Kansas’ Overshadowed Win Over Michigan State
Due to Duke’s dominating performance over Kentucky, Kansas’ win over MSU was largely forgotten. It was a very good game that showed a lot about two great teams. The Spartans did look sloppy and uncomfortable in the opening minutes and once they did settle in they went cold and couldn’t hit shots. Kansas took a 14-point lead into halftime, but Michigan State came out looking much better in the second half. Kansas ended up holding on for a 92-87 win, looking impressive in the process.
Quentin Grimes and Devon Dotson both created a lot of excitement in their debuts, they looked like the perfect guards to space the floor and give Azubuike and Lawson room to work in the paint. Grimes looked especially good, finishing with 21 points and 4 assists, and looked like the next great Kansas point guard after Devonte’ Graham and Frank Mason. Udoka Azubuike gave his normal contribution of offensive efficiency and shot blocking, as he was 7-10 from the floor with 4 blocks. Dedric Lawson was wildly inefficient but still managed to have an excellent game. Lawson had 20 points, 14 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocks, and 2 steals; he is every bit the complete player that had been advertised. LaGerald Vick was the lone dark spot and very likely could have cost himself his starting spot on a very deep team.
For the Spartans, Kenny Goins and Joshua Langford led the way on offense. Goins showed a much improved perimeter game and knocked down 3 of 8 three-point attempts. Nick Ward never looked comfortable and suffered from the defensive presence of Udoka Azubuike, he made just 2 of 8 shot attempts and had 5 turnovers. I think Michigan State’s offense would benefit greatly from deliberately getting Cassius Winston more open looks, especially early on. He led the Big Ten in three-point percentage last year but got just 4 attempts from beyond the arc on Tuesday. The Spartans showed that even on an off night they can hang with one of the best teams in the nation. Michigan State’s biggest question mark heading into the season was their go-to scoring option, right now I see that being Langford, but that could change.
Ohio State Opens the Season with a Quality Road Win
In Wednesday’s best game, the Ohio State Buckeyes picked up a 64-56 road win over the Cincinnati Bearcats. Ohio State led for most of the game and when Cincinnati tried to make a run late in the game, the Buckeyes seemed to answer every big bucket with one of their own. Many fans were concerned about the Buckeyes after losing Keita Bates-Diop, Jae’Sean Tate, Kam Williams, and Andrew Dakich, but several role players appeared to easily step into larger roles.
Kyle Young is one of these players. Young played 35 minutes on Wednesday and had 10 points, 8 rebounds, and made both of his shot attempts. Andre Wesson looked like a solid “three-and-D” threat and knocked down both threes he shot. Andre’s younger brother, Kaleb, showed that he’s the Buckeyes’ go-to offensive option, putting up 15 points and 8 rebounds. As I predicted, Kaleb Wesson also showed an improved perimeter game. He attempted just 14 threes all last season and attempted 3 on Wednesday, making a big one late in the game. C.J. Jackson had an uncharacteristically poor shooting night, he still managed to have 13 points but shot just 3-10 from the floor. Jackson and Wesson look like they could be a very formidable duo all season long.
Newcomers Luther Muhammad and Keyshawn Woods also impressed in their Buckeye debuts. Muhammad appeared to take over Kam Williams’ role and Woods did a little of everything. Watch out for Ohio State, they have an opportunity to build on this with a game against Creighton next week.
How Big of an “Upset” was Buffalo’s Overtime Win against West Virginia?
It is time to recognize Buffalo as not just a good mid-major but as a good team in general. Last season the Bulls ran through the MAC with a 15-3 conference record and then cruised to a conference tournament win and earned themselves a place in the NCAA tournament. Once they got there, they dominated a very good Arizona team and then got beat in the round of 32 against a Kentucky team that was as talented as any team in the country. They bring back 7 of their top 8 players from last season and are even better this season. They have a bona-fide star in C.J. Massinburg, who put up 43 points and 14 rebounds on Friday, and if he doesn’t have a good game then Nick Perkins or Jeremy Harris can step up.
On Friday, you didn’t see Buffalo go unconscious and hit everything they threw up or West Virginia unable to make anything or some other fluky scenario. Buffalo shot just 40% from the floor and 29.7% from three, West Virginia shot slightly better at 43.9% and 33.3%. You saw a good team that went into Morgantown and was not rattled by the press and did not panic when they were down double digits well into the second half. They out-rebounded the Mountaineers and forced more turnovers than they committed. They outplayed a top 15 team in the country and were helped along by one of the best performances you’ll see all season by C.J. Massinburg.
The Bulls have two games against a quality Southern Illinois team and also two great games against Syracuse and Marquette late in December. All of those games are worth a watch and I’d keep an eye on this team all season.
On Tuesday, everyone with eyeballs and their TV tuned in to ESPN lost their mind. After Duke’s dominating 118-84 win over Kentucky, everyone took it a little far and acted as if the championship should just be given to Duke right now. Before you jump to a ridiculous conclusion like this, keep in mind that in 2014 and 2016 Kentucky won their Champions Classic game by at least 20 points and neither time won the National Championship. I won’t dispute that Duke will not step on the floor and play a more talented team all season. However, this Kentucky team is figuring a lot out and did not play a great game. Kentucky had 15 turnovers and shot 23.5% from three. Kentucky did not get back on defense well and seemed to give up by midway through the second half. Duke also shot 46.2% from three, which is unsustainable and gave them an offensive dimension that will not always be present. Lastly, Duke was undoubtedly “up” for a season opening primetime game against a high-ranked opponent. So ever just relax.
Next Week’s Best Games
Vanderbilt at USC
Buffalo at Southern Illinois
Wisconsin at Xavier
Georgetown at Illinois
Michigan at Villanova
Seton Hall at Nebraska
Marquette at Indiana
Ohio State at Creighton
Oregon vs Iowa
Texas A&M at Gonzaga
Ole Miss at Butler
2K Empire Classic, Myrtle Beach Invitational, and Charleston Classic 2nd round games
Saint Louis at Seton Hall