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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Indiana’s James Blackmon

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: James Blackmon Jr., Indiana

Indiana’s opening-night win over Kansas was impressive for a couple of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that the Hoosiers landed a win over a team that seems like it is a lock to eventually earn, at worst, a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. What was more important, however, was that the Hoosiers proved that they have guys that can create offense on their own. That was the concern after Yogi Ferrell graduated: When this Indiana team has a late-clock situation or a possession where they have to get a bucket, who do they give the ball to?

The answer now appears to be Blackmon, who finished with 26 points while making a series of tough threes in the second half. While the Hoosiers had other players make big shots – Curtis Jones in particular – it was Blackmon who had the plays called for him, and he delivered. That’s a great sign for the Hoosiers, and it’s the biggest reason that I think Indiana is a better team than we gave them credit for entering the year.

THEY WERE GOOD, TOO

  • Joel Berry II, UNC: Berry looked the part of an elite floor general in wins over Tulane and Chattanooga, averaged 20.5 points, 5.0 boards and 4.5 assists. The Tar Heels beat a good Mocs by 40.
  • Frank Mason III, Kansas: Mason’s Jayhawks could hang on to beat Indiana, but he had 30 points nonetheless and seemingly fouled out their entire team.
  • Jock Landale, Saint Mary’s: Landale had 33 points and nine boards for the Gaels in a blowout win over Nevada and Cam Oliver, a big man who has a shot to end up in the NBA.
  • Caleb Swanigan, Purdue: Granted, it came against McNeese State, but Swangian’s line – 23 points, 20 boards, six assists – has only been done by Blake Griffin and Ben Simmons in the last decade.
  • Angel Delgado, Seton Hall: Delgado is averaging 18.0 points and 15.0 boards through the season’s first two games.
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)
Kadeem Allen (Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Arizona Wildcats

It’s hard not to go with the Wildcats here, who went out to Hawai’i for the Armed Forces Classic having lost Ray Smith to yet another torn ACL and playing, as of now, without Allonzo Trier, and beat Michigan State. And not only did they beat Michigan State, but they did it after digging themselves a 15-point whole early in the first half.

Kobi Simmons caught fire. Lauri Markkanen looked like a functional stretch four. Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Kadeem Allen both made critical plays down the stretch. There was not much more that you could ask of a team in that situation.

THEY WERE GOOD, TOO

  • Indiana: The Hoosiers picked up an overtime win over Kansas in the Armed Forces Classic. That’s the kind of win that is going to look great come Selection Sunday.
  • UNC: The Tar Heels didn’t just win two games in impressive fashion, they did it by beating Tulane in New Orleans and smacking Chattanooga – who had just won by 13 at Tennessee – by 40 points in Chapel Hill.
  • Wagner: The Seahawks went into Storrs and beat UConn, 67-58. The Huskies look like they’re in trouble this year, but a win in Gampel Pavilion in any year is a good win.
  • Yale: The Elis picked up a 98-90 win over Washington in Seattle on Sunday night. More impressive than that, they did it without their two best players in Makai Mason and Jordan Bruner.

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WHAT DID WE LEARN?

