By Riley Saxon
Week 1 in Review
What an opening week to college basketball. The first week of the season had everything a fan could ask for, with buzzer beaters, upsets across the nation and a Top 4 matchup that lived up to the hype!
There was so much going on, it was hard to keep track of everything, so College Hoops Breakdown is here to make sure nothing slips through the cracks.
Close Calls and Upsets
The season started with chaos, as Ohio State needed a great play by Malaki Branham and Houston needed overtime in their games against mid-majors, and Virginia fell to Navy. Later on during the week, North Carolina needed every bit of RJ Davis’ career high 26 points at home versus Brown, and Florida State ended the weekend with a loss at Florida. And those were just games of teams in the top 25. The PAC 12 had three teams lose buy games at home (California, Washington and Arizona State – more on them in a bit), plus Stanford and Cal lost games on the road to mid majors, while the ACC had the aforementioned FSU and Virginia losses, plus Louisville’s buy game loss to Furman, Miami’s loss at home to UCF, Pittsburgh’s buy game loss to The Citadel, and Georgia Tech’s buy game loss to Miami of Ohio.
Strong wins in the Top 25
Duke handled Kentucky and, while not as reminiscent of the 2018 beating, it was a clear sign that Coach K’s last year is going to be a good one. Kansas looked every bit a championship contender in their victory over Michigan State opening night. Purdue has looked incredibly strong, and Michigan, Baylor and Illinois all won the games they were supposed to (and for the most part, handily).
Top 5 matchups
Although the Champions Classic generally gets top billing to start the season, everyone’s eyes were on the weekend, as there were not one, but two Top 5 match-ups. UCLA and Villanova played an instant classic on Friday night, with the Bruins coming back from 10 down midway through the second half to win in overtime. A rematch in March almost feels inevitable. The second top 5 matchup featured the top ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs squaring off against the number five Texas Longhorns. This game was not nearly as close as the UCLA-Nova game, as the Zags dominated from the get-go and really never looked back. It was Timme time all night, to the tune of 37 points. The wins mean the Zags and Bruins are each two games away from setting up a 1 vs 2 rematch of their epic Final Four game.
Game Winners Galore
The first week also had its fair share of game winners that came with under a second to play. Zed Key, the recipient of Branham’s brilliance for Ohio State, hit a tough layup with three-tenths of second left to get the win for the Buckeyes, and everyone saw JP Moorman II’s near-full court chuck to win it for UC Santa Barbara over Arizona State. Tyson Etienne had the ballsiest of the shots, hitting a three from the logo to win the game for Wichita State. The cream of the crop, however, was like the Texas A&M – Abilene Christian Double OT Thriller. Mahki Morris hit a corner three with .8 left for ACU to send the game to its second overtime, where Hassan Diarra hit a difficult three with .9 left to win the game for the Aggies.
The Upcoming Games
As if all that wasn’t enough, this week’s slate of games provides opportunity for more of the same (minus the top 5 matchups)… and we’re still a week away from the awesome portion of the schedule, Thanksgiving Week.
Games to watch this week:
Monday: Illinois at Marquette
Tuesday: Saint Louis at Memphis; Virginia at Houston; Seton Hall at Michigan; BYU at Oregon
Wednesday: Michigan State at Butler
Thursday: Ohio State at Xavier
Friday: MACC/ASUN Challenge: Liberty vs Iona
Saturday: Hall of Fame Tip Off: Villanova vs. Tennessee + North Carolina vs Purdue
We could talk ad nauseam about the Villanova game, from the atmosphere at Pauley to the depth of UCLA to the implications of the game, but we won’t. Instead we’ll say this; this is exactly the type of game that UCLA was winning at the end of the 2020 season and during the 2021 Big Dance: get punched, but hang around, then take command as the game winds down. The difference for this UCLA team compared to those times: it happened in game 2 of the new season, and against a Top 4 team no less. Cronin’s UCLA teams have gotten better as the season goes and usually play their best basketball at the end of the season. If that happens this year, look out.
Looking ahead to this week’s games:
Monday, 11/15 vs Cal State Long Beach
CSULB’s Record: 1-0
Last time vs. CSULB: W 69-65 (Cronin’s first game as UCLA Head Coach)
Up to this Point: In their lone game of the season, Long Beach defeated Idaho on the road 95-89, in overtime.
Notable: Joe Hampton, of Last Chance U fame, scored 16 points for The Beach in their only game thus far. He leads the team in assists (and turnovers).
Monday, 11/17 vs North Florida
UNF’s Record: 0-3 (@ASU Monday)
Last time vs. North Florida: First Game\
Up to this point: Don’t let the 0-3 record deceive you. The Ospreys have played 3 true road games so far, including two against teams that appeared in the 2021 Big Dance (Texas Tech + Grand Canyon), plus they were also on the road at Texas A&M, and play at Arizona State on Monday night.
Notable: North Florida has 9 guys that average at least 14 minutes per game. As a team, however, their collective Assist-to-Turnover ratio is 1:2.
College Hoops Breakdown appears twice a month through the summer at JoeTorosian.com
Riley Saxon can be reached at:
Twitter: @CHoopsBreakdown …