2/7-2/13 Teams of the Week
We now have just ONE MONTH until Selection Sunday. It's time to get excited! It is also the time for programs to start playing their best basketball to build momentum for conference and postseason tournaments. This week, ten teams stood out to us above the rest, along with many honorable mentions listed at the bottom of the piece. Check it out below and let us know what you think!
Teams of the Week!
It has been a roller coaster season for Rutgers, but lately that coaster has only been moving up! Rutgers is currently on a three game win streak, all three of which have come over teams ranked in the Top-20 nationally and currently projected as 5 seeds or better for the NCAA Tournament. Two of those three victories came this past week as the Scarlet Knights defeated Ohio State 66-64 on Wednesday, and won on the road against Wisconsin 73-65 on Saturday. Geo Baker was the man against Ohio State. Baker scored 25 points and added 6 assists on 64% shooting from the field. Rutgers also won this game while only shooting 5/15 from three, and allowing Ohio State to shoot 10/18 (56%) from deep. That does not happen often! In the win over Wisconsin, Ron Harper Jr was stellar, scoring 21 points, and RU was much better as a team from three, shooting 58% from behind the arc. Defense was also a key in this game, as Rutgers limited both Johnny Davis, (11 points) and Brad Davison (9 points on 3/13 shooting), to well below their respective averages. This latest surge for the Scarlet Knights has this program right back in the picture and just outside the projected field. If they keep this play up, we might just see Rutgers' name announced one month from now.
Rutgers was not the only team to pick up big wins and move closer to the field. Virginia also had a big week themselves, and has now won four straight games. Also like Rutgers, this win streak has moved the Cavaliers back into the picture for an at-large tournament spot. Virginia beat Georgia Tech on Saturday, and has also recently defeated Miami, but the major reason UVA made it on this list was due to what the team did Monday night. The Cavaliers won, on the road, against Duke in an exciting down to the wire matchup, 69-68. Reece Beekman hit the game winning three with under five seconds to play to secure the victory. Crazy enough, that game winner was only the second made three on the night for Virginia, yet they still found a way to pull off this massive upset. Turnovers were one of the largest x-factors in this game. UVA only committed five turnovers all night, while Duke committed 15, 10 of which turned into steals for the Cavaliers. That is how you combat an off shooting night! This win, along with the aforementioned streak, still have Virginia on the outside looking in for a NCAA Tournament spot, but this team is moving closer by the day and one to watch in the ACC moving forward.
Continuing the theme of big wins this week, we can add the Memphis Tigers to that list! Over the last seven days, Memphis avenged an earlier loss it took against Tulane, defeated the Green Wave 80-69 on Wednesday, and followed it up with arguably its best win on the season, a 69-59 road win against then Top-10 Houston. The victory over Houston also bumped Memphis into our current projected field as the last team in as of February 13th! Four players scored in double figures in the Houston game, led by a season-high 20 points from Landers Nolley II. The Tigers also have not lost since Head Coach Penny Hardaway's infamous interview calling out critics of the program, having won five games in a row. While the preseason expectations may have been higher, Memphis appears to be getting hot at the perfect time, and have opportunities upcoming against some of the better teams in the American to continue to boost its resume towards an NCAA Tournament bid.
Memphis was not the only team to get a tournament resume boost from a win against Houston this past week. SMU also defeated the Cougars, 85-83 at home on Wednesday night. That win, along with a road victory over East Carolina on Saturday gave the Mustangs a 2-0 record over the last seven days. SMU fell down the bubble a bit after losing by 15 points to Wichita State eight days ago, but have done well to avenge that loss, and move back into the immediate bubble discussion with one month to go. The Houston win really showed the resiliency of this Mustang program. SMU was down by as much as 15, after coming off a double digit loss, but did not quit. Well into the second half, Houston led 65-51, before the Mustangs erupted for a 27-12 run that gave them a 78-77 lead with 2:30 to go. While the remaining two plus minutes were close, SMU never trailed again. Both Kendric Davis and Marcus Weathers scored 20 or more points to help complete the comeback and get the win. This was a huge result for the Mustangs, and like Memphis, this team has some more opportunities coming in conference to try and get itself into the tournament field.
5. Montana State:
Montana State won three games this past week, two of which were by three or less points to Portland State and Northern Arizona. While that is a great week, the Bobcats make this list due to its current eleven game win streak! Montana State has not lost since December 30th, when it lost to Weber State, the team in second place in the Big Sky and who MSU beat last week to split the season series. The Bobcats have multiple guys that can beat you. Five players average over eight points per game, and all five of those players shoot 35% or better from the three point line. Offense is not the only story for Montana State though. The Bobcats have only given up more than 74 points once on this win streak, and have given up 60 or less points in five games during this stretch. For the season, Montana State allows 67 points per contest. Montana State also held two out of three opponents to under 18% shooting from three this week, and the third opponent, NAU, to 34% from deep. This combination of balance scoring and stout defense has the Bobcats in first place in the Big Sky and 20-5 overall on the year!