  1. Kentucky’s shooting issues are real: The Wildcats were 9-for-34 (26.5%) from three in two wins this weekend, and three of the threes that they made came from Mychal Mulder, who is not going to see a lot of action this season. Outside of the jump-shooting, the trio of Isaiah Briscoe, De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk were pretty impressive. But if they cannot find a way to consistently make defenses pay for packing it in the paint, the Wildcats are going to have the same fatal flaw as the 2010 Kentucky team.
  2. Dennis Smith Jr.’s slow-start: The N.C. State point guard and potential top five pick has yet to look the part. He averaged 11.5 points and 4.0 assists while shooting 6-for-22 from the floor and 0-for-7 from three. N.C. State nearly lost to Georgia Southern on Friday night as well. Smith is coming off of a torn ACL that he suffered last August, but this didn’t appear to be a rust issue. This looked more like a freshman adjusting to the rigors of Division I basketball.
  3. Frank Jackson might be pretty good: With Duke’s big three out with injury, Jackson, the forgotten freshman, was terrific in two blowout wins for the Blue Devils. Coming off of the bench, Jackson averaged 19.5 points and shot 50 percent from three. There were questions in the fall whether he would be able to handle the point guard spot in college, and while those questions are still relevant – he had six assists and five turnovers this weekend – it looks like Jackson is going to be an impact player this season.
  4. So are the Syracuse point guards good?: That was the big question with the Orange entering the season. Can Franklin Howard and John Gillon handle being full-time point guards? Against Colgate, it looked like they can. The duo combined for 15 assists and just three turnovers. Granted, that didn’t come against a great team, but it is a good sign for the Orange.
  5. UCLA and Lonzo Ball look like the real deal: It’s too early to make any definitive statements on the Bruins at this point, but it’s not too early to say that they were pretty impressive in the season’s first weekend. The Bruins knocked off Pacific and CSUN while Lonzo Ball is making those Jason Kidd comparisons seem apt.

SET YOUR DVR

  • Mon. 7:00 p.m. No. 4 Villanova at No. 15 Purdue
  • Mon. 7:00 p.m. San Diego State at No. 14 Gonzaga
  • Tue. 7:00 p.m. No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 12 Michigan State
  • Tue. 9:30 p.m. No. 1 Duke vs. No. 3 Kansas
  • Thu. 9:00 p.m. Valparaiso at No. 5 Oregon
  • Sat. 2:00 p.m. No. 17 Saint Mary’s at Dayton

Saturday’s Three Things To Know: No. 8 Villanova loses again, Michigan coasts

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Saturday was a quiet day on the college hoops front, but there were still some notable results that we are going to need to talk about.

Here are the three things to know:

1. NO. 8 VILLANOVA LOST THEIR SECOND STRAIGHT GAME

For the second time in as many games, Villanova lost a game in the new Finneran Pavilion. On Saturday afternoon, the No. 8 Wildcats were taking on a Furman team that had already won at Loyola-Chicago this season. After blowing a 10-point first half lead, Villanova trailed by s many as seven points late in the second half before rallying and forcing overtime. Furman would scored 11 of the first 14 points in the extra frame, and the Wildcats would go on to lose their second straight game, 76-68.

There is a lot to discuss here, but perhaps the most relevant point is that Jay Wright has opted to shorten his bench. He did not play Jahvon Quinerly on Saturday night. Cole Swider played seven minutes. Saddiq Bey only played 10 minutes. Phil Booth, Eric Paschall and Colin Gillespie all played more than 40 minutes. This is going to be a decision that will draw some scrutiny, but it is worth pointing out that Villanova used a deep bench in their blowout home loss to Michigan on Tuesday night.

2. NO. 18 MICHIGAN CONTINUES TO ROLL

There really is not all that much to say here. The Wolverines, fresh off of a dominating win over No. 8 Villanova on the road, smacked around a bad George Washington team in the opener of the Air Force Reserve Tip-Off tournament. I am not quite sure just how good Michigan is going to be this season, but it is pretty clear that right now, they deserve a spot someone in or around the top ten.

3. NO. 24 MARQUETTE HOLDS OFF PRESBYTERIAN

It was almost a disastrous night for the Golden Eagles, as they trailed Presbyterian by one heading into the break. Marquette was able to pull away from the Blue Hose down the stretch, but it was not the easiest nor the prettiest win for a Marquette team that was beating by Indiana in Bloomington during the week. Markus Howard finished with as many turnovers as field goals attempted — seven — while Joseph Chartouny and Sam Hauser combined for 35 points.

No. 18 Michigan, Providence win in Tip-Off tournament semis

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UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) — Michigan coach John Beilein was concerned his Wolverines might suffer a letdown against George Washington after a blowout victory over No. 8 Villanova on the road.

