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NCAA Basketball: Feast Week Recap, Reactions, and Notes

Zach Edey - CBB DFS Picks, NCAA Daily College Fantasy Basketball

Feast Week. One of the more underrated weeks in the sports calendar, with multiple NFL games spanning Thanksgiving and Black Friday, along with a ton of major college basketball around the clock.

The 2023-24 college hoops season is now in full swing, as teams make it through their early season MTEs and are now facing the back end of the non-conference schedule. 

Some came out unscathed, while more picked up a few bumps and bruises along the way. Here are some notes and storylines to come out of a great week of high-level college hoops. 

 

The Maui Invitational

Championship result: (2) Purdue 78, (4) Marquette 75

Is Purdue going to fool us all again?

I'm going to say no. I'm buying the Boilermakers this year. All week the talk was about how this Maui field was the best ever, with FIVE top 11 teams in the bracket – Kansas (1), Purdue (2), Marquette (4), Tennessee (7), and Gonzaga (11), along with historical powerhouses like UCLA and Syracuse as the leftovers. The Boilermakers handled business in incredibly impressive fashion, beating Gonzaga, Tennessee, and Marquette to pick up their first Maui Invitational title. It wasn't quite as smooth as their MTE title last year when they smoked No. 6 Gonzaga and No. 8 Duke in the PK Legacy tournament by an average of 18.5 points, but Purdue still looked like the dominant force that we saw much of last season.

Here's why this year is going to be different. Braden Smith. To me, the biggest difference between last year's team and this year's is the play of their sophomore point guard, who was exceptional in this tournament. Everyone wants to clown Zach Edey for losing to 16 seed Farleigh Dickinson – who happened to be the shortest team in the nation – last year, but it was Smith who was 2-10 from the field and committed seven turnovers when all Edey did put up 21 and 15.

The Westfield, IN native looks lightyears more confident now with the goatee more pronounced and seems poised to lead his team on a real March run this time. He didn't outplay Marquette's All-American point guard Tyler Kolek in the championship game, but he made a name for himself with an 18-point, five-assist performance on 4-6 from deep that helped Purdue secure the win. What scares me the most is that Purdue truly didn't seem like they were playing their best ball and were still able to beat three top-11 teams.

Gonzaga's guard depth will doom them

Mark Few and the Zags played admirably in Maui, but they just don't have that aura about them this year where you know they have a team that can win a championship. Mark Few's 2023-24 squad just isn't as deep or skilled as years past, especially at guard. I'm a huge Ryan Nembhard believer, being a Big East guy, but Gonzaga legitimately just has him and former five-star Nolan Hickman in the backcourt who are both playing over 33 minutes per game. They are also both true point guards, which can work but it doesn't seem like they've found the right flow yet, at least in the few games that we've seen so far.

I'm sure Few will figure out an ideal way for them to play together, but even when they are, who is going to help alongside them? 6-6 freshman Dusty Stromer has a reputation as a scorer, but he's young and has already struggled mightily this year (4.8 points, 29% FG). The Zags have one of the best starting fives in the country, but the depth issues are for real. I view them in a similar way to Kansas, except Bill Self actually has a few bench pieces with promise for this year. I don't see the same in the Zags.

Tennessee may still lack the offense to get over the hump

If you've read any of my college basketball content thus far on the site, you know that I'm very high on the Vols this year. The main reason for that - other than their star returners - was the addition of talented scorer Dalton Knecht from the portal.

Knecht has been the leading scorer in five of the six games and is averaging 17.5 points, but even with his added offensive punch Tennessee still only managed 60 points against KU and had no other starters in double figures vs. Purdue. Jordan Gainey, a transfer guard from USC Upstate has been huge off the bench (11.7 points), but the Vols may still lack that extra gear on the offensive end that gives real hope for a run in the postseason. Preseason first-team All-SEC guards Santiago Vescovi and Zakai Zeigler need to be more consistent scorers for this team to compete with the best of the best. A road game against a hungry Tar Heels team lies ahead and will really go a long way in determining how legit this team really is.

Marquette is deeeeeeep

Unlike the Zags who are really struggling with guard depth, Marquette is quite the opposite. The Golden Eagles fell just short of a Maui title, unable to overcome Zach Edey (28 points & 15 rebounds) and Purdue, but I was most impressed with this Marquette team out of anyone else in the field based on their dominant win vs. Kansas. Kolek and two-guard Kam Jones are phenomenal of course, but what stood out the most was their deep bench.

