The 10 Biggest Takeaways from College Basketball's Week 2
The college basketball season may not be measured in incremental weeks a la the NFL, but there are lessons to be learned every time the calendar flips back over to Sunday.
Michigan State is a solid No. 1 for now, a number of marquee games captured headlines and there were even some upsets sprinkled in for good measure.
Read on to see the biggest takeaways from college hoops in Week 2.
Will the Real North Carolina Please Stand Up?
This week was a perfect microcosm of what the North Carolina basketball program is right now. The Tar Heels are capable of beating almost anyone in the country with their talent, but there are also some deficiencies that could ultimately be their undoing.
That being said, it’s hard to think of a better way to remove the taste of a loss against Belmont than by beating the defending national champions.
Behind 32 points and excellent free-throw shooting from Marcus Paige, North Carolina stunned Louisville 93-84 on Sunday. It was enough to overcome 36 points from Russ Smith. Considering the turmoil this team went through with P.J. Hairston during the offseason, it was a much-needed early season win.
A win like the one over Louisville, though, makes the home loss to Belmont even more confusing. Yes, Belmont is a quality squad, especially by mid-major standards, but the Tar Heels should not be losing that game at home.
The Freshmen Should Make Some Room for Marcus Smart...
The entire offseason was saturated by stories concerning the superstar freshmen that were going to come to the college scene and effortlessly dominate all year.
The Champions Classic, with memorable performances from Julius Randle, Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins, did nothing to quell the hype about these freshmen. All of it is much deserved because this could end up being one of the best groups of first-year players in the history of the sport.
The fresh faces, however, need to make some room for sophomore Marcus Smart on the hype train. Smart put on a show in front of a national audience (and Kevin Durant) against Memphis on Tuesday with 39 points, four rebounds, four assists, five steals and two blocks. It was one of the best all-around performances of the season thus far of anyone.
Smart is certainly on the short list for National Player of the Year candidate and will be all season. The Oklahoma State and Kansas showdown will be incredibly entertaining.
...And Doug McDermott While They're at It
As long as the freshmen are making room for Smart on the hype train, they should probably be doing the same for Doug McDermott.
McDermott has been recognized as one of the best players in the country throughout his spectacular career, but it was often with the caveat of him playing in the Missouri Valley Conference. If he puts up video game-like numbers in the Big East this year, the National Player of the Year title may be heading his way.
Against Tulsa on Saturday, McDermott poured in 33 points while grabbing 15 rebounds. Through four games his Bluejays are a perfect 4-0, and he is averaging 27.5 points a night, but it is his 55 percent mark from the field and 50 percent clip from behind the three-point line that really stand out.
If he continues to score at such an efficient rate, there are few teams in the new-look Big East that will beat Creighton.
Death, Taxes and Wisconsin Basketball
There are few guarantees in life, but Wisconsin basketball playing at an impressive level under Bo Ryan is certainly one of them.
The Badgers ripped off three wins this week, albeit against lesser competition, but it was Frank Kaminsky’s school-record 43 points against North Dakota that made headlines. Considering the fact that Wisconsin seems to struggle to reach 43 points sometimes with its pace of play, Kaminsky’s performance was rather impressive.
The Badgers are now sitting at 6-0, a record that includes a victory over Florida and St. John’s. Ryan’s team still has nonconference tests against Saint Louis, Virginia and Marquette remaining before a difficult Big Ten slate begins.
Look for another ho-hum Sweet 16 appearance from Wisconsin this year.
Memphis Missed Chance No. 1
There are a number of marquee tests for this year’s Memphis team that won’t be playing a particularly difficult conference slate. The Tigers missed their first chance to make a statement this week against Oklahoma State.
Smart and company declawed the Tigers to the tune of 101-80, and the 21-point deficit is closer than the game actually was. Smart had his way whenever he wanted, and Memphis didn’t look quite ready for a schedule that includes Florida, Louisville (twice), Cincinnati (twice), Connecticut (twice) and Gonzaga.
