The past weekend was quite a stretch with some early-season tournaments, and now we’re into another week full of them. It’s a fun time of the year as we form some early impressions of many teams and some pick up wins that can have shelf life later in the season.
Here are some quick hitters coming out of the weekend:
- Virginia Tech got a couple of good games from Jarell Eddie in Brooklyn, but came away 0-2 as they couldn’t handle Michigan State and couldn’t pull one out against Seton Hall. The Hokies are more balanced but need every player to get better if they’re going to win games in the ACC.
- Put Oklahoma in the category of Big 12 teams that will be intriguing to watch. While Oklahoma State is clearly the best challenger to Kansas, the Sooners will have a chance based on what they showed in Brooklyn. The big question will be depth, as they have a fine starting lineup but not much behind them at first glance. If they develop some in non-conference play, watch out.
- Hofstra is very under-manned but put up a great fight against Belmont on Sunday. The Pride seemed to wear down in the second half, as Belmont appeared to figure them out and then seemed to be in control once they grabbed the lead with under 14 minutes left. Hofstra stayed in the game but never got within a possession.
“We had our chances and we could have won, but we didn’t deserve it,” said head coach Joe Mihalich. “You’ve got to earn it, you’ve got to deserve it. Nobody’s going to give you anything just because you’re a great bunch of guys. We’re close; we’ve got to decide we don’t want to be close.”
- Belmont head coach Rick Byrd said that while the Springfield Bracket title was a nice result for Belmont in Connecticut this weekend, as much as anything they leave with a sense of which veterans will lead the way. The Bruins lost some bedrock leaders from last year, but still have some good veterans left that they will count on like seniors J.J. Mann and Drew Windler, along with junior Reece Chamberlain.
“We’ve established some guys that we can count on, and they’re not going to play tentative, they’re not going to play scared,” said Byrd.
- Byrd added that the most important thing for his team in non-conference play is to win the games they should. So while the win at North Carolina is nice – what he called “a lifetime memory” – he and the team aren’t losing sight of the most important things for them, and that includes conference success since that’s how they’ll reach the NCAA Tournament.
- Charlotte ran off a nice non-conference record last year against a weak schedule. This time around, the 49ers are better and the schedule is better as well, and for the second year in a row they have won a tournament after beating Michigan to take home the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Classic. Alan Major is doing a nice job of incrementally rebuilding this program to the point where an NCAA Tournament bid is possible this year, especially in a Conference USA with no dominant program now that Memphis is gone to the American Athletic Conference. Everyone wants their team in the NCAA Tournament right away, but Major has gradually brought them to a good place.
- I also got a chance to check out a couple of early games at the National Prep Showcase on Friday before the college games took over. Fork Union Military Academy gave Notre Dame Prep all they could handle in the opener thanks to a big game from Tavarius Shine (Sr. SG-SF, Irving (TX)), who shot the ball well, got out in transition and was in a lot of plays. He had a nice cast, as did Wichita State signee Rashard Kelly (6’6″ Sr. PF) in leading Hargrave Military Academy past a very talented St. Thomas More team.