominant team emerge once conference play fully begins. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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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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What’s Trending: A Feast Week Stuffed With Action, Intrigue & Upsets

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on December 2nd, 2019

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

The first month of the season has been completely wild and unpredictable. The only thing that everyone seems to agree on is that there is no dominant team this season — the notion that anything is possible and that the top 10 will shuffle all season long — well, it continued this week.

Duke entered the week as the #1 ranked team in the nation. Prior to this week, the Blue Devils had won 150 consecutive non-conference games at Cameron Indoor Stadium. As a 27.5-point favorite against Stephen F. Austin, Duke had four starters score 15 or more points; it shot 50 percent from the field as a team; and it won the battle on the glass. That said, this is college basketball, and chaos is to be expected. As the clock ticked down in regulation, Duke had the ball and a chance to win a tie game…

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While things did not go Duke’s way at the end of regulation, the first four minutes and fifty seconds of overtime were mostly uneventful. Both Duke and Stephen F. Austin had scored just two points. With the clock winding down, Duke again had a chance to win the game… once again, though, chaos ensues…

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Chaos and upsets were not limited to the top spot. In Maui a few days earlier, #3 Michigan State found itself trailing by 10 points against Virginia Tech with 4:39 to go, but a 15-6 run had cut the Spartans’ deficit to just a single point. That is when Landers Nolley hit a dagger. The Hokies’ freshman is now averaging 20 points and 5 rebounds per game, while making over three three-pointers per game on better than 50 percent shooting.

The drama in Maui continued into the title game. Dayton, already with wins against Georgia and Virginia Tech, found itself trailing by three points again #4 ranked Kansas late. In a possession which really was not going anywhere, Jalen Crutcher came up clutch to force overtime. While Kansas ultimately would go on to win the championship, it represented yet another scare for a top-five team.

The Battle 4 Atlantis entered Feast Week as the marquee event and it certainly did not disappoint. In his first year as coach, Juwan Howard and his Michigan squad made a statement. After getting by Iowa State, the Wolverines simply manhandled North Carolina. The Tar Heels jumped out to an early 16-7 lead, but a 53-20 Michigan run broke the game wide open.

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Then Michigan found itself in the title game against Gonzaga. Not to be outdone by its previous performance, Big Blue held the Zags to 37.7 percent shooting from two-point range, the lowest such percentage from a Gonzaga team since the Bulldogs’ 30 percent outing in the 2017 National Championship game against North Carolina.

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While Gonzaga fell short in the title game of that event, Mark Few‘s squad picked up a quality win against Oregon. One thing to watch moving forward for the Zags is this team’s depth. In their opening win over Southern Mississippi, Anton Watson was injured and he missed the rest of the tournament. While Killian Tillie played in the last two games, he also missed the opener. A player who has struggled to stay healthy in the past is already dealing with bumps and bruises early this season.

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Texas Tech spent Feast Week in Las Vegas as part of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational. Unfortunately for the Red Raiders, their three-point shooting did not make the trip from Lubbock to Sin City. After beginning the year shooting 42.3 percent from deep in the team’s first five games, Tech made just 4-of-24 in their opening loss to Iowa.

One night later, an 8-of-30 three-point night, along with a dazzling performance by Creighton’s Marcus Zegarowski, sent Texas Tech home with an ugly 0-2 trip in Las Vegas.

The Emerald Coast Classic featured top-20 Tennessee and VCU, along with Purdue and Florida State. The four games played between the teams all ended with a margin of victory of three points. On the opening night of the tournament, Florida State held Tennessee’s Lamonte Turner to 4-of-14 shooting and eight turnovers in a close Seminoles win.

On the same day, VCU found itself down three points to Purdue with the chance to tie the game. It was a game in which the teams combined to turn the ball over 39 times and made just 7 of their combined 33 three-point attempts.

A day later, Tennessee and VCU were battling to the buzzer. With the game tied at 69-all, Lamonte Turner knocked down this corner three to win it for Tennessee. Will Wade’s Rams finished the tournament 0-2, with a pair of tough, closely decided games.

Feast Week was highlighted by more than just ranked teams going down. With eyes glued to games everywhere, big time players had some big time performances.

In Maui, Georgia’s Anthony Edwards delivered. The Bulldogs trailed Michigan State by 19 points at the half, a half in which Edwards scored just four points on 1-of-8 shooting. But the final 20 minutes brought a different Edwards to the floor that resulted in 33 points on 10-of-18 shooting, Anthony Edwards gave Georgia a chance, while showing to NBA scouts that the highly regarded freshman warrants all of the attention that has been put upon him.

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A day later, Tom Crean’s team found itself tied with host Chaminade. With the clock winding down, Edwards put an end to any hope of a Silverswords upset.

The Orlando Invitational brought the very best out of Marquette’s Markus Howard. A night after scoring 40 points in a win over Davidson, Howard tore apart the USC defense to the tune of 51 points. The senior All-American became the only Division I player in the past 20 seasons with multiple 50-point games.

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North Carolina’s Cole Anthony put on quite the display over an in-game stretch of two minutes late in the first half against Oregon. First, the freshman phenom had his defense lead to offense in this sequence…

Moments later, Anthony was back making a statement defensive play. This time, the 6’3″ guard rose up and turned away Oregon’s 6’7″ Shakur Juiston at the rim…

The brilliant play of freshman guards extended west to Anaheim, where in the closing seconds of the Wooden Legacy opening round, Arizona found itself tied to Pepperdine. With 7.6 seconds left in a tie game, freshman guard Nico Mannion had the ball in his hands…

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Freshman aside, the Maui Invitational was a place where Dayton’s Obi Toppin shined bright. In the Flyers’ three games, Toppin averaged 22.3 points (69.4 FG%) and seven rebounds per game. While Kansas got the best of Dayton in the game, Toppin’s reaction to this shot should have his future opponents on notice.

Off the court, the wild week that was can best be summed up with the story of Stephen F. Austin’s Nate Bain. The Lumberjacks’ hero in the win over Duke comes from a family that was devastated by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas. A GoFundMe for the Bain family exploded with donations following his heroics against the Blue Devils.

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