This Week In Hoops: January 2

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

With apologies to Villanova, who collected a monster win and is discussed later in this post, the story of the week was the upheaval of the ACC’s top tier. Everyone knew the ACC would have a historically great season, but there was still an expectation that the cream of the crop was a half step above the middle of the pack. The first week of conference play took that idea and tossed it right in the trash. Let’s run through the conference’s headlines from this week:

Virginia Tech trips up Duke: I still think Duke is easily the most talented team in America, but the past week was troublesome. The Blue Devils’ best scorer, Grayson Allen, had a meltdown and was suspended and stripped of his captaincy. Then the Dukies went to Blacksburg and got flat-out smoked. Buzz Williams is building something nice at Virginia Tech and now has the attention of the entire ACC.

Duke’s troubles were expanded Monday afternoon when it was announced Coach K would undergo back surgery and take a leave of absence. The most talented team in the country with question marks about injuries and chemistry just had the greatest living basketball coach step away from the locker room. That sound you just heard was the entire Raleigh-Durham area collectively gulping.

Georgia Tech upsets UNC: The Yellow Jackets beat the Tar Heels for the first time ever at Hank McCamish Pavilion, WHICH HAS BEEN TECH’S HOME GYM SINCE 2010. That is not the kind of streak you want hanging over your head at home and may have been the first step for the Jackets to win an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

BC topples Syracuse: A tale of teams headed in different directions. I fully expected the Eagles to go winless across the ACC again this season and search for another coach to solve their basketball woes. Not so, with back to back wins against Northeast foes Providence and Syracuse. Ky Bowman has been a revelation, averaging 26 points and 5 assists in BC’s last three contests. Meanwhile, the Orange are in a bit of a freefall. Life without Michael Gbinije and Malachi Richardson has been tough for Jim Boeheim, who’s team has now lost games to four rival schools (BC, UConn, Georgetown, and St. John’s). Expectations were heaped upon sophomore Tyler Lydon who has not been able to shoulder the load as a primary option. Syracuse appears to be NIT bound, at best.

Virginia beats Louisville, but loses to Florida State: The Hoos won the battle of America’s two best defensive teams, simply because no one out defends Virginia. Later in the week, however, Florida State joined Virginia Tech in crashing the ACC party. The Seminoles are obscenely talented, led by Dwayne Bacon who scored 29 and hit the game-winning jumper against UVA. The teams projected at the middle and bottom of the ACC standings would like you to re-consider and made their presence known this week.


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 no TWIH last week, we missed plenty of fun things around the basketball world, but there’s two in particular that need to be highlighted. First up, if you missed Joel Embiid and DeMarcus Cousins having a butt slap battle, you need to rectify that mistake:

Also, an Auburn player tried to sneak into Georgia’s huddle and…was welcomed with open arms:

ESSENTIAL READING

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

Palestra Back this week: Since the last This Week In Hoops, we’ve covered college basketball’s unbeatens, the beastly Baylor Bears, and searched for Nerlens Noel trades.

And PB shirts are still on sale! Including this one, in tribute to my alma mater (who have won a bowl game and beaten Syracuse since the shirt went for sale!!).

bc-tee

Rush the Court: As conference play kicked off, I dove into the Big XII’s bubble teams.

 If you didn’t read the New York Times profile of Steve Kerr, I highly recommend it, especially if, like me, you are too young to know his family’s story.

And if you already have your eyes on June’s draft, check out the DraftExpress breakdown of Josh Jackson’s passing.


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. Houston Rockets
  6. Houston Rockets
  7. LA Clippers
  8. OKC Thunder

College Basketball

  1. Villanova
  2. Gonzaga
  3. Baylor
  4. Duke
  5. Oregon
  6. Creighton
  7. Kansas
  8. UCLA
  9. Virginia
  10. West Virginia
  11. Louisville
  12. Arizona
  13. Xavier
  14. Wisconsin
  15. UNC
  16. Purdue
  17. Indiana
  18. Butler

Albums Released in 2016

A list of music that I like, and you may or may not also enjoy.

  1. “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth” – Sturgill Simpson
  2. “The Education of a Wandering Man” – Jamestown Revival
  3. “Cleopatra” – The Lumineers
  4. “Cold Snap” – Anthony D’Amato
  5. “A Little Something More From” – Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats
  6. “Coloring Book” – Chance the Rapper
  7. “Midwestern Famer’s Daughter” – Margo Price
  8. “Everybody Wants” – The Struts
  9. “American Football” – American Football
  10. “Pawn Shop” – Brothers Osbourne
  11. “Breakfast” – Lawrence
  12. “HERO” – Maren Morris
  13. “WALLS” – Kings of Leon

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:

Villanova at Butler, Wednesday at 6:30 on FS1

The Wildcats come charging into Hinkle Fieldhouse after their win at Creighton. The defending national champions may have the two most impressive wins in all of Division I this season, after the Creighton win and beating Purdue in West Lafayette earlier in the year.  This week, they get a fiesty Butler team who could cause some trouble. Andrew Chrabascz  could give Villanova fits. His ability as a passer, scorer, and playmaker at the power forward spot makes Butler’s offense tick and the Wildcats may not have anyone capable of containing him. If he’s effective, we’ll have a game on our hands.


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. (Last week 1-4…yikes / Season 7-9)

Northeastern (-3.5) over Drexel: In need of some wins after a brutal week last time out, let’s take the Huskies on the road in what is sure to be an empty Daskalakis Athletic Center in University City.

UNDER 114.5 total points in Delaware-College of Charleston: CoC isn’t bad and should win on the road, but it’s the tempo of this game we care about. Both teams are among the 25 slowest in the nation. Even though the average Blue Hen game is topping this number, they’ll match the 328th ranked offense against the 29th ranked defense. That and a slow pace smells like a 58-50 game to me.

Knicks (-4) over Magic: Orlando lost last night in Indianapolis and travels to MSG, so we’re betting on the Knicks? WE’RE BETTING ON THE KNICKS.


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.

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