Starting 5: Maui Madness, don’t panic about Michigan State and a Florida bounce-back
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.
It’s almost Thanksgiving, and there are tournaments aplenty to get you through the week. There has already been some major drama in Maui (and also in Brooklyn).
So, without further ado, let’s dive right in to today’s Starting 5:
1. The Opening Tip
The Maui Invitational is one of the top Thanksgiving-week tournaments in the country, and usually features a couple of top 10 teams. This year, No. 3 Michigan State and No. 4 Kansas took the court in Maui, along with Georgia, Virginia Tech, Dayton, BYU, UCLA and Chaminade (the host school).
The big upset on Monday came in Maui, where No. 3 Michigan State lost to unranked (but tough) Virginia Tech in the first round, 71-66. The Hokies love the 3-point ball, and that was evident against the Spartans, as they knocked down 10-of-21 3s.
We could spend some time breaking down this game and why it’s a bad sign for the Spartans, who had 16 turnovers, but that would be pointless.
Adam, why would it be pointless to discuss a game in which the Spartans looked overmatched for the second time this year (with the other being an opening-night loss to Kentucky)? Well, dear reader, let me tell you.
This is something Tom Izzo’s Michigan State teams do every year. They get it together in time for March Madness. They don’t call Izzo Mr. March for nothing. (Side note: They don’t call him Mr. April, because that’s when the Final Four and title game are played. Hey-o!)
Let’s go back to, oh, let’s say 2018-19. The Spartans lost to Kansas on opening night and also lost to Louisville before the month of November was over. Then, they also had a 3-game losing streak in Big Ten play.
So, what happened? Oh, Izzo only led them to the Final Four, where they lost to eventual runner-up Texas Tech.
Do the Spartans still have Cassius Winston? *Checks roster* Seems like they do. Yeah, they’ll be fine.
Now, let’s take a look at some SEC news (we are a predominantly SEC website, after all).
2. Home-court advantage
The Florida Gators are back, baby! After a rough loss at UConn last week, the Gators went to Charleston and won the Charleston Classic, taking down Saint Joseph’s, Miami and a ranked Xavier squad in the process.
I might have prematurely put Florida coach Mike White on the hot seat, so I’d like to personally throw some cold water on it for him. There’s still some work left to do for these Gators, but the young team is starting to come into form.
Kerry Blackshear Jr. had a big game against Miami. He didn’t do quite as much against Xavier, but still finished with a double-double, scoring 14 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. He had this beautiful and-1:
YES Kerry Blackshear, more of that!!! pic.twitter.com/VB4jg9rv4f
— InAllKindsOfWeather.com (@AllKindsWeather) November 25, 2019
Can the Gators keep the good times rolling into December? We’ll find out soon. For now, though, let’s take a look around the rest of the SEC:
- Arkansas is 6-0, but Monday’s game at Georgia Tech wasn’t easy. Fortunately, Mason Jones was there to save the day. I mean, this is simply a horrible look and awful offense from the Razorbacks, but Jones bailed them out with a clutch (and banked-in) 3-pointer.
— Adam Spencer (@AdamSpencer4) November 26, 2019
- Arkansas coach Eric Musselman still had multiple timeouts remaining at the time of Jones’ shot. Considering that the game-winning 3 was the first basket the Hogs had made in the overtime period, maybe Musselman should have called one. Seems like his coaching almost cost them the game.
- Enough about Arkansas, though. Now let’s talk about Mizzou. The Tigers were thoroughly outclassed by Butler on Monday, losing in Kansas City 63-52. Mizzou continues to search for any semblance of a 3-point game, going just 2-for-11.
- Speaking of 3-pointers, Auburn is going to be tough to beat if opponents can’t shoot 3s consistently. The Tigers made 12 treys on Monday against New Mexico, while the Lobos managed only 4. That’s 24 extra points the Tigers got from long range, and they won by 25 (84-59). It really makes a difference for Bruce Pearl’s squad. What happens when the 3s aren’t falling? Well, we haven’t had to find out just yet.
What’s going on elsewhere around the country, you ask? Let’s take a look!
3. Road game
We didn’t mention Georgia’s loss earlier in the SEC section, but now we need to talk about it, because it’s more about what Dayton did. The Flyers appear to be for real, and big man Obi Toppin is a big reason. Keep an eye on this sophomore in Round 1 of the 2020 NBA Draft, as he showed his incredible versatility against the Dawgs, scoring 25 points and grabbing 4 rebounds in the 80-61 victory.
