5-Minute Guide: Reconnecting with college hoops, post-football

Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart (left to right), Duke's Jabari Parker and Creighton's Doug McDermott are all viable candidates for the Wooden Award at season's end.

Fox Sports South offers a college basketball primer for the perpetually restless, high-intensity sports enthusiast who’s undergoing a mild bout of TV depression … on the first football-free weekend since the end of July.

In other words, now that you’re taking a much-needed break from everything college and pro football (at least for a few weeks), here’s a five-minute guide for assimilating back into the college hoops universe.

Our goals here are twofold:

1. The guide will pique your interest for the homestretch of the college season, leading up to the crescendo of March Madness.

2. The guide will help you survive any barstool debates, or arguments, that might arise with friends or strangers while consuming hoops (and not Olympic pairs skating) on TV.

It’s Never Too Early To Make Plans For Buffalo or Spokane

The following 42 schools are (unofficially) on the brink of locking up at-large bids for the NCAA tournament — should they fall short of securing automatic berths during the conference tourneys:

Atlantic 10:
(4) — Saint Louis, Massachusetts, VCU, George Washington
American Athletic: (5) — Cincinnati, Louisville, Memphis, UConn, Southern Methodist
ACC: (6) — Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida State
Big 12: (5) — Kansas, Texas, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State
Conference USA: (1) — Southern Miss
Big East: (4) — Villanova, Creighton, Xavier, Providence
Big Ten: (5) — Michigan State, Michigan, Iowa, Ohio State, Wisconsin
Mid-American: (1) — Toledo
Missouri Valley: (2) — Wichita State, Indiana State
Mountain West: (2) — San Diego State, New Mexico
Pac-12: (4) — Arizona, UCLA, Stanford, California
SEC: (2) — Florida, Kentucky
West Coast: (1) — Gonzaga

Temporary Snubs

Citing the above list, these Top 45 RPI teams still aren’t locks for the tourney:

#27 Colorado
#37 Minnesota
#41 Kansas State
#42 BYU
#43 Richmond
#44 Oregon

Seven Most Impressive Wins To Date

1. Jan. 20 — Creighton crushes Villanova in Philly, 96-68 (21 3-pointers made)
2. Dec. 4 — North Carolina upends No. 1 Michigan State (in East Lansing), 79-65
3. Jan. 30 — Cincinnati slips past Louisville on the road, 69-66
4. Nov. 12 — Kansas downs Duke (in Chicago), 94-83
5. Nov. 14 — Arizona knocks off San Diego State on the road, 69-60
6. Dec. 21 — Michigan State thumps Texas in Austin, 92-78
7. Dec. 30 — Tennessee vanquishes Virginia, 87-52

Most Thrilling Games To Date

1. Feb. 1 — Syracuse outlasts Duke, 91-89 (OT thriller on national TV)
2. Feb. 1 — California takes down No. 1 Arizona on buzzer-beater (60-58)
3. Dec. 2 — UConn stuns Florida, 65-64 (Shabazz Napier buzzer-beater)
4. Feb. 3 — Iowa State outduels Oklahoma State in Stillwater, 98-97 (3OT)
5. Nov. 29 — Arizona trumps Duke in New York City grudge match, 72-66
6. Dec. 7 — Colorado humbles Kansas, 75-72
7. Jan. 23 — Portland ekes past BYU in 3-OT marathon, 114-110
8. Nov. 11 — BYU sprints past Stanford, 112-103

Dare To Compare

No. 1 Syracuse (22-0, 9-0 in ACC) and No. 4 Wichita State (24-0, 11-0 in Missouri Valley) are vying to become the first team(s) since UNLV in 1991 to enter the NCAA tournament undefeated.

Here’s how the Orange and Shockers compare to the ’91 Rebels (starring Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, Greg Anthony, Anderson Hunt) — prior to the NCAA tourney.

UNLV lost to eventual champion Duke in the national semifinals.

2014 Syracuse

Previous season: Advanced to Final Four (lost to Michigan)
Close wins (5 points or less): 4
Blowout wins (15 points or more): 8
Scored 90 points or more: 2
Allowed 55 points or less: 11

2014 Wichita State

Previous season: Advanced to Final Four (lost to Louisville)
Close wins (5 points or less): 3
Blowout wins (15 points or more): 11
Scored 90 points or more: 2
Allowed 55 points or less: 9

1991 UNLV

Previous season: Won national title (routed Duke in final)
Close wins (5 points or less): 0
Blowout wins (15 points or more): 26
Scored 90 points or more: 22
Allowed 55 points or less: 2

Random Bits To Impress Your Friends

1. Marquette is the only D-1 school to play in three straight overtime games this season (losing to Butler, Villanova and beating Georgetown).

2. Of the players currently ranked in the top-15 nationally for assists or rebounds, Penn State guard Tim Frazier is the only one to notch at least three separate outings of double-digit assists and double-digit rebounds.

3. Of the nation’s top 20 rebounders (through Feb. 7), UNLV forward Roscoe Smith is the only one to post multiple games of 20 boards. And as luck would have it, Smith (the nation’s leading rebounder) notched the 20/20 outings in back-to-back games (Nov. 15 vs. Omaha, Nov. 19 vs. Arizona State).

