Happy Monday morning and welcome the Water Cooler.
The goal for this column is to be your go-to spot at the start of the week to get caught up on what went down in the mid-major basketball world over the weekend. It’ll run every Monday morning (in a perfect world), and will hopefully be up on the site by the time you get into the office and open up that dreaded email inbox.
While Martin from Accounts Payable regales everyone with tales of his family’s trip to the in-laws over the weekend, you can wow your colleagues with cool and interesting facts about how Merrimack turned Chris Collins into a corn cob or how Fred Hoiberg and Nebraska can’t stop losing buy games.
With that being said, let’s get into the weekend’s fun.
Merrimack is here y’all
Merrimack didn’t waste any time introducing itself to the college basketball world as the Warriors notched their first Division I win on Friday night with a buy game win over Northwestern. According to KenPom, the Warriors were projected to have a 5 percent probability of winning heading into the game. Merrimack (No. 312 in KenPom) and Northwestern (No. 83 in KenPom) were 229 spots apart before the game!
Before the season, our own Russell Steinberg touched on how Merrimack will be a team that should be competitive in the NEC this year, and closed with this ahead of their opening week:
Nobody is expecting Merrimack to make national headlines with an upset, but it’ll be a good early barometer for how competitive the team could be in the NEC. We’ll see how all that talent translates.
The talent obviously translated.
Also, here’s this because it will never, ever get old:
Elsewhere in brutality...
The Brutality Leaderboard (trademark pending) is off to a hot start to the season. This past weekend alone featured three brutalities, including the aforementioned Merrimack win.
Saturday, Nebraska fell to 0-2 in buy games to start off the Fred Hoiberg era in Lincoln. Following a 19-point drubbing at the hands of UC Riverside, Southern Utah strolled into town and pulled out an overtime win. Check out the win probability graph:
The Thunderbirds have BYU and UCLA on tap this week as Todd Simon and Co. look to stay hot out of the gate with what should be one of the program’s best teams in recent memory.
Nicholls State also got into the brutality game with a huge upset over Pitt. The Colonels forced Pitt into 20 turnovers and went 11-24 from deep en route to the nail-biting win that they nearly blew late.
Nicholls State head coach Austin Claunch made sure he got his first win over a Power 5 program in style with this strong suit:
not gonna say that the jacket/tie combo here is why Nicholls is winning, but it's certainly not hurting them pic.twitter.com/UbTyvYesfH— Mid-Major Madness (@mid_madness) November 9, 2019
Jordan Roland is your new cult hero
Overreacting to small sample sizes is usually irrational, but where’s the fun in that? Through two games, Northeastern’s Jordan Roland is the frontrunner to take the baton from Chris Clemons as college basketball’s Appointment Television Bucket Getter. He currently sits as the NCAA’s scoring average leader at 40.5 points per game thanks to 39- and 42-point performances that have propelled the Huskies to a 2-0 start. He’s hit 8-16 from three to start the year and has hit an absurd 20-27 (74.1%) from inside the arc. Those numbers will normalize, but he seems more than ready to be the next great guard to run the show for Bill Coen’s offense.
Bad Beat City
Gambling is becoming more and more prominent within the sports ecosystem, and college basketball isn’t excluded from that. I bet on games. Other media members bet on games. It adds an additional layer of entertainment!
If you’re a gambler, shield your eyes. Check out the finish here in the Vermont/St. Bonaventure game from Friday night.
I’d be sick.
Gambling! Fun until it isn’t!
The Atlantic 10 has been mildly underwhelming
The A-10’s start to the season hasn’t necessarily been bad, it just could have been a lot better for a conference that expects to have multiple teams in the NCAA Tournament.
The teams that have hopes of being in the mix for an at-large bid did a good job scheduling teams that should end up being Quadrant 1 or Quadrant 2 games. However, the league went 0-4 in those games last week. Davidson struggled offensively against Auburn as Kellan Grady and Jon Axel Gudmundsson combined for just 13 points in the season opener. St. Bonaventure couldn’t pull out a win against a great Vermont team (the Bonnies also lost a buy game to Ohio and lost Osun Osunniyi to injury), and Rhode Island faded down the stretch at Maryland. But it’s the first week of the season, so there’s no need to panic just yet. It’s worth keeping an eye on though if it’s a trend that continues.
