1-3-1 Sports Midweek Review

THE 1-3-1 MIDWEEK REVIEW

 

1 Thought From the Games Earlier this Week

South Carolina got exposed by the first RPI top-50 team that they played this season. The one red flag that was attached to South Carolina’s undefeated start to the season was their comical SOS. On Wednesday night, the Gamecocks took on their first remotely borderline tournament-quality opponent in Alabama, and the Tide rolled. Frank Martin’s squad struggled all over the place, including, but not limited to: turning the ball over 17 times, making 3 of 18 attempts from behind the three-point line, allowing 10 offensive rebounds, and going 9 for 17 from the charity stripe. The end result of this debacle was a 23-point defeat and the removal of their 0 in the loss column. Even in the mediocre SEC, I would not be shocked to see this team lose 3 or 4 of their next 8 games after their 15-0 start to the season.

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3 Games to Watch this Week

i. Iowa @ Michigan State (Thursday @ 7 pm EST, TV – ESPN)
The only loss the Spartans have suffered thus far this season was their first conference game in Iowa City against the Hawkeyes (hardly redemption for what happened in football). One big difference in tonight’s game is that Denzel Valentine is healthy this go-round, and as I’ve constantly (and probably obviously) stated, Michigan State is a totally different team with their floor general and emotional leader on the court. Valentine joins Iowa’s Jarrod Uthoff, Maryland’s Melo Trimble, and Michigan’s Caris Levert as Big Ten players on the Midseason Top 25 Watch List for the Wooden Award. These two teams figure to be in the top echelon of the Big 10 the entire season, and this game will go a long way towards shaking out seeding for the conference and NCAA tournament come March.

ii. George Washington @ Dayton (Friday @ 7 pm EST, TV – ESPN2)
Hooray for quality, mid-major, in-conference, televised basketball! The Colonials and the Flyers are both 3-1 in an Atlantic 10 conference that I believe is constantly underrated; I wouldn’t bet against the A10 receiving four bids on March 13th. At 6’9″, George Washington’s Tyler Cavanaugh is one of the rangiest bigs in the country this season, averaging 17.2 points per game while shooting 54% from the field, 42% from behind the arc, and 85% from the free throw line. He has scored in double-figures in every game he’s played this season, so it’ll be interesting to see what Archie Miller dials up on the defensive end to try and slow him down.

iii. West Virginia @ Oklahoma (Saturday @ 4 pm EST, TV – ESPN2)
Huggy Bear’s Mountaineers defensively swarmed Kansas on Tuesday night, causing the Jayhawks to commit 22 turnovers on their way to taking sole possession of the Big 12 in the process. How fitting it is, then, that their next challenge is against the team that is sure to take over the number one spot that Kansas just effectively relinquished with a victory Saturday afternoon. West Virginia’s pressure and athleticism will be tested by the triumvirate of talented guards Oklahoma has in Hield, Woodard, and Cousins. My sports man-crush on Buddy Hield and his unique and gifted abilities is tempered only by his on-court Achilles Hield (a-thank you): turnovers. If West Virginia goes into Norman and wins this game, I would not be surprised to see them receive first place votes in Monday’s AP poll; it would be well-deserved.

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1 Bold Prediction for the Week

Iowa loses by double digits tonight in East Lansing, then wins by double digits against Michigan in Iowa City on Sunday. It’s a perfect storm: with revenge on their minds and their best player back on the court, I think Michigan State rolls over Iowa at home to cover the 9-point spread. This would be the Hawkeyes first in-conference loss of the season, and would send them on a long trip home to sit and rue the game they had just played. If tonight goes as predicted, come Sunday, the Hawkeyes will be at home and hungry to right the ship, while Michigan may come into town a little hungover from their massive victory over Maryland on Tuesday night. I expect these two contrasting emotions to result in an unfortunately ugly game for my alma mater.

– Game 1: Michigan State – 81, Iowa – 69
– Game 2: Iowa – 86, Michigan – 73

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