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Muffet McGraw retires from Notre Dame

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Muffet McGraw retired suddenly from the Notre Dame women’s basketball program on Wednesday.

The legendary head coach collected two national championships and 936 wins during her storied career.

Spending the past 33 seasons on the sidelines at Notre Dame, McGraw compiled one of the most impressive NCAA basketball coaching profiles in modern history. McGraw and Notre Dame became pillars of success during her tenure. The program reached nine Final Fours and played in the national title game seven times. The Irish claimed national titles in 2001 and 2018.

“It has been my great honor to represent the University of Notre Dame these past 33 years, but the time has come for me to step down as your head basketball coach,” McGraw said in a statement. “I want to thank Monk Malloy and Father Jenkins for giving me the opportunity to coach the game I love at a university I love. I have learned much about leadership from the many athletic directors with whom I have served, and in particular, I want to thank Jack Swarbrick for his unwavering support.”

Finishing with a career record of 936-251, McGraw started her head coaching career with five seasons at Lehigh. Although McGraw didn’t make a postseason appearance at Lehigh, she slowly turned Notre Dame into a postseason juggernaut. Beginning with her eighth season in South Bend, McGraw took Notre Dame to 22 consecutive women’s NCAA tournaments.

The Irish were particularly dominant over the last decade. McGraw and Notre Dame made the women’s Final Four an incredible eight times in nine seasons from 2011 through 2019. The program also made it to at least the Sweet Sixteen every season of the 2010 decade.

McGraw also made a big impact by coaching plenty of future WNBA stars and All-Americans. Ruth Riley was McGraw’s first big star in the late ’90s. The torch was passed through the years as new stars like Skylar Diggins-Smith, Jewell Loyd, Brianna Turner and Arike Ogunbowale all thrived under McGraw.

Notre Dame will replace Muffet McGraw with former assistant coach Niele Ivey. Ivey played for Notre Dame and coached under McGraw from 2007 until 2019.

Wednesday’s Things to Know: The Big East is up for grabs, Florida State survives and Kansas reclaims the Big 12

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Quite a few developments Wednesday from some of the country’s best teams in the nation’s best leagues. Here’s what you need to know:

Villanova makes this weekend interesting in the Big East

Seton Hall had a chance to do something really cool Wednesday. The Pirates, already having secured a piece of the Big East regular-season championship, could lock up an outright title at home, on a senior night honoring the likes of Quincy McKnight, Romaro Gill and the incomparable Myles Powell.

That is a stage set beautifully.

Except the Pirates were sharing it with Big East powerhouse Villanova.

The Wildcats shot 51.9 percent from the floor and 40.6 percent from 3-point range while holding Powell to 5 of 18 shooting to claim a 79-77 win in Newark and to send the Big East into some serious drama this weekend.

Seton Hall, now 13-4 in the league, still controls its own fate and can win the title outright, but the Pirates’ loss Wednesday means they’re not the only team who holds its fate in its own hands. That’s because the Pirates face Creighton on Saturday in Omaha, and the Bluejays are owners of a 12-5 mark in Big East play. If Greg McDermott’s team wins, they’re co-champs with Kevin Willard’s group.

But, that’s not all!

By virtue of knocking of Seton Hall, Villanova, too, sports a 12-5 conference mark. If the Wildcats can beat Georgetown for the second time this season on Saturday in D.C. and the Bluejays beat Seton Hall at home, it’s a three-way tie atop the Big East.

The ‘Cats tipoff a couple hours before Seton Hall and Creighton, so they’ll have the opportunity to watch their Big East title chances materialize on TV should they beat the Hoyas.

There’s intrigue in the Big East because Saddiq Bey scored 20 points while Justin Moore and Jermaine Samuels both added 19 for the Wildcats, who shot 10 of 18 from the free-throw line to keep Seton Hall hanging around for the final seconds. Sandro Mamukelashvli had 20 and 10 for Seton Hall while McKnight scored 16.

All three teams are jockeying for seed lines both in the Big East and NCAA tournaments, so how things shake out not only effect the regular-season banners that might go up in Philly, Omaha and Newark, but the likelihood if they’re joined by something a little sweeter from the postseason.

