Feast Week in college basketball is over, and what a week it was. The No. 1 team in the country went down (again), the loaded Battle 4 Atlantis had a surprise winner, Dayton nearly won the Maui Invitational a number of other teams stood out—some for better reasons than others. Who were the biggest winners and losers of Thanksgiving week?
Juwan Howard and Michigan
The Wolverines are the clear big winners of the week after emerging as the champs of a stacked Battle 4 Atlantis field. Michigan beat Iowa State, North Carolina and Gonzaga on the way to the crown, the latter two of which were top-10 wins—both with authority. Even though it’s still early in the season, the week answered questions about the inexperience of new coach Juwan Howard and the offensive ceiling of the Wolverines, who showed they’re more than just the inside-out duo of seniors Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske. This is a team that had more talent left in its cupboard than perhaps some realized entering the season, and Howard already has them playing at a high level heading into Tuesday’s showdown at Louisville.
The Flyers didn’t win the Maui Invitational, but they did the next-best thing by reaching the final and taking No. 4 Kansas into overtime. It took career efforts by both Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike for the Jayhawks to quell Dayton, which won’t sneak up on anyone’s radar anymore after its performance. The Flyers beat Georgia by 19 before trouncing Virginia Tech, which was fresh off an upset of Michigan State, by 27. Obi Toppin showed why he’s a bonafide star, averaging 22.3 points to lead an offense currently first in the country in effective field goal percentage.
After a pair of too-close-for-comfort wins over Temple and Harvard, the Terps turned on the jets in the Orlando Invitational final vs. Marquette in a 21-point win. Darryl Morsell and the Maryland backcourt limited a red-hot Markus Howard—who had scored 91 total points in the Golden Eagles’ first two games of the tournament—to just six on Sunday. Senior point guard Anthony Cowan had an excellent weekend, showing off an improved shot and savvy decision-making, and the Terrapins flashed their big-time potential in their first top-50 test of the season.
The Emerald Coast Classic featured a solid quartet of teams, with the Seminoles coming out victorious after a pair of narrow wins over Tennessee and Purdue. While Florida State’s offense is still coming along, its length and athleticism is once again wreaking havoc on opponents defensively. The Vols and Boilermakers were both held to only 0.80 points per possession and failed to crack 50% on two-pointers, something only one team (Chattanooga) has managed to do against FSU through eight games.
The Cowboys are 7–0 for the first time since 2014–15 after beating Syracuse and Ole Miss at the Barclays Center. Oklahoma State dismantled the Rebels in a 78–37 win, holding them to 36.8% on twos and a 1-for-20 mark from three. It’s the kind of win that should garner attention for a team that’s looking like it could make real noise in the Big 12. Sophomore big man Yor Anei shined in Brooklyn, and Isaac Likekele was stellar against the Orange, scoring 26 with eight assists and five steals.
Butler was one of the more quietly impressive teams in November, and capped off its strong start by beating Missouri and Stanford in Kansas City to stay undefeated. In what’s been an improved offense, five different players are averaging at least nine points for the Bulldogs, led by proven senior Kamar Baldwin. But Butler didn’t have it easy in the Hall of Fame Classic final, winning 68–67, and that was thanks to the play of a Stanford team that might be finally making strides under Jerod Haase. The Cardinal have already risen 37 spots on KenPom since opening night, reaching No. 55 as of this writing, and handed Oklahoma its first loss on the tournament’s first night. Freshman Tyrell Terry is making a world of difference, offering scoring (16.5 ppg) and shooting (41.5% from three) to lead an attack that’s 10th nationally in effective field goal percentage—up from 152nd last season.
Down two starters on Thanksgiving night (suspended James Wiseman and injured Lester Quinones), the Tigers grinded out a quality neutral-court win over NC State. After a string of quiet games offensively, Boogie Ellis stepped up with a 21-point outing, while big man Precious Achiuwa had 15 points despite a rough day from the field and sophomore Tyler Harris added 14. Penny Hardaway’s team still has more than a month to go until it gets Wiseman back, but right now it’s finding ways to win without him.
