Recapping Tuesday Night in College Basketball

Photo via @VisionsByJeff

A lot happened last night for a Tuesday night in December. We had the Jimmy V Classic, which always features great basketball and a greater cause. We had two Top 10 teams fall, and two more teams in the Top 15 suffer losses. Let’s quickly recap what you may have missed last night.

Villanova Pounded Gonzaga

Villanova punished Gonzaga on a night where Jalen Brunson struggled and Donte DiVincenzo was in foul trouble. Granted, Jonathan Williams only played 18 minutes for the Zags, but this game was all Wildcats. Mikael Bridges was sensational, going off for a career high 28 points. Bridges was 5-9 from three point land and came up with big buckets every time Villanova needed one. The win showed both how short Jay Wright’s bench is, but also Nova’s ability to stay in games without a true point guard for stretches.

Tyus Battle Leads Cuse in Rivalry Game

The second game of the Jimmy V Classic featured an old Big East rivalry, as UConn and Syracuse met once again. In front of a terrific MSG crowd, it was the New Jersey product, Tyus Battle, who led ‘Cuse to a win. Battle had 22 and fellow Hoop Group alum Matt Moyer had a career high 18. The unexpected outburst from Moyer was huge, as Frank Howard struggled again for Syracuse. On the other end, the Huskies continue to struggle to pick up a resume building win. Jalen Adams led the way with 22 of his own, but it was not enough.

Arizona Picked up a MUCH Needed Victory

Sean Miller’s seat has been on fire since the Battle 4 Atlantis. Not literally, his job is safe, but Arizona’s struggles have been put under a big microscope this year. The Cats quieted some of that talk last night with a win over #7 Texas A&M. Positively speaking, Arizona had four players score 13 points, and none of them were Allonzo Trier. DeAndre Ayton recorded another double-double, and a bonehead play that almost gave A&M a chance to tie it in the final seconds. With Rawle Alkins cleared for full contact, this could be the win that turns Arizona around.

Notre Dame Upset

In what was by far the upset of the night, the #9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish fell to Ball State in South Bend. Tayler Persons led Ball State with 24 points, none bigger than the 3 he hit with 1.7 seconds remaining. The Cardinals led by as much as 9 in the second half, surrendered that lead, and held on thanks to Persons’s heroics. The Irish will look to rebound this weekend against Delaware before an in-state battle with Indiana.

West Virginia is Streaking

It was defense vs defense as West Virginia picked up a big non-conference win against the #15 ranked Virginia Cavaliers. After giving up 88 points in a blowout loss on the first night of the season, Bob Huggins’s team has held teams to just 63 points per game and 37% shooting. None of these teams have as potent of an offense as Texas A&M , but it’s clear defense is still the key in West Virginia. In addition, Jevon Carter has been extraordinary. Last night was no different, as he recorded 23 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists.

Shaka Smart Returns to VCU Victorious

In what was an emotional game in front of a raucous crowd, Shaka Smart returned to Richmond and was victorious against his former team. The Longhorns look like they have a serious three headed attack with Andrew Jones, Dylan Osetkowski and Mo Bamba. This looked like Bamba’s most complete game, recording a double-double (13 points and 13 rebounds) and tallying 4 blocks. His defense has been a constant all season, averaging over 3 blocks a game, but his offense appears to be coming around now as well. Oh, and then he also did this…

Big Ten Takes Another Hit

The Big Ten’s struggle as a conference has been mentioned on multiple occasions so far. The early take on the conference has been that it has three definite tournament teams in Michigan State, Minnesota and Purdue, and question marks everywhere else. Well one of those teams suffered a bad loss last night, as Minnesota lost on the road to Nebraska. Jordan Murphy was held in check for the Gophers, finishing with 10 points on just 4-12 shooting. Meanwhile, Glynn Watson Jr. went off for the Cornhuskers, recording a game high 29 in the win. The Big Ten looks clearly to be Michigan State, and then everyone else.

Lavar Ball at it Again: Pulls LiAngelo From UCLA

Lavar will be Lavar. News broke today that LiAngelo Ball will not return to the UCLA men’s basketball team. Reports indicated that Lavar Ball pulled his son from school due to his suspension on the team. The suspension of course, stems from the shoplifting incident that took place in China just a few weeks ago.

This decision is only surprising in the sense that it took this long to happen. There was no way Lavar was going to let his son sit on the bench all year long, no matter what he did. This is the same guy who is home-schooling his youngest son because he does not agree with the coaching. He’s the guy who can be seen publicly criticizing the Los Angeles Lakers players and coaches on any given night. What gave you any indication that he was going to let Steve Alford get away scot-free? This is the Ball family, negative publicity cannot happen ever.

Big news for LiAngelo, but what about his brother?

I think this story actually makes things more interesting for LaMelo Ball. He’s being home-schooled, and cameras follow him at every tournament he plays in. I can’t help but think that LiAngelo’s departure is some long con so LaMelo can decommit from UCLA. A lot can change in for a high school athlete in four years. The way recruiting is now, being committed to a school for four years prior to enrolling is unheard of. LiAngleo was not a one-and-done player. He was going to be at UCLA when LaMelo was finally able to enroll. It would be an awkward situation for LaMelo to decommit if LiAngelo were apart of the UCLA program.

