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
There’s a bit of a dirty secret about the opening months of the college basketball season.
(leans in close)
(checks to make sure no one is looking)
Everyone is playing really easy schedules so far.
Sure, we’ve had our fun matchups in the B1G-ACC Challenge and at all of the tournaments and showcases, but the quality of the team you play is only a piece of the difficulty you face.
Scheduling good teams is a great way to test your team. Scheduling them all at home, or at cushy neutral sites, is a bit of a different ball game.
Winning on the road in college basketball always proves to be valuable. RPI and other metrics give it more weight and the committee always rewards teams more for road wins. But in the first several weeks of play, you just don’t see many teams stick their necks out to schedule true away games (true meaning in the other school’s building, not at a neutral site).
So far, the 25 teams ranked in the AP Poll have played only 28 true road games against quality competition.
And they’ve lost almost half of them.
We all know it’s tough to win away from home. That’s no surprise, but the degree to which teams struggle can sometimes be forgotten. The crop of teams listed above have only lost 28 total games.
When you include road games against teams outside the top 100, the nation’s best teams lose about one-third of their games on the road, compared to a measly one-tenth of their games at home or on neutral courts. Conference play begins this week, with a boatload of top teams boarding planes and buses to big games away from home. Now the real chaos begins.
(Fun note for those looking for more reasons to hate Duke: They will be the top 25 team to go the longest without playing a true road game. Their first is next Saturday at Boston College. The won’t play a KenPom top 50 team on the road until their 21st game this season, at Miami on January 25.)
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.
When your teammate throws down a big dunk, you’ve got to celebrate. Trevor Booker knows this.
Florida walk-on Zach Hodskins made a nifty little right handed scoop shot, which is notable because Zach doesn’t have a left hand.
If you think he’s some sort of charity case or they let him score, you haven’t seen his high school highlight tape. It’s incredible.
All the pieces and posts you need to read to be on the ball.
I ranked the ten best games of the 2015 calendar year here at the blog.
I also went deep into Duke’s lack of depth over at Rush the Court.
SBNation’s Tom Ziller detailed the ugly, no good, disgusting race for the 8th playoff spot in the Western Conference.
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
- San Antonio Spurs
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Michigan State
- Iowa State
I will never stop feeling bad for non-Philadelphians. Step your meats game up.
- Pork Roll
- Canadian Bacon
Something Vaguely Basketball Related You Should Have Seen By Now
YouTube comment sections never disappoint.
Games To Watch This Week
NBA: Raptors at Bulls (8 PM/NBATV)
NCAA: Davidson at Cal (9 PM/PAC12)
NBA: Bucks at Thunder (8 PM/NBATV)
NCAA: Temple at #22 Cincinnati (3 PM/ESPN2)
#18 SMU at Tulsa (5 PM/ESPN2)
#14 Purdue at Wisconsin (7 PM/BTN)
UConn at Texas (9 PM/ESPN2)
#1 Michigan State at Iowa (9 PM/BTN)
NBA: The best game of an ugly national slate is Wizards at Raptors (7:30/NBATV)
NCAA: Syracuse at Pitt (9 PM/ESPN2)
Thursday (New Year’s Eve)
NCAA: #6 Xavier at #17 Villanova (Noon/FS1)
#10 Providence at #9 Butler (2:30/CBSSN)
Not many worthwhile games Thursday night, probably to avoid competing with the football playoff games, but if you don’t have to work in the afternoon, there are some beauties in the Big East.
Friday (New Year’s Day)
NBA: 76ers at Lakers (10:30/who cares)
NCAA: #24 Utah at Stanford (9 PM/PAC12)
NBA: Rockets at Spurs (8:30/NBATV)
NCAA: #9 Butler at #6 Xavier (1 PM/FS1)
Syracuse at #13 Miami (2:30/ESPN3)
#1 Michigan State at Minnesota (3 PM/ESPN2)
#23 Baylor at #2 Kansas (4 PM/CBS)
Notre Dame at #5 Virginia (5 PM/ESPN2)
#11 Iowa State at #3 Oklahoma (7 PM/ESPN2)
#4 Maryland at Northwestern (8 PM/BTN)
LSU at Vanderbilt (9 PM/ESPN2)
The most sneakily interesting game on that list: #4 Maryland goes on the road to face a 12-1 Northwestern team. The Wildcats only loss came to top ten ranked UNC, but their wins are all not so great. The best team they’ve beaten according to the KenPom rankings? #128 Columbia.
NCAA: #8 Arizona at Arizona State (2 PM/FS1)
#24 Utah at Cal (7:30/PAC12)
Enjoy the games and have a happy New Year.
(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 Streeter Lecka.
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.