After school basketball’s most scandal-plagued offseason in years, one thing got here alongside to supply a much-needed distraction from the dialogue of bribery, corruption, subpoenas and wiretaps.
Some precise basketball.
Twenty-one preseason prime 25 groups have been in motion Friday as the brand new school basketball season tipped off. Here are some snap judgments from opening night time:
ARCHIE MILLER MAY NEED AWHILE TO REBUILD INDIANA
In Archie Miller’s fourth season at Dayton, he received 27 video games regardless of a depleted roster with six scholarship gamers and no person 6-6 or taller
Coaxing one thing constructive out of his first Indiana crew may very well be a lot, a lot more durable.
An 90-69 house loss to Indiana State was actually a humbling Bloomington debut for a coach anticipated to sometime return Indiana to prominence. Few projected the Hoosiers to contend within the Big Ten this season after shedding three of their prime 4 scorers from final yr’s middling crew, however getting run out of Assembly Hall by an in-state foe hints that the hole separating Indiana from the league’s higher echelon could also be extra of a chasm.
Indiana State, projected to complete eighth within the Valley this season, was on tempo to hold 100 on the Hoosiers till the ultimate six minutes when it lastly eased off the fuel pedal. The Sycamores led by as many as 30 factors and sank 17 of their first 22 threes, torrid taking pictures aided by an Indiana protection that appeared confused defending ball screens and was sluggish to rotate and shut out on shooters.
This yr’s Indiana crew lacks the perimeter firepower to maintain tempo with an onslaught like that. DeRon Davis supplied some inside scoring, however the cold-shooting, mistake-prone Hoosiers shot Four of 18 from behind the arc, dedicated 19 turnovers and trailed by 20 or extra your complete second half.
By the time the Assembly Hall crowd thinned out halfway by means of the second half, one factor was clear: Miller will want Hoosiers followers to point out persistence with him. He could sometime have Indiana persistently contending for Big Ten titles and Final Four berths, however the roster he inherited has too many holes for it to be immediately. It’s going to take time.
MICHAEL PORTER HAS A GOOD CHANCE TO PLAY IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
Ben Simmons’ LSU squad turned down an invite to the NIT two years in the past. Markelle Fultz’s Washington crew was one of many Pac-12’s worst groups final season.
Many thought Missouri freshman Michael Porter may be the third straight future No. 1 decide within the NBA draft to fail to achieve the NCAA match, however the Tigers’ efficiency Friday night time suggests these fears could also be untimely.
Even although the heralded Porter sat out all however two minutes as a precaution after tweaking a hip damage, Missouri nonetheless cruised to a 74-59 victory over Iowa State. Forward Kevin Puryear got here off the bench to ship 17 factors and eight rebounds in reduction of Porter and freshman Jeremiah Tilmon delivered an environment friendly 14 factors because the Tigers maintained a double-digit lead from practically begin to end.
That Missouri might dominate a power-conference foe with out important contributions from Porter is an encouraging growth. Granted Iowa State is rebuilding after graduating the core of final yr’s crew, however that is nonetheless progress for a Tigers program that completed final within the SEC every of the previous three seasons underneath former coach Kim Anderson.
Many of the highest gamers from Anderson’s last squad are again and new coach Cuonzo Martin upgraded this system’s expertise stage with an impressive recruiting clbad headlined by Porter, his youthful brother and Tilmon. Missouri had the look of an improved crew even with out Porter. The Tigers must be NCAA tournament-caliber with him within the lineup.
TEXAS A&M CAN CONTEND FOR THE SEC TITLE
Its place to begin guard was serving a four-game suspension due to an offseason DUI. Its NBA-bound large man was additionally unavailable as a result of a season-opening suspension. Its remaining gamers opened the sport with a hail of rushed pictures and sloppy turnovers.
Texas A&M actually didn’t seem poised for fulfillment towards 11th-ranked West Virginia’s vaunted full-court press, but … Aggies 88, Mountaineers 65.
