It’s way, way too early in the season to be counting anyone out, and that lesson was given on more than a few occasions Tuesday night.
Despite it being a light schedule, the evening provided its share of surprises and, yes, upsets. Teams that are obviously talented but young and inconsistent went on the road in two cases and dominated a top 10 team at home in another is giving another example that nothing is given when conference play starts.
- LSU may or may not ever be a top 25 team this year. The Tigers certainly weren’t early in the season when they were playing matador defense and struggling offensively whenever Ben Simmons couldn’t get to the basket at will. Even if they aren’t, though, it doesn’t mean they can’t salvage a nice finish, as they showed with recent wins at Vanderbilt and last night against Kentucky by an 85-67 score. ESPN will continue to relentlessly push Simmons on the rest of the country, since it will be showing him in the NBA for years when he goes pro, but Tim Quarterman was the star here with 21 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Simmons was solid with 14 points and 10 boards after getting in foul trouble in the first half, and Craig Victor pitched in 15 points and 12 caroms. Remember, the SEC still has plenty of room for upward mobility; despite the who’s who roster of coaches, there are few dominant teams. In fact, right now there are none, based on how Kentucky is playing. If any team can get on a roll, even if it’s winning close games, it could go a long way in the standings.
- Though the Huskies were playing at home, Connecticut could not have picked a worse time to play Temple than after the Owls were smoked at home by Houston on Saturday. Surely Fran Dunphy’s team was going to be ready to play after that clunker, and indeed that was the case. Josh Brown hit a jumper with two seconds left for the winning points and the Owls defeated the Huskies 55-53. Temple has talent-it just missed the NCAA Tournament a year ago-but has been inconsistent this year, as their recent three-game sample shows; the Owls now have a pair of top 25 wins in its last three games, sandwiched around that 76-49 beating from the Cougars.
- Marquette opened Big East play with a pair of losses, including an ugly second half in what turned into an 83-63 home loss to Seton Hall. The Golden Eagles already showed the ability to rally once this year, though, winning nine straight after early home losses to Belmont plus by 28 points to Iowa, and they did it again with a surprising 65-64 win at Providence Tuesday. Henry Ellenson is the freshman most are familiar with, but it was fellow frosh Haanif Cheatham who led with 16 points. Steve Wojciechowski’s young team will likely continue to be up and down this year, but it certainly is not a light touch for anyone in league play. Also, the Friars will be very ordinary anytime Ben Bentil (28) and Kris Dunn’s (20) point total both eclipse the combined output from the rest of their teammates-the stars need more help than that.
- South Carolina is one of two undefeated teams left. The Gamecocks’ schedule has not been loaded (the best win literally may be Tulsa or Memphis), but it doesn’t change that 1) 14-0 is an accomplishment and 2) Frank Martin’s team is fun to watch and playing in his image, denying on defense everywhere and sharing the load offensively (five guys averaging in double figures). SC got its second road win of the season Tuesday, defeating Auburn 81-69.
- Talking about not counting teams out: Saint Joseph’s was six minutes from moving to 12-2, leading Virginia Commonwealth by 10 with that much time left in the game, but the Rams surged late to top the Hawks on Hawk Hill 85-82. Melvin Johnson scored 25, and VCU has won five straight and is off to a good start in the Atlantic 10 after also blowing out George Mason on Saturday.
- Also in the A-10, Rhode Island hits its first eight three-pointers to get the jump on Richmond and never let the Spiders back in during a 77-65 win.
- Vanderbilt and Georgetown are two teams who have not met preseason expectations, and Tuesday night continued that theme. The Commodores lost at Arkansas 90-85 in overtime to drop to 8-6, while Creighton bounced the Hoyas 79-66 in Omaha to send Georgetown to 9-6.
- Boise State quietly keeps plugging along. The Broncos are now 11-4 after a convincing 76-61 win at Utah State. Mikey Thompson scored 17, while Anthony Drmic was held scoreless but did contribute nine rebounds. The Aggies lost despite Jalen Moore having some of the best hair in the country.
- Akron is one of the quietest two-loss teams remaining in the country. The Zips are now 12-2 after a nice 75-71 win at Buffalo in their Mid-American Conference opener.
- Tennessee-Chattanooga also is now 13-2 after a 74-62 win over Mercer in a matchup of Southern Conference heavyweights. The Mocs have accomplished much of their record-including their statement win at Dayton-without Casey Jones, a two-time first team all-SoCon pick who is still out with an ankle injury.
- Indiana announced that sophomore guard James Blackmon will undergo knee surgery, a surgery that the schools says will likely keep him out the rest of the season. Undoubtedly a blow for a team that is one of the best offensive squads in the country, but also that still already didn’t have a ton of room for error. That was shown Tuesday night, as the Hoosiers had to make free throws in the final minute to hold off Wisconsin 59-58 at home.
- San Diego State announced on Tuesday that an NCAA inquiry into the men’s basketball program has found no violations and that the matter has been closed. According to SDSU’s release, “based on the available information, the allegations were not substantiated and it does not appear there is need for further inquiry.”
- Wake Forest has had a nice resurgence so far under coach Danny Manning, and the Demon Deacons can take it to another level if they can defeat Duke (7 p.m. EST, ESPNU).
- Seton Hall is starting to get some votes for the top 25. The Pirates won’t be expected to win at Villanova (7 p.m., FS1), but if they hang close it could be a big confidence boost, especially the way the Wildcats have been blowing teams out at home.
Evansville is primed to challenge Wichita State for supremacy in the Missouri Valley, but the Shockers at home can reinforce their status as favorites in the first of the two teams meetings this year.
- Texas A&M has a tricky road game in the SEC, going to Starkville to take on Mississippi State.
Texas Tech plays its first road game of the season, undoubtedly its toughest test yet when its in Hilton Coliseum to face Iowa State (9 p.m., ESPNU).
- Almost every night of Pac-12 play this year is going to furnish some prime matchups. No exception tonight as California goes to Oregon (9 p.m., ESPN2) and Stanford is at Oregon State (11 p.m., ESPNU).
Enjoy your Wednesday.