Florida State steals a win in South Bend

Raiquan Gray hit a jumper 1 minute, 23 seconds into the game to put Florida State up one in the early going against Notre Dame. On the next possession, which took a total of 16 seconds, the Fighting Irish got a triple from Prentiss Hubb to regain the lead. A lead they would hold nearly until the very end.

The nearly is doing a lot of work in that sentence, though.

From the time of Hubb’s 3-pointer to when Florida State’s Trent Forrest’s layup went through the rim with 3 seconds remaining, Notre Dame had No. 7 Florida State on the ropes, but Forrest’s bucket and the three-seconds worth of advantage it gave the Seminoles was enough for Florida State to beat Notre Dame, 73-71.

The ‘Noles led for just 19 seconds in the game and trailed by as many as 13 in the second half. They really didn’t have a whole lot of business being in this thing late, but there they were until their they went, back home with their 25th win of the year. It also keeps Florida State tied with Louisville atop the ACC standings with just a home game against Boston College this weekend between them and a conference title.

As for Notre Dame, it was a missed opportunity to land a big win in a season that appears destined to end without an NCAA tournament for the third-straight time, which will match the longest drought of the Mike Brey era. They went without a dance from 2004-06 previously.

King Kansas…again

After 12 long months, at long last, the tyrannical reign of Texas Tech and Kansas State as Big 12 champions is over. Kansas injects some much-needed fresh air into the Big 12 as its new champion.

It was a long year for the Jayhawks, who spent the previous 14 as the conference’s best. Must of been tough, I’m sure.

The top-ranked Jayhawks dispatched TCU 75-66 to win at least a piece of the conference title for the 15th time in 16 years, and they can win it outright if they can beat Texas Tech in Lubbock or if Baylor gets tripped up by West Virginia in Morgantown.

Kansas has now won 15 straight and looks to only be rolling into tip-top fighting shape with Udoka Azubuike scoring 31 against the Horned Frogs. Not only is Kansas back after a one-year hiatus atop the Big 12, it looks as though the Jayhawks are quickly becoming the national title favorite.

Meet The Mabreys: Three sisters making a splash in women’s hoops

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A college athlete, a WNBA player, and an assistant coach.

Dara, Marina and Michaela Mabrey all have a fierce passion for basketball and an unbreakable bond with each other. Despite being almost constant competitors—whether that be in their driveway growing up or as foes in the ACC—the sisters have found a way to remain close and act as one another’s role models and confidants.

Their two brothers, Roy and Ryan, also share a love for the game, and finish out the Mabrey family starting five.

The Mabrey sisters have made quite the impact on women’s college basketball. The youngest sister, Dara, is a sophomore at Virginia Tech, while Marina and Michaela both played for Notre Dame—even overlapping for one year. On Thursday night, Dara’s Hokies will face off with Michaela’s Fighting Irish.

“I’m just super proud of both of them and where they’re at in their careers,” Michaela said. “I’m really happy to watch them every day and see how much they’ve grown, as basketball players and as women.”

The bonds of sisterhood

“As much as we can, we’re always there for each other.”

Despite the current distance between them, they find a way to talk every single day, Michaela added.

It’s been difficult for the sisters since the WNBA season ended. Marina is currently playing basketball overseas in Latvia, and her sisters haven’t seen her since September. Michaela is at Notre Dame and Dara resides in Blacksburg, Virginia, but the two face a rigorous ACC schedule that keeps them apart for most of the season. 

“We’re all super super close,” Dara said. “Even when things happen and we’re upset, we’re always the first people we call. Especially when we really need it, it does suck being away from your sister.”

Even while Marina was still in college, it could be hard to see each other with the busy schedules that college athletes undertake. But, this never stopped the Mabrey sisters from being there for one another when it really counted. 

When Marina was in her freshman year, Michaela spent time with her sister, walking her through all the challenges and obstacles of being a student athlete. And when Dara was dealing with the typical plight of being a first-year college athlete, Michaela went down to Virginia to be with her. 

Marina, learning from her big sister, did the same for Dara. 

“Marina drove through the night one night, my first summer there when I was kind of homesick,” Dara added. “She drove through the night for 11 hours from Notre Dame to Virginia Tech.”

When Michaela graduated and went into the working force, she was still able to find time for both of her sisters. 

