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.

So, what’s the scuttlebutt (good word, right?) around the country this week? Let’s dive into some shooty hoops action:

1. Opening tip

VCU’s Havoc defense wreaked, well … havoc on LSU on Wednesday night. The Tigers committed 25 turnovers (yes, really … 25) on the road in Richmond, but managed to keep it close in an 84-82 loss.

LSU coach Will Wade’s return to his former school didn’t go so well and not only because several VCU fans dressed as FBI agents to troll their former coach:


Burt Macklin lookalikes aside, it was a rough day for the Tigers. Yes, their offense looked solid, scoring 82 points, but those 25 turnovers were brutal. Also, maybe letting Skylar Mays attempt to play hero ball in the final minute wasn’t such a good idea? Just look at these stats:

Obviously, that was supposed to say that he made zero passes, but, you know, Twitter. Oh well. The good news for LSU is that it has a chance to pick up a big nonconference win against No. 17 Utah State on Nov. 22.

OK, one last point here — now that VCU coach Mike Rhoades has a big win under his belt, can we stop mentioning Shaka Smart on every other VCU possession? No? Well, I had to ask, at least.

2. Home court advantage

When you’re a Top 25 team and you find yourself struggling at home against a team like Towson, there are a lot of questions that need to be asked. First of all, the Tigers have never beaten an AP Top 25 team.

Still, they were tied with No. 15 Florida 60-60 with less than 2 minutes to play on Thursday night in Gainesville. After the Gators got schooled by rival Florida State over the weekend, this wasn’t the bounce-back game many wanted to see.

Winning 66-60 is better than losing, yes, but this team needs to improve in a hurry if it is going to reach its lofty preseason expectations.

Virginia Tech graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr. continues to shine. In 3 games, he has 3 double-doubles, putting up 13 points and 13 rebounds against Towson. However, he needs some of these talented freshmen around him to play better. Scottie Lewis had a team-high 15 points Thursday, so perhaps he’s coming around.

Coach Mike White needs to beat UConn on Sunday in blowout fashion to take some heat off himself. We’ll see if he and the Gators can get the job done.

Here are some other notes from around the SEC:

  • Reggie Perry is starting to round into form, and that’s bad news for the rest of the SEC. The talented forward put up 14 points and 14 rebounds in Mississippi State’s big 62-45 win over Louisiana-Monroe. Are the Bulldogs the No. 1 team in the SEC right now? Check my Tuesday power rankings, but if they are, that almost certainly means they’ll lose.
  • Um, so … Vanderbilt lost to Richmond 93-92 on Thursday night. It actually wasn’t a bad performance by the Vandy offense, with Aaron Nesmith scoring 34 points and Saben Lee adding 24. However, 3 Richmond players had at least 20 points and that’s less than ideal. So far this season, announcers have been giving first-year Vanderbilt coach Jerry Stackhouse a lot of credit for coaching the Commodores like an NBA team. Basically, that means he sits on the bench for most of the game and lets his players play. Well, you know what this team could use? Maybe try some in-game coaching, Jerry. Those stupid under-the-basket benches don’t exactly help in Nashville (though this game was in Richmond, so he doesn’t have that excuse).
  • In a game coming up on Friday, Texas A&M is supposed to try to beat No. 8 Gonzaga. Yeah, that’s probably not going to go very well. Add in the pending absence of G TJ Starks — a key player of last year’s Aggie squad — and the job gets even tougher. Starks missed the first two games of the season with an injury, then got suspended for violating team rules. That’s going to hurt against Gonzaga.

There’s your SEC update. Now, let’s take a tour of the rest of the country.

3. Road game

Perhaps the most exciting game of the past couple of days took place in Milwaukee, where Markus Howard and Marquette took on Matt Haarms and Purdue. It was perhaps the most highly-anticipated meeting between two people with the initials “MH” since Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) met Mia Hamm. (Note: I have no idea if those two people have ever met.)

Howard is absolutely filthy, though, as his play down the stretch showed. He finished the game with 18 points, but this late jumper was ridiculous. As I mention in the tweet, this was horrible, no good, very bad shot selection, but Howard drains it like it’s nothing more than a free throw:

Koby McEwan actually led Marquette with 23 points, but he doesn’t fit our “MH vs. MH” narrative, so who cares? Haarms finished the game with 14 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks, but let’s just say Howard and the Golden Eagles stayed out of Haarms’ way (get it?) down the stretch as they completed their comeback. Purdue going 0-for-10 down the stretch helped, too.

