Starting 5: Virginia and Ohio State disappoint, Roy Williams rips his team and Auburn survives
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.
1. The Opening Tip
I don’t think Virginia is going to repeat as national champions. The Cavaliers just suffered their 3rd bad defeat of the season Wednesday night, going down 60-53 at Boston College.
The Cavaliers have lost by 29 points at Purdue, by 11 at home to South Carolina and by 7 at Boston College. Those are most certainly not the kinds of losses champions have on their résumé.
The worst part is that I’m not sure there’s anything coach Tony Bennett can do about it. Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome and D’Andre Hunter aren’t walking through that door anytime soon, and that makes the Virginia offense painful to watch.
Seriously, I know Virginia’s game plan is to drain the shot clock on offense and play stifling defense, but you have to be able to move the ball sometimes on offense. On Tuesday night, I found myself screaming “Go!” at the TV several times during the second half.
That all culminated with a horrible possession in the final minute of the game. After Boston College’s Jared Hamilton made a 3 to give the Eagles a 56-53 lead with 37 seconds left, the Cavaliers took a timeout. Then, instead of going fast, like literally any other team in the country would, they dribbled around aimlessly before taking another timeout at 23 seconds.
Then, to make matters worse, the only thing they could set up was a 3-point look for center Mamadi Diakite (who is shooting 37.9% from long range, but has only attempted 29 deep shots). PG Kihei Clark went 2-for-11 from the floor (0-for-9 from inside the arc, interestingly enough). If he can’t start becoming a better scoring option and improve his abysmal 35.6% field-goal percentage, it’s going to be a long year in Charlottesville.
Now, let’s take a look at some SEC-related stories.
2. Home-court Advantage
In a battle of star freshman guards Tuesday, Kentucky’s Tyrese Maxey outplayed Georgia’s Anthony Edwards. Edwards had the edge in points (23-17), but Maxey’s stat line was incredible — 17 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds and 4 blocks. Edwards played well too, but Maxey got the most important stat, which was the 78-69 victory.
Here’s Maxey taking on several Georgia defenders and making them look foolish:
Mr. Tyrese Maxey pic.twitter.com/F8STSL1Tmu
— Not Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton2) January 8, 2020
He’s a heck of a player and should be a 1st-round pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Edwards might still be the No. 1 overall pick, but Maxey has been awesome this year, too.
Here are some other stories from around the SEC this week:
- I’m now completely out on Mizzou this year. The Tigers tricked me into believing with wins over teams like Illinois and Temple, but I should have seen the signs when they lost to Charleston Southern and, on Tuesday, Tennessee. The Vols, who had been struggling offensively, beat the Tigers 69-59 at Mizzou Arena. Jordan Bowden, who couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn entering the game, finished with a game-high 13 points. This was exactly the type of game Mizzou needed to win, and the Tigers lost in embarrassing fashion. I’m all the way out on my alma mater. Yikes.
- Auburn is the No. 5 team in the country and only undefeated team in the SEC, but the Tigers need to play better if they want to avoid a loss in conference play. Vanderbilt — which went 0-18 in SEC play last year — gave the Tigers a run for their money in Auburn on Wednesday night. Yes, Auburn escaped with an 83-79 victory, but it was a close call. Austin Wiley had an impressive 13-point, 12-rebound double-double, but freshman F Isaac Okoro stole the show, scoring 23 points. He also posterized a hapless Vandy defender in the second half:
Isaac Okoro killed a guy pic.twitter.com/xvD31Hrt3M
— Rob Dauster (@RobDauster) January 9, 2020
- LSU beat Arkansas 79-76 Wednesday night in Baton Rouge, but it was almost a loss if not for the efforts of freshman big man Trendon Watford. Darius Days deserves a mention for an incredible 16-point, 16-rebound double-double, but Watford’s late heroics saved the day. Here are the 2 huge buckets he made down the stretch to help LSU to a much-needed victory:
Trendon Watford was not losing that game. pic.twitter.com/reOV2Q4DI1
— LSU Basketball (@LSUBasketball) January 9, 2020
What a week it was in the SEC! Here’s hoping there’s more of that in the future.
3. Road Game
Like the opening section, I’m going to start this segment of today’s column with a rant, too. This one is directed at North Carolina coach Roy Williams.
This week, Williams called the Tar Heels “the least gifted team I’ve ever coached in the time that I’ve been back here.” After the Tar Heels lost 73-65 to Pitt on Wednesday, Williams doubled down on those statements. Yes, star freshman Cole Anthony is hurt, but Williams’ comments rubbed me the wrong way.
Hey Roy, these comments make you sound really freakin’ lazy. Do you know how many programs would kill to have the caliber of players you bring in to North Carolina? Nicholls State beat Pitt earlier this year. No, that wasn’t a typo — Nicholls Freakin’ State!
How many Nicholls players would even sniff the UNC roster? My guess? Zero.
So, Roy, how about you coach your team and help your players develop? Don’t count on high school coaches to send you fully polished NBA players — do the work yourself.
I know you can do it. You’ve taken several teams, developed the players and won a ton of games. Unless you’ve lost it, you can still do the same with this team. Quit whining and do your job.
