College Hoops Game(s) Of The Week: Feast Week

Thanksgiving week is here, and for sports fans, dinner on Thursday won’t be the only feast of the week. In addition to the traditional NFL games and some big college football clashes, college basketball offers a myriad of quality tournaments that could lead to some dream matchups. So instead of highlighting a single must-see game during the holiday week, we’ll look at some of the most intriguing tournaments and explore some of the potential big-time clashes that could result.

PK80-Phil Knight Invitational - November 23-26

In celebration of Phil Knight’s 80th birthday, college hoops fans will be treated to the PK80, which is actually two tournaments packed into one. And the field is a stacked one:

  • Victory Bracket: North Carolina, Michigan State, Oregon, Oklahoma, Arkansas, UConn, DePaul, Portland.
  • Motion Bracket: Duke, Gonzaga, Florida, Butler, Texas, Ohio State, Stanford, Portland State.

Best First-Round Matchup (Victory Bracket) - Arkansas vs. Oklahoma

Life can be hard in the SEC. With Kentucky, and to a lesser extent, Florida, dominating the headlines, it can be difficult to get attention. Further complicating Arkansas’ quest for recognition is a pair of NBA-bound players at two schools who represent the Razorbacks’ main competition in the second-tier of the SEC. Texas A&M’s Robert Williams was a likely lottery pick last year, but chose to return to school. Meanwhile Alabama welcomes top-10 recruit and likely one-and-done Collin Sexton.

That leaves the Razorbacks to fight for the leftover attention. This is a team that was a heartbreaking loss to eventual national champion North Carolina away from the Sweet 16 and has plenty of weapons. Senior guard Jaylen Barford is averaging 20.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. He gets help from 6-11 freshman Daniel Gafford (16.7 PPG), senior guard Daryl Macon (16 PPG) and senior guard Anton Beard (13.3 PPG).

Oklahoma stumbled to an 11-20 mark a year ago, but this season brings optimism. The Sooners return 79% of their scoring from a season ago, and they add top-20 recruit Trae Young. Young, a gifted athlete out of Norman North High School, elected to stay home despite interest from the game's bluebloods. He has all the tools you look for in an elite guard. He can score from all three levels, is a tight ball-handler, and has excellent vision. He’s been sensational in the early going, averaging 18.5 points, 11.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds and two steals through his first two collegiate games. His presence alone makes this game worth your time.

Best First-Round Matchup (Motion Bracket) - Texas vs. Butler

Texas is coming off a disastrous season that ended with an 11-22 record. Fortunately for Shaka Smart, the pieces appear to be in place for a quick turnaround. While Duke and Kentucky dominate the recruiting headlines, Texas put together a monster class of its own. Joining top-five recruit Mo Bamba are fellow freshmen Jericho Sims, Royce Hamm Jr., Jase Febres and Matt Coleman. Key returners Andrew Jones, Kerwin Roach II, Eric Davis Jr. and Jacob Young will look to mesh with the newcomers to formulate a quick turnaround in Austin.

Meanwhile Butler is coming off a trip to the Sweet 16 and is feeling a bit slighted after many pundits are picking them to slip in the Big East standings. Senior Kelan Martin is a stud for the Bulldogs, posting averages of 15 points and 8.3 rebounds in the early season. Kamar Baldwin, Tyler Wideman, Sean McDermott and Paul Jorgensen provide support, each averaging at least 9.8 points per game.

A warning for those who plan to watch this game: be prepared for a lot of bricks. Both teams are struggling mightily from beyond the arc. Despite the lack of sharpshooting, there are plenty of reasons to tune in. Both teams have something to prove and will be looking to make a statement. And for those who are more interested in the NBA game, Bamba is a likely top-5 pick, so there’s an opportunity for you to get an early look at him.

Best Potential Matchups

In the Victory Bracket, college hoops fans will be hoping for a North Carolina-Michigan State final. The defending national champs against one of the primary threats to take that crown. Not much needs to be said about the treat this matchup would be. It would simply be two of the most talented rosters in college basketball going toe-to-toe for early season bragging rights.

In the Motion Bracket, the road to the final could prove to be just as entertaining as a potential Duke vs. Florida or Gonzaga matchup.

If Texas can get past Butler, its second-round tilt with Duke promises one of the best player matchups of the early season. Should the Blue Devils and Longhorns meet, Duke’s lead freshman Marvin Bagley III would be set to do battle with Texas’ prized recruit, Bamba. Bamba, and his 7’9” wingspan, against Bagley’s impressive offensive game would be an early-season treat.

