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Thoughts and Reactions from Maui Invitational and Other College Hoops Tournaments

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So this is something I plan on continuing to do, which is a thoughts and reactions blog the night of/day after a slate of big time games. There are a million college basketball games and it’s always easier to go to one place to get a couple quick thoughts on what happened. I usually like to pull video from Synergy for this, but for today we’re going to most likely skip that. The way I like to set these up are quick hitters, bullet points almost to talk about some of the games and keep everyone up to date.

Maui Invitational 

Marquette 94, VCU 83

– Marquette is one of the most fun teams in the country this year to watch. They spread you out, shoot a ton of threes and can beat/lose to anyone because of that. They’ll have games where they for 15-for-23 from the 3-point line then they’ll go 5-for-28. When they get going though, they’re a ton of fun to watch.

– I was really impressed with Markus Howard from Marquette. Last year a sophomore he was arguably the best 3-point shooter in the country. Yesterday he wasn’t shooting the ball well, but he still attacked off the bounce, forcing the defense to collapse and kicked out to open shooters. For him to round his game out like that is a big jump for a sophomore.

– This play was absolutely some afternoon basketball porn. VCU was selling out heavy on Rousey/Howard, so Marquette ran a misdirection screen to get Sam Hauser open for three. I love everything about this play design, so you should just give it a watch.

– I was not impressed with VCU on the flip side. They simply were not a smart basketball team. They picked up dumb fouls and this is from their best players who are seniors. They’d reach too often. They lost Marquette so many times on simply screens. All in all, this just isn’t a great team nor a great conference this year in the A-10.

Wichita State 92, Cal 82

– So, yeah, this was the game that was talked about quite a bit during the late afternoon. Cal absolutely dominated this game thanks to an insane performance from Don Coleman, who now has scored 30 in 3 of the first 4 games. Cal was up as many as 18 in the second half until Wichita State finally switched the flip and went on a 52-24 run down the stretch.

– Landry Shamet was as good as advertised. He was the one player who played well for Wichita State as they were getting blown out. He was efficient shooting the ball and scored 23 points. Yes, Wichita State is still playing without Markis McDuffie, who very well may lead this team in scoring again, but this team goes as Shamet goes.

– Ultimately two things cost Cal here. The first was foul trouble. Marcus Lee and Kingsley Okoroh – the frontcourt of Cal – both fouled out. The second problem was Cal struggled once Wichita State went into press mode. Wichita was trapping, especially any time the ball was near an end line. It ultimately led to numerous turnovers and let Wichita back in.

– The biggest exhale here though came from Maui, who is just banking on Wichita State playing Notre Dame in the final of this tournament.

Notre Dame 83, Chaminade 56

– Mike Brey won best outfit of the tournament. All these coaches getting into the spirit with their Hawaiian shirts and island ware. Mike Brey went with the just got back from swim up bar and forgot we had a game look. Top-3 coach I want to have a beer with. I hope he coaches in this outfit all year.

– This was actually a close game for the first half and the first four minutes of the second half. This is sort of a problem with Notre Dame early in the season. The Irish have been letting weaker opponents hang around for a little bit until finally blowing them out. It’s only worth noting because this isn’t a young team, which makes it a little shocking.

– Farrell and Colson did their thing, combining for 50 points. On top of that Farrell threw down a dunk, which means we’re about to see pissed off Farrell this year and I’m very here for it. Both were incredibly efficient as they combined for just 23 shot attempts.

LSU 77, Michigan 75

– Tremont Waters is going to be incredibly fun to watch over the next few years at LSU. He was an important get for Will Wade once Waters decided to decommit from Georgetown. The freshman point guard dropped 21 last night while going 7-for-13 from the field. He can press at times, leading to 5 turnovers, but he’s still out there winning you games. This sequence to win the game was unbelievable:

– Michigan continues to struggle early in the season. This is a team that should finish top-4 in the Big 10 despite losing Derrick Walton, DJ Wilson and Zak Irvin. The good news here is Charles Matthews, the Kentucky transfer, finally found himself as he scored 28 points. Beilein started putting him in some ISO spots with his back to the basket, letting him feel the defender and spin either baseline or to the middle. He then uses his athleticism to finish in the paint. This could be a jumping off point for him.

– What can’t happen for Michigan is Duncan Robinson only scoring 3 points. He picked up a couple fouls in the first half, but still played 28 minutes. As a senior and a shooter, there’s no excuse for him to only have 3 shots in Beilein’s system. He has to start looking to get his own more here.

– This LSU team is competitive for one reason here. They finally got rid of Johnny Jones. Look at the rejuvenation of the program with Will Wade there. They are competing. They are going after loose balls. This is a game last year that LSU would have lost by 15 once they get down to Michigan. Keep an eye on the growth of guys like Waters, Sampson and Mays throughout the year. LSU could start competing earlier than expected.

Hall of Fame Classic – Kansas City

Creighton 100, UCLA 89

– This is a damn good Creighton team fueled by the backcourt. Khyri Thomas and Marcus Foster are one of the best backcourt duos in the country, but what impressed me the most about Thomas was his passing in this game. He’s going to get his buckets and do his thing, but he made some incredible passes to set up teammates.

