One week into the new college basketball season and we’ve already seen the No. 1 team lose in back-to-back weeks.
Last week’s Champions Classic saw No. 1 Michigan State get picked off by No. 2 Kentucky. On Tuesday, the No. 1 Wildcats fell in stunning fashion at home to Evansville.
The shocking Kentucky loss made for an surprisingly busy night in college hoops as Oregon and Memphis also played in Portland in a “neutral” matchup of top-15 teams.
1. No. 1 Kentucky suffers stunning loss to Evansville
Although Tuesday night’s slate of games was supposed to be intriguing it wasn’t supposed to give us this sort of excitement.
Evansville and Walter McCarty went into Rupp and exited with a 67-64 win as the No. 1 Wildcats suffered one of the most stunning early-season upsets in recent memory. The Purple Aces soundly outplayed a team that was favored to win by 25 points. We just never see No. 1 teams lose at home to unranked, mid-major teams.
I break down more on some of Kentucky’s early-season issues. The Wildcats are desperately seeking a consistent go-to player while the interior scoring and perimeter shooting leaves a lot to be desired. Tyrese Maxey and Immanuel Quickley were the only consistent Kentucky players on offense on Tuesday.
This loss was a big sign that college basketball doesn’t have a dominant team at this point in the season. Things are wide open.
2. No. 14 Oregon takes down No. 13 Memphis, James Wiseman
The top matchup of Tuesday saw the Ducks take care of the Tigers in Portland. Memphis star freshman James Wiseman is continuing to suit up for Memphis despite the NCAA’s claim of ineligibility.
That didn’t matter to Oregon.
This was a solid overall effort from the Ducks as Payton Pritchard (14 points, six assists) made some clutch plays to lead a balanced offensive effort. Oregon also got Wiseman in first-half foul trouble as they limited him to 14 points and 12 rebounds on only 5-for-8 shooting.
CBT’s Rob Dauster digs deeper into this one. Oregon is once again looking like a balanced team led by one of the nation’s top lead guards in Pritchard. Memphis has many exciting young players to keep tabs on but they are in for an up-and-down season.
3. Home teams win all three Gavitt Games
The Big Ten/Big East Gavitt Games continued Tuesday night with three more games. Following DePaul’s road win over Iowa on Monday, all three home teams won on the second night of the event.
Tuesday’s results pushes the Big East to a 3-1 mark so far through four games as the Gavitt Games continue the next two nights. While Tuesday’s games were mediocre, Wednesday sees Villanova traveling to Ohio State while Thursday features Seton Hall hosting Michigan State.
Stewart leads No. 20 Washington past Mount St. Mary’s 56-46
SEATTLE — Isaiah Stewart scored 16 points and blocked five shots, Nahziah Carter scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half, and No. 20 Washington overcame an awful first half offensively to pull away for a 56-46 win over Mount St. Mary’s on Tuesday night.
Days after opening the season with an upset of then-No. 16 Baylor, the Huskies looked sluggish and at times lost at the offensive end of the floor, but they found enough scoring in the second half to shake the pesky Mountaineers.
Stewart was again a force on the interior as the freshman made 7 of 10 shots, mostly from close range, and was imposing defensively. Carter ignited a sleepy arena with a fast-break dunk midway through the second half and followed with a 3-pointer from the wing to give Washington a 43-36 lead.
The Mountaineers (1-2) wouldn’t go away, hitting five 3-pointers in the second half as they found gaps in Washington’s zone defense. Vado Morse finished with 10 points. Naim Miller and Damian Chong Qui both added nine points.
Washington had lengthy scoring droughts and struggled to run its offense without Stewart in the post. The offensive woes were an amplified version of what Washington experienced in the opener against Baylor. It took a late 21-5 run to pull off the upset, which at least for one game hid the question of how the Huskies will go about replacing 80% of its scoring from last season.
Defense won’t be the issue with Washington. It will be finding the right scoring options.
For this night, it was Stewart and Carter providing enough punch. Hameir Wright added nine points and seven rebounds.
Tied at 21-all at halftime, Washington jumped to a seven-point lead in the opening moments of the second half, but it was gone in a matter of minutes. Nana Opoku’s rebound and basket caped an eight-point run and gave Mount St. Mary’s a 34-33 lead with less than 12 minutes remaining.
It was the last lead for the Mountaineers, who were outscored 23-12 the rest of the way.
Mount St. Mary’s: The Mountaineers can be proud of their effort in two games this season on the road against power programs. The Mountaineers led Georgetown by 19 points in the second half last week before watching the lead disappear late in an 81-68 loss. Mount St. Mary’s easily could have built a substantial first-half lead against Washington if not for its shooting woes. The Mountaineers shot 21.2% in the first half and were 2 of 12 on 3-pointers.
