Duke freshman Zion Williamson is going to be one of the bigger stories in college basketball this season after the hype surrounding his high school career.
An extraordinary leaper and big-time athlete, Williamson set a new record at Duke for vertical leap during the team’s summer combine testing this week.
Williamson cleared the rack during testing. Plenty of guys have been able to clear the rack during vertical testing. But not many are built like NFL defensive lineman.
The rack had to be elevated for Williamson to properly finish out his vertical testing. He’s also listed at 6-foot-7, 285 pounds on the Duke website.
Williamson cleared the rack so easily that teammate R.J. Barrett — one of the best players in the country — was laughing while marveling at his leaping ability. It’s going to be fun to watch Williamson play above the rim for the Blue Devils this season.
Duke has moved to No. 1 in The Associated Press men’s college basketball poll following Kentucky’s surprising loss to Evansville.
The Blue Devils received 52 first-place votes from a 65-member media panel in the poll released Monday. No. 2 Louisville received eight first-place votes and No. 3 Michigan State, the preseason No. 1, had four.
Kansas and North Carolina rounded out the top five, with No. 7 Virginia receiving the final first-place vote.
Kentucky moved up to No. 1 last week after knocking off top-ranked Michigan State to open the season. The Wildcats fell flat a day later, losing 67-64 to unranked Evansville in Lexington and dropped to No. 9 in this week’s poll.
1. Duke (52 first-place votes)
2. Louisville (8)
3. Michigan State (4)
5. North Carolina
10. Ohio State
12. Texas Tech
13. Seton Hall
15. Utah State
Monday’s Overreactions: Myles Powell, Florida’s fix and Virginia’s shooting woes
Coming off of an ankle injury – the severity of which can probably be debated – Powell went for 37 points in a three-point loss at home against Michigan State. It might have been a loss, but it was still one of the most impressive and entertaining performances that we are going to see this college basketball season.
Powell then followed that up on Sunday with a 26-point performance in a win at Saint Louis, a 3-0 Atlantic 10 team that knocked off the Pirates when they played in Newark last season. All told, Powell after spraining his ankle exactly nine days ago, Powell went out and averaged 31.5 points as the Pirates picked up a solid road win and played well enough to beat one of the three best teams in college basketball.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: Tennessee Volunteers
The Vols picked up the best win of the weekend, as they flew up to Toronto and landed themselves a victory over a Washington team that had impressed everyone when they knocked off Baylor last week. Tennessee made a bunch of threes and Lamonte Turner played well despite struggling to shoot the ball, but the key was the Tennessee frontcourt. Going up against Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels, Tennessee’s overmatched frontline won the day. John Fulkerson had 14 points, six boards, two assists, two steals and two blocks while Yves Pons finished with 15 points and a block of the year candidate on Naz Carter.
I was in on Tennessee in the preseason. I am very in on Tennessee today.
1. FLORIDA IS REALLY BAD, BUT THEY’RE ALSO FIXABLE
I’m ready for the influx of bad Florida takes today because that’s what happens when a preseason top ten team plays terribly for the first two weeks of the season. I’m going to do my best to avoid being frustrated by people saying that Florida was overhyped because Kerry Blackshear was the last guy to commit, or that Scottie Lewis is overrated as a top ten prospect, or that Mike White is just a bad basketball coach.
Well, the latter may actually have some merit if this thing doesn’t get turned around, but we’re not there yet.
Because the simple truth is that Florida is struggling because they cannot shoot. The Gators are shooting 24.1 percent from three this season. The only guy on the roster shooting better than 28.6 percent from beyond the arc is Keyontae Johnson, and he’s the starting four-man. Andrew Nembhard, a former five-star recruit and Florida’s sophomore starting point guard, is shooting 28.6 percent from the field. Noah Locke is 5-for-22 (22.7%) from three and shooting 9-for-36 (25%) overall. He is playing with the confidence level of eighth grader at a school dance.
This shooting cripples Florida for three reasons:
The Gators are built to play small-ball. Small-ball is entirely ineffective when you are incapable of scoring from the perimeter.
Florida’s inability to score means they can’t set their defense, get into a press or force turnovers. That means they are forced to play every possession in the halfcourt, which is a nightmare for a team designed to play small-ball that can’t make a shot.
The entire reason we believed Florida was going to take a leap forward this season was that they replaced their high-usage, low-efficiency shot-jackers with freshman Tre Mann and sophomores Locke and Nembhard. As it turns out, those three have been high-usage, low-efficiency shot-jackers through four games.
The issue to date has not been Blackshear. He’s averaging 14.5 points and 11 boards as the sole interior presence on a team where defenses have not had to leave the paint yet.
He’s not the problem.
He’s been fine.
The issue is, quite literally, everything else.
2. TENNESSEE IS THE ONLY TEAM IN THE SEC OUTPERFORMING EXPECTATION
The SEC has been the most disappointing conference in major college basketball this season. Florida, obviously, has been a disaster to date. Kentucky owns the second-best win on the season (Michigan State in NYC) when the best win on the season was themselves (Evansville’s upset in Rupp).
Auburn has been fine, but the win over Davidson does not look nearly as good today as it did when it happened. Arkansas has looked good while beating no one. LSU lost at VCU and struggled in wins over Bowling Green and Nicholls State. Alabama has been bad. Vandy and Texas A&M have been about as bad as we expected.
