Starting 5: Florida upsets FSU, UCLA and Gonzaga pick up big wins, Illinois collapses
Welcome back to the Starting 5. The Starting 5 is written multiple times per week by Adam Spencer to keep you up-to-date on all the news and events in the world of college hoops. You can follow Adam on Twitter at @AdamSpencer4 and @SDSBasketball.
1. Opening tipoff
Florida hadn’t beaten rival Florida State since 2013. Coach Mike White had never beaten the Seminoles in his time in Gainesville.
Well, that all changed on Sunday afternoon on Florida’s home court. The Gators showed up and were the more physical team throughout the game, which is tough to do against a Leonard Hamilton-coached FSU squad.
Anthony Duruji provided the spark for the Gators, scoring 15 points to lead the team (along with Colin Castleton). Duruji bookended the game with huge hustle plays, throwing down this alley-oop to start things off:
.@Anthony_Duruji WITH AUTHORITY. ?
? https://t.co/J2SlxEVPrl#GoGators | #GatorsHoop pic.twitter.com/aIOFIYKBse
— Florida Gators Men’s Basketball (@GatorsMBK) November 14, 2021
Then getting on the floor in the final minute to help preserve Florida’s victory:
My favorite possession of the day‼️Crashing and getting on the floor till the end‼️? pic.twitter.com/2SxHHs8xBq
— Erik Pastrana (@ErikPastrana) November 15, 2021
In between, it was the Castleton show, as he scored 15 points, snagged a career-high 16 rebounds and swatted 6 shots, helping earn himself the SEC Player of the Week award:
15 points, 16 rebounds and 6 blocks for Colin Castleton in a 16-point win over for UF's first win over FSU in EIGHT YEARS is a MOOD, y'all. pic.twitter.com/hnW5U2N8KV
— ?????? Malik – ? – the 5-10 freak (@MalikG) November 14, 2021
Fans will remember that last year’s game at Florida State was when Florida star Keyontae Johnson suffered a scary medical episode. He still hasn’t been cleared to return to the court, but he’s with the team acting as an extra coach.
So, seeing White give Johnson the game ball after the win is an early frontrunner for moment of the year:
It’s not time to worry about Florida State or anything like that. The Seminoles will be fine. Sunday afternoon was just Florida’s day. What a special moment for the Gators.
2. SEC notes
LSU’s 74-58 win over Liberty on Monday night might not look like it was all that difficult, and you might not think it’s anything to write home about, but I’m here to dispel you of those notions!
This was an NCAA Tournament-caliber win for the Tigers, and it was a hard-fought battle up until this 3 gave the Tigers a lead with just over 4 minutes remaining:
s/o EG for the perfect set-up ??
LSU 57, Liberty 54 | 2H 4:15 https://t.co/65XMD3dyVE pic.twitter.com/fa06QYPKsJ
— LSU Basketball (@LSUBasketball) November 16, 2021
Darius Days is a player who deserves more national attention, and might finally start to get it after his 26-point performance on Monday. He was 5-for-10 from 3-point range, too, showing off some lethal long-range shooting.
College basketball insider Jon Rothstein says Days is playing like an All-American:
Darius Days is playing like an All-American. And LSU just picked up a key win. Tigers outlast Liberty in a street fight in Baton Rouge. One heck of a college basketball game.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) November 16, 2021
He’ll be on the early list of National Player of the Year candidates, too, if he keeps up this level of play. Coming back for the 2021-22 season instead of leaving for the NBA Draft is proving to be a wise decision for Days.
- Move over, Tom Crean! We’ve got a new leader for the coach on the hottest seat in the SEC. That would be Cuonzo Martin at Missouri. The Tigers lost at home against UMKC on Monday night — an utterly unacceptable result for a Mizzou team that can’t afford any bad losses. The worst part was the Tigers were never really even all that close. A 9-point halftime deficit ballooned to 20 midway through the second half and the final score was 80-66. What a disaster.
- Alabama is already in midseason form, and it only took 2 games. OK, well, the Tide still have some things to clean up, but when they’re moving the ball like this on offense, they’re going to be nearly impossible to stop:
This ball movement pic.twitter.com/bUulUUx6Ph
— Hunter Cruse (@HunterCruse14) November 13, 2021
- Keon Ellis continues to impress me and the rest of this team is rounding into shape, too. Don’t bet against the Tide in too many games moving forward.
- Folks, Jabari Smith Jr. has arrived! The highly-touted Auburn freshman didn’t look great in his first game with the Tigers, but he burst out in a big way over the weekend against Louisiana-Monroe. When you can step into a transition 3 like this, you’re feeling pretty great on the court:
There aren't many 6'10 guys on the planet who can pullup off the dribble this smoothly in the open court with this type of footwork and body control. Jabari Smith's skill-level is really special. pic.twitter.com/BhkhWZboy3
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) November 13, 2021
- That was part of a 23-point, 10-rebound double-double for Smith. He’s going to be a special player as he continues to gain confidence.
Now, let’s take a look at the Big Ten, shall we?
3. B1G notes
Illinois was without star big man Kofi Cockburn due to an NCAA suspension on Monday night at Marquette. It turned out to be a big loss for the Illini, as they collapsed in the second half, blowing a 12-point lead to lose 67-66.
The problem? The Illini committed an embarrassing 26 turnovers, their most in the last 5 seasons.
The turnover issues were especially costly in the final seconds of the game. PG Andre Curbelo, who was supposed to take a big step forward this year, committed a foul on a shot that gave Marquette the lead, then coughed up the ball on Illinois’ last chance to win:
MARQUETTE (+280 ML) UPSETS #10 ILLINOIS (-8) @stoolbenchmob
— Bet The Hoops (@betthehoops) November 16, 2021
You absolutely can’t turn the ball over there. A shot needs to be put up or a pass needs to be made. That was a case of Curbelo trying to do too much.