“Last year, when I was working at LSU, we had a bye week and I was able to see Dara and watch her play against North Carolina,” Michaela said. “And I followed Marina throughout her entire tournament last year. I was at every game.”

While it could be easy to let life get in the way, that’s not how the Mabrey sisters operate.

“Those are my best friends,” Michaela beamed, seeming to smile through the phone. 

Growing up

“Obviously when you’re growing up, you do the same things your older siblings do,” Dara explained.

That’s how it all started for the Mabrey sisters. Michaela, the oldest, watched her brother Roy play basketball, and Marina and Dara followed in her footsteps from there. 

“We were all eager to play when we were younger… watching it and being around it so much made us want to do it,” Dara said. 

Each only two and a half years apart, the New Jersey natives didn’t have to wait long to be able to play against one another in their childhood driveway — where some of their most intense and competitive battles took place.

“Someone would come in crying or someone would be in trouble for pushing too hard,” Dara laughed. “There were plenty of times where someone would think it was a foul, someone thought it wasn’t a foul… Then someone would end up walking away. You’d give them 5 minutes to calm down and then eventually ours start playing one on one again.”

“I would try to play against Roy and Michaela and cry if I lost,” Marina added. “My mom would make them play with only their left hands and try to make it somewhat fair…but I stomped and cried every time I lost.”

Michaela has one story that comes to mind out of all of the pickup games the siblings played growing up.

“Last Christmas, when everybody was home, we went to the gym on Christmas morning. And it was Marina, Dara and Ryan — my little brother who’s 16.

“Marina always wins, she’s won almost every single year we’ve played. She always wins. And Ryan beat her this last Christmas. Me and my dad were on the side just laughing… They’re yelling at each other and they’re fouling each other. And my little brother Ryan ended up winning and Marina had a giant fit and it was so fun to just watch.”

While each sister had to deal with the pressure of being compared to an older sibling, Marina and Dara had to fight to escape Michaela’s shadow. Marina was apprehensive about choosing Notre Dame, as she wanted to make sure it was the right place for her. Dara, on the other hand, felt she had to differentiate herself from both older sisters.

“I was never compared to people in my class that I was playing against,” Dara admitted. “I was always compared to Marina and Michaela, which kind of stunk.

“Definitely, there was that added pressure my entire life. But I think people knew I was for real when I chose Virginia Tech, and they were like, ‘Oh she’s doing her own thing.’ That’s when they actually started taking it seriously.”

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Playing the game they love

“I just knew. When I came back from Virginia Tech I was like, ‘Oh my gosh I want to go there,’” Dara gushed. 

Instead of following in her sister’s footsteps to Notre Dame, Dara chose to go to another ACC school. In her freshman year, the 5-foot-7 guard averaged 11.2 points per game and was shooting 46.2 percent from beyond the arc. This year, Dara is averaging 12.7 ppg and is shooting 38.4 percent from three.

“I’m undersized, obviously, so I have to make up for it by playing as hard as I can,” Dara explained. “You can erase any mistakes when you do that. I’ve always been a believer in that, but what some people don’t know is that there’s a lot more where that comes from.”

“I’m just super proud of her and how she’s progressed the last year,” Michaela said of her sister. “I’m super excited for her and her career taking off a little bit more this year, and how their team is playing. They’ve got a really great team and Dara is a huge part of it.”

Michaela is no stranger to great teams, either, as part of the winningest class in Notre Dame women’s basketball history from 2012-2016. Marina was at Notre Dame from 2015-2019, overlapping with her sister for one year and being a part of the 2018 national championship team. 

“Winning the ACC championship together and everything like that, it was so unique,” Michaela said. “That year still to this day is one of the best years of my life, and to be able to share that with Marina.”

The oldest Mabrey sister thought about going overseas to play professionally after she graduated, but changed her mind “kind of last minute.” She had been told by different people that she’d make a great coach, so she tried it. 

“I love it, I love being back at Notre Dame and helping these girls just have the best experience on and off the court,” Michaela gushed. 

Marina went on to be drafted by the Los Angeles Sparks as the 19th pick in the second round, and averaged four points and 1.2 rebounds in 11.5 minutes per game in her rookie campaign. 

