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There are only 8 undefeated team left after Notre Dame‘s loss to Villanova. The Wildcats are part of an elite that includes UCLA, Baylor, Gonzaga, Creighton, South Carolina and USC. The most notable upset of the week was St Mary’s home loss against Texas Arlington. LIU Brooklyn, a team ranked somewhere around the 300th position, per Kenpom, delivered St John’s the first loss since Yankuba Sima left the team.
Your usual weekly recap.
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Williams-Goss exacts his revenge
Gonzaga and Washington have been playing against each other since 1910, in one of the oldest rivalries in college basketball. And on this season, Nigel William-Goss, who spent two years with the Huskies, spiced it up by moving to Spokane and openly criticizing coach Lorenzo Romar for his inability to develop his players. It is hard to call Nigel wrong, since the Bulldogs won 98-71. It was a balanced game for the first two minutes, than Gonzaga took over and the first half finished 30-6. Coach Mark Few gave Romar a basketball lesson, with an offensive playbook based on quick decisions and quick execution that opened up the floor for open three-pointers which, as a consequence, created room for backdoors, easy layups and post-ups. The Bulldogs shot 53.8% from the field and 50% from behind the arc.
Needless to say, William-Goss was stellar and finished with 23 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. But the real strength of the Zags is the ability to deflect anything an opponent might throw at them. The roster is deep and every player is embracing his role (6 players are averaging between 9 and 13 points per game), starting with Mathews, Perkins, Williams and Karnowski. Moreover the two freshmen, Zach Collins and Killian Tillie, are playing an important role in limited minutes and helping the team in every area of the game, including energy and intensity on the floor.
Markelle&Lorenzo, that’s an F!
Markelle Fultz finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds, but most of it came in garbage time (basicly the whole second half). It was his first real test and he finished 10-for-26 from the field. Coach Few drew his game plan with the idea of getting the ball off of his hands. Every pick&roll he played, the screener’s defender ignored his assignment and doubled Fultz right away, forcing him to pass the ball to his teammates. Coach Romar could not find a solution and the Huskies finished the first half with both 0 made threes and 0 assists. The team’s final 30.4% from the field was another proof of Romar limited coaching abilities. He certainly is a great recruiter (Brandon Roy, Nate Robinson, Terrence Ross and Isaiah Thomas…) but the “Fire Romar” chant was loud and clear by the end of the game. And the fans’ wish might be accepted once the season is over, especially if he will not lead his team back to the Big Dance.
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A first half for the ages
The first 20 minutes between UCLA and Michigan (102-84 the final) were surreal, with the two teams shooting a combined 22-for-40 from behind the arc. The Wolverines’ first 18 points came from distance, and the two teams reached halftime tied at 50 after this unreal shot by Lonzo Ball.
The final box score says Michigan went 14-of-26 (53.8%) from three and UCLA answered with a 15-of-24 (62.5%) of its own. Unfortunately, coach John Beilein‘s team could not find a way to score in the second half, especially in the last 7 minutes, where they scored only three times. The Bruins kept running and shooting and went away with it, with a sold out Pavillion (first time in the last four years) staying loud. Three bullet points to measure the uniqueness of this game:
- Michigan scored 1.31 points per possession and lost by 18
- Coach Beilein had a 51-1 record when his team scored over 80 points. he is now 51-2
- Before playing the Bruins, the Wolverines’ defense allowed 58.2 points per game
Working Class Hero
UCLA dominated this surreal game by shooting 67.2% from the floor, 62.5% from behind the arc and finishing with 23 team assists. Lonzo Ball (19 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists) and T.J. Leaf (21 points, 8 rebounds) did their part as usual. The Bruins’ success, though, did not come lie only with the best freshmen duo of the nation. Coach Steve Alford built a good supporting cast around his stars, starting with his son, Bryce, who is now free to play as a pure shooting guard and finished with 18 points, including a few backbreaking baskets in the second half. Isaac Hamilton is a great shooter who is more than capable of turning any ball he gets into points for himself (14) or for his teammates (7 assists). Aaron Holiday finished with a perfect 5-for-5 from behind the arc coming off the bench and freshmen Ike Anigbogu (4 blocks) helped on defense.
