While you were busy stuffing your face with turkey and watching football, things were happening in the college basketball world.
Here are the three things that you need to know from Thursday’s college hoops action:
1. MICHIGAN LOOKS LIKE THEY MAY BE THE REAL DEAL
Dayton is going to be the team that everyone is talking about following their run in Maui, but I think that you can make the argument that the most impressive and surprising performance from someone during Feast Week has been Michigan.
After making light work of Iowa State in the quarterfinals, the Wolverines used a 19-0 run to open up a lead on North Carolina and take down Cole Anthony and the No. 6 Tar Heels, 73-64. Making this performance all the more impressive is the fact that it came in a game where Zavier Simpson barely played. Michigan’s senior point guard logged just 17 minutes due to foul trouble, and you wouldn’t be wrong to think that taking Simpson off the floor is a bit like cutting the head off a snake.
Not only is he the leader and the coach on the floor for this group, but he is also the defensive menace that was supposed take Anthony out of what he wanted to do.
And we should have expected this. I referenced it a few times during the offseason, but I don’t think I banged the drum hard enough. Michigan is a veteran team with an elite point guard and terrific defenders at the point of attack and at the rim. They spent their college careers being drilled by John Beilein and Luke Yaklich and now have a coach on the sidelines that was on the bench for two NBA titles.
They were always going to be good this year, especially early in the season.
2. GONZAGA TOOK DOWN OREGON IN OVERTIME AFTER BLOWING A 17 POINT LEAD
Oregon is good team.
They erased a 19 point deficit in a win over Seton Hall in the quarterfinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis.
There’s nothing wrong with blowing a lead against that team, especially when it still resulted in a win.
So what I want to point out here is the play of Joel Ayayi. The question mark that everyone had for this Gonzaga team heading into the season was their backcourt play. Would Admon Gilder and Ryan Woolridge be good enough for Gonzaga to the level they want to get to? And, to be frank, I think the early returns there have not been great.
But Ayayi has.
Part of the reason that Mark Few went out and added a pair of grad transfer lead guards this offseason was because the Gonzaga staff did not know if Ayayi would be ready. A redshirt sophomore, Ayayi had the two best games of his college career in the Bahamas. After putting up 21 points, 12 boards and six assists against Southern Miss in the opener, he went for 13 points, five boards and three assists against Oregon. He’s 6-for-9 from three in these two games.
3. MAYBE TEXAS TECH ISN’T QUITE AS GOOD AS WE THOUGHT THEY WOULD BE
Texas Tech entered this season ranked as a top 15 team in college basketball largely due to the fact that we know Chris Beard has worked magic before.
He flips rosters like the Property Brothers flip houses.
This year’s roster is a little different than past years. There are only three scholarship players that are upperclassmen, and two of those three are grad transfers. As such, it would make some sense that a team with that much youth on the roster will take their lumps early on, and I think that’s what we saw Thursday night.
No. 12 Texas Tech got smoked by Iowa. The final score was 72-61 and the Red Raiders found a way to make it interesting in the final minutes, but they had to rally just to cut the lead to two with two minutes left. Iowa is not very good this year, but they are significantly better than anyone that Texas Tech had played yet this season.
I still think Beard can get there with this group. They have some talent and they have some pieces that should work well in the system that Beard wants to run. But this was the warning: It might take a bit longer to get where Texas Tech wants to be than we initially thought.