At this level in a typical season, college basketball enthusiasts can be taking a look forward with pleasure about all the motion that may lead as much as Selection Sunday. But on this season, staged all over a deadly disease, maximum simply hope we get to Selection Sunday.
The postponements and cancellations brought about by means of the coronavirus have forged an simple shadow over the 2020-21 marketing campaign, but the motion thru the first six weeks of the season has nonetheless controlled to set the level for an entertaining convention slate, adopted by means of an NCAA tournament planned to be held in the state of Indiana, in step with the NCAA’s announcement on Monday.
Something to sit up for … albeit cautiously.
As we begin to dream of the chances for March, it is time to assess college basketball’s peak surprises and disappointments since play tipped off Nov. 25.
The state of Minnesota takes over college basketball
At some level all over your first dialog with Minnesotans, they will ask you to call your favourite Prince album. (Answer: “Sign o’ the Times.”) This 12 months, additionally they may ask if you already know about the native merchandise who have made an affect on the college basketball scene — males’s and ladies’s — this season. Freshman Paige Bueckers (Hopkins, Minnesota) entered the week averaging 18.Zero issues in step with sport for an undefeated UConn ladies’s workforce. Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs (St. Paul) may just change into a consensus first-team All-American and a top-five select in the NBA draft. The No. 1 highschool prospect, Chet Holmgren (Minneapolis), may be a Minnesotan. And the Minnesota Golden Gophers have manufactured what has arguably been the maximum unexpected run in males’s college basketball this season.
Minnesota trainer Richard Pitino, the matter of perennial sizzling seat rumors, has led his workforce to a 10-2 get started, with wins over Iowa, Michigan State and Ohio State resulting in a Top 25 rating. Marcus Carr (22.1 PPG) is one of 4 avid gamers averaging double figures for the Gophers. All of this comes after the unofficial Big Ten media preseason ballot picked Minnesota to complete 11th, 12 months after megastar Daniel Oturu grew to become professional. Hockey? That’s previous information. Minnesota seems like a major risk in the Big Ten identify race, and this state is all about Purple Rain and basketball now.
The intrigue of the SEC race
While the focal point has been on Kentucky’s demanding situations, this league may just produce the country’s most enticing Power Five race out of doors the Big Ten. A handful of squads from the SEC had been aggressive and added taste to the league’s identify pursuit. Cuonzo Martin and a Missouri squad picked to complete 10th in the SEC preseason ballot are 7-1 with wins over Illinois and Oregon. The Tigers have held their combatants beneath a 45% clip inside of the arc. Freshman Moses Moody (16.Nine PPG), an NBA prospect, led Arkansas to a 9-Zero get started previous to a Saturday loss to Missouri, and Alabama simply ruled a Tennessee workforce that is succesful of successful a countrywide championship.
Mark Few’s Gonzaga squad has simplest seemed mortal as soon as, in a five-point win over West Virginia all over which Jalen Suggs left early as a result of of an ankle harm earlier than returning to lend a hand his workforce seal the win. The five-star Suggs has been nice, however it is the 6-foot-7 senior Kispert who has blossomed into an incredibly critical Wooden Award candidate and a first-round NBA prospect. Kispert is averaging 21.6 PPG and has made 76% of his photographs inside of the arc and 51% of his 3-pointers. Those are Doug McDermott numbers, however McDermott wasn’t sharing the ball with two avid gamers (Suggs, Drew Timme) who are also vying for All-America honors. The Corey Kispert Show will have to pass viral quickly.
Prior to the season, many questioned if the Texas trainer was once getting into a career-altering marketing campaign, his 6th with a Longhorns program that hasn’t completed upper than 3rd in the Big 12 all over his tenure. Smart has responded the questions in unexpected style, getting into the week with a top-five workforce that simply beat the heck out of Kansas 84-59 … even if NBA prospect Greg Brown scored simply 5 issues in 16 mins. Smart passed Bill Self the worst Allen Fieldhouse loss of his profession. While securing his first NCAA match victory in Austin will nonetheless be vital, if Smart’s Longhorns can maintain this momentum, they will be positioning themselves for a ways higher issues.
Luka Garza‘s Wooden Award marketing campaign
Hear me out: Yes, all of us knew Garza would input the season as the favourite to win each and every nationwide honor, a season after scuffling with lottery select Obi Toppin for the Wooden Award. But who will have predicted that Garza — already an elite college participant — would make the important enhancements we now have witnessed to this point? He is extra correct from the 3-point line (49% as in comparison to 36% closing season) and charity stripe (74% as opposed to 65%). He has 5 30-point video games this season, already matching closing season’s general. His offensive rebounding charge is up, and his turnover charge is down. Sure, everybody knew Garza would dominate. But he has come what may taken his sport to some other stage.
Clemson … basketball?
Seriously. Brad Brownell went 5-6 in the ultimate 11 video games of the 2019-20 season, drumming up the perennial dialog about his process standing. But he already is midway to closing season’s win general after an 8-1 get started that comes with wins over Purdue, Florida State, Maryland and Alabama. The workforce’s early praise? Clemson was once an outstanding 15th in the first set of NET ratings launched by means of the NCAA on Monday.
