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: 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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What’s Trending: Big Ten/ACC Challenge And More

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on December 9th, 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 month of December tipped-off with the ACC/Big Ten Challenge leading the way. Each league picked up a victory on the opening night of the challenge, which set up a big second day of action. Indiana moved to 8-0 after beating Florida State, with Devonte Green posting a career-high 30 points. Archie Miller’s squad shot a sterling 60 percent on two-point attempts and 46.7 percent on three-point attempts, both season-high marks for Seminoles’ opponents.

In a rematch of an NCAA Tournament game from last season, Duke headed to East Lansing to take on Michigan State. While the Blue Devils were without Cassius Stanley, they ran into no problems with the Spartans. Vernon Carey and Tre Jones combined to score 46 points on 14-of-29 shooting.

Some of Michigan State’s struggles come from the inconsistent play of sophomore Aaron Henry. After averaging 13.3 PPG through his first five contests, Henry has scored just nine points over the last two. Against Duke, Henry was held to two points on two field-goal attempts in just 21 minutes of action.

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Ten Questions To Consider: Early Conference Play Action

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on January 11th, 2019

While teams are now just a couple of games into conference play, this weekend features a number of opportunities for some to stay perfect, for others to bounce back from tough loses, and for several resume statements to be made. Here are 10 questions I have in advance of this weekend’s action.

Ethan Happ is Playing like an All-American
  1. Will Ethan Happ’s hot start to conference play continue? (Purdue @ Wisconsin, Friday 9 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ is averaging a career high 19.3 points per game and is coming off of a 22-point outing against Penn State in which he took 24 shots from the field.
  2. Can Indiana find a way to win on the road? (Indiana @ Maryland, Friday 7 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) Indiana is 1-3 in true road games this season, with its only win being by two points at Penn State. In the Hoosiers’ recent road loss at Michigan, they fell behind 32-19 midway through the first half.
  3. Will Tennessee start SEC play 3-0 for just the second time in the last decade? (Tennessee @ Florida, Saturday 6 PM EST, ESPN) The Volunteers are currently the only SEC team with both an adjusted offensive and deficiency ranking among the top 25 nationally. Tennessee has dropped three games in a row at Florida, however, having lost each game by 13 or more points.
  4. Can the inconsistent Texas offense show up against the elite defense of Texas Tech? (Texas Tech @ Texas, Saturday 2 PM EST, Longhorn Network) Shaka Smart’s Longhorns have been wildly inconsistent on the offensive end this season. In their last six games, Texas has scored at a clip of 1.1 points per possession or better four times but twice have failed to score at least 0.9 points per possession.
  5. How can Florida State find a way to beat Duke (Duke @ Florida State, Saturday 2 PM EST, ESPN) Florida State has won its last two home match-ups when both the Seminoles and Blue Devils were ranked. Led by Christ Koumadje, Florida State has had tremendous success grabbing misses on the offensive end all season — keep in mind that the Blue Devils surrendered 19 offensive rebounds to Wake Forest in their last outing.
  6. Can San Francisco compete with the King of the WCC? (Gonzaga @ San Francisco, Saturday 10 PM EST, ESPN2) San Francisco entered the week with a NET ranking of #37, even though the Dons currently feature just two wins against top 100 KenPom opponents. In order to enter the discussion of an eventual at-large bid, USF must perform well against Gonzaga this weekend. The Dons need to find a way to slow down a Zags’ attack that made 61.8 percent of its two-point attempts against the Dons a season ago.
  7. Is Virginia’s offense not getting enough attention this season? (Virginia @ Clemson, Noon EST, ACC Network) Virginia is coming off of a game on Wednesday night in which it scored 83 points in regulation against Boston College. It was the first time a Cavaliers’ team had scored 80 or more points in regulation of an ACC game since February 24, 2013. After shooting 39.2 percent from behind the arc as a sophomore, Kyle Guy is making 47.3 percent of his three-point attempts this season.
  8. How does Louisville respond to its loss against Pittsburgh against North Carolina? (Louisville @ North Carolina, Saturday Noon EST, ESPN) In Louisville’s loss against Pittsburgh this week, the Panthers shot 56.1 percent from inside the arc. The Cardinals are now 3-4 when their opponents shoot above 50 percent from inside the line. Louisville also needs to see Jordan Nwora respond positively after a miserable 2-of-14 game from the field.
  9. Who will come out on top in a match-up of strengths between the TCU offense and the Oklahoma defense? (TCU @ Oklahoma, Saturday 2 PM EST) Jamie Dixon’s TCU squad heads to Norman with one of the best two-point shooting teams in the nation. On the other side of the ball, Oklahoma’s two-point field goal defense is among the best in the nation. The Sooners have the 10th best field-goal defense at the rim, according to Hoop-Math, holding opponents to 50.5 percent in those attempts, nearly nine points better than the national average.
  10. Will Syracuse’s Frank Howard turn a corner and return to his old self this weekend? (Georgia Tech @ Syracuse, Saturday 6 PM EST, ESPN2) After missing the first four games with a leg injury, Syracuse’s Frank Howard has scored in single-digits in 9 of his 11 games this season. This comes just a season removed from Howard scoring in fewer than 10 points in just five games last year.