This was Marquette’s first win against Purdue in… well, ever. The 65-55 victory was certainly something worth celebrating. Here’s what else took place around the country over the past couple of days:

  • Speaking of the Gavitt Games, there was an interesting situation at the Northwestern-Providence game. The net came unhooked from the rim, which led to a surprisingly lengthy delay. Just check out this video below. As my colleague Paul Harvey (not that Paul Harvey) pointed out, it’s crazy that the person trying to replace the net is using athletic tape, which is scientifically engineered to only adhere to leg hair. Can no one make a run to the nearest sporting goods store to fetch a new net?

  • With 6 minutes left in the first half in Columbus on Wednesday, No. 16 Ohio State was absolutely schooling No. 10 Villanova. The Buckeyes had a 36-10 lead. That was a 40-22 halftime advantage, and it turned into a 76-51 victory. There’s really not much to say about that. Ohio State looks like it is for real, while Villanova has a long way to go. Seven OSU players had at least 8 points, led by big man Kaleb Wesson, who had 10 points and 11 rebounds.
  • What’s this? More Big Ten-Big East action? Yep, the Gavitt Games were fun this year! Just ask No. 3 Michigan State, which won 76-73 over No. 12 Seton Hall on Thursday night. Cassius Winston had a team-high 21 points for the Spartans in the win. However, Seton Hall’s Myles Powell stole the show, scoring 37 points. Folks, this was a Final Four-caliber basketball game. These 2 teams may indeed cross paths again come March.

OK, now that you’re all caught up, let’s take a look ahead on the college basketball calendar.

4. Outlet pass

Now, let’s take a look at some things you should be paying attention to over the weekend. I’m really looking forward to a few games over the next 3 days, and I hope you are, too.

Here are the 5 games I’m most looking forward to as the weekend gets started:

  1. Marquette at Wisconsin (1 p.m. Eastern on Sunday) — Markus Howard with another chance to take down a Big Ten team? Yes, please.
  2. Florida at UConn (3 p.m. Eastern on Sunday) — The Gators have looked awful. Can they get it together against UConn?
  3. West Virginia at Pitt (7 p.m. Eastern on Friday) — This is an intense rivalry game. No matter the records, this will be a lot of fun to watch.
  4. Washington vs. Tennessee (5 p.m. Eastern on Saturday in Toronto) — This neutral-site matchup should be fun. And the Vols’ football team is off on Saturday, so fans can watch the basketball team without regret!
  5. Columbia at Virginia (noon Eastern on Saturday) — Any time I can watch Virginia’s defense, I’m going to do it. The Hoos are like some smooth jazz music on defense. Yes, their offense needs some work, but this team is so good on defense that it is absolutely beautiful. Please take advantage of every opportunity to watch Virginia before things change.

That’s a really solid slate of games for a weekend when there’s still college football on. Hopefully, you have a way to watch multiple screens at once so you can take in a bunch of football while also keeping an eye on some of these incredible basketball games.

5. Buzzer beaters

Eventually, this section will turn into reader questions, but for now, y’all are going to have to settle for me asking myself a couple of random questions in this space. Like these:

What’s the most exciting play in basketball?

It’d be easy to say an alley-oop, but as cool as those are, there is a play I like even more — the put-back slam.

Why? Well, it’s a real roller coaster of emotion. You see your team miss a shot and think they’re about to end the possession with zero points. Then, out of nowhere, here comes a teammate, leaping over everyone to throw down a monster dunk.

Here’s Kentucky freshman Keion Brooks against Eastern Kentucky:

And here’s Maryland’s Donta Scott with a great put-back effort:

You can’t tell me that’s not exciting. I won’t hear it.

Who is your favorite player in college basketball this year?

This is a tough question (I don’t take it easy on myself as an interviewer, clearly), as there are a ton of talented freshmen I haven’t really gotten a chance to watch in-depth yet. However, there are a couple of guys who stand out.

We’ve mentioned the first one here in this space a couple of times — Marquette’s Markus Howard. If you don’t like watching that guy, you don’t like basketball. Also, one of my best friends, Patrick, went to Marquette (not at the same time as Howard), so that just makes it even better.

That dude is so smooth with the ball (again, we discussed that earlier) and I just want to watch every Marquette game this year in order to fully appreciate him.

The other guy is Kerry Blackshear Jr. at Florida. He is a double-double machine and I can’t wait to see what he can do this season.

Enjoy the Starting 5? Have a question? Want to yell at me about something (not you, Kansas fans)? Follow me on Twitter @AdamSpencer4 or email me at ASpencer@SaturdayDownSouth.com.