There was still a tinge of worry during the first half of Saturday’s semifinal of the Air Force Reserve Tip-Off tournament when GW (0-4) cut an 18-point Wolverine lead to six.

But No. 18 Michigan (4-0), which led by nine points at halftime, went on a 13-2 run to open the second half and finished with an easy 84-61 victory over the Colonials.

“A lot of the message after the Villanova game was handling success,” Beilein said. “Some kids struggle with that. It’s very natural. Michigan is not going to fall into that trap.”

Charles Matthews led the Wolverines with 25 points and Jordan Poole made five of his eight 3-point shots to add a career-high 22. Zavier Simpson finished two assists shy of a triple-double with 14 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.

Poole had made just one 3-pointer on 10 attempts coming into the game and was shooting just over 23 percent from the field. He hit his first three shots and finished 7 of 12 from the floor. The sophomore guard insisted that nothing had changed with his shot, but Simpson said he noticed a difference.

“Me and Jordan were having a little contest before the game,” Simpson said. “We were basically bragging with each other how our shot was feeling good today. So I’m not sure what he was talking about feeling normal. Then he knocked the first one down. That was kind of like, ‘I told you so.'”

Michigan, which gave up just 46 points in its 27-point victory at Villanova on Wednesday, held the Colonials to 39 percent shooting and outscored GW 17-2 on the fast break.

D.J. Williams had 16 points to lead George Washington, which lost its second straight game to a ranked opponent after falling by 19 points at No. 4 Virginia last Sunday.

“We’re a work in progress,” GW coach Maurice Joseph said. “The last two games, playing quality opponents, is something we can look back to in conference play and I think we’ll be more battled tested. It’s never fun taking these losses. But I believe our guys will grow from these opportunities.”

The Wolverines play Providence in Sunday’s championship game.

PROVIDENCE-SOUTH CAROLINA

David Duke scored 20 points to rally Providence to a 76-65 win over South Carolina.

Alpha Diallo added 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists for the Friars (3-1), who trailed by eight points at halftime and nine early in the second half.

A.J. Reeves scored eight of his 10 points during a 10-0 Friars’ run that put Providence on top 44-43.

The teams went back and forth before Jimmy Nichols followed a missed shot with the first of the three straight Providence dunks. That gave the Friars a 54-49 lead, led coach Ed Cooley to toss aside his suit jacket and brought the pro-Providence crowd to its feet.

The game was played 60 miles from the Friars’ campus across the state line.

“We get a lot of fan support when we come down here, so it’s definitely worth it to come,” Cooley said. “My jacket comes off and sometimes I don’t even feel it. I don’t. It’s just a matter of getting into the game and getting excited.”

Consecutive 3-pointers from Duke and Isaiah Jackson made it 65-54 and put the game out of reach.

“I struggled a little bit before shooting the ball, but I came in today with a stay-positive attitude,” Duke said. “I know what I’m capable of and Coach put his trust in me. Once I got one, I started feeling it.”

Hassani Gravett scored 14 points to lead four players in double figures for South Carolina (2-2).

The Gamecocks committed 38 fouls and made just six of 25 shots from 3-point range.

Martin said he’ll be looking for one thing on Sunday when the Gamecocks face George Washington in the consolation game.

“Growth,” he said. “At the end of the day, that’s why you play these events. You line up and play Providence in Providence, even though we’re just across the state line. You’ve got to challenge your team to force them to grow. We’re privileged we get to play in the SEC, just like Providence in the Big East. Those are elite basketball conferences. It’s our job as coaches, out duties, to prepare our teams to play in conference play.”

UConn coach Dan Hurley tossed for first time since HS days

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NEW YORK — Just 24 hours removed from an upset win over No. 15 Syracuse in Madison Square Garden, UConn head coach Danny Hurley was ejected from Friday night’s loss to Iowa in the finals of the 2K Classic.

