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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Ten Questions to Consider: Conference Tests, Busting Trends, and the Quest to Remain Perfect

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on January 24th, 2020

The first standalone weekend for college basketball is finally upon us. Without football on the calendar over the next three days, eyes shift even more to the hardwood. It’s a weekend that includes tests within conference play in addition to between power conferences. Here are 10 questions I have for the games to come.

  1. Can Texas Tech guard Kentucky without sending the Wildcats to the free throw line? (Kentucky @ Texas Tech, Saturday, 6 PM EST, ESPN) Kentucky heads to Lubbock with an offense that gets to the free throw line at a rate north of 42 percent, a figure that ranks among the top 10 nationally. In Texas Tech’s six losses on the season, the Red Raiders have given up an average of 25.4 free throw attempts, an average of 10.8 more attempts than they have taken in those games.
  2. Which streaky Big East club picks up a key win to begin the weekend? (Marquette @ Butler, Friday, 9 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) Marquette began league play by dropping three of its first four games, but since then, the Golden Eagles have now won three straight. On the other side of things, Butler began Big East play 3-0 but has since lost three straight of its own. In order for Butler to turn things around, it begins with trying to slow Markus Howard, who comes in averaging 35 points per game over his last five outings.
  3. What impact will the midweek melee have on Kansas? (Tennessee @ Kansas, Saturday, 4 PM EST, ESPN) The Jayhawks will be without both Silvio De Sousa and David McCormack this weekend, forcing Bill Self’s hand into a more small-ball oriented lineup alongside Udoka Azubuike. Isaiah Moss and Christian Braun are two players who could see more consistent minutes in this type of lineup.
  4. Can Florida get enough defensive rebounds to potentially upset #1 Baylor? (Baylor @ Florida, Saturday, 8 PM EST, ESPN) While Baylor sits at 16-1 with a top five defensive efficiency ranking, it is a squad, however, that has an effective field goal percentage below the national average. In order for Florida to pull the upset, the Gators will have to limit second-chance opportunities. In their last game, Mike White’s team allowed 15 offensive rebounds to LSU.
  5. Will the quick turnaround to their second game against one another lead to a different result in the Big Ten? (Michigan State @ Minnesota, Sunday, 3 PM EST, Fox) Entering play on Thursday, Big Ten home teams have won 44 of 54 conference games, with five of those losses coming from bottom dwellers Nebraska and Northwestern. A little more than two weeks after losing in East Lansing, Minnesota hosts Michigan State. Xavier Tillman was a force for the Spartans in the last game, scoring 19, grabbing 16 rebounds and blocking five shots.
  6. Will Richmond be able to slow Dayton down and keep its hot A-10 start going? (Dayton @ Richmond, Saturday, 6 PM EST) The Spiders have held five of their six Atlantic 10 opponents to under 65 points. That will be a daunting challenge against a Dayton squad that owns the nation’s best effective field goal percentage and two-point percentage. In last season’s only match-up, the Flyers shot 73.7 percent from inside the arc in what was an easy 24-point win.
  7. How will Memphis look coming off of a 40-point loss? (SMU @ Memphis, Saturday, 4 PM EST, CBS Sports Network) In the Tigers’ recent lopsided loss at Tulsa, Memphis shot 2-of-21 from beyond the arc and turned the ball over 20 times. Freshman guard Boogie Ellis began the season by making 9 of his first 21 three-point attempts, but since then, Ellis has shot just 9-of-42 (21.4%). One difference between now and then, of course, is the absence of James Wiseman.
  8. Can Kihei Clark find his groove and help rescue Virginia’s season? (Virginia @ Wake Forest, Sunday, Noon EST, ACC Network) ACC play has not been kind to Virginia’s third-leading scorer. The sophomore guard is shooting just 33 percent from inside the arc and just 28.6 percent from beyond it during league play. Over his last five games, Clark has missed a terrible 26 of his 37 two-point attempts.
  9. Will San Diego State pass its latest test in Las Vegas? (San Diego State @ UNLV, Sunday, 4 pm EST, CBS Sports Network) In 68 prior match-ups between these squads, each team has won 34 times. While the Aztecs have won five of the past eight in Las Vegas, four of those have come by two points or fewer. San Diego State has done a tremendous job all season in creating turnovers, an area of which UNLV has struggled mightily all year.
  10. Can DePaul find a way to end its slump in Big East play? (St. John’s @ DePaul, Saturday, 2 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) DePaul began the year 12-1 but has since run into the Big East buzzsaw, having lost five of its first six league games. In the Blue Demons’ loss to St. John’s on January 11, center Paul Reed was held to a season-low four points. Over the three games since, Reed is averaging 21 points and 12 rebounds per game.

