Who Will Be the Last College Basketball Team to Lose?

It’s a weird week in college basketball. It’s finals week in colleges all over the country. Students are packing up and leaving campus for the winter, leaving only the basketball teams behind. It’s a time of year where we don’t see many elite match ups. Instead it’s a lot of “buy games” where high major programs host smaller schools on their home court to fill their schedule. Sometimes we get the rare Wofford over UNC upset, but more often than not, the results are predictable.

With Miami losing last night to New Mexico State, we are left with just three undefeated teams at the Division 1 level. Villanova, Arizona State and TCU have all been perfect thus far. Some of this is not a surprise, and some of it (looking at you, Arizona State) has been unexpected. With that let’s see which of these three teams has a chance to be undefeated the longest this season.

Arizona State Sun Devils

Bobby Hurley and Arizona State have been the surprise of the college basketball season. The Sun Devils have one of the best offenses in college basketball, with four players averaging 13 points or more a game. They have scored 90 points or more in seven of their ten games this season. It’s not against lesser programs either. Hurley and Co. dropped 102 on Xavier and 95 on Kansas in Phog Allen, something that is basically unheard of. ASU has a stud in Tra Holder, and freshman Romello White has made a larger impact than expected this early in the year.

The reason I don’t think Arizona State will be the last undefeated team is because they have a date with Arizona on the first day of Pac 12 play. I know Arizona has had its struggles, but they are beginning to come to form and are looking like the team we expected them to be in the Fall. Arizona will cause ASU problems because of their height. DeAndre Ayton is a man in the paint, and pairing another 7-footer in Dusan Ristic next to him is a problem for the Sun Devils. Add in the perimeter defense that Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Rawle Alkins bring, and Arizona could have the tool to neutralize the Sun Devils high powered offense.

TCU Horned Frogs

TCU’s success this season isn’t a huge surprise, but the fact they havent’ had a blemish on their record yet this year is a testament to Jamie Dixon. The Horned Frogs have won 16 in a row dating back to last year’s NIT Championship and should enter Big 12 play 12-0, assuming they can handle William & Mary on Friday. There are not many teams that are more balanced on offense than TCU. Their top seven players all average between 14 and seven points a game. Preseason First Team All Big-12 player Valdimir Brodziansky leads them in scoring most nights, but TCU is the type of team that can have a different leading scorer any night they take the floor.

TCU will also not be the last undefeated team standing because their start to Big 12 play is brutal. They host Trae Young and Oklahoma, travel to Baylor and host defending conference champs Kansas in their first three games. To their advantage, two of the three are at home, but that is a tall task for any team in the Big 12. I think TCU has a chance to be a Sweet 16 team, but they won’t be the last undefeated team in the NCAA.

Villanova Wildcats

It’s not a shock that Villanova is undefeated and sitting atop the AP Poll. Jay Wright and his club are a well oiled machine, or as Jon Rothstein says, a “Fortune 500 company.” The Wildcats often don’t get enough credit from basketball outsiders because they play in the “new” Big East. To Villanova’s credit, they put together a good non-conference schedule. They had a home-and-home against Virginia the last two years, and have one scheduled with Kansas for the next two. They played and won the Battle 4 Atlantis, which consisted of Purdue, Arizona and Tennessee. They only played Tennessee, but that was no fault of their own. This year they also played in the Jimmy V Classic, where they manhandled Gonzaga. They have proven they will, and can play with anyone.

One weakness that Villanova has is their short bench, and that only got shorter when freshman Collin Gillespie fractured his hand. Foul trouble will cause a ton of problems for Nova on a given night. The week that stands out is the first week of January, when they host Marquette and Xavier. Marquette is a team that loves to shoot threes. The three-point shot can keep any team in a game. Then there’s number 9 ranked Xavier. The Muskateers have a pretty great duo of their own in Trevon Bluiett and JP Macura. This will be a tough early test after facing a pesky Marquette team a few nights prior, but I think the leadership of Jalen Brunson, skill of Mikael Bridges and emergence of Omari Spellman will let Nova pass this test unharmed. It’s not the “trophy” they are playing for, but I think Jay Wright and company will be college basketball’s last unbeaten.

Any of these three teams have the ability to remain undefeated for a couple more weeks. TCU no doubt has the toughest start, but all of them will play a ranked opponent in the first week of conference play. I know it’s tough to bet against a boiling hot Arizona State team, or a balanced TCU club, but you can’t go against Villanova right now. Does it win you a trophy? No, but it’s not a bad bragging right to have for a little while.

