NEWARK, N.J. – Thursday was a relatively quiet night in the college basketball world.
But it wasn’t a silent night.
Here are the three things that you need to know:
1. SETON HALL PICKED UP AN ENORMOUS WIN
When it comes to the tangible stuff, Seton Hall’s win over No. 7 Maryland is massive.
The Pirates were coming off of back-to-back losses. They were playing at home for the first time since Nov. 23rd. They were playing their final quality non-conference opponent that just so happens to be a top ten team, and they were doing it at home. Beating Iowa State on a neutral court is going to be a solid win on Selection Sunday.
That’s the kind of win that will be a difference-maker. Entering Thursday night, our Dave Ommen had Seton Hall as one of the last teams into the dance. They needed this W, and they needed it badly.
But there is more to it than simply landing a win for their resume.
For the last season and a half, the Hall has basically been looked at as a team that had Myles Powell and a bunch of guys. They win when Powell goes bonkers. They struggle when he is human, and while that is a pretty fair summation overall, the problem is that the mindset had permeated the team, in a way.
“We defer to him,” Quincy McKnight told me after the game.
They couldn’t defer to Powell on Thursday, because Powell was back home in his apartment watching the game while relaxing in a dark room.
(He was actually bouncing off the walls, lights on, and going nuts on FaceTime with his teammates after the fact. “I yelled at him,” head coach Kevin Willard said, and I’m not sure if he was kidding or not.)
That meant that the likes of McKnight and Jared Rhoden and Anthony Nelson were forced into playing bigger roles, and it worked out. McKnight had 15 points and six assists. Nelson had 10 points and four assists. Rhoden had eight points, 12 boards and three assists.
The Pirates didn’t win because of that – they won because their defense turned the Terps into a middle school JV team – but it did force Powell’s supporting cast into having to make plays to win the game without him. They had to figure it out on their own, to prove to themselves they have what it takes.
That will benefit them down the road.
2. BUT MARYLAND MIGHT BE BROKEN
The Terps, on the other hand, were just dreadful. They finished the night shooting 26.9 percent from the floor. They were 5-for-21 from three. They had more turnovers (17) than made field goals (14). Hell, they had more shots blocks (15) than shots made.
He was not happy, clearly frustrated by the fact that he can’t find a way to get the best out of this team. They’ve been a mess offensively in recent weeks. They look nothing like the team that beat Marquette in Orlando in November.
Specifically, Turgeon said that he frustrated by his team’s decision-making and execution. Things like the inability to execute coming out of a timeout; Maryland was down by three with the ball with less than a minute left, but they turned it over when they couldn’t run the play he called a timeout to draw up. He was unhappy about the fact that his team continually challenged Seton Hall’s two seven-foot centers at the rim, which did not go well for the Terps.
It’s never a good situation when you hear coaches say this: “Hopefully tonight will allow guys to be a little more coachable moving forward.”
3. AUBURN LANDED A NEEDED HOME WIN OVER N.C. STATE
The Auburn Tigers remained amongst the ranks of the undefeated on Thursday night, as they won their 10th straight game to open the season behind 24 points from Samir Doughty.
I think that this win is relevant because of the position that the Tigers have put themselves in with their scheduling. Believe it or not, but N.C. State is the first team from one of the Big Seven leagues that Auburn has played this season, and it is the only high-major foe that they are going to face until the start of SEC play. That’s not to say that the Tigers have played an easy schedule. They’ve beaten Davidson, New Mexico, Richmond, Furman and Saint Louis already this year, and every one of those teams is a top 100 team on KenPom. They ended up being forced to play Richmond after Wisconsin lost to the Spiders in the Legends Classic, and they still get Iowa State in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge.
But the truth is that there is nothing in their non-conference that is going to be overly impressive. Gonzaga went into Arizona and won. Ohio State beat Villanova by 25. Duke beat Kansas. All of those teams have statement wins. N.C. State was Auburn’s statement win, if you will.
And given the way that the non-conference has played out for the SEC, that is somewhat concerning for the Tigers. The top of the league is thoroughly unimposing. Florida and Kentucky have both been disappointing. Tennessee is working through some issues, having lost two straight. LSU just got worked over at home by East Tennessee State. If Kentucky ends up playing closer to their current ranking in the NET (77th) than on KenPom (15th), there’s a real scenario where Auburn will go through the entire season without playing a single ranked team.
What kind of seed will that lead to in the NCAA tournament?