The Cardinals didn’t play in a tournament, and a 17-point win over Western Kentucky isn’t overly special. But by simply holding serve, they’ll likely be the No. 1 team in the country on Monday afternoon for the first time as a program since January 2013. That itself makes them a winner of the week—though with Michigan coming to town Tuesday and three AP No. 1 teams having already lost this season, Chris Mack’s team better bring its best effort.
The Blue Devils’ November tournament came a week before Thanksgiving (a win at the 2K Classic), but they still made the biggest waves of Feast Week—and not in a good way. By now, you’ve certainly heard about their buzzer-beating overtime loss to Stephen F. Austin last Tuesday. Duke was a 27.5-point favorite and had not lost a non-conference home game at Cameroon Indoor since 2000. To add injury to insult, the team then lost promising freshman guard Cassius Stanley to a leg injury in its Friday win over Winthrop, and he’s expected to miss key upcoming games with Michigan State and Virginia Tech this week.
Entering Feast Week, the Red Raiders’ schedule had been Charmin soft, with five opponents ranging from No. 248 to No. 300 on KenPom. They largely dominated those teams, but it was hard to glean much from the results. Their first Top-100 tests of the season came at the Las Vegas Invitational, and they went 0 for 2. On Thanksgiving night, Texas Tech lost to Iowa (No. 48 on KenPom) as its offense struggled to hit shots, making 43.2% inside the arc and 16.7% behind it. In the consolation game against Creighton, the Red Raiders were without standout freshman Jahmi'us Ramsey (who got hurt against the Hawkeyes), and couldn’t get things done in overtime despite digging out of a 19-point deficit. The defense was torched by Marcus Zegarowski, and offensively, Chris Beard’s team once again struggled from the outside, going 8 for 30. This is a young Texas Tech team balancing a lot of new pieces, and Beard has more than earned the benefit of the doubt. But right now, things are a work in progress.
Michigan State, Georgia and UCLA
The Spartans were a clear favorite to at least reach the Maui Invitational final, but fell into the loser’s bracket on Day 1 with a five-point loss to Virginia Tech. It was a major win for the Hokies, who are clearly already better under Mike Young than most prognosticators projected, but Tech went out and subsequently lost to Dayton and BYU by double-digits. Michigan State did bounce back to beat Georgia (despite an unreal effort from Anthony Edwards) and UCLA, but it certainly hoped to leave Maui with more on its résumé than a pair of wins over the No. 68 and No. 114 teams on KenPom.
Speaking of the Bulldogs and Bruins…the only victory either left Maui with was over Division II host school Chaminade. And while UGA drew tough games against Dayton and Michigan State, it needed a last-second three from Edwards to beat the Silverswords.
It was obvious heading into the season that the Aggies would go through a rebuilding year under new coach Buzz Williams, but coming in dead last (out of eight teams) at the Orlando Invitational is less than encouraging. A&M avoided playing Maryland, Marquette and USC across the four days yet still went 0–3, the last of which was a dismal loss to a Fairfield team that was 1–6. Across the three games, the Aggies averaged just 51.7 points.
The Badgers took a step back with a winless showing in New York, losing to both Richmond and New Mexico at the Legends Classic. Wisconsin struggled with both teams’ athleticism, turning it over a combined 29 times, and was doomed by poor outside shooting, including a 2-for-26 mark against the Lobos. Junior guard Brad Davison was held to a total of seven points in the two games, but the Badgers as a whole lacked the offensive firepower that previously powered them to an impressive home win over Marquette.
What’s happened to the Friars? Expected to improve after an 18–16 season, they already have four losses in 2019–20, all to sub-100 teams on KenPom. Two came last week, when they fell to Long Beach State in their opener at the Wooden Legacy, then followed it up by losing to Charleston before finally finishing with a three-point win over Pepperdine. The Friars’ offense has been inconsistent, with point guard transfer Luwane Pipkins struggling from the field and not yet providing the boost to the position that the team needed, and senior Alpha Diallo badly needing to get his outside shot going after starting the year 7 for 33 from deep.