Welcome to a new feature here at Place to Be Nation! Every couple of weeks through the college basketball season, our resident college sports guru Logan Crosland will check in with a look at a few of the significant happenings around the hardwood of the NCAA.
With that, settle in for our first installment of Hoop Nation!
Armed Forces Classic, Part 1: Ever since the Armed Forces Classic became a tradition, it has always delivered some highly entertaining games. This year was no different, as we were witness to not only one, but two, great games. The first of those games was between Arizona and Michigan State. Michigan State started out hot taking a quick 17-2 lead out of the gate. However, Arizona managed to fight back and take a 34-30 into the half. It was close all the way to the end, when Kadeem Allen of Arizona took the ball the length of the court with only a few seconds and made a game-winning layup.
Armed Forces Classic, Part 2: The second game of the Armed Forces Classic between Kansas and Indiana had a lot to live up to, after such an explosive opener. Kansas and Indiana not only matched the greatness of the first game, but well surpassed it. Kansas had the lead at the half 46-42, when James Blackmon, Jr. took over, scoring 22 of his 26 points in the second half and beyond. Blackmon’s impressive performance was enough to lead the Hoosiers to a 103-99 overtime win.
Mississippi State Holds On for Win: Mississippi State is one of the youngest teams in the country this season, having only three holdovers from last season. This was very apparent in the Bulldogs’ first game against Norfolk State. They didn’t play bad by any stretch, but they did seem to have some first game jitters. They were able to pull away enough in the second half to win 78-74. Ben Howland has a very talented team on his hands, but may have to deal with some experience issues in the early going.
Tar Heels Dominate: North Carolina was as close as you can be to being National Champions last year, but ultimately fell short to a buzzer beater by Villanova. Due to the Tar Heels’ success last year, the expectations are high for this year’s squad. The Tar Heels have looked very dominant coming out of the gate, blowing out Chattanooga, 97-57 and Tulane, 95-75. Though not against Power Five competitions, the Heels dominance has been impressive so far.
Duke Looking Good Ahead of Kansas Showdown: The Blue Devils are considered by many to be the favorite to win this year’s National Championship, as they returned important key players and brought in another impressive recruiting class. They have definitely looked the part through two dominant victories over Marist and Grand Canyon. They will have their first chance to impress against great competition, when they play Kansas in the Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday [Nov. 15, game in progress as of publication time].
UConn Off to Rocky 0-2 Start: UConn might not have been a National Title contender coming into the season, but the Huskies were definitely supposed to be a very good team. I won’t jump the gun and say their season is over already, but losses to Wagner and Northeastern are going to hurt them, especially with both coming at home.The Huskies definitely have the talent to turn this season around, but they better get it together soon before things fall apart.
Kentucky is Loaded…Again: There is nothing more frustrating thing about being a fan of a SEC team than the fact that Kentucky is just so much better than every other team in the conference year in and year out. The Wildcats are able to get freshmen to play as well as many upperclassmen right out of the gate, unlike any other school in the country. The Wildcats have rolled through Stephen F. Austin and Canisius thus far, while Michigan State is awaiting them in Champions Classic on Tuesday*.
*Note: Kentucky dominated the Spartans en route to a 69-48 record, putting Kentucky at 3-0, while MSU sits at 0-2.
Despite Mason Injury, Yale Tops Huskies: The defending Ivy League Champion Yale Bulldogs were crushed by the news of losing star Makai Mason to a broken foot ahead of their first game. He is not only a great player for the Bulldogs, but would’ve been a very important team leader to this year’s squad. After losing Mason, it seemed unlikely that Yale could top Washington in the Huskies’ backyard, but the Bulldogs didn’t seem to care what anyone else thought, as they emerged winners, 98-90. Washington star player Markelle Fultz was still able to score 30 points in the loss.
UCLA Scores Big: UCLA has scored 221 points in two games thus far this season. Wow! Some teams may not score that many through four or five games. Only the future will tell if the Bruins can keep this up, but if they can’t, they definitely need to improve on defense, as they have allowed 80+ points in both of their wins over Cal State Northridge and Pacific.
Defending Champs Impress: Villanova comes into the season hoping to become the first team to defend as National Champions since Florida won back-to-back in 2006 and 2007. This will be a tough task, as there are many impressive teams in their way. The Wildcats, however, have the talent back from last year’s team to go all the way once again. They have looked impressive thus far defeating Lafayette convincingly, while get a big road win at Purdue on Monday [79-76].