The Heat Check CBB staff is back with another roundtable, previewing the weekend action in college basketball, including Texas vs. Gonzaga.
Welcome back to another staff roundtable, our first weekend edition of the season.
Every Saturday, the Heat Check CBB staff will gather to talk about the biggest storylines in college basketball, and break down what you need to know for Saturday and Sunday. Let’s dive in.
Besides Gonzaga or Texas, which Top 25 team will have the biggest scare on Saturday?
Eli Boettger: This won’t be popular and could look awful in hindsight but Campbell could hang with Duke for 20-30 minutes. Kevin McGeehan’s squad has more than enough shooters on the floor, finishing 11th in the nation in effective field-goal percentage and top 30 in both 2-point percentage and 3-point percentage last season. While Duke checks every intangible box, don’t be shocked if things are within striking distance at the under-12 timeout.
Jamie Shaw: I believe the Top 25 teams on Saturday will be just fine. After a crazy few days, expect the sport’s top teams to avoid major upsets.
Andy Dieckhoff: Vermont could beat Maryland, not just scare them. We just saw the Catamounts put a 14-point beatdown on Northern Iowa without reigning America East POY Ryan Davis. Meanwhile, the Terps struggled to put away George Washington until Fatts Russell showed up with a hammer and some coffin nails. If Davis is back from the non-COVID illness that kept him out of the UNI game, Maryland might not be able to escape again.
Riley Davis: Memphis had zero issues with Tennessee Tech earlier in the week thanks to Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren living up to their billing. However, North Carolina Central’s pressure-heavy scheme could push the Tigers on Saturday. Throughout Penny’s tenure, Memphis hasn’t exactly championed ball security — even against Tennessee Tech, it threw the ball away 17 times. Central, on the other hand, proved a tough out for a good Richmond squad and could hang around with Memphis longer than the spread may indicate.
Connor Hope: Maryland has been outscored in one half in each of the first two games. To be honest, I am just not convinced they are good enough to warrant even an 11-point spread against a Vermont team that easily dispatched Northern Iowa. This feels like one of those games where the Terrapins start to identify all of their issues.
Brian Rauf: Yeah, I’m going to go with Maryland, too. The Terps struggled with George Washington this week and needed a huge game from Qudus Wahab to win. Vermont’s diverse offense should put up decent numbers against Maryland’s defense. If the Terps aren’t on top of their game, this could be interesting.
Which game on the Saturday slate, besides Gonzaga-Texas, are you most excited about?
EB: Davidson-San Francisco is quite easily the mid-major matchup of the day. Both teams have legitimate at-large aspirations and can shoot the ball at an extremely high level. The Wildcats feature Hyunjung Lee and Foster Loyer — who dropped 27 points on Delaware — as their primary scorers while USF counters with the electric backcourt attack of Jamaree Bouyea and Khalil Shabazz.
JS: Colgate at NC State. Colgate is led by the dynamic guard duo of Nelly Cummings and Tucker Richardson. Last season they averaged 85.2 points (2nd in D-1) and shot 40.3 percent from 3 (3rd in D-1). Matt Langel is one of the best coaches in college basketball. NC State just lost Manny Bates and transfer Greg Gantt is still out. Freshman guard Terquavion Smith brought 20 electric points in the Wolfpack’s first game. Colgate handled Northeastern in its first game while NC State beat Bucknell by 18.
AD: Boise State-UC Irvine is a game that has my name written all over it. Late-tipping matchup between two good mid-major programs in the Western United States? Sign me up. Leon Rice and Russell Turner have quietly been two of the most consistent coaches in the country, and both have good rosters yet again. Bonus points for some Collin Welp-Mladen Armus action.
RD: Wichita State-South Alabama should help Richie Riley see just how impactful his crop of high major transfers can be. After one game, Jay Jay Chandler, Charles Manning Jr., and Javon Franklin all look primed for feature roles. In particular, Franklin has an opportunity to turn his flashes of potential into consistent production against the Shockers.
