It was another outstanding week of college basketball and even though it is early there is plenty that is real. Tennessee ranked No. 3 in the nation? Yep, that’s for real. Nevada at No. 7 and unbeaten at 10-0? The Wolf Pack is for real. No. 6 Virginia is locking people down once again. The Cavaliers defense is for real. And the list goes on.
Tennessee Basketball … For Real They are 7-1 and their only loss is to top-ranked Kansas … in overtime. Yes, Tennessee is for real. Head coach Rick Barnes is a Coach of the Year candidate and senior Admiral Schofield, who is averaging 17.9 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, is a Wooden Award candidate. Last Saturday, the Vols beat then-No. 1 Gonzaga. Tennessee came from behind without reigning SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams who had fouled out and beat the Bulldogs. Schofield put up 30 points and the Vols’ defense held Gonzaga to 1.07 points per possession, their lowest of the season.
The Vols are playing top-15 offense and defense scoring almost 83 points per game and holding teams to just 64.8 a game. Barnes has a deep roster and the Vols could repeat as SEC champs. They were co-champs with Auburn last year after being picked to finish last in the conference.
Wolf Pack Run the Table After making the Sweet Sixteen last season, head coach Eric Musselman and his Nevada Wolf Pack returned a lineup loaded with talent. Nevada is currently 10-0 and ranked No. 7 in the nation. They have beaten Loyola-Chicago, last year’s Final Four team, and No. 20 Arizona State already. Those are likely their two toughest opponents. They could easily run right through the Mountain West Conference unscathed and finish a perfect regular season.
Caleb Martin (18.7 ppg) leads four players that score in double figures. Nevada averages 85 points a game and the defense holds opponents to just 28 percent on 3-point attempts. If the Wolf Pack go unbeaten, don’t be surprised.
Real Suffocating Defense Virginia head coach Tony Bennett’s teams are known for their defense. With yet another roster filled with no-star recruits, Bennett and the Cavaliers are doing it again. They are 9-0 and lead the nation in points allowed per game. They have allowed one opponent to score more than 59 points. That was Maryland, which was ranked 24th at the time. Virginia beat the Terrapins 76-71. For the season, Virginia is allowing just 51.2 points per game. That could lead to another ACC title.
Duke’s Real Star Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett get most of the press for the Duke Blue Devils. Williamson and his highlight-reel dunks and Barrett and his 24.2 points per game are what fans see. What they might want to look at more closely is point guard Tre Jones. While Williamson and Barrett combine for 44.6 points and 16.2 rebounds a game, they are better with Jones on the floor.
Duke averages 1.30 points per possession with Jones. His impact is much greater than Williamson or Barrett. The Blue Devils also make 43 percent of their 3-pointers when Jones is on the floor. When he is on the bench, Duke shoots 28.7 percent. Jones will not score as much as Williamson or Barrett or even Cam Reddish, but he will have a greater impact … for real.