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 @BlueChipGrit.

1. Opening tip

The Kentucky Wildcats lost their Champions Classic matchup on Tuesday for the third year in a row, falling in double-overtime to Michigan State 86-77. But unlike the 2 years before, this time the Wildcats were the higher ranked team.

In fact, No. 4 Kentucky lost to an unranked Tom Izzo squad, adding to the disappointment in Indianapolis for John Calipari and the Wildcats.

Oscar Tshiebwe made his season debut and was magnificent, scoring 22 points to go with 18 rebounds, 4 blocks and 2 assists. But once he fouled out in overtime, things went horribly wrong for the Wildcats.


Well, that’s on Calipari. It’s easy to coach offense when you have a guy like Tshiebwe on the court who grabs 6 offensive rebounds and scores easy put-back buckets around the rim. He and point guard Sahvir Wheeler have a great dynamic and play the 2-man game as well as anyone in the country.

But once Tshiebwe went out against the Spartans, Calipari had no clue what to do. Too many drives end in Wheeler flinging an out-of-control layup at the rim.

In double-overtime alone, Wheeler went 0-for-3 from the floor with 2 missed layups, a missed 3-pointer, a turnover and only 1 assist.

Now before y’all get on me for hammering Wheeler, I’m not. He’s a heck of a player. He’s great for what Kentucky does when Tshiebwe is on the court to clean up the wild Wheeler shots.

Calipari is the one who deserves the blame here. When Tshiebwe went out, Calipari didn’t do much to change Kentucky’s strategy.

Antonio Reeves, the team’s leading scorer through 2 games, was a nonfactor. He scored 5 points on 1-of-3 shooting from 3-point range. CJ Fredrick scored 5 points on 1-of-6 from 3-point range.

Neither of those are acceptable. Teams aren’t honoring Wheeler’s ability to finish at the rim, so they’re staying out on Reeves and Fredrick. Wheeler made 2 of his 6 3-pointers, but that’s not a strength of his game.

So what’s the solution?

Yes, he’s only a freshman, but the ball needs to be in Cason Wallace’s hands down the stretch. He was magnificent on Tuesday night, scoring 14 points to go with 5 rebounds, 5 assists and a whopping 8 steals.

He can create his own shot and is also capable of opening things up for his teammates. This doesn’t look like the highlight reel of a freshman:

Last year, Calipari kept the ball in Wheeler’s hands too much when it should have been in TyTy Washington’s. During the 2019-20 season, Calipari relied too heavily on Ashton Hagans when he had Tyrese Maxey as the better option.

Will he learn from those mistakes and trust Wallace in crunch time?

Kentucky’s success this season might depend on it.

2. Home-court advantage

I have been mentioning him as an impact SEC player since he transferred to Auburn from Morehead State, and Johni Broome has not disappointed!

In an 89-65 rout of Winthrop on Tuesday night, Broome was magnificent, scoring 18 points, grabbing 13 rebounds and blocking 5 shots. He’s so fluid around the paint offensively, too. This was his 1,000th career point:

He’s stepping into the Walker Kessler role admirably. If he can continue to play like that against even tougher foes as Auburn’s season goes along, this is a Tiger team that can challenge for SEC regular-season and SEC Tournament titles.

Now, let’s look elsewhere around the SEC:

  • Speaking of impact transfers, how about Ricky Council IV at Arkansas? He’s led the Hogs in scoring in all 3 games thus far, including a 19-point effort in a win over South Dakota State on Wednesday night. He can shoot the 3. He can get to the rim. He can finish in transition. What can’t he do?


  • Another transfer, former Mizzou forward Trevon Brazile, also deserves a mention here for this insane dunk:


  • The trio of freshmen got a lot of hype going into this season, but thus far, Council and Brazile are setting the tone for the Hogs.
  • Thursday was not kind to a pair of SEC squads in early season tournaments. First, Texas A&M’s comeback attempt against Murray State came up short in the Myrtle Beach Invitational. The Aggies fell to the Steve Prohm-led Racers 88-79. But that wasn’t the worst result of the afternoon for an SEC team. In the Charleston Classic, Lamont Paris and the South Carolina Gamecocks were absolutely embarrassed by Colorado State 85-53. GG Jackson had 20 points and 7 rebounds, but the rest of the Gamecocks struggled to compete. Not a good sign for the Aggies and Gamecocks moving forward.

Next up, let’s take a trip around the rest of the college hoops world.

3. Road trip

Gonzaga misses Andrew Nembhard.

Yes, the Bulldogs still have Drew Timme in the paint. Yes, they return guys like Rasir Bolton, Julian Strawther and Nolan Hickman in the backcourt, but those guys don’t run the offense the way Nembhard did.

Gonzaga could have used Nembhard and some offensive flow on Wednesday night in Austin when it got absolutely trounced by Tyrese Hunter and the Texas Longhorns 93-74. Hunter scored 26 points as the Bulldogs had no answer for him. He did it from all areas of the floor, too:

He, not Timme, looked like the best player on the floor:

Of course, Timme still put up 18 points and 9 rebounds in a true road contest against the No. 11 team in the country, but that was a statement win for Hunter and the Longhorns. With Hunter playing like that, Texas is a legitimate Final Four contender.