Washington: The Huskies will need to get more out of Jaden McDaniels. The prized freshman was 2 of 9 shooting. He did have nine rebounds and four assists, but also committed five turnovers.
Mount St. Mary’s: The Mountaineers continue their early-season trip at Lamar on Friday.
Washington: The Huskies will face Tennessee in Toronto on Saturday.
Pritchard’s clutch shooting paces No. 14 Oregon in win over No. 13 Memphis
Payton Pritchard shook off a rough night by hitting two massive threes in the final five minutes as No. 14 Oregon held off No. 13 Memphis, 82-74, on Tuesday night in the Moda Center.
Pritchard finished with 14 points and six assists, scoring 10 of the 14 down the stretch. He shot just 4-for-11 from the floor and turned the ball over six times, but he made the plays when it mattered.
Here are three things that we can take away from that game:
1. JAMES WISEMAN NEVER GOT INTO THE GAME
In his first game against high major competition, James Wiseman never really seemed to get out of first gear.
He picked up two fouls before the first TV timeout, meaning that he spent the next 16 minutes riding the pine. It wasn’t until the final eight minutes of the game that he really started showing the things that he is capable of doing. He finished with 14 points and 12 boards, adding a turnaround jumper to a couple of tip-dunks, but for the most part he ineffective.
Part of the reason for that is the defense that Oregon plays. They sit in a matchup zone that is somewhere between a normal 2-3 and a switching man-to-man defense, and they were able to park extra bodies in the paint because the Tigers were unable to shoot them out of it. There was one possession where Memphis was able to get him into a ball-screen action with enough going on on the opposite side of the floor where there was some space for him to work, but that’s it.
For the most part, Wiseman spent his time in Portland looking frustrated and ineffective, and he still finished with a double-double.
That should tell you quite a bit about his potential.
It also helps drive home some of the question marks that surround his motor.
2. OREGON’S GRAD TRANSFERS CAME UP BIG
It should not really come as a surprise to anyone at this point, but Dana Altman is finding success by tapping into the grad transfer market. Anthony Mathis scored 12 points and hit four threes while Shakur Juiston added 17 points, 10 boards, three assists and two blocks to the cause.
And Oregon needed those points. Pritchard struggled with the length and athleticism of Memphis for the first 32 minutes, but the Ducks were in control for the majority of the game in large part due to the play of their senior one-and-dones.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Oregon bench as well.
Starting guard Chris Duarte bruised his knee late in the first half, and that forced Addison Patterson and Will Richardson into big minutes in the second half. Richardson finished with 10 points and six assists, including a huge three in the final minutes, while Patterson scored all seven of his points during one three-minute second half stretch that saw the Ducks open up their first double-digit lead.
3. JAMES WISEMAN’S ELIGIBILITY IS GOING TO BE THIS YEAR’S ZION WILLIAMSON
Every season, there is a talking point that gets shoved down the throat of anyone that watches college basketball on a nightly basis, and this year it looks like it is going to be Wiseman’s eligibility.
It was discussed ad nauseum during Tuesday night’s broadcast, there were graphics that popped up explaining that he has been ruled ineligible by the NCAA and Jay Bilas and Dan Shulman talked through the particulars of the case multiple times. It was mentioned at halftime. It was the centerpiece of what was discussed postgame.
And rightfully so!
Wiseman might be the best player in the country. He is a potential No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. He is the star attraction on a Memphis team that ranks in the top 15, has Penny Hardaway as their coach and is the college hoops team that had all the buzz in the offseason. Oh, and should I mention that he is in the middle of an absolutely unprecedented battle with the NCAA over his right to play this season?
He should be the thing that gets talked about more than anything else this season.
It’s not wrong.
Just prepare yourself for this to happen.
Monday Overreactions: The Pac-12’s start, Texas is a contender, Florida’s overrated
Maxey was the best player at the Champions Classic last week, scoring 26 points in the final 30 minutes as the Wildcats picked off then-No. 1 Michigan State.
I wrote about it from Madison Square Garden. Kentucky was looking for a star heading into this season. We didn’t know who their best player was going to be this year, and to be frank, we don’t know for sure if it actually is Maxey or if he just got hot at the right time in the right building.
But if Maxey can end up being something close to the guy that we all saw in the World’s Most Famous Arena on Tuesday night, it is unquestionably a difference-maker for the Wildcats. The knock on this group was that there was no clear answer about who is the go-to guy, who is going to be asked to have the ball in their hands, who is going to be capable of making plays at the end of a clock.
Well, now it seems that we have an answer.
