What a day of college basketball.. 17 Top 25 teams in action.. two major Top 10 upsets.. the first game of the year on CBS.. and the debut of the most heralded prospect in recent (if not all-time) history?
I'll start with the early action and then move my way into the evening.
Is there a new, better Hansbrough in town? Freshman Ben Hansbrough poured in 23 points and 8 assists as Mississippi State romped on TAMU-CC, 96-72. Meanwhile, younger brother Tyler's 7 points and 3 rebounds kept a pesky Kentucky team alive against UNC. The Tar Heels were the better and more talented team from the tip, but Randolph Morris' 21 point domination of Hansbrough, and Tubby's ability to play the game at his pace instead of Roy's, kept the game relatively competitive. Hansbrough's struggles were reminiscent of his 9 point clunker against Josh Heytvelt and Gonzaga.
Ohio State's 98-89 loss to UNC is one of the few times I can remember a #1 team losing.. but actually gaining respect. The Buckeyes came out smoking, hitting three's left and right and finished with 13 bombs on the night. Ron Lewis finished with a career high 30 points and Dickie Dolittle was suddenly touting him as a future NBA star. The play of freshmen Wayne Ellington and Tywon Lawson keyed UNC's big 2nd half. Lawson continues to show why he is UNC's best option at point guard.
Marist continues to impress, picking up a 13 point win over Old Dominion. Star point guard Jared Jordan, the nation's leader in assists, was 2 rebounds shy of a rare college triple double. He ended up with 26 points, 10 assists, and 8 boars.
Should be interesting to see who is #1 when the polls come out later today. My choice is UCLA. Though Florida is still probably the best team in the country and there's no shame in losing to Kansas.. UCLA should be #1 because they are undefeated. Pittsburgh and Ohio State are also undefeated.. but UCLA went to Maui and beat Kentucky and Georgia Tech. The Panthers and Buckeyes are a combined 13-0 by beating garbage on their home floor. I have no respect for teams until they leave their buildings to play top teams. The Buckeyes can earn respect with a big game against UNC next weekend, while Pitt still plays nobody for almost 3 more weeks.
I'll be honest.. I thought Butler had no shot against Gonzaga. I thought Gonzaga was a step up from Tennessee, and the interior presence of Heytvelt would be too much.. and I of course was wrong. Butler surprised again and is now 6-0 with wins over Notre Dame, Indiana, Tennessee, and Gonzaga. Still the question remains: Is this team for real? Or to put it another way, is this team good enough to make the Tournament as an at-large bid? It should be interesting.. the fact is a team that so heavily relies on the long ball can go sour at any point. You know there's a cold streak waiting at some point.. and the question is how will the committee deal with Butler's inevitable conference losses to teams like Loyola Chicago or Detroit. As good as their start has been, my guess is that wont look nearly as good two months from now. Notre Dame is a mediocre team that will probably end up in the 125-175 RPI range. Indiana would be lucky to end up in the RPI top 50 and will most likely end up with more than 10 losses. Tennesse, though ranked when Butler beat them may simply end up in the 40-50 range as well. Its conceivable that when all is said and done, the only Top 50 RPI wins that Butler has are against Gonzaga, and perhaps Purdue if they beat the Boilermakers in a couple of weeks. My guess is that Butler will lose 5-7 games the rest of the season. It will be interesting to see what happens if they dont win the Horizon League tournament.