The 10 Biggest Takeaways from College Basketball in Week 3
If you were busy eating turkey, enjoying relatives and watching one of the most memorable college football Saturdays in the history of the sport this past week, you missed a lot of college hoops action.
Have no fear because we are here with a Cliffs Notes summary of what happened in Week 3 of the season. Don’t worry, there won’t be a test at the end.
A number of marquee early-season tournaments took place, North Carolina confused us once again and Arizona knocked off Duke in one of the season’s pivotal early contests. Read on for more details and the biggest takeaways from the past seven days.
Revenge Is a Dish Best Served with Defense
After the Champions Classic, all the talk surrounding college basketball started and ended with the freshmen. Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle dominated NBA draft discussions as well as Player of the Year banter.
Then Marcus Smart reminded everyone just how great he is by dropping a cool 39 points and five steals on Memphis. Smart was exalted, and the Josh Pastner version of the Tigers were basically dismissed yet again as a team that beats up lesser competition and struggles against the country’s best.
Not the case this week.
Memphis locked down on defense to stun Oklahoma State in the rematch and win the Old Spice Classic in Orlando. Smart was limited to only 12 points, and the Cowboys as a whole only posted 68 after scoring 101 in the first matchup. The Tigers turned up the defensive intensity after intermission and overcame a double-digit deficit.
It is worth noting, though, that Smart was under the weather during the game.
Good Luck Figuring out North Carolina
Just a quick glance at North Carolina’s early-season resume reveals a victory over the defending champion Louisville Cardinals and two losses to the likes of Belmont and UAB. That’s not meant to disparage Belmont or UAB, both of which should have formidable squads this year, but the Tar Heels should not be losing those contests.
Roy Williams and the North Carolina program agreed to travel to UAB to face his protege Jerod Haase and the Blazers. Williams may be regretting that decision now.
UAB inexplicably pounded the Tar Heels on the glass to the tune of 52-37. The Blazers totaled 21 offensive rebounds and got to the free-throw line 28 times.
Have no fear, though, North Carolina fans, because with the way this season is going so far in Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels will probably walk into East Lansing Wednesday and knock off the No. 1-ranked Michigan State Spartans.
Wichita State Is for Real
Wichita State stunned the nation by reaching the Final Four last season and almost knocked off the eventual champion Louisville when it got there.
However, many dismissed that as simply a dangerous team getting hot at the right time. There was no way the Shockers could do something like that again two years in a row.
Well, Wichita State may not reach the Final Four again, but it is certainly a formidable contender right now. The Shockers had one of the best weeks of anyone in the country by beating DePaul from the Big East, BYU from the WCC and Saint Louis from the Atlantic 10.
The Shockers trailed in the second half against the Cougars and Billikens but outplayed both down the stretch. The victory over Saint Louis was particularly impressive because it came on the road and will look even better come March when the Billikens are competing for an Atlantic 10 championship.
Marquette May Have Been Overrated
With so much turmoil in the Big East this offseason, Marquette was seen as one of the favorites as a returning mainstay.
The Golden Eagles may very well end up winning their conference, but they don’t look the part in the season’s early going. They fell to 5-3 on the year after losing to San Diego State 67-59, and a quick glance at the schedule reveals an alarming pattern—the three losses have come against the three noteworthy opponents Marquette has played.
Ohio State’s suffocating defense held the Golden Eagles to a measly 35 points at home early in the year, the Aztecs handled business in the Wooden Legacy this week and Arizona State held off Marquette in a nail-biting finish earlier in the year.
Next up for the Golden Eagles is a trip to the intimidating Kohl Center to take on in-state rival Wisconsin. A loss there may start to raise some red flags when it comes to Marquette’s chances this year.
Villanova Is Back
Villanova made the NCAA tournament last season but was decidedly mediocre throughout the entire campaign. An immediate exit in the Big Dance was appropriate considering the Wildcats’ struggles to even get there.
However, things seem to be trending in the right direction for Jay Wright’s program in the early going this year.
You would be hard-pressed to find many teams that had a better week than the Wildcats. Not only did they get to play in the Bahamas as part of the Battle 4 Atlantis, but they also knocked off USC, No. 2 Kansas and No. 23 Iowa in the process and took home the tournament’s title.
