- Matt Cox
Wow, well done MLK Monday...
In an unbelievably [not] shocking turn of events, ESPN went full throttle on the 'Sonic Blockbuster' hype train by invading TVs across America with roughly 7,839,941,365 re airings of their flagship CBB commercial (conveniently embedded for your convenience below) - and for that worldwide leader, we thank you...
If "Sunshine" by Kyle and Miguel playing on repeat for two straight weeks didn't get you juiced up for the much anticipated double header between Duke / Miami FL and Kansas / West Virginia, then check your pulse (or just continue living what we presume to be a normal, balanced and healthy life)...
With 'the Bachelor' now swinging into full gear, it's perfectly understandable if you missed some of the hardwood action last night - I, however, threw in the towel on ABC's premier program after the network made back-to-back egregious decisions with their 2017 (Nick) and 2018 (Arie) Bachelor selections, after giving us a gift in the form of Ben 'the G.O.A.T' Higgins back in 2016.
'Morning Mashup' Format: Below, we break up our quick hitting reactions from last night into two sections: "The Big Boys" and "The Middlemen" (these are working titles - do bear with us).
It's quite simple - if you only care about the high-major programs and the happenings in the higher profile games, 'The Big Boys' focuses on takeaways from the Power 6 leagues PLUS the AAC, A10, MWC, MVC and WCC, and the 'Middlemen' takes care of everybody else (yes, the little guy matters here at 3MW).
We won't pretend to claim that our definition of "mid-major" should be followed as the almighty gospel, but we did break down our rationale as a precursor to an article on the Big 12 last season:
The Big Boys
(Power 6 + AAC, A10, MWC, MVC & WCC)
Duke / Miami FL: Remember during the Pk80 where not once, but twice Duke whipped out a magic wand and erased double-digit leads against competent basketball teams (Texas and Florida) in the blink of an eye? Well the ghost of the PK80 reappeared in Coral Gables last night as the Devils rattled off a ridiculous 15-0 run in what felt like a millisecond to stun the Canes in their building.
Duke was without Javin DeLaurier and Marques Bolden, leaving them with minimal to no post depth after Carter and Bagley - predictably, things got dicey after Carter got into early foul trouble which opened the door for Justin Robinson to earn 9 courtesy minutes of playing time - I'd wager most casual fans thought something along the lines of, "Who the hell is the toothpick with happy feet out there for Duke?" when Robinson was thrown into the fire early in the 1st half.
Unfortunately, Miami couldn't slam the door shut after building a comfortable 13-point lead late in the 2nd half - the Canes torched Duke in transition early on (fueled by Duke's sloppy ball security), but settled for long range jumpers down the stretch and the rim seemed to shrink to the radius of a golf hole.
So while Duke escaped with robbery on the road (thanks to a pair of double-doubles from Bagley & Carter and a 30-point outburst from Gary Trent), the real winner last night was the Miami Hurricane faithful, who welcomed the addition of the world's hottest power couple to their fan base:
One final note that might floor you, so do brace yourself: Trevon Duval has hit the same number of 3s in ACC play as Grayson Allen... IN TWENTY FEWER ATTEMPTS: Duval: 8/20 - Allen: 8/41
West Virginia / Kansas: A similar script transpired in the encore of ESPN's Sonic Blockbuster showcase - This was supposed to be the game where West Virginia firmly planted their foot on Kansas' throat, causing the Beakers to ease their grip on the 13-year Big 12 league title streak.
All went as planned for the first 30 minutes: Kansas was throwing the ball to everyone in WVU Coliseum except each other and Sagaba Konate was basically doing an impersonation of Shaq playing Slamball at the rim whenever the KU guards managed to get past the first wave of the press.
But as Jay Bilas pointed out about 25 times throughout the first 30 minutes of action, the 'Neers' cushion felt weirdly small, given how much they had dominated the game defensively - their lackluster half-court offense only regressed in the 2nd half as offensive movement stalled and jumpshots refused to fall.
Contrarian take alert: I am officially attributing more credit to Kansas' defense than blame to West Virginia's offense! Yes, the same team that entered last night's tilt with a defense ranked in the bottom-half of the Big-12 stymied West Virginia's penetration and cutting action to keep the lead within striking distance, which they closed in a hurry in-between the under 8 and under 4 timeouts.
It just all unraveled for the 'Neers - Jevon Carter and Konate's foul trouble helped deaden the momentum, Huggins had to pull back his full-court pressure and something odd began to happen... Kansas started to look comfortable on offense. Precise execution and pristine perimeter passing allowed Svi Mykhailiuk to find acres of space open for catch-and-shoot 3s. WVU threw gasoline on the fire by fouling the Jayhawks 80 feet away from their own basket on multiple occasions out of frustration after failing to haul in offensive misses, essentially gifting Kansas free points at the charity stripe.
So what's all of this mean? It means if you are reading our Big 12 previews next year - or are listening to an episode of our podcast this year - in which we [idiotically] predict that this season will be the end of Self's perpetual Big-12 streak, promptly remind us what fools we are (in Jim's defense, he predicted Kansas would tie for the Big-12 conference title).
Maryland / Michigan: Really Mark Turgeon? You're going to waste a near-perfect roady performance against a sizzling-hot Michigan team in which you finally didn't cough up the basketball 20+ times by simply not guarding the inbounder - haven't you re-watched the Christian Laettner shot enough times to know guarding the inbounder is like resoundingly the right decision?
In your defense, you managed not to foul after Michigan did get the ball in bounds... oh, you did foul? ok fine, well at least you fouled a bad free throw shooter... oh, my mistake again - you got a guy who came in shooting 92 F*&^ING PERCENT FROM THE LINE! Sigh, let's continue...
Providence / Butler: This game confirmed just how important Kyron Cartwright is to Providence. The Friars were reeling early in the year, which sparked an outrageous overaction by me declaring the near-dumpster fire Johnnies to be in the conversation for the Big East's 5th or 6th best team, ahead of Providence and Butler. Despite the plethora of talented, veteran wings surrounding him on the floor, Cartwright may be the single most important player to his team in the entire Big East (too far?).
Ok enough with the big dog bias - let's wrap this up quickly: Penn State has officially removed themselves from NCAA tournament consideration with a devastating home loss to a Minnesota team / program that appeared to be in a tailspin entering last night's contest. Baylor ran away from Okie Light (Oklahoma State) at home to get a much needed Big 12 win behind Manu Lecomte's career high and Boston College is now quietly 3-3 in the ACC with no bad losses on their resume after dispatching Florida State at home. Finally, Chicago college basketball fans are in pain this morning as Illinois stayed winless in the B10 and DePaul got routed at Marquette, pulling them down securely into the Big East's cellar.
(All the other guys - yes, that includes you SWAC)
As an America East homer, this league is backing up my preseason point of view that Vermont better not take any of their conference foes lightly - The Catamounts are off to a strong 4-0 start in league action, despite missing their interior beast Anthony Lamb, but can't afford any regression whatsoever if they want to run the table again this season.
The Horizon continues to be an embarrassment, relative to it's long lost glory days when Butler and more competitive schools did battle on a nightly basis. The latest evidence of this league being down is 5-0 Wright State struggling to get past an abysmal Youngstown State team who have been a major disappointment even with Cam Morse back in the mix.
The SWAC is all out of whack - Texas Southern got beat by Grambling, which drops the Tigers (the Houston-based Tigers, that is) to 3-2 in conference play. Why should you care? Because if Texas Southern can't make their way out of the SWAC postseason tournament, the NCAA tournament will be forced to send an invitation to one of the other 9 remaining piles of garbage (ok fine, Prairie View isn't THAT bad).