College Basketball: Thanksgiving Weekend Winners and Losers

The title of this post is a little deceiving because I went back all the way to Monday to capture games for this week’s edition of Winners and Losers. If you are unfamiliar with how a winners and losers type of post goes, you have never read the internet before. I’ll be nice and explain it. We will go over the various winners and losers, both on the scoreboard and objectively, from the Thanksgiving week (or weekend) tournaments. There were a whole lot of them. There were so many that these are enough words for the intro paragraph. Let’s move:



basketballVillanova Wildcats

The Wildcats showed they are one of the top teams in America for another season with their big week in Brooklyn. Last Tuesday night, Villanova completely thrashed VCU with a 45-point second half. To cap off the Legends Classic title, the Wildcats outlasted Michigan with this great JayVaughn Pinkston block. Last season Villanova beat Kansas and Iowa in the Battle 4 Atlantis; this season they bagged VCU and Michigan. Jay Wright’s bunch looks like the class of the Big East and a threat for a top-line seed yet again.

basketballArizona Wildcats

It wasn’t the easiest trip through Maui, but the Wildcats walked out with three victories and the Maui Invitiational trophy. Arizona wolloped Missouri, absorbed and survived Kansas State’s best effort, and followed through the next day by knocking off San Diego State for the title. It was a huge week for Stanley Johnson. The freshman earned tournament MVP honors with 14 points and 4 rebounds in game one, 14 points and 7 rebounds in game two, and 19 points and 9 rebounds in the finale. He also had 7 steals during the tournament.

basketballSan Diego State vs. BYU

Staying in Maui, the game of the week was this opening-round contest featuring the Aztecs and the Cougars. These old Mountain West foes went tooth and nail through double overtime to determine who advanced. There were clutch shots: BYU’s Tyler Haws hit a three to tie the score late in regulation, and Aqeel Quinn of SDSU nailed a three with 28 seconds left to force double overtime. There was some controversy in OT when it looked like Haws was fouled, but there was no whistle. In the second overtime period, BYU just didn’t have the legs to hang with the Aztecs. This was one of the games of the young season.

basketballKansas Jayhawks

This was a huge weekend for Kansas. The Jayhawks went to Orlando, thumped Rhode Island, thumped Tennessee, and beat Michigan State to become the champions of the Orlando Classic. Kansas made things a living hell for the Spartans, as MSU went 13-42 from two-point range and 6-17 from three. KU was able to control the boards with Frank Mason pulling down 10 and Perry Ellis 9. Mason’s 10 boards were a career high. It was also Mason’s first double-double — he added 10 points with 5 assists to boot.

basketballNorth Carolina Tar Heels

After a rough start in Atlantis in a loss to Butler, the Tar Heels bounced back by crushing UCLA and Florida with some ease. They put a couple of monster runs on the Bruins late in the first half and in the middle of the second to blow that game wide open. UNC opened with a 22-6 burst against the Gators, cruising all the way to an 11-point victory. The Heels held UCLA and Florida to under a point per possession while putting up 1.05 and 1.09 points per possession, respectively.

basketballGonzaga Bulldogs

The Bulldogs won the NIT season tip-off event in Madison Square with victories over Georgia and St John’s. This team has so many options offensively. Kyle Wiltjer and Kevin Pangos went off for 32 and 22 points respectively against Georgia, but they struggled against St. John’s, posting only 8 and 11 points. They were picked up by Domantas Sabonis against the Red Storm. Sabonis scored 14, while Gary Bell added 13 and Byron Wesley 12. The championship game against St John’s was a tough win with a late Red Storm rally. That was pretty much a true road game, though. It was a big win and should get the Zags ready for the rowdiness of another true road game this weekend at Arizona.

basketballTexas Longhorns

Texas went to UConn and pulled out a 55-54 victory on this Jonathan Holmes 3-pointer:

Holmes was 4-7 from three on the day. Texas was awful from two-point range at 10-26. The Horns made up for it, though, by hitting 7-20 from three and holding UConn to 30.4 percent overall and 3-16 from distance. The Texas defense ranks among the best in the country. The Longhorns have wins over Iowa, Cal, and now UConn. This Texas team looks legit.

basketballIllinois Fighting Illini

The Illini are the winners of your Las Vegas Invitational Championship with wins over Illinois State and Baylor. Led by games of 21 points/6 rebounds/5 steals and 17 points/7 rebounds/3 steals from tournament MVP Rayvonte Rice, the Illini sit at 6-0. The combination of Rice and Malcolm Hill (who scored 17 in both games) gives Illinois a chance to win every night. The duo faces a pretty big challege Tuesday when it hits the road and goes to Miami.

