Monday, December 9, 2019 4:29 PM | CBN
By: Liam Blutman
This week is going to be a little different as I’ll be highlighting two mid-major teams that have opportunities for quality wins in December to round out their non-conference play. These are tournament caliber teams playing tournament caliber games with big tests that are sure to excite. I’ll also have this weeks player of the week. Hint, he played high school ball with a trio of brothers that were destined for stardom.
UNCG, you sure have quite a trio of games ahead of yourselves. This 8-2 team will square off with NC State, Vermont, and Northern Kentucky. Each game will be played within a few days of each other with NC State on the 15th, Vermont on the 18th, and Northern Kentucky on the 21st. UNCG is actually hosting NC State on the 15th, a game that would do wonders for a Spartans resume that already features a road win over Georgetown. That same Hoyas team that turned around and took down Oklahoma State and SMU on the road! I loved this UNCG team coming in and I’ve been a bit disappointed with this 8-2 team a month into the season. The issue I’m having is the Spartans offense is extremely underwhelming, an offense that ranks 227th in efficiency. The free throw shooting ranks 343rd... This team is shooting 29.2% from three. I know they can be a better offensive team, I know it. The defense is something to rave about. UNCG is allowing just 54.9 PPG, they rank 17th in defensive efficiency and 4th in block %. The UNCG turnover ratio is outstanding as well. On offense they turn it over just 16.6% of the time while they force turnovers 26.9% of the time on the defensive end! Pretty great numbers on the defensive end but plenty of room for improvement with the offense. And they’ll need that offense to beat NC State this Sunday. Following that game they’ll head up to Vermont and play another stellar defensive team. Vermont is the favorite to win the America East so it is a great opportunity for UNCG to nab a win over a potential tournament team. After that you get a chance to play the best team in the Horizon conference, Northern Kentucky. The Norse are one of the best teams in the country at defending 3-pointers and it’ll be interesting to see how an already poor 3-point shooting team handles that. If these three games result in three wins, UNCG could very well have played themselves into an At-Large bid. A resume that features wins @ Georgetown and vs NC State, with wins over conference favorites Vermont and Northern Kentucky. All that combined with a 12-point loss to Kansas, the committee should seriously consider them as an at-large team. I’ve been saying it for a year now, the So-Con is deserving of multiple bids and this year I’m all in for UNCG and Furman.
Yale. An Ivy League school receiving an at-large bid? Maybe... Harvard has been the favorite to win the Ivy League for quite awhile and they still are but Yale has impressed plenty while Harvard has enjoyed the spotlight. Yale’s best win is currently Vermont, solid. They barely missed out on great wins over San Francisco, Oklahoma State, and Penn State. They overcame a 16-point deficit vs USF only to lose in overtime. They fought hard with Oklahoma State and fell by 7 and they led by 14 at Penn State only to squander a 56-46 lead with 3:53 to go. Zero points in the final 3:53 ... that would result in a 58-56 loss. Yale is a really good team that’s competing with some pretty dang good teams. The Yale defense ranks 37th in efficiency and 3rd in opponent 3-point %. However this defense doesn’t force turnovers much at all and they rely on forcing errant shots. The Yale offense is shooting 36.6% from 3 but it’s their two big men, Jordan Bruner and Paul Atkinsonthat fuel the offense. Bruner is averaging 11.7 PPG and 8.7 RPG while shooting 46.4%. Atkinson is averaging a cool 17.8 PPG and 7.3 RPG all while hitting 65.2% of his shots! Here’s what’s in store for Yale the rest of December... A road test at UMass, an extremely young and talented squad. Then road games with Clemson and UNC. Despite UNC’s struggles, I can’t see Yale winning in Chapel Hill but hey, it’s college basketball and anything can happen in this great sport. I can definitely see Yale knocking off Clemson after beating UMass. A resume that features a win vs Vermont and at Clemson isn’t the prettiest but when you factor in how many close road losses Yale endured vs tough teams, it’s a resume to consider. Yale also must dominate Ivy League conference play and they have to beat Harvard twice. Yale could have a slight chance of playing in the First Four if they beat Harvard twice on top of wins over Vermont and Clemson with close losses to San Francisco, Oklahoma State, Penn State, and UNC. Or... you could make this really simple and just win the Ivy League tournament, thus knocking Harvard out of the NCAA Tournament picture. But wouldn’t two Ivy League teams in the NCAA Tournament be kind of cool? Hmm... This is only December.
And now… here’s my player of the week. It’s Eli Scott of Loyola Marymount. A player I’ve enjoyed watching since high school. Eli played at Chino Hills with the Ball brothers and Onyeka Okongwu. He was the least recruited out of the bunch and that always shocked me. I always thought Eli was deserving of a spot on a Pac-12 team or a MWC team. Instead he’s tearing it up at Loyola Marymount where he’s breaking records! Eli and LMU played in two games this week, @ Colorado and vs Grambling State. How about going into Colorado and dropping 31 and 10. Eli did that as he shot 12-20 from the field. How do you follow up that monster performance? You go out there and do something historic. 21 points, 13 rebounds, 13 assists. An easy triple-double as Scott had 11 assists at the half and only turned the ball over ONCE all game! This trip-dub was actually the first in Loyola Marymount history and his 13 assists tied a program record! I’m really enjoying watching the 6’6” junior play and his game is a bit reminiscent of Draymond Green. Scott can do work in the paint or step out and hit some jumpers, he can create and act as a point guard or post up and dish from there and he’s an aggressive rebounder too. Scott can simply do it all and that’s why he’s averaging 15.8 PPG, 7.0 RPG, and 6.1 APG. On top of that he’s shooting 57.3%. Eli Scott is just going to keep on climbing up the LMU double-double leaderboard. He’s already in the top 20 and keeps on moving up. I don’t remember Eli Scott as the kid that played with the Ball Brothers, I’ll forever remember him as the kid that was disrespected by the recruiting scene and took his own path en route to proving the haters wrong and playing in the NBA one day.