Meanwhile, Mark Few is going to have to find some answers at point guard or this could be another disappointing postseason for the Bulldogs in March.

Now, for a couple of other notable stories around college basketball:

  • I’ve mentioned an Illinois transfer in the SEC in this column already this season. That would be LSU’s Adam Miller, who is having a good year for the Tigers after missing all of last season with an injury. But there’s another ex-Illini guard making waves at his new school. That’s Andre Curbelo, who is now at St. John’s. He didn’t have a great game against Nebraska in the Gavitt Games on Thursday, necessarily, but he did turn it on in the second half as the Red Storm came back to win. He’s a magician with the basketball:


  • Pairing him with Posh Alexander in the St. John’s backcourt gives the Red Storm a very formidable duo. I’ll be keeping my eye on Mike Anderson’s squad this year.
  • One of my biggest takeaways from the first week and a half of the season? I’m all in on Duke freshman big man Kyle Filipowski. I’ve seen a lot of mock drafts that still have fellow Duke freshmen Dereck Lively II and Dariq Whitehead ahead of Filipowski, but the 7-footer is giving me some serious Chet Holmgren vibes:


  • He can rebound, he can defend, he can run the floor, he can shoot the 3 and he has post moves for days. What’s not to like about Filipowski? Is he as polished as Holmgren? Does he have the same flow to his game? Not yet, but he’s only played a handful of college basketball games. I think Filipowski is a superstar in the making.

Now let’s look ahead to the upcoming few days on the college basketball schedule.

4. Outlet pass

As we prepare for Feast Week, we’re starting to get some more high-profile matchups on the schedule. That’s great news for fans of college hoops and for folks who have a few days off from school or work starting this weekend. Here are the 5 games I can’t wait to watch between now and next week:

  1. No. 2 Gonzaga vs. No. 4 Kentucky (Sunday at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN) – This is technically a “neutral-site” game, as it will be played in Spokane, but not on Gonzaga’s campus. But for all intents and purposes, the Bulldogs will have the home crowd here. Both of these squads had high-profile losses over the past few days. Who will bounce back and who will be left searching for answers?
  2. No. 8 UCLA vs. No. 19 Illinois (Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU) – The Illini have some fresh faces this year, led by Terrence Shannon Jr., the Texas Tech transfer. But the Bruins are an experienced team, led by Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Tyger Campbell. This matchup in Las Vegas will be a major boost to the résumé of whichever team pulls off the victory.
  3. No. 5 Baylor vs. No. 16 Virginia (Friday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2) – Virginia always tries to slow things down under coach Tony Bennett. It has worked well, leading to a championship for the Cavaliers a few years ago. But with the talent in this Baylor backcourt, I’m not sure it’ll matter. This is a fun Bears squad. We’ll see if the Hoos can hang.
  4. No. 3 Houston at Oregon (Sunday at 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN) – Houston is the better team in this matchup, but heading out West is no easy task. Dana Altman always has his Ducks ready to play. This will be a great early season test for Kelvin Sampson’s Cougars, who many think have a chance to be in the title hunt come March Madness.
  5. No. 12 Indiana at Xavier (Friday at 6 p.m. ET on FS1) – This is a part of the Gavitt Tipoff Games series between the Big Ten and Big East. Trayce Jackson-Davis and the Hoosiers are getting B1G title hype, but Xavier is not an easy place to play by any means. We’ll see if Mike Woodson can guide his squad through a tough game in a difficult environment.

That’s a loaded slate. Some top teams hit the road. Others play in some intriguing neutral-site matchups. We’ll have a clearer picture of which teams are the cream of the crop and which still have some work to do by the time this weekend is over.

5. Buzzer beaters

Next, let’s answer a couple of random questions before we get out of here for the day and enjoy our weekend:

Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson seem locked into the top 2 spots in the 2023 NBA Draft. Which college player will be the first off the board?

There’s a lot of well-deserved buzz around Arkansas freshman Nick Smith Jr. for the No. 3 spot in the upcoming draft, but we haven’t seen him play yet due to injury. If he’s as advertised, though, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him as the first college guy off the board. If Duke big man Kyle Filipowski keeps playing like he did against Kansas, he’ll skyrocket up draft boards, too. A big man who can handle the ball, shoot the 3 and play defense? That’ll fit right in for a lot of NBA squads.

Florida, LSU, Mizzou, South Carolina, Mississippi State and Georgia all hired new head coaches this past offseason. Are any SEC coaches on the hot seat this year?

That major upheaval heading into the 2022-23 season may be enough to keep the SEC out of this next year’s coaching carousel, but we all know things change quickly in the world of college hoops. I would say Kermit Davis at Ole Miss is the one guy to watch. If things go south for the Rebels this season, he could be out. But if the Rebels have a halfway decent year, it’s quite possible all 14 SEC men’s hoops coaches return for 2023-24.

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.