Blog Entry

Five thoughts on a great night of hoops

Posted on: November 24, 2010 2:10 am
Edited on: November 24, 2010 2:22 am
Tuesday marked the first real day of great college basketball games, and it was terrific. Here are five thoughts from a night that saw No. 1 Duke remain undefeated, No. 4 Kansas State take its first loss, Kemba Walker lead UConn past No. 2 Michigan State, and No. 8 Kentucky get by No. 13 Washington thanks to another stellar effort from yet another terrific John Calipari-coached freshman:

1. Duke is seriously talented, elite, all that and more

The Blue Devils were the nation's consensus preseason No. 1 team, and the nation saw why during their 82-68 win over Kansas State. You could reasonably argue -- I'm not saying I necessarily believe this, just saying it could be reasonably argued -- that Duke has college basketball's best player at three different positions, and that freshman Kyrie Irving is already the team's top player despite the fact that he joined a roster featuring seven guys with national title rings. This team was easy to love on paper, and it's even easier to love after watching it on the court. They won't lose when they play well. To top them, somebody will have to be really good on the same day they're a little off.

2. Jacob Pullen will probably be OK, I think

Jacob Pullen struggled against Duke, missed 11 of the 12 shots he attempted. So if you want to question him, you can. And I won't blame you. But I would like to remind you that he's had awful nights before and recovered nicely. The All-American candidate posted back-to-back 2-of-15 games last January and still went on to put 34 on BYU and 28 on Xavier during the NCAA tournament. Granted, it's unclear if Pullen can be that same type of player without Denis Clemente in the backcourt beside him, and, I know, Pullen hasn't looked great this season regardless of the opponent. But he's still undeniably the best player on a team that already owns wins over Virginia Tech and Gonzaga, and that's worth remembering in the spirit of perspective.

3. Kemba Walker is turning into a star

New York-area basketball enthusiasts have wanted Kemba Walker to be a star since the moment he enrolled at UConn, but it didn't happen that quickly for a variety of reasons. It's happening now, though. Walker recorded at least 30 points for the third straight game and led the unranked (for the moment) Huskies to a 70-67 victory over Michigan State. He's driving and scoring and, perhaps most impressively, leading. And though I can't imagine Walker keeps it up and really averages around 30 points per game, if he's anywhere close to this good consistently then my prediction that UConn will miss the NCAA tournament for the second straight year will be wrong in a major way.

4. Michigan State, as usual, will be a work in progress

As sure as Tom Izzo is spelled with two Zs, Michigan State will be there in the end. To think otherwise would be stupid. But it must be concerning for Spartan fans that Kalin Lucas was awful in the loss to UConn. While Walker had the type of game that enhances (and in many cases inflates) reputations, Lucas had one that damages them. He recorded four field goals and five turnovers in the loss, and an elite point guard shouldn't have games like that in his senior year even when he's coming off of an injury.

5. Terrence Jones is way better than I anticipated

I knew Terrence Jones would be good because he's big and skilled and naturally gifted, but what he's done through four games is ridiculous. The 6-foot-8 freshman is averaging 20.1 points and 11.8 rebounds after geting 16 points and 17 rebounds in UK's 74-67 win over Washington, and he's the main reason why the Wildcats are still overwhelming opponents despite losing five first-round picks from last season's team. Jones' waffling between Washington and Kentucky for two weeks last May -- specifically the way he toyed with fans via Twitter -- before ultimately signing with the Wildcats was a major turnoff in my eyes, but I don't care about that anymore. Kid is performing like a monster. Just tremendous. He'll never play college basketball next to permanently ineligible Turkish star Enes Kanter (barring a successful appeal to the NCAA). But, my lord, can you imagine how scary Kentucky would be with those two?

Since: Dec 13, 2008
Posted on: November 24, 2010 5:08 pm

Five thoughts on a great night of hoops

If you knew what you were talking about you would know that Patterson graduated in three years.

Since: Oct 25, 2007
Posted on: November 24, 2010 1:13 pm

Five thoughts on a great night of hoops

A work in progress is exactly what MSU always is, and this is why I love reading GP - he's intelligent enough to realize it. 

MSU could very probably end up at #2, but of course they were overrated based on last end of season success. MSU always struggles in the beginning of the year. I'm expecting them to split Duke/Syracuse. There's just something about Izzo's kids where year after year it seems that ranking gets into their heads and they don't play up to their potential. Izzo then has to strip away the BS, break his players down, and then build them up again as true contenders. 

Izzo and MSU's recent track record is second to none. 2 Final Fours in a row, 6 of the last 12. I don't even care what their NCAA seed will be (probably #1-3 depending on year events), but I'd put money on a 3rd Final Four in a row still. The season is long, this team is going to be shockingly different than the disgrace of a team on the court last night. 

Since: Aug 30, 2006
Posted on: November 24, 2010 11:42 am

Five thoughts on a great night of hoops

Who would have thought a college sport schedule could include marquee games that aren't century old rivals playing for a bucket of appleseed. What a concept college basketball is on to something here.

Since: Feb 27, 2007
Posted on: November 24, 2010 11:19 am

Five thoughts on a great night of hoops

amen to that

Since: Mar 12, 2009
Posted on: November 24, 2010 10:53 am

Five thoughts on a great night of hoops

I don't understand the continuing reference to how difficult it is for John Calipari to assmble a competitive team at UK after losing 5 undergraduates to the NBA. This was exactly his plan. And, seems to be the plan for next year as well. He apparently would prefer to continuously recruit at the top of the food chain rather than developing continuity and maturity in his program by developing players over 2, 3 or 4 year's of eligibility. It remains to be seen if he can win a championship this way or if they will continue to be knocked off year and year by teams with lesser talent but better leadership. But. either way, losing these players was not unexpected and it isn't a surprise they were replaced by the next bunch of AAU phenoms. I'm not sure if after recruiting at this level, the coach deserves any praise for having to put the team back together this year. How could he not considering the new players abilities? The question is were they last year or are they this year as constituted capable of getting past the Sweet Sixteen or Elite Eight? Great recruiter, no question, but can he coach? And, will any UK recruit ever graduate?

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