4. Niagara’s Antoine Mason, the nation’s leading scorer (26.6 points) posted eight games of 30-plus points for November and December. Since the calendar switch to 2014, though, Mason has enjoyed just one game of 30 points (31 vs. Rider on Jan. 2).

5. This nugget comes from Fox Sports South’s hoops guru Zach Dillard: Since the 2002-03, only five players have accounted for at least 40 percent of their team’s respective shots for a season. UC-Santa Barbara star Alan Williams (more on him later) is primed to join that club — given his 39.5-percent standing (rounding up).

Zach Dillard’s All-American Team Right Now

F — Doug McDermott, Creighton
F — Jabari Parker, Duke
F — Julius Randle, Kentucky
F — C.J. Fair, Syracuse
G — DeAndre Kane, Iowa State
G — Xavier Thames, San Diego State

Jay Clemons’ All-American Team Right Now

F– Doug McDermott, Creighton
F — Jabari Parker, Duke
F — Julius Randle, Kentucky
G — Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
G — Shabazz Napier, Connecticut
G — DeAndre Kane, Iowa State

Biggest Upsets To Date

1. Feb. 1 — California tops No. 1 Arizona on buzzer-beater (60-58)
2. Dec. 1 — UAB upending North Carolina, 63-59
3. Jan. 29 — Northwestern shocks Wisconsin (in Madison), 65-56
4. Jan. 29 — Penn State trumps Ohio State in Columbus, 71-70 (OT)
5. Feb. 1 — Baylor trips No. 8 Oklahoma State (in Stillwater), 76-70
6. Nov. 17 — Belmont beats North Carolina in Chapel Hill, 83-80
7. Feb. 1 — Georgetown outmuscles No. 7 Michigan State in New York City, 64-60
8. Jan. 11 — Texas A&M stuns Tennessee in Knoxville, 57-56
9. Jan. 22 — USC sprints past California, 77-69
10. Nov. 29 — Drexel outlasts Alabama, 85-83 (3OT)

Games Only A Pre-Shot-Clock Fan Could Love

1. Dec. 4 — Wisconsin def. Virginia, 48-38
2. Nov. 16 — Ohio State def. Marquette, 52-35
3. Jan. 15 — Michigan State def. Northwestern, 54-40
4. Feb. 4 — Clemson def. Georgia Tech, 45-41
5. Feb. 1 — Florida def. Texas A&M, 69-36
6. Jan. 12 — Northwestern def. Illinois, 49-43
7. Nov. 29 — Miami def. Cal-State Fullerton, 48-46
8. Jan. 4 — Syracuse def. Miami, 49-44

Best Player You’ll See In The NCAA Tourney

Doug McDermott, Creighton

The two-time Missouri Valley player of the year and two-time All-American has been a dynamic force as a senior, as well, leading the 12th-ranked Bluejays in scoring (25.0 points per game) and rebounding (7.1).

Through Feb. 7, McDermott has seven games of 30 points or more Of equal importance, he notched a shooting rate of 50 percent or higher 12 of 21 games — a scintillating stat for a primary jump shooter.

McDermott also found time to play the ‘decoy’ role. In Creighton’s 96-68 road rout of No. 4 Villanova on Jan. 20, his presence freed up Ethan Wragge (nine triples) and Jahenns Manigat for monster outings of 27 and 19 points, respectively. (McDermott chipped in with 23 points against the Wildcats.)

Best Player You Might Not See In The NCAA Tourney

Alan Williams, UC-Santa Barbara

The junior forward (27 career double-doubles) has been a one-man wrecking crew for the Gauchos, averaging 23.1 points and 11.4 rebounds.

Williams might have also produced the most impressive stat line of any single game, rolling for 39 points (on 16 of 25 shooting), nine rebounds, eight blocks, three steals and two assists in UCSB’s win over South Dakota State (Nov. 29).

For good measure, Williams (20 points, 17 rebounds, five blocks against Hawaii on Feb. 7) is the only D-1 player with top-10 rankings for both scoring and rebounding.
 

NCAA Tourney Sites

We referenced Buffalo and Spokane earlier, two of the opening-weekend venues for the 2014 NCAA Tournament. 

Here are the full state of sites, covering all seven rounds:

Opening Round

March 18-19
UD Arena (Dayton, Ohio)

Rounds 2/3 (opening weekend)

March 20/22
First Niagara Center (Buffalo)
BMO Harris Bradley Center (Milwaukee)
Amway Center (Orlando)
Veterans Memorial Arena (Spokane)

March 21/23
PNC Arena (Raleigh, N.C.)
AT&T Center (San Antonio)
Viejas Arena (San Diego)
Scottrade Center (St. Louis)

Regionals

South
March 27/29 — FedExForum (Memphis)

West
March 27/29 — Honda Center (Anaheim, Calif.)

East
March 28/30 — Madison Square Garden (New York)

Midwest
March 28/30 — Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis)

Final Four

National Semifinals

April 5 — Cowboys Stadium (Arlington, Texas)

NCAA Title Game
April 7 — Cowboys Stadium (Arlington, Texas)