All issues thought of, we had a superb weekend of school hoops with no scarcity of outcomes to spark dialog, hypothesis and reflection. Listed below are my 10 takeaways and issues to know as we inch nearer to the insanity of March.
1. Illinois is essentially the most unreliable fairly good crew
The No. 14 Combating Illini couldn’t overcome shorthanded No. 21 Ohio State, shedding 87-81 on their house ground and dropping to 9-5. Ohio State did not have its high two choices at level guard, together with starter C.J. Walker, but it did not matter. Credit score to Chris Holtmann, who appears to nudge up within the summary “finest coaches within the sport” rankings with every passing season.
However for Brad Underwood’s crew to drop two straight at house in opposition to Maryland and Ohio State is eyebrow-raising sufficient to query whether or not this crew will in the end have the stableness to make the Ultimate 4. I picked Illinois within the preseason to be one of many final 4 groups left. Thus far, nevertheless, Illinois trying prefer it’s merely gotten slightly higher from final season vs. making that vast bounce, which was the expectation when Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn bypassed turning professional and got here again. Dosunmu continues to be fairly good (22 factors, 5 assists, 4 rebounds on Saturday) and Cockburn had a fifth straight double-double (15 factors, 11 rebounds). Defensively? Illinois is underachieving. That truth is mirrored in its report. In case you actually need to decide aside Illinois at this level, know this: regardless of all of the hype, it doesn’t personal a win over a top-20 KenPom crew.
I will button up with this: I’ve watched this digital camera trickery no fewer than 20 instances. Cue up some Jamiroquai.
2. Baylor nonetheless spectacular in shut(ish) name
The matchup of the weekend was No. 2 Baylor at No. 15 Texas Tech. The Crimson Raiders have been coming off a last-second comeback win over Texas and positioned to drag off one of the best two-win stretch of any crew this season. It regarded prefer it was going to go that approach for some time, however then Baylor lastly had photographs drop late and in the end pulled away, 68-60. Texas Tech saved star Jared Butler scoreless for 35 minutes, then Butler hit an necessary 3 to lastly get on the board with 4:59 remaining, giving Baylor a five-point lead within the course of. Scott Drew’s crew completely held the cushion thereafter. There aren’t greater than 5 spots on the schedule the place Baylor will likely be weak to lose this common season. This was one in every of them, and it is the primary time this season Baylor hasn’t gained by double digits. Texas Tech acquired chilly ft, however it can take a 1-1 cut up with Texas and Baylor. At 12-0, the Bears now have a two-day turnaround earlier than dealing with Kansas at house. Final season, Kansas gained that much-hyped No. 1 vs. No. 3 matchup by three factors. I do know — ‘trigger I used to be there.
I used to be the one author to choose No. 23 Minnesota to win outright in opposition to No. 7 Michigan on Saturday, so thanks to the Golden Gophers for making me stumble into the sometimes sage forecast. It was a dominant W, 75-57. Richard Pitino’s crew is assured they’re going to stay ranked when the polls refresh on Monday. I take virtually no inventory in beforehand unbeaten Michigan falling right here. The Wolverines acquired off to an 11-0 begin and had an off day on the highway (with out Eli Brooks, as a consequence of a foot situation) within the hardest league in America in opposition to a crew that is simply going to be a single-digit seed. It occurs.
What the consequence bolstered was the dichotomy with Minnesota’s home-and-away splits. All 11 Minnesota victories have come at house whereas all 4 highway video games have resulted in defeat. Minny’s 5-4 vs. top-50 competitors this season. At house in opposition to top-50 golf equipment the Golden Gophers win video games by a median of 15.0 factors, with 4 wins over ranked groups included. On the highway, these 4 defeats have been by 19.8 factors. This sample jogs my memory of Rutgers final season, when RU misplaced just one house recreation and gained simply twice on the highway.
4. Frank Martin checks in whereas watching his crew from house
South Carolina coach Frank Martin is the one coach in main American sports activities who at this level is believed to have contracted COVID-19 twice. Martin first caught the coronavirus in Could. His second bout got here final week, and it was worse than the primary. I acquired on the telephone with Martin Saturday night time, throughout his crew’s recreation at LSU, to debate what it was like to look at from his sofa and what it is wish to undergo this a second time.
