2020-21 RTC16: Week 13

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on February 22nd, 2021

Michigan picked up its most impressive victory of the season with its five-point win over the weekend at Ohio State. The two teams combined to shoot 53.4 percent from the field and used tremendous ball movement to each find open shots all game long. Elsewhere, Ayo Dosunmu picked up his second triple-double of the season; West Virginia came roaring back from another double-figure deficit to pick up a win at Texas; and Florida State put up 80+ points on Virginia. With just one week left in February, the RTC16 continues to fluctuate outside of the top three.

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

RISING

  • Duke: After losing its opening three games of the month, Duke has now won three contests in a row, including a weekend win over Virginia. The Blue Devils made 60.7 percent of their two-point field-goal attempts against the Cavaliers, becoming just the second Virginia opponent to eclipse the 60 percent mark, joining Gonzaga.
  • Florida State: Leonard Hamilton’s team jumps back into the RTC16 with a 2-0 week, which included a 21-point win over Virginia. Junior Raiquan Gray is averaging 16.8 points per game and nine rebounds per game over his last five outings. Now with a one game lead in the loss column in the ACC standings, the Seminoles stay on the road for a pair this week.
  • Maryland: A 3-0 week pushed Maryland to 14-10 and 8-9 in league play. They avoided the obstacle that was back-to-back against resume-killing Nebraska and then won at Rutgers over the weekend. Aaron Wiggins posted a pair of double-doubles and Jairus Hamilton was productive off of the bench, knocking down 6-of-12 three-point attempts last week.

FALLING

  • Louisville: Louisville returned from a near three-week break and lost by 45 points at North Carolina, the most lopsided defeat in program history going back to the 1949-50 season. Louisville, the ACC’s worst three-point shooting team, shot 6.3 percent on its 16 three-point attempts. This was the worst three-point shooting performance of any Louisville team since 2010 (min. 10 3PA).
  • Minnesota: The Golden Gophers led at Indiana, 45-39, with 17:14 to go in the game before they were on the wrong side of a 36-16 run over the next 15 minutes which flipped the game. The Gophers returned home over the weekend and never were in the game against Illinois. Having lost eight of their last 11 games, what was once a strong resume is becoming a much bigger issue with each new loss.
  • Saint Louis: A 19-of-70 shooting performance against Dayton was a major factor in the Billikens’ 23-point loss to the Flyers. The loss was the team’s third in the A-10 and with the way the conference has been ravaged with cancelled games, its a loss that could become costly with respect to conference tournament seeding. Saint Louis gets a shot at boosting its resume this week with games against VCU and Richmond.

NOTABLE GAMES OF THE WEEK

  • Monday: Oregon @ USC, 9 PM EST, Fox Sports 1
  • Tuesday: Kansas @ Texas, 9 PM EST, ESPN2
  • Wednesday: Alabama @ Arkansas, 9 PM EST
  • Thursday: Iowa @ Michigan, 7 PM EST, ESPN
  • Saturday: UCLA @ Colorado, 10 PM EST
  • Sunday: Iowa @ Ohio State, 4 PM EST, CBS
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Ten Questions to Consider: Premier Match-ups Across the Country

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on February 19th, 2021

After starting the week with a Monday slate that left much to be desired, this week ends with several great games across the land. A match-up of #3 Michigan vs. #4 Ohio State in the Big Ten leads the way, but plenty of other leagues are also scheduled to have their top teams battling it out. With the end of February fast approaching, here are 10 questions I have for the action taking place over the next few days.

