Although technically we are four days and eight games into the 2010-11 college season, the year "tipped-off" for most college fans last night. We saw 268 Division I teams in action on Friday and another 122 on Saturday, with several blow-outs as expected as teams start to get the dust off their competitive spirits, and get the wheels churning on the year. Behind us are, but not out of memory are allegations and misdemeanors, eligibility questions and cheers and tears from last season. The lights went on and this is a whole new season.
North Carolina vs. Lipscomb
Promising talent and likely- No.1 overall pick, Harrison Barnes of North Carolina started his career with a fade-away jumper, good for the first two points of the Tar Heels' comeback campaign. UNC, who finished last season with a run to the NIT championship and a miserable 17 wins, is poised for redemption with Barnes giving the team some perimeter scoring that the team lacked last season. Joining Barnes in the frontcourt is another big prospect, John Henson, a lanky 6'10" sophomore; Henson may have made a bigger impact than that of the freshman Barnes, finishing with 10 points and career-highs of 17 rebounds and seven blocked shots. Two other youngsters, freshmen Reggie Bullock and Kendall Marshall turned in strong performances off the bench and look like two future NBA Draft picks.
Michigan State vs. Eastern Michigan
Fresh off a Final Four appearance, senior guard Durrell Summers continued his hot shooting (18.8 points per game in five 2010 NCAA tournament games, 17 3s) into the Spartans opening-night win. He hit three of four 3s, securing 17 points, second on the team to pre-season Big Ten player of the year, Kalin Lucas who finished with 18 points after returning from an ruptured Achilles tendon that ended his junior season early. Do-it-all forward Draymond Green finished with 12 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists. Coach Izzo's top two recruits, Adreian Payne and Keith Appling combined for 24 points off the bench in an impressive debut.
Kansas State vs. James Madison
In an underwhelming Kansas State win, the Wildcats hit their 3s, but struggled to connected inside the arc. All-American guard Jacob Pullen distributed to teammates and hit his own shots, leading his team to victory. However, his teammates, two expected to have large roles this season, need more time to shake off some rust. Fordwards Wally Judge and Jamar Samuels connected on 2-of-11 for four total points as they sat on the bench suffering from foul trouble. Curtis Kelly, the starting forward for all 37 games last season, was on the bench as well, but in a sweatsuit due to a coach's decision.
Ohio State vs. North Carolina A&T
Even without star Evan Turner, the Buckeyes didn't struggle to create shots for their teammates. Their perimeter trio of David Lighty, Jon Diebler and Willie Buford didn't shoot the ball as well as expected (11-for-31 from the field), but still combined for 30 points. It was the starting frontcourt of Jared Sullinger and Dallas Lauderdale that stole the show. They were effective inside on both ends of the floor- dominating the low blocks on offense and providing more than adequate interior defensive presence. Two freshmen Draft prospects, Deshaun Thomas and Aaron Craft made strides throughout the course of the game. Thomas had a game-high 24 points, while Craft, the one freshman whose role on the team was in question as a point guard and potential fill-in for Turner, dished out nine assists and zero turnovers.
Villanova vs. Bucknell
Another guard departing the program, no program. Without Scottie Reynolds, the Villanova backcourt, led by All-America candidate Corey Fisher stepped-up in a big-way. Fisher sparkled with the ball in his hands, showing off his perimeter game from beyond the arc and setting up teammates as he had a game-high 24 points. He delivered on some big buckets late to finally pull away in the final minutes. Maalik Wayns also has a new role this year as the starting point guard distributed the ball well and he will be counted on in a big-way to lead the team, while Fisher takes over the role of key offensive threat.
Kansas vs. Longwood
Two seniors gone and a third starter gone to the 1st Round of the NBA Draft and Kansas had no problem running through Longwood. The Morris brother, Marcus and Markieff dominated throughout the course of the game, totaling 32 points, and Markieff led the rebounding surge, dominating the glass and collecting 15 rebounds himself. With Josh Selby's eligibility still up in the air and Sherron Collins finally graduated, Tyshawn Taylor stepped up with 17 points and 10 assists, but also turned the ball over 6 times.
Kentucky vs. East Tennessee State
With recent word of Enes Kanter's ineligible status, Kentucky rolled on, taking down East Tennessee by 23 points. The Wildcats were a potential Final Four team with Kanter, but are supremely talented without him. Brandon Knight, the latest top-guard recruit by Coach Calipari, was just as spectacular as the former as he scored 17 points, knocking down four 3s and collecting 5 assists as well. Fellow freshman Terrence Jones, another likely one-and-done player in Calipari's regime, dominated- securing a double-double with 25 points and 12 rebounds. Without Kanter, Jones will likely be counted on as Kentucky's top big man, one who can score from inside and out, similar to that of Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins, but a more natural and smooth forward.
