Why this will be a college basketball weekend to remember-ZoomTech News

Why this will be a college basketball weekend to remember-ZoomTech News

Prepare for the very best weekend of the school basketball season thus far. Beginning at 10 p.m. ET Friday, we are going to enter a span of 24 hours that can present marquee matchups, NBA Draft prospects, important measuring-stick non-conference video games, elite atmospheres and way more. 

Included within the loaded slate? How about reigning nationwide champion, No. 5 UConn, touring to Seattle to face No. 10 Gonzaga within the begin of a two-year sequence between the 2 elite applications to kick off the weekend. It is also a rematch from final 12 months’s Elite Eight, when the Huskies rolled previous the Bulldogs, 82-54. It is going to be a enjoyable level guard matchup between Ryan Nembhard of the Zags and Tristen Newton of the Huskies, with the 2 going through one another final 12 months when Nembhard was at Creighton. 

If Gonzaga has an opportunity to win this recreation, it is as a result of Anton Watson, Nolan Hickman and freshman Dusty Stromer are complementing one another offensively and feeding off Nembhard. However I feel UConn’s greatest – after they hit that degree – is best than anyone in America. The Huskies additionally pose matchup points with Gonzaga with their versatility on the inside between Donovan Clingan and Samson Johnson, plus the shotmaking of Alex Karaban and Cam Spencer. 

My choose: UConn

Flip the web page to Saturday, and it is a marathon of blue bloods and big-branded applications. No. 2 Kansas returns a recreation in a real home-and-home sequence with a highway journey to Bloomington to face a 7-2 Indiana workforce trying to reply.

The battle between the Hoosiers and Jayhawks means former Michigan star Hunter Dickinson is again at Meeting Corridor. He’ll certainly be met with some chants from the Hoosier devoted. The frontcourt is the power for each of those groups, with Dickinson and KJ Adams combining for over 32 factors per recreation, whereas Oregon switch Kel’el Ware and sophomore Malik Reneau are combining for over 31 factors per contest. 

For each groups, the query mark has been on the perimeter. Indiana has actually struggled to shoot it from deep, averaging solely 3.4 made 3-pointers per recreation, which ranks 360 out of 363 nationally. Kansas is at 6.6 made per recreation, with Kevin McCullar actually taking off and serving because the X-factor on this recreation as effectively. The fifth-year senior has gone from averaging 10 factors to 19 factors per recreation this season.

One merchandise to observe: Indiana level guard Xavier Johnson’s standing is up within the air heading into Saturday. He has missed the final three video games with a left foot damage. It was the Kansas recreation final 12 months that Johnson suffered a season-ending proper foot damage. 

“It is powerful on him, it is powerful on us,” Indiana coach Mike Woodson instructed reporters Friday. “I do not know when he’ll be again within the lineup, however we have to maintain marching on.” 

Will the Hoosiers get sufficient from Trey Galloway and five-star freshman Mackenzie Mgbako to hold in with Kansas? 

It is arduous to win at Meeting Corridor, however this Indiana workforce simply is not dynamic sufficient offensively. 

My choose: Kansas

Afterward, at 2 p.m. ET on FOX, Michigan State takes on No. 6 Baylor at Detroit’s Little Caesars Area. The Bears sit at 9-0 and are certainly one of school basketball’s seven remaining unbeaten groups, whereas the Spartans have been heading in the wrong way. Will desperation come out of Tom Izzo’s 4-5 workforce? I wrote concerning the state of Michigan State this week and the way they’ll try to show the ship round. 

My choose: Baylor

[Read more: With No. 6 Baylor next, how does Michigan State get back on track?]

The matchup of the weekend is in Indianapolis the place No. 1 Arizona takes on No. 3 Purdue. How will Oumar Ballo and the Wildcats go about defending Zach Edey? One of the best participant in school basketball has scored a mixed 95 factors in his final three video games and is coming off a 35-point, seven-rebound efficiency in a wild win over Alabama. 

Then there’s the backcourt play, with the Wildcats’ duo of Caleb Love and Kylan Boswell assembly the Boilers’ sophomore pair of Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer. San Diego State switch Keshad Johnson is a large cause why Tommy Lloyd’s workforce is No. 1 within the nation, so Purdue discovering a solution for him is one thing I might be watching. 

One different key ingredient: tempo. Arizona is No. 6 within the nation in tempo. Purdue is at No. 158. Who dictates the type of the sport? With it in Indianapolis, and the Boilers at 9-1 with a Maui Invitational title, I am not letting the Northwestern loss outline my considering of them. 

