1/24-1/30 Teams of the Week
Hoops fans, we are now only six weeks away from Selection Sunday! Throughout the country we continue to see many teams put together great performances week in and week out. As always, there are many more than ten teams worthy of being highlighted as a team of the week, but we have narrowed it down to ten plus numerous honorable mentions. Take a look below!
Teams of the Week!
The UCLA Bruins have re-established themselves as a Top-5 team in the country, and a legit final four contender. Coming off a 20+ day pause due to Covid, UCLA found itself in some close games to lower teams in the Pac-12, and played poorly against Oregon in its second loss of the season. Since that loss, it would appear UCLA has found its groove! The Bruins have now won six straight games, including going 3-0 this past week. UCLA was able to dominate in-state opponents California and Stanford on Thursday and Saturday respectively without key players Johnny Juzang and Jaylen Clark in the lineup. That is the sign of a deep team. While those wins are impressive, UCLA is a team of the week mostly due to the 75-59 big time win over Arizona on Tuesday. In a battle of two Top-10 teams, UCLA looked like the superior team throughout the game. The Bruins shot 47% from three while holding Arizona to 25% from deep, and only turned the ball over eight times in the game. Another important key for UCLA is having Cody Riley back in the lineup who missed multiple games due to injury. Riley averaged over 11 points per game this week, and was a major factor on the defensive end. When this team is fully healthy, consider them one of the ten main national title contenders.
2. Boise State:
Boise State just keeps on winning, and in exciting fashion! The Broncos went 2-0 this week, defeating Wyoming 65-62 in an exciting game. Boise State then followed it up with a classic, beating Fresno State on the road in overtime. To get the game to OT, Marcus Shaver utilized a perfect shot fake to get himself a wide open look at the game tying three which he was able to connect on. With these wins in the books, Boise State has now won fourteen straight games, is 8-0 in conference play and 17-4 on the year overall. Two keys to the Broncos success thus far are balanced scoring and stellar defense. BSU has five players that average nine or more points per game, and Boise State only allows 58.3 points per game on the season. That is quite the winning formula that not only has created breathing room in the NCAA Tournament field, but also has this team looking capable of a run to the second weekend of March Madness. Keep an eye on Boise State!
We mentioned earlier how impressive UCLA's win over Arizona was earlier last week, but the most impressive win of the last seven days might be Kentucky's complete domination of Kansas on the road. It is well documented that very few teams are able to win in Kansas's Allen Fieldhouse, but even less are able to win in the way Kentucky was Saturday evening. The Wildcats won 80-62, held the Jayhawks to 40.7% shooting from the field, and outrebounded KU 41-29 in the win. Outstanding! Oscar Tshiebwe continued to do what he does best in college basketball, register double-double performances. Tshiebwe recorded 17 points and 14 rebounds in the win over Kansas, coming on the heels of a 21 point, 22 rebound game in Kentucky's other win this week over Mississippi State. This kid is an All-American level talent! The SEC is as deep as its been this season, but Kentucky is one of the programs capable of finishing at the top of the league.
Welcome back to the bubble conversation VCU! The Rams have been playing solid basketball as of late, winning three in a row including two fantastic road wins this week. VCU defeated Richmond on Saturday 64-62, but the highlight of the week was the 70-68 road win over a great Davidson team on Wednesday. In the win over Davidson, VCU forced 15 turnovers while only committing 7 themselves. The Rams also shot 50% from three and held Davidson to just 21%. That commitment to the offensive and defensive side of the ball is how you win big games on the road! VCU is still just on the outside of the projected NCAA Tournament field, but have closed the gap immensely with six weeks to go.
5. Murray State:
The Racers appear as a team of the week once again! Murray State's ten game winning streak, 3-0 week, and great 77-66 win over Morehead State on Saturday have something to do with that! The Racers are also now 20-2 on the season, and have a strong at-large case even if they do not win the Ohio Valley Conference tournament. In the victory over Morehead State, four players scored 14 or more points, with three scoring 16+ points. Kj Williams, the leading scorer in the win, continued his hot scoring stretch, providing 21 points for the Racers. Williams has now scored 20 or more points in four consecutive games. He has also scored in double figures in 19/22 games for Murray State this season, and has not scored less than 8 points in any game. An absolute stud and a must watch along with this entire Murray State Racer squad.
6. Saint Marys:
Take a bow Gaels of Saint Marys! With 3:42 to go in the 1st half, Saint Marys trailed San Francisco on the road by 23 points, 38-15, and trailed by 17 points at the half. San Francisco even went into the half off of momentum of a buzzer beater. It looked as though Saint Marys would fall in this important WCC and bubble matchup. Then, Matthias Tass happened. Tass scored 21 of his 27 points in the second half, including scoring nine of Saint Marys first eleven points to start the second half. Tass's incredible half, along with increased defense helped lead SMC to a thrilling 72-70 comeback win over San Francisco. This win not only shows that the Gaels never quit, but it also provides significant breathing room in the NCAA Tournament field. Saint Marys followed up this unbelievable comeback with a 81-57 win over Pepperdine on Saturday. Even in a year where the WCC looks as good as its been in the last decade, Saint Marys remains one of the best teams in the league behind Gonzaga.