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What’s Trending: Out With the Old and In With the New

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on January 13th, 2020

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

When Clemson hit the floor at North Carolina and Baylor visited Kansas on Saturday, both teams were carrying much more than just a point spread labeling them as underdogs. Rather, these two programs were up against history, as neither school had ever won a game at those locations. That is, until Saturday….

In Chapel Hill, postgame feelings from the head coaches were quite different. For Brad Brownell‘s Tigers, the locker room was full of jubilation and joy as the weight of the long losing streak at North Carolina had mercifully ended…

Roy Williams, on the other hand, was hyperbolic beyond reason, from citing the loss as the lowest moment of his career to suggesting that athletic director Bubba Cunningham should fire him.

In Lawrence, Baylor held Kansas to a season-low offensive efficiency and effective field-goal percentage. After averaging 18.6 PPG through his first 14 contests of the season, Baylor held a banged-up Devon Dotson to just nine insignificant points. The Bears’ ability to slow he, along with Udoka Azubuike, led to an easy Baylor victory. Another streak snapped and the jumping off point for the question that never dies when referencing Baylor basketball: Is Scott Drew a good coach?

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10 Questions To Consider: A Weekend of Marquee Matchups and Important Conference Games

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on January 10th, 2020

With each passing day March inches closer and closer. As conference play continues, this weekend includes a key match-up between the Big 12’s best, Big Ten surprises, and preseason All-Americans. Here are 10 questions I have in advance of the action ahead.

  1. Which conference play trend gets busted in Iowa City? (Maryland @ Iowa, Friday, 7 PM EST, FS1) Through four league games, both Maryland and Iowa have seen struggles on one end of the floor grow dramatically. For the Terps, their adjusted offensive efficiency has dropped by 12 points in Big Ten action, while Iowa’s adjusted defensive efficiency sits 15 points higher in league play than its season average.
  2. Will Baylor be able to match its season-long success on the opponents’ glass against Kansas? (Baylor @ Kansas, Saturday, 1 PM EST, CBS) Baylor has a top-40 offensive efficiency thanks in part to the team’s top-10 offensive rebounding rate. In a pair of match-ups with Kansas last season, Baylor grabbed 18 and 26 offensive boards. Scott Drew’s squad will be challenged by the length and rebounding ability of Udoka Azubuike and David McCormack.
  3. Have the Gators turned a corner? (Florida @ Missouri, Saturday, 8:30 PM EST, SEC Network) After starting the season 7-4, Florida has now won three straight games, including a pair of SEC contests. In the team’s first 11 games, the duo of Andrew Nembhard and Kerry Blackshear were averaging a combined 23.4 points per game — over the last three games, however, the pair is averaging 35.7 points per game.
  4. Can Providence keep things rolling against a one-loss Butler team? (Butler @ Providence, Friday, 9 PM EST, FS1) After opening the year 6-6 with four losses to teams outside of the KenPom top 100, Providence has now rattled off four straight wins against top-100 teams. Senior guard Maliek White tied his career-high with 19 points in his last game — after shooting 13-for-49 from three-point range in Big East action last season, White has gone 6-of-11 in three conference games.
  5. Which style of play will come out on top between Big Ten foes? (Wisconsin @ Penn State, Saturday, 2:15 PM EST, Big Ten Network) Greg Gard’s Badgers head into the weekend with an adjusted tempo that puts Wisconsin among the five slowest teams in the country. On the flip side, the Nittany Lions will come in ranked as one of the top 40’s fastest teams. Side note: Wisconsin has beaten Penn State 12 times in a row.
  6. Can Rutgers do something it hasn’t done since the 2001-02 season? (Rutgers @ Illinois, Saturday, Noon EST, Big Ten Network) Since an early December loss to Michigan State, Rutgers has now won six consecutive games, including three against KenPom top 30 teams. A win on Saturday would extend that winning streak to seven games, something Rutgers has not done since a stretch in November/December 2001.
  7. Will Michigan State continue to shoot well from beyond the arc in Big Ten play? (Michigan State @ Purdue, Sunday, Noon EST, CBS) Entering Michigan State’s Thursday night tilt at Minnesota, the Spartans are shooting a Big Ten best 38 percent on three-point attempts in league play. This is up from the team’s 33.8 percent in non-conference action.
  8. Which superstar shines brightest in this marquee matchup? (Marquette @ Seton Hall, Saturday, 4 PM EST, CBS Sports Network) Entering the season, Markus Howard and Myles Powell were marquee names as two of the nation’s best volume scorers. In three match-ups between the two teams last season, Howard made just 6-of-28 three-point attempts, whereas Powell made 12-of-30. If one goes off this weekend, it could spell doom for the other team.
  9. Which offense will make enough plays in a game featuring two of the nation’s best defenses? (Texas Tech @ West Virginia, Saturday, 6 PM EST) Points will be at a premium in Morgantown this weekend. Will Texas Tech be able to clean up offensive rebounding attack of West Virginia? Will West Virginia be able to make free throws? Will Texas Tech’s Davide Moretti find his stroke? The junior has gone just 11-of-41 from deep since December 1.
  10. Can Miami get key stops or is it time to start talking about Pittsburgh? (Pitt @ Miami, Sunday, 6 PM EST, ACC Network) In Jim Larranaga’s first eight years at Miami, the Hurricanes had an average defensive efficiency ranking of 55th nationally. As of Thursday, Miami’s defensive efficiency sits outside of the top 200. Last season, Pitt began ACC play 2-2 before it dropped its next 13 ACC games. Coming off of their first win at North Carolina in program history, Pitt has a chance to add its name to the bubble with a win at Miami.