basketballPurdue Boilermakers

Purdue seems like it could be one of those teams fighting for a tournament bid when we hit March. This week was a huge help. Following an opening round loss to Kansas State in Maui, the Boilers pounded Missouri and topped BYU in overtime on a hook by A.J. Hammons. The reason I have Purdue in the win column is because the Boilermakers play a pretty bland non-conference slate. They drew N.C. State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and meet up with Notre Dame and Vandy. Getting a nice win and a really good win in Maui is certainly going to help them.

basketballOklahoma Sooners

The Sooners’ defense is one of the best in the country, by the metrics and by the eye test. OU absolutely locked down UCLA to pull away for a victory. The Sooners followed that up by locking down Butler even harder. Even though they lost to Wisconsin in the championship game of the Battle 4 Atlantis, OU held the Badgers under a point per possession offensively for the first time this season. I don’t know if the offense is going to be there; I do know the defense will.

basketballThe Big East

The conference as a whole has been absolutely rolling during this non-conference season. The league had great showcases from Villanova, as mentioned earlier, as well as Georgetown and Butler in the Bahamas. The Hoyas beat Florida and took Wisconsin down to the wire. Butler knocked off UNC and Georgetown, with a loss to OU sandwiched in between. Also deserving to be mentioned is St. John’s, which looked very tough, albeit at home, in the NIT this week. DePaul smoked Stanford by 15 points Sunday. DEPAUL. This league is riding well.

basketballOle Miss Rebels

A surprise winner of the Emerald Coast Classic, Ole Miss enjoyed an offensive explosion. The Rebs hung 1.15 points per possession on Creighton and 1.18 points per possession on Cincinnati. Ole Miss moved from 95 on Ken Pom to 67 in the span of two days. Maybe the Rebels should move all their games to Niceville, Florida.



basketballWisconsin Badgers

Winners of the Battle 4 Atlantis, Wisconsin ends up in the losers side of things just because of how the bracket broke. No offense to Oklahoma or what could be a good Georgetown team, but this tournament was set up for monster name battles for the Badgers. Instead of Florida and North Carolina or UCLA, they got Georgetown and Oklahoma. They are losers semantically, even though the Georgetown game was very good.

basketballBYU Cougars

It was great entertainment watching BYU play in the Maui Invitational. The Cougars’ style is fun, their defense invites shootouts, their guards are dead-eye shooters. What hurts are the losses. The Cougs have other non-conference chances against Utah and Stanford and … that’s about it for anyone good. With the WCC seemingly down this season, there aren’t a lot of chances for big wins. This is a very fun team which got the short end in a couple of games that could matter later.

basketballVCU Rams

Any time you lose twice in a week, it’s not a good thing. VCU was the receiver of the aforementioned walloping by Villanova. While they did follow with a win over Oregon, the Rams went down on the road to Old Dominion on Saturday. VCU shot just 39 percent, hit 32 percent from three and an awful 59 percent at the foul line. Meanwhile, ODU made 47.6 % / 52.9 % / 80 % in comparison. The Rams will get a shot against Virgina on Saturday to atone for this off week.

basketballIndiana Hoosiers

Losing at home to Eastern Washington probably wasn’t the best way to get ready for a home game against Pittsburgh. Just a guess.

basketballMemphis Tigers

Memphis was ahead by six early in the season half against Baylor. The Tigers lost by 24.

basketballSan Diego State’s foul shooting

It was a mostly great week for SDSU, but there is a lot of regret after the Arizona loss. The Aztecs were just 13-24 at the stripe. That hurts. It especially hurts in games where you lose by two points. This is currently one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the nation. It hurt against Arizona; chances are it’ll hurt again.

basketballThe Florida Offense

The Gators went through three games in Atlantis with their best offensive showing being 0.95 points per possession against UAB. They are one of the worst shooting teams in the nation and have been getting a ton of shots blocked. A total of 14.2% of the Gators’ field goal attempts have been blocked. That’s not good.


This happened last Monday night:


When 19 points is a definite offensive improvement, that’s bad. It did lead to this classic Rick Pitino quote:

This happened Saturday night:


Does any part of you wish you saw that game? I don’t think so. Virgina had a 17-point half and won going away. Think about that for a minute.


Headline photo from ESPN via Jim Rogash / Getty Images

About Scott

I write Bearcats Blog and also on the Student Section.