Bottoms Line College Basketball Stock Watch: February 2nd

Before I touch on this week’s college basketball stock watch, allow me to give a personal stock down to pink eye, which has now afflicted both of my daughters and threatens to take over our home.

But hey, there’s nothing kids under the age of five like more than having to take eye drops every few hours, right?

So please join me in giving conjunctivitis a hearty “You suck!”

Alright, on to basketball…

Bottoms Line: Stock Up

royce-white-iowa-state

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Iowa State

After losing at Texas early last week, the Cyclones responded with two critical home wins against Kansas and Kansas State.  Those are currently their only victories against the RPI Top 50, but if you think that isn’t enough to garner an at-large bid this season, you aren’t paying attention.

Royce White hit the game-winner against the Wildcats, capping another fantastic all-around game from the Minnesota transfer.  He is averaging 14.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.2 steals, and 1.2 blocks, all of which lead the Cyclones.  At 6-foot-8, 25o pounds, White brings the ball up the floor and runs the show for ISU, and he’s a matchup nightmare for opponents.

The Cyclones have road games at Oklahoma and Oklahoma State up next, but the final three games are brutal with road trips to K-State and Mizzou followed by a home game against Baylor.

Pittsburgh

Following an eight-game losing streak, the Panthers have now won three straight as they attempt to work their way back onto the bubble.  They are a completely different basketball team with a healthy Tray Woodall running the show.  He had 19 assists in the first two games of the winning streak, but he stepped up his scoring against West Virginia on Monday, scoring 24 points on 8-of-12 shooting.

More than that, his presence has allowed Ashton Gibbs to play more off the ball, which is where he excels.  Nasir Robinson has stepped up as well with 58 points and 23 boards over the last four games.  Still, Pitt has virtually no margin for error from here on out, but the good news is the schedule isn’t completely unmanageable.  They face Villanova at home Sunday before hitting the road for South Florida and reeling Seton Hall.

Southern Mississippi

Wednesday’s win over Memphis snapped an 18-game losing streak against the Tigers and put Southern Miss in sole possession of first place in Conference USA.  The Golden Eagles are now 20-3 overall and have won 16 of their last 17 games.

Kentucky transfer Darnell Dodson has played well of late and gives the team its fourth double-digit scorer.  In all, seven of Larry Eustachy’s players average at least seven points or at least three rebounds.

Southern Miss currently ranks eighth in RPI, which is admittedly absurd, but they really don’t have a bad loss.  Their three defeats have come at Denver (who is better than many people realize), at Murray State in double overtime, and at Memphis.  The schedule is relatively favorable with their key upcoming games all coming at home, and it’s conceivable they could be 14-1 in the league heading into the season finale at Marshall.

Washington

Not unlike the Big East, there has been somewhat of a revolving door for second place in the Pac-12.  For now, the Huskies seem intent on staking their claim as the league’s second-best squad after winning four in a row and seven of the last eight contests.

Talent has never been a question mark for the Huskies, who boasts a slew of talented guard and wing players like Tony Wroten, Terrence Ross, and C.J. Wilcox.  They don’t have a dominant low-post player either, but very few teams in the Pac-12 do either.

Most recently, the Huskies fought back from a double-digit second half deficit to beat UCLA on Thursday.  They do play five of their last eight on the road, but Washington has shown the ability to look like a tournament team in spurts.  Their loss to South Dakota State isn’t as bad as it may sound (although the 19-point margin is), and the Huskies don’t really have much in the way of bad losses.

Bottoms Line: Stock Down

Connecticut

Much like Washington, talent has never been an issue for UConn, but this team is a mess right now and may soon become a full-blow dumpster fire.  After a putrid offensive performance against Georgetown, the Huskies have now lost four straight and six of their last eight.

It’s no secret that this team is in dire need of a leader, and Jim Calhoun changed up his starting lineup on Wednesday to shake things up.  Even though he didn’t start, Shabazz Napier still played 31 minutes, going 0-for-9 from the field.  Andre Drummond continues to show flashes inside, but he’s still been inconsistent.  Regardless of any individual performances, the effort just doesn’t seem to be there for this team.

The schedule certainly doesn’t do them any favors, which makes Saturday’s home game against Seton Hall absolutely critical before road trips to Louisville and Syracuse.

Dayton

The Atlantic 10 is a tough conference to figure out, as the top teams just keep beating each other up, which has allowed for very little separation at the top of the league.  That said, I was high on Dayton after they beat Xavier by 15 points to jump out to a 4-1 start in the league.  Since then, they have lost all three of their games, two of which came at home against teams with no shot of making the tournament.  Now they play five of their final eight games on the road, starting with a Saturday trip to Saint Louis.

Dayton’s defense has really struggled in recent weeks, allowing their last seven opponents to score at least 1.03 points per possession.  Five of those seven have scored at least 1.18 ppp.  The start of that stretch corresponds to the loss of big man Josh Benson to a knee injury, and while the team has some offensive weapons, they will struggle to break their losing streak without improvement defensively.

Kansas State

On the heels of their 16-point win over Missouri, the Wildcats looked like they might make some noise in the Big 12 this season.  However, they have since dropped four of their last seven.  And while I think they can get a pass on losing to Baylor at home and even on the road at Iowa State, I’m not so sure about getting swept by Oklahoma.  Sure, the Sooners are better than expected, but those losses won’t do you any favors with the selection committee.

Their offensive efficiency is in the middle of the pack in conference play, with their solid offensive rebounding helping to offset their shooting struggles at the line and from beyond the arc.  The defensive numbers look decent overall, but they have allowed five of their nine conference foes to score at least 1.05 points per possession after doing so just once in their first 12 contests.  Quite simply, they don’t have the offensive firepower to just outscore people, so this lack of defense is a huge issue.

K-State still has road games at Texas, Baylor, and Missouri as well as home dates with Kansas and Iowa State, so finishing at 9-9 in the league may turn out to be a challenge.

Seton Hall

One of the season’s most pleasant surprises has now lost five straight games.  Outside of the Villanova game, the Pirates have continued to play well defensively and have limited the other four opponents to 0.97 or fewer points per possession.  The problem is they can’t score, in large part because their shooting has been horrific.  They have shot under 30 percent from the field twice during that stretch and have broken 40 percent just once.

The remaining schedule isn’t terrible by Big East standards, with five of their remaining eight games coming against the bottom six teams in the league.  Even so, if they can’t start shooting the ball better, I’m not sure it matters who they play.

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Follow me on Twitter (@andybottoms) for more thoughts on college hoops, and check out the latest edition of the Bottoms Line podcast.



About Andy Bottoms

While Andy was born and raised in Indiana, he would like to point out that he grew up shooting hoops in his driveway and not against the side of a barn like you see in all the March Madness promos or in the middle of a field like Jimmy Chitwood. Andy ranks among the top bracketologists according to the Bracket Matrix and has provided his projections to Fox Sports for the past three seasons. When not compiling excuses for missing work during the NCAA Tournament, Andy enjoys spending time with his wife and two daughters. He is a proud IU graduate and co-hosts The Assembly Call postgame show following every IU game. Twitter: @AndyBottoms

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