The calendar has turned to 2022, which means that we are that much closer to the NCAA Tournament. I want to wish all your teams the best of luck as we enter into this season as well, may they have a historic season. With the changing of the year, remains the daily roundup which breaks down all the big games from each day, which includes a solid Saturday slate of games to start the year. Sure Covid and Bowl Mania kept this from being one of the days that had a ton of great games, but we had a battle of unbeatens, which lived up to the hype, while there were plenty of other key games as well, so let’s dive into the daily roundup.
Baylor tops Iowa State in battle of unbeatens
In what was clearly the top game of Saturday, the undefeated reigning National Champion Baylor Bears went on the road to take on undefeated Iowa State. This was a high-level basketball game, with incredible shot-making and a great environment but in the end, it was the Baylor Bears who walked away with the win to move to 13-0 and make it 19 straight wins dating back to last season.
Baylor led the entire game but that doesn’t mean Iowa State didn’t look impressive, the Bears had gotten the lead up to double digits but Iowa State responded with runs on every occasion to make it feel like they had a chance. For every Iowa State run, Baylor had the answer and that is why they walked away the winners. James Akinjo had a team-high 16 to lead the Bears, most of which felt like crowd silencing jumpers, Adam Flagler and LJ Cryer both scored in double figures, while Jeremy Sochan had 12 points. The Bears had the advantage of having terrific length, athleticism and switchability 3-5, and while Iowa State scored inside, the Bears forced Iowa State into 1-14 shooting from three, which made a difference. Baylor is not as unbeatable as they were a season ago, they will go through a stretch where they take losses, but this team is good enough to beat every team they play and is deserving of their #1 ranking.
While Iowa State lost, this is still an optimistic game for them especially with a sense of reflection. The fact that this was a Top-10 matchup, a rowdy home environment, and Iowa State looked the part against the #1 team in the sport is an incredible feat given the preseason expectations. Tristan Enaruna had a key performance, scoring 23 and looking the part, Tyrese Hunter made every key shot down the stretch to make this game seem in doubt, and Izaiah Brockington continues to look like one of the best guards in the Big 12. As far as I’m concerned this Iowa State team looks like a clear Top-20 team in the sport and could find themselves being a Top-4 seed come Selection Sunday.
Villanova grits out win at Seton Hall
Two weeks ago the sky was falling for Villanova, the Wildcats were blown out by Creighton and that was after being embarrassed by Baylor. Two weeks later Villanova once again looks like the team to beat in the Big East after getting a big road win at Seton Hall. While Seton Hall was down two key rotation pieces with Ike Obiagu and Tyrese Samuel both being out due to Covid protocols, this was still an impressive road win that sets them up to once again win the Big East regular-season crown.
The Wildcats once again struggled on the offensive end, shooting only 40% from the floor and 30% from three, but this was a game of toughness and that’s what won Villanova this game. They outrebounded the Pirates 42-28, were aggressive at the rim, and edged out what is a big win. Collin Gillespie had the big game offensively, scoring a team-high 21 points, Brandon Slater stepped up and scored 17, while Justin Moore drilled the go-ahead shot to put Villanova up for good. Seton Hall almost certainly has had bad luck recently, having to go on pause due to a Covid outbreak, while missing Ike Obiagu and Tyrese Samuel undoubtedly would’ve made a difference in these past two games based on matchups. The Pirates are still a Top-25 team but have put themselves in a hole in the Big East race.
Texas has game of their season, handles West Virginia
Covid had an impact on this game as West Virginia was without Taz Sherman, a player who averages 20.9 points per game and is the Mountaineers’ best player. That said, the offensive performance is what makes this the clear best performance of the season for this Longhorns team. Texas scored 74 points on what is a defense that gives up an average of 59 points per game, while the guard play was extremely good. Marcus Carr, who had been rumored to be leaving the program earlier this week, had a game-high of 20, Courtney Ramey got the team going early on and finished with 15, and the offense was really solid. This is the Texas team that was expected to show up all season and if this becomes a trend, the Longhorns could compete with Baylor and Kansas for the Big 12 title, the question is of course whether they can replicate this performance.
Memphis dominant in road win at Wichita State
This Memphis team is a model of inconsistency, losing to Tulane being just the most recent example of this, but when Memphis is on, this team can beat most teams in the sport, Saturday was one of those days where the Tigers were on. The Tigers took advantage of their overall talent advantage and ran Wichita State out of their own gym. Josh Minott was the star of the game, as he scored 15 points off the bench and looked like a legitimate NBA prospect in this game. Jalen Duren had a typical game, scoring 14 points on efficient shooting, DeAndre Williams also had 14 and drained two threes, and they did it without Alex Lomax and Emoni Bates who were both out. The Tigers have just an abundance of talent and that will always give them a chance, playing through Williams and Duren are the best way to get easy baskets, that mixed with someone else stepping up will be key in unlocking this Tigers team’s full potential.
Creighton wins double overtime thriller at Marquette
While we are still a long way from Selection Sunday, this game is one that could go a long way in determining which teams will be in the final Field of 68 and Creighton wound up getting a resumé-building win. The Blue Jays seemingly had the game won early in the second half as they led big but slowly but surely, the lead was trimmed down and Marquette was able to force overtime. In overtime, it was Marquette who seemingly had the game won, but Alex O’Connell drilled a game-tying three at the buzzer to tie the game at 67 and force double overtime. In the end, behind 20 points and 12 rebounds from Ryan Kalkbrenner, as well as 18 from Ryan Hawkins the Blue Jays got the win. This game could be key in the future, as this projects as a quadrant two win, which could be needed to help get into the NCAA Tournament.
Louisiana Tech completes big comeback to beat Western Kentucky
Nothing explains Western Kentucky better than this game, the Hilltoppers lead pretty much throughout against a really good Louisiana Tech team, had a 12 point lead with four minutes left and lost. Louisiana Tech had a season low 21 points in the first half, but managed to keep the game within striking distance, before the comeback began. Louisiana Tech finished the game on an 18-5 run, Cobe Williams drilled the game-tying shot to tie the game at 72, after an exchange of questionable fouls, Kenneth Lofton Jr drilled the game-winning free throws to give Louisiana Tech the win. Both teams will have a good chance to win the Conference USA title, so this acted as more of a preview, but Louisiana Tech definitely ended up with a great win and helped themselves in the race for the Conference USA regular-season crown.
Miami beats Wake Forest in high-scoring affair
For the first time since 2013, Miami is 3-0 in ACC play and now is seemingly in a good position to get an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament after a 92-84 win against Wake Forest. The Hurricanes led pretty much throughout but Wake Forest made their runs and had it down to one possession with three minutes left to play, but Miami closed strong and earned the win. The Hurricanes entered the day outside the Top-100 of the NET rankings but that should change, with now four quadrant two wins, in an ACC that seems to be missing Tournament teams, the Hurricanes could wind up sneaking into the NCAA Tournament should they have a strong finish in ACC play.