There were 1,121 games between Division-I teams in December. Here are the wildest things that happened during the month:
3. December 31: #154 Georgia Tech 75, #4 North Carolina 63 (6.8%) It’s rare that you get a home upset in this section, but the Yellow Jackets were pretty large underdogs against UNC even while enjoying whatever home-court advantage currently exists in college hoops. The Tar Heels scored just 0.81 points per possession, which was easily their worst output of the season, and their most pathetic performance over their last 63 games against Division-I teams. We should acknowledge Josh Pastner’s ability to coach up a defense. Tech ranks 49th in adjusted defensive efficiency at the moment, continuing a trend for Pastner where his teams are solid on the defensive end regardless of talent level.
2. December 11: #345 Savannah St. 93, #174 Oregon St. 90 (OT) (3.9%) We’ll never know if Savannah State would have been better if they were still playing Horace Broadnax’s defense-heavy possession-sparse basketball. But for one night, it all came together. True, the Tigers knocked off the worst power-conference team playing without its star player, and they did by playing at a conventional pace. The 74 possessions were the fewest in a Tigers’ game this season, even with the extra five minutes of action.
1. December 6: #240 Florida Atlantic 79, #24 Ohio St. 77 (OT) (2.8%) The Buckeyes haven’t lived up to their lofty preseason rating on this site, though they were fooling a few people until this game. With Keita Bates-Diop back in the lineup, Ohio State coughed up an 11-point lead in the final ten minutes and fell in overtime to the Owls. This wasn’t some sort of breakout game for FAU, either. They’ve since lost each of their three contests against D-I teams, most recently a 69-54 loss at home to #215 Western Kentucky.
3. December 6: #240 Florida Atlantic 79, #24 Ohio St. 77 (OT) (0.8%) This was a back-and-forth game until Ohio State went on an 8-0 run to take a 58-47 lead with 9:32 left. But FAU and its 256th-ranked offense responded with a 14-0 run to take a three-point lead. The Buckeyes even scored the first four points in overtime, but couldn’t protect that lead either, and Nick Rutherford’s runner with a second left gave the Owls the win.
2. December 30: #299 Seattle 80, #251 UC Santa Barbara 76 (0.5%) A three-pointer by Max Heidegger gave UCSB a 69-49 lead with 9:37 left. But 12 of the next 13 Gaucho possessions would result in zero points and in the meantime, Seattle was scoring at will, producing a 25-2 run to take a three-point lead. The Redhawks would hold on for the victory and continue a pretty miserable season for Santa Barbara, who suffered its tenth loss in 11 games against D-I teams. Ah well, you’re still located in Santa Barbara, so things can’t be that bad.
1. December 3: #286 Abilene Christian 85, #294 Charleston Southern 82 (OT) (0.3%) Cortez Mitchell’s bucket with 1:20 left gave CSU a 72-63 lead with 1:20 to go. But then the Buccaneers couldn’t stop fouling. Abilene’s closing 11-2 run was fueled by six free throws and finished off by Jovan Crnic’s three-pointer with a second left which forced overtime. The Bucs would own a six-point lead in the extra period, but that didn’t last, either, and Abilene Christian prevailed in the least-likely comeback of December.
December 28: #159 UNC Greensboro 95, #313 The Citadel 87 [90 possessions] The Citadel head coach Duggar Baucom is on the way his third-consecutive adjusted-tempo title and sixth of his career. They don’t make trophies for that but they should. Anyone out there want to make a trophy?
December 28: #53 Houston 62, #83 Connecticut 46  Presumably, the nadir for UConn’s season occurred in the first half of this game when the Huskies were outscored 36-12 while attempting 21 field goals and making three of them. It’s not a good sign when garbage time begins at the half. Nor it is good when your field goal count at halftime is 50% of the number of languages that your starting center speaks. UConn is on track for its first losing season since Jim Calhoun’s initial season in Storrs. A fact I hesitate to mention because Kevin Ollie put together a fairly challenging non-conference schedule. Ollie could have scheduled a bunch of 300+ teams and limited the criticism from the simpletons who only care about won-loss record.
December 19: #237 UMBC 120, #317 The Citadel 111 (2OT)  Did you know? UMBC has not posted double-digit wins since the 2009 season which was also the last season the Retrievers finished in the top 300. Well, first-year head coach Ryan Odom is fixing to change that. UMBC is off to a 9-4 start which includes blowing late leads to Richmond and Towson. America East conference play starts on Thursday and when you’re preparing for your local America East regular-season Calcutta, don’t be afraid to take a flyer on UMBC if you get a cheap price.
December 11: #291 Saint Louis 45, #338 Chicago St. 43  This is a score that wouldn’t have been surprising when Rick Majerus or Jim Crews was coaching Saint Louis, but not with Travis Ford there! OK, maybe I just can’t shake the UMass version of Travis Ford. That was two jobs ago and Ford has not been interested in playing uptempo basketball for a few years. The Billikens are slightly below average in pace, but very below average in offensive ability. And if you can’t score against Chicago State, you better be working overtime on the recruiting trail trying to find people that can get buckets. The Cougars have played 14 games against D-I foes and allowed .75 points per possession to Saint Louis while not holding any other opponent below 1.04.
#4 West Virginia. The Mountaineers should be one of the bigger stories in college hoops right now. But people want to wait for quality wins and all that. WVU has only played four top 100 opponents and one of those was a loss to a Temple team that needs to do a lot of work to make the NCAA tournament. But this isn’t 1965. We don’t have to wait for the morning paper two days from now to get scores from the west coast and we have fancy computer ratings that can help judge a team based on a few results.
Bob Huggins’ crew is ranked fourth in my system and first in other reputable ratings. Wait for those quality wins all you want, but based on information we have now you don’t have to cast a very wide net for potential Final Four teams to include West Virginia in the discussion. Those quality wins will come in time. Of course, a few losses will come, too. WVU plays in the Big 12 (and has a non-conference game against Texas A&M) and there aren’t any easy games in the conference slate.
True, the Mountaineers’ December was a boring parade of buy games, but those were bookended by convincing wins at Virginia and Oklahoma State, and who’s got two better true road wins than that? That the Mountaineers defensive turnover percentage leads the country by five percentage is a credit to their pressure defense but also a bunch of overmatched opponents. That’s not going to hold up in conference play, but the defense will still be a pain to quality teams, as Oklahoma State and Virginia fans observed. (Others: 2. #65 Tennessee, 3. #156 Portland St., 4. #160 Northern Kentucky, 5. #158 Canisius)
#338 Southern Miss. It was only five seasons ago that Southern Miss made the NCAA tournament as a nine-seed. And three seasons ago the team won 29 games and shared a Conference USA regular-season title in the last season of the ill-fated Donnie Tyndall era. Doc Sadler is in his third season in Hattiesburg and undoubtedly some of the issues with the program stem from a NCAA investigation that loomed since Tyndall left. But regardless, things are pretty awful right now.
The Golden Eagles have gone 3-10 to start the season which is really 1-10 when you rightfully ignore non-Division-I games. And nine of those ten losses have been by double-digits. Southern Miss isn’t loaded with basketball tradition, but never before have they been completely incompetent in men’s hoops. They currently sit at #341 largely due to an offense ranked fourth-worst in country. (Others: 2. #48 Syracuse1, 3. #335 Lafayette, 4. #230 Stephen F. Austin, 5. #42 Ohio State)
|^1||This only considers performance in December. The Boston College loss is not included.|