Advertisement

Thoughts and Reactions from a Chaotic Saturday in College Hoops

WireAP_50bf15b9674e472c9c0d3f1f9cc07c98_12x5_992

Well, it’s safe to say conference play is in full effect. It was an absolute chaotic day in college hoops with Duke, Arizona, UNC and Kentucky all losing on the same day for quite some time. Throw in No. 5 Xavier and No. 7 Oklahoma and you have even more shakeup. There were way too many games to go game by game, so this is just going to be my general overview of the day.

The SEC is wide open, but it might be Auburn’s to lose

The SEC is vastly improved from the last few years and it’s showing. Teams are starting to beat up on each other, especially getting home wins, but one team to keep an eye on is Auburn. The Tigers are one of the programs caught up in the FBI scandal and lost two of its arguably best players. That said, Bruce Pearl is on the shortlist for National Coach of the Year, which is downright ironic and hilarious with everything else going on. Auburn has one loss and it came in the third game of the season on a neutral court. They were up 23 last night on Arkansas at one point and the schedule sets up decent for them. They get Kentucky at home, South Carolina twice and Texas A&M at home. This could actually happen.

For the other known teams in the league. Texas A&M is in serious trouble mostly because they may never have a full roster. This is the best team in the conference when they are at full strength, but we have rarely been able to see that. They lost last night on a Tremont Waters 3 with .7 seconds left and A&M is now 0-3 in conference play. If they don’t get to full strength sometime soon, the Aggies are in legit trouble.

Tennessee got a much needed win over Kentucky last night as well. The Volunteers were 0-2 in the conference and desperately needed a home win. The first half didn’t look like that was going to happen, but Tennessee ultimately attacked Kentucky and simply outmanned them in the second half. Grant Williams is still one of the more underrated players in the country. For Kentucky, it was a game of two halves. The first half it played through PJ Washington in the post, which opened up clean looks for guys like Wenyen Gabriel. The second half, they turned the ball over 5 times in the first few minutes and then had to deal with injuries/foul outs while Tennessee attacked. If Kevin Knox and Hami Diallo have games like last night where they are negatives on the court, Kentucky will not be successful at all.

We were all wrong about Virginia 

Virginia was wildly underrated in the preseason. The Cavaliers are now one of the 10 best teams in the country and I don’t know how you can say otherwise. Virginia absolutely dominated that game yesterday against North Carolina – something they tend to do when it’s at John Paul Jones Arena. But, what I like about this Virginia team is they are more athletic than teams in the past and can attack you in different ways. I’ve talked about the backcourt trio shooting a combined 45%, but yesterday it was De’Andre Hunter who stepped up. He had the MJ-esque baseline move dunk over Joel Berry and then followed that up with a corner three. I still don’t love the style of play because there’s just so small of margin for error. Virginia dominated the first half and it was just a 7 point game. That said, this team just feels like they can play at a faster pace if teams make them and they are a legit  Final Four threat.

We were also all wrong about Duke

So everyone’s favorite game last year of ‘Is Duke back?’ is going to be a thing again. They can’t defend anyone. NC State absolutely torched them and teams are just going to continue to bring Wendell Carter and Marvin Bagley up in high ball screens forcing them to try and guard. When they go 2-3, teams will still use that high ball screen and attack off the bounce. Marvin Bagley can go get buckets, but there are some major holes with this team. Trevon Duval isn’t as good as everyone thought. Gary Trent hasn’t adapted to the college game yet. Grayson Allen has been way too streaky for a senior. It’s 100% fair to start questioning K and his decision making the last couple of years. Sam Vecenie, good friend of the site, tweeted out something yesterday that started to make rounds and has a lot of truth in it. It was that ‘Calipari is better suited to handle one and dones than K due to his defensive coaching ability.’ That’s what’s going to hold this Duke team back.

Sean Miller had some damning comments

After losing to Colorado on the road yesterday, Sean Miller said the following:

“I can’t get them to play hard,” Miller said. “I really can’t. We do it for a while. I know we’ve had a win streak and we also have a good team. We have a lot of talent. A lot of times our offense can get us to the finish line, but you have to be able to play both offense and defense. And any really good team or good program, you’re going to have those days (when) the ball doesn’t go in, but you rely on your effort and your togetherness and maybe your defense to maybe keep you in the game.