This is not to suggest the Tigers will lose those games because chances are they won’t lose every one, but these are the games when they need to let the nation know they are for real. Fair or not, many still see Memphis as simply the best the Conference USA has to offer, even though it isn’t even in that league anymore.
Duke Has Some Issues...
Everyone got so caught up in the incredible performance from Jabari Parker against Kansas in the Champions Classic that they seemed to forget Duke actually lost the game, and that one loss to an elite Jayhawks team is far from the only issue Duke has right now.
The Blue Devils managed to knock off Vermont and East Carolina, but to say either game was impressive would be a flat out lie. Duke beat Vermont by a single point (off of a questionable call at the end that sent Rodney Hood to the line for the game-winning free throw) and East Carolina by nine (in a game that featured a one-point margin late in the second half).
The Blue Devils are excellent on offense and feature a number of potential superstars, but their defense and especially rebounding leave much to be desired. As of Sunday, Duke ranked an alarming 267th in the nation in total boards.
Even the 1-5 Catamounts hung with Duke in the rebounding department. If Coach K and company can’t get their inside game and defense figured out, it could be a disappointing season in the difficult ACC.
...And so Does Michigan
Duke may have looked incredibly vulnerable against Vermont and East Carolina, but at least the Blue Devils won the games. Michigan wishes it could say the same about its contests against Iowa State and especially Charlotte.
The Wolverines were overrated to start the season, based on their impressive run through the NCAA tournament; however, that was a Michigan team that got hot at the right time in March after finishing fourth in the Big Ten.
Without National Player of the Year Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. on the perimeter, the Wolverines are struggling this year. The offense is missing Burke’s penetration and kick-out abilities, as well as his prowess for slashing to the basket and finishing at the rim.
Much like Duke, Michigan is struggling on the boards. With Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III on the roster, it’s hard to imagine the Wolverines failing to turn things around, but to consider this team top-10 material at this point is foolish.
Shabazz Napier Is a Star
Connecticut was not allowed to compete in the NCAA tournament last year, but the Huskies are once again eligible this season. Shabazz Napier is doing the best he can to ensure they will be playing late into March of 2014.
Connecticut picked up impressive wins over Boston College and Indiana this week behind clutch performances from its point guard. Napier outshone Yogi Ferrell and the Hoosiers with 27 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals. Napier also scored 20 points against the Eagles.
Games against a decimated Florida squad, Stanford and Washington are all that stands in the way between Connecticut and an undefeated nonconference performance. It the Huskies can put that together with what should be an impressive performance in the American Athletic Conference, a favorable seed in the NCAA tournament should be the result.
Miami’s in for a Long Year
Miami was one of the feel-good stories of the college basketball season in 2012-13, but that will certainly not be the case this year.
The Hurricanes were knocked off by in-state Central Florida on Thursday, but that was far from the most alarming result of the young campaign. Miami lost its season opener to St. Francis (NY) and then followed that up with a one-point overtime win against Georgia Southern.
It’s safe to say the ACC championship won’t be going through Miami two years in a row.
The Hurricanes offense has been incredibly stagnant thus far. As of Sunday, it ranked 244th in points per game, 242nd in assists per game and 253rd in field-goal percentage. If that keeps up, a below .500 record will likely be the result.
Watch out for Iowa State
Iowa State lost in the NCAA tournament last year in heartbreaking fashion against Aaron Craft and the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Cyclones are out to make sure that doesn’t happen again this season.
Iowa State put together one of the most impressive weeks in the country with thrilling victories over BYU and Michigan.
The Cyclones edged out the Cougars on the road 90-88 and knocked off the Wolverines 77-70 at home with some old-fashioned “Hilton Magic.”
With a formidable offense that features Melvin Ejim, DeAndre Kane, Georges Niang and Dustin Hogue, Iowa State could throw its name in the ring that is the Big 12 race down the road. Many figure it will be a two-horse competition with Kansas and Oklahoma State, but with such an impressive home-court advantage and dangerous weapons, don’t sleep on the Cyclones.
Follow and interact with college basketball writer Scott Polacek on Twitter @ScottPolacek.