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Mid-November Health Check: Basketball 2019

Every program in the league is still feeling out things, working out some lineups and adapting to some roster changes. There have been some surprises, but the league’s teams have played some wildly varying schedules with some programs challenging themselves and others doing a cake walk.

Western Kentucky looks good so far against a weak schedule. The real tests are next week and in early December. Louisville, Arkansas, Rhode Island are all on the docket. Charles Bassey’s offensive rating is up, his assist rate, too, and his turnover rate is down. Scary times for CUSA squads.

Tech has also looked great against bad teams, but played well against Creighton. DaQuan Bracey is still fun and still playing well. UTEP has beaten seemingly everyone in the state of New Mexico but eventually will be getting out of that state to face others. Beating NM State is impressive, but Houston (and New Mexico State again) are the only real tests coming up.

Zack Bryant was dismissed from UAB, surprising everyone and throwing the Blazers in a weird spot. The weirdest spot and most surprising start of the season has to be in San Antonio, where Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace have struggled.

Wallace in particular has been bad. He made a name for himself as Jackson recovered from injury to start last season, but has struggled to find the mark from deep. He is shooting an abysmal 26% from deep, compared to 37% from range last year. His offensive rating has fell from 110 to 82. That makes Jackson’s ten-point rating drop look tiny by comparison.

A lot of the struggles have to do with the departed Giovanni De Nicolao and Nick Allen. They provided some consistency and steady play. De Nicolao ran the point, allowing Jackson and Wallace to look for their shot instead of having to run the offense.

Charlotte is starting to look like the Virginia clone they want to be, beating Davidson and Wake Forest already. Rice is also interesting. They gave Houston a little run, and Trey Murphy is playing really well for them.

The rest of the squads are somewhere in that middle ground. Predictions at this stage are a bit useless, and the entertainment return has been hit or miss. Basically, if you do not have an alma mater-based reason to watch, you probably are not tuning in to the other teams in this league.

As mentioned, the most disappointing thing about this season thus far is that the big names in SA have been bad, and Bryant is gone at UAB. Watching talented dudes excel at what they do is the entire reason for the sport’s success. It is a tough break for the league to watch stars not play well or simply not play.

This league is about to test itself overall — some of better squads will be facing the nation’s top-100 soon and we will know what this league is really made of then. Enjoy the turkey and the hoops.

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