1-3-1 Sports Midweek Review

THE 1-3-1 MIDWEEK REVIEW

1 Thought From the Games Earlier this Week

The triple overtime thriller between Kansas and Oklahoma was the most intriguing non-tournament game I’ve watched since 2009. I remember it like it was yesterday – going back and forth between my friend’s dorm and my own during my freshman year of college, clamoring for overtime again and again, and getting my wish six times over. The game that took place Monday night at Phog Allen Fieldhouse forced flashbacks upon me, as both teams played great basketball, but neither team could seal the deal, with both given multiple opportunities. Buddy Hield’s performance, even in the face of defeat, was strong enough that he is my current front-runner for the Naismith POY award. After the game, Hield, who played 54 of the 55 minutes, said that all he wanted was a bed. Now he knows how Jonny Flynn felt on the fateful March night at MSG; he played 67 of 70 minutes!

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3 Games to Watch this Week

i. Vanderbilt @ South Carolina (Saturday @ 3 pm EST, TV – ESPNU)
I’m not sure a team can go undefeated in any more of a low-key fashion than what the Gamecocks have accomplished so far this year (though SMU is actually competitive in this regard due to their sanctions). The knock on Frank Martin’s team is that they’ve beaten exactly zero teams inside the RPI top-75 as of the writing of this article. Enter Vanderbilt, whose SOS is a stark contrast, and whose record isn’t quite as pretty. The Commodores haven’t beaten any tournament teams, but they’ve played plenty (including Kansas, Baylor, and Dayton) very tough; don’t think for a second that the committee ignores close, quality losses. If nothing else, this game is worth watching to see if South Carolina can keep a zero in the loss column… and to see how red Frank Martin’s face gets on a scale from tomato to fire engine.

ii. Arizona @ USC (Saturday @ 7 pm EST, TV – PACN)
If you work a regular 9 to 5 and you’re living East of the Mississippi, it’s difficult to catch a lot of West coast basketball during the week; this is why I picked a Saturday game for you to watch. Arizona, per usual, is widely considered the class of the teams out West. USC, on the other hand, appears to have finally (maybe) fielded a team that won’t finish dead last in the Pac-12 under former Dunk City legend Andy Enfield. USC has an opportunity to add their first signature win to a resume that currently barely has them on the right side of the bubble. The current over/under on number of times the TV cameras pan to Amanda Enfield: 2.5 – it’s only so low because this isn’t an ESPN broadcast.

iii. Villanova @ Butler (Sunday @ 7:30 pm EST, TV – FS1)
I mentioned a lot of Big East teams, players, and games in last week’s edition of the Midweek Review, but can you blame me? The conference has had a lot of great early season action to discuss, and this game is no different. The Wildcats sit alone atop the Big East standings at 3-0, while the Bulldogs have stumbled to a 1-2 start in conference play… who could’ve possibly saw that coming!? (For that answer and more, please see last week’s edition of the 1-3-1 Midweek Review.) Villanova has the metrics and the talent to join Xavier in the push for a one-seed come March, and a win on the road at Hinkle would be another notch in George Clooney’s Jay Wright’s surely well-manicured belt.

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1 Bold Prediction for the Week

Wichita State goes into Carbondale and shocks (see what I did there?) the Salukis to take control of the Missouri Valley. Fred VanVleet is finally rounding into form after a hamstring injury sidelined him for a couple weeks earlier this season. Since his return, the Shockers are 7-1, including last night’s huge victory over a greatly improved Evansville squad. The great equalizer for the Salukis is Anthony Beane, who’s currently averaging 21 points per game, including a blazing 46% from behind the arc, all while launching nearly 6 attempts per game. This year’s edition of Wichita State is not comparable to Gregg Marshall’s squads from the past few seasons, but I still believe they are the class of the MVC.

1-3-1 Sports Midweek Review

THE 1-3-1 MIDWEEK REVIEW

1 Thought From the Games Earlier this Week

Come March, the tournament committee needs to distinguish Michigan State sans Valentine from Michigan State with Valentine. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see that the Spartans aren’t the same team without their floor general on the court. Valentine has an uncanny ability to find open spots on the court when he’s away from the ball, as well as a knack for breaking down opposing defenses to create opportunities for his teammates. Thus, it’s not a surprise that Michigan State has looked less-than-stellar in their first two games without Valentine (an overtime victory over Oakland and a blowout loss at Iowa). In the long run, playing without Denzel should facilitate the development of complimentary players like Eron Harris and Bryn Forbes. On Selection Sunday, the committee needs to remember the impact this short-term absence had on this team.

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3 Games to Watch this Week

i. Xavier @ Villanova (Thursday @ 12 pm EST, TV – FS1)
I had the opportunity to watch the Musketeers come to Ann Arbor and lay the lumber to my beloved Wolverines earlier this season. My takeaway? They’re deep, they’re physical, they’re well rounded and they’re fundamentally sound. Aside from the aforementioned win, the big victories for Chris Mack’s squad have been at home or on a neutral court. This will be their first real road test, as an in-conference showdown versus the Wildcats should have the Pavilion rocking. This should also demonstrate the true identity of Nova; they’ve played two tournament-caliber teams so far (Virginia and Oklahoma), and they’ve lost both games by double digits.

ii. Providence @ Butler (Thursday @ 2:30 pm EST, TV – CBSS)
The Big East sure starts off with a bang with these first two match-ups. The latter of these two games features two teams that have exceeded expectations and shot up the ranks so far this season. Providence beat Arizona and played a full-strength Michigan State team tough for 3/4 of a game. The Bulldogs of Butler similarly boast one key victory (Purdue) and one quality loss (Miami). These two teams also feature two of the most complete players in the Big East Conference in the form of Kris Dunn and Roosevelt Jones. It should be noted that this is underselling Dunn; he alone is reason enough to watch this game.

iii. Iowa State @ Oklahoma (Saturday @ 7 pm EST, TV – ESPN2)
Buddy Hield and Isaiah Cousins may be the best backcourt duo in the entire country this season. Lon Kruger continues to look like a great hire, as his Oklahoma teams have improved every season since he arrived in Norman. As for the Cyclones, the familiar (and improved) faces of Georges Niang and Monte Morris remain to lead the charge in Ames, while Brad Stevens’ coaching double tries his best to pick up where the Mayor left off. With a game against Kansas looming on Monday, the Sooners know that they have a huge opportunity to get an early leg up in the 3-man Big 12 race; sweeping both would be an incredible feat.

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1 Bold Prediction for the Week

Butler will lose back-to-back games. The Big East is very strong at the top this season, and I firmly believe that four teams (Xavier, Villanova, Providence, and Butler) will end up being on the 5-seed line or better; of those teams, I believe Butler is the weakest. I want to be clear that this is not me suggesting that Butler is not a good team, but rather that the Big East has a lot of quality at the top this year. They have a chance to prove me wrong, as three of their first four in-conference games are against the other three teams I listed. I don’t think they’ll be able to Get it Dunn (hold the pun applause) against the Friars at home, and godspeed to anybody trying to win at the Cintas Center this season.
– Game 1: Providence – 77, Butler – 72
– Game 2: Xavier – 80, Butler – 74