2022-2023 Week 12 Teams of the Week
Another fantastic week of hoops has concluded. We were treated to numerous great conference games over the last seven days, and got a non conference treat with the SEC/Big 12 Challenge taking place throughout the day on Saturday. All of that action has led to a variety of teams standing out, which we have narrowed down to the teams below. Check it out!
Teams of the Week!
Hofstra finds itself 15-8 on the season, have now won three straight, and seven of its last eight. The Pride are also just one game back of first place in the CAA after a 2-0 week. That’s all great for Hofstra. However, this group shows up here for one specific reason, ending Charleston’s 20 game win streak on Saturday. Aaron Estrada led all scorers with 25 points, and Hofstra shot 50% from behind the arc (11/22)! The Pride also held a very good shooting team in Charleston to just 16% from three on 31 attempts. It’s doubtful this will be the end of the Charleston fairytale story, that is a very good team. However, what an incredible result from Hofstra, a group to watch as the CAA season concludes in a month and the conference tourney begins.
When it became time for Tennessee’s game against Texas on Saturday, the SEC was in need of a big game from one of its powers as the Big 12 dominated the morning slate. The Vols delivered, and then some. Tennessee led by as much as 22 points, won 82-71, and shot 56% from the field to get the big time victory. Olivier Nkamhoua scored a season high 27 points and added 8 rebounds while star guard Zakai Zeigler contributed 22 points and 10 assists for the Vols. It’s well documented that Tennessee has one of, if not the best defense in the country. When it’s offense is clicking like it was against Texas, the Vols truly look like a title contender. Another 2-0 week, and four straight wins for Tennessee who finds themselves comfortably a one seed as of today.
Creighton came into the season with high expectations, similar to that of Tennessee listed above. After the first few weeks, including the Maui Invitational, it looked like the Bluejays would live up to that hype. Then, injury woes hit, and some losses began to pile up. Now? Also similar to Tennessee, Creighton has won four straight games, including two this past week. The Jays dominated St Johns 104-76 mid week, but made an even bigger statement Saturday morning. Creighton got the signature win it needed to show that it’s back to November form, defeating Top 15 Xavier 84-67. All five starters scored over 11 points, led by 20 from Arthur Kaluma. Creighton was also active on defense, holding Xavier to 28% from three, blocking eight shots, and only fouling six times all game. There is still a lot of season left, but it appears the Creighton Bluejays are back on track.
Speaking of teams “back on track”, we head to Waco, Texas, home of the Baylor Bears. Baylor opened Big 12 play with three straight losses, and many were ready to shut the door on the Bears having any sustained success this season. Two of those three losses were by a combined three points to great teams, so that felt like an overreaction by some. Over the last few weeks, that’s proven to be true. Baylor has won six straight games since that stretch, is now 16-5 on the season, and one of the fastest risers on NCAA Tournament seed predictions, up to a 3 seed now. This week, Baylor led Kansas throughout the contest on Monday, winning 75-69. LJ Cryer had 22 points on 50% shooting to lead Baylor. On Saturday, Baylor followed up that performance nicely, defeating Arkansas in a back and forth game in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Freshman Phenom Keyonte George was feeling it late in this one, scoring 24 points for the Bears and knocking down many big shots late. This team is final four good, don’t sleep on Baylor.
Another team playing solid basketball over the last few weeks is the Missouri Tigers. Mizzou went 2-0 this week and has won three of its last four, the only loss coming with its leading scorer Kobe Brown out. Missouri went on the road and defeated Mississippi by 12 on Tuesday, but show up here thanks to its performance in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge on Saturday. In front of a great crowd, the Tigers dominated Iowa State. Aforementioned Kobe Brown led all scorers with 20 points on 6/9 shooting (nice), and Mizzou knocked down 14 triples on 47% shooting. Defense was also locked in as Missouri forced 19 Cyclone turnovers in the 17 point, 78-61 win. This is great momentum for Missouri who needed a spark to its tournament resume after some of its metrics had dipped a bit of late. 16-5 on the year with multiple quality wins give the Tigers some breathing room as they head into a stretch in February mixed with winnable games and quality win opportunities.
