John Calipari, Ryan Harrow

Ryan Harrow, as good as any point guard in the country?


Kentucky beat Marshall on Saturday afternoon by 28 points, which is an impressive win if you look at it in a vacuum.

Marshall was supposed to be the team that would give Memphis their toughest test in Conference USA.

The problem with that?

The Thundering Herd were playing without their star, Deandre Kane. So from a macro perspective, there isn’t much that you can take out of Kentucky’s win over Marshall beyond the fact that the Wildcats played well and Marshall didn’t.

But for Kentucky fans, there was reason for hope: Ryan Harrow, the point guard pegged as the savior of the Wildcat season, played great. He finished with 23 points and four assists and, according to John Calipari, proved that he’s as good as any point guard in the country:

“When he’s playing the right way with aggressiveness, talking to his teammates, that look in his eye, he’s as good as anybody in the country right now. I’m looking around at point guards, he’s fine. That other guy – you ready – the cool guy, he’s not very good. The guy that runs in and gets bumped and falls on the floor, throws the ball, that guy is not very good. That other guy we saw? Spurts today, just play that way. Every minute you’re on the court, play that way.”

Well, I’m going to have to go ahead and disagree with that statement.

Ryan Harrow is not as good as any point guard in the country. This season, the point guard spot is as deep as it has been in years. Trey Burke. Phil Pressey. Michael Carter-Williams. Isaiah Canaan. CJ McCollum. Nate Wolters. I could keep going. For a while.

But the point that Calipari was trying to make was actually correct:

“He has a good feel for the game. He can run our team. I mean, there are point guards that are tougher than him, but if he would be tougher, then he’s just as good as them. … He’s made strides these last two weeks. Like I said, the difference in our team, he’s playing well and he’s able to put our players in a better position for themselves.” (Emphasis mine.)

The point is that when Harrow is playing well, he’s as important and effective as any point guard in the country. Kentucky as the talent. What they need is a) a player to set the table for that talent, getting them the ball where they are dangerous; and b) a guy that will be able to settle things down and get them into an offense set when things get hectic. Harrow can be that guy, and he just so happens to have enough talent to earn a spot on an all-SEC at some point down the road.

If you cut through the coachspeak and the spin, there actually is some value in what Calipari says.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

VIDEO: Kris Dunn wills Providence to win over No. 11 Arizona

Kris Dunn, Elliott Pitts
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Kris Dunn spent the first 35 minutes of Friday night’s game against No. 11 Arizona in foul trouble, splitting his time between sitting on the bench and trying to avoid finding himself, again, on the wrong side the whistle.

With 11 minutes left in the game, and with Dunn yet to find a rhythm, the all-american point guard was whistled for his fourth foul as he battled for a rebound with Arizona’s Mark Tollefsen. Head coach Ed Cooley say his superstar beside his for six game minutes, time enough for Arizona to turn a 49-47 deficit into a 58-54 lead.

There were just over five minutes left when Dunn reentered the second semifinal of the Wooden Legacy, and he proceeded to show everyone in the country why he was named the Preseason Player of the Year. Providence had nine possessions after he reentered the game. Dunn scored 11 points and had a pair of assists on those eight possessions, and if Ben Bentil had stuck a wide-open three — that was setup by Dunn — the Friars would have scored on all nine.

In total, Dunn was responsible for all 15 Friar points in a game-changing, 15-7 run in the final 4:30. It was capped off by this Kobe-in-his-prime-esque game-winner:

The win for Providence is huge for a couple of reasons:

  • Dunn showed a killer instinct against a marquee opponent, something that we didn’t necessarily see out of him a season ago. He wasn’t going to let his team lose, and given that Providence doesn’t have anyone else that can consistently create good shots, they are going to need that from him a lot this year.
  • It makes a statement for the Friars. Arizona is overrated at No. 11 in the country, yes, but going out on national television against an elite program and getting this kind of performance from Dunn is a confidence-booster and a tone-setter. Providence hasn’t been accustomed to winning in recent years. This is a way to set a trend.
  • Ben Bentil continues to play like a star. Dunn had 19 points and eight assists on Friday, but Bentil followed up a 24-point performance in the win over Evansville with 21 critical points on Friday.

This win sets up a matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence on Sunday night, which means that Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn — the two best players in the country, sorry Ben Simmons — will be going head-to-head.

Oh. Hell. Yes.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.