Ten Questions To Consider: Tests For the Top Teams

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on February 21st, 2020

Selection Sunday is now fewer than 30 days away. This weekend includes a number of resume-building opportunities for some teams and big tests for others at the top of the projected NCAA Tournament seed list. Here are 10 questions I have for some of what will take place this weekend.

  1. What impact will a healthy Devon Dotson have on the rematch between the best two teams in the nation? (Kansas @ Baylor, Saturday, Noon EST, ESPN) Dotson played in only 28 minutes in the first match-up against Baylor as he was dealing with discomfort from a hip pointer. Over his last 10 games, though, Dotson is averaging 19 points per game on 49 percent shooting from the field. The likely All-American will be tested by the ferocious Baylor defense.
  2. Can BYU’s defense keep up with its offense? (Gonzaga @ BYU, Saturday, 10 PM EST, ESPN2) In the first game of the season between BYU and Gonzaga, the Cougars made 62.2 percent of their two-point attempts, hit 6-of-20 from beyond the arc, and yet still lost to the Zags by 23 points. Unfortunately for BYU, its defense simultaneously surrendered 1.24 points per possession to Gonzaga, and that was with Filip Petrusev only scoring five points. Since that game, Petrusev has scored at least 15 or more points in each of his last six games.
  3. Can the Wolfpack solidify their Tournament hopes with another big home win? (Florida State @ N.C. State, Saturday, 4 PM EST, ACC Network) Following up on its convincing victory against Duke with a subsequent win over Florida State would almost certainly put NC State on the right side of the bubble. Kevin Keatts’ team has held visiting teams to an average three-point percentage below 30 percent, including against a Duke squad on Wednesday night that made just 23.5 percent of its three-point attempts.
  4. Will Oregon’s season-long road struggles surface again at the McKale Center? (Oregon @ Arizona, Saturday, 9 PM EST, ESPN) After Thursday night’s loss to Arizona State, Oregon is now just 6-7 away from Eugene. While the Ducks outscore opponents by 17.6 points per game at home, they have been outscored a couple points per game on the road.
  5. Will the “35%” mark be the key in Columbus? (Maryland @ Ohio State, Sunday, 4 PM EST, CBS) Ohio State is shooting 37.8 percent from three-point range on the season, and a Big Ten-best 36.7 percent in league play. The Buckeyes are 15-1 when they make more than 35% of their three-point attempts in a game and just 2-8 when they do not. In the team’s eight Big Ten defeats, Kaleb Wesson has made just 8-of-31 (25.8%) of his attempts, a far cry from his season mark of 41.6 percent.
  6. Have the Gators turned a corner or has their recent success been the result of a favorable stretch? (Florida @ Kentucky, Saturday, 6 PM EST, ESPN) After a 4-4 record in January, Florida has won five of six games in February. The Gators are shooting an SEC best 38.2 percent from beyond the arc in SEC action.
  7. Is VCU facing a must-win game this weekend? (VCU @ Saint Louis, Friday, 9 PM EST, ESPN2) After VCU’s January 28 win at Richmond, the Rams sat at 16-5 (6-2 Atlantic 10) and had a NET Ranking of 33rd. Since that game, VCU has lost four of five contests and its NET Ranking has fallen to 49th. The Rams are 2-8 in Quadrant 1 and 2 games and need to end their recent skid quickly to stay relevant. Friday night’s game against Saint Louis is one of two remaining games that currently would qualify as a Quad 1 or 2 game on VCU’s schedule.
  8. Can Cincinnati put an end to its recent stretch of nail-biters? (Wichita State @ Cincinnati, Sunday, 1 PM EST, ESPN) The Bearcats have now played four consecutive overtime games (2-2), pushing their season total of overtime games to an incredible seven. In Cincinnati’s most recent loss to UCF, it had a half-court shot in double-overtime waved off after the ball was determined to still be in the hands of Jarron Cumberland.
  9. Will USC’s Isaiah Mobley continue to show his recent improvements if teammate Onyeka Okongwu returns from injury? (USC @ Utah, Sunday, 6 PM EST, ESPNU) With Okongwu out of the USC lineup over the last two games, freshman Isaiah Mobley has stepped up his game. Mobley scored 19 points and grabbed 18 rebounds in last week’s wins against the Washington schools. In USC’s five games prior to that, Mobley had scored just 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds during 91 minutes of action.
  10. Which version of Trevion Williams will Purdue get this weekend? (Michigan @ Purdue, Saturday, 2 PM EST, ESPN) While Michigan got the best of Purdue in double-overtime in the first match-up between these two teams, it was nearly spoiled by the Boilermakers’ Trevion Williams, who scored 36 points and hauled in 20 rebounds. Since that game, Williams has been held to under 10 points in five of 11 games.