It was the first time that he was ejected as a college coach.

UConn fans in the Garden gave Hurley a standing ovation and chanted his name as he walked off the court.

Hurley appeared to be caught off guard on the second technical. He was talking to Jalen Adams, who was unhappy with the officiating as well, and Hurley told his player, “I’ll handle it in the press conference.”

Bo Boroski, a Big Ten referee, overheard the statement and hit Hurley with his second technical foul.

“I don’t want to put myself inside the mind of that crew, but it was what it was,” Hurley said. “Bo obviously overheard a conversation I was having with a player on my team and thought that was the appropriate decision. I have a hard job. Players have a hard job. Referees all have a hard job. We all have to be accountable for our performances.”

Hurley went on to lament the job that he did coaching his team on Friday, that he wasn’t as prepared as Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery was. There are going to be frustrations for the young Huskies, and he knows that.

“This isn’t some Disney movie,” Hurley said. “It’s not the Mighty Ducks or whatever. It’s going to take some time.”

What Hurley wasn’t mad about, however, was a last-second dunk by an Iowa player after UConn had stopped trying to play defense. Iowa apologized for it to the remaining UConn staff on the floor. They apologized again in the press conference. Hurley, when asked about it, was clueless.

“I didn’t see it,” Hurley said, a smile breaking. “I was long gone by then, man.”

Friday’s Three Things To Know: Iowa wins, Cuse struggles

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Friday featured a full day of college hoops action, as tip-off in Charleston happened before noon ET while the final games didn’t end until well after midnight. 

The most important results, however, happened in New York City:

1. IOWA WINS THE 2K CLASSIC

The Hawkeyes look like they are going to be legit this season. A day after they put together an impressive win over No. 13 Oregon, Fran McCaffery’s club easily handled a UConn team that themselves had impressed with a win over a ranked team on Thursday night.

Part of this clearly had to do with matchup. Iowa is big. UConn is not. Luka Garza absolutely torched the Huskies in the first half, scoring 18 of his 22 points before halftime, while Tyler Cook took over down the stretch; he finished with 26 points and eight boards. UConn always plays three, and often four, guards, and the size was very clearly a problem for the smaller Huskies.

But that size is going to be an issue for a lot of teams. Garza is not overly skilled but he plays harder than just about anyone in the sport. Cook is skilled — far more skilled that I realized — and he matches Garza’s intensity. Throw in a good crop of guards, headlined by McCaffery’s, and this looks like an Iowa team that will make some noise in a very, very good Big Ten.

2. SYRACUSE HAS SOME SERIOUS PROBLEMS OFFENSIVELY

All the talk from the most high-profile matchup from the 2K Classic on Friday night will be about Bol Bol, Oregon’s dominant 7-foot-2 center who looked as good as I have ever seen him against the Orange.

The real story, however, is that Syracuse is a total mess offensively. The Orange are currently 204th nationally is points-per-possession, according to KenPom, and 342nd in the country in three-point shooting. They’re making just 20.5 percent of their threes, a problem when more than a third of their field goal attempts are from beyond the arc.

“After looking at [the stat sheet],” Boeheim said, of Oshae Brissett, his star forward that has looked anything-but a star this year, “if I could go back in time I’d say ‘Don’t take any 3s tonight.’ But I can’t do that. He’s been shooting it good in practice. He is a good shooter. He shot 32 percent last year, but he’s noticeably better in drills and practice this year than he was last year.”

“He’s just not there,” Boeheim said. “He’s not playing at the level we need him to be playing. We need him and Tyus [Battle] to play at a very high level and they’re not.”

The question is whether or not these struggles are the result of Syracuse being bad offensively — remember, they were 135th in KenPom’s adjusted offensive efficiency metric last season — or if the answer is that there isn’t a point guard on the floor. Battle is not a point guard. Elijah Hughes isn’t, either. Jalen Carey can score but, again, he’s not a point guard.

Franklin Howard is, and he could be back as soon as the next game.