Florida vs. UNC-Wilmington
In what was probably Florida's most anticipated game in four years, with all five starters returning from last year's tournament team and added on a freshman oozing with NBA potential, but the Gators seemed to struggle. There were 20 turnovers and even a -14 rebound disadvantage, but the Gators came away with the win. Chandler Parsons scored 16 and Kenny Boynton's struggles from the field carried-over from last season, but managed to score 10. Top freshman, Patric Young, who has the athleticism and size of a future NBA pick, had just as many personal fouls (3) as points (2) and rebounds (1).
Gonzaga vs. Southern
Gonzaga was one team that did not struggle with their opening opponent, dismantling Southern University by nearly 50 points. Senior guard Steven Gray gave his best Matt Bouldin impression by filling the stat sheet with a game-high 25 points, 7 rebounds, 9 assists and 3 steals. With Gonzaga's lack of consistent play at the point guard position, Gray will be an integral part of the Bulldogs' success. Elias Harris had a quiet 12 points, but as a whole, Gonzaga's frontcourt could be one of the best with Kelly Olynyk and Robert Sacre.
Memphis vs. Centenary
There were a few surprises in Memphis' 64-point win relating to team personnel- Coach Josh Pastner sat Chris Crawford and Wesley Witherspoon for disciplinary issues, and released Jelan Kendrick from his scholarship due to recurring off-the-court problems. It was Antonio Barton, not his brother, Will Barton, who got the nod at shooting guard and made the most of his start- scoring a team-high 17 points. Will Barton joined Tarik Black, Angel Garcia and Wesley Witherspoon off the bench for a Tigers' team that had 63 points off the bench. If Witherspoon, Black, Garcia and Barton can stay out of trouble, all four should find themselves in the starting lineup before long. This is a team that should easily win 25 regular-season games with their biggest challenges coming at Kansas in December and at Gonzaga in February.
Baylor vs. Grambling State
With Enes Kanter out, Perry Jones takes over the top spot as college's top big man prospect, but he seemed a little frantic in his career-debut. He struggled from the field, forcing shots and forcing opportunities resulting in turnovers- collecting the same number of missed shots as turnovers (7); he did finish with 11 points and 8 rebounds. Power forward Quincy Acy, an undersized power forward making the attempt to improve his perimeter game and slide over to small forward was dominant with 20 points and 12 rebounds.
Syracuse vs. Northern Iowa
Syracuse went 10 deep, displaying its talented depth, but also because of foul trouble. Starting center, Fab Melo was limited in his minutes because he had to play passively before eventually fouling out. Starting point guard Brandon Triche was also headed to the bench often with foul struggles. Two contributors from last season, Rick Jackson and Kris Joseph each scored 14 points a piece to lead the Orangemen, while freshman shooting guard Dion Waiters was impressive with 10 points off the bench in his debut.
BYU vs. Fresno State
In the most challenging game over the weekend, at least on paper, BYU took down Fresno State in large part due to Jimmer Fredette's scoring punch and some stingy defense that held Greg Smith and Fresno State in check. Noah Hartsock scored 21 off the bench for a BYU team that will certainly need a strong second-option with defenses focusing on Fredette.
Tennessee vs. Chattanooga
Fresh off a loss to Division II Indianapolis, Tennessee minimized the turnovers, but shot just as poorly in their regular-season opener. Tobias Harris displayed his versatility handling the ball and hitting shots on the perimeter, but also taking the ball inside and hitting the glass. As Scotty Hopson continues to be inconsistent scoring the ball, Harris should develop into the team's lead option and into a potential lottery pick.
Notes: Fordham's Chris Gaston recorded yet another double-double, building on last season's spectacular freshman campaign, scoring 21 points and securing 17 rebounds… Richmond dominated in The Citadel in their opener. Justin Harper led the way with 18 for the Spiders who look to challenge Temple for the A-10 title this season… Georgia Tech won ugly in their opener without Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal. The Yellow Jackets shot under 30% from the field, but held on due to 12 points from Mfon Udofia and 11 from Glen Rice Jr.... Freshman J.T. Terrell lit up Stetson for 26 points, while Ari Stewart had 18 and 10 in a losing effort for Wake Forest… C.J. Leslie, one of the top forwards in the high school class of 2010, recorded a game-high 21 points, mostly operating in the low blocks and converting from the foul line… Could UConn be back? Kemba Walker led the team with 18 points and Alex Oriakhi was all over the glass in the Huskies' win… Strong guard play helped West Virginia beat down Oakland. Casey Mitchell, Truck Bryant, Joe Mazzulla and Dalton Pepper combined to shoot 17-for-26 from the field for 49 points. Oakland's Keith Benson was tough down low with 22 points and 15 rebounds… Even with a down-trodden program, Indiana extended its win streak over the past 13 season-openers behind Christian Watford's 24 points… Ralph Sampson III scored 20 points and grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds to lead Minnesota over Wofford… Marcus Jordan, son of NBA Hall of Famer Michael Jordan, scored 28 points on near-perfection from the field, while Keith Clanton chipped in with 24 points in UCF's victory… Kenneth Faired one of the more unheralded senior prospects had a solid performance as Morehead State routed Asbury- recording 13 rebounds to go along with his 21 points… Georgia edged Mississippi Valley State in their season-opener without star forward Trey Thompkins, but their Bulldogs did have Travis Leslie, NBA prospect guard who scored 16 points and 11 boards… Mississippi State will have to be better than what they were Friday night if they want to remain the favorites in the SEC West this season. They escaped Tennessee State, winning by 10 points, largely in part to Ravern Johnson's 32 points and five 3s…
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Washington vs. McNeese State
In a lackluster Pac-10, Washington arose to the challenge late last season, eventually making their way to the Sweet 16 before bowing out. In their first game of 2010-11, Matthew Bryan-Amaning stepped up, scoring 28 points and grabbing 13 rebounds, giving the Huskies the frontcourt boost they needed without Quincy Pondexter in Seattle any longer. Undersized guard Isaiah Thomas was a dead-eye shooter, hitting all four of his 3-point shots in 23 minutes, perhaps showing some NBA teams that he may not have the size to be a starter at the next level, but a spark off the bench. And sophomore center Aziz N'Diaye, a true 7-footer, was unstoppable down low. In just 15 minutes of action, N'Diaye finished with 13 points and 15 rebounds, including 9 offensive. The one thing holding back N'Diaye right now is lack of a polished offensive game. He connected on just 3-of-15 shots from the charity stripe and turned the ball over four times.