  1. Can Ohio State continue to dominate Michigan in Columbus? (Michigan @ Ohio State, Sunday, 1 PM EST, CBS) Going back to 1950, Michigan is 1-18 on the road against a ranked Ohio State club. Last season, Ohio State big man Kaleb Wesson made seven threes against the Wolverines. With Hunter Dickinson’s size down low, the Buckeyes may need to rely on this again with EJ Liddell going 2-of-4 from deep last weekend against Indiana.
  2. How does Virginia respond from its loss early in the week against a Duke team without Jalen Johnson? (Virginia @ Duke, Saturday, 8 PM EST, ESPN) Florida State’s 81-60 victory over Virginia on Monday marked just the 12th time in Tony Bennett’s 392-game tenure at Virginia that the Cavaliers have given up 80 or more points. With Jalen Johnson shutting things down in Durham, a Duke team that ranks second in ACC play in offensive efficiency will be challenged by a hungry Virginia defense.
  3. Can David McCormack’s recent success continue against against Texas Tech? (Texas Tech @ Kansas, Saturday, 2 PM EST) McCormack is averaging 16.4 points per game over his last seven games while shooting 54 percent from the field. In the December match-up between these teams, Texas Tech held the big man to just seven points on 3-of-10 shooting.
  4. If weather permits, how will Texas fare against West Virginia following a week of obstacles? (West Virginia @ Texas, Saturday, 3 PM EST) After having its midweek game with Oklahoma cancelled, CBS Sports‘ Matt Norlander tweeted that Texas has been unable to practice much of the week because of the snowfall and and power situation in Texas. In the first game between these Big 12 foes, Texas overcame a 54-45 second-half deficit to win.
  5. Will Minnesota continue to be a different team at home than on the road? (Illinois @ Minnesota, Saturday, 3:30 PM EST) Richard Pitino’s Golden Gophers’ squad continues to perform vastly different at home than on the road this season — averaging 80.6 points per game at home and a paltry 64.6 on the road. Defensively, the same trend is true with Minnesota allowing 68.3 points per game at home and giving up 80.3 per game on the road.
  6. Will both Davidson and St. Bonaventure again get balanced scoring or will someone steal the show? (Davidson @ St. Bonaventure, Sunday, 3:30 PM EST, NBC Sports Network) Davidson and St. Bonaventure are two of the A-10’s six teams to have three of fewer conference losses while having played six or more league games. Davidson has four players averaging at least 10.0 points per game while the Bonnies comes into the matchup with five double-figure scorers.
  7. Can Missouri end its tailspin? (Missouri @ South Carolina, Saturday, 2 PM EST, ESPN2) Having now lost three straight games, Missouri’s NET Ranking has dropped nearly 20 spots over the past 10 days. Xavier Pinson has been a barometer of Missouri success, having made 37.7 percent of his three-point attempts in wins and just 25.8 percent in losses.
  8. Can Utah State get production from someone other than Neemias Queta and leave Boise with a split? (Utah State @ Boise State, Friday, 10 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) The Broncos grabbed a win on Wednesday night against Utah State in a game in which Neemias Queta scored a career-best 32 points. While Queta was dominant, it was a lackluster shooting night for the Aggies in shooting under 20 percent from deep for just the second time this season.
  9. Will North Texas be able to attack the rim with the presence of Charles Bassey looming defensively? (Western Kentucky @ North Texas, Friday, 8 PM EST) The Hilltoppers and Mean Green head into the weekend tied at the top of the Conference USA as they prepare to play each other on both Saturday and Sunday. North Texas is shooting 68.3 percent on shot attempts near the rim, a top 15 percentage nationally, which helps them maintain a top-25 two-point field-goal percentage. Defensively, Western Kentucky’s Charles Bassey has a top-10 blocked shot rate and has blocked at least four shots in eight games this season.
  10. New year, same question, why does the NCAA persist on “transition years” for new D-I teams? (Bellarmine @ North Florida, Friday, 7 PM EST, ESPN+) Last season it was Merrimack; this year it’s the Bellarmine Knights of the Atlantic Sun. In Bellarmine’s first year at the D-I level, the Knights have an A-Sun best 10-2 record in league play. They are one of six teams to rank in the top 50 nationally in two-point, three-point, and free-throw percentage.

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Ten Questions to Consider: Marquee Games and Marquee Opportunities

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on January 15th, 2021

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

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

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Ten Questions to Consider: Action Continues and Here’s What to Watch

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on December 11th, 2020

Even as games are lost to COVID positive tests and subsequent shutdowns of programs, the college basketball slate remains full of plenty of action. While off the court the likes of Jeff Capel and Mike Krzyzewski are beginning to really question why teams are playing, on the court players are continuing to battle hard and make statements. Here are ten questions I have for ten games that I hope to see played at some point from Friday through Sunday.