Both Jones and Stevie Mitchell played 30+ minutes, but three other guards played over 20 and the Golden Eagles were just as fluid. They even improved on defense when dynamic athlete Sean Jones was in the lineup. Jones is a blur in the open court and was unbothered by Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Dajuan Harris. Chase Ross is also someone that you can plug in and keep up the same level of offensive and defensive intensity in the game. He also came off the bench to score 12 on KU. Stretch-five Ben Gold only played a handful of minutes in the tournament but he's a good shooter just gives the opposing team another offensive element to account for.

Bill Self was outcoached. You don't hear that often. KU did have a lot of sloppy turnovers but many of them were caused by the insane pressure and energy that Marquette exuded all game long, and the Jayhawks just never adjusted. This one was over in one half of basketball. I said in our conference futures piece that I believe UConn would win the Big East given their depth edge, but the Golden Eagles look like they'll be able to match them.

Dajuan Harris needs to be more aggressive

Where was the guy we saw against Kentucky who hunted his shot and hit five of six shots from three? I know it's not in Harris' nature to be primarily a scoring point guard, but this one truly baffled me. He passed up open looks countless times when Marquette was threatening to blow open the game, shots he was taking and making against the Wildcats a week before. On a night when no one on his team could buy a bucket besides Kevin McCullar (24 points), Harris was still not asserting himself, and it cost them. When KU is struggling like they were against Marquette, he simply cannot be that passive with the ball or they will lose some games they shouldn't.

 

ESPN Events Invitational

Championship result: (19) FAU 84, Virginia Tech 50

FAU is back

After suffering what was the worst loss of any team so far – falling to No. 211 Bryant University at home (you're off the hook, Villanova) and barely scraping by Butler – FAU turned a corner last week. They ripped off two huge wins to capture the ESPN Events Invitational title. Co-preseason players of the year  Johnell Davis and Alijah Martin were having disastrous starts to their respective seasons, but reminded everyone who they were in Orlando, virtually dominating the tournament. The duo was especially impressive against No. 12 Texas A&M, putting up a combined 51 points on a ridiculous 11-for-20 from three in the 96-89 win.

This is the kind of game the Owls are capable of having. Their two returning lead guards control the game, 7-1 big man Vlad Goldin cleans up down low, and the others – like reserve guard Bryan Greenlee – execute their specific roles. Against Virginia Tech this plan worked to perfection, as Martin, Davis, and Goldin combined for 43 but the bench came to life putting up 26 points in an 84-50 beatdown. Dusty May and the Owls are firing on all cylinders at the moment, but they do have a sneaky challenge when undefeated Liberty comes to Boca on Thursday. Can they keep the train rolling?

Wade Taylor IV may be the best high-major scoring guard in America

The SEC preseason player of the year just dropped 35 on FAU, almost single-handedly willing his team to a win over the Owls who were unconscious from everywhere on the court. Taylor is averaging 20 points, 4.4 assists, and 2.4 steals per game this season for a top-15 A&M squad that is set to compete for an SEC title. The 6-0 junior actually isn't shooting the ball well (40.5% FG), especially from three (26.7%), so he does need to be more consistent in that respect but the talent is remarkable.

His nose for the basket mirrors some of the great scoring guards I've seen in the college game over the years. Some names that come to mind are Myles Powell from Seton Hall, Talor Battle at Penn State, Jacob Pullen from K-State, and Khalif Wyatt at Temple. Certified bucket-getters. Taylor still has some work to do before I can group him in with those other prolific scorers, but he's got the chops. I can't wait to see him in the NCAA tournament this year.

 

Battle 4 Atlantis

Championship result: Villanova 79, Memphis 73

Villanova is good after all

Other than Purdue, no team had a better week than the Wildcats, and they needed it badly. After losing to Penn – yes, the University of Pennsylvania, not Penn State – the Wildcats were in desperate need of some answers. Seniors Justin Moore and Eric Dixon were their usual reliable selves, but the question marks sat with the rest of the roster. Mark Armstrong was not taking the expected sophomore leap, transfer guard TJ Bamba from Washington State was having trouble finding his shot and Tyler Burton (Richmond) wasn't really fitting into the offense. Turns out all it took was a trip to the Bahamas to get back on track. Nova blitzed through the field, beating Texas Tech, No. 14 North Carolina, and Memphis to claim a championship.