Clearly the victory over Andrew Wiggins and the Jayhawks jumps out immediately, but it is almost more impressive that Villanova overcame a sizable double-digit deficit the very next day against the Hawkeyes to win the championship. If there was a hangover effect from the big win in the semifinals, we didn’t see it.
Xavier May Not Be the Biggest Fan of the Bahamas
For as great of a trip to the Bahamas as Villanova had, fellow Big East member Xavier would like to forget its week in paradise.
The Musketeers held a double-digit lead in the second half against Iowa in their first game of the Battle 4 Atlantis, but let it slip away when Semaj Christon had to leave with cramping issues. A heartbreaking overtime defeat was only a sign of things to come.
Xavier followed that effort up with a convincing loss to Tennessee, a team the Musketeers had already beaten once earlier this season, and then fell to USC in its final game in the Atlantis tournament. Three losses in as many tries isn’t exactly how the Musketeers planned on announcing their return to college basketball relevancy in such a loaded field.
The Musketeers still have the talent to reach the NCAA tournament after missing out on it last season, but it would certainly help if they started racking up some notable wins sooner rather than later.
Is Duke Elite?
Before the season started and even into the first week after the thrilling Champions Classic, there seemed to be a handful of teams that were truly elite and could win the national title.
Duke was certainly one of them, along with the likes of Kansas, Arizona, Michigan State, Kentucky, Louisville and Oklahoma State, to name a few. However, there may be some questions regarding the Blue Devils’ status as a truly elite national championship contender after their second loss in as many tries against fellow elite competition.
Arizona outlasted Duke 72-66 to win the NIT Season Tip-Off, which capped off a stretch for Coach K’s squad that saw struggles against the likes of East Carolina and Vermont. Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker are both legitimate superstars and will be NBA players, but the lack of rebounding and defense is crippling this team right now.
Ultimately, Duke is probably still an elite squad, but it could use a marquee victory in the early going to confirm those suspicions. It will get a chance Tuesday against Michigan in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
Doug McDermott Is Human
It’s not really fair to Doug McDermott, but we as college basketball fans almost take his production for granted.
Whether that is out of dismissal for Creighton and the competition it has played in recent years or not is up for debate, but where else in the country can someone average almost 30 a night on better than 50 percent shooting from the field and have it met with something of a ho-hum reaction.
Well, McDermott showed his human side at the Wooden Legacy this week, as the Bluejays lost to both San Diego State and George Washington. With McDermott's 30 points on 11-of-18 shooting, the defeat to the Aztecs does not fall on his shoulders, but he was uncharacteristically bad against the Colonials.
He shot an abysmal 2-of-12 from the field, missed all five of his three-point attempts and finished the night with a measly seven points. Heck, he even missed a free throw, something that rarely happens.
Even if it was just for one night, McDermott proved he is human after all.
The argument can be made that the Pac-12 is the best conference from top to bottom in football this season (gasp, but what about the SEC dominance narrative?!), but it will feature some thrilling games on the hardwood this year as well.
Arizona, Oregon, UCLA and Utah are all undefeated; Colorado looks formidable at 7-1; and Arizona State and the nation’s most exciting point guard, Jahii Carson, knocked off Marquette and sit at 7-2.
The Wildcats scored the most notable victory of the week by beating Jabari Parker and Duke at the NIT Season Tip-Off, while the Ducks continue to roll to the tune of blowout wins after their season opener against Georgetown. UCLA handled business against the Big Ten’s Northwestern, and Utah is yet to play a truly close game.
Ultimately, this league will probably come down to Arizona, Oregon and UCLA, but it is flashing its depth in the season’s early going.
The Maui Invitational is always one of the early season’s marquee events, and Syracuse has dominated every time it has gone there. This year’s version was no different.
The Orange took home the title and improved to 9-0 all-time in Maui in the process. They scored three marquee victories in three days over the likes of California, Minnesota and Baylor, all of which could contend for NCAA tournament spots down the line (although, maybe not for the Golden Bears).
C.J. Fair is leading the offense, and the typically stout zone defense is doing its job. The ACC will be loaded this season, but the Orange are certainly contenders and may even be the favorites considering North Carolina and Duke are both struggling a bit right now.
If only Jim Boeheim could get conference games moved to Hawaii. Then he wouldn’t have anything to worry about.
Follow and interact with college basketball writer Scott Polacek on Twitter @ScottPolacek.
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