After the Buzzer: Opening Weekend Edition

Posted by rtmsf on November 14th, 2011

This Weekend’s Lede. All the Way Back. College basketball trickled out last week, but with a total of 232 games taking place between Friday and Sunday nights, it’s safe to say that the November fire hose of hoops has been turned on. Every Top 25 team except one (Memphis) played at least once over the weekend, and those schools went 30-2 playing mostly unranked teams that never had much of a chance. There were a couple of exceptions, of course, and we’ll be sure to get to those below. Regardless of the quality of the ball (and it mostly ranged from adequate to poor), how satisfying was it to see regular updates over the weekend bringing you scores, highlights and storylines from games that actually count? It was fantastic, and with all of the great events coming up in the next two weeks — Champions Classic, Coaches vs. Cancer, CBE, Legends, Maui, PNIT, the conference challenges — it’s a great time to be a college basketball fan.

Your Watercooler Moment.  This one is easy.

The Setting For Outdoor Basketball in San Diego Was Spectacular (credit: US Pacific Fleet)

It’s somewhat rare that a gimmicky game like the Carrier Classic could end up being so completely awesome, but you could tell when you heard the voices of the players, coaches, media and military personnel on Friday night that they all felt like they were in the midst of something special. Maybe it was the fact that it was Veterans Day, or that President Obama was there, or that the Coronado evening came through with a gorgeously orange sunset… we don’t care. What we do care about is that the setting and venue put college basketball on a pedestal (literally) for its unofficial opening night, and for a game that sometimes fails to promote itself in a manner commensurate with its passion, fanfare and excitement, the inaugural Carrier Classic was a big-time hit. Oh, and #1 North Carolina needs to work on its offensive rebounding…

Dunktastic. Is it possible that the best dunk of the entire season was on the opening weekend?  Goodness… Jeremy Lamb, who knew?

Prepare Yourselves For the Champions Klassic. With Coach K‘s two wins over the weekend — a nailbiter against everybody’s darling, Belmont, on Friday night, followed by a thrashing of Presbyterian on Saturday — Krzyzewski enters Duke’s Champions Classic game on Tuesday night with 902 total wins. He is currently tied with his former coach and mentor, Bob Knight, for the all-time lead, and he appears ready to take the mantle for himself in NYC tomorrow night. With the national sports media centered in the Big Apple and nothing else going on during the middle of the week, expect a deluge of attention on K’s greatness in the next few days. This isn’t at all to suggest that he doesn’t deserve the attention, because he clearly does — we’re just providing fair warning to all the Duke haters out there, especially fans of the other three teams in this year’s inaugural event — Tuesday night will not be about Champions. Tuesday night will be about Krzyzewski.

Welcome Back. In an inspirational moment for everyone in the building, Arizona wing Kevin Parrom returned to action for the first time since his dreadful fall where he was shot in the wrist and leg and later lost his mother to terminal cancer. If there’s any player we’re rooting for to have a great season this year, it’s certainly Parrom (who contributed 6/4/2 assts in 18 minutes).

Kevin Parrom Returned to the Court Sunday Night (AZ Star/R. Medvescek)

It’s Upsetting… Hey SEC and Pac-12, consider yourself both on notice. A big part of the reason that you have been the worst two power conferences the past couple of seasons has to do with bad early home losses against mid-major schools. With Vandy’s loss Sunday to Cleveland State, the SEC already has two of these on its conference resume (Akron beating Mississippi State, the other), and we haven’t even played a full week of games yet!

  • Do You Trust Vandy? If anyone would have chosen a game this weekend for Vanderbilt to drop at home, it probably would have been the Friday night opener against an Oregon team that some think will make a little noise in the Pac-12 this season. The ‘Dores handled the game against the Ducks without too much trouble, winning 78-64 behind Jeffery Taylor’s 21/11/4 assts/5 stls, but their next game against Cleveland State on Sunday was a different story altogether. Some of the same March bugaboos that have haunted VU in recent years made a reappearance on Sunday against CSU — unforced turnovers, poor shooting, and overall sloppy play. Cleveland State took advantage when it needed to, keeping a reasonable buffer throughout the second half and refusing to let Taylor (9/4 with six turnovers) or John Jenkins (5-14 FGs) beat them. It’s very early, and Vandy is playing without its big man, Festus Ezeli, but in your gut, do you really trust the Commodores to make a run to the Elite Eight or beyond?
  • UCLA Opens Its New “Home” With a Loss. It’s an open secret that UCLA’s guard play with the loss of Malcolm Lee and suspension of Jerime Anderson was going to be dicey, but nobody knew just how rough it would look until the Bruins set foot into the re-done LA Sports Arena (replete with 11 national title banners!) and started playing. Guard Lazeric Jones struggled mightily in his role as UCLA playmaker, shooting 1-11 from the field and committing three turnovers in the outing. Even worse, the backcourt of Jones and sophomore Tyler Lamb allowed Loyola Marymount to drain ten threes (on 15 attempts), suggestive that the duo are vulnerable to shooters outside the arc. And perhaps most disconcerting, Josh Smith, the UCLA big man with so much promise, once again found himself in foul trouble and was largely ineffective (5/4/3 blks in 15 minutes). Ben Howland is an excellent coach, but you have to wonder if his team is too one-dimensional as focused  on the interior to do much this season. Maybe he can draft Kyle Anderson and, ahem, Shabazz Muhammad to come to Westwood this year?

You’ll Find This Interesting.

