Hey, everyone! Welcome back to basketball season. If you were around these parts last year, you remember our weekly feature: This Week in Hoops. It’s changed a bit, but the essence is the same. If you’re new to Palestra Back, TWIH is a helpful guide to the recent goings on in the world of basketball. If something happens on the hardwood, you’ll hear about it here.
The Biggest Story in Basketball
Kentucky’s loss to UCLA was certainly surprising, but by no means a fluke. UCLA found and exploited the flaws of a young Kentucky team that will need to be fixed moving forward.
More importantly, the Wildcats’ loss showcases a more macro issue that has ripple affects throughout college basketball.
There is no consensus top team this season. There is barely a solidified top tier. Jay Bilas has been quick to point this out during the games he’s called so far this season. Last year, we had a handful of great teams. Ten years from now, you will remember that Kentucky team, that Duke team, and that Wisconsin team.
And that was just the absolute top. When the brackets were revealed, there was less intrigue than there may be in most years. Kentucky was a near lock to make the Final Four. Duke and its three top 20 NBA draft picks needed to beat the best team in Gonzaga history to advance from their region. In the West Region last year, Wisconsin-Arizona in the Elite Eight not only felt inevitable, but actually came to fruition. And lest we forget, Virginia was 21-1 with a healthy Justin Anderson in the lineup.
This year, any of those five or six teams would be the clear favorite to win the title in March. But this year, no one has shown the ability to reach that level yet. No team or group of teams stands head and shoulders above the rest of the pack.
For fans of the sport, this has both positive and negative affects.
Having (relatively) historically great teams produces the potential for historically great match-ups and games. We salivated all season hoping to see Duke play Kentucky or Wisconsin or Arizona. And thanks to the beauty of the tournament, we did get to see many of these teams play each other and the resulting games were extraordinary.
But in a year like this year, we have far less circles on the calendar. We will be excited when the best teams go toe-to-toe, even if it won’t have the same level of intrigue.
The good news, however, is that whatever excitement is lost in those match-ups is more than made up for in every other game this season. We will have upsets, shockers, surprise blowouts, buzzer beaters, and non-stop action at every level.
Parity leads to chaos, and chaos is a very, very good thing in this case.
As for how this affects the the level of competition and the relevant outcomes we’re looking forward to, we turn to noted college basketball enthusiast, Lord Petyr Baelish (from Game of Thrones).
The best teams in America will lose games this year, even ones we all expected them to win. Our conference champions, tournament darlings, and eventual Final Four contenders will be the teams who can raise themselves past these mistakes and excel at a higher level. The teams capable of climbing the ladder of chaos will be left standing when all is said and done.
Who will those teams be? Your guess is as good as any.
Basketball is Fun!
With all of the hot takes and super serious basketball related opinions out there, it’s important to remember that this is a game being played and watched for fun. Every week we’ll highlight something on the lighter side of the hoops world.
If you haven’t yet seen Comcast SportsNet’s resident goof/former Lower Merion point Guard Evan “The Evster” Monsky’s attempts to reunite with Kobe this week, it’s worth a watch.
You click for Kobe. You stay for this:
All the pieces and posts you need to read to be on the ball.
Two Sixers pieces from two of the best writers in basketball. First, it’s an in-depth look at The Process from Zach Lowe. Second, it’s Derek Bodner trying to prove that Nerlens Noel’s regression is probably injury related.
Also, after Kentucky’s loss to UCLA, SB Nation’s Ricky O’Donnell scooped up any lessons to be learned.
May the Tuesday Top Tens rest in pieces. Long live Rank Shots! If you’re not familiar, this is where we rank the best teams in the NBA, college basketball, and rank another totally irrelevant something.
- Golden State Warriors
- (make sure to stretch and stay hydrated before physical activity)
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- San Antonio Spurs
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Michigan State
- Iowa State
Harry Potter Movies
We’ll do the books next week.
- Harry Potter And The Chamber of Secrets
- Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone
- Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows (Part 2)
- Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire
- Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban
- Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince
- Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix
- Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows (Part 1)
Something Vaguely Basketball Related You Should Have Seen By Now
“Fish meat is basically a vegetable.”
Games To Watch This Week
NCAA: #6 Oklahoma vs #8 Villanova (7 PM/FS1)
Woah! What did we do to deserve this game? Everyone stay on your best behavior today to make sure it still happens.
NBA: Warriors at Pacers (7PM/NBATV)
NCAA: #20 West Virginia vs #10 Virginia (7 PM/ESPN at MSG in New York), Florida at #21 Miami (7 PM/ESPN2), #2 Maryland vs UConn (9:30/ESPN at MSG in New York),
NBA: Bulls at Celtics (7PM/ESPN)
NCAA: Dayton at #19 Vanderbilt (9 PM/ESPNU)
NBA: Clippers at Bulls (8 PM/TNT)
NCAA: Iowa at #5 Iowa State (7:30/ESPN2)
NBA: Heat at Pacers (7 PM/ESPN)
NBA: Spurs at Hawks (8PM/NBATV)
NCAA: Ohio State at UConn (Noon, CBS), Marquette at Wisconsin (1:30/ESPN2), Arizona State at #1 Kentucky (3:15/ESPN), Utah at Wichita State (3:30/ESPN2), St. Mary’s at Cal (3:30/PAC12), #9 UNC at Texas (5:15/ESPN), Florida at #3 Michigan State (6 PM/ESPN2), UCLA at #13 Gonzaga (10 PM/ESPN2)
NCAA: LSU at Houston (5:30/ESPN2), Alabama at Clemson (wait this is basketball? don’t watch this)
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.)
Header Image via Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Shane McNichol is the founder, editor, and writer at PalestraBack.com. He has also contributed to SALTMoney.org, Rush The Court, and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @OnTheShaneTrain. If you have any suggestions, tips, ideas, or questions, email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.