PTBN’s Hardwood Hot Takes 2018 #1

College Hoops season in now upon us!!! I am Logan Crosland and we here at Place to be Nation are going to roll with the success of the Campus Hot Takes that Scott and I provide on a
weekly basis about the world of College Football. Andrew Riche, co-host of the NBA Team Podcast, has decided to join me in the journey to provide you those same Hot Takes from the
hardwood of College Hoops. Here our steaming Hot Takes from the world of early season College Hoops:

Logan Crosland

Battle 4 Atlantis Preview: The Battle 4 Atlantis has become one of the premiere early season tournaments in the college basketball season. This year’s version features three mid major teams in Butler, Dayton, and Middle Tennessee, all who ironically are breaking in new head coaches. It will be interesting to see how all of these teams fair with their new head coaches at the helm. The tourney also features power conference teams such as Florida, Wisconsin, Stanford, Oklahoma, and likely tournament favorite Virginia. Virginia of course coming off of a season where they suffered the first 1 vs. 16 loss in NCAA Tournament history, will be looking to impose their will and prove that they are not last years team and that they are a force to
reckoned with. Along with all of the great players for Virginia, Ethan Happ of Wisconsin is another player to watch out of this tourney, who can and will need to lead this team throughout
this season for them to be successful.

MGM Main Event Preview: The MGM Main Event is a newer tournament to early season fold, but has been an entertaining one in the past few seasons. This year’s showing feature two mid major teams in St. Mary’s and Utah State, as well Pac 12 dark horse Arizona State and number 17 ranked SEC sleeper Mississippi State. St. Mary’s, along with fellow conference foe Gonzaga, are always among one of the mid majors teams who always seem to make noise during the NCAA tournament rolls around. This means they can always be dangerous in a tourney like
these. Utah State welcomes in new head coach Craig Smith, who comes over from South Dakota after leading them consecutive NCAA appearances. Sam Merrill is last years leading
scorer for the Aggies and will be the player to watch for that squad. Second year head coach Bobby Hurley leads the Arizona State Sun Devils into this tournament, along hotshot freshman
Luguentz Dort, who is averaging 21.7 points per game thus far. Ben Howland leads the Mississippi State Bulldogs into this tournament with the most experienced team and the team
with the most depth that has come out of Starkville in a long time. Lamar Peters and Quindarry Weatherspoon are the players to watch from the Bulldogs. While the Bulldogs are probably the
favorites going in, this tournament could any which way with four talented teams like these.

Las Vegas Invitational Preview: Another tournament people should be on the lookout for in the next week will be the the Continental Tires Las Vegas a Invitational. This one features two top ten caliber teams in Michigan State and North Carolina, as well as perennial contenders in the Big 12 and PAC 12 in Texas and UCLA. Michigan State having already played top competition in their first game against Kansas, which resulted in a tough hard fought loss. This prepares them well for the competition they will face in this tourney. The North Carolina Tar Heels come into this tournament ranked number 7 and with some momentum coming off home victory over a good Stanford team. While this will likely be the two teams in the finals (and what a hell of a game that would be), no one should look past Shaka Smart and the Texas Longhorns and their stifling defense or the UCLA Bruins and their high powered offense.

Duke and Zion Come Hot Out the Gates: No player in recent memory has come in with as much hype to college hoops as Duke freshman Zion Williamson. Well, so far the big man has lived up to the hype. He has not only thrown down some amazing dunks so far but he has averaged 25.3 points per game and 10.7 rebounds per game and he has made it look easy. Zion aside, fellow
freshman RJ Barrett has also been impressive so far averaging the exact same 25.3 points per game. These two freshman were able to lead Duke to an absolute domination of Kentucky,beating them by 30 points. As much as I am not a Duke guy, this team is going to be a heck of a fun team to watch.

