Two weeks. That’s all before the first conference tournaments begin. Can numbers tell us what’s about to happen? Maybe a little.
Here are 32 servings of statistics, anyway, for 32 leagues.
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America East . . .
They’re in third place, but guess who’s won eight of their last nine games to be the hot team in the America East, just in time for March? The UMBC Retrievers. Maybe you’ve heard of them. Virginia has.
American . . .
It’s not just the nation’s best 32-game home court winning streak that makes Houston impossible to miss. The 25-1 Cougars, who didn’t get a single vote in the preseason polls, have stormed to No. 9 in the rankings. The last time they were that high, their center was named Akeem Olajuwon. That was 1984. That’s also the last time they saw the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.
Atlantic 10 . . .
It’s a reunion of past NCAA tournament Cinderellas at the top of the standings. Davidson and VCU are in the lead, George Mason is right behind. Get them together at the league tournament and they could exchange recent March fairy tales.
Atlantic Coast . . .
Looking for a postseason trouble-maker from this league beyond the big three of Duke, Virginia and North Carolina? Consider Florida State. Noooobody matches the Seminoles’ depth — from the staggering 397-154 gap in bench points in league play, to Mfiondu Kabengele (13.2) leading the team in scoring and not starting a single game, to the fact nine different players have been the top points producer in a game. Still, one stat remains the most intriguing in the ACC. Can Duke fulfill its mighty destiny while tied for 311th in the nation in 3-point shooting?
Atlantic Sun . . .
Liberty and Lipscomb are 12-1 in the conference — they’ve beaten each other once — and everyone else is at least 5 ½ games behind. Who you picking to be in the conference finals?
Big 12 . . .
It’s the most known and repeated number in the league: 14. That’s Kansas’ run of league season titles, and it’s under siege, which makes next Saturday and Monday vital. At Texas Tech, home to league leader Kansas State. A 50-hour moment of truth is at hand, for one of the most remarkable streaks in college basketball. P.S. Kansas is 3-0 since Bill Self put four freshmen in his starting lineup for only the second time in his career.
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Big East . . .
Marquette’s Markus Howard is fourth in the nation in scoring and put up 40 points in one half against Buffalo. He could come in handy as the top-10 Golden Eagles try to win their first Big East tournament ever. They’ve never even played in the championship game.
Big Sky . . .
Montana is the team to watch with a nine-game winning streak. But Northern Colorado’s Jordan Davis is the player to watch, with his 23.5 points per game average. You have to go back nearly a year to find a game in which he was held under 14 points.
Big South . . .
Chris Clemons of Campbell just passed Oscar Robertson and Danny Manning to climb to ninth on the NCAA career scoring list, and crack the 3,000-point barrier. Pretty tall timber for a guy 5-9. But one thing he’s never done — play in an NCAA tournament game. For that matter, neither did all-time leader Pete Maravich or three others on that list he’s still behind. It won’t be easy getting out of the Big South. One of the teams above the Camels is Radford, who beat Texas and Notre Dame.
Big Ten . . .
Yeah, Indiana’s only win in the last 11 games was at No. 6 Michigan State. And yeah, Penn State was 1-11 in the conference on the night the Nittany Lions took down league leader Michigan. So who knows what might happen in Chicago at the tournament? But for a truly inexplicable stat, how about Ethan Happ’s free throw percentage? The Wisconsin All-American is averaging a double-double and shooting 54.5 from the field — but 44.5 from the line when nobody is guarding him. Time for opponents to employ hack-a-Happ?
Big West . . .
This is the equal opportunity conference tournament. Eight different schools have won it the past eight years. CSU Northridge or UC Riverside, your turn. Never mind, you’re sixth and seventh at the moment.
Colonial . . .
League leader Hofstra hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament since pre-Villanova Jay Wright was its coach, 18 years ago. Be a shame if scoring machine Justin Wright-Foreman isn’t part of the NCAA tournament. Here’s a stat line you don’t see every day, from the William & Mary game: 48 points, 0 rebounds, 0 assists.
Conference USA . . .
UTSA stands for University of Texas at San Antonio, but it could also mean Usually Two Score Alot. On a Thursday, the Roadrunners lost to Western Kentucky in overtime despite 46 points from Jhivvan Jackson. On the following Saturday, they beat Marshall in overtime with 45 points from Keaton Wallace. There have not been many games in Division I this season where a player finished with 45 or more points, and UTSA had two of them in 48 hours. They're averaging 44 a game between them.
Horizon League . . .
At last check, Detroit Mercy’s Antoine Davis had 118 3-pointers — and counting. Really counting. Five more, and he sets the NCAA freshman record. Pretty good guy he’s passing, too. Steph Curry. Since the conference tournament is moving from Detroit to Indianapolis next year, this is his one chance for it to be bombs away in his town.
Ivy League . . .
Opponents better get Harvard in the first 40 minutes. The Crimson have won 18 of their last 19 overtime games. They’re in the right league. Of the 32 Ivy League games so far, six went extra.
Metro Atlantic . . .
Lots of interesting story lines to choose from at the top of the standings. You can take Canisius, which is one of the best teams in the nation in games decided by five or fewer points at 9-2. Or Quinnipiac, whose Cameron Young went for 55 points Sunday, the highest for any Division I player this season and third highest in 20 years. Or maybe Monmouth, who started the season 0-12.
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Mid-American . . .
The MAC hasn’t gotten two bids to the NCAA tournament in 20 years. Then again, no conference team has ever been in the top-25 as long as Buffalo this season. The old record was in set in 1962. Should the Bulls suffer an attack of Toledo or something in the league tournament, it won’t be easy for the selection committee to tell them no.
