Starting 5: Georgia stuns Memphis, Illinois does Virginia impression, Ohio State loses again and more
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.
Congrats to the Gonzaga Bulldogs for being the first team to hold on to the No. 1 spot in the AP Poll for 3 consecutive weeks this season. It only took until nonconference play was over for us to find a team that wouldn’t immediately lose when ranked at the top of the poll.
Now, let’s take a look at what’s going on around the rest of the country as we head into an important week of basketball:
1. The Opening Tip
The Georgia Bulldogs have quietly been a pretty solid team this year. Their only 3 losses came against Dayton and Michigan State at the Maui Invitational and then at Arizona State.
However, the Dawgs also hadn’t exactly picked up a signature win, with a victory against Georgia Tech being perhaps their best win. That all changed Saturday, though.
The Bulldogs went into Memphis and handed the No. 9 Tigers a 65-62 loss. Four Georgia players had at least 10 points, with Rayshaun Hammonds leading the way with 15 points and 12 rebounds. He also set the tone defensively. Just look at his effort on this possession late in the 2nd half:
This is incredible defense from Rayshaun Hammonds to force a shot clock violation in Memphis. pic.twitter.com/3z5L7CuvZ8
— Dayne Young (@dayneyoung) January 4, 2020
Freshman sensation Anthony Edwards had 13 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists. Not his best game, but 1 of his 4 assists came when he found Hammonds for the 3-pointer that gave Georgia a lead it wouldn’t give back:
TEN TIES. TWENTY LEAD CHANGES. pic.twitter.com/01fKJf0Pim
— CBS Sports CBB (@CBSSportsCBB) January 4, 2020
I also want to give props to freshman PG Sahvir Wheeler, who scored 10 points and dished out 7 assists. That’s what the Dawgs need him to do.
That’s exactly the kind of win Georgia needed to build momentum heading into SEC play. The Bulldogs will host Kentucky and then travel to Auburn in a brutal first 2 conference games.
2. Home-court Advantage
Who is going to have to probably guard Rayshaun Hammonds when Kentucky travels to play Georgia on Tuesday? Well, that job might just go to Nick Richards.
Fortunately for coach John Calipari’s crew, Richards is playing some of the best basketball of his career. I mean, a Euro step? Are you kidding me, Nick?
Then there was this sequence, where Richards does literally everything on both ends of the floor:
GREAT sequence from Nick Richards. pic.twitter.com/DwYcZ6PS2K
— Not Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton2) January 4, 2020
Mizzou doesn’t have a big man like Hammonds, though, so Richards will have his hands full tonight. Still, if he plays the way he has been lately, the Wildcats should go into Athens and pick up another win.
Now, for some other SEC news:
- Tennessee’s Jordan Bowden is in the middle of a major shooting slump, and it is really hurting the Vols. While playing all 40 minutes in a 78-64 loss to LSU, Bowden went 1-for-12 from the floor and finished with only 3 points. Even coach Rick Barnes can’t explain what’s going on with his senior leader:
Tennessee coach Rick Barnes comments on Jordan Bowden’s slump pic.twitter.com/mjBuftGvFN
— Steve Megargee (@stevemegargee) January 4, 2020
- That’s going to have to change moving forward. The Vols face a tough test at Mizzou tonight. Lamonte Turner isn’t coming back to save the day.
- I’ve been saying for a while now that I think Arkansas has the best backcourt tandem in the SEC in Isaiah Joe and Mason Jones. They made 9 3-pointers between them, including this long-range dagger from Joe:
— ya boy yunter (@YunterHurachek) January 5, 2020
- That was part of a 34-point effort from the Joe/Jones combo. Helpful hint for any team taking on the Razorbacks this year — stop at least one of those guys.
- Auburn PG J’Von McCormick earned SEC Player of the Week honors for his 28-point performance in an 80-68 victory over Mississippi State on Saturday. However, the Tigers are going to need some more bench scoring moving forward, as they only received 2 points from non-starters (thanks to an Anfernee McLemore bucket. Oh, and they got torched by Reggie Perry for 21 points and 12 rebounds. That interior defense is going to need to improve, too. Still, this is just nitpicking for a team that should be one of the top 2 teams in the SEC this year.
Now, let’s take a look at what’s going on in the non-SEC world of college basketball.
3. Road Game
Something is wrong with the Ohio State Buckeyes. Well, actually, I know what’s wrong with the Buckeyes. Let me explain.
