Here are the most extreme things to happen in college basketball between Friday, December 19th and Thursday, December 31st…
3) #341 Southeast Missouri State 78, #206 Missouri St. 74 (10%), Tuesday 12/22. This wasn’t one of those upsets that grabs headlines. Missouri State has won just three games against D-I teams so far. But some of this is schedule-driven. Besides SEMO, the Bears haven’t played a team rated worse than #181. Also, one of the Bears’ wins was at Oklahoma State. So their record is a bit deceiving. SEMO, on the other hand, was 0-10 coming into this one. But the Redhawks led the whole second half and held off a late Missouri State charge to get head coach Rick Ray his first victory at his new job.
2) #308 Marist 89, #113 Army 83 (8%), Saturday 12/19. I think we’re getting close to the 50/50 points where at least one of Army, Northwestern, and William & Mary makes the NCAA tournament for the first time this season. The Black Knights have emerged as the favorite in a Patriot League that strongly rewards the regular-season champ in its conference tournament. But the confidence in that projection was shaken a bit when Marist went to West Point and pulled off the upset with shocking ease, leading nearly the entire way.
1) #284 Rice 90, #44 New Mexico 89 (5%), Saturday 12/19. It’s been a while since we chatted. Two weeks ago, New Mexico was quietly becoming a contender in the Mountain West regular-season race. And through 33 minutes against Rice, things were going as they should for such a team. Then things changed. New Mexico lost to the Owls, and then went 0-3 in the Diamond Head Classic, losing by a combined 58 points to three teams that probably won’t make the NCAA tournament.
Least likely comebacks
3) #281 Marist 84, #242 Brown 83 (2OT) (3.8%), Tuesday 12/22. Following up on its major upset of Army, Marist pulled off a victory over Brown by overcoming a seven-point deficit with two minutes to go. Now, in the first overtime, they blew a six-point lead with under 1:30 left. But in the second overtime they overcame a late four-point deficit to win, meaning that there were three separate 90+% situations that were blown in this game.
2) #284 Rice 90, #44 New Mexico 89 (0.3%), Saturday 12/19. The Lobos led 77-61 with 7:11 to go after two free throws by Joe Furstinger. If you were still in the stands of WiesPies Arena at this point, I would have questioned how miserable your life has become to sit through the final seven minutes of a college basketball game between two mismatched teams where the outcome had been decided. But that would have been rude of me. Rice came all the way back and tied it on a three from Egor Koulechov, the pride of Volgograd, Russia, with 21 seconds left. After a Lobo turnover, the Owls had one last possession to win it, but Koulechov missed a shot, so to overtime we would go. Or not! In the ensuing loose ball scrum, New Mexico’s Tim Williams called a timeout the Lobos didn’t have. The whistle blew…with 0.1 seconds left. Koulechov made the free throw and Rice won 90-89.
1) #153 Canisius 108, #160 Louisiana-Monroe 96 (3OT) (0.1%), Tuesday 12/22. This may be the game-of-the-year in all of college basketball. We’re barely more than a third of the way through the season, but it’s difficult to imagine a future contest topping this one for pure insanity. ULM was up 12 with the ball with 1:39 left. Canisius had surrendered, allowing the possession to play out. The Warhawks still got to the free throw line with 1:10 left after an offensive rebound, where they would make one of two to push the lead to 13. If you were at this game and had the ability to see the future you could have impressed your friends by informing them that Canisius would win this game by 12.
The Golden Griffins would close regulation 2-3-3-3-3 on its final five possessions and thanks to a bunch of missed free throws by the Warhawks, the game went to overtime. And then it went to a second overtime when ULM’s Nick Coppola missed a free throw that would have won the game with one second left. And then it went to a third overtime when the Griffins’ Kassius Robertson missed two potential game-winning free throws with one second left. Kids these days! They’re called free throws for a reason. The third overtime saw Canisius score all 12 points as ULM came up empty on all eight of its possessions.
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.
