Might as well start with the marquee match up between Florida and Arizona. The game went how I thought it would for 37 1/2 minutes. The 2 1/2 minutes it didn’t? Last minute and a half of the first half and last minute of the 2nd half. What happened in those two and a half minutes is really beyond explanation – Arizona outscored Florida 15-0. What we saw from most of the night is Florida is a grown man team who has the right mix of top level guys with excellent role players mixed in. It seems like everyone on that team knows exactly what is expected of one another. The loss has to be deflating due to; a) Obviously, giving the game away. b) Mike Rosario and Scottie Wilbekin played fantastic and hit shots. On the other hand, maybe they should be encouraged by being in that position with a dreadful performance from Kenny Boynton on the road? Arizona is about what you expect – Lyons (love him or hate him) does bring a toughness and ability to find his own shot. Solomon Hill is solid in all aspects and the trio of freshman bigs are ahead of schedule. All that could have been asked of the front line was to battle and they did so (also helping matters was moving Hill over to the 4 spot later on). In the end, they stole a significant win to go on their resume. Those were two Elite 8 quality clubs getting after it. (And I don’t want to gloss over Arizona winning the game but Sean Miller said himself he wasn’t sure whether or not to feel guilty.)
While Rick Pitino’s protege let one get away, the teacher took one back in Memphis. Louisville rallied from an early 16 point hole to eventually put away Memphis. John Wooden once had a quote (I can’t find it) about switching defenses that essentially said, switching defenses is the result of not having any defense. Needless to say, that seems a little dated. Pitino’s teams of late have been thriving on giving different looks to opposing offenses. They give the traditional match-up press look that we’re accustom to seeing with Pitino and then they can drop back into their match-up zone or man to man defense. To note here is the center often takes on the most responsibility in the half-court match up zone with the reliance on communication. Louisville currently is without Gorgui Dieng and is still playing at a high level defensively – holding Memphis to 53 points over the last 30 minutes in an up-tempo game. The level of play is only set to increase when he returns.
I don’t know how you stop Doug McDermott. I don’t think you can. To go along with his insane shooting from 3 (27-51), he seals defenders in the post as well as anyone and has great ability in the mid-range. He doesn’t defend much (at all) and it still isn’t stopping him from being one of the best players in the country. Cal didn’t stand much of a chance on Saturday night and a positive sign for Creighton is how well they defended, limiting Allen Crabbe to 6-26 shooting. On Cal, it’s become increasingly frustrating to watch a team with some good to great college players (Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, Harper Kamp, Jorge Guiterrez, Crabbe, Justin Cobbs) just not have the help on thin rosters. Mike Montgomery does a fine job with what he has and Cal isn’t the easiest place to recruit to, but an extra player or two on some of these teams would lead to more success against top teams. As seen here, Cal is just too reliant on the back court duo of Cobbs and Crabbe:
It’s interesting that Myles Mack and Fuquan Edwin are the best players from the now defunct Patterson Catholic program and not Kyle Anderson. Mack has emerged as the best guard and player in the Rutgers program while Edwin keeps trending upward for Seton Hall:
I’m not sure how many players have ever utilized a redshirt season like Kelly Olynyk. I don’t know the amount of muscle Olynyk has put on, but it’s substantial and is leading to a player who looks like he has an NBA future. He’s now averaging 15 points and 6.6 rebounds in only 25 minutes of play.
Speaking of Gonzaga, they have to be at the top of the ‘Catholic 7’ wish list with Butler. I’ve long ago stopped trying to figure out how Butler does it. I believe Indiana is overrated this season but to win that game in OT with the players left on the floor? Impressive. Also, not to discredit Brad Steven’s genius – but we all could have figured out to isolate Jordan Hulls on the last play.
I know Chris Fouch is out for the year but I can’t explain Drexel. Frantz Massenat and Damion Lee can’t get you better than a 3-7 start?
Villanova has made big strides in 3 weeks time. They’re still a bottom feeder in the Big East but after their start, to rebound with wins @ Penn, vs St Joe’s and vs Delaware is a good sign for their young core. Somebody got the message to Arcidiacono to pass the ball and not heave 30 footers and that helps.