The big man can also make 3s:
Obi Toppin from 3 as the shot clock expires? Cuz why the hell not. pic.twitter.com/9jAfw11xGj
— A10 Talk (@A10Talk) November 25, 2019
Remember his name, because he’s going to be mentioned a lot in the coming months, and if Dayton makes it to the NCAA Tournament, Toppin is going to be a huge reason why. Georgia found that out the hard way Monday.
Here are some other notes from the non-SEC world:
- Wisconsin was caught looking ahead to a game against Auburn in the Legends Classic, and instead, the Badgers will be playing in the consolation game against New Mexico after losing to Richmond. The Spiders won convincingly, too, picking up a 62-52 victory.
- Next, I want to talk about Bill Walton and what a treasure he is. He is an absolute joy as an announcer no matter what game he’s calling, but he’s never better than when he’s at the Maui Invitational. In this segment, he compares Kansas to a volcano, a waterfall and a breaching whale in the span of 30 seconds. Never change, Bill. Incredible:
Bill Walton is permanently the highest man on the planet pic.twitter.com/KxzOWwwHx3
— Mickstape (@MickstapeShow) November 26, 2019
- Ohio State continues to look like one of the best teams in the country. The Buckeyes got a 17-point, 6-rebound effort from big man Kaleb Wesson in a 19-point win over Kent State on Monday night. He had 4 fouls, though. If he can stay out of foul trouble, watch out. If he can’t, Ohio State will be beatable.
- Most teams would lose if they only scored 48 points in a game. Not Virginia. The Cavaliers took down Arizona State 48-45 in a classic Virginia-style defensive expo. In fact, in a crazy stat that shows just how awesome Virginia’s defense is, the Cavaliers would be 5-1 if they only scored 48 points each game. The only team to go over that total against the Hoos was Vermont, which lost 61-55.
Now, let’s take a look at the next few days and some great games to watch.
4. Outlet pass
Since we don’t know who will be playing in some of these tournament title games this week, we’ll stick with ranking the matchups we know for sure will happen. Here are the top 5 for the next few days:
- Oregon vs. Seton Hall (9:30 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday) — Oregon is No. 11 and Seton Hall is No. 13. This is a 1st-round game in the Battle 4 Atlantis. The winner’s reward? A probable 2nd-round matchup against Gonzaga. Ouch.
- Alabama vs. North Carolina (2:30 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday) — Alabama’s run-and-gun style at least makes things interesting, no matter who the Crimson Tide are playing. They might be outclassed by the Tar Heels, but this game from the Battle 4 Atlantis in The Bahamas should still be a lot of fun.
- Georgia vs. Michigan State (2:30 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday) — Who thought this would be a consolation bracket game? I certainly didn’t. Still, even though it isn’t to go to the Maui Invitational title game, this should be a really entertaining basketball contest.
- Texas Tech vs. Iowa (8 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday) — This game might turn into a defensive battle, but those are exciting, too. While Iowa’s offense has been strong this year, the Hawkeyes haven’t faced a defense as good as the Red Raiders. Something has to give in Las Vegas.
- Auburn vs. Richmond (7 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday) — This was an unexpected matchup, as Wisconsin was predicted by many to beat Richmond. However, Richmond has proven to be a strong team this year, with a win against Vanderbilt under its belt, too. Auburn will need to take the Spiders seriously.
Another great few days of college basketball action!
5. Buzzer beaters
Now, it’s time for a couple of random questions before we get out of here for the day.
What’s the best Thanksgiving side dish?
I’m personally partial to potato dishes — mashed, baked, cheesy, etc. It’s really hard to go wrong with potatoes. Give me some mashed potatoes with butter and maybe some bacon sprinkled in, and I’ll be one happy camper.
Who is your favorite college basketball player ever?
Well, he’s not exactly a guy who gets a lot of national attention, but as a Mizzou grad, my favorite guy to watch was DeMarre Carroll. The dude was just so tough. That’s why he’s still in the NBA all these years later, playing for the San Antonio Spurs this year.
He led the Tigers to the Big 12 Tournament title and a trip to the Elite Eight during my freshman year of college, and that was so much fun to watch. I’ll always have a soft spot for the Junkyard Dog (that was Carroll’s nickname).
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.