October is college basketball’s busiest month and October 13th was one of the more memorable nights in the sport. What we saw on opening night will have a huge impact on this year’s NCAA tournament, but let’s take a closer look at what happened with some surprise overreactions from around Twitter.
The “ncaa basketball news” is a blog about the latest happenings in men’s college basketball. It includes everything from overreactions to surprises, and more.
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With roughly 200 games featuring Division I schools on the men’s side, the 2021-22 collegiate basketball season began on Tuesday, ending seven months of competitive dormancy. On Tuesday, 22 teams from the AP Top 25 competed, with some close calls and one major shock among the outcomes. Top-ranked Gonzaga and No. 2 UCLA cruised as predicted, but Houston, a fellow 2021 Final Four member, was given a scare by Hofstra, and the Hubert Davis and Chris Beard eras kicked off with victories over North Carolina and Texas, respectively.
ESPN’s college basketball experts Myron Medcalf, Jeff Borzello, John Gasaway, and Joe Lunardi weighed in on what they saw from Madison Square Garden and throughout the country as the sport took its first tentative step toward crowning a national champion in New Orleans on April 4:
Although Duke won 79-71, did you learn anything new about the ninth-ranked Blue Devils or the 10th-ranked Wildcats on Tuesday night?
Medcalf: Duke, Duke, Duke, Duke, Duke, Duke, Duke, Duke The Blue Devils put up a strong showing. The most important development was undoubtedly how they dealt with adversity. Wendell Moore Jr., Trevor Keels, and Paolo Banchero were all hampered for portions with what seemed to be cramping problems. That’s when Duke showed off its depth, which allowed the team to keep its momentum despite having some of its best players on the bench.
When Banchero is on the court, though, Duke seems to be a squad capable of winning the national championship and destroying any team in the country. He should not be able to handle the ball or move the way he can as a 6-foot-10 athlete predicted to be the No. 1 selection in the 2022 NBA draft. It just adds a new aspect to Duke, making it a distinct challenge. Keels also didn’t seem to be a freshman. His physical prowess played a significant role in the game. On paper, we knew who Duke was. We were aware of the depth of skill that the Blue Devils had enlisted. It was remarkable to watch it all come together on Tuesday night. In college basketball, Duke may not be the team to beat. The Blue Devils, on the other hand, are unquestionably one of them.
Borzello: I expected Kentucky to be a work in progress because of health and role allocation concerns, and that seemed to be the case, but I learned a lot about Duke’s players who weren’t named Paolo Banchero. Of course, Banchero is a tremendous player, and there’s a reason he was rated as the most college-ready talent in the 2021 high school class. Kentucky just didn’t know what to say to him. He’ll make a strong case for the Wooden Award. But it was eye-opening to see how Duke responded when Banchero went to the locker room in the second half.
Keels was one of the top scorers in the 2021 class, but it wasn’t apparent whether he’d be counted on as much straight immediately. He was, after all, and he answered the doorbell. His stature, shooting skill, vision, and defensive prowess are all quite outstanding. Moore has advanced to the next level offensively this season, and he’s a lot more fluid. Theo John gives the Blue Devils the physicality and tenacity that they lacked last season. The bench isn’t fully filled, but it has sufficient depth. I predicted Duke to reach the Final Four earlier this week, and Tuesday night didn’t alter my opinion — but it did boost my confidence.
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Gasaway: Impressed by a Kansas team that played without Wilson yet gave the appearance that they had this game wrapped up for the most of the second half, even though the score stayed tight. Of course, Agbaji had a fantastic night, and the Jayhawks only gave the ball away nine times in a fast-paced (77-possession) game. That’ll help you win some games. The combination of Agbaji and Martin will offer a significant challenge to Big 12 defenders. If there is a silver lining for the Spartans, it is sophomore A.J. Hoggard, who led MSU with 17 points in just 26 minutes.
Lunardi: I believe you can predict my response as the man in the room who chose Kansas to win it all. The Jayhawks did little to discourage the perception that they are a legitimate contender for the national title. And once all the components are in place, they’ll only grow better.