After losing 61-57 to a not-great Wisconsin team Friday, it’s clear Ohio State needs some players to step up around big man Kaleb Wesson and guard Duane Washington Jr. They combined for 40 points and 16 rebounds. The Buckeyes finished with 57 points and 32 rebounds. Wesson also dished out this nice assist:
Still, that’s too much reliance on those 2 guys. They played great and the Buckeyes still lost. That can’t happen.
That makes Ohio State 1-2 in Big Ten play, and the Buckeyes have lost their last 2 games. Can they turn it around at Maryland and Indiana this week? I’m not so sure.
Now, let’s look around the rest of the college basketball world:
- The Illinois defense did its best impression of Virginia on Sunday night against Purdue. However, unlike the Cavaliers, who were smoked by Purdue earlier this season, the Illini looked like Virginia’s defense against every other team. The Illini only allowed the Boilermakers to score 37 points in a 63-37 victory — 19 in the 1st half and 18 in the 2nd. No Boilermaker scored more than 8 points. I would point out that the bench only scored 5 points, but when your team scores 37 points, that doesn’t make much of a difference. Alan Griffin came off the bench and scored 20 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and blocking 2 shots, including this one:
- Oh, so why did I compare the Illini to Virginia? Well, the Cavaliers picked up a similarly dominant victory over Virginia Tech this weekend, winning 65-39 to improve to 3-0 in ACC play. Those are some good defensive efforts, folks.
- It’s a new year, and Michigan has a new coach, but Michigan State still owns the Wolverines. Cassius Winston had 32 points and 9 assists in an 87-69 blowout to work his way back into National Player of the Year contention. Here are some of his many highlights from that win, showing why he is absolutely must-see TV whenever he takes the court:
Anyone who thinks Cassius Winston is not the best PG in CBB. Please watch this video. pic.twitter.com/Z79ZWmLUsE
— INSIDE MSU (@inside_msu) January 6, 2020
- Yes, Louisville beat Michigan earlier this year, but the Cardinals haven’t beaten anyone else of note. Their 3 losses have been to the only other good teams they’ve played — Texas Tech, Kentucky and, on Saturday, going down 78-65 to Florida State in Louisville. The Cardinals dropped to No. 13 in the AP Poll, but if they can’t put together a better performance than that, they’ll continue to lose to decent teams in ACC play.
Now, let’s take a look at what to watch for over the next few days.
4. Outlet Pass
With conference play in full swing, there are some exciting matchups this week. Here are the 5 best games between now and Friday:
- No. 14 Kentucky at Georgia (Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN) — The Wildcats have looked better after back-to-back losses to Utah and Ohio State. But, Georgia just picked up a huge win at Memphis on Saturday. This should be a fun game.
- No. 24 Arizona at No. 9 Oregon (Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN) — The Pac-12 has been solid this year, but will the Ducks manage to be the best of the best, or will the Pac-12 teams beat up on each other again this season? This game will go a long way to show us that answer.
- No. 4 Baylor at No. 22 Texas Tech (Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2) — I think Baylor can keep Kansas out of the top spot in the Big 12. However, the Bears need to prove they can handle a road game against a ranked conference opponent first.
- No. 21 Memphis at No. 23 Wichita State (Thursday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2) — These are 2 of the top mid-major programs. On a neutral court, I’d pick Memphis to win, but this game is in Wichita. The Shockers are awfully tough to beat there (just ask Ole Miss).
- No. 11 Ohio State at No. 12 Maryland (Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN) — The Buckeyes have dropped 2 games in a row and heading to Maryland isn’t a great way to get back on track. We’ll see what they can do.
It’s great to have conference play back in our lives. This is just the start, with plenty of other great games coming soon.
5. Buzzer Beaters
What random questions do we have for this week? Here are a couple I’ll answer in today’s column:
Which teams will be the 4 No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament?
Well, I believe Gonzaga will be the top seed in the tournament at this point. The Bulldogs have earned it and will likely cruise through WCC play. Who will join them is a different question, but for right now, I’ll go with Baylor, Duke and Kentucky as the other 3 No. 1 seeds.
LSU and Clemson will play for the football title Monday. Which basketball team would win between those 2 schools?
I’m going to go with the Tigers. (Is that a lame joke? Sorry.) The LSU version, of course. Clemson is only 7-7 this year and has already lost to South Carolina. I think LSU would pull off a narrow win on a neutral court.
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.