There are 95 days until Selection Sunday which is more of a reminder of how the college basketball season flies by. In this post, I will give my opinions on teams that have impressed so far and teams that have not lived up to expectations. Also included in this post will the weekly recap of the week and, of course, the fastest and slowest games of the week. Plus, games to watch when there is nothing else on television.
Teams that Enjoyed Success in November
When compiling this small list of teams that saw success in November, I thought of how expectations of a team prior to the beginning of the season can give way to an impression of disappointment or surprised joy over the course of a season. That reaction is naturally dependent on a team’s results. As I thought more about expectations, Power 5 schools, for the most part, have higher expectations than mid or lower tiered conferences. A lot of that is based on the talent that a team brings in during the offseason, the amount of experience a team has, the coaching staff and their history of success, and a number of smaller details that create a team’s identity. Team’s that have more success have a higher platform to fall from. The opposite is true too – teams that didn’t fare well in previous years don’t have much to explore at the bottom and can create a surprised element of success for a person or fan base. Enough background on my thought process, here’s the list for teams that had their stock rise in the month of November.
1. I’m going to argue that Baylor has played the toughest schedule wit the best results. I don’t think they played the toughest schedule in the country (that belongs to Michigan State), but they have the best results from their tough schedule. Owning wins over Oregon (Dillon Brooks was sitting out), VCU, Michigan State, Louisville, and now a dominating win over Xavier at home, Baylor exemplifies a tough team that can go toe to toe with almost any school in the country. Keep it up Bears, I hope your December treats you well.
2. Arkansas State gets a nod, not only because they beat Georgetown on their turf, but it sure did help. They beat a tough Chattanooga team as well as a Lehigh team that shows promise to be strong in their conference play this year. These Red Wolves would be a fun choice to take town a big time program later this season if they can make it to the tournament (unlikely though).
3. UT Arlington is a curious team to look at. They are efficient at their 2-point shots and guard the arc very well. So well that they own a resume building win over Texas. With their three losses this season to Minnesota, Florida Gulf Coast and a 4-point loss to Arkansas, UT Arlington has potential to provided some excitement come March.
Honorable Mentions: Grand Canyon, Utah Valley
Teams that Disappointed in November
1. Connecticut is slightly more disappointing than the next team I will mention on this list. The Huskies were ranked 18th in the nation to begin this season. My have the projections of what was supposed to be a great year vanished quickly. Connecticut began the season with a few teams that should have been no more than a shrug on the shoulder. Yet, the Huskies lost at home to both Wagner (currently 2-4 with horrendous losses) and Northeastern (currently 4-4 with their own horrendous losses). UConn then traveled to Loyola Marymount where they struggled and eeked out a 65-62 win. After going 1-2 in Maui, Connecticut returned home to host Boston University where they barely won 51-49. Ouch.
2. The Texas Longhorns also began the season as a top 25 team, yet are struggling to put teams away. Beating Incarnate Word by 5 points would be a red flag. Losing to Northwestern, Colorado, and UT Arlington aren’t awful, but when Texas is favored in those games, along with Shaka Smart’s defense, something positive has to happen, right?
3. It’s fun to see where some teams are that lie toward the bottom of college basketball’s long list of Division I teams. Sacramento State is creating an incredible resume of abysmal results. Initially looking at their record, one would believe starting 2-6 would be expected, especially if it’s a school that doesn’t fair well when playing against schools that have more money for recruiting purposes. Well those two wins have come against non-division I schools. What’s worse is that most of their games that they are favored in the rest of the year, are really tossup games. C’mon Hornets, represent that Big Sky Conference proudly!
Honorable Mention: Northern Iowa
Fastest and Slowest Games of the Week
Fastest Games of the Week
1.Oregon 128 vs. Savannah State 59, 90 possessions – In an article that Ken Pomeroy wrote up a couple weeks ago, he explored Horace Broadnoax’s change in philosophy for his team in the way it plays the beautiful game. Once a slow paced, grind-out-a-loss, the coach has his team firing 3 pointers at a record pace this year. It won’t be surprising to see Savannah State on here numerous times over the year.
2. West Virginia 108 vs. Manhattan 61, 87 possessions – I’m glad that this game was able to make it this week as a voluminous possession game. West Virginia had 40 steals in this game, a number that is rarely touched. I spent a decent amount of time scouring records online, and couldn’t find a number close to that. It’s something I’m interested in finding, but I’m not sure it’s the most steals in a modern college basketball game.
