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The Morning Dish – Friday, December 1, 2017

December 1, 2017 The Morning Dish 1 Comment

On paper, Notre Dame playing at Michigan State was a matchup of a pair of top-five teams Thursday night. The product on the court, though, suggested teams on two entirely different levels.

Whether that is truth in the long term remains to be seen and will be born out over the course of the season. On Thursday, though, the combination of a talented, loaded team playing at a high level early in the season plus a rabid home crowd meant an early-season top-five showdown wasn’t much of a contest at all, as the No. 3-ranked Spartans built a 20-point halftime lead and easily handled the fifth-ranked Fighting Irish 81-63, allowing the Big Ten to save some face in the final game of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Michigan State was at its fast-paced, board-bruising, defense-hustling best in this one, with Cassius Winston putting on a show (17 points, five rebounds, seven assists) and leading four players in double figures. The Spartans also out-rebounded the Irish 42-21, and their energy on defense was impressive, harassing Bonzie Colson into 6-for-19 shooting (17 points) and making the Irish work for every point.

Michigan State looked like a team in midseason or March form in this one. The Spartans are deep, talented, and look the part of a national title contender early on.

For Notre Dame, this one had the potential of a worst-case matchup, and it quickly became reality. As slick as the Irish are offensively, they’re notably undersized this year and mediocre on the boards in the best of years. If the shots aren’t falling-and they weren’t early on-Notre Dame will be prone to an occasional night like this. Add in a red-hot start for the Spartans-who hit 12 of their first 17 shots in leading 31-11 by midway through the half-and it’s not that hard to see how this played out the way it did.

With Duke barely getting by Indiana the night before and Kansas being a relative unknown so far even as it impressively dominates all comers early, Michigan State is going to become a chic pick as the top team in the country. We’ll see. We wouldn’t discount the impact of home court on this one, in much the same way location undoubtedly affected Duke’s tougher-than-expected battle with the Hoosiers the night before. Give Mike Brey a shot at the Spartans again in March on a neutral court and we’d expect a considerably tighter game.

Based on Thursday, though, Notre Dame is a team that still has work to do, while Michigan State has the potential to be a full-fledged juggernaut. If the Spartans are just getting started and don’t actually peak for a couple months yet…look out.

Side Dishes:

  • Seton Hall somehow slipped six spots out of the Associated Press Top 25 Poll last week after a single one-point loss to a quality (if unranked) Rhode Island team on a neutral court. That should be rectified after the Pirates pinned Texas Tech with its first loss, defeating the Red Raiders 89-79 as part of a doubleheader at Madison Square Garden dubbed the Under Armour Reunion. The Hall has one of the best starting fives in the country, and Desi Rodriguez scored 24 and added seven rebounds. For the Red Raiders, it’s a loss but hardly a bad one, and five players scored in double figures as Tech scored its share against a good Pirates defense.
  • In the second game at MSG, Temple rolled past South Carolina 76-60. This was almost a wire-to-wire job by the Owls, an impressive victory against a still-stout Gamecocks team. Big Damion Moore scored 20 and added 10 boards off the bench for Temple; if he produces anywhere near that the rest of the year, the Owls become even a whole lot bigger problem for opponents.
  • One of the biggest games of the night was also the latest, with San Diego State handing city rival San Diego its first loss 66-57 at the Toreros’ Jenny Craig Pavilion, a.k.a. the Slim Gym.
  • Missouri won at Central Florida 62-59, with Kassius Robertson and Jordan Barnett both scoring 19 for the Tigers while the Knights continue to be offensively challenged.
  • Texas A&M is now 7-0 after topping Texas-Rio Grande Valley 78-60. The Aggies started the game out 16-0 but the Vaqueros were stubborn and trailed by just seven late before A&M pulled away.
  • Mississippi State could offer a master’s course in homecourt scheduling, as Ben Howland’s team lined up and now continues to pick off teams that are expected to be near the top of leagues in the presumed back half of Division I. Credit to the Bulldogs for taking care of business, defeating Stephen F. Austin and Jacksonville State narrowly before hammering North Dakota State 83-59 last night. Tyson Carter scored a career-best 35 and Mississippi State is still undefeated, now at 6-0 even as all six have been at Humphrey Coliseum. It’s fun to see Tyson having a big game, as we remember watching his father Greg play for the Bulldogs and was a key player on their surprising 1991 team, one that came out of nowhere to snap a 28-year NCAA Tournament drought.
  • Trae Young continues to be one of the most productive freshmen in the country. The Oklahoma guard scored 32 and added 10 assists, and the Sooners needed all of it to defeat North Texas 82-72.
  • Good to see Alabama-Birmingham and Memphis playing again, and UAB ended a 16-game losing streak to the Tigers with a 71-56 win on a night when late Blazers legend Gene Bartow was remembered again with the annual Bartow Classic game. UAB is 5-0 at home this season.
  • Central Connecticut State and North Carolina A&T have been two of the unsung pleasant surprises of the early season, and the Blue Devils moved to 4-3 with a 72-59 win over the Aggies. Another career high-Joe Hugley scored 21 for CCSU.

