Feast Week Debrief and more

Hopefully by now you are all waking up from that deep turkey coma.

A lot of college basketball has been played.

If you are one of those people who only tunes in for March Madness, but stumbles across this article, here are your cliff notes of team reports:

Your first thought about Duke is “how healthy are those freshman?”

And that’s not the trademark thought of a Final 4-worthy team.

For now, Duke has earned impressive early season wins, including a win over #21 Rhode Island on a neutral court much closer (Connecticut) to the Rams than the Blue Devils home turf.  They lost a thriller to Kansas.

Luke Kennard and Grayson Allen have shared the workload in terms of scoring output.  And Chase Jeter is a much improved post-player.  Last year, despite injuries down low, coach Krzyzewski was reluctant to play Jeter.  Yet, this year, he is logging valuable minutes.

Not sure how coach Few does it, but he does it again.

Off all places, college transfers are supplying Gonzaga with two players who are making a true difference right now for the bulldogs.

In particular, Nigel Williams-Goss looks extremely comfortable at point guard.  The junior transfer from Washington averaged 13 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists early in the season.  Gonzaga beat an underrated Iowa State team in holiday tournament play, which is noteworthy because they too have one of the nation’s best point guards (Monte Morris).

OG Anunubi has been getting, and will continue to receive, all of the accolades in line with observers who salivate over a player’s NBA prospects.  Yet, for this Hoosiers ball club, James Blackmon Jr. and Thomas Bryant have been carrying the Hoosiers in the first eighth of the season.

The Hoosiers suffered a horrible loss at IFPUW, but this team’s versaility makes it a threat.  Despite losing Yogi Ferrell to graduation, Josh Newkirk, a Pittsburgh transfer, has been filling in nicely.

Talented point guard holdover Melo Trimble does not have a ton of talent surrounding him, compared to what was in place with last season’s roster.  His penetration and runner late against Richmond escaped what would have been a really bad loss Thanksgiving week.  That was followed up shortly thereafter by a crushing at home while hosting Pittsburgh.  Maryland might not be a tournament team this season.

Michigan State
Miles Bridges is the next Vince Carter.

However, this Spartans team lacks size.  That hurts.

Coach Tom Izzo has been visibly (and minute-allowance-wise) disappointed with senior guard Erron Harris.  This Michigan State team, unlike several teams from the last 20 years, will run the ball in the open court.  Tum Tum Nairn will be the straw that stirs the drink for this Spartans squad.  If he can orchestrate a team that gets out, runs the floor, and guts a defense from all areas of the floor, Michigan State could be dangerous with its athletes.  We can never count out coach Tom Izzo, but this team, in particular, will be a challenge this season to foster growth.


Michigan Embarrasses Athletic SMU


Well, Duke vs. Kansas wasn’t worth writing about.  Between the lack of Duke’s talented freshmen and the underwhelming performances of the other Blue Devil stars, at first it seemed unclear what to make of this first glut of tournament games.

Then the Wolverines sank their teeth into tournament play.

Michigan has some holdovers from its last viable March Madness roster–Zach Irvin, Derrick Walton and Duncan Robinson.  And, at Madison Square Garden, a new influx of rotation players shined.  D.J. Wilson, a thin junior with a wide wingspan, put on an offensive clinic that began with a backdoor cut that finished with a two-handed and-one dunk.  Moments later his 6-10 frame flew on a one-man fast break.

Michigan is tall, balanced, plays defense, and we know is well coached.  SMU is slightly smaller, but just as athletic, if not more.  That all didn’t matter Friday night as Michigan officially jumped onto the AP Top 25 radar in deserving fashion.

Check out this sweet photo by Michael Reaves of Getty, and give him a follow.  


Armed Forces Classic Reconnaissance



Here are my major takeaways from the four major battles to begin the season.

Arizona defeats Michigan State

This game looked like a JV scrimmage.  Michigan State is suddenly small, with Gavin Schilling injured, Deyonta Davis departed and 6-6 Kenny Goins going into the starting lineup at center.

In watching the game, it would seem that coach Tom Izzo was trying to send some type of message to Eron Harris, as the senior sat for stretches mid-way through the game.  Clearly, continuity was missing for both teams.   Michigan State started the game dominant, then faded, Arizona showed their athleticism, and then it was the Spartans turn to perform again.  It just looked like a preseason game.

The main takeaway had to be the coming-out party for Miles Bridges.  The freshman from Flint, Michigan was putting on a personal slam dunk contest.  With its smaller profile, Michigan State looked to push the ball throughout this game.  That included after made baskets.  Bridges capitalized on one of those outlet passes by jump-faking a three and taking it strong with a wrap-around jam from under the hoop.  By the time he had attacked the basket, the dunk itself was uncontested.

Arizona, on the other hand, is ever more of a mystery.  K

Kadeem Allen carried the Wildcats to victory.  Yet, Arizona had only 8 dressed scholarship athletes.  Allonzo Trier remains the top mystery, not even flying to Hawaii with the team.  The sophomore guard was one of the most hyped young prospects from the West Coast in the modern era.  Check YouTube.

Arizona is a far cry from the 2013-15 NBA scout teams that they put out there in recent years.

Indiana defeats Kansas

Let’s pump the breaks on OG Anunoby.  That’s first of all.

ESPN analysts want to promote him to the next Victor Olidipo already.   To coach Tom Creen’s credit, Olidipo became an NBA lottery pick by improving greatly over his collegiate career, equally because of his defense.  The athleticism of Anunoby, and size, could both be superior to Olidopo’s by the time OG leaves IU.  But the sophomore’s track record still only shows an average of five points from last season.  And that’s with opportunities at the small forward position, especially given the love-hate relationship coach had with Troy Williams.

In the broadcast of this KU – IU ball game, there were mentions that OG could even improve to a national player of the year candidate.  Yet, he finished with just 13 points despite the game going into overtime and playing a total of 36 minutes.

What did stand out was the variety of ways Indiana went after KU.  Phase 1 included a barrage of three pointers to begin the game.  The Hoosiers made their first four field goals, all for three.  Then there’s the bully down low, Thomas Bryant, who also ran the floor like a defensive end intent on a sack.  Finally, Phase 3 was James Blackmon Jr’s silky smooth jumper.  It’s back.  Blackmon missed majority of last season with a major knee injury.  He finished with 29 points in this game, including a clutch three pointer in overtime that showed the ice in his veins.

If OG becomes the next coming of Tracie McGrady that some predict, this team will be Final 4 material.  I just don’t see that materializing in this young season.

Separate note, point guard Josh Newkirk, a junior transfer from Pittsburgh, is a serviceable replacement for Yogi Ferrell.  Yogi is a once-in-a-decade, dare I say once-in-a-generation, point guard talent.  You could do a lot worse than Newkirk filling those shoes.  The former Panther put the ball in a variety of Hoosiers hands in the right spots.  Indiana looked like it enjoyed playing together.

KU, on the other hand, could have another early tournament exit in its future.  Sorry to cut to the chase so early, it’s only November, but it’s the same formula for the Jayhawks as it’s been in the past five years.  All the hype surrounds a freshman (or two).  This year it’s Josh Jackson.  Three years ago Andrew Wiggins came into Kansas with a similar expectation and similar position with the team.  Wiggins, you could easily argue, was surrounded by a lot more talent.  While Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham may be the best backcourt in the Big 12, there isn’t a ton down low that really scares opposing teams.  Kansas was out-rebounded 50-39 against Indiana in this one.