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2019-20 RTC16: Week Seven

Posted by Walker Carey on December 30th, 2019

The final full week of 2019 did not really get going on the hardwood until Saturday when one of the most bitter rivalries in college basketball resumed with #4 Louisville visiting #16 Kentucky. The game did not disappoint, as the Cardinals fought back from an eight-point halftime deficit to force overtime before the home Wildcats grabbed control in the final minute of the extra period to earn a hotly contested 78-70 victory. It was a much-needed win for Kentucky, as it entered riding a two-game losing streak and had not earned an impressive victory since its season opening dispatch of Michigan State. The Wildcats were led by incredible efforts from freshman guard Tyrese Maxey, who tallied a game-high 27 points, sophomore guard Immanuel Quickley, who added a career-high 18 points, and junior forward Nick Richards, who controlled the game inside with 13 points and 10 rebounds. John Calipari‘s squad also did an excellent job frustrating star Louisville forward Jordan Nwora all afternoon, as the standout junior was mostly a non-factor, finishing with just eight points and four rebounds. Kentucky is still far from a finished product, but if it can string together several more impressive efforts, the Wildcats will once again be a factor in both the SEC race and on the national landscape. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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Ten Questions: Teams Looking to Overcome Trends

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on December 20th, 2019

As the non-conference slate begins to reach its final days, the trends around college basketball are starting to become more clear. This is a weekend where I have questions on teams who are looking to break or reinforce the trends that have formed over the first month and a half of the season.

