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.