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Ten Questions to Consider: A Super Slate of Action Ahead of the Super Bowl

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on January 31st, 2020

While the Super Bowl will have the attention of the sports world on Sunday afternoon across America, there are plenty of critical college basketball match-ups this weekend beforehand. Games involving teams at the top of their conference, schools looking to avoid falling further on to and beyond the bubble, and programs looking to make statements to their doubters. Here are 10 questions I have for the college basketball world this weekend.

  1. Can Rhode Island’s defense again control VCU for 40 minutes? (VCU @ Rhode Island, Friday, 7 PM EST, ESPN2) In the first meeting between the Atlantic 10’s second and third place teams, Rhode Island came prevailed in a game in which it never trailed. VCU’s starting backcourt of Marcus Evans and De’Riante Jenkins shot a combined 3-of-14 from beyond the arc, and a Rhode Island win would keep the Rams just a game behind Dayton in the conference standings.
  2. Is Kofi Cockburn vs. Luke Garza the best individual match-up of the weekend? (Illinois @ Iowa, Sunday, 1 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) Last season, Luke Garza averaged 13.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. This season, he’s become one of the most dominant players in college basketball, averaging 23.1 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. Illinois will likely throw its tenacious freshman, Kofi Cockburn, at Garza. Cockburn, an elite rebounder and good shot-blocker, could be one of Garza’s biggest challenges to date.
  3. Will Stanford’s defense give it a chance at home in a battle of two of the Pac-12’s best? (Oregon @ Stanford, Saturday, 6 PM EST, Pac-12 Network) Presumptive Pac-12 favorite Oregon and NPOY candidate Payton Pritchard head to Maples Pavilion this weekend to battle Stanford. The Cardinal own the Pac-12’s best defensive efficiency, thanks in part to their highest defensive turnover rate and second-best defensive effective field-goal percentage.
  4. Can Moretti, Ramsey and Shannon replicate their midweek performance for Texas Tech? (Texas Tech @ Kansas, Saturday, 4 PM EST, ESPN) In Texas Tech’s 89-81 win over West Virginia on Wednesday night, the trio of Davide Moretti, Jahmi’us Ramsey and Terrence Shannon combined for 69 points on 18-of-29 shooting. It will be imperative for the Red Raiders that this trio limits their turnovers, an area that has been a particular problem during league play.
  5. Can Wisconsin rally at home around some tough circumstances? (Michigan State @ Wisconsin, Saturday, 1 PM EST, FOX) Not only does Wisconsin have to take on Big Ten leading Michigan State this weekend, but the Badgers now must do so shorthanded. Brad Davison will miss the game as a result of his flagrant foul late in the Iowa game, and Kobe King decided to leave the program on Wednesday.
  6. What has happened to Ohio State’s defense in league play? (Indiana @ Ohio State, Saturday, Noon EST, ESPN) On the season, Ohio State has a defensive efficiency of 91 points per 100 possessions (PPP), ranking 18th in the country. In league play, that has ballooned to 104 PPP, ranking 10th among Big Ten teams. League opponents have made north of 37 percent of their three-point attempts against the Buckeyes.
  7. Can Rutgers pick up a crucial win away from the RAC? (Rutgers @ Michigan, Saturday, 4:30 PM EST, Big Ten Network) With a win on Saturday, Rutgers would guarantee itself a winning record at the end conference tournament season for the first time since 2005-06. The Scarlet Knights will be looking for just their second win away from home this year. On the season, Steve Pikiell’s team is 1-5 away from the RAC, with its lone win coming at Nebraska.
  8. Can Georgetown end its Big East woes in what might be a must-win game at Madison Square Garden? (Georgetown @ St. John’s, Sunday, 1 PM EST, CBS) Georgetown has lost three straight and six of its first eight Big East games. The Hoyas are now 0-4 on the road in league play, having lost each of those contests by nine or more points. After making 32 percent of his three-point attempts as a freshman in Big East play, Mac McClung has made just 8-of-36 (22.2%) through the eight Big East games played so far.
  9. Can Markell Johnson fix his shooting woes? (Louisville @ N.C. State, Saturday, 2 PM EST, ESPN) In Markell Johnson’s previous two seasons at NC State, he converted 41.9 percent of his three-point attempts. Through 20 games this season, Johnson has made just 25.7 percent of his 113 three-point attempts. In order to beat Louisville, Johnson must find a way to snap out of his season-long funk.
  10. Will Yoeli Childs be the difference maker? (Saint Mary’s @ BYU, Saturday, 10 PM EST, ESPN2) Yoeli Childs missed the first match-up of the season between these teams, a three-point Gaels win in overtime. In his nine games played on the season, Childs is putting in just over 21 points and nine rebounds per game. Already with conference losses to Pacific and Santa Clara, this is a game Saint Mary’s really needs to find a way to win.
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What’s Trending: Mid-Season Madness Continues

