College Basketball Roundup
As we come closer and closer to conference and NCAA tournament season, let’s take a step back and look at what was a WILD week in College Basketball and highlight a few things.
Team of the Week: Michigan Wolverines
No. This is not “homerism”. After a week that included wins over Indiana, Iowa, and Ohio State, Michigan is playing some of the best college basketball of anyone in America. Quite frankly, because of the snoozefest that is Gonzaga’s conference schedule, they’re the talk of the sport. Behind a group of experienced guards and wings around a dominant freshman center in Hunter Dickinson, Michigan has turned into a wrecking ball that can beat you in every way imaginable.
If you want a track meet with Michigan, they’ll score 92 on you, just ask Ohio State. Are you going to try to make them work hard to get baskets for a half and try to pounce on them in the second half? They’ll make adjustments, just ask Indiana and Rutgers. If you have a star player to deal with, the freshman center can lock them down. Ask Luka Garza how his Tuesday night was.
The bottom line is, the combination of talent, effort, defense, efficiency, togetherness, and coaching has Michigan in a position to beat just about anyone in America and in any way they have to. Without one true star, Michigan isn’t tethered to one certain playstyle, nor is it dependent on the production of an individual player who can have an off night at the wrong time. With a big tilt ahead against Illinois, Michigan once again has yet another chance to pad its already ultra-impressive resumé and add another reason to wonder if it’s the best team in America.
Player of the Week: Cade Cunningham (Oklahoma State)
Oklahoma State is an intriguing team entering March and most of that has to do with the supremely talented Cade Cunningham. The freshman phenom can really do it all. He has a really advanced all-around offensive game that has translated well into being the leader of this Oklahoma State basketball team. On Saturday, the Cunningham willed his team to a 94-90 win over 7th ranked Oklahoma on the road in overtime. In overtime, Cunningham scored 10 of his 40 points and really took over in all aspects down the stretch.
As Cunningham continues to excel and cement himself as the shoo-in number one overall draft pick in the upcoming NBA draft. Due to the bribery scandal that implicated former Oklahoma State assistant Lamont Evans, the Cowboys’ eligibility for the NCAA tournament is in slight question. However, it would just be a damn shame if Cunningham’s talents weren’t showcased in Indianapolis.
Game of the Week: Michigan at Ohio State
Usually, when Michigan and Ohio State get together for a hyped and ballyhooed game, it’s in football. However, this top-5 matchup between the Big Ten powers received all more hype than what we’ve seen in a long time in this series. Plot twist: It lived up to every bit of the hype. The game played out as a bit of an ode to college basketball. The offensive side of the ball was beautiful which, combined with some elite shot-making on both sides, led to 179 total points.
But it wasn’t just the offense. Timely defensive plays and stops made this game an edge of your seat thriller. Ohio State’s approach was gutty and ultra-efficient. Duane Washington and EJ Lidell, the stars for Ohio State, played like the stars they are. They did their absolute best to will Ohio State to victory. Michigan countered with a barrage of threes in the first half and resilience on both ends of the floor in the second half. In the end, Michigan’s size, length, and defense won out and caused Ohio State a lot of problems.
Rarely do we get a blockbuster matchup such as this to live up to the hype in such a perfect way. However, this one did, and it might just be a preview of something we could see as much as twice more this year.
Upset of the Week: #17 Kansas over #2 Baylor
It’s not every day that you see a ranked team beating another as the upset of the week, but when it’s the previously unbeaten, number 2 team in America, it qualifies. Since restarting after a 21-day COVID break, Baylor has yet to really get its footing and look like the team that ran through the Big 12 prior to shutting down. After squeaking past Big 12 cellar-dweller Iowa State, Baylor traveled to Allen Fieldhouse to face what was undoubtedly their game since the restart.
Kansas on the other hand was and remains one of the hottest teams in America, winning 6 of their last 7 after being declared part of the Blue Blood graveyard in 2021. Baylor struggled from the jump and didn’t get much help from their bench, who scored a meager 5 points. However, more noticeable was the lack of production from star guard and leading scorer Jared Butler.
After dominating Kansas back in January with 30 points, the Bears’ stud put up just 5 points, matching the bench production. David McCormack, who struggled with just 6 points in their first meeting with the Bears, dominated inside on both ends of the floor, ending with 20 points on 8-10 shooting and 3 blocks. They haven’t looked like themselves since they’ve come back, but it’ll be interesting to see just how long if they can, it takes Baylor to regain the form that vaulted them into their own tier with Gonzaga.
Mid-Major Spotlight: Winthrop Eagles
No one’s talking about Winthrop. And let’s be real, why would we. They have not played any opponents outside of the Big South. But good lord are they dominating their conference. At 17-1, Winthrop has absolutely run through the Big South. They are extremely deep, with at least 11 players averaging over 10 minutes a game. Led by Chandler Vaudrin, who is in the top 10 in America in assists per game, the Eagles are extremely efficient on offense. The Eagles spent their week sweeping High Point to officially win the Big South. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Winthrop is going to make the second weekend of the NCAA tournament. But if you’re looking for an attractive low seed upset, Winthrop might just be the team you’re looking for.