There was one headline matchup on Friday night, and that ended up being a dud, the bluest blueblood in action looked pretty bad and we may have seen the single-best individual performance of the season. Here are Friday’s Things To Know:
1. C.J. MASSINBURG PUT ON THE PERFORMANCE OF THE SEASON
I’m sure that, at some point over the course of the next five months, we are going to see someone put on a show that was more impressive than what Massinburg did on Friday night in Morgantown, but it is not going to be something that is easy to do. The Buffalo star put up a career-high 43 points, adding 14 boards and three assists while shooting 9-for-15 from three as the Bulls beat No. 13 West Virginia, 99-94 in OT. He had nine points in an 11-3 run in the final three minutes of regulation, including a three with 14 seconds left that forced overtime. He scored nine of Buffalo’s 15 points in overtime.
It was incredible.
And this wasn’t against some run-of-the-mill low-major program that Buffalo was in position to steamroll. This came on the road against a top 15 team in the country in a game where Buffalo trailed by double-digits for most of the second half. This came against Press Virginia, and it gave the Bulls the kind of win that will put their resume in the mix for an at-large bid come Selection Sunday. It puts them in a position where it’s feasible that they might end up with single-digit seed.
Remember, this is the same program that smoked Arizona in the first round of last year’s NCAA tournament. Let’s see what happens when they play at Syracuse and at Marquette next month. That should be a lot of fun.
2. No. 11 AUBURN LOOKS LIKE A POWERHOUSE
The Tigers were really impressive in a season-opening win over South Alabama, but that was South Alabama.
On Friday night, the Tigers looked just as impressive, but instead of beating some overmatched in-state mid-major, Bruce Pearl’s club put a hurting on No. 25 Washington, the team many think will win the Pac-12 this season. Chuma Okeke once again led the way for Auburn with 19 points, 10 boards and two blocks while knocking down three more threes. On the season, he’s 6-for-8 from three with five blocks and seven assists in two games.
So he can protect the rim and space the floor while also attack a closeout and find shooters. Anfernee McLemore, who starts alongside Okeke in Auburn’s frontline, led the nation in block percentage a season ago while shooting 39.1 percent from three. So he can protect the rim and space the floor as well. Auburn presses. They play in transition. They have a point guard in Jared Harper who has been dominant and a combo-guard alongside him in Samir Doughty who is living up to the hype. Should I mention their best perimeter scorer, Bryce Brown, at some point, or that they are still waiting to get Danjel Purifoy eligible and Austin Wiley back to 100%?
Auburn, to me, looks like the best team in the SEC this season and possibly a top five team in the country. That also has a lot to do with the fact that …
3. … KENTUCKY JUST IS NOT VERY GOOD RIGHT NOW
The Wildcats knocked off a solid enough Southern Illinois team team on Friday night, winning by 12 points in a game they trailed in the second half. The final score was 71-59, but perhaps the most surprising part about all of this was that Kentucky’s best frontline might actually be Nick Richards and E.J. Montgomery. P.J. Washington was bad tonight. Reid Travis was a complete non-factor after putting up 22 points against Duke.
Richards finished with 19 boards (nine offensive) while Montgomery added 10 points and seven boards while not turning the ball over; Washington had five in 20 minutes. The other issue is that Kentucky’s guard rotation is quirky right now. Head coach John Calipari is going to realize pretty quickly that he team cannot function offensively right now unless both Quade Green and Immanuel Quickley are on the floor.
My opinion on Kentucky hasn’t changed much since this podcast was recorded, but it is worrisome that this appears to be an issue with their team, not just a function of playing Duke on Tuesday.