Vanderbilt is now 0-3 against likely RPI Top 50 opponents, though they will have lost those three games by an average of 4.7 points. Bad luck in close games is why Vanderbilt is going to drop out of the Top 25 polls next week, but there's no doubt that Vanderbilt has played like one of the 25 best teams in the nation so far this season.
Dayton is looking increasingly like the Atlantic Ten favorite. They now have a second big win (they also beat Iowa), strengthening their at-large resume should they fall short in the A-10 tourney. Their schedule eases up the next few weeks, though back-to-back games against Davidson and George Washington in mid-January will go along way toward determining whether they win the A-10 or not.
Fred VanVleet Returns In Style Yes, this is technically VanVleet's second game back from injury, but in the first game he only played 18 minutes against a bad Saint Louis team. This was his first game back looking like himself, against a good UNLV team. VanVleet played 33 minutes, scoring 17 points with 4 assists, though those assists don't give enough credit to how much of the offense starts with him, often out of the pick-and-roll. Combine that with a strong defensive performance (the Shockers forced 19 turnovers and held UNLV to 0.81 PPP), and Wichita State now has their first quality win of the season.
Fred VanVleet has gotten healthy in time for Wichita State to salvage something out of non-conference play. They have this win, and then have Utah and Seton Hall up next. It's not much, and a lot of damage has already been done to their resume, but they still can firm up their at-large bona fides. This still feels like a team that is going to end up with a 7 or 8 seed in March, which is really going to piss off whichever 1 or 2 seed gets drawn against them in the Round of 32.
UNLV drops to 7-2, though they have wins over Oregon and Indiana and have no bad losses. They have to navigate a deceptively tricky road game at UC-Riverside on Saturday, but if they can win that and lose only that road game at Arizona before Mountain West play starts, they'll be in good shape for an at-large bid, despite the general weakness of the Mountain West Conference thus far.
Wisconsin Falls To Milwaukee This was an ugly game all around. Quick whistles meant 48 fouls and 59 free throw attempts. Both teams made more free throws than field goals, though Milwaukee hit much more of them down the stretch. They hit 82% as a team, including their final 12 of the game. Wisconsin hit 72% as a team, which is fairly good, but Nigel Hayes missed a pair of crucial free throws with his team trailing by just two points in the final 30 seconds.
Poor shooting has been the consistent story for Wisconsin all around this season. They shot a horrific 5-for-27 on two-point jumpers here. For the season, Wisconsin is hitting just 45% of their two-point attempts, 34% of their two-point jumpers, and 32% of their threes (all well outside the Top 200 in the nation). How real is that bad shooting? Some of it has to be. Wisconsin has a lot of young players who simply aren't the type of shooters they're replacing from last season. That said, some of this is likely to regress. For example, Nigel Hayes is down from 40% on threes last year to 31% this year. And if Wisconsin can get even halfway decent jump shooting, they are a supremely talented team in many other ways. In fact, weirdly enough, this is one of those talented teams Bo Ryan has ever had.
Milwaukee has quietly been a solid team this season. They near won at Notre Dame a couple of weeks ago also. Valparaiso is obviously the favorite in the Horizon League, but Milwaukee looks like their strongest possible challenger.
Ben Bentil Injured At this point, the severity of the injury is unknown, but it looked live like it was an ankle injury. We knew that Kris Dunn was going to be Kris Dunn, but Bentil has been the emergent star for Providence this season, and been a primary reason for their success thus far. If he is hurt for more than a couple of weeks, they open up Big East play with a tough game at Butler on New Year's Eve. The analytics say that Providence has been lucky in close games so far and is overrated. Without Bentil, they're a bubble-quality team at best.