“For Marina, this has been her dream since I can’t remember how old… she is one of the hardest working people I’ve ever been around,” Michaela said, getting audibly choked up. “If she has a dream, she’s going to go get it. This has been something she’s talked about forever, being a WNBA player.”

The middle Mabrey sister is currently playing for TTT Riga in Latvia, where she is averaging 15.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 9 games. 

“I’m learning a lot about what it takes to be a pro here,” Marina explained. “I feel like I’m becoming a much better point guard because I’m working very hard every game to get my teammates involved and also understand when it’s time for me to contribute.”

Beyond her basketball skill, Marina is known for creating the “This Is My Kitchen” campaign.

“This is my kitchen campaign came about because people on Twitter would put down women’s basketball,” Marina explained. “They would make it hard for people to support us because of their disrespectful comments stereotyping where women belong, such as in the kitchen, cleaning or cooking. I got tired of reading it and of no one standing up for women’s basketball so I decided to.”

Her shirts gained the support of a wide variety of people, from NBA stars—such as Kyle Kuzma and Bradley Beal—to her teammates. Even the late legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gigi showed their support for the campaign.

“A lot of NBA players were in support of the movement and tweeted their support,” Marina said. “They reached out to me to have girls they know wear the shirt, so I’m happy that the world will spread that women’s sports deserve respect.”

Looking ahead

For the second year in a row, Dara will be up against one of her best friends. 

Marina was a senior at Notre Dame when Dara was a freshman, and the two faced off once, with the Fighting Irish handling the Hokies easily in an 80-51 win. Their parents sat in the stands wearing shirts that had the Irish on one side and Hokies on the other—Marina’s creation.

This year, Dara will face Notre Dame with Michaela on board as an assistant coach. 

”It’s definitely a unique situation,” Michaela admitted. “And, obviously, I’ve been watching Virginia Tech since Dara went there so I think I have a little advantage… But, I do my scouts the same every single time, whether we’re playing Dara or anyone else in the ACC. I think it’s just going to be an exciting moment for Dara and I.”

“Michaela’s a really good coach and it turns out, of course, that she’s scouting Virginia Tech. So she’s probably going to tell her players every single one of my weaknesses and how to defend it,” Dara laughed. 

Just as Dara didn’t follow her sisters to Notre Dame, she may not follow their career paths either.

“I’d like to do either [coach or play professionally], but if I can get a really good broadcasting job, I also might do that because I know that basketball definitely doesn’t last forever,” she said.

Marina is excited to get back to the Sparks in May and utilize what she’s learned overseas in her second year with the team. She’s excited to “earn more playing time, get better individually and become a better teammate.”

Michaela is focusing on how she can impact the women at Notre Dame both on and off the court, and is excited about the future of women’s collegiate and professional basketball.

“I think there’s a lot of attention that has stirred around women’s basketball the last few years,” Michaela said excitedly. “Even with the new rules that the WNBA put in and how much respect we get from NBA players, from men’s college basketball players. I think it’s just going to keep going up and up.”

“For women sports to reach the respect level of men sports, we’ll just have to keep pushing and give it time,” Marina added. “The WNBA is young compared to the NBA in years and we’re on track to be popular and start to strive towards much more popularity and attention.”

Jalen Smith’s double-double helps Maryland rout Notre Dame

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COLLEGE PARK, Md.  — Jalen Smith had 15 points and a career-high 16 rebounds as No. 3 Maryland cruised to a 72-51 victory over Notre Dame on Wednesday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Eric Ayala scored 14 points and Aaron Wiggins added 11 for the Terrapins (9-0), who are off to their best start since winning 10 in a row to open the 1998-99 season.

John Mooney had 17 points and 12 rebounds for Notre Dame (6-2), which had won six in a row since opening the season with a loss at North Carolina.

It took some time for the Terps’ offense to get going, but their defense was sharp for nearly the entire first half. After falling behind 9-4, Maryland allowed just four points over the next 12:31.

Ayala scored seven points in a row to turn a one-point game into a 21-13 lead, and later delivered a tomahawk slam a minute before the break. Aaron Wiggins capped the half by getting the carom from his missed 3-pointer and slamming it home for a 32-20 lead.

