Around the Nation: The College Basketball Madness Has Begun
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College basketball has tipped off once again, and with the NBA lockout going on, basketball fans couldn't be happier to see players in uniforms and not business suits.
With a share of upsets, close games, two games involving teams ranked in the Top 11 and a certain coach reestablishing his spot on the top, there is already plenty to talk about from the first week of basketball.
Let's jump right into it!
Upsets Aren't Just for March
Casper Ware carried the 49ers to the upset of Pitt
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It didn't take long for a Top 10 team to get knocked off.
In fact, two Top 10 teams suffered their first lost, and both were in embarrassing fashion.
The upsets began when the previously 20th-ranked UCLA Bruins lost to the Loyola Marymount Lions last Friday, 69-58. At least UCLA has something in common with Loyola, as they went on to lose to the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders by a score of 86-66.
UCLA has great size in the post, but it's obvious they will struggle on the perimeter. MTSU and LMU hit a combined 20 of 26 (76.9 percent) three-pointers against the Bruins, including the Blue Raiders nailing a staggering 90.9 percent of their 11 attempts. The Bruins on the other hand? Shooting 17.1 percent from beyond the arc. Great guard play can go a long way in college basketball, but so can bad guard play, and Tyler Lamb and Lazeric Jones just aren't getting it done for UCLA.
No. 20 Vanderbilt lost to a mid-major for the second time in their last three games, losing 71-58 to the Cleveland State Vikings at home. The Commodores came into the game ranked seventh in the nation and were simply outplayed by the likes of D'Aundray Brown and company, leaving many to question whether they overrated Vanderbilt and their trio of guards in Jeffrey Taylor, John Jenkins and Brad Tinsley going into the season.
The road doesn't get any easier for Vandy, as they have to face North Carolina State, No. 14 Xavier and No. 7 Louisville all within their next four games. It's time to step-up as the SEC looks to have three strong teams at the top (Kentucky, Florida and Alabama), and Vanderbilt can't afford too many early season losses with a tough conference schedule forthcoming.
The biggest upset of the week arguably belong to Long Beach State. The 49ers went into Pittsburgh to take on the No. 9 ranked Panthers and walked out with a victory. Pitt's biggest lead occurred with when they were up 12-9 with 15:02 remaining in the first half, and after a tight first 15 minutes when the score was 29-29, Long Beach State outscored Pitt 16-7 to take a 45-36 halftime lead and never looked back.
The game was primarily a tale of Pitt showing they go as Ashton Gibbs goes, who struggled in this game, shooting only 38.1 percent, down from the 46.9 percent he was shooting in the first two games, and Casper Ware's assertiveness to carry his team to a victory. Casper Ware played a ridiculous 39 of 40 minutes, scoring a game-high 28 points.
Ironically enough, Ware's performance was airily similar to Shelvin Mack's performance for Butler against Pitt in the tournament last year, when he played 38 minutes and dropped 30 points.
Luckily for Pitt, their remaining non-conference schedule is rather generous so they have time to get things on track before beginning Big East play on December 27th.
The worst part of all of this, though, is Long Beast State and Cleveland State have been robbed of a Top 25 ranking despite knocking off Top 10 teams on the road. Where is the justice?
What Can Brown Do for You?
For Rick Barnes and the Longhorns, J'Covan Brown can lift them to victories.
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I think Rhode Island head coach Jim Baron put it best when he said, "(J'Covan) Brown is just terrific."
Short and sweet, a lot like Texas point guard J'Covan Brown.
It would be hard to argue there was a better player in the nation in the first week than Brown who was simply electric in the Longhorns' 100-90 win over Rhode Island, dropping a career-high 35 points to go along with six assists and six rebounds. He is currently second in the nation in scoring with 31.5 points per game.
Brown may be a bit undersized, but his athletic ability, specifically his quickness, is through the roof. Rhode Island tried to use a full-court press, but Brown is too good of a ball-handler and too quick to be contained by that. J'Covan has the ability to create his own shot as well.
One can draw a lot of similarities from Brown's game and Kemba Walker's, and we'll see how this dynamic junior continues to play this season, with a tough game against 3-0 Oregon State on Saturday.
The Longhorns really need Brown to play at a high level all season, because they are young and inexperienced, struggled with fouls in this one and just couldn't put away an average Rhode Island team despite Brown's dynamic play.
Can I Buy a P_ _ nt G _ _ rd?
Considered by many as the top recruit in the nation, Marquis Teague has struggled for the Wildcats.
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John Calipari might need some time with this one.
Through the first two games of the season, freshman point guard Marquis Teague hasn't exactly lived up to the hype, and it's certainly looking like he may not even be the best freshman on the No. 2 ranked Kentucky Wildcats.