  1. Will Villanova have enough defense to stop Kansas? (Kansas @ Villanova, Saturday, Noon EST, Fox) Jay Wright’s Villanova squad comes into this weekend’s action ranked 86th in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency, the worst ranking of any of his Wildcat teams. This group also has the worst-ranked effective field-goal percentage defense and opponent two-point field-goal percentage ranking of any Villanova team of the past 10 years.
  2. What impact might the absence of Matt Haarms have on Purdue (Butler @ Purdue, Saturday, 2:30 PM EST, Big Ten Network) The Boilermakers got by Ohio without Haarms in the lineup, but have a much tougher test looming this weekend against Butler. Haarms, second on the team in points per game and rebounds per game, is also a defensive anchor, ranking among the nation’s top 10 in block rate. Butler’s highly efficient offense will test Purdue.
  3. Is it time to panic in Lexington? (Ohio State vs. Kentucky, Saturday, 5:15 PM EST, CBS) The Wildcats were outplayed for much of their recent game against Utah, even if a late rally gave Kentucky a chance to overcome the Utes. This Kentucky squad has the worst team three-point percentage (27.5%) of any Big Blue team of the past 20 years. If they can’t figure things out against Ohio State, they’ll take a two-game losing streak into next weekend’s huge match-up with Louisville.
  4. Who wins the battle at the rim? (Colorado vs. Dayton, Saturday, 6:30 PM EST, CBS Sports Network) Defensively, Colorado’s defense is strongest on the interior, where according to Hoop-Math, the Buffaloes own the nation’s 12th-best defensive field-goal percentage at the rim. Dayton star Obi Toppin gets more than half of his field goal attempts at the bucket, where he shoots a staggering 83.9 percent.
  5. Will Utah State pick up another win over an SEC opponent? (Utah State @ Florida, Saturday, 2:30 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) The Aggies were victorious over LSU earlier this season and now will get a shot at Florida. The Gators are a team that have struggled when unable to create turnovers from their opponents, which could prove a challenge against a Utah State squad that is ranked among the worst 50 teams nationally in turnover rate.
  6. How will Arizona State react to its midweek thrashing? (Creighton @ Arizona State, Saturday, 8:30 PM EST, Pac-12 Networks) Arizona State’s 40-point loss to Saint Mary’s on Wednesday was the Sun Devils’ worst loss since a Kentucky beatdown in 2016. In Wednesday’s defeat, only three Sun Devils scored, with 43 of the team’s 56 points coming from Alonzo Verge off the bench.
  7. Experience vs. Inexperience: Which backcourt shines brightest? (VCU @ Wichita State, Saturday, Noon EST, ESPN2) VCU starts a pair of senior guards in Marcus Evans and De’Riante Jenkins. Wichita State’s backcourt is made up of freshmen Grant Sheffield, Tyson Etienne and sophomore’s Jamarius Burton and Erik Stevenson. This VCU squad is forcing turnovers at a clip over nine percent better than the national average. How will the young Wichita State guards hold up against the pressure?
  8. Will San Diego State’s three-point defense keep them undefeated? (San Diego State vs. Utah, Saturday, 6:30 PM EST, Pac-12 Network) The Aztecs have a three-point defense that ranks among the top 20 in the nation, six percent better at 26.9 percent than last year’s mark that ranked 93rd nationally. Brian Dutcher’s team will be tested by a Utah team that made 8-of-15 from deep in its recent win over Kentucky.
  9. Can a St. John’s team looking to push the pace survive against a Nico Mannion led Arizona team? (Arizona vs. St. John’s, Saturday, 10 PM EST, ESPN2) St. John’s adjusted tempo of 75.4 possessions per game is the highest of any Mike Anderson coached team in the KenPom era. While the Red Storm have an effective field-goal percentage of 53.6 percent in transition, it falls short of Arizona’s even-better 59.4 percent field-goal percentage in transition.
  10. Will Markus Howard make Marquette history? (North Dakota State @ Marquette, Friday, 9 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) After making 6-of-10 from deep against Grambling State, Markus Howard has now made 349 three-pointers at Marquette. With just five more makes, Howard will tie Steve Novak for the most triples in Marquette history. North Dakota State has allowed an average of just five made three-pointers over its last five games.

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Big 12 Temperature Check

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 12th, 2019

While the ACC and Big Ten continue the absolutely farcical exercise of playing conference games before all non-conference games are in the books (and make no mistake, that’s what it is), the Big 12 is among the power conferences still cutting their teeth against non-league foes. As we hit the quarter-pole of the season, it’s a good time to take a look around the league and make some quick but measured evaluations.

Bill Self is Amused By Your Doubts (USA Today Images)

Kansas still looks like a title contender. Before the season, Bill Self proclaimed that the NCAA’s notice of allegations was going to “motivate [him] in a pretty competitive way,” and the results on the court to date are bearing that out. The Jayhawks sit at 8-1 with an impressive set of victories and appear to be getting better by the game. Most notably, Udoka Azubuike‘s improved physique has helped him stay effective on offense, and it’s serving as a foundation for improved defensive play. The big man is committing just 3.1 fouls per 40 minutes while blocking just under two shots per game. There are other positives, of course. Devon Dotson has picked up right where he left off; Marcus Garrett has been a completely different player than the one whose performance against Duke led so many to question the viability of Kansas’ backcourt; and Ochai Agbaji is playing like an upperclassman in what was supposed to be his freshman season. The play of those four have allowed complementary pieces like David McCormack, Tristan Enaruna and Isaiah Moss to stay in those roles a year after personnel issues and injuries forced Self’s hand into relying more on K.J. Lawson, Charlie Moore and Mitch Lightfoot than he had planned. The Jayhawks do have a few things to iron out, particularly their perimeter defense and ability to stretch the floor, but in a volatile year atop the polls, Kansas is more than holding their own.