It’s Tyrese Maxey.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: Texas Longhorns
Texas went into Mackey Arena on Saturday evening and knocked off No. 23 Purdue, 70-66. There are a number reasons why this performance was impressive, from the emergence of Jericho Sims and Gerald Liddell to how well Matt Coleman played to the toughness shown by Andrew Jones in grabbing the game-sealing rebound and knocking down four straight free throws in the final minute.
But to me, what was so impressive about this win was that Texas actually looked like a competent offensive team. We knew this group was going to be able to guard. They’ve always been able to guard under Shaka Smart, and this season they added defensive mastermind Luke Yaklich to the coaching staff. No, the reason to be bullish on Texas – the reason I think that they are the second-best team in the Big 12 – is because they sliced and diced a good Purdue defense.
There are shooters on this roster. There are multiple playmakers on the floor at any given time. They may not have the lottery pick, but Jericho Sims can do a lot of the same things.
Watch out for the Longhorns.
THE PAC-12 IS ACTUALLY GOOD
Last season, the Pac-12 was an utter disgrace. The league put three teams in the NCAA tournament because Oregon found a way to win the automatic bid. They got their brains beat in during non-conference play, and there wasn’t a single team from the conference that finished higher than a No. 9 seed in the NCAA tournament.
This year is an entirely different story.
Five days into the college basketball season, the Pac-12 is 18-1 overall, and there are some pretty good wins in the mix. Arizona smacked around Illinois. Washington beat Baylor on a neutral court. Oregon has a couple of impressive wins over Mountain West teams. Oregon State beat Iowa State. Utah beat Nevada. Hell, the only loss any team in the Pac-12 suffered came when Arizona State lost to Colorado, another Pac-12 team, in China in a non-league game.
At this point last season, the Pac-12 only had three losses to their name. But they had not won a single game against a high-major opponent had seen Washington get blown out by Auburn, Cal get blown out by Yale and USC to lose to a Vanderbilt team that went winless in the SEC.
ARIZONA IS THE BEST TEAM IN THE PAC-12
I came into the season thinking that Oregon would probably be the best team in the conference. After watching them comeback against Baylor on Friday, I thought that Washington would be the best team in the league.
But at this point, I think I’ve come around to the idea that it’s Arizona. Nico Mannion looks like he is going to be the real deal. He put 23 points and eight assists on Ayo Dosunmu and Illinois, who forced Cassius Winston into a nine-turnover game last season. Josh Green is making shots from the perimeter. Zeke Nnaji has been one of the biggest surprises of the early season.
I’m buying this Arizona team early. Get on board while you can.
JADEN MCDANIELS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PLAYER IN THE LEAGUE
To be clear, I don’t think he’s the best player in the league. I don’t think he’s the most valuable player in the league. Hell, I don’t think that he is either of those things for his own team.
But McDaniels is the guy that is going to determine who wins the Pac-12 this season. He’s just such a weapon in this zone because of his length. Mike Hopkins has been using him at the top (in the two) of his 2-3 zone, and that created a lot of problems for Baylor shooters getting used to his 6-foot-10 frame. And then there are the things that he can do offensively, where he has so much more skill and polish than I initially thought he would.
Put another way, McDaniels was just fantastic during the comeback against Baylor. If the plays like that as opposed to playing like a 195 pound wing that hasn’t quite grown into his height, the Huskies are going to be a nightmare.
FLORIDA IS OVERRATED
I was very surprised by just how slow and small Florida looked when they took on Florida State in Gainesville on Sunday afternoon. Granted, this was a tough matchup for the Gators. The Seminoles overplay passing lanes and switch everything, and that basically dares opponents to try and beat them 1-on-1. That’s tough to deal with for anyone.
But it’s particularly problematic for a Florida team that lacks playmaking and features a point guard that is, relatively speaking, slow and unathletic. Nembhard couldn’t create off the bounce, and when he couldn’t create, Florida’s offense slowed to a crawl.
There aren’t many teams out there that can guard the way Florida State can, and the Gators were certainly not aided by the fact that their good three-point shooters spent Sunday firing up brick after brick, but I’m much more concerned about Florida’s future now than I was before Sunday.
AUBURN’S WIN SAID MORE ABOUT DAVIDSON THAN IT DID ABOUT AUBURN
I really thought Davidson was going to have a chance to win the Atlantic 10 and make a run to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament. I’m not sure I believe that anymore, not after they were completely taken out of anything they want to run by Bruce Pearl and the Auburn Tigers. Davidson just could not deal with that level of athleticism. They missed roughly 800 layups on Friday, they committed head-scratching, self-inflicted turnovers and they couldn’t keep out of foul trouble thanks to a lack of size inside.
And yet, they were a bucket away from having a chance to win this game on the road.
That’s not a good sign for Auburn.
College Basketball Top 25 Power Rankings: Kentucky’s No. 1 as the top reshuffles
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.