This is a weekly digest documenting the biggest upsets, craziest comebacks, and Alan Williams news of the past seven days.
3. Rhode Island over LSU (9%), Saturday. It was not supposed to end this way, my infatuation with LSU head coach Johnny Jones, but what a train wreck of a week for the Tigers. First, they fell to the Rams 74-70 to take some luster off a sneaky-good start to the season and then they got waxed by Tennessee on Tuesday. Both losses were at home, necessitating a large correction to how anyone should feel about LSU. If Johnny O’Bryant and Jordan Mickey come back next season, I’ll revisit this topic then.
2. Texas Agricultural and Mechanical University at Corpus Christi over Oral Roberts. (8%), Saturday. Oral Roberts is departing the Southland after the season mainly on account of a lack of challenging competition and having to deal with schools with very long names. But in the meantime, they’re forgetting to win. The Islanders are somehow 3-0 in the Southland despite having just two low-end D-I victories in non-conference play.
1. Air Force over UNLV (6%), Saturday. Speaking of teams unexpectedly winning games in conference play, the Falcons went to the the Thomas & Mack Center and stunned the Rebels, 75-68. Cam Bairstow gets all the headline for the most improved player in the Mountain West, but Tre Coggins, Air Force’s sophomore point guard, is doing just about everything much better than he did a year ago.
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. Santa Clara (2.3%) over Saint Mary’s, Thursday. While Portland was in the process of beating Gonzaga, opening the door for the motivated applicant to make the WCC race interesting, the Gaels took a 29-16 lead over the Broncos with 2:34 left in the first half. But Santa Clara went on a 18-4 run to tie the game early in the second half and won on a Jared Brownridge three-pointer with 1.2 seconds left, despite attempting just two free throws the entire game. (box)
2. Saint Peter’s (1.3%) over Fairfield, Wednesday. The Peacocks were down 43-26 with 11:06 remaining at Fairfield. They were in the midst of a ten-minute stretch where they scored but two points. Fortunately for them, the Stags weren’t filling up the hoop either. Saint Peter’s went on a 23-6 run to tie the game with a little over two minutes left, setting the stage for a chaotic finish. Desi Washington hit a jumper at the buzzer to give the Peacocks the 56-55 win, after his technical foul on the previous possession nearly cost them the comeback victory. (box)
1. DePaul (0.8%) over Butler, Thursday. I’m sure Hinkle Fieldhouse has seen some great comebacks in its history. It actually saw two on Thursday night. DePaul trailed 73-62 with 3:46 left before scoring the final 11 points of regulation to force extra time. The run occurred with Butler point guard Alex Barlow on the bench after fouling out and included a key three-pointer by Cleveland Melvin, who has suddenly become a perimeter threat in his senior season. Then in overtime, the Blue Demons led 84-78 with 28 seconds only to see Butler come back and force double-overtime on a Jackson Aldridge bucket at the buzzer. DePaul ultimately prevailed for a 99-94 win, continuing a week where conference bottom-feeders got unlikely road victories. (box)
Slowest game of the week: Miami FL vs. Syracuse, Saturday. (49 possessions) The ACC is trying hard to steal the Big Ten’s reputation for slow play. The Hurricanes rank dead last in the nation in adjusted tempo and Syracuse is in the bottom 15 (along with Clemson and Virginia). As a conference, the ACC ranks 29th in terms of possessions per game in conference play. So this 49-44 slugfest won by the Orange is less an outlier and more a sign of things to come.
Fastest game of the week: New Orleans vs. McNeese State, Saturday. (84) The Privateers are in this spot for the second-consecutive week. This was an 82-69 loss for UNO. It’s still pretty incredible that New Orleans won at UTEP earlier in the season. After some rumors to the contrary, it appears the Miners weren’t trying to lose, either.
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.
It was a slow week for Santa Barbara as the Gauchos played NAIA Master’s College on Saturday. In the 81-52 win, Williams had 23 and 12 in 22 minutes of action. It gets really real the rest of way with 16 Big West games ahead on the schedule. UCSB’s inevitable march towards a conference title starts with a home game against Cal Poly on Saturday.
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.
Iowa State at Oklahoma (Saturday, Noon, ESPNU). In this one you have two offenses that are ranked in the top 20 of adjusted efficiency and shortest possession length, so this should be a shootout.
Florida at Arkansas (Saturday, 1:00, ESPN2). This is the beginning of a big week for Arkansas.
Oklahoma State at West Virginia (Saturday, 4:00, Big 12 Network/ESPN3). I don’t think I expected a West Virginia game to show up in this list this season, but the computer says the Mountaineers are roughly the equal of Oklahoma and Texas right now, so maybe we should keep an eye on Bob Huggins’ team on Saturday. They could be the only 3-0 team in the Big 12 by the end of the day.
Kansas at Iowa State (Monday, 9:00, ESPN). According to my calculations, the Cyclones have a 45% chance of being unbeaten after this game.
Kentucky at Arkansas (Tuesday, 9:00, ESPN). Continuing with probabilities, the Hogs have a 65% chance of getting at least one win this week and a 16% shot at beating both Kentucky and Florida. Home court advantage and such.