“The primary time we have been just about in a lockdown as a rustic, proper in the beginning of Could,” Martin mentioned. “There was a lot unknown about it that we have been already at house. I wasn’t working, no gamers on campus, no recruiting, so it was slightly completely different to handle. Psychologically it nonetheless impacted me. I used to be nervous about my household. There was no treatment for this factor. It was irritating.”
Then, virtually two weeks in the past, Martin’s spouse, Anya, began to really feel sick. Martin saved his distance at house simply in case.
“My household and I, we actually do not do something. We’re house and I am within the fitness center, it is the one factor I do,” he mentioned.
They each took exams at South Carolina on Jan. 7. That afternoon, as Martin was concerned in a robust, hour-long dialog along with his crew in regards to the rebellion at the US Capitol the day earlier than, he was abruptly pulled away. He and his spouse’s exams got here again constructive. Martin was puzzled and deliberate to take one other take a look at the following day simply to be protected. He did, and it got here again constructive once more. Martin felt superb into Friday morning.
“Then mid-afternoon Friday I felt like I acquired run over by a truck,” Martin informed me by intermittent coughing. “My complete factor simply modified. All the pieces harm. I had a headache, began coughing. It actually felt like I would been jumped by 10 dudes and acquired the snot beat out of me.”
He was bedridden Friday afternoon and incapable of leaving his bed room for 3 days.
“It was a battle to get out of the mattress to make use of the lavatory,” Martin mentioned. “I had main diarrhea, could not maintain meals down. I used to be dehydrated, had no vitality, had no meals. I used to be beat up.”
By Monday afternoon (six days in the past) he began to get slightly higher. And by the tip of the week Martin was lastly on his approach again to regular. Fortuitously, his spouse was capable of flip the nook extra rapidly and wasn’t struggling signs as extreme as his. Martin’s as a consequence of go away isolation early this week and return to work. It was the newest barrier for a Gamecocks program that till Saturday had performed simply 5 video games and was out of competitors from Dec. 5-Jan. 2.
We spoke as he watched his crew put up a superb effort in opposition to an LSU squad that’s actually on its method to a superb NCAA Match seed. Martin was on the sofa, watching in his lounge along with his spouse and 13-year-old son.
“They’re coping with me bouncing off the sofa on each dangerous play and good play,” he mentioned. “I get emotionally hooked up. I really feel bizarre, is what I really feel. As a result of the preparation, the observe, the technique, the errors you made in observe that if you make them in a recreation, I am void of all that. I wasn’t there this week. I am like an invested fan proper now, is what I’m, and we simply simply need to, I hope we play higher.”
South Carolina (3-3) went on to lose 85-80.
Martin was not the one individual precluded from taking the journey. One other assistant, Chuck Martin, additionally needed to keep again in South Carolina, leaving Bruce Shingler as appearing head coach. Martin was not allowed to speak along with his crew in the course of the recreation, however he mentioned that did not trouble him. He isn’t a micro-manager. He was on the telephone along with his employees Friday night time, despatched the gamers a observe over group textual content, then allow them to be all day Saturday.
“They acquired this,” he mentioned. “They do not want me yakking of their ears or making an attempt to have conversations with them. I’ve all the boldness on this planet in my employees.”
Martin has coached basketball for 36 years. This was solely the third recreation he is ever missed. The primary got here when he was a younger assistant at Northeastern and was despatched off to verify in on a recruit. The second time got here in 2014, within the season finale when Martin was suspended. His crew was dangerous that yr and Martin was at his wits’ finish. He did not even watch that recreation (which South Carolina gained), opting as a substitute to go watch his daughter’s cheerleading competitors.
“I wanted to disengage with that one,” he mentioned. “This one’s been tough.”
Martin hopes to be again on the bench for South Carolina’s subsequent recreation at Missouri on Tuesday.
5. Iowa again to being finest within the Huge Ten?
“[FILL IN THE BLANK] is one of the best crew within the Huge Ten” has been a title shared by the primary two months of the season by Michigan, Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. (Ohio State, chances are you’ll be subsequent!) The No. 5 Hawkeyes (12-2) are sporting that hat once more. They took benefit of a lightweight Sunday school hoops slate by sacking Northwestern 96-73 on CBS. The consequence means Michigan and Iowa are tied atop the league standings with each groups sharing the identical loss: at Minnesota.