  • BYU Without Jimmer. That Jimmer guy was pretty good. In the Cougs’ first game without their 2010-11 NPOY, they faced a near-impossible task entering rival Utah State’s building Friday night (where, incidentally, the home Aggies hadn’t lost in 31 tries). Even with honor code violator Brandon Davies (13/5) back on the team and in the starting lineup, Dave Rose’s squad became USU’s 32d straight victim, 69-62, in large part because their outside shooting was not up to snuff (3-14). Given that threes constituted over 30% of BYU’s offense last season, they’re going to need to find ways to limit the drops in production as a result of Jimmer’s loss. Still, a season opener at Utah State? Not sure what BYU was thinking in agreeing to that…
  • Butler In Another Weird Ending. Had Butler ended up winning its season opener at the brand-new Ford Center in Evansville on Saturday, we were going to begin wondering if Brad Stevens was actually the hotshot Keanu Reeves character in The Devil’s Advocate. With 0.9 seconds remaining, Butler went for the Laettner pass and it originally appeared to work when Andrew Smith laid the ball in with 0.2 seconds left on the clock. The referees waived the basket, claiming that Smith had been fouled prior to his catch-and-shoot. He then bricked both free throws, sending the game to overtime where Evansville was able to christen its new arena with a win over the two-time defending national runner-ups.  (ed. note: this is the best video we could find)

Your Weekend All-Americans.

  • Trae Golden, G, Tennessee – 29/6/9 assts/2 stls in 27 minutes of action against UNC Greensboro.
  • Nate Wolters, G, South Dakota State – 32/11 assts in 39 minutes in a win against Western Michigan.
  • Jeremy Lamb, G, Connecticut – 30/4 stls in 38 minutes of a win against Columbia, including a ridiculous throwdown (see above).
  • Anthony Davis, F, Kentucky – 23/10/5 blks in 23 minutes of a blowout win against Marist.
  • Royce White, F, Iowa State – 25/11/3 blks in a 34 minute debut win as a Cyclone against Lehigh.

 *honorable mention

  • Eric Atkins, G, Notre Dame – 27/4/6 assts on 6-7 FGs in a win against Mississippi Valley State.
  • Mouph Yarou, F, Villanova – 24/10/2 blks in 25 minutes of a blowout win against Monmouth.

Tweet of the Weekend. Josh Smith might have been onto more than it looked at the time. The Loyola Marymount team who beat his Bruins on Friday night turned right around and lost to Middle Tennessee on Sunday. Meanwhile, John Wooden just rolled over in his grave at the irreverence of a UCLA player “lol-ling” about a loss to the likes of LMU. Do you think a Wooden player ever laughed about a loss? To anyone?

RTC Live.  We had a number of games going on around the country this weekend. If you’re interested in reviewing the live-blogs after the fact, click on the little tab in the RTC Live widget to the right that says “Recent Coverage.” We have four more games coming up Monday night.

  • California 81, George Washington 54. The storyline from Berkeley tonight was twofold: the continuing emergence of Bears guard Allen Crabbe as an elite player, and realization that Mike Montgomery’s team may have the best defense in the Pac-12. A 21-0 run to close tonight’s first half broke open a tight game as a result of California cutting off lanes to the basket, repeatedly forcing Mike Lonergan’s Colonials into contested shots and long caroms that led to easy fast break opportunities on the other end. The gifted Crabbe was responsible for a number of those finishes, as the silky-smooth sophomore dropped 21/5 on 8-14 shooting, including five threes. Over two games, he’s now 9-17 from outside the arc and averaging 22.5 PPG, begging the question as to when the national media will stand up and take notice of the Bears’ wing. Furthermore, the California defense has been rather impressive through its first two games, holding its opponents under 40% shooting in both and keeping GW and UC Irvine in the mid-50s on the scoreboard. For an Atlantic 10 team that some have predicted might make a run into the upper tier of the conference, tonight’s performance from new head coach Mike Lonergan’s Colonials left plenty to be desired — GW has some athletes and a solid piece in Tony Taylor (20 points), but they’re going to have to better figure ways to find each other in order to make that run at the league’s upper tier.
  • St. John’s 82, UMBC 59. St. John’s continued its tune-ups at Carnesecca Arena with an 82-59 victory over UMBC on Sunday afternoon. The way the Red Storm calmly asserted their will impressed their head coach. “There was a methodical, deliberate, mature way that we separated ourselves from UMBC,” Steve Lavin said. “It wasn’t so much a blitzkrieg all at one time.” Next, the Red Storm move to the bright lights of Madison Square Garden on Thursday, as the youthful team gets its first test of the season against a major conference team in Arizona. Nurideen Lindsey led the way for St. John’s against UMBC with 15 points, ten rebounds and nine assists. All five starters scored in double figures for St. John’s, which only led 39-34 at half. But as the second half went on, the Red Storm crept away to put the game out of reach. For the game, SJU forced 20 turnovers and scored 44 points in the paint. Brian Neller led UMBC with 13 points off the bench. The Retrievers played without their star point guard Chris De La Rosa, who is recovering from an ankle injury.
  • Duquesne 84, Green Bay 66. Today’s game was about two teams that knew what they wanted to do coming into the contest. Duquesne wanted to put on a lot of pressure, take care of the ball, and capitalize on the increased pace. Green Bay wanted to use their superior size, slow down the pace, and take care of the ball. As it turned out, Duquesne did exactly what they wanted to do and Green Bay didn’t. Duquesne scored 21 points off turnovers, went to the free throw line often and shot well, and only turned the ball over nine times on the afternoon. Green Bay didn’t go inside much, turned the ball over 19 times, and let Duquesne control the pace.
rtmsf (3954 Posts)

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