Welcome back, friends! It’s college basketball season, and three days in, there is already a ton to talk about. So, I’ll do my best to break it all down for you in our first weekend wrapup of 2017-18.
There’s a lot to get to, so let’s dive right in:
These teams were good:
Vermont: Vermont confirmed what every America East team feared — that the Catamounts are really, really good, and not just for a mid-major. Vermont played only six guys 10-or-more minutes and they all contributed in a major way. On top of that, the team showed poise down the stretch, coming back and almost beating one of the best teams in the nation on the road.
George Mason: The Patriots had Louisville on the ropes at the Yum! Center, which is something even the best in the ACC struggle to do. Jaire Grayer hit five threes and had 10 rebounds, picking up right where he left off at the end of last year. Maybe the best part for George Mason? The Patriots clearly did not play their best — neither against Lafayette on Friday nor on Sunday against the Cardinals. On Sunday, they committed 15 turnovers, shot under 30 percent from three, and managed just 0.88 points per possession. Once this team puts it together, watch out.
Missouri State: Despite the drama at Western Kentucky, the HIlltoppers should still be a good team. The Bears went into Diddle Arena and not only won, but showed off their litany of weapons along the way. Star Alize Johnson had 13 points and eight boards. JT Miller had 14-and-eight off the bench. Obediah Church had 11 points on a perfect shooting day, and Ronnie Rousseau had 12 of his own. The pace of the game meant that turnovers were a bit inflated on both sides, but a coach can live with that when the team is so efficient on the rest of its possessions (1.12 ppp).
Monmouth: The Hawks’ season-opening win over Bucknell was a sign that they would come to play against Seton Hall. After all, the Bison are a top-10 mid-major team and are loaded with experience. But Monmouth has Micah Seaborn and other teams do not. Seaborn had 21 against the Bison and 16 more against the Pirates. Monmouth will need someone else to step up, and Diago Quinn (16 points, seven rebounds vs. Bucknell) and Deion Hammond (17 points) both showed they could do it.
These teams were not:
Toccoa Falls: We covered this a bit on Saturday, but Toccoa Falls lost to Appalachian State, 135-34. For you non-math majors out there, that’s a 101-point defeat. We break down the numbers here. The Screaming Eagles then lost to Mercer on Sunday, 110-43. They committed 50 total turnovers over the two games.
Richmond: It’s OK to have a hiccup in your first game post-TJ Cline. But oh boy should that hiccup not be a loss to Delaware — particularly one that was not as close as the final score indicated. The Blue Hens led 49-20 — FORTY-NINE TO TWENTY — at halftime and it took a furious second-half rally to make it appear respectable. Credit to Delaware, though. Ryan Daly should be fun to watch.
St. Bonaventure: I know the Bonnies didn’t have Jaylen Adams, but if you’re a team that’s going to be in the at-large conversation, you can’t lose to Niagara at home. Sorry. At least Matt Mobley had himself a game and the frontcourt didn’t look awful. Hurry back, Jaylen.
Little Rock: The Trojans have had quite a fall from that team two years ago that went 30-5 and beat Purdue in the NCAA Tournament. Their 81-79 loss to Ouachita Baptist to open 2017-18 did not help, and now they have to play at Memphis, Grand Canyon, and San Diego all in the next week.
Team of the Weekend (by GameScore)
G Jaelan Sanford, Toledo: GmSc 31.6 | 31 pts | 8 ast | 11-16 FG
G Jon Axel Gudmundsson, Davidson: GmSc 30.1 | 24 pts | 8 ast | 9 rbd
G Geno Crandall, North Dakota: GmSc 34.6 | 41 pts | 15-19 FG | 7-9 3PT
G Jon Elmore, Marshall: GmSc 34.5 | 38 pts | 8 ast | 11-21 FG
F Ryan Welage, San Jose State: GmSc 29.9 | 30 pts | 10-12 FG | 3-3 3PT
Game of the Weekend:
Florida Gulf Coast 98, Illinois State 87
This was a high-level game from both sides and it was just a joy to watch. The Eagles and Redbirds spent the game in attack mode, either getting to the basket or hoisting quick-yet-smart jumpers. The best part was that there were real positives to take from both teams. For FGCU, who we all knew would be good, Zach Johnson was the star. He averaged 11.9 per game last year, but exploded for 27 points with four assists and four rebounds. If he and Brandon Goodwin command the spotlight, this Eagles team is going to be stupid good. As for Illinois State, no one was quite sure what to expect. The Redbirds are a new-look group playing shorthanded due to injuries and no one would have thought twice if FGCU ran them out of the building. Only that didn’t happen, as five of the eight players to suit up had phenomenal games. Phil Fayne and Keyshawn Evans combined for 52 points, while Malik Yarbrough flirted with a triple-double with eight points, eight rebounds, and 10 assists. Taylor Bruninga was, however, perhaps the brightest spot. The freshman had 14 points off the bench on 4-7 shooting from deep.
