This is a weekly digest documenting the biggest upsets, craziest comebacks, and Alan Williams news of the past seven days. Note: This is the final Week in Review for the season. Conference tourneys start on Monday and future content will focus on that. Thanks to everyone for reading.
3. Tennessee State 70, Morehead State 68, Thursday. (10%) Away from the limelight of the bubble, there is jockeying for position or even qualification in one’s conference tournament in one-bid leagues. Well, this game had none of that. Tennessee State isn’t going to qualify for the eight-team OVC tournament, and Morehead State isn’t going to get one of the top two seeds and a coveted double bye in the stepladder bracket. So one might have considered this TSU’s tournament game, and the 3-11 Tigers went to the 10-4 Eagles and got a victory on Patrick Miller’s three-pointer with two seconds left.
2. North Florida 79, Mercer 76 (OT), Thursday. (7%) There were upsets galore on Thursday and not just in the humans’ top 25. And unlike #3 on this list, this game had a lot at stake. The Atlantic Sun has gone to a Patriot League-style tournament where the higher seed hosts every game. Mercer was one game clear of Florida Gulf Coast at 13-3 heading into this home contest against 8-8 North Florida. The Bears had not lost a regular-season conference home game since the regular season finale in 2012. After this OT stunner, they need an FGCU loss on Saturday to get the top seed.
1. Duquesne 71, Saint Louis 62, Thursday. (6%) The Billikens have been vying for the honors of having the best defense in the country, which is why we can say that giving up 1.08 points per possession was possibly their worst defensive game of the season, even if it was inflated by late free throws by the Dukes. But at home, against a borderline top 100 offense, this was out of character.
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. North Florida 79, Mercer 76 (OT), Thursday. (1.6%) The Ospreys were such an unlikely winner that being down 35-23 with 1:28 left in the first half they had but a 1.6% chance of winning. (box)
2. Cal State Northridge 81, UC Irvine 75, Saturday. (1.3%) This is the second straight appearance in this spot for Northridge. The Matador defense—aptly named as they rank 288th in AdjD—repeatedly puts the team in a big hole. In each of its last four wins, Northridge faced no less than an eight-point second-half deficit. In this one, they were down 68-52 with 9:26 left before closing the game with a 29-7 run, which included the last 16 points of the game. (box)
1. Winthrop 107, UNC Asheville 100 (OT), Wednesday. (0.7%) The Eagles were down by nine with 1:07 left in regulation. “A three-possession game”, the broadcasters might have said. Of course, it’s almost never a three-possession game at that point. But the win probability formula doesn’t know about Winthrop’s outstanding three-point shooting and the Eagles got consecutive 3’s from Joab Jerome (49% from 3 on the season), Keon Johnson (42%) and Keon Moore (37%) plus two empty UNCA possessions to send the game to overtime. (box)
Slowest game of the week: Notre Dame vs. Virginia, Saturday. (52 possessions) This is last Week in Review, so it’s the last chance to dwell on the #ACCtion from the nation’s slowest conference. The ACC has averaged 61.8 possessions per 40 minutes in conference games, which won’t challenge the “all-time” mark of 60.4 put up by the Big Ten in 2009, but it was a good effort. The Cavaliers won this 70-49 and it’s really difficult to put up 70 points in a 52-possession game.
Fastest game of the week: VCU vs. Massachusetts, Friday. (86) Both VCU and UMass like to play at a fast pace, both on offense and defense, so it wasn’t surprising they’d put on a show when they faced each other. UMass won 80-75 in what would best be described as a defensive battle.
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.
In just 29 minutes, Williams went for 22, 18, and three blocks in a 15-point victory over Cal State Fullerton. But he was held in check nicely by conference-leader UC Irvine, going for just 15 and 6 in an 11-point loss to the Anteaters. The Gauchos look on track for a two or three-seed in the Big West tourney. But it’s a neutral-site tourney and there’s no gimmicky bracket to worry about. The only thing to worry about is how many times Alan Williams crushes the psyche of opposing Big West centers. At the moment, he ranks in the top 50 in offensive and defensive rebounding percentage, block percentage, and fouls drawn per 40 minutes. Or for people who hate useful stats, he leads the land in rebounding average and is ninth in scoring average.
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.
Creighton at Xavier (Saturday, 5:00, Fox Sports 1). Last season Creighton led the country in 3P% and was third in 2P% against the 66th-best defensive schedule. This season they are first in 3P% and 8th in 2P% against the 12th-best defensive schedule.
Kansas at Oklahoma State (Saturday, 9:00, ESPN). Marcus Smart has taken too many threes this year in an effort to show off a perimeter game that may or may not exist. However, even in doing so he’s been more efficient overall while using more possessions than last season. His 2P% is way up, his assist rate is up, his turnover rate is down, and he has been to the free throw line more frequently than last season.
Louisville at SMU (Wednesday, 7:00, CBS Sports Network). Louisville’s back-loaded schedule finally puts them in the spotlight this week. Even as the second-ranked team in my ratings, the Cards have just a 35% chance of sweeping games at Memphis and at SMU this week. So basically, they can still be really good and lose one of these games.
Villanova at Xavier (Thursday, 7:00, Fox Sports 1). It will be a fun week at Cintas as Xavier gets to host the two-best teams in the Big East over a five-day span. They have the disadvantage of playing at Seton Hall on Monday while Villanova gets the entire week to prepare for this one.
Iowa at Michigan State (Thursday, 9:00, ESPN). People can’t get far enough away from the Iowa bandwagon after the Hawkeyes’ three-game losing streak. I’m not here to defend Iowa; their previously-shaky defense has gone in the tank during that stretch. But keep in mind they’ve played the most difficult conference schedule among the league’s contenders.