Happy Monday morning and welcome to the Water Cooler.
With finals week in the rearview mirror for a lot of schools, there’s some actual basketball to look forward to this week. This is the time of year where there’s a lot of envy going around for the college kids that get to go home for a few weeks with nary a responsibility in sight. Those were the glory days.
Meanwhile, those of us confined to grinding out one more week in the cubes cannot lose focus with the holidays looming. It’s important to keep our eyes on the prize, and that prize is generating value for the shareholders to close out the quarter and fiscal year. Make every email, conference call, and random conversation at the copier with Derek from Accounts Receivable count! The shareholders’ happiness heading into the new year depends on it!
Refresh your mind at the water cooler with some hoops talk to get those productivity juices flowing and start the week on a high note.
Gonzaga is doing it again
Remember Michigan’s dominant win over Gonzaga in the Battle 4 Atlantis? Michigan immediately became the college basketball media’s darling while there was some concern with how flat Gonzaga looked offensively. Since then, Michigan has gone 1-3 with its lone win coming against Iowa.
Gonzaga, however, has won all three of its games since then, and capped off one of the best weeks of any team in the country on Saturday with a road win against No. 15 Arizona. It was Gonzaga’s second win against a Pac-12 contender of the week, following a road win against a Washington team that has hovered around the top 25 all season.
After having the nation’s best offense last year on KenPom, the Bulldogs are humming right along again. They rank fourth in adjusted efficiency and fourth in points per game at just under 86 per contest. Six players are averaging double figures, and Ryan Wooldridge is just 0.2 points per game away from becoming a seventh.
Mark Few’s willingness to go out and play games that really bolster Gonzaga’s resume is once again being rewarded. T-Rank’s TourneyCast currently has the Bulldogs with an average projected seed of 2.8, and they’ll host North Carolina on Wednesday where they’ll face a banged up Tar Heels team for another opportunity to pick up a marquee win.
It’s just business as usual in Spokane for the best team in the West.
It’s not just Gonzaga that’s setting itself up for postseason success in the WCC. BYU and Saint Mary’s are both laying the groundwork for resumes that should be considered in the at-large discussion.
The Cougars came out of the weekend with a huge neutral court win against Utah State in a massive tilt in the Beehive State. Yoeli Childs has been great since returning from his season-opening suspension, and his 20 points and 10 rebounds gave him his third double-double in four games. Defensively, BYU held Utah State under 1.00 points per possession, becoming the first team to do so this year. A lethal three-point attack has been the key to Mark Pope’s first season in Provo. BYU is taking 42 percent of its shots from deep and connecting on nearly 40 percent of those. The result? An offense that ranks No. 22 in efficiency, which would be the highest rank for a BYU team since the last time it made the tournament in 2015.
Saint Mary’s has gotten plenty of pub in the Water Cooler in recent weeks, and deservedly so. This weekend, the Gaels got a combined 60 points from Jordan Ford (32) and Malik Fitts (28) to cruise to a double-digit win against a mediocre Cal team. With Arizona State and Nevada on the slate this week — both away from McKeon Pavilion — opportunity knocks for Saint Mary’s before the holidays.
Three teams entered the week undefeated all three will leave the weekend with their clean sheets intact.
Duquesne continued its rise with a dominant performance against a Radford program that has been among the Big South’s best over the last few years. The Dukes are proving to be one of the best defensive teams in the country so far this year. Duquesne hasn’t allowed an opponent to crack 1.00 points per possession, and has cracked the top 60 of the KenPom rankings. KenPom projects the Dukes as the favorites in every game until the January 22 tilt against Rhode Island. Overall, KenPom gives the Dukes a 0.01 percent chance of going unbeaten. JimCarreySoYou’reSayingThere’sAChance.gif.
San Diego State had the week off, so nothing new to note on that front. A non-D1 and Utah are on the docket this week. KenPom gives the Aztecs a 0.7 percent chance of going undefeated.