  1. Will a pair of elite defenses steal the show in this Big 12 showdown? (Texas @ Baylor, Sunday, 3 PM EST, ESPN) Both Baylor and Texas will head into this matchup with top ten defensive efficiencies. Last season in two matchups, the teams combined to shoot 32.4% from the field on 73-of-225 shooting. A major key last season in their matchup was the free-throw line, where Baylor went 26-of-32 compared to Texas who was just 11-of-26.
  2. Was Jordan Bohannon’s mid-week performance a sign of more things to come? (Iowa State. @ Iowa, Friday, 9 PM EST, Big Ten Network) In Iowa’s win over North Carolina, Bohannon snapped out of the 3-of-14 three-point shooting stretch of the first three games of the season by draining 7-of-16 against the Tar Heels. For Iowa to reach its ultimate goal of playing into the Final Four both improvements on the defensive end and longterm consistency from Bohannon will be key.
  3. Will Florida and Florida State be able to turn one another over? (Florida @ Florida State, Saturday 11 AM EST, ESPNU) Defensively both Floria and Florida State each rank within the top 20 in turnover rate. Florida’s Tyree Appleby is a defensive pest who had four steals in just 20 minutes on Sunday against Stetson. The Gators will be challenged defensively to force turnovers at their usual high clip against a Florida State team that has been fantastic at limiting giveaways early in the season.
  4. After looking dominant at Duke, can Illinois avoid a letdown against an undefeated Missouri team? (Illinois @ Missouri, Saturday, 8 PM EST) Brad Underwood’s squad wasted no time turning things around after the loss against Baylor by walking into Cameron Indoor and showing what the Illii are capable of when firing on all cylinders. Illinois is a different team when they get minutes and production from Kofi Cockburn. He’ll be needed against a Missouri team that has averaged 39 points in the paint per game through its first four games.
  5. Can Marquette successfully attack the offensive glass against a good defensive rebounding Bruin team? (Marquette @ UCLA, Friday, 9:30 PM EST, Pac-12 Network) Marquette’s 34.3% offensive rebound rate sits in the top 50 nationally and it has also helped them post a free-throw rate of 50%, a top 20 rate in the nation. With a pair of players in Justin Lewis and Jamal Cain whom each individually post a top 100 offensive rebound rate, Marquette will challenge a UCLA team that has tremendous length and has done a good job of limiting both second-chance looks and free-throw attempts for its opponents.
  6. Will Stanford and USC come down to a pair of freshman or might a senior be the difference-maker? (Stanford @ USC, Sunday, 9:30 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) Stanford’s Ziaire Williams and USC’s Evan Mobley each came into the season as freshman who were among ESPN’s top 10 recruits. While Williams got off to a great start with 19 points in the opener against Alabama, he has since struggled both with his shot and staying out of foul trouble. For the Trojans, Evan Mobley’s 17.6 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game has been a big reason USC has looked dominant at times. With the freshman stealing the spotlight, Stanford senior Oscar da Silva and his 17.3 points per game could fly under the radar and be the difference in this Pac-12 battle.
  7. Quite simply, will Kentucky show any signs of a pulse? (Notre Dame @ Kentucky, Saturday, Noon EST, CBS) A loss on Saturday would result in just the second four-game losing streak for Kentucky under John Calipari, the last coming in the 2017-18 season. While freshman Terrence Clarke and Isaiah Jackson showed glimmers of hope in the most recent loss, it’s been the play of fellow freshman Devin Askew as well as transfers Oliver Sarr and Davion Mintz which have left much to be desired. Any Kentucky turnaround begins with protecting the ball as the Wildcats are a -31 in turnover margin during the current three-game losing streak.
  8. Will Michigan’s size be too much for Penn State to handle? (Penn State @ Michigan, Sunday, 2 PM EST, Big Ten Network) Penn State has made ten or more three-pointers in three of its first four games of the season, including a 12-of-23 performance from deep against Virginia Tech in the Nittany Lions most recent game. With a lineup that primarily features four players at 6’6″ or under, Penn State will have to find ways to contain the Michigan trio of Isaiah Livers, Franz Wagner, and Hunter Dickinson who range from 6’7″ to 7’1″.
  9. Can Richmond’s Grant Golden stay out of foul trouble and contend with the Mountaineers dynamic duo? (Richmond @ West Virginia, Sunday, 1 PM EST, ESPN) Richmond’s Grant Golden is a skilled big who can score (14.7 PPG), rebound (5 RPG), and get others involved (3.7 APG) and can do all that while only playing 22 minutes per game. Golden will likely need to see more time on the floor against the duo of Derek Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe for Richmond to walk out of Morgantown with a victory. In just five games, the West Virginia tandem have already combined for 37 offensive rebounds.
  10. Will Dayton’s advantage at point guard be too much for Mississippi State to overcome? (Dayton vs. Mississippi State, Saturday, Noon EST, ESPN News) Jalen Crutcher is a senior guard who came into the season regarded as one the best lead guards in the nation. On Saturday, Mississippi State freshman Deivon Smith will be in charge of dealing with Crutcher, a player with a resume far greater than anyone Smith has faced thus far.
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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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2019-20 RTC16: Week Four

