Here are the most extreme things to happen in college basketball between Friday, January 15th and Thursday, January 21st…
3) Duke and Savannah State not losing on the same day. Duke and Savannah State haven’t lost on the same day since December 6th of ‘08 mainly because Duke almost always wins when it’s playing on the same day as Savannah State. But this past week, the Blue Devils lost consecutive games at home to Notre Dame and Syracuse. Savannah State also played at home on Saturday and Monday, but Tiger Arena isn’t exactly Cameron Indoor and neither game was a lock. Savannah State knew what was on the line in both cases, and in both games the Tigers came through with a victory. This week, each squad is on the road for a Saturday-Monday swing, and they also both play on the road next Saturday, so the streak is bound to end soon, unless you believe in destiny or something stupid like that.
2) #257 Loyola Chicago 51, #89 Northern Iowa 41  (9%), Saturday. This game was part of #BloodySaturday which featured an insane number of upsets. Look at all that red! In this one, the Panthers made 6-of-24 2’s to continue an epic freefall. They were once 5-1 but have gone 5-9 since then. The historical record says they somehow have a win over North Carolina. Sure, UNC was without Marcus Paige, but UNI overcame a 17-point second half deficit which is amazing for a team that could only manage 41 total points against Loyola-Chicago. The Panthers also have a neutral-site win over Iowa State. Which means a team that is looking increasingly sketchy to make any postseason tournament is going to have wins over two teams with very high seeds in the NCAA tournament.
1) #332 UMass Lowell 93, #153 Vermont 82  (6%), Monday. This was an upset that had little suspense. The River Hawks dominated from the start, leading by 11 at the half and expanding that lead to 17 shortly after intermission. Vermont was able to get to within two late, but Lowell pulled away for the easy win. When this happens, I first check to see if injuries played a role in the unexpected turn of events. The opposite was the case here as Vermont scoring guard Dre Wills was playing his first game after an eight-game suspension for selling textbooks. Wills scored a game-high 22 but it didn’t matter as UML improved to 3-2 in America East despite a -20 scoring margin.
Least likely comebacks
3) #272 Eastern Illinois 84, #138 Morehead St. 82 (OT)  (1.1%), Saturday. It’s common knowledge that Lantz Arena is the carnival fun house of Midwestern basketball. Anything can happen there and that was no more true than it was Saturday when the hometown Panthers were on defense and trailed Morehead State by eight with just over two minutes left. But the Eagles would only get an additional point over the remainder of regulation, and Kenneth Faried wasn’t walking through that door, so EIU prevailed in overtime and Tony Romo cheered.
2) #296 Florida Atlantic 63, #142 Louisiana Tech 61  (1.0%), Saturday. La. Tech is 13-4, FAU is 3-14, who ya got? Then give Tech a 31-7 lead with just under five minutes left in the first half. The Bulldogs didn’t give that lead back immediately, either. They still had a 44-23 lead with about 16 minutes to go before the Owls went on a 13-0 run to make things interesting. FAU took the lead with a little over a minute left and held on for a 63-61 win.
1) #297 South Alabama 88, #48 UT Arlington 85 (OT)  (0.7%), Saturday. UT Arlington is 2-1 against Tier A competition and was 4-0 in the Sun Belt heading into this one, a game they weren’t all that interested in. The Mavericks trailed by as many as 12 in the first half but eventually they got their act together and built a 78-69 lead with a little over three minutes left. At that point, you’d figure a team that had won at Ohio State and Memphis would have enough juice to hang on at South Alabama. But UTA didn’t score again in regulation. Shaq Calhoun would hit the game-winning 3 for USA in overtime. He’s one of eight regulars named Shaq across college hoops which is down from 11 last season. We’ve passed Peak Shaq.
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.
The team went 27-for-73 this week, or 37.0% in human terms. That means their season total is 230-for-612, or 37.6% in human terms. This group is not made of humans, however. They are shooters and they are determined to hit 40% of their 3’s this season.
Fastest game: #51 Monmouth 110, #120 Iona 102 , Friday. This was the marquee game last Friday and it was at least something to talk about. The game itself really wasn’t as close as the final score – Monmouth was about 95% to win over the final 13 minutes – but it was the second game this season where both teams got to triple digits in regulation. While people are all tittering over the circus-show that is Monmouth’s bench, what’s interesting about the Hawks is that their pace appears to be accelerating as the season progresses. Four of their first nine games were played in fewer than 70 possessions but they haven’t played a game like that since.
Slowest game: #124 College of Charleston 40, #168 Towson 37 , Thursday. This was the first game Thursday night, though it wasn’t on TV. Which is a good thing for the CAA, a conference that is having a breakthrough season. The kenpom.com MVP for this game was Charleston’s Terrance O’Donohue, who went off for eight points and seven rebounds.
Highest-scoring game: #51 Monmouth 110, #120 Iona 102 , Friday. A.J. English scored more points (45) than the entire Charleston team.
Lowest-scoring game: #124 College of Charleston 40, #168 Towson 37 , Thursday. Between Bob Huggins and Dan Gavitt, there’s still a corner of the hoops world that is wary that the rules changes will blow up at any minute. Larry Brown is haunting my dreams, constantly telling me how the game is getting ruined by this newfangled shot clock. I respond by telling him he has the fifth-best offense in the country and coaches the only unbeaten team in the land, so it seems like he has figured out how to adjust to it, and maybe other coaches have that ability as well. It’s not like Larry freakin’ Brown is some sort of coaching genius. Other coaches can, and have, figured it out this season. He responds “Whatevs” and the dream ends.
But when I see a score like “Charleston 40, Towson 37” I start to think the end is nigh. Given that it was the first final on Thursday evening, I broke out into a cold sweat fearing Coach Brown was correct and that we’d see a flurry of 1950’s (or 2015) era grudge matches the rest of the evening, signaling an abrupt end to our scoring joyride this season.
However, this contest was quickly overwhelmed by regulation scores such as 103-95 and 101-95, and many others that were orders of magnitude higher than 40-37. When Arizona and Stanford concluded action for the evening, the night’s slate had averaged 73.8 points (per team) per game and 1.06 points per possession. And that included a game where both teams could only muster a total of 77 points in a 54-possession game. While scoring is not the only gauge of the game’s health, it’s reassuring that in the heart of conference play, 77-point affairs are still multi-sigma outliers.
Coaches Pet Award: The CPA goes to the player that averages the fewest minutes per game while appearing in all of his team’s games. I’m tracking the leader for this exciting new award all season.
George Washington had just one game over the past week, and of course Anthony Swan made a brief appearance, logging four minutes in last Friday’s loss to Dayton. He did find the time to attempt two three-pointers making one them. I wonder when a player goes one-for-two from 3-point range, how often that make is the first attempt. It’s probably like 58%. That was the case for Mr. Swan in this one. Swan has now played in all 18 of the Colonials’ games while averaging 4.2 minutes.
Are you curious about which player has played the fewest minutes while starting all of his team’s games? Of course you are. There is no award for this, but right now that guy is IPFW’s Brent Calhoun who has averaged 14.2 minutes in 20 games. He’s coming off a season-high 25 minutes in an overtime win over Omaha, the first game this season where he played more than 20.