John Carter Jr. hits a game-winning triple to seal Navy’s victory against Virginia.
What surprised you the most on opening night?
Lunardi: The ACC should definitely remove “buy” games to Navy (at Virginia), The Citadel (at Pitt), and Miami (Ohio) (at Georgia Tech). That’s three dreadful defeats in the first few minutes of the season. The American (8-0), Big East (8-0), Big 12 (7-0), Atlantic 10 (13-1) and SEC (10-1) did not each have three defeats.
Gasaway: I was taken aback by Nebraska’s 75-74 loss to Western Illinois at home. When I named Alonzo Verge Jr. as my Big Ten newcomer of the year, I went out on a limb all by myself, and he did quite well. Verge scored 26 points, but his teammates shot only 14 of 39 from the floor against a Summit League opponent coming off a 5-9 season. Fred Hoiberg is in his third year in Lincoln, and during his time at Iowa State, he proved without a shadow of a doubt that he can get things done. However, the Cornhuskers are only 14-46 under the new coach, and the loss to the Leathernecks signals that this club may have an even difficult time than predicted this season in a deep Big Ten.
With seconds left, Akron takes the lead on a triple plus a foul, but Ohio State replies with Zed Key’s game-winning jumper.
Medcalf: I’ll go with Ali Ali and Akron almost pulling off an upset in Columbus against No. 17 Ohio State. In the preseason poll, Akron, a mid-major that lost its star, Loren Cristian Jackson (22.3 PPG), was selected to finish sixth in the MAC. However, the Zips held a one-point lead against an Ohio State team that is projected to be a force in the Big Ten competition until the Buckeyes’ Zed Key scored the game-winning shot in the closing seconds. Nonetheless, John Groce’s crew made a name for themselves with that performance. Akron came close to pulling off a stunning upset only hours into the 2021-2022 season.
Borzello: I was surprised by a number of upsets, including UC San Diego’s win over Cal, The Citadel’s win over Pitt, Miami (Ohiowin )’s over Georgia Tech, Western Illinois’ win over Nebraska, and so on, but I’m going to give a shout-out to Ohio, which beat Belmont by 12 in the post-Jason Preston era’s first game.
Belmont was picked to be one of the best mid-major teams in the nation in the preseason polls, receiving votes in the top 25. Ohio scored 92 points on 16 3-pointers. Mark Sears, who only started five games last season, stepped into Preston’s shoes and performed well, scoring 27 points and dishing out four assists. Jason Carter, who played two seasons at Ohio before moving to Xavier for two seasons before returning to Ohio, resumed up where he left off last season, scoring 20 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. With continuing strong performance from Ben Vander Plas, the Bobcats might be a playoff contender again in March.
Which opening-night occurrence, in your view, caused the most national outrage?
Virginia loses against Navy, according to Borzello. Look, it’s a bad defeat, and Virginia was the first top-25 team to fall on opening night to an unranked opponent. But I’ve seen a lot of people write off the Cavaliers because of the defeat, and I believe that’s an overreaction. With two important players from last season returning, two major transfers joining the fold… and not much else, Virginia was one of the most intriguing teams heading into the season. The Cavaliers weren’t going to be an ACC championship contender after only one game. It’ll take some time to complete. Last season, Virginia fell to San Francisco and had to win in overtime to overcome Kent State before winning the ACC.
And Navy isn’t half terrible either! In 2020-21, the Midshipmen were 12-1 and won the Patriot League regular-season championship. Tony Bennett’s offense is still a worry, and they’ll only defeat a few teams if Armaan Franklin and Kihei Clark combine to shoot 3-for-14 from outside the arc. However, I believe Virginia will be a force in the ACC this season.