Take your decide on one of the best crew. I would lean Iowa, barely. If these two stay a small tier above the remainder of the league, know that they solely have one scheduled recreation and we have nonetheless acquired weeks to go earlier than we get there. Michigan is scheduled to host the Hawkeyes on March 4. Each squads will most likely lose at the very least two extra video games earlier than we attain that time.
As for Northwestern, it was a 6-1 crew with a 3-0 Huge Ten report lower than three weeks in the past. There was chatter about Chris Collins getting this system to its second NCAA Match at school historical past. Since then, the Wildcats have dropped 5 consecutive video games, all in opposition to ranked groups, and can want an unthinkable turnaround to present itself any likelihood at dancing.
6. Possibilities of blue blood-depleted Dance enhance
You would possibly’ve heard: the NCAA Match is in danger this season of missing a few of the largest applications. Arizona, Duke, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina and Michigan State are six of the ten largest manufacturers in school hoops. All are removed from locks to make the NCAAs, and we already know Arizona (self-imposed postseason ban) is completed. On Saturday, Kentucky and North Carolina did themselves no favors by shedding at Auburn and Florida State. Indiana misplaced Thursday at house vs. Purdue, too. Michigan State is off this weekend as a consequence of COVID-19 and Duke’s subsequent recreation is Tuesday at Pitt, which simply swept Syracuse (one other outstanding program prone to not dancing).
In response to Bart Torvik’s T-Ranketology forecast, which assigns percentages to a crew’s possibilities of making the match, here is the place every stands as of Sunday (with Arizona clearly at 0).
• North Carolina (8-5, 54th within the NET): 46.4%
• Indiana (8-6, 56th within the NET): 36.3%
• Duke (5-3, 93rd within the NET): 32.9%
• Michigan State (8-4, 83rd within the NET): 27.1%
• Kentucky (4-8, 97th within the NET): 2.0%
Each NCAA Match since 1984 has had at the very least 4 of the six above faculties make it. The newest instance the place at the very least three did not was 1983, when Arizona, Duke and Michigan State missed out. UNC and Duke final missed the identical NCAA Match in 1977, which was additionally the latest occasion that every one six aforementioned faculties missed in the identical yr.
7. Virginia simply took management of the ACC
Essentially the most spectacular win of Saturday was No. 18 Virginia mowing down No. 12 Clemson 85-50, persevering with a torture theme that Tony Bennett’s established in opposition to Brad Brownell. The Tigers are averaging 46.2 factors of their final 5 conferences in opposition to the Cavs and have misplaced 11 straight video games in opposition to UVA by a median of 16.0 factors. Clemson, in actual fact, entered Saturday with the No. 1-rated per-possession protection at KenPom. Virginia was 14th. After the sport, UVA was as much as No. 9 and Clemson dropped to SEVENTH. This was Clemson’s second to get a signature win, take command of the ACC race and put itself on a path to getting its finest seed in NCAA Match.
The Wahoos acquired out to a 20-3 lead within the first 11 minutes and led by 30 on the half. Virginia dropped 85 factors on a Clemson crew that was permitting 57.6 per recreation. UVA sank 15 3-pointers on 27 makes an attempt to stay good within the ACC (5-0) and guarantee it can stay ranked on Monday. Clemson was coming off a COVID-19 pause, and it regarded prefer it. Virginia was anticipated to be the ACC’s finest crew within the preseason. It has been considerably quiet and never all that dominant, however checking in now, that projection is true on observe. A stunner: this 35-point margin is the second largest highway win in opposition to a ranked crew in males’s D-I historical past.
8. An excellent principle on the wacky nature of back-to-backs
On Friday night time, Cleveland State gained 66-64 over preseason Horizon League favourite Wright State. The win improved the Vikings to 9-0 within the league. The groups had a rematch on Saturday, because the Horizon is working like most mid-major leagues and scheduling groups on consecutive days in a pandemic-afflicted season.
What transpired Saturday was no shock: Wright State, a superb crew in its personal regard, lashed again with an 85-49 win, handing Dennis Gates’ Vikings their first loss in additional than a month. This script flip is not unusual. It is grow to be virtually anticipated this season to see outcomes between the 2 similar groups on back-to-back days be starkly unalike.