Illinois vs. Southern Illinois
From 1999-2003, Bruce Weber held the reigns for Souther Illinois, leading them to consecutive league titles in his final two seasons. Now, Weber is looking to get his Fighting Illini back to the NCAA Tournament and his team is on the right track with their third victory this season in as many games. Demetri McCamey handled the ball with the poise of an All-America guard, dishing out 9 assists with just one turnover; in his last two games, he has 16 total assists and just one turnover. Forward Mike Davis and reserve guard Brandon Paul are McCamey's top two perimeter options as Davis hits consistently from 15-feet out, while Paul's range extends a bit further. Jereme Richmond, Weber's top recruit at Illinois, has yet to find a rhythm this season.
Pittsburgh vs. North Florida
Pittsburgh may have the nation's top starting backcourt that no one talks about with Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker, two guards who can seemingly do it all. Or it may be their frontcourt doing all the dirty work that's underrated. Talib Zanna and Gary McGhee have been quietly impressive, while Dante Taylor and J.J. Moore have been equally impressive.
Notes: Two underclassmen, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Darius Morris led the way for Michigan who lost most of their scoring punch and leadership from last season… Ohio's D.J. Cooper scored 25 points and recorded 7 assists and 5 rebounds to lead Ohio to their first victory since the Bobcats took down Georgetown last March… Central Michigan couldn't close against Montana State, but freshman Trey Zeigler scored 21 points in the loss.
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Duke vs. Princeton
Much has been said about Duke's offensive trio of Nolan Smith, Kyrie Irving and Kyle Singler and they did not disappoint in their season-opener. Led by Smith's 22, the three combined for 65 points, but as Andre Dawkins and Seth Curry showed, the Blue Devils have depth two. Dawkins and Curry each knocked down three 3s each off the bench.
Purdue vs. Howard
Even without Robbie Hummel, Purdue torched Howard's zone defense for 13 3s and held the Bison in check on the defensive end, holding their opponents to under 25% shooting from the field. All-American forward-center JaJuan Johnson played well, recording a double-double of 10 points and 12 rebounds, to go along with his 5 blocks. E'Twaun Moore's 16 points paced the Boilermakers.
Gonzaga vs. IUPUI
Steven Gray's energy and all-around play continued into Gonzaga's second game as the senior guard tallied 17 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists and 4 steals. He has eased the transition of losing All-WCC guard Matt Bouldin, while the frontcourt of Elias Harris, Robert Sacre and Kelly Olynyk provides steady scoring both inside and out for the Bulldogs.
Syracuse vs. Canisius
Up by only three at the half, the Orangemen pulled it together in the second half to pull away from Canisius. Rick Jackson led five players in double-figures with 17 points and a career-high 13 rebounds. Guards Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine lit up the Golden Griffins in the second-half as the starting guards combined for 29 points and 11 assists. The bench, however, was not so great for Syracuse; six players combined to go 10-for-28. Baye Moussa Keita, a freshman from Oak Hill Academy, pulled down 15 total rebounds, including 9 offensive in his supporting role.
Temple vs. Toledo
The Owls flew by the Rockets of Toledo in Temple's second win this weekend. All five of Temple's starters hit the double-figure mark and most were rested in the second-half in a rare automatic win for Fran Dunphy's team, which has Duke, Maryland, Georgetown and an Old Spice Classic field featuring Cal, Notre Dame, Georgia and Wisconsin still on the schedule.
Notes: Jordan Williams of Maryland had another double-double, his third of the season in as many games as the Terps roll again… Florida State's Chris Singleton, the reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Year, posted the first triple-double of the 2010-11 season with 22 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists…