This is a weekly digest documenting the biggest upsets, craziest comebacks, and Alan Williams news of the past seven days.
3. Longwood over Charleston Southern (8%), Saturday. Hey look, real upsets are back this week. No more do I have to pretend that events predicted to occur more than 10% of the time are worth talking about. Longwood beat TCU on November 12. They didn’t win another game against a D-I foe until a January 22 victory over Liberty. Charleston Southern is not going to be in a postseason tournament near you, but they played some big boys close earlier in the season. However, they inexplicably fell to Longwood 88-85 at home.
Longwood’s Jeff Havenstein got a special distinction in this one. He started the game for Longwood, played for two (minutes) and two (seconds) and was pulled after the Lancers’ lackluster start and he didn’t return. A Chuck Woolery, if you will. Which reminds me to research guys that play the least while being a regular starter. Havenstein has started every game this season but only played 35% of his team’s minutes.
2. UC Davis over Cal Poly (6%), Thursday. The Big West is anyone’s conference. Literally – two and a half games separate first and last right now. UC Davis played a role in that mayhem Thursday night as the previously 1-4 Aggies went into Mott Gym and knocked off the previously 4-2 Mustangs 62-58. Coach-on-the-floor Avery Johnson chipped in 11 points for UC Davis.
1. Northwestern over Wisconsin (5%), Wednesday. Northwestern is on pace to break all sorts of basketball statistics this season. Currently, they are ranked 10th nationally in AdjD and 316th in AdjO. Those numbers include hand-waving adjustments, but the underlying raw stats paint a similar picture. The Wildcats are 26th in defensive eFG% and 307th in offensive eFG%. However, it’s hard to believe that a group of people capable of playing the tenth-best defense is also capable of playing the 36th-worst offense. There’s something more going here. And I would try to figure it out but the 10th-best D + 36th-worst O + 19th-slowest tempo makes it tough to focus on Northwestern for extended periods. I did watch enough of this one to see the Wildcats score on four consecutive possessions in the second half as they were in the midst of a 30-9 game-deciding run.
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. Hawaii (1.6%) over UC Irvine, Saturday. It’s a mixed-up world when Hawaii is winning road games and losing home games in conference as they did this week. This is a game where the win probability formula is not well-suited to give us an accurate number. Actually, I’m not really sure what happened here because the official play-by-play that is the basis for these calculations appears to be inaccurate. With Hawaii trailing 78-75, the Warriors’ Garrett Nevels had a three-pointer blocked with six seconds left in regulation. Possession here is pretty important in the win probability estimate and the play-by-play says the defense got a team rebound. But after a timeout, the next thing that happens is Hawaii’s Keith Shamburger hitting a three-pointer, so it was probably Hawaii’s ball along. Hawaii prevailed in overtime, 90-86.
2. South Dakota State (1.6%) over Denver, Thursday. There are somehow 12 teams in the nation more unlucky than Denver. Which is hard to believe because since Christmas, they’ve lost five games by a combined 16 points, including one in double-overtime. The Jackrabbits overcame a 71-66 deficit with 36 seconds left thanks to consecutive threes from Chad White and Jordan Dykstra to pick up a 74-73 road win.
1. Penn State (1.2%) over Ohio State, Wednesday. Allow me a moment to discuss one of my biggest pet peeves: labeling a player a “winner”. Because what happens when your winner starts losing. Isn’t he a “loser”? I mean if you’re fair, he’s a loser. Of course, nobody is so cruel to call an amateur sportsman a loser. That’s part of the reason why the winner label is just a lazy feel-good thing to explain something that has a less-mystical explanation. It all seems so arbitrary, too. Like, why isn’t Cleanthony Early called a winner? He’s won 52 of 61 games during his career, been to a Final Four, and was part of a team that beat Ohio State while the guy most-often labeled a winner shot 2-of-12 from the field.
I’ll leave it as an exercise for the user to ponder the answer to that question, but I will say I have some sympathy for Aaron Craft. He didn’t ask to be labeled a winner, a label which is largely dependent on what his other four teammates contribute, what the five guys on the other team do, what three officials do, and what a fair amount of luck does. All of those things contributed to Penn State overcoming a 59-49 deficit with 6:03 left in regulation, and pulling off a 71-70 overtime win after D.J. Newbill hit a 15-footer with 1.9 seconds left in overtime. D.J. Newbill. Winner.
Slowest game of the week: Syracuse vs. Miami FL, Saturday. (51 possessions) The Orange and Hurricanes have tangled for two of the seven-slowest games in the country this season, but I’ve dwelled on the ACC enough in this section. Now, I’d like to offer a moment of recognition for long-time Delaware State head coach Greg Jackson who was fired yesterday as his team was struggling through a 4-15 start. Jackson has long been a champion of slow-down hoops (there’s lots of blue on his resume) and the 48-possession game between his team and Clemson in November was the second-slowest of the season. Hopefully, Coach Jackson lands on his feet.
Fastest game of the week: VMI vs. UNC Asheville, Saturday. (86) I don’t want to be that guy, but before the season Keydets’ head coach Duggar Baucom promised your intrepid analyst that his team would once again be the fastest in the country. It was a bold Joe Namath-style guarantee that looked like it might backfire, but after this run-and-gun affair against UNCA, VMI has risen to the top of the adjusted tempo list for the first time this season. It also happened after VMI basically ran from the bus to the starting lineup intros in an effort to beat winter weather back to Lexington before the end of the night. The game started about an hour before its originally-scheduled time and resulted in a 109-105 VMI win. The combined total was the second-most points scored in a regulation game this season.
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.
Williams went off for 26 points and nine boards in a narrow loss to Cal State Fullerton last Saturday. You probably thought that was a fluke, so on Thursday Williams went off for 26 points and ten boards in a win over UC Irvine. He’ll go for 26 and 11 next time if you don’t watch yourself.
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 at Missouri (Saturday, 1:00 ESPN). When John Calipari puts Alex Poythress, Julius Randle, and Willie Cauley-Stein on the floor together, he has three guys who, individually, rebound at least 13% of their team’s missed shots.
Kansas at Texas (Saturday, 4:00, ESPN). It’s the next chapter in judging Andrew Wiggins. So let’s forget everything we’ve seen from Andrew Wiggins ever before in his entire life and project Wiggins’ future based on this game only.
Duke at Syracuse (Saturday, 6:30, ESPN). You might say that no conference’s two-best teams are better than the ones in the ACC. And these are those two teams! So if you understand all that, you understand this game will be worth your time.
UVa at Pittsburgh (Sunday, 12:30, ESPNU). Eric Decker receiving yards pk Pitt total points scored.
Iowa State at Oklahoma State (Monday, 9:00 ESPN). Both of these teams have completely understandable losses in the Big 12. It says something about the conference that they are a combined 7-7 in league play.