Here are the most extreme things to happen in college basketball between Friday, November 20th and Thursday, November 26th…
3) #255 East Tennessee State 69, #67 Georgia Tech 68 (10%), Sunday. I’m sure somewhere someone made a comment on this loss like, “you can’t lose that game if you want to be a tournament team”. As if the players on Georgia Tech didn’t realize this before playing East Tennessee State, and just figured it was alright if they took the game off. Besides, Michigan State lost to Texas Southern last season and was a national title contender. Eventual champion Duke lost by double digits at home to a team that didn’t even make the NCAA tournament.
So you probably can lose this game and make the tournament, even achieve greatness. Sometimes a team just plays poorly and sometimes that game coincides with the other team playing well. Maybe that’s what happened here and maybe not. I’m not sure there is any easy way to know that yet. What I do know is that it’s the worst time in the history of basketball to be a below-average team in the ACC because the teams that are above average are very good. So for Brian Gregory’s sake, I hope that is not case for his team.
2) #212 Little Rock 49, #39 San Diego State 43 (8%), Saturday. We are still early enough in the season that season-long statistics aren’t too meaningful. But that doesn’t make them any less fun. After two games against D-I opponents, Little Rock ranks dead last in the country in effective field goal percentage. Yet they are unbeaten, having won at San Diego State and a 54-46 snoozer against East Carolina on Thursday night.
The Trojans also rank second in shooting defense, have the second-lowest offensive turnover percentage, and the best defensive turnover percentage. That’s not all – they rank third in free throw percentage, have the second-highest opposing assist percentage and the fifth-highest opposing three-point rate. It’s just two games, but the extremes are still pretty spectacular under first-year coach Chris Beard. Beard’s D-I experience is mostly coaching under various bosses named Knight during a ten-year run as an assistant at Texas Tech. That explains the microscopic turnover percentage but it doesn’t explain why the Trojans have taken over 40% of their shots from three so far.
1) #217 UT Arlington 73, #38 Ohio State 68 (7%), Friday. This outcome doesn’t look as shocking after UTA won at Memphis and Ohio State fell to Louisiana Tech later in the week. Based on the minutes doled out by Thad Matta so far, the Buckeyes are the seventh-youngest team in college hoops. And they don’t figure to lose anyone to the professional ranks after this season. So get your shots in on the Buckeyes while you have the chance this season.
Least likely comebacks
3) #191 George Mason 71, #52 Oklahoma State 68 (OT) (2.7%), Friday. George Mason’s season so far has been like this game was. The Cowboys led 48-38 with just under six minutes left, but the Patriots closed regulation on an 18-8 run and then won it overtime. Under first-year head coach Dave Paulsen, the Patriots opened with losses to Colgate and Mercer before getting wins in Charleston against Mississippi and Oklahoma State. After an acceptable loss to Virginia, Mason went on the road to Manhattan and blew a 16-point second half in losing to the 253rd-ranked Jaspers.
2) #289 Tennessee Tech 86, #238 Jackson State 82 (OT) (1.9%), Tuesday. TTU was down 66-58 with 3:03 and the Golden Eagles’ Hakeem Rogers had just committed a charge. But that would be the last empty possession of regulation for Tech who would send the game to overtime when a Torrance Rowe layup at the horn tied the game at 71.
1) #304 Niagara 73, #312 North Carolina A&T 72 (1.3%), Sunday. The comeback of the week took place in lovely Uncasville, Connecticut, where people look you in the eye and you can still get a coffee for five cents at Sherm’s General Store. Niagara’s season has started slowly but the Purple Eagles’ season got a boost when they overcame a 72-66 deficit with 35 seconds left to beat North Carolina A&T 73-72 in the 2015 Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament Springfield Bracket consolation game. It was the most exciting Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament Springfield Bracket consolation game to date.
My five-man #ShootersClub of Micah Mason, Isaiah Williams, Jared Brownridge, John Simons, and J.C. Hampton is barnstorming the country this season, spreading goodwill and providing inspiration that you, too, can make three-point shots with enough practice.
Volume was the focus of the Club this week, with our group launching 105 shots. They managed to make 38 of them for a 36.1 percent clip, making the season total an even 37 percent on 57-for-154. Notably, Santa Clara’s Jared Brownridge put up 19 three’s alone (making seven) in the Broncos near-stunner of Arizona on Thursday. That’s the most any single player has attempted in a game this season by four shots. His usage rate of 50% is also tops among players logging at least 30 minutes in a game. Now, Club members, anyone can take three-pointers. Maybe let’s focus on taking quality three’s going forward? I have a reputation at stake.
Fastest game: Fairfield 113, Maryland Eastern Shore 74 [89 possessions], Tuesday. In a shining example of the modern style of college basketball, these teams combined for 69 two-point attempts and 68 three-point attempts. Fairfield made 17 of its long-balls, while UMES made just four which is part of the reason for the lopsided score.
Slowest game: Quinnipiac 62, Holy Cross 56 , Sunday. Former Northwestern coach Bill Carmody is the new head coach at Holy Cross if you didn’t know. He likes to slow the game down and he has been successful in doing that this season, ranking next to last in adjusted tempo at the moment. I suspect we’ll see a few more sub-60 possession games out of the Crusaders.
Highest-scoring game: Colorado State 108, Abilene Christian 100 (2OT) , Tuesday. This game was so close to being the upset of the season so far. The Rams trailed by as many as seven in the second half and by four in the first overtime before avoiding a loss to a team that was coming off a 30-point loss to Portland and given a 3% chance of victory at the opening tip.
Lowest-scoring game: Little Rock 49, San Diego State 43 , Saturday. It’s not often that one of the upsets/comebacks ends up in this section. The odds are pretty remote actually and this might be a first. What’s also weird is that Aztecs offense is currently ranked a little higher than it was last season. They have had decent showings against Utah and Cal, so this game is more of an outlier than SDSU’s reputation would lead you to believe.
kPOY Watch: The kPOY is up and running and of course the leaderboard is not to be taken too seriously at this point. It is just based on player stats accumulated this season. So while team reputation is a factor, a player’s reputation is not. Anyway, that’s all a precursor to announcing that Buddy Hield is leading the standings at the moment. Hield is a longshot to actually be there at the end of the season, but he’s annihilated the weaker competition that Oklahoma has faced so far and posted 30 on a decent Memphis team.
Coach’s Pet Award: What college basketball needs is some more awards and I’ve got a new one for you to track this season. It’s called the Coach’s Pet Award. The CPA goes to the player averaging the fewest minutes per game while playing in every game for the season. For example, last season’s winner would have been Eastern Kentucky’s Tommy Matthews who appeared in all 33 of the Colonels’ games while average 5.2 minutes per game.
At this moment, the leader is Dartmouth’s Cole Harrison, who has appeared in both of Dartmouth’s games while tallying a total of three minutes. Harrison played in all but two of Dartmouth’s games last season, while never playing more than 14 minutes in any of them so he obviously has a special place in head coach Paul Cormier’s heart. By virtue of his one blocked shot this season, Harrison has a block rate of 44 percent, so the Big Green’s next opponent, LIU Brooklyn, better be prepared for a Harrison appearance on Sunday.
Here are the five games you’ll want to watch this week (as determined by FanMatch, all times eastern):
Michigan at North Carolina State, Tuesday, 7:00, ESPN2
Purdue at Pittsburgh, Tuesday, 9:00, ESPN2
Maryland at North Carolina, Tuesday, 9:30, ESPN
Louisville at Michigan State, Wednesday, 7:15, ESPN
Kentucky at UCLA, Thursday, 9:00, ESPN