My choose: Purdue. 

How good is that this Saturday’s slate? I have never even gotten to a top-15, blue-blood showdown in Atlanta but, when No. 9 North Carolina takes on No. 14 Kentucky. Freshman standout Aaron Bradshaw, who was ranked fourth within the 247 Sports activities Class of 2023 Composite rankings, had his coming-out celebration in final weekend’s 81-66 win over Penn. Bradshaw totaled 17 factors and 11 rebounds, becoming a member of Reed Sheppard and Rob Dillingham as the very best set of reserves in America. 

On the opposite aspect of the matchup is a pair of veterans in RJ Davis and massive man All-American Armando Bacot. Establishing the middle early and sometimes is the important thing for UNC on this recreation, and Notre Dame switch Cormac Ryan has to knock down some photographs. In his final three video games mixed, he is 8-for-29 from the ground. That has to alter. Within the midst of those freshmen, Kentucky’s Antonio Reeves is averaging 18 factors per recreation on 51% taking pictures from the ground. 

My choose: Kentucky 

[Read more: Ranking the top 10 freshmen in college basketball this season

Additionally included on this completely loaded buffet of Saturday video games:

Texas A&M vs. No. 4 Houston (Toyota Middle, 2:30 p.m. ET)

My choose: Houston 

No. 13 Clemson at Memphis (3 p.m. ET)

My choose: Memphis 

Ohio State vs. UCLA (Atlanta, 3 p.m. ET) 

My choose: Ohio State 

Alabama at No. 8 Creighton (FOX Primetime Hoops, 8 p.m. ET)

My choose: Creighton 

NC State vs. No. 12 Tennessee (San Antonio, 10 p.m. ET) 

My choose: Tennessee 

So, there is no such thing as a scarcity of motion on the hardwood this Saturday, a welcome sight with much less soccer on the TV, opening the door for school hoops to have some shine. 

Whether or not you are simply catching as much as the game, otherwise you’ve been locked in all through the season, I wished to unveil 10 of my early-season takeaways up to now, with some superlatives included as effectively. 

My 4 greatest groups: Arizona, Purdue, Connecticut, Baylor 

Why is that this? There’s only a full nature about all 4 of those groups. The Wildcats have elite-level steadiness, the Boilermakers have a generational expertise inside and a bunch hungry for redemption, the Huskies haven’t slowed down in any respect and Newton has been an All-American level guard, and whereas the Bears’ protection has its flaws, Ja’Kobe Walter is among the greatest freshmen within the nation as a part of a stacked perimeter. 

May Houston, Kansas or Marquette have a case? In fact. It is a lengthy season. I’d say the Cougars’ lack of offensive depth issues me, the Jayhawks’ points at taking pictures guard are an eyebrow-raiser, and Marquette’s rebounding disadvantages are why I’ve these three groups on the skin – nevertheless, they’re all very shut.

My first workforce All-Individuals at this level … once more, it is early! 

Zach Edey, Purdue 

Hunter Dickinson, Kansas 

Tristen Newton, Connecticut 

PJ Corridor, Clemson

Jaedon LeDee, San Diego State 

My three greatest shock groups: Clemson, BYU, Oklahoma 

Brad Brownell has assembled his good workforce with the Tigers, who’re top-30 in KenPom offense and protection, have a celebrity in Corridor, a sharpshooter in Joe Girard, and a really underrated weapon in Chase Hunter. This workforce has legit steadiness. 

The Sooners had been picked twelfth within the Large 12. The Cougars? thirteenth! 

Porter Moser crushed it within the switch portal with guard Javian McCollum (Siena) and ahead John Hugley (Pitt), whereas sophomore guard Otega Oweh has gone from 4.8 factors per recreation final 12 months to fifteen.2 per recreation this 12 months, and is among the most improved gamers in America. 

In the meantime, in Provo, Utah, Mark Pope has a workforce with six gamers averaging in double figures, together with Jaxson Robinson, who’s placing up over 16 factors per recreation and had 28 in a win over Denver this previous week. The metrics love this workforce, and they need to. At 9-1, BYU ranks within the prime three in scoring offense and protection within the Large 12. 

Workforce with probably the most upside: Kentucky 

I did not rank the Wildcats in my preseason ballot as a result of I wished them to completely show one thing this 12 months. The efficiency towards Kansas within the Champions Traditional, albeit in a loss, confirmed me one thing. Bear with me, Large Blue Nation! You’ve a workforce that might go on a really deep run, and Sheppard has been an absolute stud. 

