NCAA Basketball: Three takeaways from a dramatic weekend of hoops
What are Busting Brackets’ three takeaways from this past weekend in NCAA basketball?
The New England Patriots’ historic Super Bowl 51 comeback victory over the Atlanta Falcons took center stage this weekend, but there was plenty of intriguing action in college hoops on Saturday and early Sunday afternoon.
The Big 12 went bananas with Kansas, Baylor and West Virginia, three top 10 teams, lost at home in their own arenas to unranked opponents. Oregon and Florida demolished their opponents. Purdue defeated Maryland in a thrilling road game in College Park. Florida State dropped 109 on Clemson. Syracuse won their fourth straight by making an all-to-similar second half comeback. Gonzaga remained unbeaten. And finally, Coach K returned to help lead Duke to their third straight victory.
While all those results were exciting and intriguing in their own right — the NCAA Tournament is going to be absolutely crazy if it’s anything like the action we received on Saturday — there were also three key big picture takeaways that need to be reviewed before we head into the second week of February. With that in mind, here are Busting Brackets’ three takeaways from this past week.
3. Donte DiVincenzo is the unsung Villanova hero
One of the main reasons the Villanova Wildcats won the 2016 National Championship was because of their balance and depth. Jay Wright’s team had numerous weapons that could beat you at any given time and had the bodies on the bench that were capable of competing at the same level as the starting lineup.
This season, the Wildcats still have balance and experience, but they don’t have the depth they once had. Phil Booth went down with knee tendinitis early in the season (he’s missed the last 21 games) and they don’t have a true big man that can dump it down to in the post.
However, the Wildcats may not need the depth they had in 2015-16.
Why? The seven guys that get minutes are all so solid and talented.
We all know about Josh Hart, Jalen Brunson, Kris Jenkins, Eric Paschall, Darryl Reynolds, Mikal Bridges, but the unsung hero for the Wildcats is Donte DiVincenzo.
I said last week that when Bridges is playing like he played against the Virginia Cavaliers the Wildcats are in a perfect position. But when DiVincenzo, Bridges, Jenkins, Hart and Brunson are clicking on all cylinders, Villanova has a strong chance to win the National Title.
The redshirt freshman is averaging 7.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game while shooting 44 percent from the field and 32 percent from beyond the arc. DiVincenzo scored 20 points in a win over St. John’s on Saturday and had more points than St. John’s had in the middle of the first half (!). He had another 19 points against St. John’s on the road, 10 points against Xavier and 10 points against Seton Hall.
The guard is an elite athlete, great shooter, solid ball handler and an excellent transition player. He can also defend and rebound, showing off the skills and upside to be the next great Villanova guard.
2. Kentucky needs outside shooting to be successful
In two games last week, the Wildcats knocked off Georgia in overtime in Brent Musburger’s last game and were pounded by Florida in Gainsville.
The Wildcats have issues defensively and aren’t all that tough in the painted area, but their main problem lies with their lack of outside shooting.
This was the main concern regarding Kentucky coming into the 2016-17, but they were able to overcome their issues with their play in transition and underwhelming competition. This past week, Saturday in particular, the issues crept up more than ever.
Against Georgia, Kentucky shot 9-of-21 from beyond the arc (43 percent), but seven of those nine threes were made by Malik Monk. Against Florida, they were just 6-of-18 from beyond the arc and three of those seven threes were made by Monk.
In other words, if Monk isn’t having a terrific night, the Wildcats are going to desperately struggle in the half court. And the problem with that is that Monk isn’t all that consistent. One night he can drop 30, but the next night he could score zero in the first half and struggle to hit his outside jumpers.
I know Kentucky is elite in transition, especially when De’Aaron Fox plays and is 100 percent (he battled an ankle injury and a stomach virus this week). However, during the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, games become more half court orientated. Will Kentucky be able to get enough stops and make enough threes in those types of situations? They better hope that Monk is on his A-game.
1. Oregon can compete with anyone
After dealing with injury and role allocation issues, the Oregon Ducks are finally hitting their stride.
Oregon embarrassed the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday, shooting lights out from beyond the three point line and playing stifling defense against a potent opposing backcourt. They are now in sole possession of first place in the Pac-12 and have already beaten two of the top three teams in the conference (UCLA and Arizona).
The Ducks have a superstar in Dillon Brooks, but it is anything but a one-man show. Tyler Dorsey is a stud, Dylan Ennis a sixth year player, Jordan Bell is one of the more improved players in the country and Payton Pritchard is a gem of a freshman.
Oregon earned the first number one seed in school history last year and advanced to the Elite Eight before losing to the Oklahoma Sooners. But this year, Oregon has been through the gauntlet. They have already experienced the pressures of March Madness.
They are unlikely to be a number one seed this year, but the Ducks have the potential to make it even further in March. Don’t count out of their a first National Title since 1939.
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