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Butler falls on Larry’s night
Most people have no idea who Bill Hodges is, but he gets the credit for luring Larry “The Legend” Bird, one of the best player in history of basketball, to Indiana State University. On Larry’s 60th birthday his university gifted him with a win against Butler, then #16 in the rankings. The Sycamores‘ season saw plenty of close games, with 5 of 8 finishing with a differential lower than 3 points, and two overtimes. This game made no exception, with Brenton Scott scoring the game-winning free-throw with 1.5 seconds left.
Despite the 72-71 final, the game was dominated by the two defenses, that forced the opposing offenses to contested mid-ranger or wild three-pointers. The Scott-Van Scyoc duo consistently scored on the latter, but Butler seemed out of sync on both sides of the floor. The Bulldogs started the game without helping on defense and allowing free lanes to the basket, but they improved throughout the game, at least on that side, while on offense they could never find a way to create an advantage. Tyler Lewis tried to carry the team by scoring when the offense stagnated and tried to get the shooters in rhythm, but Kelan Martin was limited by the opposing frontline for the whole game. The Scoot-Van Scyoc duo scored 48 of the final 72 points for Indiana State while shooting 9-for-12 from behind the arc, including the last 16 points of the game for the Sycamores. Indiana State had not won against a ranked team in the last 10 years, and on that occasion it was Butler. They managed to repeat on their Legend’s birthday.
Xavier is lost on the road
After a bad loss on the road against Baylor, the Musketeers find another road loss against Colorado. The usual excuse for every loss in Colorado, the altitude, could be made. But the truth is Xavier played great for 33 minutes, and then nothing worked anymore. Coach Mack‘s team had the lead and seemed ready to finish the game strong, until a couple of bad choices on offense got them out of rhythm and the Buffaloes went on a 15-0 run.
Final 7 minutes aside, Xavier looked like its usual self: aggressive on defense and an offense relying on Trevon Bluiett solos, who finished with a career high 27 points. Only Rashid Gaston brought his usual energy and effort under the glass. Sumner could not repeat the good game he had against the Bears. And J.P. Macura recorded his second consecutive bad game, shooting 1-for-11 from behind the arc and 2-for-25 from the field.
Colorado, on the other hand, is winning again against top25 teams, first against Texas and now against Xavier. Last year, coach Ted Boyle and his players were losing every close game, but now things seem to have changed. Derrick White explained after the game changing this losing trend was a focus for the team.
The Musketeers drop four spots in the ranking because of their back-to-back losses, but their season seems to be headed the right way. They will still have to be careful, with a Creighton team that has been playing great basketball so far.
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The 4th team for experience against the 340th, the 38th offense (over 82 points per game) against the 331th defense (83 points allowed per game). But this is a rivalry and none of that matters, especially when it is Iowa and Iowa State and that rivalry started with football late in the 19th century and continues with basketball as well. The Cyclones would have loved to avoid this upset, but in truth, they did nothing to avoid the outcome and lost to a team that had won one of its last five games. The two teams could not be more different, with the Hawkeyes starting three freshmen and Iowa State starting 5 seniors, one of only four teams to have a starting five in its last year. But coach Fran McCaffrey and his players immediately understood what this rivalry means and put on the floor something the Cyclones left in the locker room.
It was an awful shooting night for coach Steve Prohm’s best players, starting with Monte Morris (4-15) and on with Deonte Burton (5-13) and Matt Thomas (6-14), in a game that saw the Hawkeyes lead by at least 8 points for the whole second half. Peter Jok is averaging 23 points per game (5th in the nation) but for once, he had some help: Nicholas Baer is awful to watch but he does useful things, while Isaiah Moss put an exclamation point to an excellent game:
Dwayne Bacon is my Mann
A great second half on offense for Dwayne Bacon carried Florida State to a win against the Gators in a heated game. The Seminoles’ star scored 16 of his 24 points in the second half, showed his athleticism when attacking the rim and mixed it up with a couple of difficult turnaround shots. He had a slow start of the game, before warming up in the 7-0 run that got Florida State the lead in the last two minutes of the first half. Terrence Mann (16 points, 10 rebounds) kept the Seminoles afloat in the first 20 minutes, while Nba prospect Jonathan Isaac (9 points 6 rebounds) went M.I.A.: his approach to the game was so soft that coach Leonard Hamilton played him only 19 minutes.