This is strictly speculation, but with Lavar Ball you truly cannot rule anything out. With LiAngelo withdrawing from school, it is assumed LaMelo will decommit eventually as well. If this happens, it will bring an interesting twist to his recruitment. There is no word currently on where LiAngelo will end up. LaMelo could follow him, or Lavar could put him on his own path. Only time will tell, but for now, we’ll keep talking about Lavar, LiAngelo and zero minutes he played at UCLA.

ACC/Big Ten Challenge: Good News or ACC or Bad News For Big Ten

The ACC/Big Ten “Challenge” has been around for 10 years now. A non-conference event that matches up a Big Ten team against an ACC team so see which conference can take home the bragging rights. It’s a bit of a mismatch, as the ACC is typically the deepest conference in college basketball year in and year out. This year however was different. The ACC blew the doors off the Big Ten. This makes us wonder, is the ACC really that good? Or is the Big Ten worse than expected?

The ACC won the challenge 11-3, with the only wins coming from Nebraska, Purdue and Michigan State. Otherwise, it was not close. There were moral victories, sure. Indiana went toe-to-toe with Duke for 35 minutes. It showed us a much different team than the one that gone manhandled by Indiana State at the beginning of the year. However, there were not many other positives to take away from this challenge for the Big Ten.

Minnesota, a favorite in the conference, lost at home, albeit to a good Miami team. Michigan got pounded by a Tar Heel team that was embarrassed by Michigan State a few days prior. Shows the gap between those two rival schools. NCAA Tournament hopeful Northwestern lost to Georgia Tech at the buzzer. Wisconsin managed just 37 points against Virginia’s defense. And the list goes on.

Is the ACC Good? Is the Big Ten Bad?

Such a lopsided result poses the question: Is the ACC that good, or is the Big Ten that bad? We knew the Big Ten was top heavy. Michigan State is a title contender, and Purdue and Minnesota are expected tournament teams. Outside that though, there are major question marks that were not answered. Michigan did not look capable of competing with top teams, Northwestern suffered its third non-conference loss, and Illinois lost to a struggling Wake Forest team. There’s not much to take away.

Don’t get me wrong, the ACC is tough. Duke, UNC, Notre Dame, Miami are VERY good. They will all sit around the top 15 much of the year, as will Lousiville. We learned Syracuse is more real than we thought, thanks to the emergence of Frank Howard. Virginia is Virginia, and their defense will have them dancing again. But outside them, who else is legit? Clemson, Florida State, Virginia Tech are not locks by any means. Wake Forest has had major struggles and Georgia Tech is still a question mark with their suspensions.

It’s not expected for the Big Ten to win this challenge. I’m not sure any conference can beat the ACC in this challenge. But the Big Ten’s inability to keep it close at all, shows there are major weaknesses in the conference. It’s possible we only see three, maybe four teams make the big dance come Selection Sunday. 

What Happened This Weekend in College Basketball

It was a wild weekend in the college basketball world. Championships were won and lost all week. Some teams showed us they can be better than expected, others the opposite. Here’s your College Basketball weekend recap.

Villanova Wins Battle 4 Atlantis

In a tournament where Purdue and Arizona played in the last place game, it was Villanova who cruised to a championship in the Bahamas. The Wildcats look like a well-oiled machine with a top six that is as good as any in the nation. Donte DiVincenzo looks like the sixth man of the year and Jalen Brunson has looked like Big East Player of the Year. It should not come as a surprise, but Villanova will live within the Top 5 in the Polls for most of the year.

Arizona State Appears a Year Ahead of Schedule

Bobby Hurley is building something at Arizona State. Anyone who has kept an eye on the program would be able to tell you that. After edging Kansas State on Thanksgiving, the Sun Devils dominated number 15 Xavier on Saturday night to move to 6-0. Hurley’s top two returnees, Tra Holder and Shannon Evans, have been great so far. Holder erupted for 40 against Xavier, and has another 30+ points game on the young season. Freshman Romello White has already showed why he was highly touted, and contributing for ASU. With a couple key rotation players still missing, Arizona State could compete in the Pac-12 sooner than later.

Alabama Played 3 on 5

In the category of “Something You Don’t See Everyday,” Alabama played the last 10 minutes of their game against Minnesota with three players. The Tide lost their entire bench in the second half for leaving the bench area in the midst of an on court scuffle. They then saw one player foul out, and another leave with injury, leaving Avery Johnson with three eligible players for over 10 minutes. All that said, they still lost to a ranked team by just five points. While there are no morale victories, that’s impressive. The story here is Colin Sexton. The freshman found shined in the loss, going off for 40 points on 55% shooting. He showed why he is one of the most exciting players in the country.

