by Brendan Kapfer
We are now in the final week of the regular season. Nothing but fun, entertaining matchups this week, with everything on the line. Last week we saw teams like Iowa, North Carolina, Maryland and Indiana redeem themselves in the eyes of the committee.
This week North Carolina will have to win one more big game, as is the case with Maryland. For future notice, Alabama will not be featured in my articles moving forward, I will be releasing an article about why in the near future.
Team of the Week: North Carolina
After going on a bad spell of losing to not-so-great basketball teams, North Carolina proved itself for the first time all season this week. They survived a tough test on the road against Notre Dame, following a gut-wrenching loss to in-state rival North Carolina State. As we have previously discussed, North Carolina was the preseason #1 team in the country and the favorite to win the national championship. They opened play against power-six conferences with four straight losses to knock them out of the top 25. They were inconsistent at best the rest of the way through, with a chance to put the talk of being inconsistent to rest this week.
On Saturday, the Tar Heels got their first quad 1 (best win in the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee’s eyes), and that should put them in the tournament. They got that win over a top-ten ranked Virginia team who has looked a lot like the 2019 Caviler team that won the national championship. They finally got support from a player not named Caleb Love or Armando Bacot and that player, Pete Nance had twenty-two points. North Carolina led from the thirteen minute mark of the first half and never looked back. They dominated this game and are starting to look like they are in March form. They play against their archrival Duke at home on Saturday as their last game before the postseason, and if they win that game, their opponents better be ware come late March.
Game of the Week: Arizona Wildcats vs. Arizona State
Who doesn’t love a good rivalry game? I most certainly am not one that doesn’t appreciate a hard fought battle between two bitter rivals. There were a few big rivalry games this weekend, but none that made more headlines than this one. Arizona State coming into this game was on the bubble, much like North Carolina although some might say they still are going to be a little nervous come selection Sunday. Arizona coming into this matchup had won nine games and lost one in their pursuit of the all so mighty #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The stakes were high and the game was played at Arizona (the Wildcats).
The game was tight all the way through, with the only true separation any team had coming in the middle of the second half when Arizona attained a two-possession lead. It stayed right around a two-possession game until Arizona with about five minutes left established a three-possession lead that looked like a mountain for the Sun Devils to climb on the road. They would end up taking a one-point lead with a little under two minutes to play, but Arizona answered, and the game kept going back and forth the rest of the way through. With ten seconds left, the game looked like it was going to overtime until Arizona State player, Jamiya Neal sent Oumar Ball on Arizona to the free throw line with two seconds left. Ball went one for two at the line to give the Wildcats a two-point lead with just two seconds left. The Sun Devils went the
length of the floor and got the ball to Desmond Cambridge Jr. who hit the game-winning buzzer beater on the road for Arizona State. March is upon us my friends.
Player of the Week: Aliyah Boston
The senior has seen it all, been through it all and done it all at South Carolina. In an interview before the season started, Aliyah Boston was asked if she would stay another year because she had an extra year of eligibility, and she said she was going to the draft. Although she said no, just that question being asked proves how much Boston means to her college. In her sophomore year at South Carolina, she was so close to being a national champion, but missed a put back at the buzzer to win the game for the Gamecocks. Losing that game made her an animal that wouldn’t stop until she got that national title.
Last year, she did just that and is now looking for more. In her last four games, she is averaging eight and a half rebounds and has gotten South Carolina to their third SEC regular season title in a row. South Carolina is undefeated right now and defending champions, but not defending SEC champions, as Kentucky took that title away from them in upset fashion. South Carolina has a chance to do what in soccer they call a triple this year, winning a regular season title and two postseason titles, thanks to Aliyah Boston. She is making her case for the #1 overall pick in the WNBA draft but that is the least of her concerns right now.
1. Houston Cougars
The Cougars are back. I don’t see this changing until after the conference tournament. They have been so good this year, giving up just fifty-six points per game. They have the best defense in the country, with only Tennessee being in the conversation with Houston. In addition to that, they are among the best in the country in assist/turnover ratio, meaning they take care of the ball really well in addition to playing outstanding defense. They have four players averaging more than ten points per game, although nobody has scoring numbers that are among the best in the country. They spread the ball out and beat teams by squeezing the life out of them in the defensive side of the ball. This team will be around come late March and might just get a couple wins in April.
2. Kansas Jayhawks
Great team. We talk about them every week. We talk about them because they not only are they national champions, they are looking like they’ll defend it. They have just beaten a ranked team on the road and held off a fierce Big-Twelve rival in West Virginia. All that is left for the Jayhawks of Kansas is Texas Tech at home and Texas on the road for the Big Twelve regular season title. Grady Dick and Jalen Wilson can lead this team back to the promise land, we will see if they do.
3. UCLA Bruins
We have yet to talk about one of my favorite teams in all of College Basketball. That team, being the Bruins of UCLA, a team that got theirs (and mine) broken when they lost in the Final Four on a crazy buzzer beater to the Bulldogs of Gonzaga. They have two stars in Jamie Jaquez Jr. and Tyger Campbell who have done an amazing job of spreading the ball out in addition to giving their fair share of points to the team. They have a huge matchup at home against Arizona on Saturday which should be one of the best games of the weekend.
Game of the Week: #3 Kansas vs. #9 Texas on Saturday at 4:00 pm on ESPN
Very few games this year have had me as excited as I am for this one. This very well could be a preview of a Big Twelve Championship game or a Final Four matchup. Both teams are very dangerous offensively and are coached extremely well. Texas lost their coach earlier in the season but has bounced back and kept pushing forward. Right now they are ranked #9 in the country and have found themselves in the hunt for the national championship. Kansas won the first matchup by a score of eighty-eight to eighty, but it was in Kansas and so this matchup should be even tighter with more on the line in Texas.
Games to watch
#19 Xavier vs. #20 Providence on Wednesday at 8:30 on FS1
#9 Texas vs. #22 TCU on Wednesday at 9:00 on ESPN2
#2 Alabama @ #24 Texas A&M on Saturday at 12:00 on CBS
#3 Kansas @ #9 Texas on Saturday at 4:00 on ESPN
Duke @ North Carolina on Saturday at 6:00 on ESPN
#8 Arizona vs. #4 UCLA on Saturday at 10:00 on ESPN