Notre Dame never cut the deficit to less than 10 in the second half as Maryland snapped a six-game skid in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, a streak that began when the Terps were still in the ACC.

Smith recorded his fifth double-double of the season, matching his total from all of last season.

BIG PICTURE

Notre Dame: The Irish missed out on the first of their three chances for a noteworthy nonconference victory this month. Notre Dame will get chances at home against UCLA (Dec. 14) and in Indianapolis against Indiana (Dec. 21) for a brand-name triumph outside the ACC.

Maryland: The evidence continues to build that the Terps are an elite defensive team. Three days after holding Marquette star Markus Howard to just six points, Maryland smothered the Fighting Irish, limiting them to 29.0 percent from the floor.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Maryland, which rose to No. 3 in this week’s poll after winning the Orlando Invitational, did nothing to dent its lofty ranking in the first of two games this week.

UP NEXT

Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish begin a three-game homestand Saturday, facing Boston College in their first ACC game in more than a month.

Maryland: The Terps open conference play on Saturday at home against Illinois, the first of two league games in a span of four days.

Thursday’s Things to Know: Struggles pop up for Pac-12, Georgetown picks up a big win and a wedgie rescues Notre Dame

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There weren’t any matchups between top-25 teams Thursday night, with the main November events still a week away, but there is plenty to discuss from around the country. Here’s what you need to know.

1. A rough night for the Pac-12

After a strong start to the season, the Pac-12 came back down to earth on Thursday.

The league only managed to get just three teams into the NCAA tournament in each of the last two years. But things have been pretty dire since the league expanded ahead of the 2011-12 season. That year the league’s regular-season champion, Washington, didn’t even make the tournament, though Cal (a 12 seed) and Colorado (11) did. That’s it.

Things have, admittedly, improved since then, but that was really the only direction to head, right? Only three times in the last eight years has the conference gotten more than four teams into the tournament. The Pac-12, which as a reminder is a Power 5 conference, has only been ranked as a top-five conference nationally on KenPom three times in the last eight years.

There isn’t much in the way of expectation for the league this season, certainly past the quartet of Oregon, Colorado, Arizona and Washington, but the conference started hot. Entering Thursday, they were 43-4 combined on the season. Still, though, nights like Thursday are difficult to watch.

It was an awful evening for the Pac-12, with Washington State blowing a 16-point lead at home in an eventual 85-77 loss to Omaha of the Summit League, Utah getting blasted 79-55 by the Sun Belt’s Coastal Carolina in the Myrtle Beach Classic and Cal getting demolished by top-ranked Duke, 87-52. Then to top it all off, UCLA lost at home to CAA resident Hofstra. Arizona was the bright spot of the night, and the Wildcats needed to overcome a halftime deficit to beat South Dakota State in Tucson.

Obviously, none of those four teams which lost Thursday were expected to carry the Pac-12 banner this season and 12-team leagues are going to inevitably have some bad teams every season, but, my goodness, is there a better distillation of the overall health of the league’s basketball than a night like this?

Cal was miles away from being able to compete with the Blue Devils while both the Cougars and Utes couldn’t even hang with teams from so-so mid-major conferences. UCLA is the flagship program in the conference and they lost to a Hofstra team that lost their pro to graduation this offseason. It’s a league whose best teams can compete against the country’s best, but has almost no meaningful depth beyond that thin upper crust.

The Pac-12 has had just one Final Four team since its expansion, with Oregon getting there in 2017. That ties the conference with the Missouri Valley over that same period. Some of it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If the vast majority of the Pac-12 is no good, it makes building an NCAA resume for its good teams more difficult, leaving them with more difficult NCAA tournament paths. Maybe that changes this year if undefeated starts for USC, Stanford and UCLA signal an improving middle class. Thursday’s results don’t signal good times on the horizon, though.

It’s just all around ugly for the Pac-12.

It’s bad news for people who like to stay up late watching west coast basketball, but it’s really bad news for a league whose genuine tradition slides further and further into memory with each passing season.

2. Georgetown lands a top-25 win

The first two years of the Patrick Ewing era at Georgetown have been encouraging, with the Hoyas improving both their overall and Big East win totals by four in Year 2 of the Hall of Famer’s return to his alma mater. It wasn’t enough to get the Hoyas even on to the NCAA bubble last year, though, thanks in part to a horribly weak non-conference schedule.

