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
Football season is dead. Welcome to basketball, casual sports fans!
While you were away, we’ve been having lots of fun. This weekend, six of the top ten teams in college basketball lost. If you haven’t been paying attention or yesterday sent you into a beer and buffalo-wing-induced-memory-loss-coma, let’s do a little refresh:
Gonzaga is #1 and undefeated.
Now, I know what you’e saying.
“Who have they played?”
I understand your concerns. The Zags’ schedule ranks 118th hardest in the nation, with the West Coast Conference in a bit of a down year. They have, however, amassed some quality wins this season. Only five teams in American have collected more wins against the RPI top 50 as Gonzaga and no other team has played at least six games against the top 50 without losing one. The Zags have won at least one game in the NCAA Tournament in six straight years, reaching the second weekend the last two. The mid-major kings have still yet to reach the Final Four, and this could be the year, as this might be Mark Few’s best Zags team ever.
Kentucky is Kentucky, Kansas is Kansas, Wisconsin is Wisconsin, Virginia is Virginia, Louisville is Louisville, West Virginia is West Virginia, and Butler is Butler.
Picture in your head each of the teams listed above. Think about the kind of players they have and what that means for their style of play. Got an idea in mind for all seven? You are pretty much 99% correct on all of them. Things aren’t always as they seem in college basketball, but if you’re playing catch-up on this season, you’d be pretty accurate to start with that assessment and build on it in February and March.
Throw your East Coast Bias in the trash!
On top of Gonzaga’s great season, three Pac-12 teams are among the country’s best. Arizona, Oregon, and UCLA are all Final Four contenders with All-Americans on their rosters. The Ducks have taken care of business at home and, when healthy and in sync, are as good as anyone. The same would have been said of Arizona before the Wildcats got absolutely DRUBBED by Oregon this weekend. Let’s hope it’s a fluke because this Arizona team is good enough to contend for a national championship. UCLA is the most fun of the three, sporting America’s best offense. Freshman stars Lonzo Ball and TJ Leaf are super exciting, with hot shooting Bryce Alford and the speedy Aaron Holiday making the Bruins lethal in transition.
Coack K missed a few weeks due to back surgery. Grayson Allen got involved in so many “incidents” that it would be inefficient to list them all here. Luke Kennard is the best player on the team. Freshman superstars Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum look like newborn foals at times.
The Blue Devils are still the most talented team in America and will be the scariest 4 or 5 seed in recent memory.
The defending champions would like to remind you that they are the defending champions.
Villanova won it all last year and has won 22 of 24 this season, with both losses coming on the road in conference play. Despite a minor shuffling of faces and their roles, this team is very reminiscent of last year’s Wildcats. Sleep on them at your own expense. Josh Hart is the favorite for National Player of the Year. Jalen Brunson is doing everything for Villanova. Jay Wright’s post-title season swagger knows no bounds.
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.
Malik Monk played a little game of “I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you…”
All the pieces and posts you need to read to be on the ball.
Rush the Court: How will big injuries or suspensions affect teams heading into the tournament?
And PB shirts are still on sale!
Have you heard of Grand Canyon University? The only for-profit university in Division I basketball is building something special in the dessert.
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
- San Antonio Spurs
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Houston Rockets
- Toronto Raptors
- OKC Thunder
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Washington Wizards
- LA Clippers
- Florida State
- North Carolina
- West Virginia
Day After the Super Bowl Office Small Talk
- “I mean, if they’d have just run the dang ball…”
- “I ate and drank too much. I can’t feel my fingers.”
- “I didn’t watch much of the game, but I thought Lady Gaga was…”
- “I actually read on Facebook that…”
- “I would have won a bunch of money in a block pool if he didn’t miss that extra point.”
- (insert comment about the political statement of one/many commercials aired during the game)
- (insert comment about Sexy Mr. Clean)
- “This year’s championship games have been so good!”
- “The commercials stunk. They used to be so funny!”
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:
North Carolina at Duke, Thursday at 8 PM on ESPN
Oregon at UCLA, Thursday at 10 PM on ESPN
ESPN keeps hyping this double-header and they’ve got good reason to do so. On the East Coast, the game’s best rivalry features two uber-talented teams at a crossroads. Carolina is creeping back into the number one seed discussion, while Duke’s season resembles a drunk man juggling chainsaws. Out West, Oregon boasts wins over Arizona and UCLA, heaping them atop the Pac-12, but both wins came amidst the comfy confines of their Eugene home floor. Now they travel to Pauley Pavilion for a taste of UCLA’s high-powered offense. If Vegas finds a number high enough to set as the over-under, these two teams will do their best to top it.
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 1-2/ Season 11-16)
Kansas (-3) over Kansas State: A let down game after the Wildcats big win and a statement game after the Jayhawks home loss.
Virginia (-6) over Louisville: Rick Pitino is without his injured started point guard and then suspended two more starters for missing curfew? The line barely moved after that news, let’s take the Cavs at home to beat this Swiss cheese Louisville lineup.
Grizzlies (+2.5) over Spurs
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.