This Week In Hoops: January 4

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

This weekend was clearly the biggest weekend in this young college basketball season so far, highlighted by the beginning of conference play. Two conferences in particular, by most accounts America’s two best conferences, featured a variety of monster games over the long holiday weekend. The Big East and the Big XII each had four ranked teams entering this week, and all 8 of those teams played games against one another, with two teams facing more than one ranked conference opponent. Eight ranked teams, five huge games. How about a rundown of winners and losers?

Winner: Villanova

The Wildcats offense had been sputtering a tad early on, with shooting percentages dropping faster than winter temperatures. Their regression back towards the mean happened swiftly and aggressively. Nova shot lights out against 6th ranked Xavier, making 51% of their threes and a wild 72% of their twos, and won by nearly 30.

Not satisfied with that win, Villanova went on the road and handily beat Creighton in Omaha. In that game, the Wildcats shooting got even hotter, to historic levels.

This Villanova team, when shooting poorly, is a good team. When shooting this well, they are terrifying.

Loser: Butler

By no means facing an easy schedule, the Bulldogs played two games this week while they were ranked #9. They lost to Providence at home and then turned right around and lost at Xavier.

The schedule stays difficult with a trap game at DePaul, followed by a date with Villanova at home. The old transitive property trick can’t be trusted, but if Nova beat Xavier by 29 and Xavier beat Butler by 19, then Villanova will beat Butler by….

colbert calculator

…all of the points?

Winner: Kris Dunn

The National Player of the Year race is wide open. If Kris Dunn wasn’t the front runner, he is now. He led Providence to road wins at Butler and St. John’s this week, notching lines of 20-7-9 and 26-9-6.

My expectations for Dunn are now limitless. All of the following are on the table for him:

  • Carrying the Friars to the Final Four
  • Unanimous Big East Player of the Year
  • Top 5 pick in next June’s NBA Draft
  • Sixers point guard of the future and savior of the city
  • Viable running mate for any 2016 Presidential candidate, regardless of his foreign policy views

Loser: Baylor

The Bears marched into Phog Allen with a chance to knockoff Kansas. They did not. At all. Kansas started the game on a 24-4 run. The final score was 102-74.

Per KenPom’s win probability metrics, Baylor’s highest chance to win was when the score was tied 0-0. It went downhill from there. For visual learners:

baylor kansas
via KenPom.com

NOT GOOD.

Winner: US! Yay!

Thanks to Iowa with a big win over #1 Michigan State, and both Kansas and Oklahoma taking care of business at home, the new poll released today should result in the Jayhawks and Sooners at the top. Which is great, because they are scheduled to play in Lawrence tonight.

It feels early for a #1 vs #2 game, but I’m not complaining. Basketball is back into full swing.

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. 

Heads up!

The Kings are having real problems this season. They haven’t even mastered helping a teammate off the floor:

Division III Elmira College trailed by 3 points with 8 seconds remaining. They won in regulation.

USF (San Fran, not South Florida) had themselves some fun Saturday night. When the Dons took a 16 point lead against Gonzaga, this “Guy who is confident enough to rock the sleeveless jersey to the game” celebrated in style.

USF DAB BRO

The lead shrunk from there and the Zags were able to tie the game and send it into overtime, which another USF fan was quite happy about:

Gonzaga won in overtime.

Essential Reading

All the pieces and posts you need to read to be on the ball. 

Palestra Back this week: A look into early hot names for the 2016 NBA Draft

More from me, at Rush The Court: The Big East is alive and well. Long live the Big East!

ESPN’s CL Brown detailed how we now have our 4th #1 team this season, but can expect many more to come.

Two years ago, there appeared to be two teams at the NBA’s bottom, the Sixers and Suns. The Sixers performed as expected and have stayed at the bottom for two more years. The Suns played unexpectedly well and even made a run at the playoffs. Two years later, after some puzzling moves, they sit in the dreaded area of mediocrity. Zach Lowe covered the moves that landed them there and the moves that might save them. Important to remember, every NBA conversation can be a Sixers conversation.

Rank Shots

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.

NBA:

  1. Golden State Warriors
  2. San Antonio Spurs
  3. Cleveland Cavaliers
  4. Oklahoma City Thunder
  5. Los Angeles Clippers

College Basketball

  1. Oklahoma
  2. Michigan State (with a healthy Denzel Valentine)
  3. Maryland
  4. Iowa State
  5. Kansas
  6. Virginia
  7. Providence

Kanye West Albums

Warning: hot takes coming.

  1. The College Dropout
  2. Graduation
  3. Watch the Throne
  4. Late Registration
  5. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
  6. 808’s and Heartbreaks
  7. Yeezus

Something Vaguely Basketball Related You Should Have Seen By Now

I don’t expect any of you to watch this entire 42 minute video, but it has to be shared. I recently discovered that the old VHS tape of NBA clips and highlights I watched on a nearly daily basis as a child is on YouTube, in its entirety. You come for dunks and bloopers, you stay for the comedic prowess of the hosts, Marv Albert and former Utah Jazz head coach, Frank Layden. I now understand three or four times as many of their jokes as I did as a first grader!

When things slow down again next summer, expect me to write a 10,000 word breakdown of this tape that none of you will read.

Games To Watch This Week

Monday

NBA: Pacers at Heat (7:30/NBATV)

NCAA: #2 Kansas at #3 Oklahoma (9 PM/ESPN)

As I mentioned earlier, don’t let those rankings fool you. A new poll drops today that should make this a #1 vs #2 matchup. (The only question should be who is #1 and who is #2).

Tuesday

NBA: Warriors at Lakers (10:30/NBATV)

NCAA: Marquette at #12 Providence (7 PM/FS1), #10 Kentucky at LSU (9 PM/ESPN)

Wednesday

NBA: Grizzlies at Thunder (9:30/ESPN)

NCAA: Evansville at Wichita State (8 PM/ESPN3)

Huge game in the Missouri Valley. Almost a must win for the Shockers.

Thursday

NBA: Lakers at Kings is on TNT but like, don’t do that to yourself

NCAA: #22 Cincinnati at #17 SMU (7 PM/ESPN)

#8 Arizona at #25 UCLA (9:30/ESPN2)

Friday

NBA: Watch Cavs at T-Wolves on ESPN at 8 and then turn the TV off before the Thunder-Lakers game starts

NCAA: #21 Utah at Colorado (9 PM/FS1)

Saturday

NCAA: #23 Baylor at #11 Iowa State (3 PM/ESPN2)

Pitt at Notre Dame (4 PM/ESPN3)

Wichita State at Southen Illinois (4 PM/CBSSN)

Quite a few other games that live somewhere between “worth watching” and “worth listing here”, but rest assured, if you want to watch basketball next Saturday, shouldn’t be an issue for you.

Sunday

NBA: You aren’t going to watch Hornets-Nuggets instead of the NFL playoffs?

NCAA: #16 Villanova at #9 Butler (7:30/FS1)

God bless the Big East.

Enjoy the games, folks.

(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 Eric Hartline-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 palestraback@gmail.com.

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