Though college basketball has been up and running for a little over a week now, it seems as if the unofficial start was yesterday when ESPN broadcasted 24 consecutive hours of NCAA hoops. Here are some thoughts and tid-bits of what was seen:
- First off, with all due respect to ESPN, this 24 hour marathon has been set up poorly. A weekday? How many viewers do they expect for that? Yes, we know their marquee games are at primetime in the evening, but if you'd really like to see an increase in viewership, try a weekend. Few kids are going to stay home from school, and even fewer adults are going to skip work, in order to watch virtually meaningless games.
- I have a lot of respect for referees. I grew up watching my father referee Division II, III, NAIA, and JUCO ball, so I've learned to appreciate what they do and how difficult their job really is. That's why I will not say an official cost the Southern Illinois Salukis the game against Northeastern. Apparently (did not see the game, just read the report), on a scramble for a loose ball, Mamadou Seck tried to call a timeout and unfortunately SIU had none. Northeastern made one of the two free throws to win the game, 63-62.
- Memphis freshman Joe Jackson clearly did not disappoint late Monday night (or early Tuesday morning). Though the Tigers did not exactly look sharp, Jackson dropped 17 points and 4 assists in 25 minutes. Don't count this Memphis team out: They have a great freshman class this year with a lot of raw talent.
- We saw some streaks of brilliance from the Florida Gators (in the first half, at least). The Gators shot 61% from the field and 43% from 3; unfortunately, that wasn't enough to answer Ohio State's diaper dandy Jared Sullinger.
- Speaking of Sullinger: This guy is definitely in contention for Freshman of the Year. Sullinger lit up the Gators for 26 points and added 10 boards. I also noticed, however, that Sullinger's dominance relies heavily on their guards. At one point in the second half, three of four Ohio State possessions ended with a guard drawing a defender in transition, then dishing to Sullinger for a dunk. If the Buckeye guards can stay sharp, I expect a monster year from Sullinger.
- Louisville controlled most of the game against the Butler Bulldogs. Many considered it an upset, but I wouldn't go that far. Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard can only do so much for Butler. Meanwhile, Rick Pitino has a knack for recruiting good talent and turning them into hard nosed basketball players. I was not surprised to see the Cardinals knock off Brad Stevens' squad.
- Last but not least, I wasn't exactly impressed with Michigan State's performance against South Carolina last night. The Spartans nearly squandered a double digit lead in the second half due to turnovers and missed free throws. Tom Izzo has a lot of raw talent in Delvon Roe and (especially) Adreian Payne, and has the experience (Kalin Lucas) necessary to win, but it seemed like there was little chemistry last night. Meanwhile, the South Carolina Gamecocks fought uphill the entire way, relying on the three ball to stay in the game.
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