The first weekend of college basketball is in the books. In a weekend that saw several noteworthy results, Yale going up to Seattle and beating Washington 98-90 on Sunday should be right up there with the rest of them. It’s a game whose result has a lot of angles to it.
We’ll start with Yale, the defending Ivy League champs. While Harvard is the clear favorite this year, the Bulldogs entered the season projecting as one of their top challengers. That changed a little when Makai Mason went down with a season-ending injury last week. It’s a big blow to a team that still has good personnel and the dean of coaches in the Ivy, but now others need to do more in Mason’s absence.
That happened on Sunday, as every Bulldog who got in the game scored, grabbed at least two rebounds and handed out an assist. Only one didn’t get to the free throw line. The stars were freshman Miye Oni (24 points on 9-14 shooting, including 4-6 on three-pointers, in his college debut) and Sam Downey (22 points on 10-16 shooting and seven rebounds), but they were hardly alone in this one. Blake Reynolds added 19 points on 7-13 shooting including 3-7 from deep, Alex Copeland had 14 and Anthony Dallier was the one Bulldog with a bad shooting line as he was 3-12 from the field for his 12 points, but added six assists with just one turnover. That balance will need to be the rule for this team as much as ever.
Then there’s Washington. Much will be made of Markelle Fultz and his supporting cast, as he’s talented enough to be talked about as the potential top pick in next June’s NB A Draft but has a supporting cast that has some questions. Already, the Ben Simmons comparisons have been rampant, and while the situations may end up being comparable, it doesn’t seem to hold up for this game. Sure, Fultz did his part – 30 points on 11-17 shooting, seven rebounds, six assists – but a few others at least had good days at the offensive end. Matisse Thybulle had 20 points on 6-7 shooting, including 3-4 from long range, and Noah Dickerson had 12 on 5-6 shooting. The Huskies shot nearly 59 percent from the field.
But defense is another story, which was the case with LSU last year. And the Huskies didn’t exactly shine there on Sunday, allowing Yale to shoot 46.5 percent from the field including 8-18 from deep. The bigger struggle was on the boards, where Yale had 21 offensive rebounds en route to out-rebounding Washington 42-29, and turned the ball over just seven times in a fast-paced game. Malik Dime and Thybulle are rim protectors and blocked six shots apiece on Sunday, but they combined for just six rebounds – one less than Fultz had all by himself. That’s a problem.
It’s one thing for a team to have one supremely talented player and teammates who aren’t very good offensively. The Huskies don’t exactly have that, but Fultz is unquestionably this team’s best talent. Defense and rebounding, however, come down not so much to skill but to wanting it more than the opponent.
This is just one game, so there’s also no need to over-react. But a team’s season opener always gives an early insight into a team. Yale might be just fine, although they would undeniably be better with Mason. Washington certainly needs players like Thybulle, Dickerson, Dime and David Crisp to form a good supporting cast for Fultz, but they also need to take care of business by defending and finishing the defensive possessions with a rebound.
North Carolina had perhaps the most impressive performance of the weekend. The Tar Heels hosted Chattanooga in a tough early game, with the Mocs fresh off a win over Tennesee on Friday. The Tar Heels got out to a double-digit lead in the first half, then ran away from the Mocs in the second half en route to a 97-57 blowout. North Carolina outscored Chattanooga 53-24 in the second half and had six players score between 11 and 18 points, while having 26 assists on 34 field goals.
There were no other big surprises on Sunday, but a few top teams won games. Kentucky pulled away from Canisius 93-69 behind 21 points each from Isaiah Briscoe and De’Aaron Fox. Seton Hall was never seriously challenged by Central Connecticut State en route to an 82-58 win and a 2-0 start. NC State got nice games from newcomers Torin Dorn (21 points, seven rebounds) and Ted Kapita (17 points) en route to an 86-61 win over St. Francis-Brooklyn
We really get going tonight during this first full week of college hoops, including the first games in the Tip-Off Marathon.
- UMass heads south to take on Ole Miss in Oxford (7 p.m.)
- The best matchup of the day might be Villanova at Purdue (7 p.m.) in the first of the Gavitt Tip-Off Games, the second of which features Wisconsin at Creighton (9 p.m.)
- A few sleeper non-conference games are William & Mary’s trip to Louisville, New Hampshire visiting Temple and Columbia traveling to Saint Joseph’s, all at 7 p.m.
- In a battle of Huskies, UConn hosts Northeastern at 7 p.m.
- Old Dominion visits Richmond in a nice in-state matchup at 7 p.m.
- American gave Maryland all they could handle in the opener, and the Eagles travel to Texas A&M for an 8 p.m. tip.
- The Tip-Off Marathon gets going with Princeton at BYU at 10 p.m. Eastern, then a dandy with San Diego State at Gonzaga (11:59 p.m.), Green Bay at Pacific (2 a.m.), Florida Atlantic at Hawai’i (4:15 a.m.), Niagara at Hartford (6:30 a.m.) and Winthrop at Manhattan (8:45 a.m.) as the earliest games.