1. We cannot judge Missouri yet: Not until they have Michael Dixon and/or Jabari Brown in the fold. Brown will get eligible in December. A former top 30 recruit coming out of high school, he’s a big-time athlete at 6-foot-5 and may actually be the best perimeter shooter that Frank Haith has on his roster. Which is saying something, because Dixon is a pretty good perimeter shooter in his own right. It’s unclear when (or if) Dixon will be back with the team, as the mystery surrounding his suspension has taken a bit of a turn. But the bottom line is that, right now, Missouri’s offensive is sputtering because the three guys that have started a game at the two and the three are shooting a combined 33.3% from three and 38.3% from the field.
Laurence Bowers and Alex Oriakhi have been great up front. Flip Pressey is as good as advertised. But until the Tigers have that perimeter shooting, they’ll only be OK.
2. St. Mary’s might be in trouble: I love Matthew Dellavedova. From the ugly-as-sin-but-always-goes-in jumper to the mouthguard to the greasy moptop, there’s so much about his game that would make you think he’s garbage. He’d be the last guy picked at the park, but he’s nasty, with a little Mark Jackson in his game; he’s a terrific passer, especially in the pick-and-roll, and has been used in the post by Randy Bennett this season. The problem? The Gaels don’t have guys that can finished those passes. Their bigs are weak around the rim and can’t score with their back-to-the-basket. Their shooters aren’t really shooters at all. Stephen Holt is about as confident spotting up from three as I would be trying to ask Blake Lively out for coffee. Dellavedova can’t do it all himself; he’s not going to play like this every night. He’ll get his team scoring chances, but until those chances start turning into points, the Gaels are going to be just OK.
3. Jahii Carson is a stud: Anyone else that watched him go for 30 points and seven assists against Creighton on Saturday will agree with me. He’s averaging 21.0 points and 5.0 assists five games into the season, and he’s doing so as Herb Sendek has allowed the Sun Devils to put the pedal to the medal in transition. ASU still has a long way to go to be considered a tournament contender, but with Carson, the redshirt freshman, running the show, this group will be entertaining to watch.
Imagine if Arizona would have taken Carson instead of Josiah Turner? Think Sean Miller is regretting that decision now?
4. Northwestern is 6-0: The Wildcats, who are still without an NCAA tournament berth in their history, were 4-0 before heading down to Cancun for the Cancun Challenge, and while they didn’t exactly beat two top ten teams down there, wins over TCU and Illinois State aren’t too shabby. The Redbirds are going to finish near the top of a strong MVC, while TCU followed up their loss to Northwestern with a win over UAB. There’s a long way to go this year, but 6-0 is 6-0.
5. What’s up with Butler and VCU?: We’re two weeks into the season, and the Atlantic 10’s two hyped additions are a combined 6-5. Butler bounced back from a loss at Xavier by beat Marquette and North Carolina out in Maui, but followed that up with a blowout loss to Illinois in the title game. VCU looked really good in their win over Memphis, but Memphis has been bad early in the season, and the Rams have lost battles with Wichita State, Duke and Missouri.
Frankly, I’d be more concerned with Butler. Losing Crishawn Hopkins’ playmaking ability really hurts them. Rotnei Clarke is simply not a point guard, but Roosevelt Jones hasn’t progressed to the point where Brad Stevens can feel comfortable having him bring the ball up the floor. And while I understand the need to allow Clarke to fire away at will, at some point, he needs to improve his shot selection. He doesn’t need to take fadeaway 25-footers with a hand in his face with 25 seconds left on the shot clock; he can get that shot anytime he wants.
VCU will be fine, as I think this is a group that’s still figuring out how to replace Brad Burgess on the offensive end of the floor. Juvonte Reddic’s play has been impressive, as was their three-point shooting against Memphis, but I think Ram fans need to cap their expectations for this group as a borderline top 25 team for now.
My up-to-the-second Atlantic 10 power rankings: St. Joe’s, VCU, Butler, St. Louis, Temple, La Salle, UMass, Xavier.