House of College Hoops: Weekly Digest, Week 3
HOUSE OF COLLEGE HOOPS
Week 3: November 21-27, 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.
Michigan State enjoys its first week as a ranked team
The Spartans are back, and they are - all things considered - better than ever! They escaped a double-overtime saga with a win against Kentucky; it's already a candidate for game of the year. Later last week came a win over Villanova, and just like that, Michigan State goes from unranked to within striking distance of the Top Ten.
So, what did we learn? For starters, it's that this Spartans team has some weapons. For one, Malik Hall - who Tom Izzo commonly refers to as an "OKG" (Our Kinda Guy) - has taken another leap forward. Hall has racked up at least 11 points in each of the last 3 contests, including an impressive 20 against Kentucky (a solid 7-for-11 from the field). Not to mention, he can throw it down.
But returning talent isn't Tom Izzo's only benefit this year. Sparty has great contributions from Tyson Walker, the point guard who transferred from Northeastern. The consensus would be he'd provide stability both on and off the ball, and so far he's shown his quickness and ability to create for both himself & others. This kid can be a stud in green and white.
The tests are abundant for Michigan State, who plays Alabama in the first round of the Phil Knight Invitational on Thanksgiving. Let's see if Sparty can crack the top ten.
Big East has an identity crisis early
For the past few years, even the most novice pollster could identify at least the top few teams in the Big East. It most assuredly included Villanova, then probably an assortment of Creighton, Seton Hall, and Connecticut. Maybe Providence snuck into the top four in some instances.
But in the early stages, it appears all bets are off in the Big East this year. Creighton, who was picked to finish first for the first time ever, is now a perfect 5-0...but their first win of note came against #23 Texas Tech on Monday. They've got a monstrous test against Texas on December 1st, but nothing of note until then. UConn is in the same boat: 5-0, with no significant wins, but a slew of high-caliber opponents await in the Phil Knight Invitational. St. John's, Marquette, Xavier, Butler, and Seton Hall all lead the middle of the pack at 3-1, while Providence, Georgetown, and DePaul all had questionable losses through the first few weeks. And the mighty Villanova, you ask? Losses to Temple & Michigan State, and two underwhelming wins against La Salle and Delaware State.
The story of the Big East remains to be told, but the next two weeks will be instrumental in clearing the middle of these standings.
And, of course, make sure you keep up with Road to the Garden, our hub for all Big East basketball, for news, notes, analysis, and picks all season long.
Did you have Maryland getting a nod at #23 in your crystal ball? I sure didn't. We knew Kevin Willard and the Terms seemed like a match made in heaven, but we thought they'd have their growing pains. Turns out, it didn't take them too long to gel, as they picked off a dangerous St. Louis team 95-67. Donta Scott has emerged as the top option in College Park for yet another season, and at 16.8 points per game, it's hard to write off Scott as a force once Big Ten play comes along. Hakim Hart, the other vet in Maryland, could be someone to keep eyes on as well. Maryland won't be tested until their Big Ten opener against Illinois on December 2, but the Terps are worth staying close to.
Sneaky-Important Game of the Week: West Virginia vs. Purdue
Purdue and West Virginia are on the cusp of national attention for their starts. Through four games, the Mountaineers are 4-0, never scoring less than 75 points and never conceding more than 58. Sure, there's no win of note other than Pitt, and even that's not an opponent you can boast about. Bob Huggins, decked in his short-sleeve windbreaker, will meet Matt Painter's Purdue Boilermakers, 24th in the AP Top 25. Purdue has a solid win over Marquette, but this will be their first test. Will see if Zach Edey can enter his name in the ring in Wooden Award conversations after a great start to the year for the Boilers.