6. Long Beach State:
Like Montana State, Long Beach State is on a double digit win streak, and did not lose over the last seven days. LBSU went 2-0 this past week and has now won ten in a row! This run also has Long Beach State sitting in first place in the Big West and 14-9 on the year. The Beach helped maintain its lead atop the conference by defeating the second and third place teams in the league during the 2-0 week. On Tuesday, LBSU beat Cal State Fullerton 71-61, and won on the road against Hawaii on Thursday, 73-66. Four players for Beach scored in double figures in each win, with Colin Slater being the most consistent force. Slater scored 19 points on 50% shooting versus CSU Fullerton, and added 16 points against Hawaii. One factor for Long Beach State's conference success is how tested the team was in the non-conference. Beach played games out of conference against UCLA (twice), Murray State, San Diego State, USC, Missouri State, and Utah Valley, among others. While a few of those contests were not close, LBSU gave UCLA a test for a solid portion of both of those games, and only lost to USC by 11. Fast forward to conference play and this team has good Big West wins, multiple scorers, and sits as the favorites to win the league as of mid-February.
7. Colorado State:
Following the upset loss to UNLV and an overtime defeat to Wyoming, Colorado State had dropped significantly in projected NCAA Tournament seed position. However, the Rams have responded and then some! Colorado State is now on a four game win streak and sits just one game back of first place in the Mountain West Conference. Three of those four wins came this past week as CSU beat Nevada on the road on Tuesday, won by 15 over Fresno State on Friday, and beat Boise State on the road in an overtime classic. To no surprise, David Roddy led the Rams in scoring in all three wins over the last seven days, tallying 29 versus Nevada, 21 against Fresno State, and 18 versus Boise State. Roddy also blocked Marcus Shaver's game tying heave attempt to secure the win on Sunday. The guard has also scored 18+ points in 14 of Colorado State's 23 games this season. Outstanding! David Roddy, along with many other solid contributors, has CSU safely in the projected field and trending in the right direction with a month to go.
8. Murray State:
There appears to be no stopping the Racers of Murray State! Murray State has now won 14 games in a row, is 14-0 in Ohio Valley play, and 24-2 overall! This past week was no easy task for the Racers to secure two wins. Murray State trailed by as much as 13 against Tennessee State and by 9 against Morehead State on Saturday. Despite those deficits, Murray State beat TSU 73-62 and Morehead State 57-53. KJ Williams was the star in both wins, and has been all season. Williams dropped a season-high 39 points versus TSU, and followed it up with a 21 point, 12 rebound, 4 steal performance against Morehead. On the season, the Junior Forward averages 17.4 points per game and 8.7 rebounds per game, which has him as one of the best players in the entire OVC. The Racers also own non-conference wins over Memphis and Chattanooga, and has a Top-30 NET ranking and strength of record. Those facts paired with its incredible 24-2 record has Murray State not only in first place in its conference, but also a strong at-large bid contender should it lose in its conference tournament. Watch this team!
What a week for the Bradley Braves! Bradley defeated two of the better teams in the Missouri Valley over the last few years this past week. The Braves beat Loyola Chicago 68-61 and followed it up with a 68-59 win over Drake on Saturday. The defensive performance in these wins is nothing new, as Bradley has allowed 65 or less points in 11 games this season. Bradley's leading scorer, Terry Roberts, provided 11 points in both wins, but has been a solid contributor all season. Roberts has scored in double figures 21 times already this season and is averaging 15 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists for the year! Roberts and Bradley's latest run has the Braves sitting just 1.5 games out of first place and 15-11 on the year. Bradley has also won this conference's tournament in recent years without being the number one seed, so this is definitely a team to look out for the rest of the season.
The Siena Saints have begun to close the gap in the MAAC. Iona's lead on Siena is now just 2.5 games after the Saints went 2-0 this past week. Siena defeated Iona at home 70-64 on Friday night, and avenged its last loss, (have won four straight), against Rider in overtime on Sunday. The Iona win is what gives Siena the edge as our tenth team of the week. Anthony Gaines was the star in that victory, scoring 21 points and 9 rebounds on 7/11 shooting. Gaines also played well in the Rider win, providing 17 points with 11 rebounds. Outside of Gaines, three other players in each game scored in double figures, and Siena held Iona to just 35% shooting from the field in that win. This four game win streak has Siena above .500 at 12-9, and in the mix to be one of the top seeds in the MAAC tournament.
-Vermont: 14 game win streak continues, now 20-4 on the year
-Gonzaga: 2-0 week including a 16 point win over Saint Mary's. Win streak now at 14
-South Dakota State: 14-0 in conference play as 14 game win streak continues
-North Texas: win streak now up to 10 after 2-0 week
-Belmont: 8 game win streak, 3-0 week
-Providence: 8 game win streak rolls on after OT victory over DePaul
-Arizona: 6 game win streak, 3-0 week with all three wins on the road
-Kent State: 6 game win streak, including defeating rival Akron 66-64 on Friday
-Yale: also on a 6 game win streak, beat rival Harvard on the road 62-59 Wednesday
-North Carolina: 2-0 week highlighted by a 20 point win over Florida State
-Virginia Tech: 5 game win streak, defeated Syracuse 71-59 on Saturday
-Miami (FL): 2-0 on the week, led by a 76-72 road win over Wake Forest
-Wyoming: win streak stretches to 6 after a 2-0 week
-St Bonaventure: 2-0 week, beat Saint Louis 68-61 in an important bubble matchup
-Portland: upset San Francisco on the road 69-68 as a part of a 2-0 week
-Baylor: 2-0 record this week, beat Texas on Saturday, 80-63
-USC: defeated in-state rival and Top-15 opponent UCLA 67-64 on Saturday night
-Kentucky: keeps its 6 game win streak going, beat Florida by 21 on Saturday
-Chattanooga: 3-0 week highlighted by a 64-58 road win over Furman
Lets keep the hoops momentum going! DM us @TBracketology if there is anyone else worthy of a shoutout! Thanks for reading!