Other than the Vols – and maybe Missouri – no one in the league has been better than we thought they were before the season started.
3. VIRGINIA GAMES ARE GOING TO BE PARTICULARLY UGLY THIS YEAR
There is a certain faction of college basketball fans that believes that Virginia plays the ugliest brand of basketball in the history of the sport, and for the most part, those people just don’t appreciate a good, well-executed offensive possession or the beauty of a shot clock violation.
Usually, I’d push back against these takes. Because usually, Virginia’s offense is ruthlessly efficient, just really so. That’s not really the case this year. Through three games, UVA is shooting just 20 percent from three. There are only five teams in the entire country that are hitting triples at a lower rate, and given that there are no Ty Jeromes, or Kyle Guys, or De’Andre Hunters on this year’s roster, I don’t know how much that’s actually going to improve.
Should I mention that Virginia didn’t allow their 100th point until there was 5:16 left in the second half of their third game of the season?
4. VERMONT IS THE BEST MID-MAJOR TEAM IN THE COUNTRY
The Catamounts went into Carnesseca Arena and knocked off St. John’s on Saturday after. Anthony Lamb hit the game-winner with 1.9 seconds left. It’s the third true road win of the season for John Becker’s club, who also owns victories over St. Bonaventure and Bucknell.
UVM will get two more cracks at high-major opponents in the next two weeks. They’re at Virginia on Tuesday and at Cincinnati on Dec. 3rd. If they can land one of those wins, and if they roll through the America East undefeated, I think there is a real chance that this group can get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.
The Monday Overreaction podcast: Florida stinks, Tennessee doesn’t, George Papas is a legend
We are back for another rendition of the Monday Overreactions podcast. Rob Dauster was joined by Bobby Reagan to walk through everything that happened in college basketball in the last 72 hours, including an impressive win for UConn over Florida, a dominant performance for Tennessee over Washington and Vermont’s upset win at St. John’s. They also talk through the atrocious flopping rule and how it cost Xavier as well as Monmouth’s George Papas, who set the college basketball world on fire with the most ridiculous garbage dunk of all-time.
College Basketball Top 25 Power Rankings: Duke back to No. 1 as the top reshuffles
This week’s Top 25 is tough to put together because so many of the top teams in the country keep on losing.
The No. 1 team in the country lost at home to Evansville. That’s really all you need to know at this point. But since they had beaten the previous No. 1 team in the country in Michigan State, it makes trying to decipher the top of the sport just that much more difficult.
To be frank, I think this is going to end up being one of those seasons where there is never truly a “No. 1 team.” It’s the kind of season where there 15 teams that feel like they are good enough to be a “top ten team,” so to speak, but none of those 15 feel like they are good enough to be a “top three team.”
Put another way, there are a whole bunch of teams that feel like they are somewhere between pretty good and very good and no one that feels like they are remotely close to unbeatable.
We’ll see if that ends up being the way that everything plays out.
But for now, I think that it’s fair to say that you can have the top 10-12 teams in any order this week and it would be tough to argue against it.
So with that in mind, here is the Week 2 version of the NBC Sports Top 25:
STORRS, Conn. — Christian Vital scored 15 points and made a key steal at the end of the game as UConn upset No. 15 Florida 62-59 on Sunday.
Tyler Polley also scored 15 points and Josh Carlton added 13 for the Huskies (2-1) who led by five points at halftime and never trailed after intermission.
A layup by Florida’s Keyontae Johnson with just over a minute to go cut the lead to 60-59, but those would be the last points the Gators scored.
Vital hit two free throws with 17 seconds left and Florida had a chance to tie. But Alterique Gilbert tipped the ball out of Johnson’s hands and Vital grabbed it and dribbled away, securing the win.
Kerry Blackshear Jr. had 15 points and eight rebounds for Florida (2-2), falling two boards shy of a fourth straight double-double. But he fouled out with 4:37 left in the game and his team trailing 53-49.
Andrew Nembhard scored Florida’s next four points, including a 3-pointer that brought the Gators within a point at 54-53.
Blackshear scored the game’s first two baskets, but the Gators made just four of their first 13 attempts from the floor.
But UConn had a tougher start, going without a basket for the first six minutes.
Vital got the UConn crowd into the game with a 3-pointer, a dunk and a jumper on consecutive trips down the court that gave the Huskies an 11-6 lead.
The Huskies held Florida to two Blackshear free throws over the final 4:17 of the first half and led 25-20 at halftime.
The loss ends a rough seven days for the Gators. Florida was No. 6 coming into the season but lost to Florida State a week ago and beat Towson by just six points on Thursday. The Gators offense came into the game averaging just 63.7 points per game, while giving up 60.7.
UConn: Highly touted freshman guard James Bouknight has finished serving his three-game suspension following his arrest on charges including evading police in a September car accident. Bouknight, who is due in court on Monday, is expected to suit up for the Huskies in this week’s Charleston Classic, where it’s possible the Huskies could again face either Saint Joseph’s or Florida, depending on how the early rounds pan out.
Florida: The Gators face Saint Joseph’s in the Charleston Classic on Thursday.
UConn: The Huskies also travel to Charleston and face Buffalo in the first round of the tournament on Thursday.