The biggest sports game of the weekend (unless you count 24 Legacy, which is definitely sports) wasn’t as much fun as we were hoping. In fact, Illinois State-Wichita State wasn’t much of a game at all.
The Shockers raced out to a 13-point lead at the half, then ran the Redbirds out of the gym, en route to an 86-45 victory at home. 12 players scored for Wichita State, led by Kansas transfer Conner Frankamp, who tallied 18 points on 4-6 shooting from three. He has now scored in double figures in each of the last three Wichita State games, giving the Shockers yet another valuable weapon. Shaquille Morris added a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds inside, and Markis McDuffie scored 16 points in 20 minutes.
But Wichita State only gets credited for one win, no matter the final margin. That means the Shockers and Redbirds are still tied in the Missouri Valley standings after splitting the season series. We have a feeling a third matchup is coming sometime in early March...
Here’s everything else that happened this weekend:
Georgia State: Check out the top of the #FunBelt when you get a chance. Seven straight wins have pulled Ron Hunter’s group into a three-way tie for first place, with its most recent win coming against Louisiana. During the Panthers’ streak, freshman D’Marcus Simonds has established himself as a force, averaging nearly 19 points per game.
North Carolina Central: Levelle Moton is active on Twitter, but seems to be even more active in the gym. After a 6-5 start to the year, he’s coached his Eagles to 10 wins in 11 tries. NC Central is the only legit team in the MEAC, and there’s no reason why the Eagles shouldn’t coast to an NCAA Tournament appearance.
Northern Iowa: Have the Panthers figured it out? It seems that way. Their 0-5 Missouri Valley start has turned into a 6-6 record, with their only loss in that span coming to Illinois State. Northern Iowa is now in the crowded middle of the MVC, but the Panthers are also out of the bottom four spots in the league — those teams have to play the extra day in the conference tournament.
Wagner: Wagner was a tough team to figure out for a while, but the Seahawks seem to have finally hit their stride. Their nine-point win at Fairleigh Dickinson on Saturday morning was their most impressive since knocking off UConn to open the season. They’ll need to keep this up in order to host a game in the NEC Tournament.
Harvard: Don’t worry. The Crimson are still good and should still find themselves at the Palestra for the Ivy League tournament. But for now, it doesn’t appear they are the team to beat in the conference. Their one-point loss at home to Princeton put the Tigers in the driver’s seat, while Harvard is now 0-2 against the league’s top teams.
Louisiana: I tried for weeks to single-handedly get the Ragin’ Cajuns into our power rankings, and now I look foolish. It seems they can beat all the bad teams in the Sun Belt, but six straight losses against KenPom top 200 teams is not a good look.
Loyola-Chicago: The good news: Despite two straight losses, the Ramblers are still 6-6 in the Valley and can make a move for a top-three finish. The bad news: Their next game is against Wichita State.
Slight at-large possibilities: UNC Wilmington, Akron, and Middle Tennessee have all lost in the last week, essentially eliminating their hopes for an at-large bid. It’s not fair that the margin of error is that slim, but that’s just the case. The Blue Raiders do have five top 100 wins, so maybe, just maybe, they can get back into the conversation if they win out.
Team of the Weekend (by GameScore):
G Keon Johnson, Winthrop: GmSc 31.4 | 39 pts | 5 rbds | 3 ast | 14-20 FG
G Jaaron Simmons, Ohio: GmSc 33.3 | 38 pts | 10 rbds | 5 ast | 5-5 3PT
F Bogdan Bliznyuk, Eastern Washington: GmSc 37.0 | 45 pts | 10 rbds | 9 ast | 17-20 FT
F Jacob Wiley, Eastern Washington: GmSc 34.7 | 45 pts | 17 rbds | 18-23 FG
F Mike Daum, South Dakota State: GmSc 31.2 | 38 pts | 17 rbds | 5-11 3PT
Big Sky? More like Big Amount of Overtimes:
The Portland State-Eastern Washington game went three overtimes, finished 130-124 in the Eagles’ favor, and featured some delightful stats:
- Bogdan Bliznyuk and Jacob Wiley both finished with 45 points and had the two highest game scores in Division I this weekend (for more, see above).
- Bliznyuk and Wiley both played 53 of the game’s 55 minutes and combined to make 32 of Eastern Washington’s 44 field goals.
- Six total players fouled out, including four for Portland State.
- In the span of seven minutes in the first half, Cody Benzel went 4-4 from three. Those were his only field goal attempts and points of the game.
San Diego immediately disbands basketball program, I assume:
Speaking of bizarre stats, look at the entire Saint Mary’s vs. San Diego game from Saturday night. The Gaels won that one, 71-27. That is not a typo. Here’s how the misery breaks down:
- The Toreros scored nine points in the first half. Total.
- For the game, they scored 0.49 points per possession.
- San Diego made three two-point field goals all game.
- The Toreros shot 9-46 (19.5 percent).
- They also turned the ball over only 11 times, further underscoring exactly how cold they were from the field.
- Olin Carter was the only San Diego player to make more than one field goal.
- It took until the 13:58 mark in the second half for San Diego to crack double figures.
Valparaiso missed a golden opportunity to put some distance between itself and the rest of the Horizon field on Saturday, falling 86-69 at second-place Green Bay. Now, the Phoenix are just a half-game back of a Crusader team that probably should have gone to the NCAA Tournament last year. This country can’t afford to let Alec Peters miss the Big Dance again.
One reason the Tigers are in first-place in the Ivy League? Other teams can’t score on them. Princeton ranks first in the conference in defensive (and offensive) efficiency, third in effective field-goal percentage defense, third in turnover percentage defense, and first in limiting opponents’ offensive rebounds. The result has been a streak of seven straight games (all wins) holding opponents to 66 or fewer points.
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:
How does Illinois State adjust to life without MiKyle McIntosh?
Realistically, the Redbirds needed a lot more than just one more player to avoid the beat-down at the Roundhouse on Saturday. But missing McIntosh certainly didn’t help. The Redbirds struggled all night offensively, scoring just 0.69 points per possession without a single player in double-figures. Phil Faye and Deontae Hawkins, who were expected to help fill the gap, combined for just 15 points and four rebounds. Illinois State ran into a buzzsaw, but it did not show much ability to respond.
VERDICT: Not well, apparently
Is it time to start giving Fresno State some credit?
ICYMI, the Fresno State trolls were in our mentions earlier this year, wondering why we didn’t give them any love in the preseason (frankly, because we had no reason to). The Bulldogs started to look good, however, as Mountain West play heated up. A win over San Diego State on Saturday would have raised a few eyebrows. Instead, a mediocre Aztec team came away with the win in Fresno, relegating the Bulldogs to the second tier in the conference standings.
VERDICT: Nah, sorry guys.
IT’S. GETTING. REAL. I spent the weekend getting mad on line at the h8ers, but the Gonzaga Bulldogs made much better use of their time, smacking Santa Clara, 90-55 at home. But every available metric, Gonzaga is one of the best teams in the country. At 24-0, the Bulldogs are closing in on something truly remarkable.
This week: Thurs. at Loyola Marymount, Sat. at Saint Mary’s
KenPom’s unbeaten probability: 50.7%
And listen to this! New Mexico State coach Paul Weir joins the Mid-Major Madness Podcast
Albany at New Hampshire, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN3
There’s a clear division in the America East between the top and bottom halves, and the Great Danes and Wildcats are both fighting for position up top. New Hampshire beat Albany at Albany earlier in the year, but the Great Danes have an opportunity to return the favor Monday night. The America East’s bid goes through Burlington, but both these teams can make a run.
Have a great week, everyone!