My greatest issue with this workforce is in a detailed recreation, after they need to go halfcourt offense, what does that appear to be? Reeves’ shot financial system is vital right here, and I feel it is massive to see how Bradshaw evolves within the offense. On the finish of the day, can DJ Wagner and/or Dillingham run a constant offense when the sport will get slowed down and produce profitable, high quality possessions? That is what I wish to see because the 12 months goes on, together with consistency, as a result of the loss to UNCW two weeks in the past confirmed the youth on this UK workforce. 

Unranked workforce that I imagine in: Auburn 

Had the Tigers not slipped up at Appalachian State, I’d have them ranked in my prime 25 proper now. I actually like this workforce as a result of highly-touted freshman guard Aden Holloway has opened up a brand new dimension in an offense with seven gamers averaging a minimum of 7.3 factors per recreation. 

They’ve an elite put up presence in Johni Broome, together with high quality size in Jaylin Williams and JUCO switch Chad Baker-Mazara. They actually stress the ball effectively defensively too, sitting at twelfth in KenPom adjusted effectivity on that finish of the ground. The Tigers are within the prime 4 within the SEC in fewest turnovers. There’s rather a lot to love about Bruce Pearl’s group. 

5 massive questions forward of January:

1. Who’s the second-best workforce within the Large Ten? Will anyone problem Purdue? 

My leaders within the clubhouse: Illinois and Wisconsin, each of whom are ranked this week. Terrence Shannon Jr. has extra help now, and items that frankly match higher with Marcus Domask and Quincy Guerrier. Coleman Hawkins’ shotmaking capability is one thing that should progress, however I like this Illini workforce, even with some level guard questions. As for the Badgers, even after a loss at Arizona, I nonetheless suppose this workforce has numerous potential. St. John’s switch AJ Storr has led the workforce in scoring with 13.8 factors per recreation. 

2. Will Duke get on monitor and make a push? 

It is tough that the Blue Devils are having to go on with out Tyrese Proctor for now, a sophomore who has NBA Draft lottery potential, however the damage bug is a part of the truth. This workforce is 7-3 on the 12 months, however would not have a signature win. 

Jared McCain and Jeremy Roach pulling down three triples apiece was encouraging in Tuesday’s 89-68 win over Hofstra. Duke wants McCain to maintain progressing. One factor is for sure: Kyle Filipowski is a stud. 

3. Who will win the Large East, and what is the center going to appear to be? 

The highest-three groups are as robust as any trio in any convention, with UConn, Marquette and Creighton on the prime of the league. The Golden Eagles are the reigning common season and convention event champions, however the Huskies maintain the nationwide title throne. Final 12 months, although, two of the Huskies’ eight losses got here to Marquette. These matchups might be spicy after they hit on the calendar. 

Past these three, the Large East is a little bit of a thriller. I feel it is going to be a five-bid league with two of Villanova, Windfall, Butler, St. John’s or Xavier making the Large Dance. The Wildcats have had probably the most weird season with the Battle 4 Atlantis championship, after which a final place end in Philadelphia’s Large 5. I would nonetheless put them within the NCAA Match area at present, however seemingly in an 8-9 recreation. 

Will the Friars be capable of present extra of what they’d in a blowout win over Wisconsin? Kim English may have the darkish horse workforce within the league. Can Butler maintain its 8-2 begin, and show they’ll win away from Hinkle Fieldhouse? After which, will Rick Pitino and Sean Miller pull their groups collectively after a gradual begin? Fittingly, the Purple Storm host the Musketeers of their Large East opener on Dec. 20.

4. Who may very well be a March darkish horse that it’s best to control? 

This is my foursome: Memphis, Saint Joseph’s, Indiana State and Kent State 

5. Who would be the final unbeaten standing? This is the record of the remaining seven groups who’re nonetheless good on the season:

10-0 Houstonvs. Texas A&M Saturday
8-0 Arizona – vs. Purdue Saturday 
9-0 Baylor – vs. Michigan State Saturday
9-0 Oklahoma – vs. Inexperienced Bay Saturday  
9-0 Clemson – at Memphis Saturday 
9-0 James Madison – at Hampton Saturday 
9-0 Ole Miss – vs. Cal Saturday

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John Fanta is a nationwide school basketball broadcaster and author for FOX Sports activities. He covers the game in quite a lot of capacities, from calling video games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Community to offering commentary on The Subject of 68 Media Community. Observe him on Twitter @John_Fanta.

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