John Calipari and Kentucky
Under Calipari, Kentucky’s younger squads have had that just-add-water attraction. No workforce in America in the one-and-done generation has produced extra NBA ability. Not a host of moderate NBA participants, both. John Wall, Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker, De’Aaron Fox, Tyler Herro, Bam Adebayo and Jamal Murray have all come thru Lexington over the previous decade.
So when a roster led by means of five-star prospect Brandon Boston Jr. and Wake Forest switch Olivier Sarr commenced the season, it was once honest to be expecting good things. Great issues have not took place, despite the fact that Kentucky gained its 2nd sport with a double-overtime victory over Mississippi State on Saturday — a victory secured by means of redshirt freshman Dontaie Allen‘s 23-point efficiency — snapping the first six-game dropping streak for the program in just about a century.
The win hasn’t stopped the questions of the most often efficient Calipari. Did he pass too a ways when he briefly got rid of Cam’Ron Fletcher from the workforce and criticized him on Twitter? Why is not Boston (5-for-33 from the 3-point line), who entered the season as a legitimate top-10 NBA prospect, now not making improvements to the method different five-star avid gamers at Kentucky have in the previous? Can Calipari ever win some other nationwide identify if he does not sign up for his colleagues and create a contemporary offense led by means of extra shooters who can unfold the ground? (Kentucky is taking pictures 29% from the 3-point line.)
We’ve watched different lukewarm Kentucky assemblies stumble thru November and December earlier than emerging in March. Perhaps Saturday’s win might be a catalyst for that during 2021. All we all know for now’s that for the first time since the 2012-13 NIT season, Calipari is suffering to crack the code in Lexington.
Roy Williams and North Carolina
Last season’s 14-19 file was once most commonly considered as an anomaly hooked up to the formative years on the roster in addition to accidents. But this Tar Heels team is 6-Four thru 10 video games — the similar file the program had a 12 months in the past after its first 10 video games. Now this does not imply North Carolina is headed for some other disastrous season, nevertheless it additionally doesn’t suggest you will have to wager on UNC imminently getting again to nationwide identify competition. Losses to Iowa and Texas are comprehensible, however you are expecting the Tar Heels to get previous NC State and Georgia Tech, two groups that defeated them closing week. A 66-65 nail-biter over Notre Dame on Saturday will have long past both method. It’s simple to brush aside those as early bumps in a peculiar season, however the younger backcourt (Caleb Love, R.J. Davis) has struggled to spark this UNC offense, and that is ominous: It’s the similar factor Williams’ squad had a 12 months in the past.
Injuries and surprising absences
A handful of groups have already been considerably impacted by means of the unlucky occasions that may disrupt a season. It’s nice to look Florida’s Keyontae Johnson running as a player-coach on the sideline for the Gators, just about a month after he collapsed all over a sport in opposition to rival Florida State. But Johnson’s absence from Mike White’s lineup stays an important loss for the program. Houston introduced Sunday that preseason Wooden Award candidate Caleb Mills (9.Eight PPG) would step clear of the program for private causes. West Virginia not too long ago introduced that Oscar Tshiebwe (8.Five PPG, 7.Eight rebounds in step with sport), some other Wooden candidate, had left the workforce. UCLA’s Mick Cronin simply misplaced standout Chris Smith to a torn ACL in devastating information for the Bruins. That’s a foursome of top-50 sorts who we may now not see on the ground for the leisure of the season.
Penny Hardaway and Memphis
The simplest explanation why the Tigers are not 1-2 in the American Athletic Conference and 5-Five general is as a result of Memphis guard Lester Quinones hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 68 seconds to play in Saturday’s 58-57 win over South Florida. The Tigers had been down by means of 10 halfway thru the 2nd part. Hardaway has some other Memphis workforce that may protect (peak 10 in potency) however cannot constantly rating. Ranked 146th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive potency ratings, Memphis has failed to attain 60 or extra issues in 3 of its 10 video games. Landers Nolley II is one of 4 avid gamers averaging double figures for Memphis, however the workforce’s struggles with turnovers and a subpar clip from the arc (30%) has created demanding situations to this point. The Tigers had been picked to complete 2nd in the American’s preseason ballot, however a top-three end is not any ensure for this Memphis squad.
The video games we did not see
The scheduled early December matchup between No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 2 Baylor was once the very best alternative for college basketball to make a countrywide splash. About an hour earlier than tipoff, on the other hand, the sport was once canceled as a result of of certain COVID-19 checks in Gonzaga’s touring celebration. Other main matchups had been canceled since. No Michigan State-Virginia. No Duke-Florida State. Villanova has paused workforce actions for a 2nd time in two weeks. The good looks of this college basketball season is that each one indicators level to a correct conclusion with the NCAA match. The demanding situations previous to March? We’ll almost certainly omit extra key video games. Yes, the committee will determine all of it out, however enthusiasts are lacking some of the entertaining matchups that get everybody excited for March and April.