Wednesday was a busy night for college basketball. Three of the top five teams in the country have taken to the field as well as games in nearly every major conference.
Mississippi State gave Alabama a scare in a game Oat nite Billed as a “wake-up call” as Sean Miller’s Xavier team once again asserted themselves in the Big East by beating UConn at Gampel Pavilion.
Here are three more stories that really stood out to me from last night’s events.
1. Tennessee Defense
Tennessee is a top-five team in the country, but they don’t necessarily have many big names or top-scoring NBA favorites. How do they do that? The answer: With the best defense in college basketball.
Rick Barnes’ club pulled Georgia up to 41 points last night, as they ran away with a 29-point victory. What’s amazing is that this was the eighth time this year that Tennessee has held a rival in the 40s. In fact, in an SEC game only two opponents have scored more than 60 points against them (one of which was Tennessee’s 77-68 win over Vanderbilt).
This is not surprising given that Tennessee has finished in the top 5 defense each of the past two seasons. But this year’s defense set a record. Currently, not only do they lead all of Division I basketball in adjusted defensive efficiency (according to KenPom.com), but they also lead in effective field goal percentage and three-point percentage. In addition, the Folders are in the top 7 nationally in turnover percentage, steal percentage and two-point field goal percentage.
In other words: They defend the arc, they defend the edge, they contest every shot and force the coup. And they do all this at the elite level.
2. Jackson Davis dominates again
No player has been more dominant in college basketball in recent weeks than the senior Indiana player Trace Jackson Davis. This past week alone, he had 35 points (15-19 in shooting), 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks in a win over Illinois. He then followed that up with 31 points, 15 rebounds, 5 blocks and 4 assists against Michigan State.
with the coach Mike Woodson Not on the sidelines on Wednesday, Indiana found itself on the ropes late against an undermanned Minnesota team. Minnesota leads 57-56 with less than a minute to play. That’s when Jackson-Davis grabbed an offensive rebound for what turned out to be the game-winning bucket. He finished with another incredible stat line – 25 points, 21 rebounds and 6 blocks.
Simply put, he’s in control of the game like no one else at the moment.
3. Pember defines a new tag
Drew Pember He started his professional career in Tennessee. He spent two years with the Vols, appearing in 22 games as a freshman and just 10 as a sophomore before transferring to UNC Asheville. He made an immediate impact last year as a junior, averaging 16 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks per game. This year, he’s averaging 21.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.5 blocks, 2.3 assists and 1 steal a game while shooting 46% from the floor, 38% from the three-point line and 84% from the free throw line. In short, that long-term upside that Tennessee experienced upon its 2019 recruiting is finally coming to the fore.
On Wednesday night, the 48ers exploded on 14-24 shooting from the ground including 8-10 from behind the arc. He was 12-13 from the free throw line and added 12 rebounds to go along with a pair of blocks. This performance pushed UNC Asheville past Presbyterian in overtime. With Pember on top, UNC Asheville has now won 7 straight and is 8-1 in the Big South (16-6 overall).
The Daily Dish is a daily college basketball column by a rotating staff of 247 sportswriters on the biggest stories of the day in sports and will be running in the NCAA Tournament in April.