It starts with the aforementioned Dixon, who won the tournament MVP. His performance vs. UNC (34 points, 10 rebounds, 3-5 3PT, 9-11 FT) was easily one of the single most impressive games I've seen this season, especially when you consider who he was doing it against. All-American Armando Bacot was absolutely abused on defense in this one. The Heels had no answer for the versatility of Dixon, who was a true three-level scorer in this one.

The Wildcats were honestly lucky to escape UNC with an overtime win because the rest of the team was a combined 12-41 from the field. This would be concerning, except they proved that they could win in other ways in the championship against Memphis directly after. Every starter hit double figures without a single one scoring more than 13, to go along with 23 bench points. Villanova's defense was also suffocating, using their versatility to switch on screens and close out fast on perimeter shooters.

They held a 44-16 advantage at halftime and cruised to a victory. If Kyle Neptune is going to get the most out of his team, they need to play like they did against Memphis on a consistent basis, because the Dixon hero ball method is not sustainable. Although, it is great knowing you have a guy who can go out and get you 30+ when you need it.

Check out my recent overrated/underrated teams piece to get a bit more flavor on 'Nova.

Dug McDaniel is not enough for Michigan

Juwan Howard's point guard is phenomenal. As a sophomore, Dug McDaniel is already one of the best guards in the country that no one talks about, averaging 18.4 points, 3.4 rebounds and 5.6 assists on 49% from the field. It's everything else that has Michigan spiraling in their last few games.

The Wolverines were one of my surprise teams for 2023-24, and after hanging 89 on St. John's in MSG, I was feeling pretty good about that pick. Then the preseason worries started becoming a reality, and Michigan lost three of four, including a 1-2 trip to the Bahamas. It all started with a buy-game loss to Long Beach State where they gave up 94 points in regulation to a No. 127 ranked offense. There was no answer for guard Marcus Tsohonis, who routinely feasted on Michigan's guards down low.

This team just gives up a lot of easy buckets. Sophomore Big man Tarris Reed Jr. is too foul-prone and has not taken half the leap that McDaniel has. It's severely hurting this team's ability to compete, especially on the defensive end. If McDaniel and Alabama transfer Nimari Burnett aren't having great games, where does Michigan turn? Right now, they don't have an answer for that, and if a solution isn't figured out quickly it could be another disappointing season in Ann Arbor.

North Carolina should challenge for the ACC Crown

Duke still looks like the class of the conference, but a lot of the other teams picked to finish near the top have not looked great to begin the season. Virginia beat a good Florida team but then got absolutely hosed by Wisconsin 65-41, and then only won by two against against a severely depleted West Virginia team (+10.5). Clemson is undefeated but needed a late bail-out foul to get by UAB, 77-76. Virginia Tech beat a good Iowa State team but then got boat-raced by FAU, 84-50. Pitt was handled fairly easily in their first real test against Florida. Miami is the only other team that has looked impressive early, but they haven't really been tested yet. We'll see what they can do against No. 18 Kentucky. (Update: They got wrecked. ACC may be down badly for a 2nd consecutive year).

With the Tar Heels narrowly losing to Villanova in OT and breezing by Arkansas, they look primed to avenge their disappointing 2022-23 season where they infamously became the first preseason No. 1 team to miss the NCAA tournament. RJ Davis and Armando Bacot have (mostly) been themselves. Transfers Cormac Ryan and Harrison Ingram are fitting in perfectly, and five-star Elliot Cadeu looks ready to be the next great UNC point guard. The Heels could use more out of sophomores Jalen Washington and Seth Trimble, but others have stepped up and played valuable minutes for head coach Hubert Davis.

Arkansas - more of the same?

It was not the start to the year that Eric Musselman had envisioned for his Razorbacks. This team dropped a buy-game at home to UNC Greensboro (+14.5) and then went 1-2 in the Bahamas taking Ls to Memphis and UNC. It was a near-disastrous trip for the Razorbacks, who needed two overtimes to dispatch a weak Stanford team.

Houston transfer Tramon Mark was sensational against the Tar Heels, scoring 34 points on 13-17 from the field, and also thankfully appeared to avoid a major injury. Not much else went right for Arkansas during this stretch, who look like they are going to need more time to gel with their melting pot of transfers and newbies. Musselman is one of my favorite coaches in the country, but he had quite the roster turnover last season with four starters leaving for the pros and six transfers incoming.

This isn't anything new, though. For Arkansas, this is par for the course. This is a program that lost five games late in the 2021 & 2022 seasons and still managed to reach the elite eight in both of them. It takes time for them to figure out how to play well together, and this season seems to be no exception. The only thing that worries me is the prior teams did not look this discombobulated in November. A win against Duke at home this week would go a long way for the confidence and outlook of this team.

