By Brendan Kapfer
Game of The Week: Missouri vs. #6 Tennessee: Missouri should be ranked. I really, absolutely do not know why they are not ranked. They have the same record as the now #10 team in the country in Tennessee.
On top of that they beat Tennessee on the road in my game of the week. This game was an absolute shootout with Missouri leading by as much as seventeen in the second half and holding a two possession lead until the game got under nine minutes. After that the crowd started to play a true factor, leading Tennessee to come back and take the lead. They staged a huge comeback against a real solid team in Missouri, gaining the lead and control of the game until the very few seconds of the game.
In that final minute, after Missouri brought the game to within two with two free-throws, Tennessee turned the ball over on a free-throw violation to give Missouri a fighting chance. Missouri’s D’Andre Gholston hit a half-court shot to win the game for the Tigers. Missouri is going to be a team that could really surprise and make a late run in the NCAA Tournament and right now it is looking like Tennessee is going to be a team that could really surprise and see an early exit in the NCAA Tournament.
Team of The Week: Vanderbilt – There is a good chance this team doesn’t make the tournament. We are still a month out, but it would be a surprise if they were to make the tournament. Whether a team will make the tournament or not does not dictate whether they are the team of the week. If a team goes above and beyond during the week and has a special week then they will get recognized.
Following a humiliating game against Alabama where they almost lost by sixty, they bounced back against Ole Miss and won by three. After that game, came the sixth ranked team in the nation in Tennessee. Both teams were coming off very grueling and physical games so it was a surprise to see how well each team played. That being said, Vanderbilt before the last shot played so well, but it looked like it wouldn’t be good enough to finish the Volunteers off. Vanderbilt’s best player, Tyrin Lawrence hit a buzzer-beater-three from the corner to win the game for the Commadores and knock off the #6 team in the nation.
That was not it for Vanderbilt though, because they won on Saturday. On Saturday, they played a team with the same record as them although with a player that is going to end up in the NBA in Colin Castleton. Castleton had twenty-five points in a game that featured little defense but Liam Robbins who was matched up against Castleton had thirty-two points to help give Vanderbilt an eighty-eight to eighty win on the road. Vanderbilt, no matter what their record says, had one heck of a week last week and I hope they go on a run that can land them in the tournament.
Player of the Week: Trayce Jackson-Davis
This player is a monster on the court. He has helped lead the Indiana Hoosiers to three wins in a row including two ranked wins, one of which coming against the #1 team in the nation. They also won against a good Michigan team that is desperate for a quality win and that hosted the Indiana Hoosiers. Jackson-Davis has averaged 24.3 points in this stretch and against Purdue he had twenty-eight points despite being matched up against Zach Edey who is the best big man in the country outside of Jackson-Davis. He has Indiana right where they want to be and will be a name to remember for March.
Top Three Teams
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
This causes me a lot of pain. As an Auburn fan, I cannot stand Alabama but they have earned my respect this year. If I were to say what makes them tick I would not know where to start because all around they are one of the strongest teams offensively I have seen in quite some time. Brandon Miller though has led this team to potentially its first #1 overall ranking in twenty years. He is averaging eighteen points per game and eight rebounds per game as a first-year student which looks like last year’s first overall pick in the draft Jabari Smith Jr.’s numbers when he was at Auburn. This young team has lost just three games this season and if they can stay consistent this team will be a nightmare to see come late March.
2. Houston Cougars
I still love this team. They are not my #1 overall team because they lost to Alabama when they played them earlier this seasons in Houston. That does not take away from the season that this Houston Cougar team is having. They have two losses in the entire season, one coming against the best team outside of them in their conference in Temple and that Alabama loss. They are an experienced bunch that went to the Final Four (semi-finals) in 2021 and they are led by Kelvin Sampson who will go down as one of the best coaches in college basketball history. Their defense will take them far, how far though is what I can’t wait to see.
3. Baylor Bears
The only team that hasn’t lost in the past week that is in the running for a top-ten spot is Baylor. Now they have to prove themselves as a team that can play well away from home, which they will get the chance to do on Saturday. The Bears found a way to claw a win out against seventeenth-ranked TCU on the road, with star guard Adam Flagler scoring twenty-eight to silence the crowd. This team is deep and has shown they can play with anybody in the country. If they can win on Saturday against Kansas it is a good chance they will move up on my list, but if they lose, Kansas will take their spot.
Questions of the Week?
1. Tennessee Volunteers
How does Tennessee respond to losing two heartbreaking games in a row? – Tennessee plays Alabama at home on Wednesday following two losses where they lost by a buzzer-beater three. Their defense has been among the best, but they are playing an offensive juggernaut in Alabama. This matchup couldn’t come at a better time for the Volunteers because they can really redeem themselves for their recent troubles.
Can they beat Maryland on Thursday? – They have included out of their last three games including, in-state rival Indiana and border state rival Northwestern. They need to find their grove but they are facing a team that one is known as a giant-killer in Maryland who’s home court advantage is among the best in the nation. Purdue needs a road win desperately to stay in the contender conversation.
Will Kansas continue their dominance of the Big Twelve? – Kansas has dominated the Big Twelve for the past fifteen years. Most years it is a fore gone conclusion who is going to win it, the question just becomes who will be the second-place team in the Big Twelve. This is not to say they have won the Big Twelve tournament every year but in the years they haven’t they always seem to go farther in the NCAA Tournament than the one that won the Big Twelve. They right now are a game back of Texas for the regular season title and so is Baylor. If they lose against Baylor their road to winning the Big Twelve becomes a lot harder because they will have to play the better teams earlier in the tournament.
Game of the upcoming week?
Baylor vs. Kansas
It is no secret that I have a strong affection for Big Twelve basketball. Every team in this conference is solid and is a team that one could make a compelling case they belong in the tournament. The two teams that non-big-twelve teams want to see are Kansas and Baylor who won both of the last two national championships. Very different teams but both have been great recently, and consistently great. Baylor won the last meeting between these teams by six points while both teams were on a downhill stretch. That game was in Baylor, so in this game we will see how Baylor can matchup against a talented team on the road. The winner of this game will be in a lot better shape to win the Big Twelve tournament considering both teams are just one game behind the conference leader, Texas.
Games to watch?
1. #1. Alabama @ #10. Tennessee on Wednesday at 7:00 P.M. on ESPN2
2. #3. Purdue @ Maryland on Thursday at 6:30 on the Big Ten Network
3. #19. Iowa State @ #12. Kansas State
4. #9. Baylor @ #5. Kansas on Saturday at 4:00 on ESPN