College basketball – it’s a dynamic beast with many changes from week-to-week. And in the age of COVID-19, that truth is only multiplied five-fold. This week, college basketball saw a number of critical early-season matchups postponed or canceled due to the pandemic. And frankly, it stunk.
Who wouldn’t have loved to see Baylor vs. Gonzaga in primetime on Saturday or St. John vs. Texas Tech Thursday evening? I guess that is partially why I am writing this college basketball Week Two diary.
Gonzaga vs. Bayler is postponed. Meanwhile, the St. John and Texas Tech game? Canceled. Hasn’t that just been the story of sports in 2020 in a nutshell?
So, for now, college basketball and its fans are forced to live without knowing the results. That’s the real tough pill to swallow. So with all that being said, let’s dive into week two of basketball action.
Top 25 Matchups of the Week
Gonzaga (1) vs. West Virginia (11)
Gonzaga showcased, in this game, that it is a complete team in every sense of the word. The Bulldogs lost Jalen Suggs in the first half. And much like any team would, it missed a few steps. But when he returned in the second half, he provided the needed jolt of energy to get the team back on track in an 87-82 win.
Three outstanding players to note are Joel Ayayi, Andrew Nembhard, and Corey Kispert. Ayayi scored 21 points to match a career-high. Nembhard and Kispert both scored 19 points to keep the Bulldogs in it. And with Suggs’ return, the momentum of the game held firm in Gonzaga’s hands.
What stood out specifically was the skill Gonzaga showcased in their starting five. Not many teams can boast four playmakers and scorers on the court at one time. That is what separates this team from the rest of the country.
Kispert: 18 pic.twitter.com/XlUeiiOxsu
— Gonzaga Basketball (@ZagMBB) December 3, 2020
Baylor (2) vs. Illinois (5)
Baylor, again, found a way to win a tough matchup handily. This team continues to show what good coaching, a sound gameplan, and honest effort can get you at this level.
The shining star in the Bears’ 82-69 win was Adam Flagler. He continues to show just how good he is in shot creation and scoring prowess.
He is no slouch in the passing game either, notching three assists. And after three games on the year, he is averaging 16 points per game on 54 percent field goal shooting. He is legit, and so is Baylor.
Texas (17) vs. North Carolina (14)
Senior Matt Coleman is the real deal, and Texas just might be the real deal as well. Coleman scored in double-figures in every matchup this season for the Longhorns. He is a steady hand and an extension of the coach on the floor.
That’s something great college teams have in common – steady guard play. In the 69-67 win over UNC, Coleman scored 22 points while shooting 50 percent from three. Oh, and he also hit the eventual game-winner in the contest.
“I was just made for times like this,” is what he told the A.P. reporter after the game. And I must say, Coleman, I agree.
Villanova (12) vs. Texas (17)
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl is a special player, and the longer we take to acknowledge that, the longer it’ll be until he gets his due. In Villanova’s 68-64 win over Texas, Robinsons-Earl totaled 19 points, eight rebounds, two assists, and one block. In the game, he also shot a blistering 64 percent from the floor.
He’s such a unique Forward. He lacks range out to the three-point line but can do many other things on the basketball court like hit mid-range jump shots, score off the bounce, and create for himself inside on post-up touches. He gives Nova dexterity offensively, which is much needed as the team dives deeper into the season.
Upsets and Missteps
Marquette (Unranked) vs. Wisconsin (4)
This game had a bit of everything to it in the 67-65 win for Marquette. From drama to passion to rivalry, Marquette showcased just how competitive they can be this year. The hero of the game? Justin Lewis. His heroic act? Tipping the game-winning shot in off a missed free throw.
— Marquette Basketball (@MarquetteMBB) December 5, 2020
Lewis finished the game with 18 points – as a freshman, playing in a big-time game, that’s impressive.
“Nobody was hoping that D.J. missed obviously, but to have the foresight to be ready to try to make a play if he did miss is incredible for any player, but especially a freshman,” said Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski.
Impressive indeed, Mr. Lewis.
Georgia Tech (Unranked) vs. Kentucky (20)
The wheels might be falling off for Kentucky, and it is no surprise. The Wildcats lost to Georgia Tech 79-62 in a game where Kentucky was expected to win.
The problem with Kentucky is that the team is too young. It has no experienced playmakers on the floor, and in close games, players don’t know who to turn to. College basketball should be just that. It shouldn’t be an NBA factory, and Kentucky has run it as such.
But now it’s feeling the long-lasting effects of recruiting and encouraging players to be one-year guys. The only question now is, can Kentucky get its lost magic back?
The Team on the Rise
Virginia Tech is still a team to watch headed deeper into the season. It’s time to finally test whether that early win over Villanova was an aberration or a sign of things to come.
As it stands now, the Hokies are ranked in the Top 25, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the season will be smooth sailing. And it’s important to note that the Hokies are shooting 9-43 from three in the past two wins.
Every great team needs to be able to space the floor, so that is a cause for concern going forward. However, the team is still full of talented playmakers and defenders. This year still has the potential to be a great one for Virginia Tech.
The Latest Top 25 polls
POLL ALERT: Gonzaga, Baylor remain atop AP Top 25 after their 1-2 weekend matchup called off; San Diego State, Louisville in; Oregon, Kentucky drop out.
Full poll >> https://t.co/9owVFLh6H1
— AP Top 25 (@AP_Top25) December 7, 2020
Week Two in Conclusion
This week’s action was both captivating and disappointing. I wish COVID-19 wasn’t a major storyline, but it is. I wish these student-athletes had their peers and fans in the stands cheering them on, but they don’t.
However, I can still celebrate how basketball is still being played. We shall see what Week Three has to offer.
Related reading: Ian’s Week One Journal.
Feature image via 247 sports.
I am a college basketball writer primarily based in Nashville, covering all mid-major activity along with Big Ten hoops.