Everyone still alive? Good. Last night’s round of college basketball was certainly one for the ages. Great games to cap off a great 24 hour tip-off marathon by ESPN. After the madness I figured I would give my immediate observations on what this season’s going to entail.
Trying something different. I’m going to start using images to explain my points better in more upcoming blog posts. Since I don’t have access to a lot of film I’ll have to rely on the YouTube community to supply me with footage. Hopefully I’ll be able to do the same with my Texas State posts as well but those will be even harder to come by.
1. Yes, Believe the Hype
Believe the preconceived hype behind this incoming freshman class. Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle all lived up to early expectations with stellar individual performances last night.
Andrew Wiggins proved that he is the most explosive and raw of the bunch. 22 points, 8 rebounds and a game clinching step-back jumper to ice the game for Kansas. “Ender” Wiggins didn’t destroy the nonbelievers as some may have thought but he showed why he was picked as the early favorite to be the number one overall selection in the 2014 NBA Draft.
Wiggins’ jumper isn’t the best looking at this point in time. But it works for him and because his first step is so deadly, teams will give him this kind of space all season long.
Also notice Jabari Parker heavily shadowing Wiggins and sagging off of his assignment, #34 Perry Ellis.
Benched the majority of the first half due to foul trouble, Wiggins had to do most of his damage in the second. He showed explosiveness to the rim, elite finishing ability and poise on the big stage’s closing moments. His handles are still a little sloppy and I would’ve liked to have seen him get involved in the play-making a little more as he ended with 0 assists but he’s still adjusting to the college game. Many, including myself, would have also liked to have seen him be more aggressive early on but Duke’s defense was keyed in on him the whole game so it wasn’t all his fault.
Julius Randle. What can be said that hasn’t been said? Randle was phenomenal vs Michigan State. Tom Izzo had the Spartans ready to swipe at the ball whenever Randle went to his patented spin move and after the first few times he adjusted. Finishing with 27 points and 15 rebounds Randle’s physical ability gave him an almost unfair advantage against whomever Michigan State put on him.
Adreian Payne got the assignment to guard Randle for much of the game but in the end the Spartans were forced to send the house to stop him from snagging boards and playing bully-ball in the paint.
Randle’s ball handling is something to be marveled at as well (I’ve seen Julius “Handle” as a possible nickname, we’ll get back to that later). At one point in the second half Randle took the ball up court, used his explosive first step to breeze by Payne, drop-step into the lane and into the middle of the defense only to adjust his body and finish for the basket. The guy is unreal and probably the most physically imposing player in the country already as a freshman.
In the waning seconds of the game he made this clutch basket over a collapsing Spartan defense. Kentucky’s spacing is very poor as only James Young is around the three point line and the team isn’t worried about Harrison in the lane or Willie Cauley-Stein on offense at all.
The entire Spartan defense is around Randle, and although he somehow manages to score, this consistent pressure Michigan State put on Kentucky was the reason for their win.
Kentucky and Randle would lose, but that had more to do with Michigan State having a great game plan for the young Wildcats and executing it to near perfection.
His 8 turnovers were glaring but his adjustment to team’s getting familiar with his style of play will dictate if that number’s an anomaly or trend.
Jabari Parker. With most of the recent hype surrounding Andrew Wiggins and Julius Randle, Parker reminded everyone why he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated back in May of 2012. He ended the night with 27 points, 9 rebounds and 2 steals.
Easily the most polished offensive game of the three , Parker didn’t shy away from the ball or the spotlight from the opening tip. Confident in his game Parker showed off his shooting stroke rising up from three to hit 4-7. He did commit an unneeded foul on an outlet pass to Andrew Wiggins that fouled him out of the final minutes and severely hindered Duke’s chances to catch back up with the Jayhawks in the end.
The game comes more fluidly to Parker at this point but that was expected.
Here Parker penetrates, draws the help defense away from the spot-up shooter and he would dish to an open Rasheed Sulaimon in the corner for a three.
His shooting stroke was on display but his slashing to the rim was raising eyebrows as well.
As he goes into the lane, at first glance, he seems to miss the easy pass to a wide open Matt Jones at the bottom of the screen.
But nope. Parker slices through the collapsing defense and makes an acrobatic finish at the rim in transition.
Would’ve loved to see Parker have a more awareness of the situation on that last foul. But freshman should be expected to make freshman mistakes.
2. Michigan State is for real
The game plan early for the Spartans versus the young Kentucky team was simple: Make them make mistakes. The Spartan defense was swarming all over the court, forcing turnover after turnover and catching the Wildcats off guard with how aggressive they came out of the gate.
Michigan State forced 17 turnovers and at some points Kentucky just looked gassed.
The Spartan back court of Keith Appling and Gary Harris proved to be too much for the Harrison twins as they outscored four of Kentucky’s starting five players 42-38. Appling dropped 22 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists and 4 steals while Harris ended with 20 points and 3 steals.
Although seniors are a dying breed in terms of NBA scouting, Keith Appling still has a chance to make a name for himself as a first round pickup. Harris’ stock has room to grow as well. He’s already projected to be a mid-first to lottery pick and with the play he showed last night against Kentucky’s highly touted class, he could move up.
The storyline heading into the game was experience vs youth and it lived up to the bill. Michigan State’s experience proved, in the end, to be too much for the young Wildcats.
From stimy defense to fearless rebounding, this team has the vintage Tom Izzo staple and could be his best team since the 1999-2000 National Champion Spartans.
3. College Basketball’s Most Exciting Season
More of a prediction than observation. But after last night, in what some are calling one of the best nights in college basketball history, I’m going to make a call and say that this season will be the best overall college basketball season of the past 20 years.
Storylines across the nation are stirring up and none of them can be slept on. You have the freshman listed above and Kentucky’s young unit, but Aaron Gordon at Arizona is sure to cause chaos out West and Marcus Smart at Oklahoma State is still the top point guard in the country at this point in time.
When you get down to the mid-majors, what can Creighton’s Doug McDermott do to lead the Jays farther in the tournament coming off of his superb junior season.
Can Andy Enfield bring “Dunk City” to the Pac-12 at USC? Will he and Steve Alford at UCLA bring basketball relevance back to California?
And that’s not even mentioning the defending champs Louisville still packing a very potent squad primed for a repeat.
If there were ever a season for anyone to get really into college basketball, this is it.
4. ROCKSTAR GRANDMAS
You didn’t think I would end this without giving a shout to the best part of ESPN’s Tip-off Marathon did you?!
My favorite part about the start of college basketball season is easily ESPN’s 24-hour tip-off marathon. This year the madness started with Monday night at 12 a.m. CST with BYU at Stanford and would go on till Tuesday night’s Kansas/Duke game.
At 2 a.m. Tuesday, Western Kentucky tipped off verses #13 Wichita St.
There, the greatest thing ever was caught on camera.
Greatest thing ever? Greatest thing ever.
College basketball Twitter exploded when this was shown.
The Wichita State grandmas drinking Rockstar may the funniest thing I'll see all week…and it's early Tuesday…
— Chris Hudgison (@ChrisHudgison) November 12, 2013
— anitacochran realty (@anitacochran) November 12, 2013
— The Sporting News (@sportingnews) November 12, 2013
Welcome back, college basketball!