Impressions are formed during early season tournaments as much as during any other time. One of the first to make a strong impression through one is Michigan, who leaves New York as 2K Classic champions after an impressive 76-54 win over SMU on Friday night.
Michigan first knocked off Marquette quite convincingly on Thursday night, and they carried that momentum right into Friday night’s final. They shot 53 percent from the field, including 13-31 from deep, while turning the ball over just four times to win despite being out-rebounded big 41-24. They held SMU to 37.3 percent shooting at the other end.
Derrick Walton Jr. had a big night, scoring 23 points on 7-12 shooting from long range, and handing out six assists. Zak Irvin, the tournament MVP, had 16 points, six rebounds and five assists, a nearly identical stat line to Thursday night. The Wolverines cut down the turnover total from 17 against Marquette to just four against a good defensive SMU team, and that made a big difference as they were never really threatened.
John Beilein’s teams are known for their ability to shoot, and thus far this Michigan team seems to fit that well. The Wolverines were a big of a questionable NCAA Tournament pick a season ago, but if their play in New York is any indication, there won’t be a question about them this time around.
Another team that shot the ball well en route to a tournament victory was Xavier, who went 9-21 from deep and shot 52.6 percent from the field to beat Clemson 83-77 in the semifinals of the Tire Pros Invitational. J.P. Macura led the charge with 28 points on 6-11 shooting from long range. The Musketeers will play Northern Iowa, 73-67 overtime winners over Oklahoma, in Sunday’s championship game. In the consolation bracket, Davidson beat Missouri 70-55 and Arizona State topped Tulane 80-71.
In first round action at the Paradise Jam, Creighton blew out Washington State 103-77, Saint Joseph’s took care of Loyola (Ill.) 71-57, Ole Miss beat Oral Roberts 95-88 behind 41 points from Miami transfer Deandre Burnett, and NC State beat Montana 85-72 behind 25 points and eight rebounds from Abdul-Malik Abu.
In the semifinals of the Charleston Classic, Villanova beat Wake Forest 96-77, then UCF beat College of Charleston 60-40 in the other semifinal. UTEP beat Western Michigan 85-75 and Mississippi State beat Boise State 80-68 in the consolation bracket.
Austin Nichols is certainly talented, but there are more questions about him than before now. The forward, who transferred from Memphis, was booted from Virginia on Friday after playing just one game for the Cavaliers. Nichols is a skilled forward who was one of Memphis’ best players, but had a contentious end to his tenure at Memphis, with the school initially not allowing him to transfer anywhere because he wanted to transfer in early July 2015.
Two non-conference games of note that weren’t part of a tournament were USC‘s trip to Texas A&M and Minnesota hosting St. John’s in the Gavitt Tipoff Games. USC scored a nice 65-63 win over the Aggies, while two of the better individual performances of the day came in Minnesota’s 92-86 win over the Red Storm. Minnesota freshman Amir Coffey had 30 points, while fellow frosh Marcus Lovett had 31 points and five assists for St. John’s.
There were was one surprise in non-tournament action, which was Nevada blowing out Oregon State 83-58. The win was not a surprise so much as the margin, with Cameron Oliver leading the winners with 24 points. Purdue had to rally from a double-digit deficit to beat Georgia State 64-56 in West Lafayette behind 19 points and 11 rebounds from Caleb Swanigan. In a rivalry game, host New Mexico beat New Mexico State 72-59. Canisius went to Duquesne and edged the Dukes 78-77 on a late field goal. That game won’t stand out much on its own, but in it the Golden Griffins had 24 assists on 27 field goals.
- The Hall of Fame Tip-Off gets going at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut with its two days of bracket play. In the Naismith Bracket, Duke takes on Penn State and Cincinnati takes on Rhode Island, while in the Springfield Bracket, Marist takes on Brown and Albany takes on Grand Canyon.
- An excellent matchup as part of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational is Bucknell visiting Butler.
- Saint Mary’s visits Dayton in what might be the best non-conference matchup of the day.
- High Point hosts its own tournament, and they host Navy before North Dakota State and UNCG battle in the nightcap.
- In the Steve Wright Classic at Boston University, Maine takes on the host Terriers while Northeastern takes on LIU-Brooklyn in the nightcap.
- The Bill Frack Challenge in Bowling Green has UMKC taking on the host school followed by Murray State facing Green Bay.
- Belmont hosts Western Kentucky in an underrated matchup.