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on January 20th, 2020

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

After Auburn’s loss on Wednesday night, San Diego State became the only remaining undefeated team in college basketball. Brian Dutcher’s Aztecs added two wins to their resume this week, pushing their overall record to 19-0. It is San Diego State’s best start since the 2010-11 season in which they began the year 20-0 en route to a Sweet Sixteen appearance. Led by Washington State transfer Malachi Flynn, the Aztecs currently only have one remaining game against a team ranked inside of the KenPom top 100 (Utah State).

https://twitter.com/marchmadness/status/1218310685962186753?s=20

The top four teams in the NET Rankings remain stable at the end of the week. While Baylor and Kansas were tested over the weekend, both made it through unblemished. The same cannot be said for the rest of the top 10.

As top teams continue to fall, one question repeatedly finds itself leading the narrative of the season: Is all this parity good for the game?

The answer should be an unequivocal yes.

While offensive efficiency and shooting percentages have dropped, the corresponding result has been the unpredictable. Talent alone is not serving as determinative. Transfers, early departures, NCAA eligibility issues and key recruits opting to play overseas all have impacted the landscape and consistency of play, but the result has been that teams need to come prepared to win every night out. This season, on any given night, anything is possible, and that is a good thing.

While the unexpected has ruled the land this college basketball season, there has been one player who has remained anything but surprising: Oregon senior point-guard Payton Pritchard. After beginning his career 3-0 in games at Washington, Pritchard’s Ducks were down three points late in the game when the All-American took things into his own hands…

https://twitter.com/marchmadness/status/1218672908379328512?s=20

In overtime, with the game tied, it was again Pritchard coming through in the clutch…

As far as the unexpected goes, there were a pair of games on Saturday that challenged the wildest of imaginations.

First, USC found itself down by five points with a mere 15 seconds to go when Stanford had the ball and a chance to ice the game away. Then, this happened…

While USC trailed by as many 21 points in that game, the Trojans at least had most of the second-half to claw their way back. Unlike USC, Boise State found itself down big but without much time left on the clock. Trailing 66-48 with 3:52 to go, the Broncos chipped the lead down to just five points with 8.9 seconds to go. Well, that’s when things really got weird…

Strange and funny things followed Kentucky this week as well. First, on Wednesday night, after leading by double-figures in the second half at South Carolina, Kentucky collapsed and trailed by six points with just over a minute to go. Thanks to some missed free-throws by South Carolina, Kentucky managed to tie things up in the closing seconds. While it looked like overtime was imminent, South Carolina’s Jermaine Couisnard had another idea…

https://twitter.com/marchmadness/status/1217626379837231106?s=20

After that difficult loss at South Carolina, Kentucky found itself at Bud Walton Arena on Saturday to face a hot Arkansas squad. After leading by nine points at the break, Arkansas fought itself to a tie game with just over eight minutes to go. With the tide seemingly turning, John Calipari had enough with the referees and got himself tossed from the game. While it cost the Wildcats the lead momentarily, Kentucky ultimately rallied and took control the rest of the way. All part of Cal’s master plan?