We’ll see if that makes a difference.

3. WEST VIRGINIA, GEORGETOWN TAKE UPSETS

The Mountaineers just don’t appear to be all that good this season, and while that is a stark contrast to what the program has been in recent years, it shouldn’t be all that unexpected. Remember, this group lost Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles, the two senior guards that set the tone for the entirety of the Press Virginia era to date.

So hearing that WVU lost to Western Kentucky after losing to Buffalo — both of who could end up being NCAA tournament teams — shouldn’t be that surprising.

Georgetown’s loss, however, is more worrisome.

The Hoyas, fresh off of a win at Illinois that got quite a few people excited about the program, loss their opener in head coach Patrick Ewing’s return to his native Jamaica. They lost by 13. To Loyola Marymount.

Not good for the Hoyas, and certainly not good for the Big East, which has struggled mightily through the first two weeks of the season.

Bol Bol scores 26 as No. 13 Oregon cruises past struggling No. 13 Syracuse

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NEW YORK — Oregon fans in Madison Square Garden for the last two nights were witness to the full Bol Bol experience.

A night after he finished with 14 points, nine boards and five blocks in an uneven performance that was not as impressive as the highlight videos floating around twitter made it seem, Oregon’s top five prospect and a potential top five pick in the 2019 NBA Draft was as active and engaged as he could be for 40 minutes, finishing with 26 points, nine boards and four blocks as No. 13 Oregon beat No. 15 Syracuse, 80-65, to get out of the 2K Classic with a win.

“At times we played hard but we didn’t really compete,” Oregon head coach Dana Altman said of his team’s performance in a loss to Iowa on Thursday night. “There’s a difference.”

“We were really disappointed in them,” he added, “and our coaching staff expressed that. The way they turned that around, a young team, I was really pleased with them. Freshmen you gotta be patient with. I was more disappointed with the older guys than the younger guys. The freshmen, it was their first time on the road, and it looked like it. We’ll keep pushing them and moving them along and see how well they respond.

“I didn’t know what to expect today, and I’m really pleased with how they responded.”

Bol was the star of the show.

A 7-foot-2 center, Bol has a skill set that is unique in the world of basketball, regardless of level. He has all the size and length you can ask for, but he’s mobile on the perimeter and skilled enough to be able to handle the ball. He has range out to the three-point line, but as he showed on Friday night, he can be an impact presence in the high-post as well. He made three or four little floaters from about eight feet, and while he was only credited with one assists, he made some nice passes to Kenny Wooten on the baseline.

And then, of course, there is the impact that he can have defensively. He is a world-class rim protector, but his mobility and athleticism allows him to have an impact on the perimeter as well. He can run people off the three-point line by taking two steps out of the paint.

“We have to take advantage of his uniqueness,” Altman said, adding that the key centers around Bol’s ability to handle the physicality of the college level as well as battling through the fatigue that comes with playing 30-plus minutes at this level.

It helped that Syracuse, as big as they are, just doesn’t have the strength inside to create problems for Bol. That’s the way to get him off his game — get up under him, push him around — and, as Jim Boeheim put it with his trademark, sarcastic grin, “it doesn’t appear that we can do that right now.”

Boeheim was not happy after this loss.

He knows his team is struggling offensively, and he knows that it puts a level of stress and pressure on his defense that they are not ready to handle.

Specifically, he called out Oshae Brissett and Tyus Battle. Brissett was 2-for-12 from the floor and 1-for-9 from three on Friday. Battle finished just 4-for-10 from the floor and missed all four of his threes. As a team, Syracuse was 5-for-28 from beyond the arc after entering the night shooting just 21.8 percent from three.

“I’d say he’s missing shots,” Boeheim said of Brissett’s struggles. “Hes been shooting them good in practice. He’s a good shooter. He’s just not there. He’s not playing at the level we need him to play.

“We need him and Tyus to play at a high level, and they’re not.”