This Week In Hoops: November 21

Hey, everyone! Welcome back to basketball season. This is our weekly check-in to all things basketball, across the entire landscape. If something happens on the hardwood, you’ll hear about it every Monday morning, right here.  

THE BIGGEST STORY IN BASKETBALL

biid-3s

This may be in part to the echo chamber I’ve created for myself on Twitter and in my personal life, but for my money, there is no bigger story in the early basketball season than Joel Embiid.

His stats, in the restricted time he’s played, for a rookie center, have been fantastic. For a guy who hasn’t played in two and a half years, they are astounding. When you consider how little time he spent playing basketball before injuries derailed his progress, his season has been otherwordly.

He’s averaging 29.5 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 3.6 blocks per 36 minutes. The 76ers have been 14 points better per 100 possessions with Embiid on the floor. He’s attempting 3.6 three pointers per 36 minutes AND MAKING HALF OF THEM.

The flashes of athleticism and coordination (given his monstrous size) have been just as tantalizing as the numbers on the page. Despite occasional lapses in judgment, Embiid appears to the complete package for a modern day NBA center. He defends the paint and cleans the glass. He stretches opposing defenses to the arc, while commanding a double team on the post.

When the Sixers add another player capable of demanding multiple defenders’ attention, Embiid’s life will only get easier. Without needing to force something on offense, his turnover issue should subside. Not to mention, he’ll be able to count on quite a few dump-off dunks or open pick-and-pop jumpers.

It just so happens the Sixers have a certain Australian ball-handler set to return later this season. Philadelphia basketball is about to turn from fun to can’t miss television.


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. 

As I’ve shown before, I have a real affinity for weird early season college basketball match-ups. Nothing beats scanning the scores from the previous night and seeing a school that can’t possibly be real. Here’s the funniest of what we’ve seen this season:

lewis-and-clark

A decent showing for two guys have been dead for over 150 years.

kokomo

IU-Kokomo actually runs a nice little offense. They get their fast, and then they take it slow.

fdu

Wait one second. Did Fairleigh Dickinson schedule a game against one of its own satellite schools? After a quick Google, I can confirm that Fairleigh Dickson does actually have a satellite school and yes, they did schedule and wallop them.

blue-mountain

It’s pretty easy when you play a fictional school from a TV show.

miss-college

I believe you’d recognize Mississippi College by its more common name, “New Miss”.

life-pacific

Did…did Pepperdine schedule a game against a local branch of an insurance agency? Regardless, I’ll take this as an excuse to listen to WHALE JAMZ. Hell yeah.

panhandle

Top of the head guesses at the most popular majors at Panhandle State: NASCAR History, Alligator Studies, and Above-Ground Pool Maintenance.

mars

When scholars write the history of the Space Race, they’ll note that NASA reached the moon first to plant a flag in the name of mankind, while USC-Upstate landed on Mars first, to win a basketball game soundly and make peace with other life forms.


ESSENTIAL READING

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

Palestra Back this week: Last week we examined some issues for college basketball teams with early losses.

We also announced that shirts are for sale! Buy one!

Jonathan Tjarks’ breakdown of Domantas Sabonis and his transition from college center to NBA stretch four is well worth your time.


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 another totally irrelevant something.

NBA:

  1. Golden State Warriors
  2. Cleveland Cavaliers
  3. San Antonio Spurs
  4. Toronto Raptors
  5. LA Clippers
  6. Atlanta Hawks
  7. OKC Thunder

College Basketball

  1. Villanova
  2. Duke
  3. Kansas
  4. Kentucky
  5. Oregon
  6. Arizona
  7. Xavier
  8. Arizona
  9. UNC
  10. Indiana

Reasons to Love Thanksgiving

  1. Food
  2. Autumn weather
  3. It’s a Thursday!
  4. Football
  5. Desperately needed off time between Labor Day and the end of year holidays
  6. Leftover food
  7. No gifts, just fun
  8. Gratitude is good?

Game of the Week

For the past two seasons, I’d list out every single game worth watching in this space. It took me a lot of time and effort to do something you didn’t really need. You can head over to your favorite scores website or app to see every game, but this is the one you’ll have wished you watched:

Maui Invitational Championship Game, Wednesday at 9:30 on ESPN

maui

If we’re lucky, we’ll see North Carolina take on either Oregon or Wisconsin. Sign me up for either (and if I’m getting greedy, I’ll take Ducks-Badgers on Tuesday night too). Goofy stuff happens in the Maui Bracket every year, but we’ve all been good boys and girls this year. We deserve some good hoops the night before Turkey Day. If you’re stuck at a faux-high school reunion at a hometown bar, this would be a lovely distraction.


Best Bets

I’m not a gambling man, and wouldn’t recommend you are either, but since this blog began, I’ve been asked for gambling advice just as often as I’ve been asked about my genuine basketball opinion. Even if I don’t have any money in the game, I watch a lot of hoops and might just be able to pick you some winners. 

Kansas (-18) over UAB on Monday

Texas (-2) over Northwestern on Monday

Two futures to kick off the season: Indiana (+575) to win the Big 10 and Xavier (+355) to win the Big East. Nothing fun about betting against favorites like Michigan State and Villanova, but there’s value to be found behind them.


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.)

***

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 palestraback@gmail.com.

Header image viaAP Photo/Chris Szagola

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