Entering this season, DePaul basketball had last beaten a team ranked inside of the KenPom top 20 on December 2, 2006 (a 64-57 win over Kansas). After early season wins against a pair of KenPom top 20 teams, DePaul picked up its third such win over the weekend in a trouncing of Butler. The win snapped a four-game losing streak and gives DePaul a chance to turn things back around as they spend the week at home with games against Creighton and St. John’s.

https://twitter.com/DePaulHoops/status/1218620020961562625?s=20

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

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on December 16th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ten Things to Consider: First Wave of Feast Week Tournaments

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on November 22nd, 2019

Thanksgiving is next week but the first wave of Feast Week tournaments is already underway. Whether it is a trip to Jamaica, Charleston or the Mohegan Sun Arena, I have 10 questions for teams far and wide heading into this weekend.

  1. Can LSU find a way to protect the ball better? (Jamaica Classic, Friday & Sunday, CBS Sports Network) LSU is up against Utah State on Friday and Rhode Island on Sunday in the Jamaica Classic, but the Tigers have struggled mightily with turnover issues this season. As a team, they have logged 82 turnovers and just 46 assists through four games.
  2. Just how far can Oregon’s three seniors carry the Ducks? (Houston @ Oregon, Friday, 9 PM EST, Pac-12 Network) Seniors Payton Pritchard, Shakur Juiston and Anthony Mathis have each played key roles in the Ducks’ nice 4-0 start. Pritchard might be the nation’s best guard that no one talks about, while Juiston and Mathis have each stepped in to replace what Oregon lost from last year’s squad. They’ll be tested by a good Houston squad on Friday night.
  3. Is the Mohegan Sun Arena ready for the track meet between the Sun Devils and Red Storm? (Arizona State vs. St. John’s Saturday, 2:30 PM EST) Entering action on Thursday, Arizona State and St. John’s both ranked among the top 10 in shortest offensive possession length nationally. Both are teams that look for the first good shot, protect the ball well and force turnovers at an above-average rate.
  4. Will Virginia freshman Casey Morsell find his stroke? (Massachusetts vs. Virginia, Saturday, Noon, ESPNews) Casey Morsell has the indubitable task of being asked to help replace Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy in the Virginia backcourt. The consensus top-100 recruit has scored just seven points in his first 104 minutes over four games of action, while shooting just 1-of-17 from deep. As great as the Cavaliers have been defensively, they will eventually need some outside shots to start falling.
  5. Can Kentucky shake its cobwebs and put together a complete performance? (Mount St. Mary’s @ Kentucky, Friday, 7 PM EST, SEC Network) Following its loss to Evansville, Kentucky was put to the test in a win earlier this week against Utah Valley. With EJ Montgomery and Immanuel Quickley both questionable for this game, who steps up for the Big Blue? In 21 games since February 1 of last season, Ashton Hagans has gone 10-of-41 from deep (0-of-9 this season).
  6. Who will steal the headline of the Myrtle Beach Invitational unscathed? (Myrtle Beach Invitational, Friday & Saturday) Villanova added five-star recruit Bryan Antoine to the rotation on Thursday in its win over Middle Tennessee and outlasted an undefeated Mississippi State team on Friday. On the other half of the bracket, Baylor began its invitational path with a 23-point win in a game where it shot just 42 percent from the field.
  7. Can Miami pick up what could be an important win come March? (Miami vs. Florida, Charleston Classic, Friday) The Hurricanes get intrastate rival Florida in the Charleston Classic. With a non-conference schedule light on quality opponents and a brutal early ACC schedule, Miami must take advantage of this game. The Gators remain a team with many questions of their own.
  8. Is Clemson undergoing a change in philosophy offensively? (TCU vs. Clemson, Sunday, 10:30 PM EST, ESPN2) In Brad Brownell’s first nine seasons at Clemson, the Tigers on average took 34.6 percent of their field-goal attempts from behind the three-point line. Through the team’s first four games, that number has risen to 45.3 percent. Leading scorer Tevin Mack is 9-of-22 from beyond the stripe this season.
  9. With the James Wiseman situation settled, how will Memphis respond? (Ole Miss @ Memphis, Saturday, 1 PM EST) Memphis now knows it will be without James Wiseman (19.7 PPPG and 10.7 RPG) until mid-January. The Tigers get two shots against power conference opponents in the coming week beginning with a test against an Ole Miss squad that has played exceptional defense early.
  10. Can Georgetown hang with Duke? (Georgetown vs. Duke, Friday) The Hoyas picked up a win on Thursday against Texas in a game in which Georgetown held the Longhorns to 6-of-27 shooting in the second half. In order to beat Duke, Georgetown will likely need Omer Yurtseven to avoid the foul trouble he experienced against Texas.
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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: Friday’s First Round Games