Mid-Eastern Athletic . . .
Norfolk State leads the league, but a historical shadow hovers over the Spartans. They’re 97-26 in the MEAC the past eight years, the 11th best conference record in the nation. To give an idea how good that is, they’re just behind Kansas and just ahead of Kentucky. But they have only one conference tournament title and NCAA berth to show for it, and that was seven years ago. They have to believe they’re due.
Missouri Valley . . .
It’s the only league at the moment with a three-way tie for the lead; Drake, Loyola Chicago and Missouri State. Here’s the pre-season poll: Loyola Chicago first, Missouri State eighth and Drake ninth. Well, the voters were one-third right.
Mountain West . . .
Nevada has one loss this season, at New Mexico 85-58. The next time they played, the Wolf Pack won 91-62. That’s a 56-point seismic reversal in five weeks. They’ve also won their last seven league games by an average of 24.3. One defeat seems to have made them pretty serious.
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Northeast . . .
A league where the best record is 16-11 would seem open to nearly anyone. And who happens to own that record? The St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers, one of the Frustrated Four. Those are the only four original Division I schools never to play in the NCAA tournament. Army, The Citadel, William & Mary. And the Terriers, whose window of opportunity might be open.
Ohio Valley . . .
High on the NCAA tournament wish list is Murray State’s Ja Morant. When he isn’t wowing NBA scouts with his pyrotechnic scoring, he’s averaging 10.2 assists a game, two more than second place. Of the Racers’ 751 field goals this season, 457 — 60.8 percent — have been either scored by Morant or set up by his pass. Thing is, Murray State might be 21-4 but is one of four teams packed together within a single game of one another at the top of the league standings. The OVC tournament is going to be a beauty.
Pac-12 . . .
The signs of the times in the Poor-Pac-12: Look what’s happened to teams picked at the top of the pre-season poll. No. 1 Oregon, lost to Texas Southern and is .500 in the league. No. 2 UCLA, lost to Liberty and Belmont at home and fired the coach. No. 4 Arizona, longest losing streak since the early 1980s. Good thing for No. 2 — now league leader — Washington, a 20-5 team, with the looks of a heavy favorite in the conference tournament. Except as of the weekend, the Huskies weren’t even ranked.
Patriot League . . .
If shooting means anything — and that’s kind of the object of the game, right? — second place Lehigh is worth watching. As of the weekend, the Mountain Hawks led the nation in 3-point percentage, were 12th in overall shooting, and 13th at the free throw line.
Southeastern . . .
Here come Kentucky. Shocker, huh? The Wildcats have won 11 of 12, and in that spree, are holding opponents to 38.6 percent shooting and barely 60 points a game. There are other intriguing SEC numbers — LSU’s 7-0 conference road record, or Kira Lewis Jr. leading Alabama in scoring, even though he won’t turn 18 until April and is the youngest player to appear in a Division I game this season. Or Tennessee trying to win its first SEC tournament in 40 years. But Kentucky has a way of distracting attention from everyone else.
Southern . . .
Wofford is the only team in the nation east of Gonzaga with an unbeaten conference record, and all four non-league records were honorable — North Carolina, Kansas, Oklahoma and Mississippi State. The Terriers will be a trendy upset pick in the NCAA bracket, but first, they have to get get there through the league tournament. Did we mention Furman, lurking in third place, won at Villanova?
Southland . . .
Three things to know about Abilene Christian. The Wildcats have never been to the NCAA tournament. They’ve held three Division I opponents under 50 points, and hadn’t done that even once since 1951. And they’ve lost to league leader Sam Houston State by three points, and in overtime. A third meeting in the conference tournament for an NCAA bid would be interesting.
Southwestern Athletic . . .
Another season, another Texas Southern team hardened by its brutal non-conference schedule. As is their custom, the Tigers played their first 14 Division I games on the road, and that’s one reason for the 4-8 start. Might also be why they’ve won the conference tournament and NCAA berth four of the past five years. And note this season’s resume: Victories over Baylor, Oregon and Texas A&M. Then again, Prairie View A&M also played its first 14 Division I games on the road, and leads the conference at 10-1. We’ll find out who was hardened the most.
Summit . . .
What are the odds? Before this season, only eight Division I players had ever scored 3,000 points in their career in NCAA history. But with 57 more points, South Dakota State’s Mike Daum will join Chris Clemons and be the second to do it this month. Then he wants to go to work on a fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament.
Sun Belt . . .
If only there were a co-ed basketball league tournament in the Sun Belt, what a force the Brown family would be for Georgia Southern. Senior Tookie Brown leads the men in scoring with a 17.5 average. Junior sister Alexis leads the women at 17.4. The brother has the higher average, but the sister has a better free throw percentage.
West Coast . . .
The picture of stability and dominance: Gonzaga is one of only three schools in the nation to use the same starting lineup every game, with Michigan and Central Michigan. The Zags have also won all 12 WCC games by double digits and their biggest deficit during any conference game has been five points. Guess the league tournament will go on, anyway.
WAC . . .
No wonder New Mexico State has opened up a three-game lead in the WAC and will be the big favorite in the conference tournament. The Aggies are coming at the league in waves. Twelve different players have started, 13 average at least 10 minutes a game. That’s how New Mexico State can be 22-4 and have its leading scorer, Terrell Brown, averaging only 11.8 points a game. He’d be fourth in scoring at Gonzaga.