Tuesday was a day for sleep deprivation as it marked ESPN's 24-hour college basketball marathon. Unfortunately for the network the early hours served up a trio of yawners with Saint Peter's, Niagara and Clemson all pulling off comfortable victories. But the games involving Kansas and Michigan State didn't disappoint with the top two teams being tested by Memphis and Gonzaga respectively. It's good to see that there are teams willing to challenge themselves so early in the season, giving themselves the opportunity to evaluate themselves against credible competition.
Three Key Happenings
1. Michigan State rides familiar staples to victory. The Spartans weren't at their best offensively in the 75-71 win over Gonzaga, turning the ball over twenty times and making just three of eleven three-pointers. But they got the job done defensively (Gonzaga shot 35.7% from the field; 22.2% 3PT) and on the boards (43-30 advantage), and Durrell Summers led all scorers with twenty-one points and eleven rebounds. Gonzaga has the look of a team that will be heard from in March so this was a very good test for the Spartans, who know what it takes to become a championship-caliber team.
2. Memphis gave Kansas all they wanted but their offensive inconsistency cost them. A lot of the experts out there predicted doom for the Tiger program in light of John Calipari leaving for Kentucky and taking his recruits with him but if Tuesday's 57-55 loss was any indication it's that Josh Pastner's team could be better than expected. The Jayhawks had a mismatch to exploit (Wesley Witherspoon having to guard a big man) but still struggled due to the Memphis defense, which will have to be the Tigers' calling card as they figure things out offensively. Elliot Williams and Doneal Mack hit some big shots but for the most part they were a bit stagnant on that side of the floor, lacking continuity in their offense. That will have to change if they're to defend their Conference USA title.
3. Louisville provided another reason why you shouldn't read too much into exhibitions. Just like fellow Big East member Syracuse the Cardinals didn't look their best during the exhibition season (but they didn't lose). Off-court distractions? Lack of chemistry? Tell that to Arkansas, who the Cards ripped apart 96-66 in the first game from St. Louis. All five starters scored in double figures and Reginald Delk added twenty off the bench for Louisville while shutting down the Razorbacks on the other end of the floor (39.7% FG). The reigning Big East champions may have a better shot at defending their title than many thought before the season began.
Top Three Games
1. #2 Michigan State 75, Gonzaga 71 Durrell Summers led the way for Michigan State with seventeen second-half points while the Bulldogs had four players score in double figure (Robert Sacre scored a career-high 17 points). Going forward Gonzaga is going to need more production from Demetri Goodson, who accounted for one point, one assist, one steal and two turnovers. That's not going to get it done come March.
2. #1 Kansas 57, Memphis 55 Memphis essentially lost this game due to their offensive inefficiency; Kansas was able the throw the ball inside to Cole Aldrich (18 points, 11 rebounds) and Marcus Morris (10 points) and Memphis could not match that. The've got a couple of good shooters in Elliot Williams and Doneal Mack but this isn't a team that can survive on a nightly basis when 45.4% of their shots come from behind the arc.
3. St. Joseph's 69, Holy Cross 67 The Hawks moved to 2-0 despite being outrebounded by a 50-33 margin thanks in large part to Carl Jones, who scored eighteen points off the bench. R.J. Evans led the Crusaders, picked to win the Patriot League, with sixteen points. Neither team shot well from behind the arc but the Hawks were a +11 in points from the foul line and that made all the difference.
Three Notable Offensive Performances
1. G Aubrey Coleman (Houston) 33 points, 9 rebounds and three assists in the Cougars' 92-60 win over Nicholls State.
2. F Charles Garcia (Seattle) 30 points, 9 rebounds in the Redhawks' 98-81 loss to Portland.
3. G Bo Spencer (LSU) 28 points, 7 rebounds and four assists in the Tigers' 71-60 win over Western Kentucky.