Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Wednesday’s Things to Know: Buckeye guards star, Marquette comes back and LSU loses to VCU

Leave a comment

There were top-25 teams in action, the Gavitt Games rolled on and there was something of an awkward homecoming in Richmond.

Here are the most important things you need to know from the action around the country Wednesday.

Ohio State’s guards can elevate the Buckeyes

When we talk about Ohio State, we inevitably start with the Buckeyes’ frontcourt. And with good reason. Kaleb Wesson is a hulking 6-foot-9, 270-pound throwback double-double machine. He’s the type of player we just don’t see as often anymore up front, and as such, few teams have a true counter for him.

What we saw Wednesday in the Buckeyes’ 76-51 dismantling of Villanova, though, was that Chris Holtmann’s guards might hold the key to success in Columbus this season. If nothing else, they certainly opened a lot of eyes against the Wildcats.

Duane Washington Jr (14), Luther Muhammad (11), D.J. Carter (11) and CJ Walker (10) all scored in double-figures while Walker had seven assists, Washington had five rebounds and Carton had five rebounds and five assists. That’s on top of Wesson doing Wesson things like recording 10 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks and three assists.

If the Buckeyes’ guards can give them this kind of production, it’s really not much of a leap to consider this team a serious threat to Michigan State in the Big Ten, and maybe even a bigger contender nationally than we’ve given them credit for this preseason. The team that took apart Villanova on Wednesday night looked like a team that could make it to Atlanta in April. It was that complete a performance.

It’s easy to draw a line from this Ohio State performance against Villanova to Michigan’s last year against Jay Wright’s team, which took a 27-point L to John Beilein last November. The ‘Cats ultimately bounced back and found their stride, but that lopsided result probably said more about how good that Wolverines team was as they eventually went on to secure a 2-seed in the NCAA tournament.

Can the Buckeyes replicate that path? That question is probably best answered with another – can their guards replicate the night they had against Villanova?

Marquette erases 18-point deficit to beat Purdue

Marquette is one of the country’s biggest question marks. There were a few fleeting moments last spring when they looked like a national title contender when Markus Howard decided to return to school, but the Golden Eagles were flung into the “mystery” category after the Hauser brothers decided to bolt, leaving Marquette with an interesting albeit uncertain roster.

Steve Wojciechowski’s team looked like it answered some questions Wednesday, coming from 18 behind to defeat Purdue, 65-55, in Milwaukee.

Howard was his dynamic self with 18 points, four rebounds and three assists on 6 of 12 shooting, but it was the play of Kobe McEwen that is perhaps the most promising. The Utah State transfer went for 23 points, five rebounds, four assists and a steal to help Marquette claw back and win the game.

Marquette needs McEwen to be that productive this season as an offensive second option as defenses do everything they can to try to bottle up Howard. If McEwen can not only be a viable No. 2 but make teams truly pay for throwing the kitchen sink at Howard defensively, Marquette can be closer to that upper-echelon Big East team we thought they might be last spring rather than the enigma they became this summer.

Purdue, meanwhile, saw its offense implode, shooting 33.9 percent from the floor and 25 percent from 3-point range. Given the departures from last year’s team, offense is understandably a work in progress, though that progression looked stalled in a second half in which Matt Painter’s team scored just 17 points – while buckling defensively, giving up 40 to Marquette.

Will Wade loses to his former school

As a program that sends many of its coaches on to bigger stages and brighter lights, VCU has figured out quite a few ways to make their status as a stepping stone to their advantage. First off, it’s an attractive job for talented coaches because of the track record. A smaller, but interesting, way the Rams have maneuvered is to work into the coaches’ contract that if they leave for another gig, they have to bring that team back to Richmond.

That’s why LSU and Will Wade were in town Wednesday, taking a 84-82 loss. If they hadn’t, Wade would have owed VCU $250,000.

That bit of info turned out to be at least a little funny, given that a few VCU students dressed up as FBI agents as an allusion to reports that Wade was caught on a wiretap discussing a “strong-ass offer” to a recruit as part of the federal government’s investigation into corruption into college basketball.

Here’s guessing Wade and LSU get plenty of this treatment throughout the season, though it’s probably worth noting the Tigers made it to the Sweet 16 last year amid the controversy and Wade hasn’t missed a beat on the recruiting trail – they inked five-star Trendon Watford last May – so whatever lingering controversy there may be probably isn’t going to be too bothersome to them.