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Ten Questions to Consider: Early Conference Action? Edition

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on November 30th, 2018

As November comes to a close, we are starting to have an idea of what teams will look like this season. Here are 10 questions I have for a group heading into this weekend’s action.

Michigan and Purdue Meet in an Early Monster Big Ten Match-Up (USA Today Images)

  1. Can the Badgers end their skid against the Hawkeyes? (Wisconsin @ Iowa, Friday 8 PM EST, Big Ten Network) Wisconsin begins Big Ten play on the last day of November with a trip to Iowa. The Badgers come to Iowa City having lost two straight to the Hawkeyes. In last season’s defeat, the trio of Ethan Happ, Khalil Iverson and the seldom used Charles Thomas made 20-of-35 shots while the rest of the Badgers went 6-of-30 from the field.
  2. Can San Francisco continue its hot start in Northern Ireland? (San Francisco vs. Stephen F. Austin, Friday 8 AM EST) The Hall of Fame Belfast Classic will give four mid-majors an opportunity to pick up a pair of quality wins this weekend. While the WCC is often Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s and everyone else, USF is making its presence felt so far this seaon. The Dons are a perfect 5-0 to date and have a chance to pick up quality wins against Stephen F. Austin and potentially Buffalo. A pair of victories here could further the WCC’s notion of becoming a three-bid league next March.
  3. How will Gonzaga fare in its first true road game of the season? (Gonzaga @ Creighton, Saturday 2 PM EST, Fox) Gonzaga hits the road for its first true road game of the year in Omaha against Creighton. The Bulldogs must deal with an elite shooting team in the Bluejays, which have made at least nine three-pointers in every game while Gonzaga has allowed that many only once.
  4. Can Purdue’s offense be effective against Michigan’s elite defense? (Purdue @ Michigan, Saturday 3:30 PM, ESPN) In Purdue’s recent two losses, star guard Carsen Edwards committed 14 turnovers while handing out 11 assists. This early blockbuster Big Ten match-up will be interesting as Michigan’s defensive focus is staying in front of its opponent and making every shot difficult — more so than creating turnovers.
  5. Can USC get a resume-building win over Nevada? (Nevada @ USC, Saturday 4:30 PM EST, Fox) USC sits at 5-2 with all five of its wins against teams with a KenPom ranking outside of the top 200. With Nevada coming into the Galen Center on Saturday afternoon, the Trojans have an opportunity to add a marquee win to their resume. In order to have a chance, USC will need Bennie Boatwright to shine and for Kevin Porter Jr. to play after missing the last two games with a quad bruise. Read the rest of this entry »
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Is the Big Ten Better Than Expected?

Posted by Ryan O'Neil on November 20th, 2018

Before the season began, there was a lot of skepticism nationally about the Big Ten, a conference that placed only three teams in the preseason AP Top 25: Michigan State (#10), Michigan (#19), and Purdue (#24). After Michigan State was thoroughly dominated by Kansas at the Champions Classic, the rhetoric only became more harsh. The conference’s presumed best team had been outplayed in every aspect by the Jayhawks, so experts and fans alike were left to wonder if the Big Ten was even worse than previously thought. Two weeks into the season, however, has introduced a different narrative — one of depth and quality rather than shallowness and despair.

