This is a weekly digest documenting the biggest upsets, craziest comebacks, and Alan Williams news of the past
seven 14 days.
These teams have been reading some Malcolm Gladwell lately. Yes, David can beat Goliath on occasion.
3. Illinois-Chicago 74, San Diego 70 (9%), Nov. 26. UIC had previously lost by 20 at home to Eastern Illinois. San Diego has since taken New Mexico and San Diego State to the wire in consecutive games. But in the first round of Gulf Coast Showcase, the only thing that was showcased was how unpredictable college basketball can be sometimes. For the Toreros, it was the most disappointing performance in a showcase since this. (box)
2. Fairleigh Dickinson 73, Rutgers 72 (4%), Nov. 26. Fairleigh Dickinson made its pitch for upset-of-the-year by knocking off Rutgers on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. It’s true that Rutgers is not very good this season. To date, they have three wins over DIvision-I teams, and the best of those is a one point victory over Yale at home. In addition, they were playing without starting forward Kadeem Jack. But FDU was in serious consideration for being the worst non-Grambling team in the country. They had not won a Division-I game to this point, including losses to Hofstra by 22, Hartford by 14, and D-II Metro State by 11. (box)
1. Fairleigh Dickinson 58, Seton Hall 54 (3%), Monday. Just let me know when you’re done, FDU. The Knights weren’t satisfied with winning as an 18-point underdog, so they did it as a 20-point underdog the very next game. Like Rutgers, the Hall isn’t necessarily on a path for an at-large selection. However, to this point, they had played respectably, beating Virginia Tech and giving up a late lead to Oklahoma the previous weekend. The Pirates made Rutgers look like a second-rate outfit from the American. Sidney Sanders, Jr., who has suddenly become the Russ Smith of the NEC, went for 25, and a lot of other things, good and bad, in the win. (box)
When you think a situation is hopeless, just know that every week, there are cases of teams overcoming the impossible. These are the best examples from this week:
3. Toledo (1.5%) over Detroit, Nov. 23. As of this writing, the Rockets are one of 17 unbeatens remaining in D-I, and their 7-0 mark has withstood some improbable circumstances. They were down eight with under four minutes to go at Boston College before pulling out a win. And in this game at Detroit, they trailed by 19 with about 15 minutes left, and by nine with 3:05 left before a 14-3 run kept the Rockets’ unbeaten season alive. Julius ‘Juice’ Brown’s three-point play with six seconds left was the game-winner. The 40-0 t-shirts are flying off the rack at the Toledo bookstore.
2. Oklahoma (1.0%) over Seton Hall, Nov. 22. So the Pirates did not have the best two weeks in college basketball. Before the stunning loss to FDU, they coughed up a seven-point lead with 1:09 remaining to fall to the Sooners at the Barclays Center. Seton Hall was up seven, with the ball, but after a too-quick shot by Fuquan Edwin, they’d get outscored 9-1, culminating with two Buddy Hield free throws with nine seconds left. Lon Kruger promised a faster pace heading into this season, and unlike many of his contemporaries, it appears he meant it. The Sooners are fourth in offensive possession length after ranking 45th last season.
1. Arkansas-Little Rock (<0.1%) over Southern, Nov. 22. This is the game that broke the win probability calculator. The Trojans were down 64-52 with 1:19 to go when DeVonte Smith missed a layup for UALR. At this point, if a team continues to foul, it only aggravates spectators and the opposing head coach. But really, why not keep fouling? It’s not like Greg Schiano ordering his defensive line to bludgeon the opposing offense when its in the victory formation. There’s still a chance something completely improbable will happen. I kind of doubt that head coach Steve Shield really wanted his team to keep fouling, though. (Shields was quoted post-game as saying “I told them if they continued to fight and stick together, good things would happen.” But I suspect that might have been in the pre-game pep talk and not at this point in the game.) But they gave a foul, and Southern made both free throws, and UALR was down 14 with 1:16 left.
But the Trojans would make some baskets, and Southern would proceed to commit a turnover and miss six consecutive free throws to give the Trojans hope. Little Rock was still down six with 17 seconds left, but got a bucket, a turnover, two free throws, and then a three with 1.4 seconds left to force overtime. Southern actually took a five point lead midway through the extra period, but they blew that, too, and UALR pulled out the 85-82 win. This is as close as you’ll see a win probability graph go to zero and finish on the other side: graph.
Slowest game of the last two weeks: Delaware State at Dayton, Wednesday. (50) Saying that Delaware State is the slowest team in the country tells only a fraction of the story. Their average possession length on offense is 24.9 seconds, a full 3.7 seconds slower than any other team in the country. The difference in APL between the 90th fastest team and the 350th fastest team is 3.7 seconds. It’s also the difference between 350th and 351st. Greg Jackson makes Bo Ryan look like Paul Westhead. The Flyers won this thriller, 56-46.
Fastest game of the last two weeks: North Texas at BYU, Thursday. (90) The fastest-paced offense in the country, BYU, had another game against a defense that likes to promote quick possessions. The result was a 90-possession game, the most in a contest featuring two D-I teams this season. BYU won 97-67.
Alan Williams Watch:
Think you’re really good at basketball? Alan Williams disagrees and he will crush you, at least statistically. UCSB’s undersized center piles up stats like nobody else. Ignored by scouts and media alike, this place is occasionally reserved for reporting on Williams’ incredible exploits.
Our buddy Alan was back in action having recovered the back spasms that sidelined him for two games. He appeared to be well-rested and in tip-top shape. His mastery of caging skills was on display last Friday against South Dakota State, when he went for (a school-record) 39 points, (a school-record) eight blocked shots, nine boards, three steals, and two assists in an 83-64 win over the Jackrabbits. Then on Tuesday, he challenged UCLA to a game of one-on-five. That was a bad idea, but he still scored 23 and rebounded eight.
Best games of the upcoming week (according to FanMatch, all times eastern):
If you can only watch five games this week, these are the ones to catch.
Kentucky vs. Baylor (tonight, 10:00, ESPN)
UCLA at Missouri (Saturday, 12:30, CBS)
BYU vs. UMass (Saturday, 1:30, CBS Sports Network)
Kansas at Colorado (Saturday, 3:15, ESPN2)
Kansas at Florida (Tuesday, 7:00, ESPN)