The rise of Texas and COVID concerns highlight what NCAA basketball fans need to know this week.
We are officially into 2021 and just over two and a half months away from Selection Sunday. The college basketball season has certainly been rocky but there have still been plenty of storylines to follow as the year progresses.
Let’s take a look at five more things that college hoops fans need to know this week, including a concerning rise in COVID pauses.
Story of the Week: COVID pauses
One factor that is worth monitoring over the next few weeks is a troubling rise in the number of programs that have had to go on pause this week due to positive coronavirus tests. Villanova, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Iona and Towson are among the many programs that have had to stop their season, a figure that could rise as coronavirus cases continue to surge following holiday get-togethers. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was going to miss Saturday’s game vs. Florida State but then that game was canceled.
It doesn’t seem like the season is in trouble yet but if the number of teams that are required to pause rises it could create difficulty for some teams to hit the thresholds of games needed to gain NCAA Tournament eligibility, particularly in mid-major leagues. Keep an eye on this story going forward.
Team of the Week: Texas Longhorns
The biggest statement of the week came courtesy of Texas, which demolished Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse to stamp themselves as title contenders. The Longhorns should surge into the top five of the polls this week and have proven to be a team that can do it all thanks to an impressive combination of length and athleticism.
Shaka Smart was a dead man walking entering the season and has led his team to an 8-1 record with the lone loss being a four-point defeat to Villanova. The Big 12 is certainly a beast but Texas proved they belong at the big kid’s table on Saturday.
Game of the Week: Texas at West Virginia
This week is relatively light on marquee matchups but the Big 12 has a doozy set for Saturday when Texas hits the road to take on West Virginia. This contest is huge for the Mountaineers, who were upset at Oklahoma on Saturday and have another road game against Oklahoma State before this game.
No game in the Big 12 is ever easy and Texas will need to show they can maintain their focus after all of the positive headlines that will come their way after handing Kansas their worst home loss ever. This game should be a ton of fun so make sure to check it out.
Freshman of the Week: LSU guard Cameron Thomas
Jalen Suggs and Cade Cunningham may have generated all the headlines but there is another tremendous freshman guard playing for LSU. Cameron Thomas, a 6-4 guard from Chesapeake, VA, has absolutely exploded for the Tigers over his past three games.
That stretch includes a 32-point explosion against Texas A&M and a 28-point effort in a tight loss to Florida on Saturday. Thomas is averaging 24.6 points per game for LSU while shooting 45.7 percent of the floor and should be a big factor for opposing schools to deal with in SEC play.
Cinderella Watch: Western Kentucky
This week’s Cinderella spotlight goes to Conference USA as we look at Western Kentucky. Off to an 8-3 start this season, the Hilltoppers have already scored four quality non-league wins against Northern Iowa, Memphis, Rhode Island and Alabama.
Opponents of the Hilltoppers will need to find a way to contain junior center Charles Bassey, who dominates in the paint to the tune of 16.3 points, 11.1 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game. Western Kentucky has a big home series this weekend as they take on Louisiana Tech, one of their top challengers in C-USA.
For more NCAA basketball news, analysis, opinion and features, check out more from the FanSided college basketball section to stay on top of the latest action.