Expect the unexpected. This phrase has never been more applicable to a season in recent memory, as time and time again college basketball’s elite have fallen to unranked opponents. And in some cases, to teams who will not even taste March Madness.
This week proved to be no exception as top ten teams, such as Arizona and Iowa both fell to unranked opponents on the same evening, while ranked Notre Dame was blown out by a pesky Florida State squad in Tallahassee. 16th ranked Kentucky fell to bubble hopeful Vanderbilt in essentially a must win game for the Commodores in Nashville. Virginia scored a huge victory over UNC at home to tighten the already close ACC standings.
Also, in the showdown of the week, AP number one Villanova, who had previously won 15 of 16, came back down to earth after falling to rising Xavier 90-83 on the road. In the endless search for clarity after another crazy week, I give you my weekly stock report, my biggest storylines and finally my up-to-date top 25.
Weekly Stock Report
Buy Stock Now: Utah
Remember when Utah lost to Oregon by 18 at home on January 14th? I certainly don’t. The 22nd ranked Utes went 2-0 this week highlighted by a statement win over Arizona 70-64 in Salt Lake City. It was the first win for a Utah team over Arizona in 18 years, and the victory catapulted them into sole possession of second place in the Pac-12.
Despite senior Delon Wright’s graduation last spring, sophomore sensation Jakob Poeltl has certainly done an adequate job of picking up the slack. A Pac-12 player of the year candidate, Poeltl is currently second in the conference in scoring at 17.7 points per game and 3rd in rebounds at just under 9. Poeltl’s scoring prowess inside, along with his excellent shot blocking ability give Utah the dominant inside presence it needs to be a second weekend team in the tournament for the second year in a row.
Utah also possesses the most indispensable intangible in March: experience. Head Coach Larry Krystkowiak starts three upper classmen, including two seniors, to go along with sophomores Kyle Kuzma and of course, Poeltl. Senior guard Brandon Taylor flashed his potential during Saturday’s win over Arizona with a team leading 19 points. They’re skilled, experienced, well-coached, and have one of the best big men in the country. There is simply nothing not to like about this Utah team. Buy stock now.
Sell Stock Now: Villanova’s Final Four hopes
I could have made this title, “Villanova’s second weekend hopes” but I decided to go a bit easy on Jay Wright’s Wildcats. Villanova is going to once again finish the regular season with an incredible record. A real stunner.
Last year Villanova was an outstanding 33-2 before losing to 9th seeded NC State in the round of 32. The previous year Villanova was 29-4 before once again losing early, this time to 10th seeded UConn in the round of 32. Unfortunately for Jay Wright, Ryan Arcidiacono, Daniel Ochefu, and the rest of this Villanova senior class, compiling great regular season records before choking early in the NCAA tournament has become this team’s MO.
The point I am ultimately trying to make is that Villanova is not choking in these early NCAA tournament games, rather they are losing to opponents who are just more battle tested and ready to play. In conference play this season, Villanova will play a total of four games against ranked opponents (two vs Xavier and two vs Providence).
To put this strength of schedule in perspective, Michigan, who is currently projected as a 9 seed by Joe Lunardi, has played eight ranked teams in Big 10 play. Texas Tech, currently projected as an 8 by Lunardi, has played ten ranked opponents in their conference play. Syracuse, who is projected as a 10, has played seven in the ACC.
It is true that the committee should not and will not blame Villanova for playing in an extremely watered down Big East. However, there is no question that Villanova’s lack of quality games in recent years has hurt them in the NCAA tournament. Is it possible for Villanova to play four teams in a row who are even less battle tested than them in March? Sure. Yet, the likelihood of that scenario is slim to none. Let’s just be honest, this is not a final four team. Sell stock now.
Buy Stock Now: Vanderbilt’s tournament hopes
When unranked, under .500 Mississippi States’ Quinndary Weatherspoon hit a game winning three pointer as time expired it appeared as though the tournament hopes of Vanderbilt had been dashed. At 15-11 and 7-6 in the SEC, Vanderbilt appeared to be on the path to one of the bigger disappointments in recent memory, after beginning the season ranked 18th and considered by many a final four caliber team.
However, three straight wins later, including a thrilling 74-62 victory Saturday over Kentucky in a highly entertaining battle, the Commodores appear to be a team hitting their stride.
On paper, Vanderbilt is one of the more talented teams in the country highlighted by their preseason ranking. Wade Baldwin IV, a former four-star recruit, is one of the most talented players in the SEC and is currently averaging 14.4 points per game on 45 percent shooting. Baldwin is the type of player who can instantly change a game and makes Vandy worth keeping an eye on come bracket time. Speaking of brackets, Vanderbilt entered their game against Kentucky as Joe Lunardi’s 3rd to last team in.