I caught up with Gates after CSU’s loss. He was driving again to Cleveland in his automotive, trailing the crew bus, making the near-three-hour trip again. He introduced up an attention-grabbing analogy.
“In baseball you might have doubleheaders and completely different necessary items, like pitchers,” he mentioned. “I studied this and talked to Mike Martin Sr., the all-time winningest baseball coach at Florida State (the place Gates was beforehand an assistant coach) because it associated to back-to-back video games or doubleheaders. The one factor he mentioned to me is, in baseball, we’ll undergo it and have an instantaneous response to the sport earlier than, whereas beforehand in basketball you wait three weeks or a month to develop. By the point you play that crew once more, you are a unique crew, they are a completely different crew. Right here, you are assembly proper after you discovered who this crew is and also you’re in a position so as to add your Xs-and-Os, or your changes.”
Gates referred to those back-to-backs as primarily one 80-minute, elongated recreation with two 40-minute halves and a protracted halftime. Cleveland State gained the primary half Friday, Wright State gained the second half Saturday. I requested Gates what his expectations have been for the second recreation, and he mentioned he did not actually have many, apart from he knew the standard of the opponent, the standard of the coach and the very fact the sport was of their house fitness center meant the sport was assured to be harder than Friday night time.
“The primary recreation you get to have the ingredient of shock since you’re dealing with somebody for the primary time and they do not know what they do not know,” he mentioned. “The second recreation is extra of a convention match really feel to it, the grind and the grit. You are going to get somebody’s finest shot, particularly for those who [won] that first recreation. Nobody needs to be swept on their very own ground.”
Cleveland State is likely one of the attention-grabbing mid-major tales going in the intervening time. It deliberately performed simply three nonconference video games, all in Ohio, and one in every of them included permitting an NCAA-record 40-0 run in opposition to Ohio in November. The crew responded by shedding by simply six at Ohio State in its subsequent recreation, then peeled off 9 straight wins. Gates took the job in July 2019, when all however three gamers bailed on this system. He hasn’t had summer time exercises along with his gamers two straight years, but the Vikings sit on high of the Horizon League standings, have but to have one COVID-19 constructive in this system and have their subsequent 4 video games scheduled at house.
9. Gonzaga cruises on its worst night time of the season
For the primary time in 9 house video games, Saint Mary’s lined in opposition to Gonzaga — and it was solely as a result of Oumar Ballo missed a dunk on the Bulldogs’ closing possession. No. 1 Zags 73, Saint Mary’s 59. For 20 minutes, the sport was attention-grabbing. Saint Mary’s held a lead for greater than 50% of the primary half and led by as many as 10 early. Then Gonzaga had a 20-3 run to shut out the primary half, and the sport was mainly over by the 14-minute mark of the second half.
This was Gonzaga’s thirty ninth straight highway win within the WCC in opposition to an unranked opponent, the final loss coming to SMC in 2016. Gonzaga’s gained 18 video games in a row. It is the longest win streak within the nation. Gonzaga (14-0) did not even play that effectively. Joel Ayayi, who’s mighty constant, was the crew’s finest participant, however Jalen Suggs, Drew Timme and Andrew Nembhard have been all sub-par. Gonzaga did get taken out of their recreation to a sure extent by Saint Mary’s.
And the Bulldogs nonetheless gained by 14. The one approach Gonzaga loses earlier than the NCAA Match is that if a major harm happens or BYU performs almost flawlessly at house within the season finale.
10. It took 52 days for each crew to get in a recreation
Each crew that has opted in to enjoying this season has now performed at the very least one recreation. It took till Saturday for that assertion to be factual. The ultimate two faculties, American and Loyola Maryland out of the Patriot League, each lastly performed the primary recreation of their seasons. American dropped a heartbreaker, 87-86, in additional time at Navy. The Greyhounds of Loyola additionally opened on the highway, at Lafayette, and confronted a Leopards crew with 4 video games beneath its belt. After a double-digit halftime rally by Loyola, Lafayette gained 77-75, however the massive story from this one was the sideline debut of Tiny Adams, a feminine assistant on Loyola’s employees who was employed in October and is one in every of two energetic feminine assistants in males’s Division I. I beforehand detailed a few of Adams’ story, and you’ll learn that proper right here.