Posted by Walker Carey on December 10th, 2019

Around this time in the calendar every season, a team grabs national attention for, not just piling up wins, but piling up those wins in a demonstrative manner. That team in this season is #2 Ohio State. The Buckeyes are now 9-0 after a 25-point win at North Carolina and a 32-point win over Penn State in its Big Ten opener. Since an eight-point win over Cincinnati in the first game of the year, Ohio State has won every one of its contests by at least 19 points. The most remarkable aspect of Chris Holtmann‘s group is how balanced it is, with six different players averaging at least eight points per game — led by junior big man Kaleb Wesson at 14.1 PPG and sophomore guard Duane Washington Jr. at 11.4 PPG. The Buckeyes got off to a 12-1 start last season before fading down the stretch and needing a win in the Big Ten Tournament to comfortably earn an NCAA Tournament bid, so their hot start this season is not unprecedented. Having said that, there has been nothing about this season’s Ohio State team that suggests that another swoon in conference play is coming. The Buckeyes have established themselves as a terrific team that should be one everyone’s radars as a legitimate national title contender. This week’s Quick N’ Dirty after the jump.

Quick N’ Dirty Analysis.

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Eight Questions For the Sweet Sixteen

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on March 28th, 2019

The lack of major upsets in the opening two rounds of the NCAA Tournament has created numerous intriguing match-ups for the upcoming Sweet Sixteen. Here are the questions I have for each match-up:

Thursday Games

Brandon Clarke Has Been Putting on a Show for the #1 Zags (USA Today Images)
  • Florida State vs. Gonzaga: Does Gonzaga have a Rui Hachimura problem? While Hachimura is averaging 19.7 points per game this year, he is coming off of a season-low six-point performance against Baylor. Hachimura scored in double-figures in each of the first 32 games of the season, but has failed to eclipse 10 points in two of his previous three games. What’s going on with the junior All-American? The 6’8″ forward will be put to the test against the length of the Florida State front line.
  • Purdue vs. Tennessee: Will Carsen Edwards’ shooting be the difference? Carsen Edwards is coming off of an explosive 42-point performance against Villanova — a game in which he went 9-of-16 from beyond the arc. Tennessee’s three-point defense ranks below the national average and the Volunteers allowed Colgate to shoot 51.7 percent from distance in the First Round.
  • Texas Tech vs. Michigan: Which offense will be more dynamic in a match-up of elite defenses? According to KenPom, this game features the top two defenses in college basketball, as both teams have held their Tournament opponents under 60 points. The Wolverines are led offensively by freshman Ignas Brazdeikis — who scored just five points on 2-of-8 shooting against Florida — while Texas Tech is led by Jarrett Culver, who is averaging 25.5 points per game over his last four outings. The Red Raiders’ All-American, however, has shot only 20.6 percent from beyond the arc in games Texas Tech has lost.
  • Oregon vs. Virginia: Can Oregon’s defense stifle the immensely efficient Virginia offense? Since being blitzed for 90 points in a loss at UCLA, Oregon has given up an average of just 54.2 points per game over its last 10 contests. During that stretch, the Ducks have held their opponents to a sterling 20.9 percent on three-point attempts. While Virginia has shot over 40 percent from distance on the season, the Cavaliers have gone just 29.8 percent so far in the Tournament.

