We are officially 40 days into the College Basketball season, which has been a wild College Basketball season thus far. Saturday was no different as we had some intriguing matchups. The two neutral court matchups on the West coast provided the two premier matchups, but there were plenty of matchups throughout the day. Now it is time to get into the Saturday reactions for the daily roundup.
Kentucky runs away from North Carolina
After both Ohio State and UCLA bowed out of the CBS Sports Classic due to COVID-19 issues, we were left with a battle of the blue bloods, as Kentucky squared off against North Carolina. This was a game that was never really close, Sahvir Wheeler started the game off getting a basket, a steal, then another basket. Kellan Grady had a good offensive performance, knocking down 5 of his 7 threes while scoring 18. Big Oscar Tshiebwe continued to dominate inside, although he did give up points on the other end to Armando Bacot, who was the only North Carolina player who showed up. Kentucky dominated this game in every facet, they made RJ Davis and Caleb Love uncomfortable, which in turn, led to a combined 18 points on 5-16 shooting from the field. The Wildcats shooting that they added in the offseason paid off, as they went 8-15 from three, which is above average but something to be optimistic about. Kentucky now has a quality win, which is something they were missing, and they have momentum heading into their game against Louisville.
Gonzaga’s defense shines in win against Texas Tech
In an early matchup from Phoenix, Gonzaga got a test from a really tough Texas Tech team, that was going to test them on the offensive end. While the Bulldogs certainly weren’t clicking on all cylinders, they still came away with a really good win. The Red Raiders fronted Drew Timme on the post and held him and Holmgren to a combined 12 points, but with that strategy came open three-point shooters and that’s where the guards made the difference in the game. Andrew Nembhard finished with 16 points on 4-8 shooting from three, Rasir Bolton had 15 points on 5-10 shooting from deep. Defensively, they went on lockdown mode late in the game, allowing only 15 points in the last 14 minutes, which was key in icing the game away. This team may not be last year’s team, few will ever be, but they showed grit and toughness in beating a tough Texas Tech team, while exacting revenge for the 2019 Elite Eight game, in which Gonzaga lost to the Red Raiders.
Providence spoils UConn’s Big East home crowd debut
While UConn formally joined the league a year ago, this was their first real home game in front of a full capacity crowd. While the story was UConn coming in, the story leaving this game should be on the Providence Friars, who picked up a big road victory at UConn. AJ Reeves got it rolling early and often, knocking down four threes while scoring 16 points, Nate Watson was guarded tightly but was solid in the post. Defensively is where this team thrived, they forced UConn into 31% shooting from the floor, and 27% shooting from deep. It should be noted that Adama Sanogo, who is UConn’s best player wasn’t in the lineup, even still this is a heck of a win for Providence. This Friars team should be the main discussion point, they are now 11-1 with wins over Wisconsin, Texas Tech, and now UConn, they now are in prime position to not only make the NCAA Tournament but get a single-digit seed as well thanks to an incredible start to the season.
Razorbacks first-half struggles bite them again in loss to Hofstra
Starting games playing from behind is never a great strategy but Arkansas has been able to win despite that at times. In back-to-back games, that strategy has been on full display of why it’s not an effective one towards winning basketball games. The Razorbacks once again fell down at the half and while they made some runs at Hofstra, it wasn’t enough to come away with a win. On Arkansas’ behalf, I will note that Hofstra is a good opponent, they are probably the favorite in the CAA but this is still a concerning loss. The defense still seems to not be intact, and while having a bunch of different leading scorers is good, it also means that the rotation isn’t fully developed. We’ll see how Musselman can get this team playing better, he’s still one of the best coaches in the sport so I trust him to fix their early issues but to me, this team still feels like they don’t have an alpha dog, which you need.
West Virginia guts out win at UAB
When West Virginia decided to head on the road to play a potential at-large team in UAB provided a unique matchup that would give them a test. For much of the game, it was a test that seemed to be too much for the Mountaineers, but they found a way to lean on their experience a come away with a big win to bolster their NCAA Tournament resumė. Trailing 52-44, the Mountaineers went on a game-defining 21-7 run to close out the game and come away with the win. As usual, it was Taz Sherman who had the big game, scoring 17 to lead West Virginia. This isn’t Bob Huggins’ most talented team and certainly won’t be one that will make a deep NCAA Tournament run, but this is just another example of him taking mediocre talent and getting the best out of it.
Grand Canyon spoils San Francisco’s perfect season
San Francisco was never supposed to end the season undefeated, but this was certainly not the first loss that the Dons hoped to get. Grand Canyon is certainly a good program with a stud in Javon Blackshear Jr who had 23 points to lead the Lopes, while their defensive toughness will give opponents trouble. So the notion of this being a bad loss isn’t exactly true. That said, the offensive struggles were a concern, and should they fail to beat Arizona State on Sunday this team will be put back in a position where they will need quality wins in WCC play. The Dons still should be NCAA Tournament bound this season, but Saturday’s loss definitely doesn’t help their cause long-term.
Baylor gets a test from Oregon but survives
For the most part, the Bears have cruised to a perfect 9-0 season but Saturday marked the first time they got tested, and they responded by getting a big win at Oregon. The Ducks led by as many as 10, before letting the Bears come back and even then the game was tied with 10 minutes remaining. From there Baylor went on a 12-0 run, with 9 of those points coming from Kendall Brown that put the game away and led Baylor to the win. Certainly, this Bears team impressed by getting this road win, although I won’t go as far as to say they are clear and away the top team in the sport. They got a win this time against Oregon but should they trail by double-digits in a different game, they may not be as fortunate as to win. Even still, a 10-0 start when this team lost four starters is impressive, the athleticism of Kendall Brown and Jeremy Sochan has been big, while James Akinjo has been the perfect addition.
Shorthanded St. John’s loses to Pittsburgh
I get it, St. John’s was without Julian Champagnie, who is the best player in the Big East, there’s still no excuse to lose to Pittsburgh. The Red Storm had already lost their two biggest games of the non-conference schedule but this should have provided a win for St. John’s no matter if Champagnie was healthy or not. I wanted to buy into St. John’s and I still might do so at a different point, but Saturday’s loss is just a complete momentum stopper. I guess the good news is that they’re 1-0 thanks to the Big East’s stupid forfeit policy.
Louisville takes loss to in-state opponent
Louisville has a long history of losing to in-state opponents, so it should be no surprise that they lost to Western Kentucky as that seems to be the Louisville way now. Sure, Malik Williams was out and he wouldn’t make some impact but Western Kentucky was the better team. They were connected defensively, they got easy looks and defended really well, Louisville’s offense doesn’t have an alpha dog which is a problem and they just don’t have Louisville talent. At this point, the Cardinals NCAA Tournament hopes, seem to be dead and Western Kentucky is just the latest team to beat Louisville. Also for Louisville and whoever else is reading this, do not ever schedule Western Kentucky, they have enough talent to beat most teams in the sport, with the difference being that they never have a good enough resumė to make that a quality loss either.