Welcome to our weekly feature: This Week In Hoops. Every Monday morning we’ll take a quick look back at what we learned from the last week of games and a look forward at this week’s slate.
What We Learned Last Week
- And then there was one. Duke ended Virginia’s unbeaten season, leaving Kentucky as the lone remaining undefeated team. Duke sped up the Wahoos pace without playing out of control and made threes when they needed to (5 made 3’s in the last 5 minutes). Jay Bilas mentioned early the broadcast that UVA had only allowed 31 transition points all season, and the Blue Devils matched half of that (15) yesterday. Virginia’s “pack-line” defense keeps slashers out of the lane, but against a team with confident catch-and-shooters, it leaves the Cavs susceptible to open shots. I don’t think this means the book on how to beat Virginia is out though. Duke is very good and made big shots. Virginia is still the second best team in the land; they just got beat on Saturday.
- This happened mere days after Duke lost to Notre Dame. Jerian Grant was otherwordly, hitting every big shot down the stretch and also deciding whether or not the Irish fans should storm the court. Watch Grant wave them off from half court:
Now, my thoughts on court-rushing have been covered here before, but let me elaborate on this specific scenario. (I was actually debating with my mom during the game whether the ND fans should/would storm). The Irish are a top 10 team. I don’t know that that gives them the right to storm against anyone. Maybe Duke were undefeated and #1, but short of that, I’m with Jerian here. I also think him stopping a potential court rush is about the coolest thing ever. Really want the Sixers to draft Grant with Miami’s pick and unite him with his oddly-younger brother Jerami.
- North Carolina fell apart against Louisville, turning an 18 point lead into a 10 point loss, in about 23 minutes of game time. Roy Williams’ fast paced teams often struggle to slow the tempo to grind out wins and this was a prime example. It didn’t help the Heels that Louisville does defensive pressure better than anyone not named VCU and that the Cardinals finally realized their bread and butter needs to be Montrzel Harrell scoring tough buckets in the paint. He had 16 points in the paint, including a couple monster dunks. Rick Pitino, Harrell, and the Louisville guards need to realize there offense works best inside-out if they are going to make a run deep into March.
- Speaking (briefly) of VCU, Briante Weber’s injury was heartbreaking. He was 11 steals shy of the all-time record and would have led the nation in steal percentage all four years he played (per Ken Pomeroy…who tweeted so before the news of Weber’s ACL/MCL broke). Here’s hoping he has a full recovery and is able to put those fast hands to use at the next level someday. His injury certainly doesn’t help his team, who lost at home to Richmond Saturday.
- We now go live to Atlanta Hawks headquarters for an update:
The Hawks winning streak has hit 19 following a close victory over the fiesty Sixers. Atlanta just about perfectly represents a team of good players, who all know their roles. Kyle Korver shoots 3s. Paul Millsap battles on the boards. Horford scores in the post. Dennis Schroeder has cool hair and does Baby Rondo things. Pero Antic and DeMarre Carroll give energy and toughness. Mike Muscala is re-inventing the 3-Goggles game. And Firsto Lasto…er, I mean, Jeff Teague runs the point and makes it all work. Isn’t it amazing when basketball works out?
- America, meet Northern Iowa. Northern Iowa, this is America. The Panthers (which seems like the wrong name for Northern Iowa. I want them to be the Corn Growers or Cow Riders or something) topped MVC foe Wichita State behind 29 points and 7 rebounds from Seth Tuttle (which again, feels wrong. I wish his name was Colt Soilbarn or Utters Overalls). Northern Iowa has the size and experience to dance with the big boys come tourney time.
- DeMarcus Cousins celebrated a big anniversary this week and he did so on Instagram:
- Not specific to this week, but it needs to be talked about: Eastern Washington has a basketball zamboni! SLAMBONI! JAMBONI!
The Week Ahead
In The NBA
Monday, Hawks @ Pelicans
Wednesday, Wizards @ Hawks
Friday, Warriors @ Hawks
The Hawks look to keep the streak alive early in the week before the big weekend showdown with the Warriors.
Wednesday, Thunder @ Pelicans
Friday, Pelicans @ Thunder
The Western Conference Musical Chairs Playoff Race heats up as the two teams currently on the outside looking in play a home-and-home this week.
In College Hoops
Monday, #2 Virginia @ #13 North Carolina
Saturday, #10 Louisville @ #2 Virginia
Two top teams both coming off tough losses battle on Monday. Then Virginia’s trip through the violent ACC car wash from hell continues.
Monday, #15 Iowa State @ #9 Kansas
Let’s see just how much young Kansas has grown up, while seeing the most competitive conference in America’s top two teams.
Tuesday, #22 Indiana @ #4 Wisconsin
Tuesday, #17 West Virginia @ #24 Oklahoma
Saturday, #20 Baylor @ #17 West Virginia
Saturday, #21 Georgetown @ #7 Villanova
A rivalry game with more than just bragging rights on the line is always welcome.
Saturday, #1 Kentucky @ Florida
Florida’s season is as confusing as it gets. They’ve lost 9 games to opponents whose average RPI is 46. Maybe they finally turn into giant killers when the Cats come to town.
Saturday, #8 Notre Dame @ #4 Duke
Welcome to the ACC, Notre Dame. You beat them at home. Now see what you can do at Cameron.
Should be a great week. Enjoy the games, everybody.
(Note: Every edition of This Week in Hoops will end with a song. I’ve compiled all of these songs into a playlist that you can find here. And yes, I did just country it up a bit.)
Shane McNichol is the founder, editor, and lone contributor at PalestraBack.com. Follow him on Twitter @OnTheShaneTrain.