On lessened roles, it seems Mikael Hopkins is at least starting to defer more for Georgetown. It has resulted in two positive steps forward for the Georgetown offense, which in my estimation looked it’s best since Brooklyn on Saturday. It certainly helped that Greg Whittington broke out of his slump. If Whittington can find his stroke, then this can improve:
Marcus Paige vs Mike Gesell is probably something Iowa fans will debate for a while. The two have been linked together as they faced off in High School and Paige was courted by Iowa until UNC landed him. Iowa was able to land a very nice consolation prize in Gesell – now it appears as if Iowa may have won that trade off. Gesell is playing off the ball some but looks like a steady four year college PG and eventual All Big 10 player. It’s not to say Paige has performed poorly or won’t be a strong player in his own right but Gesell looks to be physically stronger and more advanced right now nearly across the board. Iowa also picked up a nice neutral court win vs Northern Iowa. The Hawkeyes are positioning themselves to be in the hunt for an NCAA bid as the year progresses.
I happened to catch some of A&M and Oklahoma and it’s still creepy how lifeless the A&M sideline is under Billy Kennedy, I don’t know what gives. OU fans should be excited about the future back court of Je’lon Hornbeak and Buddy Hield.
I had Purdue penciled in to finish 2nd to last in the Big 10 (pre- Tim Frazier injury). I questioned if I wasn’t giving Matt Painter enough respect. Well, they might finish 10th now but that’s it. The talent level among the upperclassmen is atrocious and the FR are not impact players.
Alabama was literally minutes away from a 7-0 start with a huge road win @ Cincinnati. Instead, they couldn’t close the door and now have followed that with a bad home loss vs Dayton and embarrassing trip to VCU. The silver lining has to be a strong performance from Devonta Pollard (finally).
When’s the last time you’ve seen a coach play a Box and 1 exclusively for a whole game? Tim Cluess (of all people) did it vs Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and somehow it worked. Iona has had some tough losses and likely was due for a close win. Not the most impressive day on the job for Mark Fox whose team had the ball in a tie game with the shot clock off and took a shot – with 17 seconds left.
South Dakota St and Nate Wolters fetch a lot of buzz but I’d put North Dakota St in the memory bank for March. Just a hunch.
After watching them twice now, I just don’t see Belmont being a threat this year to be Cinderella. Last years team seems like the better group. No shame in getting blown out in Phog Allen but also didn’t come away that impressed with the Bruins vs Middle Tennessee St. They struggle with physicality and length, it makes it very difficult to get the looks that they want on offense. Ben McLemore stole the show on the KU side of things and he looks more impressive each day.
I’ve talked before about Syracuse’s think back court. Just how thin? Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams rank #1 and #2 nationally in average plus/minus (+25 and +24.6). Granted, it’s an extremely small sample – but a look at just how crucial those two are to stay healthy and out of foul trouble this season. It also is likely when MCW’s ‘incident’ this past week did not lead to a suspension against an upstart Canisius team.
Trey Burke is silly good. I mean, there isn’t much else to say. His blend of scoring and facilitating at the PG position is tops in the country right now. Also credit to John Beilein, I’ve never been much of a fan but that’s starting to change – no longer is he employing much (if any) of his trademark 1-3-1 zone and his players attack on offense and the reliance on the 3 ball has come down this year. I realize this started to become the case last year as well, I’m just a little late arriving. Seeing is believing. Not to say they’ll win it all or even be a Final 4 team – but it kind of feels like there is a little ’97 or ’98 Arizona to this Michigan team in the back court:
Kyle Wiltjer off the bench now? It might do some good for UK putting Poythress in the 4 spot and provide more offense by getting a third guard on the floor more often. Harrow had 12 points and 0 turnovers. Baby steps. While he’s certainly raw shooting the ball or operating with his back to the basket it is worth mentioning Nerlens Noel is averaging 2.1 assists, 9 rebounds, 2.8 steals and 3.9 blocks.
Skylar Spencer was on my watch list for unheralded freshman. He’s carved his way into the rotation for a strong San Diego St team and while his numbers are modest (3.3 and 4.0 rebounds with 1.3 blocks in 14.9 minutes) I’m excited to see he and Winston Shepard develop in that freshman class. We know the SDSU staff can develop talent.
To go along with Anthony Ireland at Loyola Marymount, Evan Roquemore needs more attention coming from the West Coast. Kevin Foster scores more and Marc Tarsolini is a big story off of his injury for Santa Clara but Roquemore is reason as any for a strong start. The junior guard is 14, 7 and 3 with a shooting line of 53/44/83.