Upset Week Shows How Much Parity is in College Basketball

It was a crazy week in college basketball this past week. No team in the Top 10 was safe, and we saw a number of highly ranked teams fall. It’s early in the year, and most teams are trying to find their identities, but we are seeing how wide open the NCAA basketball season is this year. Aside from about three teams, the rest of the pack is jumbled together trying to figure themselves out.

Florida Looks Like Two Different Teams

It started Monday with Florida’s loss to the rival FSU Seminoles at home. This loss wasn’t terrible, as Florida State came into the game undefeated, and will likely move into the Top 25 with the win. But after taking Duke to the wire in the championship of the PK80, expectations were raised for Mike White’s club. The Gators’ week got even worse two days later when they suffered another loss. This time to University of Loyola-Chicago. What we learned this week is Florida needs to make shots to compete on an elite level. This may sound obvious but look at how good they looked when they made shots vs Duke, and how bad they looked when they didn’t against Florida State.

Notre Dame Falls in South Bend

The weirdness continued Tuesday with #9 Notre Dame losing to Ball State in South Bend. The Irish got their normal contribution from potential ACC Player of the Year, Bonzie Colson. The issue was, that they will only be as good as Colson’s supporting cast. Senior Matt Farrell chipped in with 14, and two other starters finished in double digits, but the lack of bench hurts ND. Playing only three bench players for a total of 27 minutes is not a recipe for long term success. The Irish could use some reliable bench help to sure up their rotation before the head into ACC play.

Is Arizona Back?

After Notre Dame suffered their fate, Texas A&M followed up with a loss to Arizona. On paper this loss is not nearly as big of an upset, but Arizona is still going through an identity check. The Wildcats looked to answer a few questions though, and got great support, in addition to another strong game from DeAndre Ayton. The Cats looking to trending upward after this week, but nonetheless this is still another Top 10 upset right now. A&M may have wowed us opening night, but maybe we got greedy with how good they looked

Kansas Gets Exposed

Safe to say it was a bad week for the #2 ranked team in the country. It started Wednesday night when Washington came in and had the perfect game plan for the Jayhawks. It ended Sunday when Arizona State, maybe the hottest team in the country, came into Lawrence and won, something that doesn’t ever happen. Washington’s Mike Hopkins devised a perfect zone defense that contested KU around the three point arc all night long. The two loss week left head coach Bill Self calling this team the softest he’s ever had here at Kansas. It really showed how reliant Kansas is to making shots from deep. Similar to Florida, if they’re falling they look great. But if they’re not, who knows. Kansas could really use Bill Preston, or even Silvio De Sousa to help sure up their front court issues. Meanwhile, for Arizona State…

Down Goes #1

The week of upsets would not be complete without the number one team falling. The young Duke Blue Devils lost their first ACC game of the year, walking into BC and losing to the Eagles. All credit should go to Jim Christian and staff for great execution. Ky Bowman’s 30 point effort and near triple-double doesn’t hurt either. Duke won’t suffer a ton from this, it will likely be a better learning curve for a young team that was getting talked about as maybe going undefeated. It does show however, that every team has their holes, and no one is a sure thing.

So that wraps up the week. It will likely have Villanova, Michigan State, Duke, Arizona State (yes, really) and Wichita State in the new top 5. This feels like a year that will have a lot of fluctuation within the top part of the polls, but we may not see another week that compares to this week.

Recapping Tuesday Night in College Basketball

Photo via @VisionsByJeff

A lot happened last night for a Tuesday night in December. We had the Jimmy V Classic, which always features great basketball and a greater cause. We had two Top 10 teams fall, and two more teams in the Top 15 suffer losses. Let’s quickly recap what you may have missed last night.

Villanova Pounded Gonzaga

Villanova punished Gonzaga on a night where Jalen Brunson struggled and Donte DiVincenzo was in foul trouble. Granted, Jonathan Williams only played 18 minutes for the Zags, but this game was all Wildcats. Mikael Bridges was sensational, going off for a career high 28 points. Bridges was 5-9 from three point land and came up with big buckets every time Villanova needed one. The win showed both how short Jay Wright’s bench is, but also Nova’s ability to stay in games without a true point guard for stretches.

Tyus Battle Leads Cuse in Rivalry Game

The second game of the Jimmy V Classic featured an old Big East rivalry, as UConn and Syracuse met once again. In front of a terrific MSG crowd, it was the New Jersey product, Tyus Battle, who led ‘Cuse to a win. Battle had 22 and fellow Hoop Group alum Matt Moyer had a career high 18. The unexpected outburst from Moyer was huge, as Frank Howard struggled again for Syracuse. On the other end, the Huskies continue to struggle to pick up a resume building win. Jalen Adams led the way with 22 of his own, but it was not enough.

Arizona Picked up a MUCH Needed Victory

Sean Miller’s seat has been on fire since the Battle 4 Atlantis. Not literally, his job is safe, but Arizona’s struggles have been put under a big microscope this year. The Cats quieted some of that talk last night with a win over #7 Texas A&M. Positively speaking, Arizona had four players score 13 points, and none of them were Allonzo Trier. DeAndre Ayton recorded another double-double, and a bonehead play that almost gave A&M a chance to tie it in the final seconds. With Rawle Alkins cleared for full contact, this could be the win that turns Arizona around.