Meanwhile, a potential second-round meeting between Gonzaga and Florida offers plenty of intrigue of its own. Florida is coming off an Elite Eight appearance, and despite losing four players from that squad, they replenish with a top-25 recruiting class. The Gators improved across the board a season ago, and look to build on that in 2017-18.

It has been a pair of transfers who have powered Florida in the early-going. Egor Koulechov and Jalen Hudson, who came from Rice and Virginia Tech respectively, lead the team in scoring. But for Florida, it’s about the sum of its parts being better than the whole.

The Gators are shooting 57% from the floor and 48% from three, while only committing nine turnovers per game. Those numbers have resulted in the Gators having the number-one scoring offense in the nation at 112 points per game. Defensively, they are swiping 9 steals while swatting 6 blocks, holding opponents to 71 points per game.

Gonzaga lost a ton from last year’s national runner-up team, but have offset those losses with impressive balance. The Bulldogs have eight players averaging at least six points per game, while six of those eight are in double-figures. Getting those kinds of contributions from up and down the roster is a great way to overcome the lost production. Gonzaga plans on remaining nationally relevant, and a victory over Florida would be a great start.

Battle 4 Atlantis - November 22-24

The Battle 4 Atlantis has slowly been building itself into one of the premier early-season tournaments in the country since its start in 2011, and the 2017 iteration looks to continue the trend.

The Field: Arizona, NC State, Northern Iowa, SMU, Tennessee, Purdue, Western Kentucky and Villanova.

Best First-Round Matchup - Purdue vs. Tennessee

Purdue lost double-double machine Caleb Swanigan to the NBA. However, the Boilermakers return six of their seven top scorers, accounting for 72.5% of their production last season. Forward Vince Edwards highlights the returners. He will be joined by fellow double-figure scorers Carsen Edwards and big man Isaac Haas. Guard Dakota Mathias just missed double-figures at 9.7 PPG, and led the team in assists. The Boilermakers have a nice balance between the frontcourt and the backcourt, and look to be the primary contender to challenge Michigan State at the top of the Big Ten.

Tennessee is facing a rough go of things as it looks to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in four years. As if losing its leading scorer wasn’t enough to deal with, Tennessee has watched the SEC improve around them. Keep an eye on Admiral Schofield, who leads the team in scoring with 18 points per game on 63% shooting and 57% from three. An early win would go a long way for the Vols as they try to build a tournament-worthy resume.

Best Potential Matchups

A second-round meeting between Purdue and Villanova looks to be the best day-two matchup in the Bahamas. Last season, Villanova and Purdue played one of the best college basketball games of the season. Despite the losses of Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins for 'Nova, and Swanigan for Purdue, the teams return talented rosters from teams that were national factors a season ago. A matchup with Purdue would provide the first true test of the young season for Villanova, while the Boilermakers would have an opportunity to get a huge non-conference win.

As interesting as Purdue-Villanova could be, the matchup the college hoops world is hoping for is a final between Villanova and Arizona. A battle of top-five teams, this would be the best matchup of the week.

Arizona is loaded with talent, and their top two players have not disappointed. Allonzo Trier has been an absolute monster, posting a ridiculous 30 points per game, making a scorching 70% of his field goals and 59% of his threes. For good measure, he’s chipping in 3.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists.

Freshman big man Deandre Ayton, a top-five recruit, has lived up to the hype. He is contributing 18.7 points and 11.7 rebounds, providing a frightening inside-outside combo with Trier.

A date with Villanova would provide some great matchups. Ayton against 'Nova’s freshman big Omari Spellman is one. A potential matchup between Trier and Villanova’s Mikal Bridges could be fascinating as well.

In his first two years on campus, Bridges used his impressive length and athleticism to be a factor defensively. This year, his offense has blossomed. He leads a talented roster in scoring with 18.3 points per game on 62% shooting and 56% from deep. As impressive as that is, it is even more so that his defense hasn’t suffered. He’s averaging three steals and 1.7 blocks, remaining a vital cog in head coach Jay Wright’s defensive scheme. A matchup with Trier would give Bridges an opportunity to showcase his now complete game on a national stage for the first time.

Feast week has something for every type of hoops fan. For the casual college fan, there are potential clashes between some of the biggest names in the sport. For the die-hard, there’s the chance to get a look at some under-the-radar teams who could be a factor come March. For basketball aficionados, there are a bevy of intriguing individual matchups and contrasting styles. And for those whose basketball interest is mostly devoted to the NBA, a good portion of the next crop of future pros will be on display.

So as you spend time with family and friends, enjoy your Thanksgiving meal, and tune into the happenings on the gridiron, don’t forget to keep an eye on the college hardwood. You won’t be disappointed. Enjoy your holiday, and we’ll see you back here next week to highlight the best the college hoops world has to offer.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *