The week of Thanksgiving - commonly known as Feast Week - is among the best weeks in college basketball. There’s tournaments galore, matchups between marquee programs, and all the daytime basketball you could possibly want.
More importantly, it serves as an opportunity for teams and coaches to put themselves up against legitimate competition. The outcomes of these games aren’t indicative of how good a team will be come March, but they can provide a solid gauge early on.
Rather than Feast Week, maybe it should be called Gauge Week. Actually, that doesn’t sound great. I’m sure somebody out there can come up with a better name than Fe- OH HELLO JON.
LITMUS TEST WEEK.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) November 25, 2017
LITMUS TEST WEEK.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) November 24, 2017
LITMUS TEST WEEK.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) November 22, 2017
Shout it with me. LITMUS. TEST. WEEK. I’m all in. I love it. From here on out, Feast Week will be known as LITMUS TEST WEEK. All caps required. I’m buying all the LITMUS TEST WEEK stock.
As far as the actual teams go, we have actual basketball to base opinions off of, which makes it even more likely that these are still wrong. Anyways, here’s the preseason edition if you missed it.
Albany: Many folks have all but given Vermont the America East crown, but Albany should not be taken lightly. The Great Danes are off to a hot start of 6-0 that includes wins over Yale and Iona, and they have weapons all over the court. Four guys are averaging double figures, and their offense has cracked the top 50 in Kenpom. Will Brown has an experienced team that is getting a good look almost every time down the floor. Vermont has earned the right to be considered the favorite, but Albany could very well end up as the team that prevails in the end.
UNLV: Is there a more fun team among the mid-major ranks right now than UNLV? The Rebels are playing at a blistering pace, and have hung up at least 85 points in every game so far. Brandon McCoy has been a monster early on by averaging 20.2 points and 13 rebounds per game. As if that weren’t enough, Shakur Juiston is also putting up a nightly double double with averages of 13.2 points and 13 rebounds. To top it off, Jordan Johnson and Jovan Mooring have been excellent in the backcourt to compliment the bruising presence on the glass. This team is quickly becoming appointment television, and is shaping up to be a dark horse contender in the Mountain West.
St. Bonaventure: The Bonnies have taken their lumps in the opening weeks, but has competed well without Jaylen Adams. Highlighted by a neutral court win over Maryland, St. Bonaventure has managed to find a rhythm without Adams. Matt Mobley has picked up some of the scoring load, and has bumped his scoring average up to nearly 22 points per game. Freshman Izaiah Brockington has provided a nice boost for the Bonnies as well, and the early season experience could pay dividends later in the year. Once Adams returns from injury, the Bonnies are going to be one of the contenders in the Atlantic 10.
Saint Mary’s: This isn’t necessarily selling Saint Mary’s as a team, but rather saying goodbye to their at-large hopes. With losses to Washington State and Georgia last week, the Gaels essentially missed out on any chance that they had for good non-conference wins. Now, their tournament aspirations are likely going to come down to winning the WCC tournament, which they haven’t done since 2012. For as good as the Gaels are on offense, the defense has been their Achilles heel. If it doesn’t improve by the time conference play rolls around, a team that many thought could make it to the second weekend in March could possibly wind up watching from home.
Dayton: The Flyers have done well against MAC schools, but the program has simply gone through too much turnover to instill any confidence in them early on. Darell Davis has stepped up and been a go-to scorer, and Josh Cunningham has established himself as a solid post presence. Outside of those two, there isn’t much in the cupboard. Xeyrius Williams hasn’t taken the leap that some projected, the Kostas Antetokounmpo is still a work in progress. Even in a down year for the A-10, Anthony Grant’s roster doesn’t appear to have the talent to break into the top tier that they’ve become accustomed to.
Oakland: A 2-3 start is not ideal for the Golden Grizzlies, but it’s not time to panic yet, contrary to what Oakland Twitter may think. Three of those losses have come on the road, two of which were to Power 5 teams. Kendrick Nunn has been battling injuries, and Jalen Hayes has just now returned from his egregious suspension. A string of five very winnable games is up next on the schedule for the Golden Grizzlies before a bout with Michigan State. Their schedule is set up nicely to build some momentum heading into conference play. They might not be there now, but it’s not hard to envision a scenario in which Oakland is among the best mid-majors by year end.
GRAND CANYON STOCK WATCH:
LOPE (NASDAQ): Closed at $89.55 on 11/24, up from $88.54 as of our last stock watch.