This is a weekly digest documenting the biggest upsets, craziest comebacks, and Alan Williams news of the past seven days.
3. Navy over Army (9%), Saturday. Heading into this one, Army was 8-3 with an outside shot of capturing the all-important Patriot League one-seed. (The top seed in the PL tourney gets to play every game at home.) Navy was in the hunt for the bottom seed, which carries no advantages. So somehow, Navy won this game at Army by 22. By the way, coach-of-the-year is really the dumbest award in the world, but American’s Mike Brennan is at the helm of what could be the most surprising team in the country. The Eagles were picked 9th in the conference’s pre-season poll and were ranked 288th in my preseason ratings. Currently, they are first and 97th, respectively. The rookie head coach is back-dooring the Patriot League into submission, with a nation-leading 57.3% mark from two-point range and fourth-best 65% assist rate.
2. Yale over Harvard (9%), Saturday. Harvard is still the favorite to win the Ivy, but life got more complicated after Yale went to Lavietes Pavilion and upset the previously-unbeaten Crimson 74-67, behind Justin Sears’ 20 and 11. Now both teams are tied atop the Ivy table at 5-1 and Harvard has to make the trip back to New Haven on March 7. Chances are that Yale will have taken on two losses by then, though.
1. New Hampshire over Stony Brook (5%), Saturday. The last time UNH had a winning season was in 1994-95 under head coach Gib Chapman. Scant little is known about Coach Chapman other than he is in the Acadia University Hall of Fame. The last UNH head coach who had a winning record after coaching multiple seasons was Butch Cowell who went 119-54 from 1916-1928. He gave up the gig to focus on coaching the New Hampshire football team. (Dale Hall is the last coach to finish with a winning record. He went 11-9 in his only season at UNH in 1952. He then became an assistant football coach at Florida.)
The Wildcats are the Maine of America East. Of course, Maine is also in America East, which means the conference has two teams that have never played in the postseason. But New Hampshire stands alone in having its most successful coaches eventually ditch the sport entirely. Which means this 73-69 win at the second-best team in the conference was one of the best in program history.
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. New Hampshire (2.3%) over Stony Brook, Saturday. You know who was once a head coach at UNH? Current Cleveland Cavaliers assistant Jim Boylan. He’s twice been an interim coach in the NBA and he went 15-69 in three years with the Wildcats. Which is to say that UNH is a tough job. God bless you, Bill Herrion. (box)
2. Central Connecticut (2.3%) over Fairleigh Dickinson, Saturday. The Blue Devils have been featured here before. Last week as a matter of fact. This time they were down 12 with 4:52 left, but came back to force overtime, before winning 91-86. CCSU is 3-7 in NEC play and two of those wins have occurred after facing a 15-point deficit in the second half. (box)
1. Penn State (0.2%) over Indiana, Wednesday. The Nittany Lions have been featured here before as well. Two weeks ago, actually. Indiana led 64-53 and had the ball with 2:55 left. Penn State’s first lead of the game occurred on Tim Frazier’s layup will 6.1 seconds to go, which gave Penn State a 66-65 win. (box)
Slowest game of the week: Clemson vs. Syracuse, Sunday. (49 possessions) Instead of dwelling on another dose of #ACCtion, let’s instead celebrate Syracuse’s ability to determine who uses tempo-free stats and who’s a dinosaur. To this point, the Orange have had a very effective offense, but a super-slow pace and poor shooting fools the dinosaurs! Thanks to some great offensive rebounding and a low turnover percentage, they’ve only been held below 1 PPP on two occasions this season. Their offense is ranked better than their defense and their 57 points in a 13-point win over defense-heavy Clemson was further proof of that.
Fastest game of the week: UNC Asheville vs. Radford, Thursday. (83) There’s some potential for mayhem in the Big South where there’s not much separating the top eight or nine teams in the conference. UNCA and Radford are among eight teams with 3-5 losses in the conference standings. A massive 10-6 tie among all these teams would be fantastic.
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 was in action only once this week and it was less about Big Al and more about his team, who got a huge 65-64 win at Long Beach State. Williams went for 16 points, eight boards, three assists, two blocks, and two steals. So yeah, a sub-par outing for him. The game-winner was made by Michael Bryson who found himself all alone for a put-back after a Williams miss which attracted the entirety of the 49ers’ defense. The Gauchos are 7-2 and tied for the lead in the Big West.
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.
Florida at Kentucky (Saturday, 9:00, ESPN). There are seven teams that remain unbeaten in conference play. Florida’s still in that club with Delaware, Georgia State, Saint Louis, Stephen F. Austin, Syracuse, and Wichita State. This is easily the Gators’ biggest remaining test.
Pittsburgh at North Carolina (Saturday, 1:00, CBS). There’s nothing necessarily wrong with Pitt. They’re clearly one of the 25 best teams in the country to this point and get far too little credit for road wins against N.C. State, Maryland, and Miami. But it is a little troubling that they rank sixth in the ACC in offensive rebounding percentage, which is normally their specialty.
Villanova at Creighton (Sunday, 5:07, Fox Sports 1). “This isn’t the old Big East,” they say. And sure, it would be nice to have Louisville, Pitt, and Syracuse in the league, but people seem to downplay the fact that Notre Dame, Rutgers, and South Florida would be in the league, too.
UCLA at Cal (Wednesday, 10:30, Pac-12 Networks). The battle for second-place in the Pac-12 may hinge on the outcome of this game. UCLA is now 12th in the nation in average possession length on offense, so count Steve Alford as the rare coach to make good on a promise to run.
Duke at North Carolina (Thursday, 9:00, ESPN). The forecast for Chapel Hill is mostly sunny with a high around 70.