HOUSE OF COLLEGE HOOPS
Week 2: November 14-20, 2022
Writer's Note: College Hoops Digest, originally founded in 2013, was born on the principle of finding & telling the "real story" of college basketball. Now, in the era of House of College Hoops, we remain dedicated to this one basic grounding principle. Each week, I'll be honoring our former namesake with our "Weekly Digest" of the biggest storylines to watch throughout the season.
Even with what many would consider a poor slate of games last week to open up the year, our sport is back and better than ever.
Some mayhem is already in the books. Villanova lost to Temple, who just lost to Wagner in overtime on Opening Day. TCU lost a buy game to Northwestern State. And the 'Zags just barely hung on, while Michigan State walked the plank of the USS Abraham Lincoln.
Here are the top storylines for Week Two.
Gonzaga's monstrous schedule rolls on
"Gonzaga doesn't play anyone good," says every college hoops casual everywhere. Well, plebeians, tell that to Ken Pomeroy, who ranks three of the next four opponents the Bulldogs will face in the TOP FIVE!
After squeaking out a win over Michigan State in the Armed Forces Classic on Friday, Gonzaga heads to Texas on Wednesday night to take on the #11 Longhorns, ranked at #2 by KenPom. After what's sure to be bedlam in Austin, they'll travel back home to Spokane to take on #4 Kentucky.
Through two games, Drew Timme is making his case for Player of the Year consideration once again; his 22 points and nearly 8 rebounds pace Gonzaga in both departments. The question for the Zags remains, though - who will give them the extra output to push them over the finish line? It could be Julian Strawther, who played nearly every minute against MSU and scored 13 points, adding 9 boards. Or it could be Iowa State transfer Rasir Bolton, or sophomore guard Nolan Hickman, or someone else. But either way, Timme can't do it all by himself. Let's see who steps up.
Indiana-Xavier presents an early challenge
Friday night promises to be one of the marquee matchups of this year's Gavitt Games, part of an 8-year series between Big Ten and Big East teams.
Let's start with the Hoosiers. We voted in Trayce Jackson-Davis to our 2022 House of College Hoops Preseason All-First team for good reason, and so far he's rising up to the challenge with 18 points and almost 7 boards per game. Freshman standout Malik Reneau has proven to be a valuable asset in the paint, and junior Jordan Geronimo is providing serviceable depth - both are in double-figures to start the year. Indiana is hungry to silence doubters and to compete for the Big Ten title in Year Two of the Mike Woodson era.
Xavier finds themselves in an oddly similar situation. Although most key contributors from last season are back, there's new leadership in the building with former Musketeers coach Sean Miller coming back for his second stint at the helm. There was uncertainty regarding Zach Freemantle's status after serving a brief suspension in the off-season, but it appears it's full-steam ahead for the lethal pairing of Freemantle & Jack Nunge in the front court.
X, like the Hoosiers, need to prove they're around for the long-run, and not just another NIT appearance. A win for both teams would be go a long way when the committee breaks out the resumes in March.
Did Oregon dig itself too big a hole?
Of course, this all came after a 69-56 loss to UC Irvine on their home court, Knight Arena. The uncompetitive loss to the Anteaters knocked the Ducks out of the Top 25.
After a win against Montana State, the Ducks seem to have the wheels back on; but their next two opponents won't be as forgiving. #3 Houston is up next for the Ducks, followed by #25 UConn in the first round of the Phil Knight Invitational. After the Huskies, it's one of Alabama or Michigan State - neither are teams you'd want to be running into right now.
It's certainly an overreaction, but without a milestone win one of these next few games, the Ducks may just have sealed their fate to be on the outside-looking-in...until at least mid-December.