6. Maryland Eastern Shore:
At the beginning of conference play, many thought recent champions Norfolk State would win the MEAC once again. Or, maybe NC Central or Howard would get hot with the talent they have. Then Morgan State found it’s shooting form and made some noise. One team needing more love? The Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks. UMES is tied for first in the conference at 5-1, 8-0 at home, and has won five straight contests. This week, Maryland Eastern Shore won two games. UMES defeated Coppin State 94-75 on Saturday thanks to 13 threes and 23 points from Nathaniel Pollard Jr. However, the headliner was Monday night, as the Hawks erased a 16 point deficit to win on the road against NC Central in a hard fought 59-58 victory. UMES held NCCU to just 13% (2/15) shooting from deep, and forced 24 turnovers in the win. This hot five game stretch has Maryland Eastern Shore at a place few saw coming, atop the league. The Hawks will look to continue that into February and beyond.
7. Virginia Tech:
Coming into the week, Virginia Tech had lost seven straight games, and had fallen completely off the NCAA Tournament bubble. While there is much more work to be done, this week was a positive step back in the right direction. The Hokies went 2-0 this week, to move back to 3-7 in ACC play, and 13-8 overall. On Saturday, Virginia Tech avenged a loss from earlier in January against Syracuse, winning 85-70, leading by as much as 22, and leading for most of the ball game. The Hokies knocked down 13 threes on 41% shooting in the win. While that was impressive, and much needed, VA Tech appears here due to what it did earlier in the week. The Hokies defeated Duke in a 78-75 thriller in front of a great home crowd. Grant Basile led all of Virginia Tech with 24 points on 10/15 shooting, scoring the majority of those points in the second half, to fuel the big win. This week’s results puts Virginia Tech back into the bubble picture. A few more wins in a row and the Hokies could find themselves back into the field.
On the topic of putting itself back into position, we head west to sunny Los Angeles. USC only played one game this past week, but boy was it meaningful. In the battle for LA, the Trojans defeated Top 10 UCLA 77-64 Thursday night. UCLA led this game at half, but an outstanding shooting second half, especially from Boogie Ellis, who hit numerous big shots, got USC the win. Ellis scored 31 overall in the game, a new career high, and 27 of those points came in that aforementioned second half run. What a game from him and the Trojans. While this is the signature win USC was in need of, this group has been playing well of late. USC has won four of its last five games, and now finds itself on the right side of the bubble, and even above the “last 4 in” grouping. The stretch of games ahead in February would all be considered “winnable”, and if USC is able to do so, they’ll be in great position to be playing meaningful basketball in March.
9. Important Bubble Wins over Auburn:
This next section is dedicated to two teams that find themselves on the bubble and in need of wins. Both teams went 2-0 this week, and both weeks were highlighted by a solid win over a projected tournament team in the Auburn Tigers. Texas A&M defeated Auburn on the road on Wednesday 79-63. Tyrece Radford was cooking, dropping 30 points to lead all scorers. This ended Auburn’s 28 game home winning streak, which was the longest active home win streak in the nation. West Virginia, Auburn’s next opponent, was also in need of another quality win. As a part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, West Virginia got out to a big halftime lead, withstood a great Tigers comeback, and held on for the win. Erik Stevenson was on fire in this morning contest, scoring 31 points, including seven made threes and multiple big shots down the stretch. West Virginia finds themselves in the field thanks to great metrics and limited bad losses, while Texas A&M continues to make up for a tough non conference and finds themselves one step closer to the projected field of 68.
10. Ten Game Win Streaks Needing More Attention:
For the second consecutive week, the final team of the week slot is once again held for a few teams on fantastic win streaks that need more notoriety nationally. Both of these teams are atop their respective conferences, and have won ten games in a row. Saint Marys is 19-4 on the season, and 8-0 in WCC play. We’ve featured the Gaels a few times this season already after numerous good weeks, and here they are again. SMC picked up a 19 point win over Santa Clara, along with a thrilling one point road win over BYU on Saturday to keep its streak alive. Colgate, 16-7 on the year and 10-0 in the Patriot League, also picked up two wins this week. Over this ten game stretch of undefeated basketball, Colgate is outscoring its opponents by 11 points per game, and has ramped up its defense, giving up six less points per game than its season average. Always good to know which teams are hot heading into March. As we head into the month prior, these are certainly two teams to keep an eye on.
Thanks for reading hoops fans!