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 This Week
- Not many NBA games of note early in the week. Big wins by the Thunder (over the Grizzlies) and Raptors (over the Wizards) and an Evan Turner buzzer-beater punctuated the short week. The bigger stories were all in New York during All-Star weekend. Steph Curry won the 3 Point Shootout because he’s Steph Curry. Zach Lavine then began the Dunk Contest with two absolute jaw-droppers, both completed on the first try.
His next two dunks in the championship round were still excellent, but left him just short of the all-time great performances of the past.
- I hope you all had an excellent Denzel Valentine’s Day. Headline writers across the Great Lakes region smiled wide as the Michigan State junior nailed a fade-away three to seal a win for the Spartans. Ohio State’s Marc Loving was unable to answer and didn’t even score all day. It’s like he doesn’t even care about bad puns.
- Russell Westbrook won All-Star Game MVP as the West topped the East in a game that could only be described as “almost basketball”.
- Villanova had a huge week. They played possibly their two toughest games of the conference slate (at Providence and at Butler) and were able to win both, which keeps their hopes of #1 seed alive. Against Butler, Darrun Hilliard flashed for 31 points, including the game winning jumper. The Wildcats are as well balanced as any team in the nation. On their best night, they can beat anybody.
- Some of our most in-danger bubble teams dropped games that could kill their case for an at-large bid next month. Old Dominion, once considered a hot Cinderella team by many (or you know, just me) lost games to UTSA and UTEP this week. Rhode Island dropped a game at St. Joe’s. Miami lost at Wake Forest. George Washington has lost 4 of their last five. Seton Hall has been even worse, losing 7 of 9 (and one of their starters left the team surrounded by rumors of infighting and disagreement). It’s almost as if these teams don’t want to make the tourney, or at the very least, aren’t aware of the ramifications of each game they play.
The Week Ahead
In The NBA
Thursday, Mavericks @ Thunder
The Thunder sit 1.5 games out of the playoffs and start the second half against one of the teams they are chasing.
Thursday, Spurs @ Clippers
Friday, Spurs @ Warriors
I hope Tim Duncan and his old friends got plenty of rest during the break, because they jump into a brutal back-to-back.
Friday, Raptors @ Hawks
Friday, Cavs @ Wizards
Seeding at the top of the Eastern Conference will prove to be crucial as the 7th and 8th seeds should be under .500 messes, making the top 2 spots much more valuable.
Thursday, Trade Deadline
The imbalance of the two conferences has led to crazily competitive playoff races. Teams will wheel and deal to gain a leg up…or to head to the lottery and prepare for the future. Names possibly on the block include Amare Stoudemire, David Lee, Jamal Crawford, JJ Redick, Reggie Jackson, Brook Lopez, Jeremy Lin, Goran Dragic, and every Denver Nugget.
In College Hoops
Monday, #8 Kansas @ #21 West Virginia
Monday, Seton Hall @ #6 Villanova
Wednesday, #12 North Carolina @ #4 Duke
The sport’s best rivalry turns up a notch when both teams are highly ranked. A Duke win moves them closer to a slum dunk #1 seed, while a Carolina win puts them back among the nation’s elite.
Wednesday, Davidson @ GW (BUBBLE GAME!)
Wednesday, #12 Iowa State @ #21 Oklahoma State
Thursday, Temple @ #23 SMU
Temple is perched firmly on the bubble and gets a great chance for a big road win.
Saturday, #21 West Virginia @ #21 Oklahoma State
Those rankings are not a typo. These teams are tied for #21 in the AP Poll. Now, a new poll will be released today and the tie will probably be unknotted, but it’s nice to know these teams will meet next weekend to determine who is truly deserving of being called #21.
Saturday, #3 Gonzaga @ St. Mary’s
Gonzaga’s biggest game on their remaining schedule. If they want to silence their critics, they need to win this game and some large-margin-of-victory/eye-test style points wouldn’t hurt either.
Enjoy the games, everyone.
(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.)
Shane McNichol is the founder, editor, and writer at PalestraBack.com. Follow him on Twitter @OnTheShaneTrain.