Notre Dame Upset

In what was by far the upset of the night, the #9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish fell to Ball State in South Bend. Tayler Persons led Ball State with 24 points, none bigger than the 3 he hit with 1.7 seconds remaining. The Cardinals led by as much as 9 in the second half, surrendered that lead, and held on thanks to Persons’s heroics. The Irish will look to rebound this weekend against Delaware before an in-state battle with Indiana.

West Virginia is Streaking

It was defense vs defense as West Virginia picked up a big non-conference win against the #15 ranked Virginia Cavaliers. After giving up 88 points in a blowout loss on the first night of the season, Bob Huggins’s team has held teams to just 63 points per game and 37% shooting. None of these teams have as potent of an offense as Texas A&M , but it’s clear defense is still the key in West Virginia. In addition, Jevon Carter has been extraordinary. Last night was no different, as he recorded 23 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists.

Shaka Smart Returns to VCU Victorious

In what was an emotional game in front of a raucous crowd, Shaka Smart returned to Richmond and was victorious against his former team. The Longhorns look like they have a serious three headed attack with Andrew Jones, Dylan Osetkowski and Mo Bamba. This looked like Bamba’s most complete game, recording a double-double (13 points and 13 rebounds) and tallying 4 blocks. His defense has been a constant all season, averaging over 3 blocks a game, but his offense appears to be coming around now as well. Oh, and then he also did this…

Big Ten Takes Another Hit

The Big Ten’s struggle as a conference has been mentioned on multiple occasions so far. The early take on the conference has been that it has three definite tournament teams in Michigan State, Minnesota and Purdue, and question marks everywhere else. Well one of those teams suffered a bad loss last night, as Minnesota lost on the road to Nebraska. Jordan Murphy was held in check for the Gophers, finishing with 10 points on just 4-12 shooting. Meanwhile, Glynn Watson Jr. went off for the Cornhuskers, recording a game high 29 in the win. The Big Ten looks clearly to be Michigan State, and then everyone else.

Thanksgiving Week Shows Us Why College Basketball is King

It’s rivalry week this weekend in college football, but the rest of this week belonged to college basketball. Thanksgiving week is filled with dozens of early season tournaments that give basketball junkies games to watch throughout the day. You have the Maui Invitational, the Battle 4 Atlantis, the NIT Tip-Off, the new PK80, and many more invitational tournaments going on this week. And with so many tournaments, comes many story headlines. This week showed why college basketball is the best, and not just in March.

Aloha, Maui

Let’s start in Maui. Yes, the championship game between Notre Dame and Wichita State was fantastic. Bonzie Colson looked just like the ACC Player of the Year and Notre Dame erased a 16 point deficit to top the Shockers in Maui. But how about Chaminade blowing out Cal by 24 points? The Division II program, who is 8-92 all time in their host tournament, is used to being on the receiving end of a blowout. Wednesday night though, it was them doing the dominating. Just watch the highlights. No November game will mean as much than Chaminade’s win over Cal this year. It was just awesome to see the sheer joy on their faces.

Upsets in Atlantis

How about the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament? Arizona vs Purdue. Number 2 vs number 18. Sounds like a championship game right? How about last place. Both teams were upset in the first round of the B4A. Purdue by Tennessee, Arizona by NC State. It’s an early taste of Match; An underdog playing with house money facing a Goliath of a team. Now, Purdue by no means is a Goliath and Arizona is missing a key piece in Rawle Alkins, but neither team should be 0-2 in this tournament. Instead you saw coaches like Rick Barnes, Kevin Keatts, Tim Jankovich and Rick Stansbury coach their teams to wins over NCAA tournament teams. 

Happy Thanksgiving to the Hurleys

Still not enough? How about some dramatics. How about Danny and Bobby Hurley holding on to one possession wins on Thanksgiving, in different fashions. Danny and Rhode Island had an absolute battle with #22 Seton Hall. Both teams showed why they were tournament teams next year and expect to finish near the top, if not at the top, of their respective conferences this season. Meanwhile, on the West Coast, Bobby Hurley is bringing Arizona State back. The Sun Devils took control in the second half against Kansas State and managed to hold on for a two point victory. Hurley has some players on his roster, that is becoming apparent. Both will play for championships tonight.

And let’s not forget the PK80. Dubbed the biggest early season tournament ever, the first round let the premier teams flex their muscles, setting us up for fantastic semifinal and final games. With six of the Top 20 teams in the country left, we will not be disappointed with how these brackets end.

Close games, upsets, MVP performances, great coaching, Mike Brey in a t-shirt. We’ve seen it all this week.And we’re only at Friday. With another full slate today and tomorrow, you can bet the headlines won’t end yet. This is why college basketball is the best.We’re just getting started and we’re already being spoiled. As Jon Rothstein would say, This is ONLY November.