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
The biggest story centers around the biggest game this week. UCLA did the near impossible, beating a top-ranked Kentucky at Rupp Arena. The Bruins hung 97 points on the Wildcats, with an entire afternoon of crisp offense and open shots. That’s been their M.O. this season, with the nation’s 8th best assist rate leading to the 3rd best 2-point percentage and 3rd best 3-point percentage. Lonzo Ball is the headliner, leading UCLA and the nation in assists, but the rest of UCLA did more than pitch in. Six Bruins scored in double figures, including freshman TJ Leaf who showed flashes of brilliance while posting 17 points and 13 rebounds.
UCLA’s win spoke volumes about the team Steve Alford has built in Westwood. Beyond the successes of Ball and Leaf, UCLA relies on contributions from Steve’s sharpshooting son Bryce Alford, junior big man Thomas Welsh, and suber-sub (and sibling) Aaron Holiday. The Bruins sit at 9-0, with wins over Kentucky, Texas A&M, and the Nebrasketballers. Now they get both Ohio State and Michigan over the next two weeks, before starting conference play at Oregon. If they are still undefeated by New Year’s Eve, watch out. We knew Duke, Kansas, Villanova and Kentucky would be great, but someone else was bound to rise and join that group. After what we saw this week, it might be UCLA.
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.
With the Christmas shopping season underway, I’ve been getting a lot of weird advertisements in my internet browsers. A fairly large subset of these ads are unusual t-shirts for popular college basketball teams.
What an oddly small and specific target market. Just how many Michigan State supporting chiropractors actually exist? If there are any, the sound they’d make when they found this shirt would be heard from space. Speaking of shirts appealing to an odd venn diagram:
For those who love Harry Potter and Kansas basketball AND need you to know both of those things simultaneously. And finally:
A shirt about the movie Cinderella from the school least likely to be considered a Cinderella in March.
All the pieces and posts you need to read to be on the ball.
Palestra Back this week: Looking for college basketball players to watch? I gave three suggestions on Friday.
(And PB shirts are still on sale! Grab one for the holidays.)
Rush the Court: I made my season debut at RTC, looking at the top of the Big Ten and their chances at a #1 seed.
Chris Ballard’s profile of former Sixers GM Sam Hinkie was lots of fun.
Markelle Fultz could be the top pick in next year’s draft, so why not read this nice breakdown from Johnathan Tjarks.
I am all in on any blog post titled “This James Harden Post Made Me Fall Out Of My Chair”, especially from the fantastic Mike Prada of SBNation.
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.
- Golden State Warriors
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- San Antonio Spurs
- Toronto Raptors
- LA Clippers
- OKC Thunder
- Boston Celtics
- Houston Rockets
- Milwaukee Bucks
- Ice Cream
- Angel Food
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:
Warriors at Clippers, Wednesday at 10:30 PM ET (on ESPN)
The Clippers started hot this season and have sunk back to Earth recently. ESPN’s Zach Lowe recently deep dove into the Clippers current situation, determining that this could be their last run with their current core, and potentially the best position that core has ever been in. They may not have a better chance to win with this group again, yet the Warriors stand in the way. The Dubs have started to figure some things out, making the Clippers path to a title even tougher. If LA is going to give Golden State a run in the playoffs, they can start that quest with a big statement win on Wednesday.
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. (Last week 2-1 / Season 3-2)
UConn (+9) vs Syracuse at Madison Square Garden
Under 170 in the Iowa-Stetson game
Sixers (+4.5) over the Nuggets
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Header image via Joe Robbins (Getty Images)