Friday Games

Duke Survived the UCF Push (USA Today Images)
  • LSU vs. Michigan State: Will LSU be able to put together a full 40-minute performance against Michigan State? Through two NCAA Tournament games LSU is +25 in the first half and -18 in the second half. That disparity features a 30.8 percent field-goal percentage in the second half and an even worse 16.7 percent from beyond the arc. Over their last five games, the Spartans, on the other hand, have outscored their opponents by 36 points in the second half.
  • Auburn vs. North Carolina: As hot as Auburn can get offensively, can its defense slow down North Carolina? Auburn has played 13 games against opponents with adjusted offensive efficiency rankings of 40th or better, and the Tigers have gone just 5-8 in those games. Additionally, the Tigers are just 2-6 in games against an opponent with an offensive rebounding rate that ranks among the top 20 in college basketball. For your consideration, North Carolina owns the nation’s eighth most efficient offense and has a top 20 offensive rebounding rate.
  • Virginia Tech vs. Duke: Can Virginia Tech replicate its winning formula against Duke? The Hokies defeated Duke, 77-72, back in late February in a game both Zion Williamson and Justin Robinson missed. Kerry Blackshear had a season-high 23 points to lead the Hokies in an all-around balanced effort. The return of the point guard Robinson will give Buzz Williams’ squad an extra ball-handler to deal with the pressure defense of Tre Jones.
  • Houston vs. Kentucky: What will the status of PJ Washington be come tip-off time? Kentucky’s PJ Washington missed the first two games of the NCAA Tournament and his availability remains unclear for Friday night’s game. Washington was the SEC’s second-best three-point shooter in conference play and is a player that would help spread the floor for a Wildcats’ team that has made just 25.9 percent of its 27 three-point attempts in the NCAA Tournament.
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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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Rushed Reactions: Big Ten Semifinal Saturday

Posted by Walker Carey on March 16th, 2019

While Minnesota‘s upset victory over Purdue on Friday night prevented the Big Ten’s top four seeds from all advancing to the conference tournament semifinals, Michigan State, Michigan and Wisconsin making it through to Saturday encapsulated how much of the conference season was dominated by the league’s top teams. The league will still likely send at least six teams to the NCAA Tournament — depending on your feelings about bubble teams Ohio State and Indiana — but this weekend’s action further illustrated that the class of the league possesses the necessary firepower necessary to make a significant run in the main bracket. Tomorrow’s Michigan State vs. Michigan final will crown a Big Ten Tournament champion, but it will also give the national audience a glimpse at two of the few Big Ten teams that can make some noise when NCAA Tournament play commences. Here are some of the key takeaways from Saturday afternoon’s action in Chicago.

