College Basketball Talk: December 11th
This is a slow time of year for college basketball. We are past all of the great Feast Week tournaments. The Big 10/ACC challenge is behind us and players are settling in for finals. The top teams are playing the “cupcakes” on their schedule (although this year, this is far from a certainty as far as victories go) and, generally speaking, a lot of teams have some extended breaks in between games.
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With that being said, this is another installment of what is going on around the world of college basketball with myself and BSL contributor, Seth Bondroff.
As of now, the Big Ten looks like the best conference in the country, winning the ACC/Big Ten challenge with two huge blowouts near the top with Purdue crushing Virginia, and Ohio State embarrassing North Carolina in Chapel Hill. I was also surprised by the ease of which Indiana disposed of Florida St. The supposed top team in that conference, Michigan St, wasn’t so lucky. Duke, coming off their loss to Stephen F Austin just a week prior, dominated the Spartans on their home floor. Both Purdue and Michigan St have 3 losses yet they are both top 10 in Kenpom. That shows you what type of depth that conference should have this year. Michigan started the year unranked but they raced through UNC and Gonzaga in the Bahamas and jumped into the top 5. They got handled by Louisville but Juwan Howard has them playing well. And, of course, MD is off to a good start although they had a poor game against Penn St in their first loss of the season last night. MD needs to get Jalen Smith more involved in the offense.
Conversely, the ACC is down. Duke has some huge wins this year but the loss to SFA and their inconsistent shooting and lack of experience could still bury them early in March. Louisville is really good but they just got handled by a struggling Texas Tech team. UNC and UVA can’t score and FSU has been inconsistent early on. The depth of the league is also pretty poor. This sets up to be a pretty down year in the conference, which should allow some other leagues to get more NCAA bids than they have in recent years.
Early in the week, Georgetown looked like an absolute mess, losing players left and right, including James Akinjo, who was looking like he was headed to stardom. So, what happened? Naturally the Hoyas won two road games against previously unbeaten teams, Oklahoma State and SMU. Crazy. The situation in Georgetown will be worth monitoring though. Why did players want to leave? They had an inspired effort vs Duke a few weeks prior and that was after beating Texas. Why all of a sudden was everyone so unhappy?
There doesn’t appear to be any dominant team this season, but I don’t agree that up to 30 teams can win it all, which was something I heard on ESPN earlier in the week. Should be a really wide open NCAA Tournament come March though, that’s for sure. I think it’s set up for a lot of upsets and perhaps some very high seeds making the elite 8 but that’s not terribly unusual anymore. I would suspect that by the end of the year, there will be somewhere between 5-10 teams that can win it all.
Dayton continues to impress, winning easily at St Mary’s on Sunday after a terrific performance in Maui. They are led by Obi Toppin, who is on track to be a top 5 pick in the NBA draft. The A10 will test them although obviously not as much as one of the larger conferences will. Still, they won’t be flying below the radar due to what they have done so far this year.
There are some big games to look forward to before the Christmas holiday is here. In a matchup of top 10 teams, Michigan and Oregon face off this coming Saturday. Saturday also will see a top 20 matchup for the battle of Tennessee as the Vols face Memphis. The nightcap is Arizona vs Gonzaga, both teams ranked inside the top 15. That same Gonzaga team will face UNC next week, in Spokane. That figures to be a game to test UNC’s lack of scoring. The next day, we will see a huge game for the Terps, as they face a very good Seton Hall team. MD has a soft OOC schedule, so this game is big for their tourney resume. And finally, we get to a very good slate of games on Saturday, Dec 21st. It starts off with Kansas playing Villanova at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly. Both of these teams’ figure to be final 4 contenders by the of the year. Purdue and Butler square off in a sneaky matchup of 2 very good teams. As I mentioned, Purdue is in the top 10 in Kenpom and Butler is 11th. This will be a solid resume game for whomever comes out on top. Another sneaky game that day is the aforementioned Dayton Flyers taking on Colorado in Chicago. Those are 2 dangerous to 25 teams that could both make deep NCA tournament runs. Seth picked Colorado as a surprise final 4 team in our first article. And the final game is Ohio St vs Kentucky. Ohio St is arguably playing the best basketball of any team in the country. They are playing suffocating defense and have a very efficient offense.
That should be a lot to keep your attention before conference play really gets going after the holidays.
Here is our “Elite 8” (for the week ending 12/8).
A former co-host of Sports Tonight with Rob & Chris on BSL Radio, Rob has interviewed guests from outlets such as ESPN, Sports Illustrated, NBC Sports, CBS Sports, FOX Sports, Baseball Prospectus, Athlon, Sporting News, MLB Network, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Info Solutions, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Sports on Earth, Grantland, NFL Network, FanGraphs, Football Outsiders, ProFootballFocus, etc. etc. The Baltimore native lives in Perry Hall with his Wife Lindsay, and two young sons. He has appeared as a guest on 105.7 The Fan, Q1370, and WNST 1570.