Through the first two games, Teague's play has been inefficient, turning the ball over nine times compared to only seven assists. Kentucky managed to escape the Kansas Jayhawks, another team that seems to lack a point guard, due in large part to the play of two other freshmen, big man Anthony Davis and the physically imposing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
One also has to question whether Duke has a true lead man, with Seth Curry currently leading the way in assists and Austin Rivers going through some freshman pains as well. Curry has been solid so far, but only averaged two assists per game last year and only 2.3 his freshman season at Liberty. Duke also has a lot of talent, though, and may not need a Nolan Smith-type to contend for the title.
A few teams that I question whether or not they have a true point guard right now are Michigan State (poor perimeter play overall), No. 23 California (great team offense, but no real facilitator) and No. 16 Alabama (great defense and great length, but really struggle from the perimeter).
While those teams have struggled to identify a point guard, there are some guys I noticed who will probably go under the radar throughout the year. Aaron Craft at Ohio State isn't flashy, but is a very efficient, high hustle player. In the third-ranked Buckeyes victory over the now seventh-ranked Florida Gators, Craft was able to drop 13 points and dish out seven assists, while only committing three turnovers. Craft also displayed his proficiency on defense, adding three steals and one block to the stat sheet. It's this type of efficient play from Craft that make the Buckeyes a complete team and one to keep an eye on.
Hopefully I don't pick up too many homer remarks for the next guy I am going to talk about (check my bio), but Ceola Clark III was brilliant in his first game back for Western Illinois. I watched this game in its entirety on ESPN3, and the Leathernecks looked good yet again in the first half (were down only 41-38 at Dayton and led most of the way) only to slip-up in the second half. Ceola sat out the exhibition game against Illinois College and the Dayton game, but played 38 minutes in this one, scoring 21 points. Two years ago, Ceola led the Leathernecks in scoring and was fifth in the nation with 2.7 steals per game, which helped him garner the Summit League Defensive Player of the Year honors. Playing a balanced Michigan game in the Crisler Arena, Clark showed off his all-around ability and will be a guy to keep an eye on this season.
For the Iona Gaels, there are multiple guards worth talking about. Iona took Purdue down to the wire and if it wasn't for a few ticky-tacky fouls that went against Iona at the end of this one, one of which led to Scott Machado fouling out, this could of had a different result. Iona presents a great trio of guards in Machado, who had 14 points and 11 assists, Lamont "Momo" Jones which I'm sure many remember from playing alongside Derrick Williams in Arizona's run to the Elite Eight last year, and Jermel Jenkins. Iona also has two solid forwards in Michael Glover and Taaj Ridley and run a very fast-paced offense designed to wear teams out with their quickness.
They matched up very well with a Purdue team that is underwhelming athletically, and their full-court press, fast-paced offense and high effort nearly produced a victory. I would suggest keeping an eye on the Gaels because they have the type of guard play, headed by a guard who has had tournament success, to win the MAAC and potentially make a splash in the tournament.
And hopefully no college coaches take the suggestion to "buy" players too seriously...
No. 1 for a Reason
Roy Williams has the #1 Tar Heels in a great position.
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North Carolina had some struggles to start the game against Michigan State in the Carrier Classic, but the Tar Heels talent was certainly on display.
The thing that jumps out about UNC is how balanced this squad is. Tyler Zeller and John Henson combine to give the Tar Heels great size inside, Kendall Marshall is smart point guard (granted, had his struggles against Sparty), Dexter Strickland is a solid role player and Harrison Barnes is, well, Harrison Barnes.
Let's not also forget that the Tar Heels' top three bench players through the first two games, P.J. Hariston, Reggie Bullock and James Michael McAdoo are both former 5-star recruits.
Harrison Barnes has all the talent in the world, but North Carolina doesn't need him to dominate each game because of the balance that they have.
One could attempt to nitpick their first two victories, but it's clear that the North Carolina Tar Heels are the most talented and balanced team in the nation.
Coach K may go down as the greatest ever.
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903 Wins—First all-time
11 Final Fours—Tied for second all time
Four National Championships—Tied for second all time
13-time ACC Tournament champion and 12 Time ACC regular season champion
2008 Olympic Gold Medal
Three-Time Naismith Coach of the Year
A lot has already been talked about with Mike Krzyzewski and his 903 wins, now most all time. What the man simply known as "Coach K" has done is simply incredible. He battled through great scrutiny early in his career at Duke and has achieved success that only the likes of John Wooden, Bob Knight, Dean Smith and Adolph Rupp can measure up to.
Krzyzewski has been around for three decades now and has always gotten the job done the right way, with class, dignity and respect to others.
Krzyzewski is an innovator in the game of basketball, as he is as important to the evolution of the half-court man-to-man defense as Jim Boeheim is to the 2-3 Zone.
Congratulations to Mike Krzyzewski for the insurmountable success he has achieved in his amazing career.
And the best part about it? Coach K is still going strong.