- Matt Cox
"There's no place like home" is ringing truer now more than ever in the world of college basketball. Everytime you set foot on a conference foe's campus, you are in serious danger of adding another 'L' to your resume. With that noted, let's review what transpired last night...
The Big Boys
(Power 6 + AAC, A10, MWC, MVC & WCC)
Oklahoma @ Kansas State: Was Vegas laughing the whole day as arrogant fools (including myself) scurried to lay down money on Oklahoma -2 ? Yes they were - shame on me for not respecting the road, especially the Octagon of Doom, which remains one of the more underrated home court venues in all of college basketball.
Unfortunately for Boomer Sooner, Trae Young's Alter Ego "Turnover Trae" made an untimely appearance last evening - Young coughed up the rock 12 times with 10 of those coming before the halftime.
Allow that to soak in... 10 turnovers in a half for an entire team is poor, but Young racked up a "double-double" with turnovers all by himself in just 20 minutes of action. He's now averaging a hair over 5 turnovers a game, which is somewhat masked by a redonkulous 10 dimes a game, making that heralded assist to turnover ratio look a little more pleasing on the eye...
But let's steer clear of the overplayed narrative that Young's disastrous performance was the sole reason the Sooners lost this game - the Wildcats looked SHARP. Even without Kamau Stokes, K-State absolutely shredded OU's perimeter defense and rained in 9 of their 17 treys en route to a convincing destruction of Lon Kruger's crew.
Think about this for a second: What would everyone be talking about right now if K-State had come out on the right end of the crushing 1-point defeat at Allen Fieldhouse last Saturday? Bruce and the boys would be 4-2 in the brutal Big-12 with wins over Kansas & Oklahoma, both of whom are top-4 seeds per my colleague's most recent bracketology update. If only there was a way for someone to permanently delete the loss to Tulsa from their resume, so we could forget this team ever lost to Frank Haith...
Bottom line - should we take this K-State squad seriously? Yes... but we should take every team in the Big-12 seriously at home and be cautious not to overreact if / when the likes of Kansas, West Virginia, Oklahoma and Texas Tech lose on the road...
Louisville @ Notre Dame: "Return of the Matt!" *Mack Morrison voice*... It was such a refreshing sight to see Matty Farrell out there orchestrating the Irish offense, but he certainly has a bit of rust to wipe off. Farrell accounted for five of Notre Dame's 18 turnovers as a team, which is completely out of character for a Mike Brey coached team. The Cardinals squeaked by the Irish in a double OT barn burner to continue climbing the ranks in the ACC standings.
Wait a second - is Louisville underrated? I refuse to buy into this team fully, but have I sold too much of my stock? Jim - one of our two certified bracketologists here at 3MW - projects them as an 8-seed in his latest bracketology, but a road win @ Notre Dame will certainly boost their seed projection upwards...
On the flip side, we have the skidding Irish who have returned to planet Earth after racing out of the gates to a 3-0 start in league play (although, getting Georgia Tech and NC State at home was a nice way to ease into ACC play and get accustomed to life without Bonzie). After last night's heartbreaker, Notre Dame now sits amongst the ACC shuffle at 3-3 as they frantically search for answers as to where consistent scoring and shooting will come from this season with 'the Bonz' out of the picture.
Over their first 6 ACC games, Notre Dame is dead stinkin' last in effective FG%, converting just 41% and 33% from inside and outside the arc, respectively. Yup, that's right - even the offensively challenged Yellow Jackets and the [insert any part of the game of basketball] challenged Pitt Panthers have shot the rock at a higher clip than the Irish.
Clemson @ North Carolina: 'Ole Roy continued his dominance against Brad Brownell, all thanks to the white hot shooting stroke of former Pitt transfer Cameron Johnson.
*narrator*: In his spare time, Johnson enjoys appreciating the fact that he no longer plays basketball for Pitt.
Here's what to watch if you're a Tar Heel fan going forward: How will Roy tinker with and balance the variety of lineup combinations at his disposal at the year progresses?
One of his preferred lineups - which resembles the traditional UNC dual big lineup - typically slots 'Cool Hand' Luke Maye at the 4 alongside a supporting shot-blocker at the 5 (usually Garrison Brooks). The counter lineup is a 'small ball' look that places Johnson at the 4 and Maye at the 5.
All those who continue to remain skeptic about Maye's legitimacy as a go-to, inside-out scoring option for this team are just being stubborn - the dude can get buckets. But he simply isn't the dynamic athlete cut from the typical Tar Heel big cloth, which means the interior rim protection suffers a teensy bit when he's the primary paint presence on defense.
The more important point here is that Roy is showing a willingness to adapt from his long standing style of play with two trees on the floor at all times. The addition of Johnson now enables him to mix and match between two formidable lineup options, which will give UNC the versatility needed to adapt and respond to an array of match up styles throughout the rest of ACC play.
Wisconsin @ Purdue: This free throw from Ethan Happ succinctly sums up how the night went for the Badgers...
Vanderbilt @ Mississippi State: I'm going come right out and say it - I watched a grand total of zero minutes of this game, but it appeared to be just another episode of 'the Commodore Collapse'. Vandy has plummeted down to 105th overall in kenpom.com's rankings and is tied for last in the SEC at 1-5.
Kentucky @ South Carolina: Hats off to those of you who sat through all 40 minutes of this 'free-throw-a-thon':
Ok, this game wasn't that unbearable to watch. The Gamecocks blitzed the baby Wildcats in the 2nd half to rally from a 14- point deficit to clip UK at home. Naturally, the Gamecock faithful responded with a deafening "We want Zion!" chant as the final seconds ticked away (referring to Zion Williamson, the blue-chip recruit and jaw-dropping athlete set to announce his college destination soon).
Ole Miss @ Texas A&M: I've always felt the term "Must Win" is wildly overused in sports discussion forums, but last night's game in College Station certainly qualified as such from the Aggies' vantage point.
Down 2 with the ball on the final possession, Ole Miss was this close to handing A&M it's 6th consecutive conference loss:
Cincinnati @ UCF: Final score - Cincy 49, UCF 38...
We sure do Aldo!
The whole world saw this one coming - Vegas oddsmakers set the over / under at 122 total points, which was LAUGHABLY too high (the under cashed by 35 points, lol). Other than Virginia, I can't think of another team in America who could score 49 points in a game and still cover a 7-point spread.
(All the other guys - yes, that includes you SWAC)
No time to dive into the mid and low-majors today :(
'Morning Mashup' Format: 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.