Elsewhere, the top teams didn’t quite look the part as they struggled with inferior opponents. VCU went down to the wire against North Texas at home before escaping with a three-point win, and Richmond needed overtime to beat St. Francis PA. In Dayton’s opener, the Flyers held off Indiana State for a five point win.
Overall, the A-10 is off to a 16-5 start and sits at No. 9 in KenPom’s conference rankings. Again, small sample sizes.
Other news, notes, tidbits
- Mississippi Valley State is giving up 129 points per game through three games. Their opponents’ point totals are as follows: 110, 143, 134. Not great! Oh, and there was this:
Utah wins 143-49. The 94 point win sets the all-time record for D-I vs D-I margin of victory. (Previous: Tulsa 141-50 over Prairie View, 12/7/95)— Ken Pomeroy (@kenpomeroy) November 9, 2019
- Obi Toppin had 29 points and 12 rebounds in his season debut, including six dunks. As a freshman, he finished third in the country in dunks, trailing only Daniel Gafford’s 86 and Tacko Fall’s 88. Shoutout to Bart Torvik, creator of T-Rank, for keeping track of this. My money is on Toppin to be this year’s dunk king.
Six dunks for Obi Toppin yesterday. pic.twitter.com/DdGRXxkZDt— Bart T rvik (@totally_t_bomb) November 10, 2019
- Here’s a wild shot from Western Carolina’s Carlos Dotson that ended up on SportsCenter:
Proud of this team. @Carlos_Dotson is one of several guys in that locker room that deserve some recognition, both regionally and nationally. Nice to see @espn take notice! For the ones that haven’t yet, you’ll find out soon. Carlos can play....and he has friends...#ItsComing pic.twitter.com/Z1W0L4Saxr— Mark Prosser (@MarkProsser15) November 10, 2019
- Here’s another look at the Brutality Leaderboard, including some basic numbers on the upsets thus far:
- UTSA...woof. We were very high on the Roadrunners in the preseason, slotting them at No. 19 in The Other Top 25 Preseason Rankings. The Roadrunners decided to squander all of the preseason hype by going 0-4 in the first week of the season, including an 0-3 showing at the Sunshine Slam.
H2 1.1 | The inbound hits the ceiling. Cornell ball.— Bryant Men's Basketball (@BryantHoops) November 10, 2019
Bryant 82, Cornell 81
- This is a great read on Kent State’s Kalin Bennett, the first Division I college basketball player with autism. He scored in their opener:
Kent State's Kalin Bennett becomes the first player with autism to score in a Division I game pic.twitter.com/UMec55pds0— ESPN (@espn) November 7, 2019
- If you haven’t done so already, check out the Mid-Major Madness Coaching Contract Database. John Templon put in a ton of work to assemble it, and it should be a great resource for all college basketball fans and media alike.
- Silver Sword (#5ilverSword) starts today. Tell Russ you want to play so your friends don’t think you’re a loser.
THE SILVER SWORD BEGINS TOMORROW— Russell Steinberg (@Russ_Steinberg) November 10, 2019
If you've NEVER played and would like to win prizes by picking Feast Week winners, please let me know and I will make sure you get the email when the form goes live.#5ilverSword
On tap this week
Here are some games that could be worth your attention this week.
Georgia Southern at North Florida
Yale at San Francisco, WCC Network
New Mexico State at UTEP, CUSAtv
Auburn at South Alabama, ESPN+
UT Arlington at Nevada, Mountain West Network
Northeastern at UMass, ESPN+
UNLV at California, PAC12 Network
St. Bonaventure at Siena, ESPN+
LSU at VCU, ESPN2
Oklahoma State at Charleston, CBSSN
Grand Canyon at San Diego State, Watch Stadium
Colgate at Syracuse, ACC Network
La Salle at Penn, ESPN+
Southern Utah at BYU, BYUtv
Vanderbilt at Richmond, ESPN+
Siena at Harvard, ESPN+
Gonzaga at Texas A&M, SEC Network
Alabama at Rhode Island, NBCSN
BYU at Houston, ESPNU
UC Irvine at Boise State, Mountain West Network
Radford at Georgia Southern, ESPN+
Missouri State at Xavier, Fox Regional Networks