Michigan is Rolling Again (USA Today Images)

Although Michigan State began the year as the highest-ranked team in the Big Ten, it appears as if its intrastate rival, Michigan, might just be the best team in the league. In the Wolverines’ Gavitt game, they dominated Villanova from start to finish en route to a 73-46 road win. John Beilein‘s squad, which has been led so far by freshman Ignas Brazdeikis and junior point guard Zavier Simpson, has the best defense in the country (per KenPom), and the Wolverines are particularly adept at turning turnovers (14.9% TO Rate) into points. Michigan’s next big test will be in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge next week against North Carolina.

Indiana also beat a ranked team when the Hoosiers easily knocked off #24 Marquette at home. While the Hoosiers took a one-point loss to Arkansas on Sunday, Archie Miller’s squad is already showing flashes of the team that it could become. The freshman backcourt of Rob Phinisee and Romeo Langford is talented and dynamic, serving as a better complement to Juwan Morgan than he’s had in the past. The biggest question for Indiana will be whether they can consistently win away from Assembly Hall.

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Ten Questions: Mid-November Intrigue

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on November 16th, 2018

While this weekend’s schedule is a little light as teams prepare for the nonstop action of Feast Week, here are 10 questions to consider as the season settles in.

Is Michigan Due For a Letdown? (USA Today Images)

  1. How will St. John’s fare in its only road non-conference game? (St. John’s at Rutgers, Friday 7 PM EST, BTN) St. John’s only road non-conference game takes place just down the road in New Jersey against local rival Rutgers. In Mustapha Heron‘s  first two games as a member of the Red Storm, he is averaging over 20 points per game.
  2. Will Arizona State avoid an upset in a potential trap game? (ed. note: this game was canceled last night because of smoke issues related to wildfires) (Arizona State @ San Francisco, Friday 10 PM EST, Pac-12 Network) Before Arizona State heads to Las Vegas to take on a ranked Mississippi State team, they will take on the Dons in San Francisco. After falling behind by 15 points early, San Francisco was only outscored by three points in the final 30 minutes of last season’s match-up in the desert.
  3. Has Stanford found Reid Travis 2.0 in KZ Okpala? (Wofford at Stanford, Friday 10 PM EST, Pac-12 Network) When Reid Travis decided to transfer to Kentucky, Stanford had to fill a large gap in its offense. Sophomore KZ Okpala has seen his scoring average explode from 10.0 as a freshman to 22.7 PPG through the first three games of the season.
  4. Will early season turnover woes be the deciding factor? (South Carolina vs. Providence, Saturday 2:30 PM EST, ESPN 3) Through three games South Carolina has committed 44 turnovers while Providence has committed 46 turnovers. Both the Gamecocks and Friars are forcing turnovers at a rate better than the national average, so winning the turnover battle will be crucial in this game.
  5. Can Charleston stay perfect with a win in Stillwater? (Charleston @ Oklahoma State, Sunday 4 PM EST) Coming off a 26-8 record last season, Charleston was picked second in the preseason CAA media poll. The Cougars feature two of the conference’s best players in Jarrell Brantley and Grant Riller. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State is struggling, having lost to #299 Charlotte already this season. Read the rest of this entry »
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What’s Trending: The Ball is Tipped…

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on November 12th, 2018

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

Welcome back college basketball, it’s good to have you back!

Kyle Tucker of The Athletic provided this glimpse into Bankers Life Fieldhouse prior to the tip of last week’s Kentucky/Duke game. Match-ups like these are what we all look forward to…

While the game itself may have not lived up to expectations, the debuts of Duke’s R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson most definitely did. Among their countless highlights of the night, this sequence will be tough to beat.

College sports, where the wild and wacky often happens. Indiana opened its season in Bloomington while wearing their road crimson uniforms.

