Well, college basketball is full speed ahead on its plan to play through a pandemic. And with Week 1 officially in the books, it’s safe to say this season could be just as unpredictable as the last.Welcome to Week 1 of my basketball diary for the week of Nov. 25-Dec. 2.
Last Week in the Top 25
Kansas (6) vs. Gonzaga (1)
Week 1 saw Kansas and Gonzaga matchup against one another. Gonzaga came into the game as the number one ranked team in the country, and Kansas sat at number six. Top 25 matchups early in the season are tough to gauge because teams can actively rise to the occasion or disappoint.
After coming in at No. 7 in this week's AP Poll, @KUHoops now stands alone with the most consecutive weeks ranked in the AP Top 25 in NCAA history pic.twitter.com/PyJDbv6R0t
— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) November 30, 2020
They also don’t provide substantial empirical data on how good a team may be in March. Basketball teams go through so many changes over the course of these long seasons. One game, win or lose, doesn’t tell us enough about how the rest of the season will go for many of these teams.
So in a way, Gonzaga’s 102-90 win over Kansas matters less with this understanding. It is still impressive, but it doesn’t serve as an indicator of much for either team.
Villanova (3) vs. Arizona State (18)
This game had a bit of everything. Yet, Villanova still closed it out 83-74. High school standout and now college freshman for Arizona State, Josh Christopher, notched 28 points. And he did so doing what he does best – forcing the action.
There is a time and place to let the game come to you, but with Christopher, that might as well be all the time. He is a sensational scorer who has a knack for eye-catching plays and loves to score in the open court.
The excitement surrounding Christopher is warranted because if he can find the consistency needed at this level, he will be a great player.
Texas Tech (14) vs. Houston (17)
GO COOGS GO! 😤🐾
No. 17 Houston staves off a 2nd half rally by No. 14 Texas Tech to remain undefeated! #ForTheCity pic.twitter.com/6rbRvFAZQA
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) November 30, 2020
With the 64-53 win, Houston moved to 3-0 on the season. The Cougars are winning games by limiting opponent possessions and playing stifling defense.
This team seems committed to both ends of the floor, and most of all, they play for each other. In this era of college basketball, that is not something you see too often.
Michigan State (8) vs. Duke (6)
The Spartans moved to 3-0 with a huge win over Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The final score was 75-69. This was Tom Izzo’s first win at that stadium, and it seems that the Spartans finally broke the glass ceiling that is playing well against Duke.
Rocket Watts proved he was the real deal in this matchup. He notched 20 points, three rebounds, and two assists while shooting 7-16 from the floor. For the first time in his career in East Lansing, Watts looked in control of the game from start to finish.
If he keeps playing like this, college basketball should be scared of just how good he can be.
Kansas (7) vs. Kentucky (20)
No. 7 Kansas pushes past No. 20 Kentucky to get the W 💪 pic.twitter.com/SY9xqCKt2d
— ESPN (@espn) December 2, 2020
The most impressive aspect of Kansas’ 65-62 win over Kentucky was Jalen Wilson’s play. With 23 points and ten rebounds, he showed poise on the floor that you don’t often see in a college player, let alone a freshman.
Wilson is a special player, and if he keeps this level of play up, Kansas will be a tough out for anyone come March. He looks NBA ready.
Upsets and Missteps
Kentucky (10) vs. Richmond (Unranked)
Coming into this game, Kentucky was the tenth-ranked team in the nation, and many expected a seamless transition into another era of wildcat basketball. However, Richmond proved in its 76-64 win that when it comes to winning a basketball game, on any given day, experience matters.
It’s never about just how talented a freshman class is because to win games, you need players who have been in big moments before. This was Richmond’s first Top 25 win in program history, and coming into the matchup, they held a 0-25 record against ranked opponents.
In the end, Kentucky has more questions than answers going forward about how to close out close games and who they can rely on when in need of a big basket. Only time will tell if Kentucky can get to the level of play its fans are accustom to going forward.
Hot Teams to Watch Early This Season After Week 1
AP Top-5 Villanova teams had won 26 consecutive games vs unranked non-conference opponents. Their last such loss was to NC State in the 2015 NCAA Tournament
Virginia Tech is now 4-2 against AP Top-3 teams over the last 4 seasons, the 2nd-most wins in D1 behind Duke pic.twitter.com/JhfLhgWiLl
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 29, 2020
Virginia Tech is a team that is hitting its stride early this college basketball season. Keve Aluma has shown already that he can be the go-to-guy for the Hokies. In Virginia Tech’s win over Villanova, he put up 23 points and eight rebounds, displaying how he’s a real scoring threat from all three levels of the floor.
The Hokies have also played great team defense and seem to have finally bought into a system that has them playing seamless basketball. Beating Villanova is no small task. That team will always be prepared and well-coached.
Yet, in this matchup, Virginia Tech seemed ready for whatever Nova threw its way. The question for the Hokies is, can they maintain this level of play well into conference play?
Week 1 in Conclusion
For Week 1 of the college basketball season, it was a good one. Compelling storylines are developing across the nation’s most elite programs, and out of that are born even more compelling questions. That is a good thing.
The jury is still out on how the pandemic might affect the rest of this college basketball season. But for right now, I am just happy basketball is back, even if it looks like a hybrid between AAU league and the pick-up games at your local rec center.