 

Other Happenings in the College Basketball World

  • No. 21 Michigan State squanders another opportunity, losing to No. 3 Arizona 74-68.
  • No. 5 UConn looks like a juggernaut yet again with double-digit wins over Indiana and No. 15 Texas in the Empire Classic. They break the record for consecutive non-conference wins by 10 or more, beating UNC's streak from 2008-09.
  • No. 8 Creighton was blown out by Colorado State, 69-48. Fifth-year senior guard Isaiah Stevens dropped 20 and 7 on the Blue Jays and is quietly one of the best floor generals in the country, regardless of conference.
  • JMU is still undefeated, beating Southern Illinois and Fresno State. G Terrance Edwards continues to light up scoreboards (19.5 points, 43% 3PT).
  • Maryland, a sleeper pick in the B1G, is 3-3 with losses to Davidson, UAB, and Villanova already. Yikes.
  • Remember the name: Donovan Dent. The sophomore for New Mexico could be the best mid-major guard in the nation. He's averaging 18.5 points, and 6.8 assists after only scoring 5.6 a night last year.
  • As Ohio State declares themselves wide receiver-U, Baylor can now officially call themselves Guard-U. The Bears are once again a well-oiled offensive machine, even after losing their All-Big 12 guard duo in Adam Flagler and LJ Cryer...a year after losing all-conference guards Jared Butler, Davion Mitchell, and Macio Teague who won the national title.  Transfer RayJ Dennis and five-star Jakobe Walter have led Baylor to a 6-0 record which includes wins over Auburn and Florida. Scott Drew is the guard whisperer.
  • Ohio State gets a statement win over No. 17 Alabama at home, hanging 92 points on the Crimson Tide.
  • Saint Mary's (3-3) gets a much-needed dominant win over Davidson (+10.5), 89-55.

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Hey, RotoBallers! With Super Bowl LVIII in the books, the 2024 NFL offseason has officially begun. It's never too early to start preparing for fantasy football, and here at RotoBaller, it's always fantasy football season here at HQ. We are already looking ahead to the 2024 season, and that starts with the NFL Draft and... Read More


Ja'Marr Chase - Fantasy Football Rankings, NFL Injury News, DFS and Betting Picks

Top Fantasy Football Rebound Candidates For 2024 Including Patrick Mahomes, Josh Jacobs, and Drake London

We may be in the heat of basketball season, but we're discussing a different kind of rebound today. Some of the most talented athletes in the world have suboptimal seasons but there's often a bounceback year in the near future. The talent isn't waning, the circumstances surrounding them have been altered. Below we dive into... Read More


Jayden Reed - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, Waiver Wire Pickups

Early 2024 Wide Receiver Sleepers And Draft Targets For Fantasy Football

There should be a lot of changes atop the wide receiver group in fantasy football next year. Players like Stefon Diggs, Davante Adams, and Cooper Kupp will all fall in drafts, while Puka Nacua will fly up drafts boards in 2024. Nacua will go from undrafted in 2023 to a likely top-20 pick this upcoming... Read More


Dan Campbell - NFL Head Coach, NFC, Detroit Lions

FFPC Dynasty Fantasy Football Orphan Teams: An Authentic Challenge

At its very core, the game of fantasy football is intended to deliver a unique experience in which you are an NFL owner, general manager, and head coach, all in one role. Seasonal fantasy football replicates the responsibilities in fun, user-friendly packaging, but fantasy football dynasty leagues appeal even more to a savvy fantasy player... Read More


2024 Dynasty Rookie Mock Draft: Fantasy Football Studs, Sleepers, and Values

Football never sleeps at RotoBaller! With the Scouting Combine underway and the NFL Draft season heating up, the countdown is on for 2024 fantasy football. We're taking a first look at how things might shape up in Dynasty fantasy drafts with our first Rookie Mock Draft of 2024. RotoBaller analysts Brandon Murchison and LaQuan Jones... Read More


Dak Prescott - Fantasy Football Rankings, NFL Injury News, DFS Lineup Picks

Biggest Quarterback Surprises - Fantasy Football Year In Review

The 2023 fantasy football season is in the rearview mirror. While the upcoming fantasy season is still months away, it’s never too early to start preparing. One of the more critical things fantasy players can do to prepare is look back at the previous season and look at trends and surprises. Let’s look at the... Read More