Whew. Glad I got that off my chest. OK, now let’s move on to some other stories from around the country:
- Oh goodness, did Ohio State really lose again? *Checks score* Yep. And the Buckeyes lost at Maryland by 12. No, that’s not necessarily a bad loss, but when you’re a top 5 caliber team and lose 3 consecutive games, it’s never good. Oh, and I need to call out DJ Carton for a second here. When you’re down big in the second half, just take the layup and don’t go for the poster dunk:
Note to DJ Carton and anyone else who wants to attempt a big dunk when you’re down 12 with less than 20 seconds left… you’d better make it. And if you get stuffed, don’t complain about being fouled after. Yikes. pic.twitter.com/7Rqbuptjhp
— Adam Spencer (@AdamSpencer4) January 8, 2020
- Staying in the Big Ten, Michigan survived a serious scare from Purdue on Thursday night. The game went into double-overtime, but the Wolverines eventually pulled out an 84-78 victory. Zavier Simpson hit a shot to force overtime, tying the score at 62-62. He even hit a couple of hook shots in the paint, so you know the announcers went crazy:
#19 Michigan wins a thriller 84-78 (2OT) over Purdue. Zavier Simpson continues to be one the best point guards in America, and Purdue’s Trevion Williams has officially broken out (36 PTS, 20 REB).
— CollegeBB News (@CollegeBBNCAA) January 10, 2020
- Say what you want about Juwan Howard’s team, but you can’t say they don’t have heart. Howard is in his first year, but he’ll be one of the best coaches in college basketball before too long.
- No. 9 Oregon and No. 24 Arizona played a huge Pac-12 game in Eugene on Thursday night, and it was a heck of a game. The Pac-12 really needed Oregon to win to keep a team relevant in the national conversation, and the Ducks eventually obliged, winning 74-73 in overtime. The Ducks now have a big win on their résumé, but considering how bad Arizona looked on this final play, they’re lucky to escape with a victory:
Turbulence in the Pac!
#9 Oregon hangs on to beat #24 Arizona 74-73 (OT).
— CollegeBB News (@CollegeBBNCAA) January 10, 2020
- Oh, and Bill Walton (a national treasure) was eating peanut butter during the broadcast, so there’s that:
Bill Walton eating peanut butter during the Oregon vs. Arizona broadcast, because why not? pic.twitter.com/oCLlFPfYK2
— Trevor William Marks (@twmarks_) January 10, 2020
- If Wichita State got to play at home every game, the Shockers would be a national championship contender. On Thursday night, they took down a ranked Memphis team 76-67. The Shockers’ only loss was in Cancun to a West Virginia team that is now No. 17 in the AP Poll. I believe in Wichita State, especially when the Shockers are playing in Wichita.
Now, let’s take a look at the next few days in college basketball.
4. Outlet Pass
Saturday is loaded with great basketball action! All of my top 5 games of the next few days take place on Saturday. Here they are:
- No. 4 Baylor at No. 3 Kansas (Saturday at 1 p.m. ET on CBS) — I absolutely cannot wait for this game. This is going to be huge in the Big 12 race moving forward. Baylor just proved it can win in hostile Big 12 environments, beating a ranked Texas Tech team earlier this week. But Phog Allen Fieldhouse is a completely different level.
- Georgia at No. 5 Auburn (Saturday at 6 p.m. ET on ESPN) — Auburn barely survived a threat from Vanderbilt on Wednesday night. Georgia is better than Vandy and could provide even more problems for Bruce Pearl’s squad.
- No. 11 Ohio State at Indiana (Saturday at noon ET on FOX) — The Buckeyes have lost 3 games in a row. It’s too early to call this a must-win, but they need to right the ship in a hurry. And going to Indiana is never easy.
- Marquette at Seton Hall (Saturday at 4 p.m. ET on CBSSN) — Markus Howard vs. Myles Powell? Sign me up! Those are 2 of the best players in the country, and both average more than 20 points per game.
- Clemson at North Carolina (Saturday at 4:30 p.m. ET on ACCNX) — This game only makes the cut due to morbid curiosity. Clemson has never won in Chapel Hill. Seriously, the Tigers are an incredible 0-59 against North Carolina in Chapel Hill. I blasted Roy Williams for his comments about his team earlier. Can they avoid the first home loss to Clemson in program history?
Plenty of intriguing storylines and great players on that slate of games. It should lead to some interesting results!
5. Buzzer Beaters
In this section, I’ll answer a couple of random questions, which may or may not have anything to do with basketball. Here are today’s questions:
Who has been the best first-year coach in the SEC so far this year?
That makes our options Nate Oats at Alabama, Jerry Stackhouse at Vanderbilt, Buzz Williams at Texas A&M and Eric Musselman at Arkansas. I really like what Oats has done at Alabama thus far, but it’s impossible to pick against Musselman.
It’s still early in the SEC season, and the Hogs just lost at LSU (as detailed above), but he has done a fantastic job so far. He has really maximized the talents of Isaiah Joe and Mason Jones in the backcourt, and the Hogs have been really fun to watch.
Which player from “The Office” episode “Basketball” would you most compare your game to?
Well, obviously, I’d love to compare myself to Jim, but that would be unrealistic in this case. I’m not that good. I’ll say Ryan. Not the biggest guy or the most talented, but is always in the right spot and makes enough plays to have a positive impact on the game. That sounds more like me. Catch me on the wrong day, though, and I’m more like Michael. “What is with me today?! I usually make those!”
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.