This year I skipped the whole preseason prediction process and instead decided to roll right into the regular season. Last night was the official opening night of the college basketball season, and it was a dandy. Two major games, in particular did not disappoint, with one being on the national stage and one being on the international stage in Germany. And then, of course there were other games that stood out to even the most casual fans.
Here is my recap of the night in abbreviated format:
Kentucky 72, Maryland 69
The Wildcats may have a slew of fabulous freshmen, but they are a long way from last year’s squad that won the national championship. The nation’s number one recruit, Nerlens Noel, was limited in all ways, showing raw ability and potential at times, but major inexperience at others. Ryan Harrow and Alex Poythress also struggled, but it was Kyle Wiltjer and Jarrod Polson who stepped up and carried UK to the narrow victory.
Maryland has a future top-10 draft pick in big man Alex Len, who had 23 points and 12 rebounds. The Terps should probably cut down on the number of 3-pointers they shoot, as they only shot 3-19 from beyond the arc on the night. James Padgett and Nick Faust held their own, too against the talented yet undisciplined Wildcats.
Connecticut 66, Michigan State 62
The game of the night came from Germany, where the 2009 Final Four re-match dazzled and entertained our troops stationed overseas. Michigan State started the game about as poorly as possible, trailing by as many as 16 in the first half. The Spartans fought back in typical Tom Izzo fashion, crashing the offensive glass and pounding the ball inside. Michigan State appears to lack leadership without Draymond Green, instead relying on a bevy of underclassmen to lead the charge. Big men Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne are talented and will really determine how far MSU can go this season, but struggled against a sub-par UConn front court.
On the flip side, UConn’s guards, Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright, will dictate their success this season. Forward DeAndre Daniels is also intriguing and will generate a lot of buzz. He can undoubtedly play but he is somewhat hesitant to really play physical with his 195lbs frame.
South Alabama 76, Florida State 71
It was close the whole way, but former Miami guard Antoine Allen tipped the game in the Jaguars’ favor as he made four of five 3-pointers en route to 23 points. Florida State could never get into a groove, and Michael Snaer struggled mightily, shooting 2-11 and turning the ball over five times. Terrance Shannon and Okaro White looked good for the Seminoles, but in general the team played sluggish against the upbeat Jaguars.
Bucknell 70, Purdue 65
Purdue may be rebuilding and Bucknell may contend for the Patriot League crown, but this result is still somewhat shocking. A back and forth game the whole night, it never seemed like Purdue had control, even as they held a narrow lead for most of the first half. Bucknell forward Mike Muscala struggled at times, yet Cameron Ayers picked up the slack, scoring 6 points in 45 seconds early in the second half, shifting momentum over to the visiting team.