2022-2023 Week 16 Teams of the Week
TWO WEEKS until we will have an official NCAA Tournament bracket! With conference tournaments in some leagues beginning as soon as 2/27, our top focus will be on Bracketology, making this our last teams of the week piece of the season. It has been incredible once again highlighting so many worthy programs throughout the year. Thank you for following along. Below we have detailed multiple teams that had great weeks this week. Check it out!
Teams of the Week!
1. Arizona State
Arizona State only played one game this week. Typically it takes a lot for one game to get you recognized as one of our teams of the week. Top team though? Something crazy must have happened. That it did. Arizona State got out to a lead against Arizona in the second half, then let Arizona get the lead back at the free throw line with 3 seconds remaining. What happened next may have saved Arizona State's bubble hopes. From half court, Desmond Cambridge HIT IT. Arizona State won 89-88!! No words will do the shot justice, you'll have to watch the video here. This is the quality road win that the Sun Devils needed to give its resume a huge boost. ASU now sits in a much better position, closer to the field, than it did just two days prior.
We stay out west, and head up north to the state of Washington. Gonzaga had a big time matchup, a rematch, with Saint Mary's to determine the WCC regular season champion, and help seeding as well. Saint Marys won the first meeting at home, and had a one game conference lead coming into the game. While the game got competitive in the second half, for the most part this felt like a game the Bulldogs controlled from the jump. Five players scored in double figures for Gonzaga on its way to the 77-68 victory. That, along with a 2-0 week gave Gonzaga a share of the WCC crown, and puts the Zags in a great seeding position for two weeks from now. Gonzaga may not be receiving the hype of previous seasons, but this team is still capable of making noise in the dance.
From one conference champion, we move to another, this one in the Missouri Valley Conference. Bradley and Drake both started off the week with a win, and each came into Sunday 15-4 in Missouri Valley Conference play. That meant Sunday's contest was effectively a regular season conference champion game at Bradley. The Bradley Braves did not let the advantage of being at home go to waste. In front of a fantastic crowd, Bradley got the 73-61 victory to win the Missouri Valley! Connor Hickman led all scorers in this game with 19 points, and Bradley shot 50% from three (7/14) in the contest. The Braves also rebounded Drake by 12. As the buzzer sounded, fans stormed the court to celebrate the championship. Well done Bradley, and good luck in the conference tournament!
You know it is almost March, right? So, of course, we are not done speaking about newly crowned conference champions. Merrimack in the NEC, went 2-0 this week, winning by an average of 18.5 points in the process. Thanks to those two wins, the Warriors finished the season as the Northeast Conference Champions! Merrimack is still in the process of its Division One transition, so is therefore not eligible for the NCAA Tournament, but this is still incredible nonetheless. In fact, this is not even the first season Merrimack has won its conference since moving up to D1! The Warriors finished the non-conference with a 3-12 overall record. Many teams at that point would have folded and settled for an off year. Not this group. Merrimack finished 12-4 in conference play, including winning its final eight games to secure the championship. Well done Merrimack!
Back to the Midwest, but the theme remains the same, a conference champion! Thanks to a 2-0 week, the Marquette Golden Eagles are two games up in the Big East with two games remaining, guaranteeing at least a share of the conference title! Marquette moved to 23-6 on the year, and 15-3 in BE play on Saturday with a win over DePaul, its fourth consecutive victory. Tuesday night, however, was the headline win. Marquette went into Omaha and defeated a solid Creighton team in a close one, 73-71. Kam Jones led all scorers with 19 points in this win, (Jones also led Marquette in scoring against DePaul). This provides Marquette with a big time road win, that can greatly help its chances at a 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. More to come on that, but for now, congrats to the Marquette Golden Eagles on its first Big East title in a decade!