3. Lipscomb 104 vs. Tennessee Tech 85, 84 possessions – Not much to say here, Lipscomb shot the ball well from all over the floor, making 14 of their 29 3-pointers.
Slowest Games of the Week
1 (Tie). Saint Mary’s 66 vs. Stanford 51, 58 possessions – Saint Mary’s is a team that is currently living up to their expectations of being efficient while demoralizing opponents. They resemble an intelligent team posed to have a strong result in their conference.
1 (Tie). Holy Cross 55 vs. Albany 49, 58 possessions – This game was close until about a minute left in regulation. Albany was down 2, but after Robert Champion made consecutive 3-pointers, that all but put the game away.
3 (Tie). New Orleans 70 vs. Washington State 54, 59 possessions – The last time New Orleans beat a Pac-12 opponent was 1998. They won this game in convincing fashion, the Privateers won the rebound battle 36-20 and shot 53.7 percent from the floor. This is a nice win to pocket against a Power 5 school, albeit, the Cougars were picked to finish last in their conference.
3 (Tie). Loyola Chicago 65 vs. San Diego State 59, 59 possessions – I’ve been keeping a watchful eye on the Ramblers this year. They have a much better resume to this point than I thought they would. Taking down San Diego State, a team ranked 60th in Sagarin and 47th in kenpom is impressive. I hope that this continues to build as they enter into conference play – they deserve to have some good results this year with the way they have started their year.
Butler was back in action at home on Saturday, hosting the Cental Arkansas Bears. The Bulldogs did not look crisp. They left talented shooter, Jordan Howard, open to take uncontested more often than not. It wasn’t like someone could have gotten to him either. On more than one occasion, Howard could have taken a dribble into his shot, thrown the ball up, and landed before a Butler player was on him. Not all of the game was poor, however. Avery Woodson continues to make contributions with his 3-point shooting. Kelan Martin was the first Butler player to score 30 points since…Kelan Martin scored 35 against Georgetown last February.
The Bulldogs will be tested twice this week when they visit Indiana State Wednesday and host Cincinnati Saturday. Both games will be difficult to win and should provide greater insight into how resilient and grounded the Bulldogs are in their on-court philosophy. The game against Indiana State should be closer than most would expect. Indiana State guards the perimeter well, allowing their opponents to connect on less than 30% made 3-pointers so far this season. They take care of the ball fairly well, averaging a turnover on less than one-fifth of their possessions. They have lost their four games by a combined 10 points.
The game against Cincinnati is going to be a slow, grinding game. Cincinnati has a high block percentage, and steal percentage. Not to mention they don’t turn the ball over much either. Ken Pomeroy’s rating has the Bearcats ranked 345th in tempo. They are efficient in getting to the basket and have a high amount of offensive rebounds, grabbing nearly 40% of their missed shots. The starting center, Kyle Washington, is a stud. He owns a double-double this season and has scored in double figures every game thus far. The home environment should be electric when the Bearcats visit. Games like that are always fun to go to. They’re reminiscent of the Butler-Xavier rivalry games. Patience in finding a good shot will be key to Butler victory. They will have to speed the Bearcats up, force turnovers and put points on the board.
Games of the Week
Based on my growing interest in the scope of following teams over the course of this season, I have begun to identify what I think would be fun, interesting, or exciting games to watch or read about when the contest is over. This week, these are the following games to look for when you have nothing else to do or need something on in the background.
Tuesday, December 6th:
Princeton vs. California, 7:00 p.m. Fox Sports 1
Florida vs. Duke, 9:30p.m. ESPN
Wednesday, December 7th:
Xavier at Colorado, 9:00 p.m. Pac-12 Networks
Creighton at Nebraska, 9:00 p.m. Big Ten Networks
San Diego State at Grand Canyon, 7:00 p.m. ESPN 3
Thursday, December 8th:
UT Arlington at Saint Mary’s, 10:00 p.m.
Saturday, December 10th:
Rhode Island at Houston, 1:30p.m. ESPNU
Wisconsin at Marquette, 2:00p.m. Fox Sports 1
Cincinnati at Butler, 4:30p.m. Fox Sports 1
Michigan at UCLA, 8:00p.m. ESPN 2