College Basketball comes
on little cat feet.
It sits looking
over the BCS and NFL
on silent haunches
and then moves on.
We’re reminded of this (slightly modified) poem every year when one day we wake up and find ourselves facing an “opening” Friday night of 135 games with nearly zero hype and fanfare ahead of it. Like the fog in Carl Sandburg’s world, the game creeps up and appears all around us rather damp and sticky, but unless you have an alt-network like ESPN-U or the Full Court package, you probably missed the whole thing. And that’s sad. We’re certainly not the first and we won’t be the last to belabor the point of just how badly the NCAA needs to work with its television partners so that there is a real opening night that celebrates the sport’s return. But it’s only four days until the ESPN 24 Hours of Hoops extravaganza — why not make that the season opener each year? We hear it every day, folks — everyone is happy that college hoops is back on their sets and in their local gyms, but nobody is pleased with the week-long trickle followed by the firehose way in which the season begins every year.
Your Watercooler Moment. Tonight’s watercooler moment is that there were a handful of teams on opening night who already have pretty bad home losses on their NCAA Tournament resumes, regardless of how they do the rest of the season. Let’s take a closer look.
- Wake Forest. Stetson chalked its first win over an ACC opponent in nearly thirty-five years by taking advantage of the Deacs’ weakness on the boards (+11) and the obvious adjustment of having a new sheriff in town (Jeff Bzdelik). We knew Wake would struggle, but this is beyond expectations.
- Tulsa. Tulsa is not an easy team to beat in their house, but Appalachian State and its brand-new young coach, Jason Capel, pulled off the feat tonight behind 35/4 from Omar Carter. There was some heat given over App’s hire of the 30-year old Capel, but after one game it looks like a grand slam, huh?
- UTEP. Tim Floyd’s first game in El Paso didn’t go so well as his star guard Randy Culpepper shot poorly (6-15) and Pacific picked up a very nice RPI booster win for the Big West over CUSA.
- Auburn. Nobody expects much from the Tigers this year (or, ever), but losing to UNC-Asheville in the christening of your new building isn’t the best way to start a hoops renaissance. We have a feeling that Tony Barbee is going to rue the day he ever ventured onto the Plains of Alabama.
- St. Louis. Rick Majerus’ Billikens sans its two knuckleheads dropped a home game to Austin Peay, 64-62, they type of game that SLU would have never lost had Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed still been on the team. Even if Mitchell returns to the team in January as expected, St. Louis could be too far behind the eight-ball at that point to catch up.
Tonight’s Quick Hits…
- Class of 2010. It was a very solid first night for the rookie class in college basketball tonight, with many players stepping right into productive roles from the opening tip. More details on this below.
- Temple. Despite not being able to hit anything from outside, the Owls manhandled Seton Hall on the glass and held the Pirates to 30% shooting in a good intrasectional matchup between A-10 and Big East.
- Tu Holloway’s Second Half. Holloway scored 20 of his 25 points in the second half when it appeared that XU was going to drop its opener to Western Michigan. The Muskies have really struggled so far this year (losing an exhibition last week), but we have faith in Chris Mack that he’ll figure it out.
- Brad Tinsley. The junior guard recorded Vandy’s first-ever triple-double tonight with 11/10/10 assts and 3 stls.
- Morgan State. Todd Bozeman’s team went west and eked out a win against a game Loyola Marymount squad that many believe can contend with Gonzaga and St. Mary’s this year in the WCC. Great RPI win for the Bears.
- Alex Oriakhi. UConn will need its talented post to have a bunch more nights like tonight (11/18) if the Huskies hope to get back into the NCAAs this year.
- John Henson. The 6’10 sophomore resembled a young Tayshaun Prince in UNC’s win over Lipscomb tonight, going for a near triple-double with 10/16/7 blks.
- Markieff Morris. Forget his more-hyped brother — Markieff blew up the stat sheet with 14/15/5 assts/4 stls/2 blks in a dominating KU win.
- Georgetown Backcourt. Chris Wright, Austin Freeman and Jason Clark combined for 54 of the Hoyas’ 62 points in a really nice road win at ODU. Georgetown is really going to struggle inside, though, as they were -11 on the boards and looked lost inside without Greg Monroe.
- Keith Benson. The Oakland center and legitimate pro prospect put up nice numbers against the bruising front line of West Virginia (21/15/2 blks), but his team simply wasn’t competitive (tough night for the Summit).
- Kalin Lucas’ Return. Lucas showed no signs of his nasty Achilles injury from March as he dropped 18/3/6 assts in 26 minutes of action against EMU.
- John Shurna. The Northwestern big man dropped 31/9/3 assts in the first game of the latest NW attempt to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time. Gotta win games like these, though (and they did).
- UMass Comeback. The Minutemen came back from 21 points down at the half versus Rider to win comfortably by ten, 77-67. Anthony Gurley had 31/4 in the winning effort which featured the student section exiting en masse at halftime. Guess they shoulda stuck around?
- Brandon Bowdry. The talented Eastern Michigan forward exposed a soft spot in the Michigan State defense with a 32/15 effort that still ended in a loss.
… and Misses.