Indiana Takes a Big Step in Early Season Upset: With new head man Archie Miller coming over from Dayton, it was going to be interesting to see how much of a step forward Indiana would take. Well, through at least the first few games the Hoosiers have been quite impressive and in no game was this more evident than recent upset of Marquette. They are not only getting it done on offense, averaging 93.3 points per game, but also getting it done on defense holding opponents to 54.3 points per game. Marquette was able to get 73 on them, but that is well below their average as they are one of the best offensive teams in the country. Whether they will continue to rise or eventually fall, this Indiana team will be one to watch.

Andrew Riche

THE WILDCATS ARE LICKING THEIR WOUNDS: It has not been uncommon for Kentucky to lose a game in the Champions Classic which now tips off the college basketball season (They
lost to Kansas last year in the same event). However, there is a little bit of cause for concern when it comes to John Calipari’s latest young gun version of the Wildcats after being handed a
118-84 beatdown at the hands of Duke last Tuesday. All fall long after a successful exhibition tour in the Bahamas, Coach Cal was singing the praises of this latest Kentucky team, which
brought back sophomores like P.J. Washington and Nick Richards to go with incoming stars Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson, and E.J. Montgomery. But it became abundantly clear after only a
half of basketball that UK was in a position they are very rarely in: One in which they were outclassed and “out-talented” by Mike Kryzyzewski’s Mon-Star Blue Devils. This was one of
Calipari’s worst regular season losses, if not THE worst, but it was only one game. Then they went home after that letdown and struggled mightily against a scrappy Southern Illinois team
before winning by 12. It was definitely the case at the start of last season that the defense was strong but the offense needed some work, and this seems like the case once again as scoring
sputtered throughout their first home game (They did, however, have a healthy performance in their 96-58 win over North Dakota and remain in the top 10 in the AP and KenPom). We will see
more from Calipari’s team against feeble competition until they play Seton Hall in New York City on December 8th. So there is a lot of time to iron out the wrinkles, but boy, what a somber start to the season for Big Blue Nation.

THE WILDCATS ARE LICKING THEIR WOUNDS, PART 2!!!: No, this is not deja vu. There are obviously plenty of Wildcat team names in college sports, but I cannot skip over the parallels in some ways between Kentucky’s fart noise of a performance against Duke and Villanova’s lackluster effort in a 73-46 home loss to Michigan. It was only a rematch of last year’s national championship game by name, as both teams have evolved considerably since April. Villanova in particular had to bid adieu to four players who are now in the NBA (Jalen Brunson, Mikal
Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo, and Omari Spellman) and while recruiting has picked up for Jay Wright’s crew over the years, the well is definitely not as full this season as it was in the
previous four or five when Nova rattled off one 30-win season after another en route to two national title wins. Collin Gillespie (who is the clear winner of the Ryan Arcidiacano lookalike
contest) struggled mightily against Michigan’s bigger guards, and Eric Paschall and Phil Booth, the two starters left over from last year’s title team, went 5 for 22 from the field. If those two senior leaders struggle like that in big games, you can kiss Villanova’s 30-win season streak goodbye for sure. This precedes a trip to the Advocare Invitational in Orlando with some decent competition ahead, so it’s knuckle-up time already. Jay Wright has earned the clout and leeway to work out his program’s failures now, but there is hope. The last time Villanova took a lopsided loss like this, it was against Oklahoma at Pearl Harbor in December of 2015 when they lost by 23. They went on to demolish OU in the rematch and win the national title that season. I am not as optimistic this time, but obviously there is plenty of time to right the ship at Nova Nation. And by the way, maybe Michigan was really good, too, but that’s a discussion for another day.