– Speaking of teammates the freshmen of Ty-Shon Alexander and Mitchell Ballock were both really good. Alexander in the first half attacked the rim with a real pretty reverse and hit a couple threes. In the second half Ballock started to catch fire and really was the reason this game got pushed open to a comfortable lead – Creighton was up about 8 the entire second half.

– Aaron Holiday made this absurd shot

– For UCLA, they are going to struggle in games like this right now. The loss of the three guys due to the incident in China has just decimated the depth of this team. Riley was likely going to be the starting four for this team and Ball was going to be in the rotation. Welsh picked up three fouls in the first half in this game and the lack of depth showed.

– Greg McDermott doesn’t get enough credit for being a a great offensive coach. He’s up there with the Brey’s and Beilein’s of the world in how he draws up plays and gets his motion offense to work. He excels in getting his guards into the right spot and keeping the floor spaced. If Creighton is able to keep this up, he’ll be a favorite for Coach of the Year.

Baylor 70, Wisconsin 65 

– Ethan Happ is just so damn fun to watch, man. He’s getting better with each year, adding the ability to step outside and at least have a reasonable looking jumper now. But, his ability to defend, finish in different creative ways around the rim and more importantly become an even better passer just makes him so fun to watch as a college fan. Problem with Wisconsin is right now that’s the only guy you can trust on this team. They desperately need someone else to consistently step up on the offensive side of the ball.

– Baylor got up big in this game, up as many as 19, before letting Wisconsin cut it to two in the second half. Part of it was Wisconsin starting to settle down and attack Baylor’s zone, but the other part was Baylor got out of sorts on the offensive side of the ball. That’s sort of what to expect with this team as Manu Lecomte is a guy who can win you games, but can also shoot you out of games/force too much at times.

– The move of Jake Lindsey to being the primary ball handler and letting Lecomte run off the ball is going to be one of the smarter things Scott Drew has done as a coach. Lecomte is a shooter/scorer and Lindsey is better at setting guys up, looking to pass first. Letting Lecomte work with Lual-Acuil and Matson among others will be beneficial in the long term.

Legends Classic 

Texas A&M 72, Oklahoma State 55

– Robert Williams made his season debut for Texas A&M, coming off the bench, but still looking the part of a lottery pick. He finished with 11 and 11 while simply looking like the best player on the court. He continued to be an excellent passer from the post and also did this:

Penn State 85, Pitt 54

– The only thing I want to say about this game is it’s not going to get better, Pitt fans. You guys don’t have better players coming. This isn’t a ‘oh just wait until Stallings gets his players into the system.’ This is a guy who is failing at every aspect of being a successful head coach. This will go down as the worst hire in recent memory. Like I’ve said, I was fine with getting rid of Dixon. Pitt felt they hit the peak with him and it was time to move on. The problem was moving on to Kevin Stallings, who did exactly what to make you feel warm and fuzzy about that hire? Who thought this was a good idea? They are the most embarrassing team in the major conferences. Even more embarrassing than DePaul, Rutgers, Washington State, you name it.

Cayman Islands Classic

Louisiana 80, Iowa 71

Cincinnati 73, Buffalo 67

– This is a really bad loss for Iowa as they now struggled against Grambling and lost to Louisiana the last two times out. This is a team with Jordan Bohanon and Tyler Cook, which is a pretty good 1-2 combo that should be good enough to win those games.

– This Iowa loss is also a bad loss for Cincinnati. This event is incredibly subpar and Cincinnati needed that extra quality win against Iowa. They don’t get that now as they’ll play Richmond and then either Wyoming or Louisiana in the title game. For a team in a conference that we’ve seen the committee show they don’t have great thoughts about, a win over a Big 10 team helps there.

– John Higgins was the story as a ref of a game again. Color me shocked.

– Cincinnati struggled to get into a rhythm offensively. Part of that was the flow of the game with the way the refs called it, the other part was point guard play. That will continue to be the biggest thing to watch for Cincinnati going forward. This is a second weekend team. They can be more if point guard play becomes more consistent.

Missouri 67, Emporia State 62

– The only reason I’m mentioning this game is the fact Michael Porter Jr., didn’t play again and wasn’t in attendance. It’s the weirdest story of the year as Porter was seeing a specialist for his leg injury tonight. He’s played 2 minutes so far this year and the team and Missouri have both been completely hushed on the situation. Instead we have Missouri struggling against a D2 team. Let’s just hope that Porter plays sometime soon because he’s too good of a player for college basketball to miss out on this year.

UNC 96, Stanford 72

– The Roy Williams tradition of playing a road game before heading out to Hawaii or the West coast continued here as UNC won at Stanford, although the Stanford crowd was lacking. What wasn’t lacking was Kenny Williams who scored 20 points in the first 9 minutes of the game as he went 6-for-8 from the 3-point line. Stanford was hanging around early but that quickly changed once Williams and Berry started finding open shots. They combined to go 11-for-19 from the 3-point line, something you’ll see UNC do a lot of this year.

– Stanford had to play three freshmen in the starting lineup this game as Dorian Pickens and Marcus Sheffield were both sidelined with injuries. Ultimately it led to 19 turnovers and getting lost defensively. Credit to UNC though as they forced Stanford into those spots and then ultimately hit the shots.