Today’s Menu:

  • It’s a lighter schedule, but one that gets under way early on the mainland, with a pair of games played in Belfast, Ireland. The Basketball Hall of Fame Belfast Classic is a four-team tournament, led off today with Holy Cross against Manhattan (11:30 a.m. Eastern, CBSSN) and followed by Towson vs. La Salle (2 p.m., CBSSN). Two solid matchups, with Bill Carmody’s Crusaders against the frantic Jaspers and brawny Towson against an Explorers squad that toppled Temple last time out. Pass the morning Guinness.
  • Like the Belfast Classic, The Citadel is hosting one of those old-fashioned four-team, two-day tournaments with a championship and third-place game. Hallelujah! More need to follow Belfast’s and the Bulldogs’ inspiration here, playing for something, even a small tourney trophy, certainly beats listless guarantee games. The Papa John’s Bulldog Bash (yes, that’s its real name) opens with the host school welcoming Marist and is followed by Army against Maryland-Baltimore County.
  • Duquesne knocked off Pittsburgh a year ago, and the Dukes go for their second straight win over their city rival. The Panthers will be motivated, but we also look forward to seeing how Keith Dambrot handles this rivalry. There were two different angles to his thoughts in newspapers on Wednesday: this from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and this from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
  • Big Ten play opens tonight, and no matter how many times we say that to try to get used to it, that still sounds tremendously bizarre. And it’s not just a weakling game to open, either: Purdue is at Maryland (7 p.m., Big Ten Network), with the Terps looking to stanch some bleeding after two losses in the last week. Also, Illinois is at Northwestern (9 p.m., BTN).
  • North Carolina goes against Davidson (8 p.m., ESPN2) in Charlotte. The Wildcats might be able to shoot their way to victory but as usual will have to scratch & claw on the glass in this one.
  • Boise State has been on fire from long range this season, averaging almost as many three-pointers made per game (12.1) as free throws (12.6). The Broncos hit 16 last time out in a blowout of Loyola (Ill.); now they go to Oregon, which itself is averaging 10 triples per game but also is shutting down opponents to 26.5% shooting from the arc. Hmmm…
  • The night closes with a Jesuit bonanza as Creighton goes to Gonzaga (10 p.m., ESPN2). These two haven’t met since 1977, unfortunate as they should’ve been playing for the last 15 years, but this should be fun between two always entertaining teams.

Enjoy your Friday and have a great weekend.


Currently there is "1 comment" on this Article:

  1. Dave Barend says:

    Stellar article. Please keep posting links on Twitter that will act as a reminder for an old guy like me to check out. Sincerely – Dave Barend @collhoopshumor

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