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.

2017 -18 Pac 12 Conference Preview

It was a wildly successful year for the Pac-12 conference as a whole last year. Lonzo and Lavar Ball and Oregon’s Final Four run were big enough talking points. Add in Arizona and USC playing into the second weekend in March, and the conference showed why it is one of the best. This year will be another fight at the top, but there are several teams that will show much improvement from last year. Whoever wins this conference, will definitely have earned it.

Projected Finishes

  1. Arizona – If Sean Miller is going to get the Final Four monkey off his back, this is the year to do it. Arizona has potential POY candidate Allonzo Trier for a full season, and pair him with probable Top 5 pick DeAndre Ayton. The Wildcats start the year without Rawle Alkins, but will get him back just as conference play picks up. Arizona is a legit title contender.
  2. USC – If not for USC, Arizona would heads above the rest of the Pac-12. USC is talented too though, and have a front court that can go toe-to-toe with U of A’s. The Trojans have two legit 6’10 forwards in Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu, both of whom are different types of players. Boatwright is more lethal on the wing, where Metu does most of his work down low. The Trojans had a very balanced scoring team last season, and I expect that to remain the same this year.
  3. UCLA – The Bruins will have new, exciting freshman on campus this year, as Jaylen Hands and Kris Wilkes will replace Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf. Aaron Holiday and Thomas Welsh are the leaders returning this season. Both players will be relied on heavily to lead UCLA through Pac-12 play and into March Madness.
  4. Oregon – The Ducks lost A LOT from their team last season. It is simply too much to replace in one year. Dana Altman does have freshman Troy Brown to help fill the scoring holes.While Ayton may be the most talented freshman, Brown could be the most exciting scorer.
  5. Stanford – Stanford returns All-Conference talent in Travis Reid,  who averaged 17 points and 9 rebounds last year. The Cardinals also bring back their second leading scorer Dorian Pickens, while adding top recruit Daejon Davis and redshirt freshman Kodye Pugh to the mix. Stanford could have the biggest turnaround record wise from season to season.
  6. Arizona State – Bobby Hurley’s rebuild is progressing slowly but surely. The Sun Devils return their top three leading scorers, including Shannon Evans, who just dropped 50 in an exhibition game. And to the mix some talented freshman such as Kimani Lawrence and Remy Martin and you can see ASU trending upward.
  7. Utah – The Utes don’t lose as much as Oregon number wise, but they it will seem that way as they feel the loss of Kyle Kuzma. While Kuzma continues his hot start to his NBA career, the Utes will lean on returners Justin Bibbins and David Colette.
  8. Oregon State – If Stanford is not the most improved team record wise this year, Oregon State will be. The Beavers will (hopefully) have a healthy Tres Tinkle and Stephen Thompson Jr., who missed last year with injury. Those injuries opened the door for Drew Eubanks and JaQori McLaughlin to have good seasons. If all four stay healthy and mesh together, Oregon State will have a lot more than one conference win.
  9. Colorado – Colorado is a very young team this year. Their roster consists of eight freshman, two of which were redshirts from last season. George King will have a nice year in his senior season, but this young group will have a rough welcoming to the Pac-12.
  10. Washington – Washington went out and got their head coach this off-season in Mike Hopkins. Now it is on him to turn this program around. Obviously Markelle Fultz is gone, but second leading scorer David Crisp returns. The Huskies also got great news when Noah Dickerson decided not to transfer out. These two are solid building blocks for Hopkins.
  11. California – It won’t be a great year for Cal, coming off an underwhelming year last season. They lose Jabari Bird, Ivan Rabb and Charlie Moore. Kentucky transfer Marcus Lee will man the middle and be the centerpiece, but there is just not much else surrounding him. It won’t help watching Cuonzo Martin coach his talented freshman over at Missouri.
  12. Washington State – If not for an injury riddled Oregon State team, Washington State would have finished last in the conference last season. The Cougars don’t have a lot coming in and see their leading scorer leave. That’s a bad equation for this year.

Andy Enfield has one of the deepest teams he’s ever be given at USC, it will be up to him to see how far they can go

Projected Awards

Player of the Year – Allonzo Trier (Arizona)

Trier was the Pac-12 Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player last year. He is the conductor for Sean Miller and Arizona team. He averaged 17 points per game in a shortened season for him last year. I don’t expect the addition of DeAndre Ayton to impact that much at all. When Arizona needs a bucket, Trier is going to be the guy.

Freshman of the Year – Troy Brown (Oregon) 

I think Ayton is the best player in the conference, and will show that on several occasions throughout the year. Brown however, has the best opportunity to put up monster numbers. This is not a Markelle Fultz/Washington situation; Oregon will be better than Washington was last season. If Brown leads in scoring and Oregon finishes in the top four, I think he should get FOY.

Coach of the Year – Andy Enfield (USC)

These season awards could be a complete sweet in favor of Arizona if Sean Miller has them playing to their massive potential. But USC is the other team that has Final Four potential in this conference. Enfield has plenty of tools at his disposal and if he pushes the right buttons, USC could make a deep March run and challenge Arizona at the top of the conference.

Stanford may not be Arizona or USC, but they do have one of the best players in the Pac 12 in Travis Reid

Projected All Pac-12 Teams

First Team 

Allonzo Trier – Arizona

Travis Reid – Stanford

Troy Brown – Oregon

Chimezie Metu – USC

Aaron Holiday – UCLA

Second Team

Tres Tinkle – Oregon State

DeAndre Ayton – Arizona

Bennie Boatwright – USC

Shannon Evans – Arizona State

Jaylen Hands – UCLA