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on March 22nd, 2019

It’s time for another exciting day of 16 games. Here are the questions I have going into Friday’s action:

The Zion Show Moves to the NCAA Tournament (USA Today Images)
  • 1) Duke vs. 16) North Dakota State: Will Duke’s perimeter players begin the Tournament knocking down shots? Zion will be Zion, of course, but Duke will need its other players knocking down shots down the line if the Blue Devils are to cut down the nets in Minneapolis.
  • 1) North Carolina vs. 16) Iona: Can Iona make it to the half within closer range than last year against Duke? As a #15 seed against Duke last year, Iona trailed at the half by 14 points before going on to lose by 22. While the Gaels shot a sterling 58.3 percent from inside the arc, they were just 5-of-24 from beyond the stripe. Duke, on the other hand, shot 62.2 percent from two-point range and went 13-of-30 from behind the line.
  • 1) Virginia vs. 16) Garder-Webb: Will Virginia be quick to rid itself of last season’s nightmare? A 29-3 regular season was great, but memories of last year will surely still be on everyone’s minds as the Cavaliers’ postseason begins. Virginia scored just nine points during the opening 10 minutes against UMBC one year ago, so its first few segments of the game will be telling.
  • 2) Tennessee vs. 15) Colgate: Will Tennessee make quick work of Colgate? Colgate comes into this game with a defensive efficiency ranking of #202, and the Raiders will be tasked with stopping the nation’s third most efficient offense led by the force that is Grant Williams. Good luck.
  • 3) Houston vs. 14) Georgia State: Does Georgia State coach Ron Hunter have more Tournament magic up his sleeves? On the season, Houston has out-rebounded its opponents by an average of 7.7 rebounds per game, whereas Georgia State finds itself getting outmuscled by the tune of 5.3 rebounds per game. If the Panthers can survive on the glass, the duo of D’Marcus Simmonds and Devin Mitchell might be able to keep Georgia State within striking distance.
  • 3) Texas Tech vs. 14) Northern Kentucky: Will Texas Tech’s loss to West Virginia have any carry-over effects? While Texas Tech held the Mountaineers to just 38.8 percent shooting, the Red Raiders gave up 19 offensive rebounds and 20 points at the charity stripe.
  • 4) Kansas State vs. 13) UC Irvine: Will Kansas State be able to get any play and production out of Dean Wade? Wade did not play in the Big 12 Tournament and his status remains up in the air for today’s game. Without the big man inside, the Anteaters could be able to take advantage of its offensive rebounding prowess.
  • 4) Virginia Tech vs. 13) Saint Louis: How will Virginia Tech work Justin Robinson back into the lineup? After missing the last 12 games of the season, Robinson is set to return for the Hokies. The senior guard averages just under 14 points per game while shooting better than 40 percent from deep.
  • 5) Wisconsin vs. 12) Oregon: Can Wisconsin get D’Mitrik Trice and Brad Davison to knock down open shots? In Wisconsin’s five March games, the pair of Trice and Davison have gone a combined 11-of-48 from behind the three-point line. Without knocking down open shots, Oregon will be able to throw everything they have at slowing All-America center Ethan Happ.
  • 5) Mississippi State vs. 12) Liberty: Will Liberty be overwhelmed by the Mississippi State offense? The Flames played 14 games against an opponent with an offensive efficiency ranking of 260th or worse. The Bulldogs have an offensive efficiency ranking of 56th and are led by Quinndary Weatherspoon, who shot an SEC-best 44.9 percent on three-point attempts during league play.
  • 6) Buffalo vs. 11) Arizona State: Will Buffalo get the best of a school from Arizona again? Bobby Hurley and the Sun Devils won on Wednesday night in Dayton and are rewarded with a match-up against Hurley’s former squad. Arizona State will need more than 23 minutes of action from Remy Martin to get another victory.
  • 6) Iowa State vs. 11) Ohio State: With Kaleb Wesson back, can Ohio State pull off the upset? The Buckeyes lost two of their last three games with Wesson back before falling in his return to the Spartans. Ohio State averaged 10 fewer points per game on the road than they did at home.
  • 7) Cincinnati vs. 10) Iowa: Can Iowa change its late season misfortune? The Hawkeyes come into this game losers of five of their last six games. Throw in needing a pair of last second baskets to beat Northwestern and Rutgers and it’s clear Iowa is playing its worst basketball at the wrong time of the year.
  • 8) Ole Miss vs. 9) Oklahoma: Can Ole Miss knock down enough threes to beat the Sooners? The Rebels were just 2-8 when they failed to make a third of their three-point attempts this season. On the year, Oklahoma has held opponents to a three-point average of 33.3 percent.
  • 8) Utah State vs. 9) Washington: Can the Pac-12’s highest seed help the conference from its dismal 2018 showing in the NCAA Tournament? The Pac-12’s regular season champion scored fewer than 50 points in two of its final four games, both coming against Oregon. The Huskies’ defense does a terrific job of creating havoc, however, led by the wizardry of defensive ace Matisse Thybulle.
  • 8) VCU vs. 9) UCF: If VCU’s Marcus Evans is not at 100 percent, will the Rams have enough firepower? Evans suffered a bone bruise in VCU’s loss to Rhode Island in last week’s Atlantic 10 tournament. The starting guard averages a team-best 13.9 points per game and VCU could be tested greatly by UCF’s stout defense — which includes the towering presence of 7’6″ Tacko Fall.
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What’s Trending: Conference Tournament Weekend