We are now moving back out east, but don't think the topic has changed yet. That's right, another conference champion to recognize! There was a lot of hype on the Furman Paladins coming into the season. This group can absolutely play. The Paladins had an up and down non-conference, but certainly hit their stride in Southern Conference play. Furman has won three straight games, including two this week. On Wednesday, the group held on for a three point win over Mercer. Then, on Saturday, Furman avenged an earlier loss against Samford, winning 93-79 on the road to claim a share of the SoCon regular season title! Star guard Mike Bothwell was outstanding in this game, dropping 35 points on 10/15 shooting for Furman. This is a dangerous team, capable of winning multiple games in the NCAA Tournament. Don't wait until then to watch this team!
Shifting gears now from conference champions, we highlight the Villanova Wildcats. Villanova went 2-0 this week and is back above .500 on the season. Both wins for the Wildcats would be considered as high quality victories. On Tuesday, Villanova went on the road and upset Xavier by one, 64-63. Justin Moore scored 25 on an efficient 10/13 shooting from the field. Moore missed a significant portion of the season, but has helped Villanova look much better than its record since his return. On Saturday, Villanova continued that momentum, defeating Creighton by 12, 79-67. Eric Dixon was the answer in this one, scoring 31 points for Nova to lead all scorers. This week for Villanova won't push them close to the bubble conversation for now, but this is a team very capable of running the table in the Big East Tournament. Getting healthy, and figuring it out.
Speaking of teams figuring it out of late, we head to Michigan, home of the Michigan Wolverines. Unlike Villanova, Michigan still has a realistic shot at reaching the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team. That is in large part due to its 2-0 week, and three consecutive wins. Michigan went on the road on Thursday and defeated Rutgers by 13, 58-45. Very few go into Rutgers and get a win, that was very impressive. The Wolverines held the Scarlet Knights to just 38% shooting from the field and 45 points to get the win. The positive play would not stop there. Sunday afternoon, Michigan defeated Wisconsin, in overtime, 87-79. In a battle of two teams squarely on the bubble, this one was significant! Kobe Bufkin led all scorers with 28 points for Michigan. That is all good and well, but the win would not have been possible without a buzzer beater from Hunter Dickinson to send the contest to OT in the first place. What a shot, check out the replay of it here! This week puts Michigan just on the outside of the field, with two big road opportunities ahead to sneak in.
9. Good Basketball in the State of Kansas:
Just south of Michigan, in another "Big" conference, we detail two teams far from the bubble, but in a good way as both are safely in the field. The Big 12, and the state of Kansas is where that focus shifts to, as both once again had a great week. Kansas has won six straight games and went 2-0 this week, The Jayhawks went on the road Monday night and defeated TCU, and followed it up in a classic on Saturday, fending off West Virginia 76-74. In the win over WVU, KU forced 21 turnovers and shot 10/20 (50%) from three. Kansas has a one game Big 12 standing lead with two games to play. Elsewhere in the state, Kansas State also won two games over the last seven days. Kansas State went on the road and defeated Oklahoma State on Saturday, in a game OKST was desperate to win. Earlier in the week, Kansas State defeated Top 10 Baylor by 10, 75-65, in a game that will help push the Wildcats closer to a two seed. Keyontae Johnson, per usual, was the catalyst in that win, scoring 25 points against Baylor. These are two teams, in the State of Kansas, playing great basketball and capable of making it to the Final Four.
Our final team of the week, we move back to the theme from the majority of this article, conference champions. If you have kept up with our articles all season, you'll likely remember that this 10th spot is usually reserved for an underappreciated winner of 10+ games. Well that, and the conference title theme, is the case for the Vermont Catamounts! Vermont has won eleven straight games after yet another 2-0 week this week and extended its America East lead to 2.5 games with just one game remaining. That means that the Catamounts have clinched the conference title outright! Vermont is 13-2 in conference play thus far, and is projected by most to be a 14 or 15 seed in the NCAA Tournament should the Catamounts qualify. We can speak for most two and three seeds that this is not a team they want to see. Vermont was tested in the non-conference, and has found its identity in conference play. Look out!
Thanks for reading hoops fans! We APPRECIATE the support all season. March is coming!