What Happened This Weekend in College Basketball

It was a wild weekend in the college basketball world. Championships were won and lost all week. Some teams showed us they can be better than expected, others the opposite. Here’s your College Basketball weekend recap.

Villanova Wins Battle 4 Atlantis

In a tournament where Purdue and Arizona played in the last place game, it was Villanova who cruised to a championship in the Bahamas. The Wildcats look like a well-oiled machine with a top six that is as good as any in the nation. Donte DiVincenzo looks like the sixth man of the year and Jalen Brunson has looked like Big East Player of the Year. It should not come as a surprise, but Villanova will live within the Top 5 in the Polls for most of the year.

Arizona State Appears a Year Ahead of Schedule

Bobby Hurley is building something at Arizona State. Anyone who has kept an eye on the program would be able to tell you that. After edging Kansas State on Thanksgiving, the Sun Devils dominated number 15 Xavier on Saturday night to move to 6-0. Hurley’s top two returnees, Tra Holder and Shannon Evans, have been great so far. Holder erupted for 40 against Xavier, and has another 30+ points game on the young season. Freshman Romello White has already showed why he was highly touted, and contributing for ASU. With a couple key rotation players still missing, Arizona State could compete in the Pac-12 sooner than later.

Alabama Played 3 on 5

In the category of “Something You Don’t See Everyday,” Alabama played the last 10 minutes of their game against Minnesota with three players. The Tide lost their entire bench in the second half for leaving the bench area in the midst of an on court scuffle. They then saw one player foul out, and another leave with injury, leaving Avery Johnson with three eligible players for over 10 minutes. All that said, they still lost to a ranked team by just five points. While there are no morale victories, that’s impressive. The story here is Colin Sexton. The freshman found shined in the loss, going off for 40 points on 55% shooting. He showed why he is one of the most exciting players in the country.

Trae Young Outscored Oregon

That’s not a typo. Trae Young has been as good as advertised thus far in Norman. Young has upped his scoring in all five games this season, and capped the weekend off with a 43 put outburst against Oregon, who only managed 42 points as a team. This outburst comes just two days after he dropped 33 on Portland. Young has been nothing short of sensational thus far, averaging 28.2 points and 8.6 assists for Lon Kruger. I’ve mentioned before that Young could be the best freshman in the Big 12 since Kevin Durant, and he’s supporting that statement five games in.

Michigan State, Duke Win PK80

In a tournament that lived up to the hype, we saw Michigan State and Duke walk out of the PK80 with championships. For Michigan State, they dominated early and often against North Carolina. They completely shut down the Tar Heels’ offense and got 23 points from Josh Langford. It showed how scary the Spartans can be, winning handily against a top 10 team without huge performances from Jaren Jackson or Miles Bridges. The story was the defense however, as Tom Izzo’s squad held UNC to 25% shooting, the lowest total in program history.

Duke’s path to victory was very different. The Blue Devils were punched in the mouth early by a sizzling hot Florida club. They trailed by as many as 17 before mounting their championship comeback. Like the rest of the PK80, this championship game was just another national stage for Marvin Bagley to shine on. The freshman phenom poured in 30 and recorded 15 rebounds on his way to a MVP performance. Teams are not entirely put together during most of these early season tournaments (i.e. Arizona) but that’s scary for college basketball because it shows how high Duke’s ceiling can be.

Marvin Bagley Looks Like a Top Pick

Coming off the tough news concerning Michael Porter Jr, Marvin Bagley showed us why he is worthy of the number one pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Bagley’s talent is much more than his scoring. Sure he put in 34 against Texas and had another dominant game against Florida, but what makes Bagley so special is he’s always moving. He is always around the rim, getting numerous tip ins and second chance points and he’s a man on the boards. He’s definitely got NBA scouts salivating.

The SEC is Far From Just Kentucky

Florida made it to the Finals of the PK80 Motion Bracket. Texas A&M beat number 10 USC in California. Missouri made it to the Finals of the Advocare Invitational and almost took down number 23 West Virginia. Even Tennessee and Georgia beat ranked teams in Purdue and St. Mary’s this weekend. Add in a full strength Alabama team that went toe to toe with Minnesota, and the SEC could be the second best conference in college basketball this year. Of course time will tell, but don’t be surprised if Kentucky is not at the top of the SEC standings by end of year.

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.