We’re calling it now, and frankly it’s not that bold of a statement: Gonzaga is going to finish the regular season unblemished. Their game at Saint Mary’s was the only potential road bump left on the schedule, and the Bulldogs won that without much of a problem.
They will likely roll through the West Coast Conference tournament as well, and if that happens, they will be the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. I’ve said it before and I will say it at least a dozen more times this season: by every available metric, Gonzaga is, at minimum, one of the best teams in the country.
With that out of the way, here’s everything else that happened this weekend.
Boston University: If you were wondering who Bucknell’s biggest challenge for the Patriot League title is, the Terriers might be your best bet. They’ve won five out of six and with just four games remaining, three are against middle-of-the-pack teams or worse. That other game? Against the Bison at home. The opportunity is there.
Buffalo: I told a Buffalo fan on Twitter that if the Bulls kept winning, I’d feature them here. And, whaddya know, they’ve now won four in a row and have moved into a tie for second in the MAC East. Akron is the class of the league, so first place is out of the question, but Buffalo has a favorable schedule the rest of the way, starting with a Valentine’s Day trip to see Marcus Keene and Central Michigan.
Colorado State: It’s a shame that the Mountain West isn’t a better league, because it’s entertaining as hell. Colorado State is one of four teams jumbled at the top of the standings, but gut check time is coming for the Rams. Their next two games are at Wyoming and at New Mexico, where nothing is guaranteed.
Richmond: OK so the Spiders don’t have the most inspiring resume in the world, but T.J. Cline & Co. are beating the teams they should, and as a result, they are officially Atlantic 10 contenders. Back-to-back wins against George Washington and at La Salle were huge with games against George Mason and VCU coming up.
UNC Asheville: I’ll admit I hadn’t seen the Bulldogs play until their double-overtime thriller over Winthrop last week. After destroying Longwood on Saturday, they’ve now won seven in a row and are tied with Liberty atop the Big South. Junior Ahmad Thomas has been on a tear lately on both ends of the floor.
Green Bay: It’s become clear that nobody has much interest in challenging Valparaiso in the Horizon League. After we decided that Green Bay was a possibility, the Phoenix decided to drop two straight and three out of five. Do we dare turn our attention to...Oakland? Nah, jk.
Little Rock: The Trojans have had every opportunity to play themselves back into the Sun Belt race, but they haven’t been able to make it happen. The defending conference champs have now lost five out of six.
Nevada: Nevada isn’t a bad team, but the only realistic shot the Mountain West had at an at-large has now disappeared with two losses in three tries for the Wolf Pack. After falling at San Diego State, Nevada now has no KenPom tier A wins and just two of the tier B variety. That’s not going to get it done.
New Mexico State: The Mid-Major Madness Curse lives on! We had Scott Cross on the podcast before his UT Arlington Mavericks lost two in a row. Then we had Aggies coach Paul Weir on, and guess what the Aggies have done? That’s not to mention other instances of us talking up teams only to see them collapse immediately … sorry guys.
UNC Wilmington: There was a time when you could have convinced me that the Seahawks could play their way into the at-large conversation. Not anymore. They’ve now lost three times in the CAA with their most recent defeat coming to Elon. The good news is that UNCW still has a one-game lead in the conference standings and is in good position to capture the automatic bid.
Team of the weekend (by GameScore):
G Jordan Howard, Central Arkansas: GmSc 33.5 |33 pts | 6 ast | 5 rbd | 8-9 3PT
G Jimmie Taylor, Rider: GmSc 33.2 | 37 pts | 5 rbd | 4 ast | 7-8 3PT
G Q.J. Peterson, VMI: GmSc 29.5 | 37 pts | 4 rbd | 3 stl | 2 ast
G Derreck Brooks, Central Arkansas: GmSc 28.6 | 29 pts | 9 rbd | 3 ast
F Elmo Stephen, Florida International: GmSc 30.9 | 34 pts | 12 rbd | 2 stl | 12-18 FG
Chaos in the Sun Belt:
The top of the Sun Belt has never been clear, and this weekend did nothing whatsoever to help the picture. Somehow, the league’s top three teams — Arkansas State, Georgia State, and Georgia Southern — all lost. That allowed UT Arlington to move to within a game of that trio, while Texas State remains two games back.
Bryan did a good job handicapping where they all go from here, so give that a read when you can. In short, if Arkansas State can get through its next few games without a blemish, then the Red Wolves are for real…and I don’t just mean in the context of the Sun Belt.
Look at this bonkers shot:
There’s not much else to say other than OMIGODLOOKATTHIS
One of the craziest plays I've ever seen. Unreal! pic.twitter.com/qnKkKADhfO— Nate Aamodt (@Naamodt21) February 11, 2017
If you’re confused at what you’re looking at, let me explain: North Dakota State’s Khy Kabellis tried to save the ball, and in doing so, accidentally threw it into his own team’s basket. Due to a weird quirk in the rulebook that we’ve NEVER had to learn about, this shot was only worth two points for the Pioneers. Lucky for Kabellis, I suppose.
Grading our garbage picks:
Before the top 16 NCAA Tournament seeds were revealed on Saturday, a few of us tried to take a guess at what it would look like. Of course we were all wrong about most things. Chris Schutte decided to assign points to show just how bad we were, and by weird coincidence/blatant cheating, Chris was the least wrong of all of us.
Your weekly mid-major play set to the Titanic music:
I got into this last week and I’m going to keep going with it. Most basketball plays are improved by setting them to the Titanic music. This week, we give you Xeyrius Williams’ clutch three to lift Dayton to a win at Rhode Island.
What we learned:
Every week, I ask two questions in our weekend preview that I hope are answered with Saturday and Sunday’s games. Here they are for this week:
Who is Middle Tennessee’s biggest challenger in Conference USA?
Louisiana Tech won at UTSA, as expected. The more surprising result? Old Dominion not only winning at UAB, but destroying the Blazers, to end their 25-game home conference winning streak. Ahmad Caver had 23 points and eight assists, while B.J. Smith added 16 points and 10 rebounds. That’s quite a way for Old Dominion to bounce back from back-to-back losses that included a defeat at home against a bad Florida Atlantic team.
VERDICT: Louisiana Tech and Old Dominion remain the two teams to keep an eye on.
How many points will Marcus Keene score this weekend?
By most players’ standards, Keene had a pretty good game against Miami Ohio on Saturday, tallying a near-triple double (12 points, eight assists, seven rebounds). But that’s not the Keene we know. That’s not the Keene who poured 50 points on the Redhawks the first time these teams met this year. In this round, Keene was 5-17 from the field and just 2-10 from three. He’ll get back on track. The fate of the known world depends on it*.
*I’ve been listening to too much Bill Walton, sorry.
VERDICT: 12, sadly
The biggest hurdle has been cleared. As mentioned at the top, Gonzaga will finish the regular season unbeaten and that is a guarantee. In fact, let’s play this game: Let’s spot the Bulldogs’ opponents 10 points at the start of each remaining regular season game. I bet they still go undefeated. Let’s find out.
This week: vs. San Francisco (Thurs.), vs. Pacific (Sat.)
KenPom’s unbeaten probability: 95.6% (!!!!!)
Little Rock at UT Arlington, 9 p.m., ESPN3
Time to start untangling the Sun Belt, guys. You know what the stakes are. Sit back and enjoy.
Have a great week, everyone!