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on March 18th, 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 second week of conference tournaments began with many questions, the biggest of which focused on a certain 6’7″, 285-pound freshman in Durham, North Carolina. For the past few weeks, questions about Zion Williamson and whether he would — or should — return to play for Duke have been thrown around by nearly everyone. It took the superstar forward all of two minutes of game time to show everyone that he is indeed back…

https://twitter.com/si_ncaabb/status/1106368814206324736

The storylines involving Zion continued in Duke’s ACC Tournament quarterfinal match-up against Syracuse. In the past, it was Duke — paging Grayson Allen — as the centerpiece of any tripping story. This time, however, it was Syracuse’s Frank Howard taking his turn to extend his leg a little further than necessary…

“I love playing with Duke, I love my teammates.”

The Zion experience carried into the ACC Tournament semifinal match-up against North Carolina. The Tar Heels had dominated the first two Zion-less games, but after scoring 29 points and grabbing 10 rebounds through the first 39 minutes, it was Zion’s final two points and rebound that made the biggest difference…

https://twitter.com/espn/status/1106760367533780992

Scoring, rebounds, steals… oh, Zion can pass the ball pretty well too…

In the non-Zion Williamson category of the ACC Tournament, the basketball world was gifted a dancing Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams

…a frantic possession and game-winning basket by Florida State’s Terance Mann…

…and everyone’s favorite, allegations of NCAA violations…

On the topic of NCAA violations, the SEC Tournament included LSU’s Will Wade releasing a statement where he made a plea to get back on the sideline. LSU General Counsel Tom Skinner fired back with, “as a university and employer, we need to hear our employee say, ‘I didn’t do anything wrong,’ or explain the circumstances or admit he did not do something wrong. We’ve been unable to get to that point. We have no choice, in terms of institutional control, to not suspend someone.”