The last undefeated, Liberty, continued its run of success against teams that can be summarized as a group that technically consists of Division I programs. Despite being the higher ranked team, the Flames won a buy game against Vanderbilt on Saturday. A win against an SEC team? Liberty must be good? No, Vanderbilt stinks. Liberty still hasn’t beaten a top 100 team, and only three of its 12 wins are against teams in the top 200 of KenPom. The easiest way to go undefeated? Well, the key appears to not play anyone remotely good. Liberty won’t face a real test until after Christmas when the Flames play LSU. Take any love and adoration that they’ll receive in national polls with many, many grains of salt.
The weekend in brutality
There were three brutalities over the weekend, but there’s only one that matters. As mentioned above, Liberty toppled a mediocre Vanderbilt team on Saturday, and Fordham suffered brutality in its second straight game with a loss to Tennessee State on Sunday.
None of those are even remotely exciting when you see what happened on Saturday in Fifth Third Arena.
Trailing by two, Colgate’s Will Rayman drove to the hoop and rebounded his own miss to tie it at 66 with just under 10 seconds to play. Cincinnati’s Jarron Cumberland took the inbound and proceeded to leak his brains all over the court with this shot:
I mean, what???? How???? Why?????????
Tucker Richardson (who probably should have been called for a flop, by the way) would sink a free throw to give Colgate the win. The spirit of Mick Cronin will never, ever leave that program. Just tremendous stuff here:
Wofford maintains ownership of Chapel Hill
Live by the three, die by the three. On Sunday, Wofford lived and came out of Chapel Hill with a win for the second time in three years. Faced with a monster opportunity for an upset of North Carolina with Cole Anthony out, the Terriers used the three-point line to take down the 17th-ranked Tar Heels.
In the win, Wofford launched a season-high 40 threes, connecting on 14 of them. The Terriers utilized a 16-0 run early in the second half to build a cushion, and the Tar Heels struggled to find consistent scoring with their star point guard out of the lineup. Despite being 1-9 from deep late until late in the second half, senior guard Nathan Hoover finally got another one to drop to seal the win. The Terriers improve to 7-4 in Jay McCauley’s first season at the helm.
Other news, notes, tidbits
- The NET rankings will be released on Monday. This marks the official start of QUADRANT SZN.
The first NET rankings will be released on Monday, December 16. https://t.co/0AYx4MsbiE— David Worlock (@DavidWorlock) December 5, 2019
- UNC Greensboro should consider working on defending half court shots in practice this week. For the second time this season, the Spartans lost on a heave at the horn. Here’s NC State stunning them in Greensboro on Sunday:
NC State beats UNCG on a half-court heave at the buzzer. This is the second time this season the Spartans have lost like this. Brutal. pic.twitter.com/wyVKe7H7Zg— Mid-Major Madness (@mid_madness) December 15, 2019
The game winner from Markell Johnson. pic.twitter.com/Fph7fsKBjm— Technician Sports (@TechSports) December 15, 2019
- Eastern Washington played an NAIA team on Friday. The results? A program record (and season-high for a Division I player) 54 points from Mason Peatling and this dunk from Tanner Groves that was the No. 1 play on SportsCenter:
- The longest home winning streak now belongs to Gonzaga following Tennessee’s loss to Memphis over the weekend. The Bulldogs have won 28 straight in The Kennel, and the last loss came January 18, 2018 to Saint Mary’s. Coincidentally, Gonzaga holds the nation’s longest road winning streak of 11 games.
- Colbey Ross became Pepperdine’s all-time leader in assists on Saturday. The junior is averaging a career high 7.5 assists per game this season, which ranks fifth in the country.
On tap this week
I forgot about this part last week. My bad.
Kent State vs. UC Irvine
San Francisco at Stanford, Pac-12 Network
Purdue at Ohio, ESPN2
North Texas at Dayton, ESPN+
Saint Mary’s vs. Arizona State, Pac-12 Networks
North Carolina at Gonzaga, ESPN2
UNC Greensboro at Vermont, ESPN+_
VCU at Charleston, FloSports
ETSU at LSU, SEC Network
Richmond at Old Dominion, ESPN3
UT Arlington at Georgia State, ESPN+
UTEP at Houston, ESPN3
Wofford at Duke, ESPN2