Arizona-Arizona State was hyped for much of the week, due in large part to the backcourt matchup of Lyons and point guard Jahii Carson for Arizona State. It had all the important contrasts: veteran vs. freshman, favorite vs. underdog, transfer vs. patient redshirt.
Lyons has drawn criticism so far this season, with detractors citing Lyons’ move to point guard from shooting guard as a reason to be wary of Arizona, come March.
Carson, on the other hand, is the young, quick, scoring-oriented point guard in the modern mold. He’s able to score for himself off the dribble, but can also create for others.
Lyons ultimately won the battle Saturday, though both had their own struggles with foul trouble. Carson finished with 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting.
Arizona continues on its quest for a Pac-12 championship, while coach Herb Sendek on the Sun Devils have done an impressive job of turning around a 10-21 season last year to already have 14 wins in 2012-13.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.