If the Thanksgiving turkey made you tired, we want to be sure you don’t sleep on these developments. The holiday weekend was full of quality college basketball.
A&M is For Real
If there was any doubt in your mind the Aggies have game, this battle in Atlantis is Exhibit A for their excellence. The Aggiees illustrated depth, a transition game, and an ability to stretch the floor.
Tony Trocha-Morelos made Przemek Karnowski look silly at times on defense. Trocha-Morelos hit 4-4 from 3 point territory while guarded by the big man.
A quintessential cliche of the picture-perfect team is one in which the name on the back of the jersey is secondary. With their slick black-on-black tops, you literally couldn’t see the name of each player darting into passing lanes and diving down to double-team Gonzaga’s three-headed-monster. Led by Daniel House, Texas A&M excelled past Gonzaga, but was defeated by Syracuse in Battle 4 Atlantis Championship. Syracuse is banned from postseason play. The Orange showed it can play the role of spoiler.
Josh Perkins is sick of hearing you say Gonzaga “lost a lot” at point.
Of course, Gonzaga did lose a tandem of two of the best guards in its program history—Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell, Jr.
If you watched the A&M game, you now know that the siren-sounding about the loss of talent is overblown. Josh Perkins is a player. Perkins doesn’t have the deadly range that Kevin Pangos did, but there are things from Perkins game that you didn’t see from Pangos (especially while he was nursing injury as an upperclassmen). Perkins scored 15 points in the second half. He led a transition break himself and made an athletic move to stop on a dime and hit a mid-range bucket. He skied for a rebound in the late minutes to regain possession in a pivotal spot. Perkins was also efficient from 3 point territory.
We have to sneak this note in before the next paragraph appears to be a slight on the Providence Friars. Coach Ed Cooley has been knocking on the door of greatness, as in a Sweet Sixteen berth greatness, for a few years now. His Providence teams have been gritty. They have also had Kris Dunn. This year, Dunn is primed to be a repeat of Dwayne Wade’s Big East emergence for the Marquette Golden Eagles. That year, Wade led his 3-seeded Marquette group to the Final 4 with a win over #1 Kentucky. Dunn is labeled a point guard by fans who watch college basketball through the lens of predicting what a guy will resemble in the NBA. Those who actually watch the games know that Dunn is no point guard. He rebounds, attacks the rim, dribbles with a giddy-up that can freeze a defender, shoots that fall-away, wears the number 3, and rips the ball from unsuspecting dribblers from a help defender position. At Marquette, Wade was listed at 6-5. Dunn is 6-4. Chris Paul followed advice to go and see Kris Dunn in person during the DirecTV Wooden Legacy Championship game. During the ESPN telecast, Paul remarked on Dunn’s aggressive nature for scoring. Basketball fans who follow @CBBEyeTest on Twitter say Kris Dunn is the frontrunner for Player of the Year.
It’s difficult to understand how Arizona is automatically slotted in the top 15 among AP voters. When you watch this team, you know it is not a top 25 squad. The Wildcats went to overtime to defeat a winless Santa Clara team. The following night Kris Dunn ran circles around Arizona, scoring the final ten points in a win.
Doesn’t it feel like this happens every year? A cushy spot in the low teens is slotted for the Pac 12. The same is happening right now for California and Cuonzo Martin’s squad. Cal is ranked in the teens as is Arizona. However, both teams suffered losses to unranked teams on neutral floors this holiday. Let’s stop ranking Pac 12 teams on what potential their rosters have and instead on the productivity on the floor.
The 6-0 Squads Squared Off
Neither Cincinatti and George Washington are in the Big East, but in Brooklyn’s Barclay’s Center, their matchup looked like an old Big East Championship.
Patricio Garino led the way, again, for the Colonials. He scored off of steals and from behind-the-arc. In the end the Bearcats defense guarded Garino tight and dared someone else to beat them. GW Center Kevin Larson finished the game with just one point and the Colonials lost a game that they had led throughout.
For the Bearcats, sophomore point guard Troy Caupain pressed the gas pedal late. He led Cincy in minutes played as looks to be the routine. Their are plenty of mouths to feed in that Cincinatti offense. The Bearcats took a bite out of their first RPI top 50 win by defeating George Washington. We really get to see how good the Bearcats are now. They’ll play Xavier, Butler, Iowa State, VCU and Temple before 2016.
Dunk City Sequel?
I can’t make the argument that USC 2015 will become Florida Gulf Coast 2013. Watching the Trojans today tells me that Andy Enfield has a young team that can run the floor and share the rock. They held Wichita State to 2-17 shooting in the opening session. Watching this happen, it looked the dizzying tempo Wichita State had to guard affected its offensive output. Props for the Wichita State win, but I’m not getting super excited seeing that Van Vleet and company were missing in action. I can say that USC could be a serious handful in 2016.
King James of the Plains
You’ll laugh reading this, seeing that Wichita State lost three straight. But Ron Baker is the college basketball version of LeBron James. His football background allows him to get anywhere he wants on the floor. Baker is a terrific defender. He can guard the post and the point. Baker passes first, but can run the floor and/or put his head down and go get a basket. And, unlike Ben Simmons (who you could also make the LeBron argument about), Ron Baker is deadly when left open from behind the arc. It was a pleasure watching Baker lead his undermanned Shocker squad against an upstart USC team. He almost won the game single-handedly. Wichita State currently has a carousel of power forwards jockeying for playing time. Baker seemed to set each up with a pocket pass after drawing a double team around the elbow. In the end, USC got the best of him. However, it looked more like LeBron surrounded by Boobie Gibson and Donyell Marshall than it did LeBron surrounded by Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. We can’t say Wichita State has a lack of depth. However, after watching, we can absolutely say that Wichita State has a lack of scoring punch off of the bench. Freshman Markis McDuffie showed that he can score in the Alabama game. Despite his contribution, the Shockers are reeling from the absence of Fred Van Vleet and Connor Frankamp. Help is on the way, King James of the Plains.