Hot start helps No. 18 Ohio State rout No. 10 Villanova

Photo by Patrick Gorski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Leave a comment

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Duane Washington Jr. had 14 points and four other players scored in double figures as No. 18 Ohio State started hot and ran over No. 10 Villanova 76-51 on Wednesday night.

Washington opened the game with a pair of 3-pointers to set the tone as the Buckeyes moved to 3-0 with a significant early-season victory.

D.J. Carton and Luther Muhammad each had 11 points, and CJ Walker and Kaleb Wesson added 10 apiece.

Jermaine Samuels had 14 points and Cole Swider had 11 for the Wildcats (1-1), who shot poorly out of the gate and managed just 30.6% for the game. They were held to a dozen points in the first 16 minutes.

The Buckeyes came out firing, bolted to a 19-3 lead, led by as many as 27 and held a 40-22 advantage at the intermission of this Gavitt Tipoff Game, a November series that matches up the Big Ten and the Big East.

Villanova was stunned by the Buckeyes’ start and didn’t show signs of life until a 9-0 run late in the first half. Kyle Young started the second half with a dunk and the Buckeyes never backed off the gas, leading by as many as 30.

BIG PICTURE

Villanova: Starting a pair of freshmen, Villanova shot poorly and could never catch up with the hustling Buckeyes. The crowd in Columbus chanted “overrated,” which could be the case.

Ohio State: Most everything was clicking in the Buckeyes’ third game of the season. If they can sustain it, they should be able to play with nearly any team in the country.

UP NEXT

Villanova: Hosts Ohio on Saturday.

Ohio State: Hosts Stetson on Monday.

College Basketball Top 25 Power Rankings: Kentucky’s No. 1 as the top reshuffles

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Leave a comment

There was definitely some shuffling at the top of the rankings this week.

Kentucky jumped up to No. 1 after they, as the No. 2 team in the country, knocked off then-No. 1 Michigan State. The Spartans fell to No. 4, behind No. 2 Louisville – who looked awesome in two wins, including a road win against Miami – and No. 3 Duke – who knocked off No. 5 Kansas.

To be perfectly frank, I don’t really see all that much difference between the teams in the top five, and if you were going to tell me that any one of them actually was the best team in college basketball, I might believe it.

Hell, I think that Villanova and Gonzaga probably belong somewhere in that conversation, too. Maybe even a team like Arizona or Washington as well.

It’s early in the year so these things are going to constantly change, but this is where I currently stand.

1. KENTUCKY (2-0, Last week: 2)
2. LOUISVILLE (2-0, 4)
3. DUKE (2-0, 6)
4. MICHIGAN STATE (1-1, 1)
5. KANSAS (1-1, 3)
6. VILLANOVA (1-0, 5)
7. GONZAGA (2-0, 8)
8. MARYLAND (2-0, 9)
9. VIRGINIA (2-0, 10)
10. TEXAS TECH (2-0, 11)
11. OREGON (2-0, 12)
12. SETON HALL (2-0, 13)
13. NORTH CAROLINA (2-0, 14)
14. ARIZONA (2-0, 16)
15. UTAH STATE (2-0, 15)
16. SAINT MARY’S (1-0, 17)
17. XAVIER (2-0, 18)
18. LSU (1-0, 19)
19. FLORIDA (1-1, 7)
20. MEMPHIS (2-0, 21)
21. WASHINGTON (1-0, NR)
22. AUBURN (2-0, 22)
23. TENNESSEE (1-0, 23)
24. OHIO STATE (2-0, 25)
25. TEXAS (2-0, NR)

NEW ADDITIONS: No. 21 Washington, No. 25 Texs
DROPPED OUT: No. 20 Baylor, No. 24 VCU

Touching scenes as Michigan State honors Cassius Winston’s brother

Rey Del Rio/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Cassius Winston suited up on Sunday night.

He didn’t have to. He wasn’t expected to. After staying with the Winston family until 4 a.m. on Sunday morning, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo let Cassius know that it was up to him. If he wanted to play, his teammates had his back. If he decided that taking the court just 24 hours after his younger brother died was too much, then his team had his back then, too.