I’m not going to downplay it, the #ShootersClub flat out destroyed the nets over the past two weeks. I cannot confirm it, but it would not surprise me if some nets had to be replaced following games in which #ShootersClub members played. Over the two week span this group made 43.5% of its three’s. And it was about volume, too, as they attempted 138.
These guys were taking shots that were contested, five feet off the line, and still draining them. On the season the club is already over the 40 percent mark, hitting 171-of-426 (40.1%). This puts them on track for #ShootersClub immortality. They could meet the 40% goal and take over 1000 attempts.
Fastest game: #282 Charlotte 111, #308 The Citadel 93 [91 possessions], Tuesday. I settled on the Coach’s Pet for the quirky award this season, but I strongly considered tracking the leader in three-point attempts among rotation players who didn’t take a 3 last season. Turns out it would have been a boring race. The going-away winner this season is The Citadel’s Brian White who has already taken 25 3-pointers after playing 641 minutes without one last season.
Slowest game: #1 Virginia 63, #53 California 62 (OT) , Tuesday 12/22. Lots of twitter scuttlebutt about the respective defenses after this one. It’s 2016, people. We don’t need to talk about hoops like it’s 1984, anymore. This game wasn’t about defense, it was about slowness. Accounting for the extra five minutes, it was the slowest-paced game of the season to date. The overall efficiency for each team was just slightly below the D-I average.
Highest-scoring game: #282 Charlotte 111, #308 The Citadel 93 [91 possessions], Tuesday. Hey, this week featured two of the three highest-scoring days (minimum 30 D-I vs. D-I games) over the past 15 seasons.
Date ppg 12/18/15 75.93 11/21/01 75.92 12/31/15 75.33
There’s an interesting symmetry here since last New Year’s Eve was the third-lowest scoring day of the past 15 seasons. (It was also the third-lowest scoring day of last season.)
Date ppg 12/21/14 62.02 01/07/15 62.54 12/31/14 63.53
Indeed, New Year’s Eve 2015 was a magical day of college hoops where the winning team failed to score 70 in just four of 33 games. By comparison, on New Year’s Eve 2014, there were nine games (of 49) where the winner failed to score 60. That includes a doozy of an overtime game between Temple and UConn that featured an eight-point overtime in a 57-53 Owls’ win.
It’s doubtful we’ll see another day that tops 75 ppg the rest of the season. Scoring tends to dwindle as the decrease in pace during conference play influences scoring a little more than the inevitable increase in efficiency. But thankfully, things are much different this season than last.
Lowest-scoring game: #182 Grand Canyon 52, #59 San Diego State 45 , Friday 12/18. I think if you plotted coach age against his team’s three-point rate you’d find a pretty strong relationship. Unfortunately, it is difficult to get the ages of all 351 D-I coaches to make this happen. I can only submit a single data point relevant to this game: Steve Fisher’s teams have been below the national average in three-point rate in each of the last 15 seasons.
Coach’s 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.
There are two ways to play yourself out as the CPA leader. One is to not play at all as Dartmouth’s Cole Harrison did early in the season. The other is to play too much, and that’s what the incumbent Caleb Tanner while we were gone. He got double-digit minutes in two games for Radford over the past two weeks, topping with 20 against non-D-I Central Pennsylvania.
Since he’s played in every game, Tanner is still eligible to win the award. Right now he averages 5.3 minutes per game but I suspect his playing time will increase. He’s now launched 33 3-pointers in a mere 83 minutes this season and just based on shot creation alone, he has the potential to make larger contributions going forward. His next appearance on these pages may be as a #ShootersClub member in two or three years.
Our new leader is George Washington sophomore Anthony Swan. Swan has appeared in all 13 of GW’s games, totaling just 53 minutes, or 4.1 mpg. Fun fact: As a freshman, Swan played ten minutes in the season opener against Grambling, and then appeared in 25 more games, never logging more than four minutes. This season his playing time has ranged from a few seconds against Virginia to ten minutes against Gardner-Webb.