The rise of Michigan and a bubbled NCAA Tournament are big stories in NCAA basketball this week.
The college basketball season is in full swing and we’ve had plenty of memorable moments, including an inspiring win from Texas over the weekend. Let’s take a look at some more storylines for college hoops fans to track this week, including some big changes for the NCAA Tournament.
Story of the Week: A bubbled NCAA Tournament
The coronavirus is still raging throughout the country and the NCAA Tournament is adapting to the times, announcing plans to stage the entire tournament in the state of Indiana. Six venues have stepped up to the plate to host games and the NCAA has heavily implied that the regular 68 teams will be selected to participate.
Scheduling is still an open question since teams will need to go through a quarantine period in order to safely participate in the bubble, so it is possible that the first round will be pushed back a couple of days to accommodate that. Getting March Madness played is imperative for the NCAA, which cannot financially afford to cancel two tournaments in a row, so this is an important first step towards assuring the event’s completion.
Team of the Week: Michigan Wolverines
There have been plenty of Big Ten contenders to capture national attention, including Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan State. None of those teams are currently on top of the conference, with the only undefeated team left in the country’s deepest league being the Michigan Wolverines.
A decisive win over Minnesota this week brought Michigan to 5-0 in Big Ten play as Juwan Howard‘s team looks to prove it is the class of the league. The trio of Hunter Dickinson, Franz Wagner and Isaiah Livers have carried the Wolverines this season and will be the key to proving whether or not Michigan is a truly legitimate national title contender.
Player of the Week: Corey Kispert
Gonzaga is the deepest team in the country and it is hard to keep track of all the talented contributors they have on the roster. While freshman Jalen Suggs has drawn a lot of hype one of the biggest keys to the Bulldogs’ success has been senior forward Corey Kispert.
Over Gonzaga’s first 12 games Kispert is averaging 21.1 points per game while knocking down over 60 percent of his field goal attempts, including 47.9 percent of his triple tries. Kispert’s ability to space the floor has proven to be invaluable to the Bulldogs, who saw him contribute 23 points in a win over BYU on Thursday.
Cinderella Watch: Drake Bulldogs
There are few undefeated teams left in college basketball but one of the biggest surprises has to be Drake, which is off to a 13-0 start on the year, including a 4-0 record in the Missouri Valley Conference. Picked to finish seventh in the conference’s preseason polls, Drake has exceeded expectations on the strength of an explosive offense that averages 83.9 points per game and knocks down 43 percent of its three-point attempts.
The Bulldogs are currently on a COVID pause but a 13-0 start is nothing to sneeze at. Start keeping an eye on Drake and see how they come back from the pause because a team that can get hot from the perimeter is a dangerous out in March.
Conference of the Week: Big Ten
We could focus on the Big Ten every week but the schedule offers a ton of top-notch conference matchups this week. Michigan has matchups against Wisconsin and Minnesota, with the Badgers also slated to travel to East Piscataway to take on Rutgers on Friday night.
Iowa also has an interesting week on tap, hosting Michigan State and traveling to Northwestern, while Illinois hosts a game Ohio State team over the weekend. These Big Ten battles could have a huge impact on how the conference race shakes out down the stretch.
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