Bill Frieder on Villanova, Lumberjacks and more


Boxed Out 800It is amazing how many upsets there are now, but what it comes down to is there there are just a lot of good players and coaches out there. Villanova (21-3) is the new No. 1 in the Associated Press poll, and congratulations to Jay Wright and his staff as the Wildcats have earned the top spot for the first time in school history. Oklahoma lost at Kansas State and North Carolina lost twice, so it was a natural for Villanova to jump in the slot. Junior Josh Hart has watched his scoring go from 7.8 his freshman year to 10.1 last year and now 15.4 this season. Villanova topped DePaul Tuesday and now plays St. John’s Saturday, so 22-3 and still No. 1 playing at Temple is going to happen. You think Philly might be interested in that game? Remember that the Wildcats host DePaul and Georgetown in the final two games of the year, so I think they are going to enter the Big East Tournament on a roll.

Quick dish

By the way Villanova became the sixth school to hold the No. 1 spot this season, just one off the record. There will be more.

Lumberjacks cutting up opponents

Can you name the team that has won 17 straight conference games? The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks are 17-5 and haven’t lost in 2016. Senior Thomas Walkup is very good, averaging over 17 points a game. The Lumberjacks have eight games left, and their final three will be on the road before the Southland Tournament, but this team could finish its conference season undefeated. Last year SFA gave Utah fits before falling 57-50 in the NCAA Tournament, and the year prior it topped VCU. If they get in, keep an eye on them for a first-round upset.

Forbes .500

You know who I really like right now? Bryn Forbes at Michigan State. He makes his free throws (over 80 percent in his career), make his three-pointers (over 50 percent this year) and is averaging over 14 points per game, and his 29 points against Michigan included 8-of-10 from long range. Michigan State finishes with four of six at home and its two road games are Ohio State and Rutgers. They are a team that will be on a roll entering the Big Ten Tournament. Check out Sparty’s final six games: Indiana, Wisconsin, at Ohio State, Penn State, at Rutgers and Ohio State in East Lansing. Favored in all six.

Weekend assignments

Kansas at Oklahoma highlights the Saturday schedule, but Texas at Iowa State isn’t far behind. Also a nice non-conference game is Gonzaga at SMU. We’ll come back to this later, but Gonzaga (one top-50 win, two top-100 wins) has work to do. Losses to Texas A&M, Arizona, UCLA, BYU and St. Mary’s have the Zags needing a big win.

– Bill Frieder

Former Michigan and Arizona State head coach Bill Frieder is an analyst for Westwood One’s coverage of NCAA Basketball. In his weekly blog Boxed Out, Bill scours the box scores to bring you interesting stories from the world of college basketball.

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