CH: I am extremely intrigued by the George Washington-UC San Diego game. Both teams showed out well in their high-major matchups earlier this week, and it’s too bad that the game has to be played at the same time as the aforementioned top-5 matchup. The Tritons in particular came into the Big West with big expectations for their future prospects, and they might be arriving earlier than expected.
BR: UCF-Miami. I think the Knights are the third-best team in the American and will be one of the nation’s breakout teams. That would require a victory against Miami, another team with talent and a true star in Isaiah Wong. Whoever wins this will get a huge boost.
Besides Gonzaga-Texas, what’s the biggest storyline to monitor this weekend?
EB: Who will be the next high-major team to fall? In just the first three days, we’ve seen high-major squads lose to Western Illinois, Navy, Miami OH, The Citadel, UC Riverside, Northern Illinois and UC San Diego. We’re certain to see more upsets this weekend, which can prove to be damaging and impactful as the season progresses.
JS: I’m going to be watching the Ivy League. It recorded three wins on Friday as Princeton topped South Carolina, Yale beat UMass, and Cornell got Lafayette. On Saturday, Dartmouth plays Georgetown and Harvard takes on Iona, the latter of which should be one everyone keeps an eye on. Harvard’s entire starting lineup is 6-4 to 6-7, including the impressive Chris Ledlum/Noah Kirkwood duo. If the Ivy League can come away with four wins this weekend, that would be a huge success.
AD: How does NC State bounce back from the loss of Manny Bates? They don’t get an easy one in the first full game without their star interior defender, whose dislocated shoulder will keep him out for the remainder of the season. Colgate is coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance last year and can be extremely deadly from beyond the arc.
RD: Who wins Florida’s Battle of Good Athletes on Bad Teams between UCF and Miami? More seriously, can the winner use this contest as the launching pad for an at-large resume?
CH: Will the Pac-12 continue to struggle? So far the Pac-12 has suffered five losses: four to mid-majors and one to Iowa State. None of the games on Saturday are guaranteed wins, and anything worse than a .500 performance would probably prove the haters right.
BR: I’ll be following all the above, but also keep an eye on Memphis. That team’s ceiling is dependent upon Emoni Bates’ progression as a point guard, and this is his next opportunity to prove himself.
OK, finally. Gonzaga and Texas. Who you got?
EB: This feels like it will be a back-and-forth matchup that finishes with Gonzaga pulling away with late free throws. I’m hesitant to fully buy into Texas yet until I see the Longhorns against quality competition, given their boatload of newcomers. It could go a variety of different ways because there is so much roster turnover between the two teams.
JS: Texas. The game is in Spokane, but this is the environment Chris Beard is built for in a battle of two of the sport’s best coaches. Chet Holmgren and Drew Timme may be the best duo in college basketball. I don’t trust Gonzaga’s guards yet but Marcus Carr, Andrew Jones, and Courtney Ramey have all been there before. Texas’ defense is tough to figure out and Gonzaga went just 6-21 from 3 in its opener against Dixie State. I love it when teams don’t duck smoke, so kudos to Beard for going on the road and to Mark Few for taking the game.
AD: I had Gonzaga as my No. 1 team in the preseason and not just because I felt good about them beating Dixie State. I think that this group of Zags can hang with the country’s very best just like they have for the past few seasons. Texas is unequivocally in that category this year, but with so many new pieces on the roster and on the bench, beating Gonzaga in Game 2 would be a pretty remarkable feat. I’m taking Gonzaga to win in a close one.
RD: Give me the Zags. I think Marcus Carr, Courtney Ramey, and Andrew Jones can test Gonzaga’s largely unproven perimeter corps. But ultimately, they lack an answer for Chet Holmgren and Drew Timme. The Longhorns need to force Gonzaga into a lot of 3s and a lot of misses.
CH: Texas by 4. I trust both teams enough to keep the game close, but in this situation, Marcus Carr is the only proven closer. Unless Gonzaga gets off to a huge lead, I think Texas pulls away late.
BR: Gonzaga. Texas is incorporating more new pieces than the Zags, and the game is in Spokane. I might’ve gone the other way had this been in Austin but I think The Kennel makes a big difference. Both these teams are elite, however, and will show that. I’m looking forward to a great game.