Trae Young Outscored Oregon

That’s not a typo. Trae Young has been as good as advertised thus far in Norman. Young has upped his scoring in all five games this season, and capped the weekend off with a 43 put outburst against Oregon, who only managed 42 points as a team. This outburst comes just two days after he dropped 33 on Portland. Young has been nothing short of sensational thus far, averaging 28.2 points and 8.6 assists for Lon Kruger. I’ve mentioned before that Young could be the best freshman in the Big 12 since Kevin Durant, and he’s supporting that statement five games in.

Michigan State, Duke Win PK80

In a tournament that lived up to the hype, we saw Michigan State and Duke walk out of the PK80 with championships. For Michigan State, they dominated early and often against North Carolina. They completely shut down the Tar Heels’ offense and got 23 points from Josh Langford. It showed how scary the Spartans can be, winning handily against a top 10 team without huge performances from Jaren Jackson or Miles Bridges. The story was the defense however, as Tom Izzo’s squad held UNC to 25% shooting, the lowest total in program history.

Duke’s path to victory was very different. The Blue Devils were punched in the mouth early by a sizzling hot Florida club. They trailed by as many as 17 before mounting their championship comeback. Like the rest of the PK80, this championship game was just another national stage for Marvin Bagley to shine on. The freshman phenom poured in 30 and recorded 15 rebounds on his way to a MVP performance. Teams are not entirely put together during most of these early season tournaments (i.e. Arizona) but that’s scary for college basketball because it shows how high Duke’s ceiling can be.

Marvin Bagley Looks Like a Top Pick

Coming off the tough news concerning Michael Porter Jr, Marvin Bagley showed us why he is worthy of the number one pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Bagley’s talent is much more than his scoring. Sure he put in 34 against Texas and had another dominant game against Florida, but what makes Bagley so special is he’s always moving. He is always around the rim, getting numerous tip ins and second chance points and he’s a man on the boards. He’s definitely got NBA scouts salivating.

The SEC is Far From Just Kentucky

Florida made it to the Finals of the PK80 Motion Bracket. Texas A&M beat number 10 USC in California. Missouri made it to the Finals of the Advocare Invitational and almost took down number 23 West Virginia. Even Tennessee and Georgia beat ranked teams in Purdue and St. Mary’s this weekend. Add in a full strength Alabama team that went toe to toe with Minnesota, and the SEC could be the second best conference in college basketball this year. Of course time will tell, but don’t be surprised if Kentucky is not at the top of the SEC standings by end of year.

Thanksgiving Week Shows Us Why College Basketball is King

It’s rivalry week this weekend in college football, but the rest of this week belonged to college basketball. Thanksgiving week is filled with dozens of early season tournaments that give basketball junkies games to watch throughout the day. You have the Maui Invitational, the Battle 4 Atlantis, the NIT Tip-Off, the new PK80, and many more invitational tournaments going on this week. And with so many tournaments, comes many story headlines. This week showed why college basketball is the best, and not just in March.

Aloha, Maui

Let’s start in Maui. Yes, the championship game between Notre Dame and Wichita State was fantastic. Bonzie Colson looked just like the ACC Player of the Year and Notre Dame erased a 16 point deficit to top the Shockers in Maui. But how about Chaminade blowing out Cal by 24 points? The Division II program, who is 8-92 all time in their host tournament, is used to being on the receiving end of a blowout. Wednesday night though, it was them doing the dominating. Just watch the highlights. No November game will mean as much than Chaminade’s win over Cal this year. It was just awesome to see the sheer joy on their faces.

Upsets in Atlantis

How about the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament? Arizona vs Purdue. Number 2 vs number 18. Sounds like a championship game right? How about last place. Both teams were upset in the first round of the B4A. Purdue by Tennessee, Arizona by NC State. It’s an early taste of Match; An underdog playing with house money facing a Goliath of a team. Now, Purdue by no means is a Goliath and Arizona is missing a key piece in Rawle Alkins, but neither team should be 0-2 in this tournament. Instead you saw coaches like Rick Barnes, Kevin Keatts, Tim Jankovich and Rick Stansbury coach their teams to wins over NCAA tournament teams. 

Happy Thanksgiving to the Hurleys

Still not enough? How about some dramatics. How about Danny and Bobby Hurley holding on to one possession wins on Thanksgiving, in different fashions. Danny and Rhode Island had an absolute battle with #22 Seton Hall. Both teams showed why they were tournament teams next year and expect to finish near the top, if not at the top, of their respective conferences this season. Meanwhile, on the West Coast, Bobby Hurley is bringing Arizona State back. The Sun Devils took control in the second half against Kansas State and managed to hold on for a two point victory. Hurley has some players on his roster, that is becoming apparent. Both will play for championships tonight.

And let’s not forget the PK80. Dubbed the biggest early season tournament ever, the first round let the premier teams flex their muscles, setting us up for fantastic semifinal and final games. With six of the Top 20 teams in the country left, we will not be disappointed with how these brackets end.

Close games, upsets, MVP performances, great coaching, Mike Brey in a t-shirt. We’ve seen it all this week.And we’re only at Friday. With another full slate today and tomorrow, you can bet the headlines won’t end yet. This is why college basketball is the best.We’re just getting started and we’re already being spoiled. As Jon Rothstein would say, This is ONLY November.