Gasaway: It’s been a tough night for the ACC. At home, Virginia fell to Navy, Pitt fell to The Citadel, and Georgia Tech fell to Miami (Ohio). To be clear, they aren’t stellar performances, but we should be skeptical of attributing college basketball success to league affiliations. One school of thinking leading into the evening was that Duke, Florida State, and North Carolina would form a type of big three at the top of the ACC, and that the Cavaliers were placed No. 25 in the preseason AP poll due of their coach more than their players’ accomplishments. Nothing we witnessed on the first night of college basketball has changed our minds about the ACC.
Trevor Keels and Duke outplayed TyTy Washington (3), but he’ll have lots of chances to demonstrate what he’s capable of. Frank Franklin II/AP Photo
Medcalf: Probably TyTy Washington’s critique. In his debut game, the Kentucky guard struggled. He was 3-for-14 and putting all he had into it. People were urging John Calipari to bench him rather than let him to work through his difficulties. However, I believed it was the best decision for his confidence to let him attempt to figure it out for a while.
With Paolo Banchero on the bench, Duke was better than Kentucky on Tuesday night. It wasn’t simply Washington’s effort that made a difference. The Blue Devils seem to be the better team right now. I believe Washington just had a terrible night on a big platform against a squad capable of winning the championship. He couldn’t get into a rhythm and looked more like a rookie playing his first college game than a potential first-round choice in the NBA draft next summer. It’s been a long night. But that was the end of it.
Despite recently losing to the Spartans, Michigan is rated higher than Michigan State in the weekly College Football Playoff update. The CFP will not be permitted to disturb the opening night of a sport that understands how to crown a champion when I am king of the world.
Justin Moore of Villanova continues his torrid shooting from beyond the arc with his sixth 3-pointer of the game.
Give us one thing you’re looking forward to for the remainder of college basketball’s opening week.
No. 4 Gasaway On Friday night, No. 2 Villanova will face No. 2 UCLA. Everyone’s picks to win the Big East and Pac-12, respectively, are the Wildcats and the Bruins, and tonight will be our first genuine look at two teams that may reach the Final Four. Are they deserving of such high honors? In terms of shooting accuracy, Jay Wright’s squad was remarkably typical throughout Big East play last season. Mick Cronin’s team notably came within an extra session of losing five consecutive games against Michigan State in 2020-21. However, according to pollsters and laptops, all of the aforementioned might be old history. I’m looking forward to staying up late for this one.
Medcalf: I’m looking forward to seeing No. 5 Texas take on No. 1 Gonzaga on Saturday in Spokane, Washington. That might be a preview of the Final Four. This also kicks off a two-week stretch for Gonzaga, which includes games against Texas, UCLA, and Duke. Chris Beard’s greatest strength is his depth. The Longhorns will make a significant statement about where they stand in the Big 12 and the national scene if Marcus Carr and company can go on the road and upset Gonzaga. It’ll also be a challenge for Gonzaga’s defense, which will have to deal with numerous guards. On defense, Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren will be put to the test. However, due to their stature, the pair may be able to overpower the Longhorns. I’m very excited about this one. Both sides are playing in a crucial contest.
Lunardi: The first NCAA championship game I recall seeing was UCLA vs. Villanova in 1971. We grew up watching all of the Philadelphia Big 5 teams, and the Wildcats had just annihilated unbeaten Penn in the East Regional finals. So witnessing the Bruins and Wildcats face off 50 years later, especially in Pauley Pavilion, is as wonderful as it gets for me. Only a face-to-face duel in the Palestra would be better.
Borzello: On Saturday, Texas will play Gonzaga. There are a lot of fascinating stories for both teams heading into the season, and a lot of questions that we’ll start receiving answers to this weekend. It will be intriguing to see how all of Texas’ great players mix and buy into their positions. There are only so many minutes in a game, and adversity will almost certainly strike in a major away game against the No. 1 team in the nation. What will the Longhorns’ collective reaction be? What will the Drew Timme-Chet Holmgren tandem look like for Gonzaga against a frontcourt with actual size and skill? Is the perimeter group as well-oiled as it was last season? Are the Zags’ freshman up to the task? I’m looking forward to it.
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