1-3-1 Sports Midweek Review

THE 1-3-1 MIDWEEK REVIEW

 

1 Thought From the Games Earlier this Week

Chaos is king in college basketball this season. Filling out your bracket in any given season is a crapshoot, and in that sense, this season will be no different. However, with the two big changes to the game this season, (the 30-second shot clock [LOVE] and the freedom of movement rules [MEH]), we’re seeing significantly more mayhem than in past years. As with any major change, it takes time to iron out the kinks and stabilize what we expect as the norm. Thus, I anticipate that this pandemonium will continue through tournament time. Last night alone provides an example of some of the shocking upsets we’ve seen so far this season. A hot and cold Texas team won on the road against a West Virginia team who handily took care of Kansas one week prior, while the Spartans of Michigan State suffered their second straight one-point defeat, this one coming at home at the hands of a borderline-NIT Nebraska team.

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3 Games to Watch this Week

i. Gonzaga @ St. Mary’s (Thursday @ 11 pm EST, TV – ESPNU)
I know, I know, this game doesn’t start until 11 PM EST and you have to work tomorrow… cry me a river; it really should be of the utmost quality. This game between the Zags and the Gaels is for the outright lead in the West Coast Conference. Here is my pretend shocked face:

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These two teams are always the class of this conference, and this year is no different. Gonzaga isn’t quite the same team without Przemek Karnowski to come off the bench and be extra, super tall and do extra, super tall guy things. That being said, they still have a POY candidate in Kentucky transfer Kyle Wiltjer, and Lithuanian sensation and double-double machine Domantas Sabonis. The Gaels counter with Emmett Naar, another Australian pipeliner that has what the analysts love to call “in-the-gym” type shooting range.

ii. Oklahoma @ Baylor (Saturday @ 12:00 pm EST, TV – ESPN2)
Based on a relatively favorable start to their conference schedule, the Baylor Bears sit alone atop the Big 12 conference. If they wish to remain there, they’ll have to protect their home court and knock off the temporarily top-ranked Sooners. I anticipate Oklahoma will come out pretty fired up for this game, coming off an embarrassing defensive effort in their loss to Iowa State on Monday night. Scott Drew’s Baylor squad is very well-rounded, with four players averaging double-figure scoring per game. Of these four, I look for the Bears to channel their success through Rico Gathers, who will easily be the most physically-imposing player on the court.

iii. Maryland @ Michigan State (Saturday @ 6:30 pm EST, TV – ESPN)
After starting the season 16-0, the Spartans have stumbled their way to a 3-4 start in conference play. Of the four losses, none was more frustrating for Spartan fans than the home loss to Nebraska last night. This loss marks the second time in three years Tim Miles has led the Cornhuskers to victory over Tom Izzo and his squad in East Lansing. Michigan State will have the perfect opportunity to gain a rebound victory, as College Gameday joins Maryland in coming to town for this heavyweight match-up. Maryland, led by the underachieving Melo Trimble and the constantly improving Diamond Stone, will look for a victory to keep pace with Indiana and Iowa in the Big 10 race.

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1 Bold Prediction for the Week

Ben Bentil will put up 20+ points and 8+ boards, but all will be for naught in the face of a Villanova victory. The Wildcats of Villanova play host to the Friars of Providence at the Wells Fargo Center at 1 PM on Sunday. Providence has had an intriguing last four games, going 2-2 in a stretch where every game has been decided by single digits. While Kris Dunn’s name is the one that grabs headlines because of his NBA potential, Ben Bentil has quietly developed into a Robin role on the team. With Jay Wright sure to key in on stopping Dunn, it seems that Bentil will have a ripe opportunity to put up some double-double type numbers against Nova. In the end, however, I do believe the Wildcats will add another solid victory to their resume and maintain a zero in the loss column in Big East conference play.

Final Score:
Villanova – 76
Providence – 70

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