Michigan State Advances to the Big Ten Tournament Final Where It Will Face Rival Michigan (USA Today Images)
  1. Cassius Winston is Michigan State’s star, but the Spartans need their role players to continue their strong play. The Big Ten Player of the Year turned in another star effort on Saturday afternoon, finishing the semifinal game with 21 points and six assists. While Winston’s heroics are mostly expected at this point, it has been the emergence of Michigan State’s role players that has been an important component in the team winning nine of its last 10. That was on full display in today’s win over Wisconsin. Veteran forwards Kenny Goins and Xavier Tillman were outstanding against the Badgers, combining for 30 points and 19 rebounds while providing the Spartans with stout defense in the post. Freshman swingman Aaron Henry also turned in a noteworthy performance, as he continued to make strides in his all-around game by collecting 11 rebounds. For the Spartans to get to Minneapolis, they are going to need the team’s complementary players to continue to turn in impressive efforts — Winston is a terrific player, but he cannot take Michigan State to the Final Four on his own. The role players Tom Izzo has developed seem capable of making sure Winston has the necessary help to put together a deep run.
  2. Wisconsin’s plodding offense could be its downfall. Throughout most of Wisconsin’s 20+ years of sustained success, the Badgers have been synonymous with a low-tempo offensive attack that limits possessions and aims to take as many high percentage shots as possible. That strategy has served Wisconsin very well in the past, but Saturday’s loss to Michigan State showed this Badgers team may have to make a few tweaks if they want to advance in the NCAA Tournament. The Spartans ran out to a 15-4 lead to begin the game and Wisconsin’s lack of offensive prowess made that early deficit nearly impossible to overcome. The Badgers finished the game shooting just 35.3 percent from the field and a ghastly 10.5 percent from the three-point line. Starters D’Mitrik Trice, Brad Davison, and Nate Reuvers combined to shoot just 5-of-26 from the field and their inability to get anything going resulted in Michigan State putting more of an emphasis on containing standout forward Ethan Happ in the post. Greg Gard will need to scheme a plan to get his offense back in rhythm or there will likely be a repeat of the Michigan State loss awaiting the Badgers in the NCAA Tournament.
  3. Postseason Michigan is back and looks to be dangerous as ever. John Beliein‘s program went a combined 15-2 in the 2017 and 2018 postseason — the Wolverines are the two-time defending Big Ten Tournament champions, and they went to the Sweet Sixteen and National Championship game in successive seasons. If this week’s results are any indication, Michigan seems bound for another successful postseason run. After a convincing win over Iowa in Friday’s quarterfinal, the Wolverines destroyed Minnesota in Saturday’s semifinal. Like in most of its victories this season, Michigan was led Saturday by junior floor general Zavier Simpson, who contributed 15 points and nine assists to the dominant effort. Sophomore forward Isaiah Livers came off the bench and poured in a career-high 21 points on an 8-of-10 shooting performance. The Wolverines entered the game second in the country in defensive efficiency and their suffocating effort on that end of the floor set the tone in the first half which allowed Michigan to go into halftime with an insurmountable 38-19 lead.
  4. Tomorrow’s Michigan State vs. Michigan championship game should be a dandy. Sunday’s title game will be the third time the Spartans and Wolverines will meet on the hardwood this season. Michigan State won the first two match-ups against its intrastate rival by using strong second half charges to emerge victorious. Tom Izzo and John Beliein are two of college basketball’s most talented tacticians and respected leaders. Cassius Winston and Zavier Simpson are two of the country’s most valuable point guards. If you are a college basketball fan, you will be well served to catch Sunday afternoon’s battle for the Big Ten Tournament title.

Quotable.

  • “Kenny (Goins) has probably been the guy that has changed our team throughout the last two and a half months. He is one of our best defenders. He is our best rebounder. He is maybe our best-conditioned guy, and he has really figured out how to shoot the ball and does it with high percentage.” – Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, commenting on the emergence of senior forward Kenny Goins.
  • “They obviously came out and they were knocking down almost every shot. They were hitting every three, getting to the rim, and things like that. I think we just have to start faster with a different mindset, especially on the defensive end.” – Wisconsin guard D’Mitrik Trice, acknowledging how Michigan State’s quick start ultimately sealed his team’s fate.
  • “I am going to throw it in the green river.” – Minnesota coach Richard Pitino, describing what he is going to do with the game tape from his team’s blowout loss.
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Ten Questions to Consider: Regular Season Comes to a Close

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on March 8th, 2019

With several conferences already in the midst of tournament action and others still wrapping up regular season play, this weekend is setting up to be a great warm-up for the upcoming wall-to-wall action. Here are 10 questions I have for a set of games that could set the tone for the next few weeks.