On the court, Tennessee’s Admiral Schofield began the Volunteers’ SEC Tournament action with a poster over Mississippi State…

https://twitter.com/SportsCenter/status/1106755627366391809

LSU’s Skylar Mays came up with a dunk that had LSU fans jumping for joy…

…but it was ultimately Florida’s Andrew Nembhard who allowed Florida to move on and send LSU home.

Florida’s run through the SEC Tournament came to an end on Saturday, literally at the hands of Auburn….

https://twitter.com/br_CBB/status/1106998122658582533

In the other semifinal, the SEC Tournament delivered a gem between Tennessee and Kentucky…

During Wednesday’s opening round of the Big Ten Tournament, Nebraska’s Tim Miles had the spotlight on him after his Huskers toppled Rutgers…

…after beating Maryland on Thursday, Miles got his shot at redemption…

After the second win in as many days, Big Ten Twitter was quick to point out this fact that fans in Bloomington, Indiana, were not happy to read…

The Big East Tournament will be remembered for this sequence in Seton Hall’s semifinal win over Marquette

https://twitter.com/CBBonFOX/status/1106760477718138881

Meanwhile, at the end of the tournament it was once again Villanova that walked away as the champion… AGAIN.

Tournament week in Las Vegas began with the West Coast Conference Tournament where St. Mary’s earned an automatic bid by getting the best of Gonzaga.

…and it continued with the Pac-12 Tournament where all eyes were on Bill Walton doing Bill Walton things…

…and it ended with Oregon winning the Pac-12 Tournament to steal a bid from a team on the bubble.

As players play for an opportunity to keep their season going, these tournaments bring up stories that need to be shared. The emotion in the face of Old Dominion headcoach Jeff Jones makes the Monarchs an easy team to root for…

While there is so much to love and appreciate with college basketball, there was one thing that continues to outshine the product on the floor. Officiating throughout tournaments leaves fans wondering…

And as painful as questionable calls can be, the monitor review process will almost assuredly come up time and time again next week. Getting the correct call is important, but too often these reviews kill any flow to a game. Add in the fact that they act as de facto timeouts for teams that often do not have any to call and you have a situation that creates more problems than it solves.

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Ten Questions To Consider: Mid-season Questions as Non-Conference Play Comes to a Close

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on December 29th, 2018

Sandwiched between the holidays and the New Year is a weekend slate of games that includes a bitter rivalry, several rematches of early season games, and individual matchups that fans and scouts will want to see. Here are ten questions to consider while enjoying games over the next few days.