However, a double-digit victory over one of the better teams in all of college basketball is exactly what the Commodores needed to secure a spot in March madness. Baring a major let down in their final week of the season, expect to see Vanderbilt on the 10 or 11 line come Selection Sunday. Buy Stock now.
Sell Stock Now: Dayton
For Dayton, it has been a tale of two seasons. During non-conference play, Dayton looked like a team who could make serious noise in the tournament. With impressive wins over then unranked Iowa, who is now a top 10 team, Vanderbilt in Nashville, and Monmouth, a potential at large tournament team, Dayton looked like a squad who could hang with the big boys.
Yet, during A-10 play, Dayton’s performance has left a lot to be desired. They suffered a brutal road loss to 7-20 La Salle, beat unranked Duquesne at home by two, beat 10-17 St Louis by three on the road, and finally lost to unranked Rhode Island by nine at home in a game that they never led. Their best win in conference I guess is at St. Bonaventure, who may not even make the NCAA tournament. Losing to teams like La Salle, St. Louis and Rhode Island does not give me much confidence that they can beat anyone good in March. While March Madness is always full of surprises, Dayton looks like a team who could very well be exiting the dance early. Sell Stock Now.
Hold off for now: Texas
I know what you’re thinking. Wouldn’t Texas be a clear “buy” after beating 3rd ranked Oklahoma? No, and here’s why. While Texas looked quite frankly like one of the best teams in the country during their 22-0 run Saturday against Oklahoma, they have had some head scratching performances. This is the same Texas team that lost at TCU 58-57 early in conference play, a team that has been the punching bag of the Big 12 for years.
They also got blown out last week by Baylor on their home floor, just six days after Baylor lost by 18 points to unranked Texas Tech at home.
Texas also has some feast or famine players who could either be on fire or as cold as the north pole. Take senior Connor Lammert as an example. In their head-scratching loss at TCU, Lammert went 0-7 from the field and scored one point. On Saturday against number three Oklahoma, the senior went 5/8 from the field including four 3-pointers. Don’t get me wrong, I like Texas a lot. I am just not ready to buy…. yet. Hold off for now.
My Top Storylines
12 Straight for Kansas
With a comfortable 67-58 win over Texas Tech, Kansas secured at least a share of their 12th consecutive regular season Big 12 title. They now hold the second longest streak of regular season conference titles in college basketball history, just one behind John Wooden and UCLA’s streak of 13 consecutive conference titles. The Jayhawks will likely also be the new AP number 1 entering the final week of the regular season, after Villanova fell to 5th ranked Xavier on Wednesday.
While Kansas’ accomplishment is being celebrated across college basketball, I believe the streak has become a burden for this group of Jayhawks. Yes, a burden. In the Perry Ellis era, which began in 2012-2013, Kansas has not made it past the sweet 16. Their woes began with a Steph Curry esque three pointer by Trey Burke which pushed Kansas into overtime and ultimately out of the tournament. Then, Andrew Wiggins led Kansas fell to 10th seeded Stanford in the round of 32 and last year Kansas was simply dominated by Wichita State in the round of 32 once again.
While it is fair to argue that Kansas simply did not have enough talent to make a deep run in last year’s NCAA tournament, I can’t help but think the pressure of continuing this streak year in and year out has taken its toll. Is the main goal to win the Big 12 regular season title or the National Championship? Kansas better have the right answer come tournament time.
Grayson “Trippin” Allen
Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, JJ Reddick, Greg Paulus, John Scheyer, and Grayson Allen. It appears as though the long line of hated, white Duke players has a new member.
With under 15 seconds left in Duke’s 80-65 victory over Florida State Thursday, Grayson Allen decided to trip Xavier Rathan-Mayes, the second player Allen has tripped in the past month. As is typical with any Duke star, everyone who’s anyone has had an opinion of the appropriate punishment for the sophomore guard. Despite former players like Jason Williams publicly expressing their opinion that Grayson should be suspended, the ACC decided to just reprimand him for his actions.
Be honest for a second. If you hate Grayson Allen, you hate him because he is one of the best players in college basketball. Now, maybe being a “punk” and tripping a couple of players adds to that hatred, but your hatred of him is rooted in the fact that he is a super star at one of the best programs in the country.
While I do not believe that he should have been suspended, these immature actions are only going to hurt Duke going forward. Allen is too talented and important to this Duke team to be committing these selfish acts. It’s only a matter of time before one of these tripping violations results in a technical or ejection that actually costs Duke a victory. Never change Grayson Allen, just be smarter.
My Top 25
- Michigan State
- North Carolina
- West Virginia
- Iowa State
- Texas A&M