Rob Dauster

VILLANOVA, PA - NOVEMBER 11: Josh Hart #3 of Villanova attempts a shot as Nick Lindner #11 and Kyle Stout #24 of Lafayette defend during the second half of a game at The Pavilion on November 11, 2016 in Villanova, Pennsylvania. Villanova defeated Lafayette 88-48. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
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No. 4 Villanova opens title defense with romp over Lafayette

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VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) Jalen Brunson scored 17 points, Kris Jenkins had 16 and No. 4 Villanova opened defense of its national championship with an 88-48 victory over Lafayette on Friday night.

Jenkins opened his season the same way he ended the last one – with a 3-pointer. Jenkins hit a buzzer-beating 3 in the title game to lift the Wildcats to a 77-74 win over North Carolina. With a national championship banner hanging in the rafters, Jenkins scored Villanova’s first basket of the season on a 3-pointer.

Jenkins scored 13 points in the first half and the Wildcats stormed to a 49-17 lead.

Coach Jay Wright had said he wanted the Wildcats to put the White House visit, a parade, numerous awards shows and banquets, and other honors behind them as they opened the season. Villanova looked every bit like a team that could become the first repeat national champ since Florida in 2006 and 2007.

Josh Hart, a preseason All-America, scored 13 points for the Wildcats.

Nick Lindner led the Leopards with 10 points.

BIG PICTURE

Lafayette: The Leopards continue to play Villanova, even with just one win in 10 career matchups. The Leopards missed 12 of 13 3-point attempts in the first half and scored only two points on their first 20 possessions. The Leopards, out of the Patriot League, won’t play another team in the regular season close to a program such as Villanova. Lafayette does return to Philadelphia on Dec. 22 to play at Saint Joseph’s.

Villanova: The Wildcats could use an easy one before they play at No. 15 Purdue on Monday. The Wildcats won their 40th straight game at the Pavilion and sold out the gym for the 170th straight time. Villanova is a whopping 98-13 there since the start of the 2013-14 season.

UP NEXT

Lafayette plays Monday night at Saint Peter’s.

Villanova tries for a 3-0 career mark against the Boilermakers on Monday. Villanova won games in 1995 and 2012.

No. 18 UConn stunned by Wagner in opener

ORLANDO, FL - MARCH 13: Jalen Adams #2 of the Connecticut Huskies shoots during the Final of the 2016 AAC Basketball Tournament against the Memphis Tigers at Amway Center on March 13, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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It didn’t take long for us to get our first major upset of the college basketball season, as Wagner went into Storrs and knocked off No. 18 UConn, 67-58.

Mike Aaman led the way for the Seahawks with 15 points and nine boards while Romone Saunders chipped in with 15 points of his own, but the story here is the Huskies.

UConn entered the year as a preseason top 20 team, and while much of that was because of their name-brand program, the Huskies have a former five-star prospect on their roster in Jalen Adams. As a sophomore playing in a system that had seen players like Kemba Walker and Shabazz Napier shine, much was expected of the Huskies this year.

It was not a promising start.

Adams finished with nine points on 4-for-15 shooting from the floor. As a team, UConn shot 35.7 percent from the floor and just 6-for-19 from three. That’s a bad sign, but not quite as bad as getting outrebounded by Wagner.

UConn entered the year with question marks about their perimeter shooting and how good their front line would be, and those question marks look that much bigger after their first game.

VIDEO: No. 10 Arizona, Kadeem Allen beat No. 12 Michigan State at the buzzer

HONOLULU, HI - NOVEMBER 11: Kadeem Allen #5 of the Arizona Wildcats dribbles the ball up court during the first half of the Armed Forces Classic at the Stan Sheriff Center on November 11, 2016 in Honolulu, Hawaii. (Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)
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College basketball is back, baby.

No. 10 Arizona knocked off No. 12 Michigan State in a thriller to kick off the Armed Forces Classic in Honolulu on Friday night. Kadeem Allen was the hero, as he went coast-to-coast for a layup with 1.9 seconds left to give the Wildcats a 65-63 win:

Allen’s game-winner came after Michigan State point guard Tum Tum Nairn hit a game-tying three that bounced off the back of the rim and somehow found its way through the net with 7.0 seconds left.

Michigan State opened up the game on a 17-2 run and looked like they were going to steamroll the under-manned Wildcats, but some hot-shooting from Kobi Simmons, who had 12 of his 18 points in the first half, earned Arizona the lead back. Lauri Markkanen added 13 points and six boards for Arizona and show off the skill-set of a player that is earning NBA Draft lottery hype.

The best player on the floor was Miles Bridges, who had 21 points and a quartet of rim-rattling dunks. He was exactly the player that we all expected to see this season: terrifying athletic, skilled with the ball in his hands but his questionable shooting and decision-making makes it quite evident that he is still a freshman.