The Florida Gators collect an L against Florida State, but coach Mike White‘s team never gave up, even when down 13 points after a 15-4 Seminoles run. The Gators are a tough and organized team, they lack a star but they rely on a mobile match-up zone system and on taking care of the ball on offense. Their weakness is their shooting: 221st in the nation in field goal percentage and 245th in three-point shooting. That is a measure of how good their defense is, because they stay in the game against anyone.
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Happy and arrested
Charges for domestic battery are a serious affair, and Carlton Bragg, the Kansas sophomore, was going to learn everything about it, since his girlfriend called the 911 after he pushed her down the stairs following an altercation. He was released after paying a 500$ bail and the original charges of domestic battery were changed to battery, officially because the girlfriend can not be considered part of the family. As of now, coach Bill Self suspended him until he will have cleared his situation in December, when he will have to stand in front of the Jury.
When UK shoots well…
…It’s game over. Just look at the game against Valparaiso. Kentucky needed 5 minutes to combine good shooting with its usual length, strength and speed. The score was 23-4 after 10 minutes and that was that. When the shots are falling, the opponents might as well give up. Alec Peters is Valparaiso lone star. The Wildcats prepared their game to stop him and defended very hard on Peters. He still finished with 23 points and 8 rebounds, proving he is a true leader, but it was a low-efficiency night.
When UNC shoots poorly…
…has a hard time escaping with a win against Tennessee, a good team but certainly not as good as the Tar Heels. But UNC shot 2-for-13 (11.8%) from behind the arc and 39% from the field. They were missing Joel Berry because of an ankle injury, and the Tar Heels had to come back from a 15-point deficit (15-30) and seal the win with this block by Tony Bradley (10 points and 10 rebounds) on Lamonte Turner:
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Wichita State and Oklahoma are living a transition year after VanVleet&Baker and Buddy Hield left. They have reasons to be bad. But both the Shockers and the Sooners are solid teams and have interesting players, a combination that makes them good candidate for a spot in the Big Dance in March. They played in a game that coach Lon Kruger called “a tough ball-game” that Wichita won 76-73 in a physical battle that displayed the grit and soul of both teams.
The Shockers win came with a collective effort and organized play, the imprint of one of the best coaches in the nation, Gregg Marshall. Their balanced roster is the team’s strength, with 5 players scoring 7 or more points and with no player taking more than 10 shots in the game. Wichita State has a team-first approach, with 10 players constantly in the rotation (first in the nation in bench minutes %) scoring between 5 and 10 points on average. Everybody has touches and every night is a different player who decides the game. On Saturday, it was Daishon Smith turn, who could not buy a basket in the first half but went on to score 13 points in the second half, including this Westbrook-esque dunk with 8 minutes left that started a 10-0 run to seal the game.
PF Shaquille Morris was another key player for the Shockers with his mid-range shooting and his rim protecting abilities (5 blocks). Darrall Willis was solid under the basket, Markis McDuffie brought his versatility, Zach Brown scored off the bench and Conner Frankamp opened the floor for his teammates. Finally, freshman Austin Reaves is showing plenty of potential.
Lon Kruger’s team is playing well, although it doesn’t have the same balanced offense their opponents showed. The offense runs through Jordan Woodard, who set his new career high with 28 points but shot 7-for-17 from the field. He shares the floor with sophomores Christian James and Rashard Odomes (15 and 10 points respectively) who still have plenty of untapped upside and are turnover prone, a product of their inexperience. The key to Oklahoma’s season, though, is their frontcourt, with the duo of Khadeem Lattin and Kristian Doolittle who can patrol the paint and keep their opponents away from the rim. The Sooners are a top 30 team in blocks per game and in opponents two-point field. And they did not disappoint against Wichita State, keeping them to 39.7% from the field. But Oklahoma shot 30.8% and eventually lost.