Zachary Winston, who was a sophomore on the Albion College (Division III) basketball team, died when he was struck by a train around 8:30 p.m. on Saturday night. Police said that they believe he stepped in front of the train intentionally.

Cassius ultimately made the decision to take the court, which led to some heart-wrenching but beautiful moments.

Like this one, between Cassius and Khy, the younger Winston brother who was a teammate of Zach’s at Albion:

Or this one, when the entire building stood silent for 30 seconds to honor the memory of a member of the Michigan State basketball family:

Or this one, a subtle arm around the shoulder from a teammate that’s hurting, too:

Or this one, where Winston knocks down his first shot of the game:

Winston would on to score 17 points and hand out 11 assists in a blowout win, but the outcome game didn’t really matter. The Spartans were playing Binghamton. They weren’t losing this game, regardless of who was on the floor.

No, this was about the game itself.

This was about making sure Cassius was surrounded by teammates and family and people he knows love him. As one person in the Michigan State program told me, “I’ve never seen three brothers closer than Cash was with his.” And since they were local, that meant that everyone in the Michigan State program knew Zach as well.

Cassius was hurting the most, but everyone on that team and in that program was and is hurting, too.

The cliche is to say that getting on the court can make you forget, if even for just an hour or two, what you’re dealing, but that’s not really true. Cassius Winston is not stepping on that floor and forgetting about the pain that he’s in and the loss he suffered.

I know more about what Cassius Winston is going through now that I want to, and all I’ll say is this: There’s a comfort that comes with normalcy. There’s a comfort that comes with being around your friends, your teammates, your peers. It’s not about distracting yourself, or finding ways to let you ignore your grief, it’s about being around the people who will put their arm around your shoulder when you need to cry and will lift you back up when you’re done.

What stuck out to me was the final moments.

The game had been over since it started. Winston had been taken out with about five minutes left. He was sitting on the bench as the walk-ons got put into the game. His teammates were standing and celebrating the way teammates do when their walk-ons have a chance to score, and after one possession where the Spartans grabbed four straight offensive rebounds before drawing a foul, Winston was up there with them.

A smile on his face.

Brother of Michigan State star Cassius Winston dies after being struck by train

Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
1 Comment

Zachary Winston, the younger brother of Michigan State point guard Cassius Winston, died on Saturday night when he was struck by a train in Albion, Michigan.

Albion Public Safety chief Scott Kipp told reporters that Zachary intentionally stepped in front of a train as it approached a pedestrian crosswalk just past the Erie Street crossing.

Zachary was a sophomore member of Albion University’s basketball team, along with the youngest Winston brother, Khy. Albion and Michigan State played in an exhibition game in October.

“As a community, our hearts are broken today as we share the news of the passing of one of our students, Zachary Winston,” Albion College president Mauri A. Ditzler wrote in a statement released on Sunday. “Zach was a finance major, a student in the Gerstacker Institute for Business and Management, and member of the Albion College men’s basketball team. Beyond that, he was an extremely charismatic young man with an infectious smile. Zach was a recognized leader who was well known across every facet of our campus. He was a fantastic student with a world of potential before him. He was deeply loved and will be deeply missed.

“Our hearts go out to his brothers, Khy, who is a freshman at Albion, and Cassius, who is a senior at Michigan State University, his parents and his extended family. We echo the family’s request in asking everyone to respect their privacy at this time.”

“Our hearts are filled with sorrow for the Winston family,” Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo said. “Their pain over the sudden loss of Zachary is unimaginable. It’s impossible to find the right words in this moment, other than to say that we will support the family in whatever way they need.”

Howard Moore’s son introduced as Wisconsin start

M.P King/Wisconsin State Journal via AP
1 Comment

In a touching moment during Wisconsin’s home opener, Jerell Moore, the son of Wisconsin assistant coach Howard Moore, was announced as a starter for the Badgers on Friday night.

Howard and his family were involved in a tragic car accident back in May, which took the life of Howard’s wife and daughter. Jerell escaped without major injury, but Howard remained in the hospital for an extended period of time and has not yet been able to return to work.

Wisconsin won the game, but that isn’t really all that important.

Seeing this program embrace Jerell, a 13-year old that has been through more in his life already than anyone should have to deal with, is truly touching.