There was some good basketball in college hoops this past week, but no compelling story lines or upsets. This is evidenced by the fact the AP Poll Top 25 contains the exact same teams as last week, with only a few changes in spots. The truth is that while there are a few solid games every week in December, it is good for college hoops to have a little lull before conference play begins in January. It allows these students to focus on exams and complete the semester, and it allows coaches to work through any issues their team is having and add some new wrinkles to their playbook. The result as a whole is that we have rested, sharp, and eager basketball teams ready to go at a high level on January 1.
Games of the week
#5 Florida @ #8 Arizona- This is a battle of two established high-scoring teams. The Florida Gators are a legit final four contender, and are coming off a very convincing dismantling of Florida State. When Bradley Beal left early for the NBA, the overall firepower of this team noticeably dropped. This team reminds me of Billy Donovan’s national championship teams in 2006 and 2007. They are an aggressive team that plays full court defence, which creates a bunch of easy offence for them every game. Their half court offence is just as scary with a deep group of guards, a dominant big man in Young, and a match up nightmare in Erik Murphy. Murphy is 6’10” that can score in the post, mid-range, from three, and is smart enough to take whatever the defence gives him.
Arizona is a completely perimeter-oriented team, with the vast majority of their scoring from their wing players. They rely on their post guys to clean the glass, clog up the lane, and score around the rim on put-backs. This game will largely come down to Arizona’s ability to stay composed in the face of Florida’s full court pressure, if they can do that they have a shot. Even with the advantage of playing at home, Arizona will probably fall to the Gators this week.
#1 Indiana vs. Butler - On paper this may seem like a huge mismatch, and it could very well be, but there is potential here for an excellent game. This is a neutral site game and is part of the Close the Gap Crossroads Classic. This yearly event showcases Indiana basketball, and the importance it has on the culture there. The four most iconic schools in Indiana (Butler, Indiana, Notre Dame, and Purdue) face-off in a pair of games, with the match-ups rotating each year. The atmosphere of obsessive Indiana basketball fans is exactly the sort of non-conference rivalry games that will continue to grow the game. Indiana is a complete team and deserving of the #1 spot (or maybe #2). They have skill, size, athleticism, and play together extremely well. Even with the loss of Austin Etherington for the season with a broken patella, Indiana should be able win against Butler and remain undefeated going into their Big 10 conference schedule in January.
Butler on the other hand has had an average start to their season. They do not have the overall talent level of the last few years, but have excellent guard play at times. When you combine perimeter scorers, gritty defence, and a desire to beat the in-state rival… you can very often throw out the rankings and just enjoy a great basketball game!
There you have our Games of the Week. Check back next week and we’ll give you a glimpse into the games you cannot afford to miss. Just kick back, put your feet up and enjoy some roundball!
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