Why were the Hoosiers wearing their road uniforms at Assembly Hall? Well, Chicago State’s road uniforms were never delivered to them.

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What We Learned From a Wild Week in the Big Ten

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on February 19th, 2018

From massive upsets to historic comebacks and some ridiculous individual performances in-between, it was one heck of a week in the Big Ten. Let’s examine a few key takeaways.

Purdue should be just fine, assuming Vincent Edwards returns to action. (John Terhune/Journal & Courier)

  • Purdue fans need not panic (unless, of course, Vincent Edwards’ injury lingers). Entering its game against Ohio State on February 7, Purdue had won 19 straight, sat undefeated in the Big Ten (12-0), and looked seemingly unbeatable — especially in Mackey Arena, where it had crushed its opponents by 27 points per game. Then the Boilermakers stumbled against the Buckeyes. Then they dropped a nail-biter at Michigan State, which was followed by a stunning defeat at Wisconsin on Thursday. Suddenly, there were deep concerns about Matt Painter‘s crew. “Something just feels different,” senior Vincent Edwards said of the team’s struggles last Thursday. Take a step back and examine the losses, though, and it’s clear that bad luck was partially at play. Were it not for a last second tip-in against Ohio State and a last second three-pointer versus Michigan State, perhaps the Boilermakers would have gone 3-1 in their last four games. Maybe even 4-0. Their close win over red-hot Penn State on Sunday shows just how fine the line is between a quality win and a “problematic” loss. If there is real cause for concern, it’s this: Edwards (14.9 PPG, 7.8 RPG) missed the game against the Nittany Lions with an injured ankle. Assuming he doesn’t miss extended time down the stretch, Purdue should still be considered a Final Four contender. If his injury lingers, then the Boilers can panic.

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Five Trends to Track During a Big Week in the Big Ten

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on February 7th, 2018

Ohio State vs. Purdue and Maryland vs. Penn State tonight. Purdue vs. Michigan State on Saturday. Several potential bubble-busters in between. Needless to say, it’s a big week in the Big Ten. Let’s take a look at a few quietly-important trends worth keeping an eye on.

Purdue’s defense has been mediocre in recent weeks. (Anthony Souffle – Purdue Exponent)

  • Purdue’s Struggling Defense. Just because because the Boilermakers own the nation’s longest winning streak of 18 games doesn’t mean all is rosy in West Lafayette. After holding 12 of its previous 14 opponents to less than one point per possession, Purdue has recently allowed five straight opponents to exceed that mark — including Rutgers, which scored 1.17 PPP in a near-upset of the Boilermakers on Saturday. In just a few weeks, Purdue has dropped from fifth nationally in defensive efficiency to 15th, a slump that’s coincided with four straight games decided by fewer than 10 points. Purdue won all four, of course, but when you consider that 10 of its previous 11 victories were absolute blowouts, you begin to understand why it’s worth pointing out. Matt Painter’s group has looked visibly less active in guarding the perimeter over that stretch, and part of the problem may also be rim protection: shot-blocking maven Matt Haarms has only swatted six shots since January 20, his lowest five-game stretch of output this season. It will be interesting to observe how the Boilers fare against Keita Bates-Diop in tonight’s big showdown with Ohio State.
  • Michigan State’s Troubling Late-Game Execution. On January 22, Michigan State led Illinois by 18 points with 4:29 left, only to see the Illini cut the lead to eight in a matter of three minutes. Against Penn State last week, a 15-point lead with 1:09 to play shriveled to six — and nearly three — in just 30 seconds. Up 10 at Indiana on Saturday night, Michigan State mustered just three field goals in the game’s final 12 minutes, giving the Hoosiers a chance to tie it at the buzzer. Part of Sparty’s problem has been shear boneheadedness, like Miles Bridges’ and-1 foul of Devonte Green in the closing seconds against Indiana. But these late-game struggles also shed light on a broader weakness: the Spartans are simply less productive and more turnover-prone in the half-court, where their offense has often lacked rhythm. It wasn’t an issue in Tuesday night’s scare at Iowa, but it could be against Purdue on Saturday.

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