If we’re being frank, the major takeaway from this game is that neither of these teams are anything close to a finished product. For the Wildcats, that should come as no surprise. They played this game without Allonzo Trier, who is still dealing with an eligibility issue that the program has yet to comment on. His ability to create offense out of nothing is exactly what this Arizona team needs. As talented as Simmons and Markkanen looked – and as good of a scorer as we know Rawle Alkins can be – those three are all freshmen and all, for the most part, guys known more for their potential than their ability.

That’s a good sign for Arizona, by the way. Those three are going to get better as the season moves along.

The red flags for Michigan State are different. We had concerns about their front court and their point guard play entering the year and nothing that happened on Friday assuaged any of those concerns. Nick Ward had some moments, but he finished with just nine points and four boards on Friday. Kenny Goins had eight boards, but he also tweaked his left knee.

Meanwhile, Tum Tum finished with five points (including the prayer in the final seconds), four assists and four turnovers while Cassius Winston went scoreless with three assists and two turnovers. As a team, the Spartans had just 15 assists to 17 turnovers. Aesthetically, it wasn’t much better, as the Spartans looked lost on the offensive end of the floor for basically the entire game after that early run.

We knew what we were getting with these two teams. They’re both young, missing key pieces and playing their first game of the season. But I’m not quite sure I was prepared for just how far these teams have to go.

POSTERIZED: Josh Hart shows why he’s an all-american

VILLANOVA, PA - NOVEMBER 11: Josh Hart #3 of Villanova dunks against Myles Cherry #54 of Lafayette during the first half of a game at The Pavilion on November 11, 2016 in Villanova, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
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No. 4 Villanova is currently steamrolling Lafayette thanks in large part to Josh Hart, an all-american who looks the part tonight.

POSTERIZED: Miles Bridges powers Michigan State to early lead on Arizona

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It didn’t take long for Michigan State’s Miles Bridges to show off his other-worldly athleticism.

Forward Derek Willis focusing on defense for No. 2 Kentucky

Kentucky's Derek Willis (35) hits an uncontested three point shot during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Tennessee Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016, in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won 80-70. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Breaking out as an offensive contributor has spurred Kentucky forward Derek Willis to want to have the same impact on the defensive end.

Lost in the shuffle for two years behind a parade of future NBA draft picks, the 6-foot-9 Willis earned his way into Kentucky’s rotation as a junior and finally showed the talent that coach John Calipari had insisted was always there.

Willis is a projected starter as the second-ranked Wildcats open Friday night against Stephen F. Austin with another roster of young talent. The confidence in his shooting during the preseason – along with a willingness to fight for rebounds – figures to make him a part of Calipari’s developing rotations.

“I feel like I really know my role, and there are things I still need to work on,” said Willis, who averaged career bests of 7.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 18.6 minutes with 11 starts last season. “Once I figure this out, I’ll help this team out even more than I have.”

Willis seems self-assured enough to turn heads in practice with intense play and even offer a suggestion to Calipari.

Calipari recalled a moment when Willis reminded him of something he wasn’t doing in the zone offense, a point the coach acknowledged before changing the play and thanking him.

“Last year, he would never have done that,” Calipari said. “That just shows you he’s maturing, that he’s able to trust enough that he can give a suggestion and know it’s not going to be thrown (back) at me.”

Having established himself as a perimeter threat – he ranked third on the team with 53 3-pointers on 44 percent shooting – the Mt. Washington, Kentucky, native appears comfortable inside. He’s going harder at the rim on both ends and contesting shots more along with diving for loose balls.

“He’s coming in and just fighting for everything,” 6-10 redshirt freshman forward Tai Wynyard said.

Willis’ growing confidence has been most evident in the way he has challenged defenders and shooters and given them a hard look after a physical play.

“That’s how I’ve needed to play,” Willis said, referring to a summer of studying video of his play. “I can stretch the court, but rebounding and just playing defense and making sure my guy doesn’t score more than me is important.”

Willis’ focus on defense is important as Calipari teaches the finer points of that aspect to on frontcourt newcomers Bam Adebayo and Sacha Killeya-Jones – both 6-10- and 6-9 Wenyen Gabriel. After lacking a physical post game last season , Calipari has made that a point this season and is depending on veterans such as Willis to set the tone.

Wynyard praised the senior’s mental preparation, which might be even more critical with a season-opening stretch of three games in five days, including Tuesday’s matchup against No. 12 Michigan State in New York City. As Kentucky’s freshmen learn to play together and prepare for the first of many marquee non-conference games, they will look to Willis, fellow senior Dominique Hawkins and sophomore guard Isaiah Briscoe for guidance.

All have embraced the responsibility with Willis in particular pulling teammates together for huddles. He sees that as a natural role for a veteran, especially since he has personal examples to draw from.

“Even last year, I could see that role developing for me,” Willis said. “So now, wherever I’m needed, I’m talking.”

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org