7. North Texas:
To this point, UAB and Louisiana Tech have received the majority of praise as the teams to beat in the Conference-USA. Both of those programs are off to great starts this season, and right in the mix to win the league. However, the current leader of the C-USA? That would be the Mean Green of North Texas. North Texas is on a seven game win streak and is 8-1 in conference play, 15-4 overall. This week, UNT picked up two road wins, Southern Miss on Thursday, and then a big time win over aforementioned Louisiana Tech on Saturday. In the win over LA Tech, leading scorer Tylor Perry connected on a game winning three with four seconds left to secure the win. Thomas Bell added 21 points on 8/10 shooting, and the Mean Green shot just under 48% from three as a team. This recent success has North Texas at the top of the conference, but also has UNT in the at-large bid discussion if it can keep this play up. A team to watch moving forward!
The Providence Friars are a GREAT team. Some metrics may be harsh on the Friars resume, but this team is absolutely the real deal. Providence is 18-2 through 20 games this season and in first place in the Big East. The Friars have also won five consecutive contests, including two wins this week over other ranked teams in the league. On Tuesday, Providence defeated Xavier 65-62, and followed it up with a 65-63 win over Marquette on Sunday in a back and forth game. PC is getting contributions from many players on the roster, but the two that stand out the most are Nate Watson and Al Durham. Watson, one of the better big men in the conference, led the team in scoring in the win over Marquette with 17 points. Durham, a grad transfer from Indiana, is the team's leading scorer and has scored in double figures in eight straight games. Al Durham is also averaging career highs in minutes per game, points per game, assists per game and free throw percentage. The play of these two, along with solid role players should keep Providence in the mix for the duration of the season and into March.
No one in the MAAC has been able to stop Iona yet this season. The Gaels are now 10-0 in league play, 18-3 on the season, and have won seven straight games. This past week, Iona went 2-0, with the wins coming against the current second and third place teams in the conference. The Gaels have yet to lose a game at home, and have nine wins away from their arena, four road and five neutral court. Similar to Boise State, Iona has five players that average 9 or more points per game, with leading scorer Tyson Jolly averaging about 15 points per game. Jolly has scored in double figures in all but three games this season, and in eleven straight games. Iona also has a non-conference win over Alabama back in November, which keeps this team firmly in the at-large bid discussion should the Gaels not win the MAAC. However, consider this team the heavy favorite to win the auto-bid spot.
10. 10+ Win Streak Shoutouts
Similar to how we handled the tenth team of the week spot last week, we have dedicated this section to three programs that have won ten games in a row, but have not been featured by us in the recent weeks. Of note, Auburn, Wagner and UNC Wilmington all have also won 10+ games in a row, but were recently featured and thus can be found within honorable mentions. South Dakota State, Jacksonville State, and Houston have won exactly ten games in a row to date and all sit atop their respective conferences. South Dakota State is currently 10-0 in Summit League play and 19-4 on the season. The Jackrabbits picked up wins over North Dakota and North Dakota State this week to keep the streak going. Jacksonville State is now 8-0 in Atlantic Sun play and 15-6 on the year. The highlight of the 3-0 week for the Gamecocks was the road win over Liberty, another contender in the A-Sun. Jacksonville State made 12 threes in that win and were led by Jalen Gibbs who contributed 21 points with five three pointers of his own. Finally, Houston sits at 7-0 in the American, and 18-2 on the year. Despite losing players from last year's final four team in the offseason, and additional key players to injury throughout the year, the Cougars just keep on winning. That is the sign of a top-tier program nationally. Over the last seven days Houston dominated East Carolina and UCF to keep its win streak rolling on.
-Auburn: continued its nation leading 17 game win streak
-Wagner: 13 game win streak, 2-0 week
-UNCW: 11 game win streak, 3 wins this week
-Seattle: 9 game win streak, still undefeated in WAC play
-Vermont: also on a 9 game win streak, and undefeated in the America East
-Hawaii: 7 game win streak, in sole possession of first in the Big West
-Longwood: 3-0 week, big win over Winthrop to stay atop the Big South and extend win streak to 8 games
-Arkansas: have won 6 straight, solid win over West Virginia on Saturday
-Norfolk State: 6 game win streak, and 6-0 in MEAC play
-SMU: 5 straight wins, 7-1 in AAC play
-UNC: 3-0 week, stretch home record to 12-0 on the year
-UConn: 5 game win streak, 2-0 this past week
-Illinois: 2-0 week highlighted by 56-55 win over Michigan State
-Purdue: 2-0 week, wins over Iowa and Ohio State in the last 7 days
-New Orleans: seven game win streak continues
-Furman: 4 game win streak, two double digit wins this week
-Florida A&M: six game win streak, moved to near the top of the SWAC
-Toledo: 2-0 week to continue 8 game winning streak
-Texas: 2-0 week, important wins over TCU and Tennessee
-Chattanooga: 5 game win streak, 2-0 this past week
-Montana State: 7 game win streak, just one game back of first in the Big Sky
-Weber State: 6 game win streak, current leader in the Big Sky
-Bryant: 7 game win streak, 9-1 in NEC play, just one game back of Wagner
-Long Beach State: 2-0 week, two road wins, 6 game win streak
-Appalachian State: defeated Arkansas St, 61-54 to take control of the Sun Belt, on a 6 game win streak
Lets keep the hoops momentum going! DM us @TBracketology if there is anyone else worthy of a shoutout! Thanks for reading!