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Mike Lopresti | | February 3, 2021

Some of the wildest stats, facts from the unprecedented 2020-21 season, so far

How the 2021 NCAA bracket will work, explained by Andy Katz

Everyone knows about this college basketball season. It’s completely unprecedented, often strange and occasionally unfathomable. And here are more numbers to prove it . . . just from the first week in February.

The next chapter in the Duke-North Carolina rivalry will be Saturday, and neither team will be ranked. That hasn’t happened since 1960. Mike Krzyzewski was a middle schooler in Chicago. Roy Williams was in elementary school in North Carolina.

Saint Louis will play at La Salle Wednesday night. It will be the Billikens’ second game in 42 days. They began the season 7-1, for their best non-conference record in 27 years. They had seven games postponed, then came back on four days’ practice and lost to Dayton, then flew to Virginia to play Richmond, but never got on the court because of COVID problems with the Spiders. “I don’t want to make excuses,’ coach Travis Ford said after the Dayton loss. “If they’re going to tell you to play, and we’ve got to go play, then you’ve got to respond. Nobody is feeling sorry for us.”

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No, but when they write the story of this season’s scheduling woes, the Saint Louis team picture might accompany it. By the way, the Billikens’ Jordan Goodwin is tied for eighth in the nation in double-doubles. Two things about that. He’s a 6-3 guard. And he has played one game since Dec. 23.

East Carolina had dropped five games in a row, not reached 70 points one time in January and not won since December 22. Houston was 15-1, ranked No. 5 and first in the nation in scoring defense, yet to allow more than 65 points in a game all season. So, of course, East Carolina rolled up 82 points Wednesday night, won by nine, and earned the school’s first-ever victory over a top-five opponent.

Michigan State lost to Iowa Tuesday night to drop to 2-7 in the Big Ten. The Spartans haven’t been there since 1970. Tom Izzo was playing high school football with his buddy Steve Mariucci in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan back then.

In that victory over the Spartans, Iowa All-American Luka Garza had 27 points. The rest of the Hawkeyes starting lineup scored only 18. The bench chipped in with 39.

Duke has gone to 24 consecutive NCAA Tournaments, the second longest streak behind Kansas. Michigan State is in third with 22 in a row. They woke up Wednesday with a combined record of 15-13.

No. 2 Baylor defeated No. 6 Texas 83-69, in the first top-10 matchup in the history of the state of Texas. The Bears are now 17-0 with every victory by at least eight points. Out of 680 game minutes this season, they have trailed for less than  47 of them.

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With Houston No. 5, that means three of the top six teams in the Associated Press poll this week were Texas schools. This for a state whose one and only national championship was 55 years ago and Texas Western.

North Carolina scored only 50 points in losing at Clemson, and not one starter reached double figures. To find a lower Tar Heel output against the Tigers, you have to go back to 1940.

Speaking of Clemson, just try to figure out the Tigers’ defense. Just try. They own notable victories by giving up only 42 points to Mississippi State, 50 to North Carolina and Louisville, 51 to Maryland and 56 to Alabama. They also have lost four of their last six games by coughing up 79, 80, 83 and 85.

Illinois won in overtime at Indiana Tuesday night. The last Illini OT victory in Bloomington was 1949.

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UMBC, who did not win the America East season title in 2018 – the year the Retrievers famously brought down Virginia in the NCAA Tournament – kept its share of the league lead by beating NJIT Tuesday. The Retrievers were led by the 17 points of guard Darnell Rogers. He’s 5-foot-2.

Duquesne had its first campus home game in 22 months when it opened its new UPMC Cooper Fieldhouse, beating Dayton. Because of virus restrictions, the attendance for the gala occasion was 212.

Wisconsin gave up 81 points to Penn State over the weekend and lost by 10. Three days later they played again, and the Badgers allowed only 56, and won by 16.

No. 11 Tennessee scored one basket the last 13 minutes and lost to Mississippi 52-50. Ole Miss is 9-8, and of 17 games, only four have been decided by single figures.

Iowa State, sometimes down to six scholarship players because of injuries and COVID, is 0-7 in conference play for the first time in history. But the Cyclones still took No. 17 West Virginia to the wire before losing.

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Kentucky remains in seventh place in the SEC The six teams ahead of the Wildcats have combined to win 37 SEC regulars season titles. Kentucky by itself has won 49.

Stanford, banned from playing on campus because of the virus, went 5-0 in its adopted home of Santa Cruz, 42 miles away. The Cardinal finally were allowed to have their first true home game of the season Tuesday against USC. They lost.

Drake edged Illinois State in overtime, and the next day beat the Redbirds by 35 points. The Bulldogs are 17-0 finally made it into the top-25.

Michigan still led the Big Ten, but has of Wednesday hadn’t played a game in 12 days. As it stands now, the Wolverines won’t play again for another eight.

So it has been all season. Cincinnati stumbled out of the gate 3-7 for its worst start in 37 years, then had six consecutive postponements. South Florida last played on Jan. 9, and won’t again until Feb. 10. Duke played one game in 28 days, and when the Blue Devils returned, Mike Krzyzewski was still home in quarantine. When he final was able to coach the next game, he bemoaned all that time stuck in the house. “My dog won’t even listen to me anymore.”

Pittsburgh played twice in 27 days, both against Syracuse. South Carolina played twice in 41 days. Coach Frank Martin tested positive, just as he did last May. Michigan State was out 19 days, and is 0-3 since coming back. The Spartans have gone from 6-0 and ranked No. 4 to 8-7 and next to last in the Big Ten.

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Oregon has played one game in 25 days, didn’t have leading scorer Chris Duarte then, and had its 28-game homecourt winning streak snapped by Oregon State. Villanova went 26 days without a game, and when the Wildcats returned to beat Seton Hall 76-74, Jermaine Samuels scored 20 points after one practice. 

Xavier sat for 18 days, finally got back on the court at Butler, and shot 51 percent, never trailing a second in a 68-55 win. Coach Travis Steele said he had tried to maintain his players focus during the hiatus by having them watch other teams’ videos. “Keeping them engaged, keeping our team together, the communication piece while you’re in quarantine is critically important,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of scouting other teams.”

It’s all so unusual. It’s all 2020-21.

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