That’s pretty  concerning for a team that has as much talent as Arizona has. Similar to Duke, the main problem for Arizona has been on the defensive side of the ball. They have been playing both Deandre Ayton and Dusan Ristic together which has led to teams just attacking off the bounce and making Ayton guard out on the wing. Yesterday against Colorado the defense wasn’t necessarily as bad as the fact that they tried to play offense through Ristic. He’s a fine player and all, but, uh, does Arizona know who they have on their team? That ball needs to be played through Ayton in the post and then let Trier  and Alkins attack from the wings. After that, sure, let Ristic get his touches.

West Virginia and Oklahoma are both legit

West Virginia did what they were supposed to. They beat Oklahoma in Morgantown, but after watching that game I’m left thinking both teams are quite legit. West Virginia is getting help from others not named Jevon Carter, most notably Lamont West, James Bolden and Teddy Allen, which is making them a somewhat different team. Similar to what I mentioned about Virginia, the Mountaineer defense will carry throughout the year. But, this is a team that can now score in the halfcourt, especially when Esa Ahmad comes into the fold. Carter was ableb to frustrate Trae Young, especially in the first half, but that’s nothing to take away from Young. He’s still the best player in college basketball and this was just more of a humbling experience than anything else. To me, West Virginia is really the only team that can slow Young down with its defense. They take away players legs, by making them work for 40 minutes and then playing super physical. That even went to after the whistle. It was smart by West Virginia. They’d offer a light bump or a little shove, but there really are limited teams that can do things like that. Winning on the road against a top-10 team is tough. Oklahoma learned that. West Virginia is that good.

Advertisement

Seton Hall/Butler was the game of the day

The most entertaining game happened to take place in Hinkle Fieldhouse in the middle of the afternoon. Seton Hall, who is probably the least respected good team out there, went into Hinkle and came back from 11 in the 2nd half to get the win. Angel Delgado had his best game of the year as he put up 28 and 15, including the biggest offensive rebound of the game to beat Butler. Seton Hall was down by 11 with 10 to go, before going on a 16-3 run. What made it even more impressive is the fact Myles Powell didn’t start due to the flu. The Pirates also won the game by answering what’s arguably their biggest question. Can they hit enough outside shots and free throws to win games and then close them out? They did just that. They went 11-for-22 from three and shot 78% from the free throw line. This group is special.

Providence got the important win while Syracuse took a loss it couldn’t

A little Stoolie special here as Providence punched Xavier right in the mouth for a much needed win while Syracuse took one of the uglier losses of the year. We’ll start with Providence and its ability to contain Trevon Bluiett in the second half and continued to get big shots. First, you have to start though with just how important Rodney Bullock is to this team. He was a game time decision and ultimately played and made it known right away as he hit a three on one of the first possessions of the game. The Friars were incredibly balanced, but it was Ky Cartwright who continued to hit big shots when Xavier would cut the lead. Five different players scored in double digits for Providence, but more importantly it was its defense that led to the win. The Friars held Trevon Bluiett, an All-American, to 0 points in the second half. They were also able to force 15 turnovers and really frustrate Xavier’s guards.

As for Syracuse, yikes. That was an ugly loss. You had a Notre Dame team without Matt Farrell and Bonzie Colson coming to the Carrier Dome, jumped out to an early lead and then eventually lost on a Rex Pflueger tip in after a couple of players gave up on the play. This was a Syracuse team that had a chance to sneak into the NCAA Tournament, but a loss at Wake Forest and now to Notre Dame at home will likely keep them out. Cuse is 12-4 and 1-2 in the ACC. They needed 10 wins in the conference to feel fairly confident come Selection Sunday, but that would have meant they needed to steal some wins. The opposite happened. Now, Cuse fans, just wait until next year when some big time talent is coming.

Polls

Finally, I want to take a quick moment to talk about the AP poll – something I get asked about quite a bit. Yes, it’s incredibly stupid. Yes, those who vote don’t typically watch most games. Yes, it’s irrelevant. But, people like to argue about rankings and it makes for a debate. At this point in the year it’s always intriguing to see who overreacts to a game or a week. You should be voting based on the entire season and not react to just a week, like you’d do earlier in the year. Those who overreact to one week are the ones who typically don’t watch the games if you want to yell at people.