Here are the most extreme things to happen in college basketball between Friday, February 12th and Thursday, February 18th…
3) #106 Northern Iowa 53, #11 Wichita St. 50 [59 possessions] (9%), Saturday. There is no way to explain Northern Iowa this season. On balance they are a slightly above average Missouri Valley team, but anything is possible with the Panthers. They’ve won a home game over North Carolina and that’s only their third-best victory. They beat Iowa State on a neutral court and won this game over Wichita State who outside of a loss at Illinois State had completely bludgeoned the rest of the league. In between there have been many losses, and true to form, the Panthers fell to Loyola Chicago immediately after this win. There are no injuries or off-the-court issues to explain UNI’s fluctuations. Ben Jacobson has had the same starting lineup for every game this season.
2) #290 Rice 75, #118 Old Dominion 66  (9%), Saturday. The Owls have been in this spot before after pulling off one of the most improbable comebacks of the season against New Mexico in December. All in all it hasn’t been a good year for entities named Rice. UNLV’s head coach Dave got fired mid-season, and Boise State’s head coach Leon is having a disappointing season himself. The team named Rice has had two awesome wins on the road, but is still just 8-16 against Division-I teams.
1) #151 Wright St. 61, #24 Valparaiso 59  (8%), Saturday. The double-transitive theory has the potential to get violated with this win by the Raiders. Oakland swept Wright State who swept Valpo who has the the opportunity to sweep Oakland with a home game in a few hours.
Least likely comebacks
3) #101 New Mexico 80, #102 Boise St. 78  (1.8%), Wednesday. After a three-pointer by Montigo Alford, Boise State led 76-61 with six minutes left but then went horribly, horribly wrong for the Broncos. Their only points the rest of way would come on a James Webb bucket with 3:07 left. They would go 1-9 from the field, 0-3 from the free throw line, and commit two turnovers over that stretch.
2) #151 Wright St. 61, #24 Valparaiso 59  (1.5%), Thursday. Valpo had a six-point lead and the ball with 1:57 to go but as any team will do in this situation, the Crusaders worked clock at the expense of getting a good shot. That led to three consecutive empty possessions and Wright State converted that into eight points which was enough for the upset.
1) #51 Monmouth 79, #178 Rider 78  (0.9%), Friday. The win probability model accounts for team strength, so you know the situation was dire when Monmouth, as a significant favorite, was trailing by 14 with 3:58 left and given roughly a one percent shot to pull out a win. But the Hawks closed the game on a 17-2 run which was capped off by a Justin Robinson three-point shot with four seconds left.
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.
It was another strong week for the club, who collectively hit 31 of 70 attempts for 44.3%. That inches the season total ever closer to 40%. My five favorite shooters have made 344-of-871, or 39.5%. Actually, 39.45%. It’s going to be a close call whether the guys can get to 40% and so we’re going to have carry this out an extra decimal point.
Fastest game: #101 Oakland 111, #144 Green Bay 93 , Saturday. When Oakland and Green Bay get together you can count on high-scoring, fast-paced basketball. And apparently, you can almost count on what the final score will be. In their first game, Oakland won 111-95, and this one ended up 111-93 in favor of Oakland. This got me to wondering how often teams actually play two regular season games with the exact same final score. It happened last season when Southern Utah beat Idaho State 71-67 in both matchups. That was one of ten occurences over the past 15 seasons. The only time it happened twice in one season was in 2006, and amazingly Mercer was involved in both cases. The Bears twice beat North Florida 77-71 and twice fell to Lipscomb 83-66.
Slowest game: #147 Northeastern 70, #277 Drexel 60 , Saturday. Five years ago, Drexel was 29-7, and 16-2 in the CAA. It was quite possibly the Dragons’ best team ever. This year, they are 3-23, and 1-14 in the league, which is possibly their worst team ever. Losing Damion Lee in the offseason was a kick in the old pants for head coach Bruiser Flint, but that’s still a stunning turnaround.
Highest-scoring game: #191 Massachusetts 108, #130 Duquesne 99 (OT) , Sunday. UMass, another team that Bruiser Flint has connections to, is also in the midst of a free-fall. Three seasons ago they were a six-seed in the NCAA tournament, and this season they might be something like a ten-seed in their own conference. This 94-possession doozy featured 37 points from Jabarie Hinds, who beat his career-high by 13 points.
Lowest-scoring game: #106 Northern Iowa 53, #11 Wichita St. 50 , Saturday. Northern Iowa somehow pulled off the upset with a 15-point second half. In fact, the final 11 minutes of the game had a total of 15 points scored by both teams.
Random tidbit: I’ve been tracking the nation’s chase for the all-time free throw percentage record and it’s looking very likely that the pursuit will be successful. After a stellar Thursday in which the nation made a collective 73.0% of their shots, the season’s percentage is up to 69.81%. Way to go, nation! The record, set two seasons ago, is 69.87%. Teams tend to improve their shooting as the season progresses although that trend levels off as we get to March. But for the first time since basketball was a gleam in James Naismith’s eye, it’s possible college basketball teams will crack 70% at the line.