Thoughts From a Wacky Opening Night in College Basketball

Posted by Andrew Gripshover on November 14th, 2015

There were a lot of games and a lot of things that happened last night!  Some immediate takeaways on several of them…

Wisconsin. Yikes. You just don’t expect THAT from a Bo Ryan team, right? We all knew the Badgers were replacing a lot this season but it’s always been next man up in Madison. Perhaps it’s a little different though when you’re replacing the NPOY Frank Kaminsky, his sidekick Sam Dekker and many of the other key components of arguably one of the greatest offenses in college basketball history. Still, there shouldn’t be a drop from that to losing at arguably the nation’s greatest fortress to WESTERN ILLINOIS. Picked last in the Summit (as I’m sure you’ve heard by now), the Leathernecks weren’t exactly North Florida winning at Illinois or even Belmont winning at Marquette (both of which also happened last night). This was THE most shocking result of the night.

Shocker of Shockers on a Wild Opening Night

Shocker of Shockers on a Wild Opening Night

Monmouth over UCLA put in a late bid, though.  Playing 2,796 miles away from campus at Pauley Pavilion and with their body clocks at well after midnight Eastern time, the Hawks more or less debunked every time-zone theory by winning 84-81 in overtime. Maybe it’s fairer to say that the Bruins really lost this one, however, after blowing a 13-point lead with 12 minutes to play, and then up five with two minutes remaining in the extra session. Aaron Holiday had an end-of-game sequence to forget — first missing a jumper, followed by one-of-two free throws after an offensive rebound, and then badly bricking a game-tying three-pointer as time ran out. Perhaps tearing up San Diego State in a secret scrimmage isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be.

Taking a new job at a power conference school is hard. Shaka Smart stole the headlines with his first Texas loss to Washington, but Bobby Hurley also lost to Sacramento State on the first game day of his new Arizona State job, Rick Barnes nearly lost to UNC Asheville in his first game in Knoxville, and Chris Mullin nearly lost to Wagner in his first contest in Queens (but we were already well aware that he would be up against it from the opening jump.)  At Iowa State, Steve Prohm’s Cyclones couldn’t exactly put away Colorado confidently, and even at Florida, Michael White’s Gators went over seven minutes without scoring after KeVaughn Allen’s game-opening layup in the Veterans Classic (ask Tom Izzo what that spot can be like) before coming back to win comfortably. Each of these new bosses would agree that none of their teams played up to par last night and that adjustment periods are to be expected.

The Gonzaga-Pitt Game in Okinawa, Japan Was Canceled Because of Slippery Conditions

The Gonzaga-Pitt Game in Okinawa, Japan Was Canceled Because of Slippery Conditions

Good. Now let’s ban regional games from football stadiums because of elevated courts. In a weird way, Gonzaga vs. Pittsburgh getting abandoned at halftime because of a slippery court kind of felt like a step in the right direction. Maybe we just shouldn’t play games outdoors, on aircraft carriers or in any other gimmicky sorts of places where safety is sacrificed in one way or another. Though given that Pittsburgh led by two points at the half, one has to wonder if maaaaaaaaybe this could be a key talking point if Jamie Dixon’s team ends up somewhere around the bubble. The head coach wondered aloud if he could get half an RPI point for the half-win; perhaps he’d rather have half of a top 25 RPI win? Imagine the selection committee actually considering such a thing, or simply ignoring the elephant in the room the size of a Marine Corps base.

The CAA is going to be interesting — again. If a four-way tie for the regular season title last season wasn’t quite enough for you, it looks like William & Mary and James Madison — two of the four teams that went 12-6 in the CAA last season — are here to play. The Tribe can still run offense quite efficiently without the services of Marcus Thornton and they pretty much ran NC State into the ground from the jump, getting out to a 23-5 lead inside the first six minutes and rolling from there. There were a lot of “red line” upsets on opening night and the Wolfpack’s loss in Raleigh was perhaps the most comprehensive. Conference rival James Madison went to intrastate rival Richmond and rocked the Spiders by 12 points with 20/12 from Shakir Brown (though College GameDay was not in attendance). If the Dukes can make enough threes, they’re going to be really dangerous against anybody, and 11-of-24 on the road (Brown was 4-of-6) is quite the start. Drexel’s loss by a point to Big 5 rival Saint Joseph’s was the only blemish on the CAA’s record on the first day of the season and even that can be considered a relative achievement for the Dragons.

Andrew Gripshover (15 Posts)

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