Will He or Won’t He? (USA Today Images)
  1. If Zion Williamson is held out against North Carolina, will Duke be looking at a similar result? (Duke @ North Carolina, Saturday 6 PM EST, ESPN) Duke’s defense surrendered 58 points to the Tar Heels’ duo of Luke Maye and Cameron Johnson a few weeks ago. The Blue Devils allowed a total of 88 points despite North Carolina shooting a season-worst 10 percent from deep.
  2. Will Michigan have any luck slowing down Cassius Winston? (Michigan @ Michigan State, Saturday 8 PM EST, ESPN) In Michigan State’s win in Ann Arbor, Cassius Winston scored 27 points, with 19 of those coming in the second half. In that particular match-up, the Spartans turned the ball over at a season low rate of just 9.6 percent.
  3. Which Carsen Edwards shows up for Purdue as the Boilermakers look for a share (or more) of the Big Ten regular season title? (Purdue @ Northwestern, Saturday 2:30 PM EST, Big Ten Network) After shooting a robust 41.7 percent on his three-point attempts last season in league play, Purdue’s Carsen Edwards is shooting just 30.2 percent in Big Ten games this season. In Purdue’s four league losses, Edwards has shot an icy 19.6 percent from beyond the arc.
  4. Can San Diego State get the best of Nevada again? (Nevada @ San Diego State, Saturday 10:30 PM EST, CBS Sports Network) The Aztecs have won three consecutive games against Nevada, including an inspiring victory in San Diego two weeks ago. Brian Dutcher’s team forced 10 first half turnovers in that game, which led to a 17-3 edge in points off turnovers over the opening 20 minutes.
  5. Is Anthony Cowan the barometer of success for Maryland? (Minnesota @ Maryland, Friday 7 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) In Maryland’s 21 wins this season, Anthony Cowan is shooting 41.8 percent from beyond the arc; but in the Terrapins nine losses, Cowan is shooting just 28.6 percent. The junior has shot a mere 1-of-11 from distance in the Terps’ last two games, both losses.
  6. Will the Big South’s best get revenge in the conference’s semifinal match-up? (Radford vs. Charleston Southern, Friday 6 PM EST, ESPN+) The Big South’s top seed Radford trailed at the half in its opening round win against Presbyterian, but the Highlanders take on Charleston Southern next, a team that recently beat Radford by a single point. Made shots were far from plentiful in that game, however, as Charleston Southern went 5-of-25 from inside the arc and Radford was just 5-of-28 on its three-point attempts.
  7. How will Virginia Tech respond to its midweek collapse at Florida State? (Miami @ Virginia Tech, Friday 7 PM EST, ESPN2) The Hokies led by 14 points in the second half at Florida State before ultimately losing to the Seminoles in overtime. Virginia Tech’s bench was outscored 28-0 in regulation and has tallied just 31 points combined in the team’s six conference losses.
  8. Can Louisville put together a full 40-minute effort against Virginia? (Louisville @ Virginia, Saturday 4 PM EST, ESPN) While Louisville was +30 from behind the arc in its February loss to Virginia, the Cavaliers owned a 38-4 advantage in the paint. The Cardinals held Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome without a single three-point make, but the duo of De’Andre Hunter and Mamadi Diakite put together a 40-point performance.
  9. Will Arizona State avoid disaster against Arizona? (Arizona State @ Arizona, Saturday 4 PM EST, CBS) While the Pac-12 is likely going to be given no favors come Selection Sunday, a conference record of 12-6 with non-conference wins against Kansas and Mississippi State would seemingly put the Sun Devils in good shape. A loss against struggling intrastate rival Arizona, however, could easily send Bobby Hurley’s squad to the wrong side of the bubble.
  10. Where will conference tournament chaos break out? With nine conferences in tournament action this weekend, it’s not a matter of if chaos will ensue, but when and where. Four tournament tickets will be punched over the weekend, but will the top seeds prevail? A potential Ohio Valley Conference title game between Belmont and Murray State would be must-see mid-major television.
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