This is a weekly digest documenting the biggest upsets, craziest comebacks, and Alan Williams news of the past seven days.
3. East Carolina over UAB (13%), Saturday. I don’t think I’ve said a word about Conference USA since we had to do the preseason poll for them again. One surprise has been ECU, who was picked in the middle pack but didn’t have a conference win until this stunner at UAB. The Pirates built a 16-point second-half lead and held off a late UAB charge to win 74-67.
2. Northwestern over Minnesota (12%), Saturday. Why can’t the Big Ten have nice things like seven bids to the NCAA tournament? It’s because of you, Northwestern. The men of Evanston continue to be defensively disruptive and offensively inept. It’s a formula that shouldn’t work; Dick Bennett proved as much during his time at Washington State. But Chris Collins was not a history major at Duke. (Don’t worry Gopher fans, Bracket Matrix says you’re still in.)
1. Central Connecticut over Robert Morris (8%), Saturday. Robert Morris is leading the NEC with just one loss in nine games, and this was that loss. At home to what might be the worst team in the league. And they had an 18-point lead with less than eight minutes left. More details below!
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. Quinnipiac (2.1%) over Siena, Saturday. Siena led 83-74 with 3:16 to go, but Quinnipiac forced overtime at 85 and pulled away in the extra period to win 103-95. The Bobcats finished with four players in double figures…in free throw attempts. As a team, Quinnipiac went to the line an incredible 65 times which tied Morehead State’s November 17th effort against Marshall (also in overtime) for season-high honors. (box)
2. Gardner Webb (0.7%) over Radford, Saturday. The Highlanders led this one 62-53 with 2:57 left but Gardner Webb closed on an 11-2 run, capped off by a Tyler Strange three-pointer with 2.2 seconds left to force overtime. The Runnin’ Bulldogs would prevail 71-70 and then gain national fame for a four-overtime loss in their next contest against VMI on Wednesday. (box)
1. Central Connecticut (0.2%) over Robert Morris, Saturday. For 32 minutes this game went according to form. Robert Morris slowly sucked the life out of the visiting Blue Devils, building a 63-45 lead with 7:38 to go. Fans were heading for the exits, because Saturday night in Coraopolis and all. But the nation’s 302nd-ranked offense scored on 12 of its last 14 possessions, sealing a 74-73 win on Matt Mobley’s free throws with two seconds left. (box)
Slowest game of the week. UTEP vs. East Carolina, Thursday. (50 possessions) ECU followed up its first conference win of the season by returning home and losing a game that its fans could not enjoy for the outcome nor the style of play. The Pirates went 8-for-28 from two-point range and mustered just 47 points in an 11 point-loss to UTEP.
Fastest game of the week. Belmont vs. Tennessee Tech, Saturday. (83) Despite having a down year, Belmont is still the favorite to finish with the best record in the OVC. This game, however, was evidence of the down year part of that statement as the Bruins fell to 294th-ranked Tennessee Tech 81-76.
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.
Sometimes I get jaded by Big Al’s exploits, but then I think about what college basketball would be like without him. Unwatchable, basically. That’s why when all the famous people covering college hoops were sleeping, I stayed up to watch an internet feed of UCSB taking on Hawai’i on Thursday night. Our man didn’t disappoint, going for 20 points, 17 rebounds, and five blocks as the Gauchos got a rare win on the Islands. That effort was child’s play compared to the 27 and 20 he put up last Saturday in a win over UC Davis. That was in just 32 minutes of action, by the way.
At least for today, Williams stands 10th in the kPOY standings, marking his first appearance on the list this season. But the global conspiracy continues. Nary a single reputable individual is considering Williams for his or her player of the year list, even when that list extends to ten or twenty or even 100 players. I mean, there are some fine players on these lists, but they all stink compared to Williams, who sits sixth-nationally in the media-friendly category of scoring average and third in rebounding average, all while playing for a pretty good team that happens to play its games during East Coast sleepy-time. Investigate that, people.
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.
Michigan at Iowa (Saturday, 2:00, ESPN) This is the best game on an otherwise surprisingly-flimsy Saturday slate. Michigan took 31 three-pointers against Nebraska and they may duplicate that against a Hawkeyes’ defense that ranks 46th in percentage of shots allowed from the beyond the arc.
Syracuse at Pittsburgh (Wednesday, 7:00, ESPN) Syracuse has played five true road games thus far. The only top 50 opponent among those five was St. John’s and one might suggest that Madison Square Garden is not exactly a hostile environment for the Orange. The ACC schedule-makers will get even over the final month of play and it starts with this game at Pitt.
Duke at North Carolina (Wednesday, 9:00, ESPN) Since a lopsided loss at Virginia, UNC has won four straight by comfortable margins. With a win at Notre Dame on Saturday, we might even be able to say they are playing with consistency. This game should be a competitive, high-scoring affair.
Michigan State at Wisconsin (Sunday, 1:00, CBS) Tom Izzo says he has “no idea” if Keith Appling will play in this one. My theory is that he does have an idea, but it would advantageous for him to not reveal that idea.
Florida at Tennessee (Tuesday, 7:00, ESPN) Tennessee is #1 in the enigma rankings this season. They’re 2-7 in single-digit games and 11-1 otherwise. Kind of like Florida was last season. But then the Gators attended Dan Dakich’s off-season seminar in “How to win close basketball games” and look at them now! They’re winning close games left and right. (Dan’s three-step program: 1. Be clutch. 2. Be gritty. 3. Do whatever it takes to get Aaron Craft on your team. Bruce Pearl was ahead of his time.)