Curbelo was impressive last year, but that was with Cockburn and Ayo Dosunmu. Ayo is gone to the NBA, but Cockburn will be back next game. Clearly, Curbelo isn’t ready to be the focal point of the offense, and that’s a concerning sign moving forward.
- Jamari Wheeler, the transfer from Penn State, hasn’t fully hit his stride at Ohio State just yet, but he’s showing signs of life, especially when it comes to passing the ball. He had 2 nice dishes to set up dunks against Bowling Green on Monday night:
Jamari Wheeler ➡️ Kyle Young
— Barstool Bench Mob (@stoolbenchmob) November 16, 2021
- If he keeps sharing the ball like that and his shot starts to fall more consistently, Ohio State will continue to look like a top-25 team and a Big Ten title contender.
- Purdue is very much in the national title hunt this year, and it’s in large part thanks to Jaden Ivey. Ivey is an incredible athlete and is so much fun to watch. He completely overwhelmed Indiana State on Friday, scoring 27 points and grabbing 8 rebounds. His highlight reel is impressive:
Jaden Ivey with 27 last night! @IveyJaden pic.twitter.com/YVTMoc4T2J
— Courtside Films (@CourtsideFilms) November 13, 2021
- Big man Zach Edey was also dominant in limited action, turning in a 22-point, 10-rebound double-double. The Boilermakers are getting some Final Four buzz this year, and they absolutely deserve it at this point.
Now, let’s look at the ACC and elsewhere around the country.
4. ACC notes/random tidbits
We discussed hot seats earlier with Mizzou and Cuonzo Martin, but Louisville’s Chris Mack might soon feel the heat, too. After a tumultuous offseason off the court, Mack’s Cardinals lost at home against Furman on Friday night in overtime. Yikes.
Even though Louisville bounced back with a win over Navy on Monday night, the Furman loss is not a great look for a team that needs an NCAA Tournament-caliber season in a bad way.
Furman’s Mike Bothwell was nearly unstoppable, scoring 30 points against the Cardinals. He was a machine finishing through contact:
@MikeBothwell_3 coast to coast And 1 pic.twitter.com/lCMOlorTH2
— Anthony Patterson (@PattersonHoops) November 13, 2021
Mike Bothwell’s 30 points helps Furman snap Louisville’s 59-game home November winning streak! pic.twitter.com/1KOJbOhC1e
— College Basketball Bonanza (@CollegeBonanza) November 13, 2021
And also showed he can knock down the 3 ball:
Alex Hunter to @MikeBothwell_3 in the corner pic.twitter.com/Vg1edC1RH4
— Anthony Patterson (@PattersonHoops) November 13, 2021
If the Cardinals can’t beat Mississippi State in the Bahamas on Thanksgiving as part of the Baha Mar Hoops Bahamas Championship tournament, expect the grumblings about Mack to intensify.
- It’s still very much football season at Georgia and Cincinnati. Both the Bulldogs and Bearcats are undefeated on the gridiron and vying for spots in the College Football Playoff. Can you really blame Bearcats fans for chanting “Let’s play football!” late during a win over Georgia on Saturday?
#Bearcats crowd is chanting “Let’s play football!”
Cincinnati leads Georgia 62-52 late in this basketball game. pic.twitter.com/z1sN0bypu5
— Caleb Noe (@CalebNoeTV) November 14, 2021
- No, no you cannot. We’ll find out tonight where the Bearcats rank in the new College Football Playoff rankings.
Now, let’s take a look at the week ahead in the college hoops world.
5. Outlet pass
There are plenty of intriguing matchups between now and Friday. And, the best part? All but 1 of them are at reasonable times on the East Coast! Here are the 5 games I can’t wait to watch between now and Friday:
- Virginia at No. 15 Houston (Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN) — Virginia has a loss to Navy under its belt already. Was that just a minor blip or a sign of serious problems for the Cavaliers? We’ll find out as they head to Houston to take on a team that made the Final Four last year. The Cougars are a much different team than last year, though, so if Virginia can pick up a top-15 road win, it’ll do a lot for the Cavaliers’ confidence.
- No. 19 Ohio State at Xavier (Thursday at 6:30 p.m. ET on FS1) — Ohio State could barely manage to beat Akron in Columbus to start the season. Now, the Buckeyes have to head to Cincinnati to take on an undefeated Xavier team? That could spell trouble for the Buckeyes.
- BYU at No. 12 Oregon (Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN) — If anyone is going to scare Gonzaga at all in the WCC, it’s BYU. If anyone is going to challenge UCLA for the Pac-12 title, it’s Oregon. Watching these 2 strong West Coast teams square off should be fun.
- Michigan State at Butler (Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET on FS1) — Michigan State can’t afford to lose this game after losing to Kansas in the Champions Classic. The Spartans have talent, but they need a confidence boost as the season gets started here. Going to Indianapolis and taking down Butler would be a good way to get things going.
- No. 18 North Carolina at Charleston (Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. ET on CBSSN) — The Tar Heels need to be careful with a 3-0 Charleston team. It was just 2 short years ago that UNC lost at home to Wofford, after all. These mid-major teams can be tricky, and I expect the Cougars to give the Heels a challenge.
That’s an interesting slate of nonconference games to keep an eye on this week. Then, over the weekend, some holiday tournaments get started! It’s a fun time to be paying attention to college hoops as the college football season winds down, too.
Enjoy the Starting 5? Have a question? Want to yell at me about something? Follow me on Twitter @AdamSpencer4 or email me at ASpencer@SaturdayDownSouth.com.