Baylor could be right there with them, but the Bears have some work to do. No, I’m not talking about their resume, which includes three wins over top-20 teams over a three-week stretch. Scott Drew’s team scored just 86 points per 100 trips in the wins over Arizona and Butler, teams which more closely resemble the Big 12 foes that await them come January than the dregs on which Baylor has feasted elsewhere. The Bears are one of the most physical teams in the country, making scoring a chore for every opponent it has faced thus far, but the offense needs to be more consistent against the best the schedule has to offer. Jared Butler is living up to the hype, but here’s hoping Tristan Clark isn’t out for long.

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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…

https://twitter.com/SportsCenter/status/1199544108815130625?s=20

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…

https://twitter.com/SportsCenter/status/1199678832585916417?s=20

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.

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.

https://twitter.com/umichbball/status/1200518929623347201?s=20

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.

https://twitter.com/marchmadness/status/1200190352931598336?s=20

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.

https://twitter.com/marchmadness/status/1199452472403730432?s=20

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.

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…

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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16 Questions About Thursday’s First Round Games

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on March 20th, 2019

With tip-off of the First Round of the NCAA Tournament just around the corner, here are 16 questions to get you ready for all the action on Thursday.

Here We Go… (USA Today Images)
  • 1) Gonzaga vs. 16) Fairleigh Dickinson: Will Gonzaga spring back to life after its surprising loss to Saint Mary’s? The Zags shot 2-of-17 from beyond the arc in the WCC championship game, but a deep Tournament run will require better shooting from the likes of Zach Norvell, Josh Perkins, and Corey Kispert (collectively, 37.3 percent on the season).
  • 2) Kentucky vs. 15) Abilene Christian: When Kentucky misses shots, will Abilene Christian be able to keep the Wildcats off of the glass? Abilene Christian’s leading rebounder is 6’6″ Jaren Lewis, who averaged 6.2 boards per game. Kentucky’s duo of PJ Washington and Reid Travis could be in line for huge games on the interior for the Wildcats.
  • 2) Michigan vs. 15) Montana: Will Michigan’s size dominate this game? Even without leading scorer Jamar Akoh down the stretch, Montana went 10-2 behind a balanced attack which includes three other players who average at least 13 points per game. For the Grizzlies to win, though, the size of Ignas Brazdiekis and Jon Teske will be a lot to overcome.
  • 2) Michigan State vs. 15) Bradley: Will Michigan State avoid the early exit it took the last time it was a #2 Seed? Bradley managed to beat a Big Ten team (Penn State) earlier this year, but the Braves are going to have their hands full with Michigan State’s Nick Ward in the post.
  • 3) LSU vs. 14) Yale: How focused will LSU be with all the distractions surrounding the Will Wade situation? The Tigers will be without head coach Will Wade as they begin their NCAA Tournament run against a Yale team that likes to get up and down the floor. Each squad has four players who average double-figure points per game.
  • 3) Purdue vs. 14 Old Dominion: Which Carsen Edwards shows up for the Boilermakers? While Edwards shot 33.5 percent from behind the arc on the season, he’s shooting just 22.5 percent in Purdue’s last 11 games. Another shaky performance from the Boilermakers’ star guard could send Purdue home early.
  • 4) Kansas vs. 13) Northeastern: While Northeastern’s Vasa Pusica is grabbing the buzz, is Shawn Occeus the Huskies’ most important player? Occeus was the CAA Defensive Player of the Year in 2018, so if he can lock down the Jayhawks’ perimeter options tomorrow, a lot of pressure will fall on to the shoulders of Dedric Lawson.
  • 4) Florida State vs. 13) Vermont: In a one-game setting, does depth and size win over star power? The Seminoles leading scorer is the 6’10” Mfiondu Kabengele, who puts in 12.9 points per game. In addition, Leonard Hamilton’s team has seven other players who average six or more points per game. Vermont is led by the 21.4 points per game of unanimous America East Player of the Year, Anthony Lamb. The Catamounts only have three other players who average six or more points and just one player in the rotation who stands 6’7″ or taller.
  • 5) Auburn vs. 12) New Mexico State: Which strength brings the bigger advantage? Auburn’s defense leads the nation in turnover rate, while New Mexico State is among the nation’s best in grabbing offensive rebounds. This game could come down to which side is able to get the most out of those two areas.
  • 5) Marquette vs. 12) Murray State: Will Marquette’s sometimes porous transition defense be a deciding factor? The Golden Eagles’ defense sits in the bottom 20 percent in college basketball when it comes to the percentage of shots an opponent takes in transition. The Racers are one of the nation’s best at getting and finishing in transition, led by none other than All-American Ja Morant.
  • 6) Maryland vs. 11) Belmont: Can Belmont’s duo of Nick Muszynski and Dylan Windler hold up against the Maryland frontcourt of Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith? While Windler struggled against Temple offensively, he was a force on the glass. Muszynski returned to the court after missing the OVC championship game and chipped in 16 points. They will be tested against the large Terrapins’ tandem that can wreak havoc on opponents.
  • 6) Villanova vs. 11) Saint Mary’s: Who wins the battle of the three-point line: Villanova’s offense or Saint Mary’s defense? Only three teams took three-point attempts at a higher rate than Villanova this season, while the Gaels sat in the top 10 nationally in terms of running teams off of the three-point line.
  • 7) Louisville vs. 10) Minnesota: Can Minnesota find enough points to get the Pitino family revenge against Louisville? The Golden Gophers averaged 14.3 fewer points per game on the road than they did at home this year. Minnesota’s offense could find it difficult to score against the highly-efficient Louisville defense.
  • 7) Nevada vs. 10) Florida: Which senior will make the biggest impact? In a sport dominated by freshmen, this game will include a plethora of seniors on both sides including the likes of Nevada’s Caleb Martin, Jordan Caroline and Florida’s Ke’Vaughn Allen and Jalen Hudson.
  • 7) Wofford vs. 10) Seton Hall: Will this game come down to which star has a better game? If Ja Morant vs. Markus Howard is must-see matchup #1A, this game’s battle of Fletcher Magee and Myles Powell is must-see match-up #1B. Both players average more than 20 points per game and have taken nearly 500 field goal attempts on the season.
  • 8) Syracuse vs. 9) Baylor: Will the “Boeheim zone” reign supreme again? The Syracuse zone once again led to plenty of three-point attempts for opponents, so Baylor will need a better showing than the 34 percent it shot from distance on the year. Syracuse must also find ways to slow a Bears’ team that finished the year with the second best offensive rebounding rate in college basketball.
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NCAA Tournament Instareaction: Big 12 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 17th, 2019

