Ranking the Top 10 Performances for Week 1 of Men's College Basketball
Big Ten standouts Luka Garza and Ayo Dosunmu headline the group of players who excelled in the opening week of the 2020-21 men's college basketball season.
And there is great variety among these top performers.
Garza, Dosunmu and several others thrived in matchups their teams were expected to win. Gonzaga freshman Jalen Suggs and Saint Louis' Javonte Perkins each put together terrific games against a top opponent, and Western Kentucky's Charles Bassey led an upset bid.
While my colleague Kerry Miller highlighted the opening-week winners and losers, this piece is focused on individual performances. It's subjective—and gives license to include a pair of enjoyable same-game battles to start—but overall production and competition level are key factors.
10. Kendric Davis and Zach Nutall (SMU vs. Sam Houston State)
SMU found itself a bit short-handed in the opener with Tyson Jolly's then-unspecified absence, but Kendric Davis carried the Mustangs to a comfortable win.
Davis collected a career-best 33 points to go with five assists and four rebounds and propel SMU past Sam Houston State 97-67. He knocked down four threes and finished 11-of-15 from the field.
Yet he wasn't even the most prolific scorer on the floor.
Sam Houston State guard Zach Nutall poured in a career-high 36 points. According to Sports Reference, it was the second-most by any player through the weekend. And with six three-pointers, Nutall doubled his previous high of three.
9. Josh Christopher vs. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (Arizona State vs. Villanova)
Josh Christopher and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl shared the floor in Bubbleville (Uncasville, Connecticut) and put on a show.
While Villanova earned the victory, Arizona State's Christopher drew praise because it was his second college game. The 5-star signee tallied 28 points on 11-of-17 shooting, hitting three of five threes.
"I think he showed you a glimpse of what he's capable of," Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley said, per Pat Eaton-Robb of the Associated Press. "It was just a heck of a performance by a freshman, playing against one of the best teams in the country."
Robinson-Earl matched the effort with 28 points and added eight rebounds in Villanova's 83-74 triumph.
8. Jalen Johnson (Duke vs. Coppin State)
When you hear someone say a player "filled the box score," just think of Jalen Johnson's line opposite Coppin State.
As he helped Duke manage a mistake-filled 81-71 victory, the freshman did a little bit of everything. He scored 19 points on a perfect 8-of-8 shooting, also making both free throws while racking up 19 rebounds, five assists and four blocks.
Oh, and he committed seven turnovers.
Without question, the Blue Devils need to play a cleaner game offensively than that 22-turnover display. Still, it would be ridiculous not to be impressed with Johnson's impact.
"That's a heck of a first-time performance for anybody, but especially a freshman," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said, according to Glen Morgenstern of the Duke Chronicle.
7. Ayo Dosunmu (Illinois vs. NC A&T)
Really, you could highlight any of Ayo Dosunmu's first three appearances. We'll focus on his most efficient one, though.
Dosunmu had a sensational season debut against North Carolina A&T, totaling 28 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. He connected on 11 of 18 shots and committed only one turnover in the 122-60 rout.
Most notably, Dosunmu drained five threes in eight attempts. Considering he shot 32.9 percent from beyond the arc in his first two seasons, that's a highly encouraging sign for the Illini.
Through three games, the preseason All-American is averaging 25.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists.
6. Terry Taylor (Austin Peay vs. ETSU)
Not only did Terry Taylor score a game-high 25 points when Austin Peay edged East Tennessee State on Thursday, but the senior guard also provided five clutch points for the Governors.
As the clock ticked below one minute remaining in regulation, ETSU took a 64-62 lead on a Ledarrius Brewer dunk. Taylor responded with a layup—on which he was fouled—and made the ensuing free throw. Brewer hit a jumper on the other end, putting ETSU in front 67-66 with 17 seconds to play.
But, again, Taylor had an answer.
He grabbed his own miss, tossed in a putback and handed Austin Peay a thrilling 67-66 victory. He finished with 25 points, 16 rebounds and two steals.
5. Jason Preston (Ohio vs. Illinois)
Largely because of Jalen Preston's performance, Ohio nearly pulled off an upset on the road against Dosunmu and Illinois.
Preston scored a career-high 31 points, which included a go-ahead leaning jumper over Dosunmu with 7.4 seconds left in regulation.
Unfortunately for Ohio, Dosunmu answered with two free throws and propelled the Illini to a 77-75 victory. Nevertheless, Illinois coach Brad Underwood shared high praise for Preston, who also gathered eight assists and six rebounds.
"Preston is a very, very good guard, and I think we saw that today," Underwood said, per the Associated Press. "He's an NBA talent."
4. Charles Bassey (Western Kentucky vs. Memphis)
Charles Bassey only appeared in 10 games before a broken tibia ended his sophomore season last year. But the third-year center offered a clear reminder of his 5-star talent opposite Memphis.
While propelling Western Kentucky to a 75-69 win, Bassey tallied 21 points on 8-of-13 shooting with 14 rebounds and seven blocks. It marked only the 19th time since 2010 that a player recorded such numbers, according to Sports Reference.
Plus, he helped seal the victory with two free throws in the last 20 seconds, giving WKU a five-point edge at the time.
Bassey's presence is a key reason Western Kentucky entered the season as the Conference USA favorite.
3. Luka Garza (Iowa vs. Southern)
It is no surprise Luka Garza—the 2019-20 Big Ten Player of the Year—had a massive game against Southern.
We suggest you not take his excellence for granted, either.
After a casual 26-point day against North Carolina Central, he exploded for 41 points in a 103-76 Iowa win. More impressively, he was a perfect 12-of-12 with 36 points in the first half. The Hawkeyes held a 23-point lead at the break because of Garza.
Nobody scored more points in the opening week than Garza's 41. Overall, he buried all three long-range attempts amid a 14-of-15 day, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked three shots.
2. Javonte Perkins (Saint Louis vs. LSU)
Saint Louis started hot and took a 10-point halftime lead against LSU, and Javonte Perkins carried the Billikens home.
As the second half reached six minutes to play, Saint Louis held a 67-64 advantage. Perkins scored or assisted on 15 of the Billikens' last 18 points, including five free throws in the closing 20 seconds to secure an 85-81 victory.
It was a fitting conclusion to a stellar second half in which Perkins netted 26 of his 32 points—one shy of the sophomore's career high. He chipped in five assists as well.
Led by Perkins and returning first-team A-10 guard Jordan Goodwin, the Billikens are expected to compete for the conference title and reach the NCAA tournament.
1. Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga vs. Kansas)
Jalen Suggs is awesome.
That's the short version of a rapid reaction for Suggs, the first 5-star signee in Gonzaga history. He made his college debut against sixth-ranked Kansas and looked incredibly comfortable.
In just 24 minutes, he collected 24 points, eight assists, four rebounds and two steals. Suggs hit a couple of threes, committed only one turnover and sparked the Bulldogs in the last 10 minutes. He scored or assisted on 17 of the Zags' last 28 points as they turned a 74-71 lead into a 102-90 win.
Suggs is every bit the Freshman of the Year candidate as advertised.
Recruit ratings via 247Sports.