Let’s talk about Brandon McCoy
We’re not surprised that the Mid-Major Madness Preseason Freshman of the Year is making an immediate impact at UNLV. But no, we did not expect him to go for 25-and-18 in his first game. Holy Naismith. Imagine doing that in your first collegiate game on 11-19 shooting over just 23 minutes of action. Let’s not overreact — after all, the opponent was Florida A&M — but at minimum, the Rebels should be a fun team to track this year with McCoy anchoring things down low.
UT Martin, you have my attention
Let’s talk about an 0-2 team that actually looks really good. The Skyhawks’ two losses came in overtime at Marshall and by three at Illinois. UT Martin saw contributions up and down the roster. Against Marshall, Dominique Williams came off the bench to score 25 points on 10-12 shooting. Needless to say the senior who has not played organized basketball since 2015 started game two (and had 15 in that one as well). DelFincko Bogan had 33 total points this weekend, and his six assists and seven steals against the Illini made him the game’s KenPom MVP. And that’s not to mention Matthew Butler, who played all 45 minutes against Marshall, scoring 20 points and hitting four triples. We’re watching you, Skyhawks.
Stephen F. Austin, do not read this,,, Lamar, hello
We took a lot of heat in the preseason when our own Mitchell Northam picked Lamar to win the Southland over SFA. And while we can’t draw any conclusions from the first weekend of basketball, the Cardinals did knock off Tulsa on the road, making Mitchell look (at least temporarily) smart. Colton Weisbrod might be the best player in the conference, and he had 15 points and 13 rebounds in that game. The Lumberjacks also won their opener against Longwood, so credit to them as well.
Did you think this weekend’s games — even the ones that weren’t particularly close — were fun as hell? Me too. Part of that reason could be because we had some teams who played out-of-their-minds fast and scored all of the points. We already know that The Citadel runs a bonkers offense, so their 132-93 final against Virginia Tech wasn’t exactly shocking. That’s what happens when each team has 95 possessions.
A couple other games of note:
Cincinnati 107, Savannah State 77
This game was actually close for a while before the Bearcats’ talent took over. Still, the numbers are fun:
- Savannah State had 92 possessions
- Cincinnati scored 1.16 ppp
- The two teams combined to take 83 threes
- 11 total players scored in double figures
Nicholls State 111, UTRGV 106
Jahvaughn Powell came off the bench to score 18 for Nicholls State…and he was the team’s fourth-leading scorer. Lafayette Rutledge led the way for the Colonels with 23 points on 7-11 shooting from three. Both teams averaged over a point per possession in a game in which they both had the ball 98 times.
Usually I put the Undefeated Watch in this spot, but 190 schools have yet to lose a game and I’m not about to list all of them. So instead, here are the seven schools who did not play in college basketball’s opening weekend:
Florida: Opens Monday vs. Gardner-Webb
Florida State: Opens Tuesday vs. George Washington
Temple: Opens Thursday vs. Old Dominion
Manhattan: Opens Wednesday vs. St. Francis-Brooklyn
Green Bay: Opens Tuesday vs. Northern Illinois
Northern Illinois: Opens Tuesday vs. Green Bay
UC Davis: Opens Monday vs. Northern Colorado
Vanderbilt at Belmont, 7:30 p.m. ET, Facebook Live
How often does a Power 5 program travel to a strong mid-major? I don’t know, but I do know that this is the first time one has visited Belmont since 2003 when the Commodores came in and won 74-59. Belmont is coming off a close loss at Washington on Friday in a game that Rick Byrd will tell you the Bruins really should have won. The Curb Event Center is expected to be sold out and rocking. Tune in.
Have a great week, everyone!