If you find intrigue in numbers like I do, you can’t help but notice that some college basketball teams are having a devil of a time putting the ball in the basket. A week doesn’t go by that somebody — somebody you didn’t expect — can’t hit the 40-point mark.
Consider: Vanderbilt, which in recent years has been an NCAA-tournament program, has twice been limited to 33 points, once by, uh, Marist. In that early-season game, Vandy made 14 of 61 field-goal attempts (23 percent) and had a mind-bending four assists. More recently, it lost to Arkansas 56-33 and had seven assists with 25 turnovers.
Tony Bennett’s Virginia team had a recent 56-36 victory over Florida State, which must have made his dad Dick proud, but probably didn’t do a lot for TV ratings around the ACC.
Wyoming just had a 49-36 loss at Fresno State, which is one of the bottom-feeders in the Mountain West. The Cowboys shot 12 of 50, five of 27 on threes. And then, lo and behold, Saturday night, Wyoming held a San Diego State team that has been ranked much of the season to nine points in the first half on the way to a victory (SDSU was 4 of 24 on field goals before intermission). Aztecs coach Steve Fisher was so flummoxed, he didn’t let media talk to his players after the game.
More national nuggets as conference races heat up:
— Success can be fleeting, especially at the top of the Big East. Peyton Siva, the ex-Franklin High guard, had shot 12 of 18 for a combined 28 points in his previous two games, then went 1 of 9 with a key, late turnover in Syracuse’s upset of No. 1 Louisville Saturday.
— The West Coast Conference couldn’t script a more shocking finish for two of its games last week, although one was a downer for the WCC. Matthew Dellavedova hit a flying, one-handed 35-footer to drop BYU at the buzzer, 70-69, Wednesday night, and Gonzaga let a one-point lead with possession slip away in the last 3.5 seconds in a 64-63 gut-twister at Butler.
— Pitt was picked sixth in the Big East, but has a 15-4 record, largely on the strength of an eye-opening 1.82 assist-turnover ratio that leads the nation.
— The Mountain West is having an unprecedented year, and it’s largely because of its defense; five teams — UNLV, Colorado State, Wyoming, San Diego State and New Mexico — have sub-.400 field-goal percentage defenses. New Mexico leads the league at 3-0 and 16-2, Colorado State is 2-1 (and 15-3), Wyoming is 2-2 (15-2), UNLV is 2-2 (15-4), San Diego State is 2-2 (14-4) and Air Force is 2-2 (10-6). And the team with perhaps the best non-league victory, Boise State (which beat Creighton on the road in November), is 1-2 (and 13-4).
— The national scoring leader is, as usual, somebody you probably haven’t heard of: Erick Green, a 6-3 guard for Virginia Tech who averages 24.6. Tech is only 11-6.
— Aaron Bright, the Stanford guard from Bellevue, is fourth nationally in foul shooting at 92.3 percent (36 of 39). It’s the field goals that are killing him.
— Grant Gibbs, the Gonzaga transfer guard, has a 3.77 assist-turnover ratio for Creighton, fifth-best in the nation.
— Top this statistical anomaly: Texas leads the nation in defensive field-goal percentage (34.5) and yet the Longhorns are having their worst year (8-9) in eons.
— This must mean something, I’m just not sure what: The top 10 free-throw shooting teams in the country are all from non-BCS conferences. Arizona, No. 11, is at .763.
— Washington, which was outrebounded in November by Colorado State, 45-21, won’t be surprised to know that the Rams lead the nation in rebound margin at plus-13.8.
— Pretty much defining the penthouse and the outhouse, Missouri guard Phil Pressey had 19 assists against UCLA Dec. 28 — on the road, so no hometown decisions — and 10 turnovers Saturday in a blowout by Florida.
— Creighton’s Doug McDermott, a serious candidate for player of the year, is the only player in at least the last 17 years, according to the Missouri Valley Conference, to be shooting 50 percent inside the three-point arc (58.2) and outside it (.525).
— Gonzaga (.512) is second to Creighton’s .518 in national field-goal percentage. But what the Zags would really like today is one less turnover.
— In the Big Sky, the news this week is Weber State meeting Montana in Missoula in a battle of 8-0 teams in the league. Montana has won 19 straight regular-season league games, 21 counting conference-tournament games, and 23 in a row overall at home
This Week’s Best . . .
Kansas (No. 3 by coaches) at Kansas State (11)
Michigan State (13) at Wisconsin
Duke (1) at Miami (25)
Colorado State at New Mexico (15)
UCLA at Arizona (6)
BYU at Gonzaga (10)
Minnesota (12) at Wisconsin
New Mexico (15) at San Diego State
North Carolina at NC State (18)