IN THE SEC, IT JUST MEANS MORE… ON THE HARDWOOD?: Let’s get the biases out in the open first. My partner Logan is a Mississippi State fan and I am an unabashed LSU fan. Given the hardships that both programs have gone through over the years muddling in mediocrity (with a Ben Simmons appearance wedged in the middle somewhere), you may have to excuse the both of us for our unadulterated excitement over seeing both the Bulldogs and the Tigers, respectively, in the preseason top 25, and rattling off convincing wins in the process. We won’t
delve into the details about what makes Ben Howland and Will Wade’s teams so good in their own ways, but it speaks to a more important consensus that the Southeastern Conference, after
a decent bounce back last season overall, is on the verge of a breakthrough. Granted it is early, but the SEC’s fourth-place ranking among all conferences in KenPom (a highly regarded metric)
is the highest it has been in 7 years, and five teams currently sit in the top 25 alongside LSU and Mississippi State. Kentucky’s consistent greatness has always propped the conference up
in this weakest moments, but don’t forget that Tennessee and Auburn shared the regular season championship last season, and they are both locked and loaded this season, as well.
Bruce Pearl’s Tigers most certainly impressed with their home court dismantling of a good Washington team, and Tennessee’s best player, reigning SEC Player of the Year Grant
Williams, has been even better than advertised so far. This does not even factor in a talented Vanderbilt team with Darius Garland is Simi Shittu, a deep Alabama team, and the always-solid
Florida Gators Yes, some schools like Florida, South Carolina, Texas A&M, and Georgia (now coached by your favorite and mine, Tom Crean) have taken losses already, but coaching and
quality are definitely on the rise in a conference where football is normally king. It just feels good to talk about basketball in November down these here parts.

LET THE FEASTING COMMENCE: Feast Week is a coined term for ESPN to promote the slew of non-conference tournaments that overfill college basketball contents like the stuffing in a Thanksgiving turkey throughout next week, but it doesn’t give us less reason to be excited for the usually decent fare of games we will potentially see all over the country, from the isles of Hawaii to Madison Square Garden in New York, I will focus on a few, but the Maui Invitational is the one I am dead set on seeing. It normally competes with Battle 4 Atlantis these days as the premier early-season tourney every year, but I think this one takes the cake. There is a healthy chance that in the second round on Tuesday, we will looking at #1 Duke versus #9 Auburn, and on the other end are #3 Gonzaga, Arizona, and Iowa State, none of whom have lost yet. Never do you see a top 10 match-up in the early rounds of a non-conference tourney and rarely do you see a potential top 5 matchup in the final, but we are looking ahead and there are plenty of contenders from various conferences in the field (San Diego State, Illinois, Xavier) to enjoy watching. Last year’s was won by Notre Dame, and they didn’t make the tournament, which was rare for the Maui winner to not go dancing. I would bet the farm we see a tournament team
holding a trophy in Hawaii by Wednesday night.

THE FEASTING CONTINUES: The other tournaments I am really looking forward to are the Advocare Invitational near Disney World in Orlando and the N.I.T. Tip-Off at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Last year’s was won by West Virginia over Missouri, both of whom made the tournament that year. It never pops out to fans, especially in the bright sunny gym that barely
holds 5,000 people, but the competition is always balanced and the teams that go deep are usually legit. This year, my LSU Tigers roll in along with the aforementioned Villanova Wildcats,
Florida State (who gave a tip-off day whooping to Florida a week ago), Memphis, Oklahoma State, Charleston, UAB, and Canisius. I would love to see LSU and their bevy of talent (Tremont
Waters, Naz Reid, Skylar Mays and company) to come out with a non-conference tourney win for once, but Nova will have some redemption on their mind for obvious reasons, and Florida
State is a ranked team, so there is a lot to look forward to, The N.I.T. Tip Off was dominated by Virginia, who went on to have an eventful season, to say the least. Hopefully a first round upset in the tournament doesn’t await the winner of this year’s crop, which is quite juicy. The first two games are Louisville, in their first year under new coach Chris Mack, facing highly ranked Tennessee, while Marquette, looking to bounce back from a miserable loss at Indiana, faces a potential juggernaut Kansas team. The winners play one another on Black Friday, and if it is
Kansas versus Tennessee, you may not see too many college sports fans talking about football Friday night.

We will be back in a couple weeks to update on any and all happening in the College Hoops world! Enjoy all the Thanksgiving Week basketball and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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