The Hoyas beefed up their early-season schedule this season, and just saw the first fruits of the decision.

Georgetown ran away from No. 22 Texas in an 82-66 victory at Madison Square Garden to land a potentially resume-booster four months before Selection Sunday.

Ewing has an interesting and talented team with the backcourt duo of James Akinjo and Mac McClung back for sophomore seasons and big man Omer Yurtseven eligible after sitting out last season following his transfer from NC State. Testing this group early is only going to pay dividends in the long-run.

Ewing’s first non-conference schedule was ranked 351st by KenPom and last year’s was only marginally better at 292. Now, the Hoyas have already faced Penn State and Texas, with Duke on a neutral floor coming Friday with a road swing at Oklahoma State and SMU on tap before Syracuse visits D.C.

That’s a real non-conference schedule. And Ewing might have the team to navigate it, with the destination ultimately being his first NCAA tournament appearance.

3. Notre Dame rides wedgie to win

There are fewer pure facepalm moments on a basketball court than when a player lodges a shot between the rim and the backboard. The wedgie, as it’s commonly known, is one of the game’s great quirks.

Maybe never, though, has the phenomenon been as welcomed as it was in South Bend on Thursday.

The wedgie helped Notre Dame pull itself out of a tight spot.

Down three, the Fighting Irish got a great look from distance, but TJ Gibbs’ attempt missed its mark. Had it been any normal carom, the game would have just ended with a Notre Dame home loss to Toledo. But no, my friends, Gibbs’ miss was not of the standard variety. It was, indeed, a wedgie. Which means a stopped clock and a jump ball, giving the ball back to Notre Dame with a second to play.

That set up Nate Laszewski’s overtime-forcing triple as time expired in regulation. Notre Dame went on to win, 64-62, in overtime.

Truly, a rescue wedgie.

Cole Anthony stars in North Carolina debut

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As Cole Anthony took the floor Wednesday in his collegiate debut, it looked as though the potential top pick in the 2020 NBA draft was going to make a fashion statement.

Ultimately, though, the Mikan-esque corrective lenses he wore – and later ditched – weren’t what left the biggest impression of the night. It was his game.

The son of UNLV great and 11-year NBA vet Greg Anthony, the North Carolina freshman exploded for 34 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in the Tar Heels’ season-opening 76-65 win over Notre Dame to start both the season and ACC play 1-0.

It was a virtuoso performance for a player that was in the mix for being the top-rated prospect in the 2019 class, but has found himself less a part of the national conversation this preseason than his counterparts like James Wiseman at Memphis or RJ Hampton, who opted not to even play college basketball.

Anthony’s entire repertoire was on display against the Irish, who could do little to contain him all evening. He was 12 of 24 overall from the floor and 6 of 11 from 3-point range. He created for others. He got the Tar Heels going in transition with 11 defensive boards.

Simply put, he was dynamic.

The only issue for Anthony was his four turnovers, but given how much responsibility there is on him offensively to initiate the offense, get others involved and score it himself, that’s not that bad of number in 37 minutes. Especially when it’s the first 37 minutes of his career.

It was a game reminiscent of some of the breakout games we’ve seen from the best freshmen in recent years. Remember Trae Young’s 43 against Oregon two years ago or Zion Williamson’s 28 and seven in his debut against Kentucky last year? It’s not much of a leap of faith to think we’ll be talking about Anthony’s first-ever college game in that same vein.

It was a declaration of intent.

Cole Anthony is here, and he’s coming for the ACC. Along with the rest of college basketball.

He’s uniquely situated as a 6-foot-3, playmaking lead guard for a top-10 team to make a dent in college basketball. Maybe he’s not going to be the cultural phenomenon that both Young and Williamson were, but going for 34, 11 and five in your first-ever college game against a strong ACC program is a pretty good indication that Anthony is going to be awesome this season.

Honestly, it’s too bad he decided to toss the glasses he started the game wearing. Making rec specs cool might have been the true test of Anthony’s talent and appeal.

Although, there’s a notable precedence for a guy flipping of his glasses and becoming super.