There’s no way around it: The Big 12 had a down year, propelling fewer than seven teams to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013 (five). Despite having a smaller presence than usual, the pressure will be on the league to have a team make a deep run — and all the better if that team is not Kansas. Compared to some of the other power conferences, the Big 12 may be light at the top, but the middle of the league is sufficiently meaty. Here are some quick thoughts on each team’s draw.

Is Texas Tech Ready for Another Run to the Second Weekend (USA Today Images)

Texas Tech (#3 Midwest)

  • Quick First Round Preview: Northern Kentucky is a spicy match-up for Texas Tech’s robust defense. The Norse move the ball extremely well, assisting on a higher percentage of all their shots than all but four teams in college basketball. Fortunately for the Red Raiders, Northern Kentucky’s defense isn’t much to write home about.
  • Intriguing Potential Match-up: Buffalo in the Round of 32. The Bulls have repeatedly shown that they aren’t afraid of major conference powers and are loaded with experience. Texas Tech won a share of the Big 12 this season by loading up on transfers and having one freshman make a big enough leap to turn himself into a lottery pick. There are more than one ways to skin a cat, but what’s the best way?
  • Final Word: It’s reassuring that last Thursday’s neutral court loss to West Virginia didn’t have a measurable effect on the Red Raiders’ seeding. Their region has the most manageable pair of top seeds (North Carolina and Kentucky), so I’ll be very curious to see if Chris Beard can deliver Lubbock its first Final Four.

Kansas (#4 Midwest)

  • Quick First Round Preview: Northeastern is a small team that isn’t shy about firing away from deep and is a very good defensive rebounding team despite its relative lack of size. If the Huskies get hot from long range, anything can happen, but they struggled mightily in earlier losses to Syracuse and Virginia Tech. Kansas fans shouldn’t be too concerned about this game.
  • Intriguing Potential Match-up: North Carolina in the Sweet Sixteen. The Jayhawks have faced off against their previous coach multiple times over the last 10 years and could certainly be poised to do so again. From a match-up standpoint, however, a game with Auburn in the Round of 32 would be an interesting tilt. The Tigers, like Kansas, have experienced some head-scratching losses this season, but the their defense could cause problems for the inconsistent Jayhawks’ offense.
  • Final Word: The Jayhawks got a massive break by being placed in the Midwest Region despite finishing third in the Big 12, a testament to the staff’s savvy non-conference scheduling. This team is so tough to peg that it’s challenging to see them winning enough to earn a trip back to Kansas City, much less winning there and advancing to consecutive Final Fours.

Kansas State (#4 South)

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