We’re going to make this one fairly quick as it’s a travel day here at the RTC west coast compound. Gotta get to Maui…
Tonight’s Quick Hits…
- Talib Zanna. The Pitt freshman is making the most of his opportunity to start, going for 14/12 in the first double-double of his young career. He’s now averaging 10/9 in four games and proves once again that Jamie Dixon really knows how to find recruiting diamonds in the rough. This guy wasn’t even a top 150 player on Rivals (although he was listed as the #10 center on Scout).
- Coming Out Party of Harrison Barnes. In a mere half of action, Barnes showed everyone watching why he is considered the top amateur talent in the world right now. He hit all four of his trey attempts en route to a 19/7 first half that allowed UNC for at least a game to look like the dominant force they usually are under Roy Williams. If the Heels destroy Minnesota as easily as they did “Hoftra,” then we may want to re-assess our preseason ranking of them.
- Dogus Balbay & Tristan Thompson. Balbay’s late game defense on Illinois’ Demetri McCamey allowed his Longhorns to seize control of the semifinal game of the CvC, while Thompson did just about everything else — 20/7/4 assts/3 stls/5 blks for the budding superstar. It’s never too early for UT to tank, but so far this team seems to like playing together a lot more than last year’s team did.
- Georgetown Guards. The Hoya trio of Austin Freeman, Chris Wright and Jason Clark scored 54 points and dropped 17 assists in an easy win over Coastal Carolina at the Charleston Classic. This is all fine and well until the guards go cold from outside — they hit 14 threes tonight, but we seriously doubt that’ll be the norm.
- K-State Looking Ahead. Here’s how you know that you’re a top-shelf program. You don’t look past teams like Presbyterian because you’re playing Gonzaga and Duke next. If you feel that you’re on par with those programs, there’s no reason to look ahead. KSU was only up 69-65 against the Blue Hose with 2:30 remaining. That level of effort won’t work in the CBE Classic on Monday/Tuesday.
- Madison Square Garden. It’s difficult for us to believe that MSG is the self-described Mecca of College Basketball when New Yorkers don’t fill the seats for four quality teams such as Texas, Pitt, Illinois and Maryland. We’ve been there a few times ourselves and even when local favorites Syracuse and UConn were playing, there were still seats available. Give us a college arena with people packed in like sardines to the rafters any day.
- Missouri’s Late Start. As the last team in the country to play its season opener, Mizzou looked terrible. How bad was it against Western Illinois? For the first time in 59 years, the Tigers won a game without a single double-figure scorer. Ugh.
Tweet of the Night. This one didn’t have to do with any of tonight’s games, but it’s an 8.8 on the unintentional comedy scale. Have at it, UNC fans…
RTC Live. We were back at the 2kSports Coaches vs. Cancer for the second year in a row, and we got to see two pretty good games.
#5 Pittsburgh 79, Maryland 70. Maryland hung tough with a very good Pitt team on Thursday night. The Panthers’ focus coming in was slowing down Maryland’s Jordan Williams, and they did a pretty good job of it for the first 35 minutes of the game. With Brad Wanamaker and Ashton Gibbs both playing subpar basketball, Talib Zanna stepped up to the tune of 14 points and 12 boards. In a closely contested first half, Jordan Williams picked up two fouls early on. After he would come out of the game, Pitt hit the Terps with 22-8 run. And while Maryland’s back court — Cliff Tucker, Terrell Stoglin, Adrian Bowie — led the charge back, Pitt threw a counter-punch with Nasir Robinson’s three point play. Maryland never threatened again.
Texas 90, #16 Illinois 84 (OT). Texas got a dominating performance out of Tristan Thompson. The talented big fella went for 20 points, seven boards and four assists. Jordan Hamilton, the Longhorns’ best player, went for 21 points. After watching Illinois suffer a disappointing, 90-84 overtime loss to Texas in the nightcap of the Coaches vs. Cancer semifinals at Madison Square Garden, I can’t help but ask those same questions of Illinois. The Illini are a talented team. There is no questioning that. Demetri McCamey is a scoring guard that became the nation’s leader in assists last season. Brandon Paul and DJ Richardson, known last year as a promising but inconsistent freshmen duo, are back for their sophomore seasons as McCamey’s sidekicks. Mike Tisdale, Mike Davis, and Meyers Leonard provide a long and versatile front court, while Bill Cole and Jereme Richmond are combo-forwards that give Bruce Weber the option of playing really big or really small. On paper, this is a team that is good enough to contend for the Final Four. But projected success on paper is far from a sure thing once the teams take the court.