We have settled into a groove now, and I do not see much conversation — or as much I should say — around the hoops activities. Everyone sort of knows what their favorite team has and doesn’t have and more data points in the form of wins and losses do not move the needle as much as they did before.
Broadly speaking, we know UAB looks really good, WKU is talented and Charles Bassey is a force to be reckoned with. The season is just about half-way over — of course it depends on the team, the COVID postponements change things a bit — and the rest of the season is more about seeding than learning much else. Last year the champ was the regular season winner as the tournament was cancelled. That is a possibility again, but as usual, all eyes are on the league tournament.
We will skip the superlatives this week but here are the rankings:
1. UAB 14-2, 7-1
The Blazers gave us a little entertainment by having to pull away late against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders. They demonstrated they were the superior team, however and won going away in both. A nice balanced attack in taboo game, but Tavin Lovan was great in the first game. It was more balanced in the second, with five reaching 10+ points. UAB is top three in offensive efficiency and top two in defensive efficiency.
last week: 1st
2. WKU 13-4, 6-2
Games were postponed but this team remains good and talented.
Last week: 2nd
3. La Tech 14-5, 7-3
Tech won the first game handily, and held off the Southern Miss squad in Ruston in the second game. They showed their versatility — post game, defense, up-and-down stuff. Next week vs NT will be a huge matchup. Tech’s defense is ferocious when they turn it on.
Last week: 3rd
4. North Texas 9-5, 5-1
Beating Rice is impressive, as that squad is good but the best news is the impressive games from Javion Hamlet. NT was always going to need the reigning CUSA POY to play like his old self, and we saw some of that in the first game. It was not needed in game two, as the Owls were ran off the floor on Sunday. NT is the top efficient offense and the fourth efficient defense.
Last week: 5th
5. Marshall 9-4, 3-3
Marshall is good and has a huge adjusted efficiency metric — +10.99. They problem is that they have dropped three games. Sure they have played good teams but all we have is the resumé. The defense has fell off a bit.
Last week: 4th
6. ODU 8-4, 4-2
This level is clearly second-tier and ODU is a weird team. They had to postpone because of COVID and that robbed us all of a WKU matchup. This team, as ever, has trouble scoring.
Last week: 6th
7. Rice 10-8, 4-6
Rice is losing, but if you are watching closely you see some good basketball. Evee, Fiedler, Olivari are all good. Head coach Scott Pera has slowly built a squad that can compete. A couple more years of roster development and we will see a really dangerous team here. The defense needs to improve and that is where the focus should be.
Last week: 7th
8. CLT 9-7, 5-3
We had dropped CLT last week into the abyss, but resurrected them on the strength of a good week. Jahmir Young is a baller. He put up 47 in two games against FIU along with 16 rebounds. Charlotte is top five in defense but bottom three in offense. Lot of reliance on Young.
Last week: 10th
9-14: UTSA, UTEP, USM, FIU, Middle
These teams are on the “don’t watch unless you need to” list.
UTSA: UTSA is second-to-last in defensive efficiency and — bottom six in offensive efficiency. Still go as Wallace/Jackson go.
UTEP: Talent, but not putting it together. Definition of middle-of-the-pack
USM: Young and talented but just too inefficient to get the wins they need.
FIU/Middle: Wheels are either falling off, or wobbling and it is just about a guaranteed win when you play these teams.