Photo Credit: AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
Staff Writer 750 & 102.9 The Game
While the college basketball season officially kicked off Friday, the 24 hours of hoops marathon really signals the arrival of the season. The event featured everything from an Oregon vs Baylor afternoon game to a Kansas vs Duke nightcap with Niagara vs Hartford holding down the fort in the early AM. Here’s what I thought of the event and what we discovered.
It’s Hard to Replace an All-American. Oregon did not look sharp in their 66-49 loss to Baylor as the defense had a tough time staying in front of Forward Jonathan Motley in the second half, and hit just three of their 21 attempted threes. One of the reasons I picked Oregon as a one seed in the preseason was their depth and with Dillon Brooks out, it looked less that impressive. The bench scored a total of four points as guys who had big games against Army on Friday, just could not get it done against a tough Baylor squad.
The Duo of Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. & Jonathan Motley is Really Good. Coming into the season, I had Baylor as a bubble team for the NCAA Tournament since they were missing most of their backcourt from last year, including NBA Draft lottery pick Taurean Price and rebounding machine Rico Gathers.
Motley appears to have stepped up on the offensive side of things, leading all scorers with 17 points, and got to the rack at will in the second half. He was a very good player last year, but he appears to have taken the next step.
Meanwhile, Acuil is a guy that sounded impressive on paper, a seven footer from Australia that can hit threes, but we had no clue what he could do. Seven blocked shots and 11 rebounds just in the first half shows he can fill the shoes of Gathers just fine, and might even be better than the eventual NFL Draft pick.
Kansas is Still Good. Many (myself included) took Duke to win the national championship and while I still think they are the favorite, Kansas took it to them last night with a thrilling 77-75 win.
The place I thought Duke had the biggest advantages in this game were Amile Jefferson in the paint and the all-around scoring of Grayson Allen. They forced Jefferson into seven turnovers as he fouled out in the second half while Allen, who was picked by many as the preseason player of the year, took 15 field goals and had just 12 points to show for it.
Duke will look different come conference play as they were without the five-star freshman trio of Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, and Marques Bolden, but it’s still might impressive what Kansas did.
Kansas got just 14 minutes out of Landen Lucas due to foul trouble, but freshman Udoka Azubuike picked up the slack with 12 rebounds off the bench and freshman Josh Jackson went 7-of-9 from the floor. Guards Devomte’ Graham and Frank Mason also found ways to score despite the team going 2-for-17 from three.
Wisconsin Did Not Look Like Wisconsin. The Badgers were on the wrong end of a 79-67 contest and the team turned the ball over much more than we typically see from them. They had 16 turnovers and took 23 of their first 31 shots from three. They got out to a hot start from distance, but once they cooled off, they were toast.
As for Creighton, Mo Watson looks like the real deal as he went for 17 points and 10 assists to pick up a resume-building win.
Virginia’s Defense is as Strong as Ever. Now I know they were playing St. Francis (NY), but to hold a team to 32 points in a 40 minute game with a 30 second shot clock is amazing. By the way, fun fact: St. Francis (NY) is one of just five original DI teams to never make the NCAA Tournament. The others are Army, William & Mary, Northwestern, and The Citadel.
Washington State is in for Another Brutal Season. They played a Central Washington team that lost seven games in DII Great Northwest Athletic Conference play last year and actually trailed for part of the second half before collecting a five point win. This is is the same team that went 1-17 in Pac-12 play last year, I expected more of the same this year.
Dayton is the Best Team in the A10. While Dayton and Alabama are unranked, I think both are tournament teams and Dayton showed up the SEC football power on their home floor with a 77-72 victory. The Flyers clearly had less depth, losing the bench points battle by a count of 27-12, but Scoochie Smith did it all for Dayton with 20 points and four assists on over 50 percent shooting from the floor. With VCU narrowly escaping a perennially awful Liberty Flames squad, their main competitor in the conference is a Rhode Island team that we still don’t know what we can expect from.
You can follow Greg’s work on Twitter, @GUnit_81