  1. Can Chris Mack beat Kentucky in his first matchup against the Wildcats as Louisville coach? (Kentucky @ Louisville, Saturday 2 PM EST, ESPN2) In their first game against Kentucky as head coach of Louisville, both David Padgett and Rick Pitino lost by 20 or more points. Chris Mack’s Lousville team is led by Jordan Nwora who comes into this game having made 16-of-28 three-pointers over the last five games.
  2. Will Florida’s defense be able to create turnovers at a higher rate against Butler this go around? (Butler @ Florida, Saturday 4 PM EST, ESPNU) This is a rematch of the Battle 4 Atlantis fifth-place game in which Butler beat Florida 61-54. In that game, Florida’s defense forced turnovers at a season worst rate of just 17.4%. On the season, the Gators force turnovers at a rate of 24.7%, which ranks among the top ten in the nation.
  3. Will one of the easiest non-conference schedules in the country have St. John’s ready for its Big East opener? (St. John’s @ Seton Hall, Saturday 8:30 PM EST, Fox Sports Net) St. John’s has played one of the ten easiest non-conference schedules in the country according to KenPom rankings. The Red Storm begin Big East play against a Seton Hall team that has won five straight.
  4. Will Oregon avoid disaster in a trap-game at Boise State? (Oregon @ Boise State, Saturday 7:30 PM EST, CBS Sports Network) Oregon beat Boise State by 12 points just two weeks ago at Matthew Knight Arena. The Broncos led the Ducks at halftime of that game. This game is sandwiched between a loss at Baylor and Oregon’s conference-opener next week against in-state rival Oregon State.
  5. Does Purdue have a bad matchup on its hands with Belmont coming to West Lafayette? (Belmont @ Purdue, Saturday 4:30 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) Opponents have shot 38% from beyond the arc against Purdue on the season, which puts Purdue’s three-point defensive ranking outside of the top 300. Belmont enters this game as a team that shoots 36.4% from distance and has six players who have made double-digit threes while shooting at least 33% for the season.
  6. Will North Carolina continue its recent trend of following a loss with a dominating performance? (Davidson @ North Carolina, Saturday Noon EST, ESPN2) North Carolina has lost consecutive non-conference games just once (November 2010) with Roy Williams as coach. Following loses to Texas and Michigan earlier in the season, the Tar Heels came out and won the next games by 16 and 28 points.
  7. What will Markus Howard do next? (Southern @ Marquette, Friday 8 PM EST, Fox Sports 1) Marquette’s leading scorer Markus Howard is one of five players in the nation who is averaging 25 or more points per game. Howard is averaging 32.8 points this month and is coming off of his second 45 point game of December. Southern’s defensive efficiency ranks among the bottom five in the nation.
  8. Is beating Lipscomb a must for the sake of Clemson’s resume? (Lipscomb @ Clemson, Sunday 3:00 PM EST, ESPN3) Clemson is 0-3 against KenPom top 100 teams on the season. The Tigers get one more opportunity at a top 100 non-conference win with Lipscomb. If Brad Brownell’s squad does not get the win, early conference games against Duke and Virginia could turn into must-win games.
  9. Which big-man will shine brighter between Ethan Happ and Charles Bassey? (Wisconsin @ Western Kentucky, Saturday 5:30 PM EST, CBS Sports Network) Western Kentucky’s five-star freshman big man Charles Bassey will be put to the test against Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ. Both Bassey and Happ do a tremendous job of drawing fouls. With WIsconsin’s offense running through Happ, Bassey’s ability to stay out of foul trouble will be key in this game.
  10. Just how good is the MAC’s second best team? (Penn @ Toledo, Saturday 2 PM EST, ESPN+) While Buffalo has rightfully been a team that has been in the spotlight, Toledo continues to also perform at a high level. The Rockets are 11-1 with a NET ranking in the top 70. Tod Kowalczyk’s squad’s next three games are all against KenPom top 100 teams, including a January 8th matchup with Buffalo.

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How Bad is Bad? Evaluating the Pac-12

Posted by Adam Butler on December 21st, 2018

During Wednesday evening’s broadcast of the Arizona-Montana game, Bill Walton, while simultaneously running the math for plates on the bench press and waxing poetic about his morning in Utah and evening in Tucson, noted, “This will be a most competitive conference.” I paraphrase; however, the gist remains: Walton was celebrating many of the Pac-12’s teams. He’s a known, if not unapologetic, champion of the Conference of Champions, and was not soon to bash it as many of us have lamented. But regardless of the Big Redhead’s admonitions, this year is looking BAD.  

Is Oregon the Best Worst Team in High-Major Basketball? (USA Today Images)

This is a conference not all that far removed from one of the worst conference performances ever. In 2012, the inaugural Pac-12 season, Washington won the conference regular season, lost in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament, and was summarily dismissed by the NCAA Tournament committee on Selection Sunday. The Pac that year owned nine top-100 KenPom teams (zero among the top 25) and two teams that were rated in the 300s. Just two of those teams danced, including a 23-11 Colorado team that entered the Pac-12 Tournament rated 96th by KenPom yet earned the Pac-12 auto-bid by defeating Arizona in an ugly 53-51 championship game.

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