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
We’re stuck deep in the middle of conference tournament mayhem. And while I don’t subscribe to the basketball junkie opinion that the conference tournaments are more fun than March Madness itself, we’re still in a great time for hoops. That being said, let’s run through who has the most at stake this week.
The Zags haven’t missed the tournament once in their entire run from being Cinderella darlings to finding their place among the mid-major elites. The last Zag-free tourney was 1998, when I was in the second grade.
They play BYU tonight with a chance to bolster their resume. A win doesn’t get them in, but it certainly solidifies their spot on the bubble. Lose that game or the title tilt, and Mark Few could miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time as a head coach. So many of the preseason questions about the fit of Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis will be brought back to reality. The young Gonzaga guards will have failed to step into the shoes of Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell. The trajectory of the program could be at stake, with Sabonis considering the Draft and Wiltjer and other rotation mainstays set to graduate.
Or they could win the WCC crown and forget I ever wrote anything like that.
Indiana and Michigan State
In normal years, the Big Ten champion is almost all but guaranteed a number one seed. This year is no normal season. Both the Hoosiers and Sparty have been great, but each is weighed down by a few losses they wish never happened. Should either coast through the tournament in Indianapolis this week, they would jump back in to the top seed line conversation. If either or both stumbles, they are looking at two or three seeds, with the potential of losing any geographic advantage they might have hoped for.
Speaking of which, the Wildcats need to win the Big East Tournament to lock up a top seed and play in the Philadelphia based regional. Xavier and a host of others will stand in their way, but at least Jay Wright and crew control their own destiny.
One of the most intriguing teams this week for so many reasons. An early exit at the ACC Tournament could doom Duke to a 5 or 6 seed come Selection Sunday. Make a run or even win the conference tournament and the path becomes a ton easier. For a team with worries about depth and size, locking up an easier path to the Sweet 16 is crucial.
LSU/Johnny Jones/Ben Simmons
What are the consequences for missing the tournament for each of them?
For the school and the program, sitting out the dance with the top recruit and one of the nation’s most talented players is an embarrassment. The chances of parlaying Simmons success into more recruiting wins seems unlikely. We all know Simmons will leave for the draft, but should he have lit the world on fire in March, recruits could have looked to follow his footsteps in Baton Rouge.
And a large part of why he won’t dominate the bracket: head coach Johnny Jones has been a mess. Is missing the tournament with Ben Simmons on the roster a fireable offense? He did convince Simmons to come to LSU, which has resulted in ESPN all but creating a new network called “ESPN 12: It’s Just LSU Basketball”. I don’t think he gets fired, but someone has to be whispering about it.
For Simmons, how bad is missing out on March? If Brandon Ingram has a killer tournament, how close does the gap between the two become? I’d still rank Simmons ahead (this is not a unanimous opinion anymore, mind you), though the idea that Ingram could be selected ahead of Simmons no longer sounds like a pie-in-the-sky fantasy. If that is going to happen, it probably starts with LSU heading to the NIT.
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.
Andre Drummond had an adorable moment with a young fan.
James Harden’s Defense: Literally No Better Than A Cardboard Cut-Out!
All the pieces and posts you need to read to be on the ball.
Palestra Back this week: Maps are confusing, especially around March Madness. I did my best to explain how geography will play a part in the bracketing process this year.
More from me, at Rush The Court: Bid thieves are out there, but which teams and leagues are capable of a caper?
David Roth’s catch-up with Delonte West is worth your time.
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
- Toronto Raptors
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Michigan State
- North Carolina
- Texas A&M
Weeks on the Basketball Calendar
- NCAA Tournament, Week 1
- NCAA Tournament, Week 2
- Conference Tournaments (This week!)
- NCAA Tournament, Final Four and Championship
- NBA Draft Week
- Conference Tournaments, smaller version (Last week)
- NBA Finals, Part 2
- NBA Playoffs, Round 1
- NBA Conference Finals
- NBA Finals, Part 1
- NBA Trade Deadline
- Big Ten-ACC Challenge
Something Vaguely Basketball Related You Should Have Seen By Now
Shootin’s for show-offs.
Games To Watch This Week
NBA: Grizzlies at Cavs (7 PM/NBATV)
MAAC Championship (Iona-Monmouth again!…7PM/ESPN)
WCC Semifinals (BYU-Gonzaga at 11:30 on ESPN2)
Southern Conference and CAA Championships
NEC, Horizon, and Summit Championships
ACC 1st Round Games
WCC Championship (It’s bid or the bubble for the top three in this league…9 PM/ESPN)
NBA: Clippers at Thunder (9:30/ESPN)
ACC 2nd Round Games
1st Rounds for the A-10, Big XII, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-12, and SEC
Patriot League Championship
NBA: Bulls at Spurs (8 PM/TNT)
Quarterfinals for the ACC, Big XII, Big East, and Pac-12
2nd Round Games for the A-10, Big Ten, and SEC
One of the most fun days of the basketball year. Big East quarters at MSG never fails to amaze.
Semifinals for the ACC, Big XII, Big East, and Pac-12
Quarterfinals for the A-10, Big Ten, SEC, and AAC
NBA: Thunder at Spurs (8:30/ABC)
14 CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES! (MEAC, MAC, ACC, C-USA, SWAC, Big Sky, Big XII, Big East, Mtn. West, Pac-12, Southland, Big West, and WAC)
Semifinals for the A-10, Big Ten, SEC, and AAC
NBA: Cavs at Clippers (3:30/ABC)
NCAA: FIVE CHAMPIONSHIPS (A-10, Big Ten, SEC, AAC, Sun Belt)
For all conference tournament game days, check out this handy spreadsheet from our friends at Rush the Court.
Brackets Reveal Show (6 PM/CBS)
Thinking About the Bracket Until Your Brain Melts (7 PM- ???)
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 Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Shane McNichol is the founder, editor, and writer at PalestraBack.com. He has also contributed to SALTMoney.org, Rush The Court, ESPN.com, and USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @OnTheShaneTrain. If you have any suggestions, tips, ideas, or questions, email them to email@example.com.