There have been lots of causes for Texas A&M’s turnaround, none greater than the play of juniors D.J. Hogg, Admon Gilder and Tyler Davis. Hogg scored 16 first-half factors and served as a stabilizing presence for the Aggies, Gilder practically notched a triple-double and appeared extra snug making selections with the ball in his arms than at any level final season and Davis confirmed all-SEC potential in bullying the Mountaineers within the paint with 23 factors and 13 boards.
Billy Kennedy’s choice to modify to a zone protection halfway by means of the primary half was additionally key as West Virginia misplaced its offensive rhythm and by no means regained it. When the Mountaineers aren’t forcing turnovers or dominating the glbad, they’ll look dangerous, and Texas A&M made them look dangerous for lengthy stretches of the second half.
Expectations have been modest for Texas A&M getting into the season regardless of a vaunted junior clbad, the return of potential lottery decide Robert Williams and the eligibility of level guard J.J. Caldwell. The reminiscence of the Aggies fighting turnovers final season and badly underachieving performed a job, as did the early suspensions to a handful of key gamers.
One dominant win doesn’t erase these issues, however it’s actually an encouraging signal. Without Williams and Caldwell, Texas A&M was nonetheless adequate to crush West Virginia. With them, the Aggies may be adequate to hold with Kentucky and Florida.
PITTSBURGH WILL BE BY FAR THE ACC’S WORST TEAM
Remember when Pittsburgh supporters have been grumbling that their program had plateaued underneath Jamie Dixon? That Dixon might get the Panthers to the NCAA match however he couldn’t construct a Final Four contender?
How occasions have modified since then.
Merely making the NCAA match would little doubt fulfill Pittsburgh followers now given the best way this system has slipped underneath new coach Kevin Stallings. The Panthers completed Four-14 within the ACC in Stallings’ debut season and endured a slew of offseason defections, leaving them with zero returning starters and two returning scholarship gamers.
A season-opening 71-62 loss to Navy on Friday night time bolstered simply how robust issues are going to be this season for a Pittsburgh crew projected to be the ACC’s worst crew this season. The Midshipmen are improved underneath coach Ed DeChellis, however they misplaced 16 video games final season and so they hadn’t crushed a power-conference opponent this century.
Pittsburgh missed its first 14 subject objective makes an attempt after halftime, enabling Navy to construct a double-digit lead. The Panthers closed as shut as 4 factors, however they by no means regained the lead.
“We have a slew of things to work on,” Stallings stated.
That’s an understatement. At this level, even profitable a pair league video games could be fairly an accomplishment.
KENTUCKY NEEDS TO RELY ON DEFENSE TO AVOID A BUMPY START
For a number of fleeting seconds, fifth-ranked Kentucky regarded prefer it may be in hbadle. A freshman-heavy Wildcats crew with just one rotation participant again from final season trailed upstart Utah Valley by 12 factors lower than a minute into the second half.
How Kentucky recovered to grind out a 73-63 victory was very instructive about what the power of this yr’s Wildcats could also be. They did it with protection — zone protection no much less.
John Calipari despises zone a lot he’s gone total seasons with out enjoying it, however he was good sufficient to acknowledge that it may be an efficient weapon for a crew with size at each place. When the Wildcats went to it early within the second half, they launched an 18-Zero game-changing surge by creating a number of deflections and parlaying these turnovers into transition factors.
Freshmen Kevin Knox and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander mixed for eight of Kentucky’s 11 steals. Fellow freshmen Hamidou Diallo turned one in every of them right into a hovering windmill dunk, essentially the most spectacular bucket in his 18-point debut.
With no dominant level guard, minimal big-game expertise and a dearth of confirmed outdoors shooters, Kentucky will in all probability endure a bumpier-than-usual November and December as its younger gamers adapt to the challenges of the school recreation. Tuesday’s matchup with experience-laden Kansas will probably be a troublesome one for the Wildcats. Heck, even Sunday’s house recreation towards Vermont will probably be a problem.
For the Wildcats to get to SEC play with solely a pair losses, they’ll have to maintain turning protection into offense. Some video games that may be man-to-man. Other video games that may imply zone. Whatever the formulation, the necessary factor is that it fuels the Wildcats’ deadly transition badault.