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The Morning Dish – Sunday, January 21, 2018

January 21, 2018 The Morning Dish No Comments

Some would like you to believe that the biggest college basketball news of the day yesterday was not from any of the 144 NCAA Division I games yesterday, but from something off the court related to next season already.

Highly touted highlight machine high school senior Zion Williamson unveiled his intention to attend Duke next year for his presumed one season of college basketball, an event that included all of the modern day hoopla, self-aggrandizement and TV overhyping that the top prospects recruiting process regularly entails. Williamson chose Duke somewhat surprisingly, as many pegged Clemson as his eventual landing spot, though anyone who has paid attention to recruiting in this sport for a period of time should never be surprised at Duke getting a recruit it wants.

We’re told this is of significant importance because the Blue Devils are presumably the first school ever to get the top three rated recruits in the country all under one umbrella. And yet, on the same night that we were told again why recruiting rankings should be such a big deal to us, Kentucky-with yet another loaded recruiting class this year-lost at home to Florida 66-64, for the Wildcats’ fifth loss this season already in 19 games.

In much the same manner that teams that win free agency in the NFL rarely win the Super Bowl, we’re finding in the one-and-done era that the teams with the top recruiting classes don’t come through with near the dominance that their recruiting rankings and hype suggest they should. In recent years as Duke and Kentucky have emerged side-by-side with regularly the top-ranked classes of freshmen, both have one title, but also their share of postseason heartbreak and plenty of moments of regular season humanity. The Blue Devils were knocked out of the NCAA tourney in the second round last year and Sweet 16 two years ago (and lost to Boston College and North Carolina State already this year), while the Wildcats this year are in danger of falling out of the top 25 completely now after two more losses this week.

If their recruiting rankings and these two programs’ recruiting dominance are as important as they’re treated by the breathless coverage of them, shouldn’t it be fair to expect that these two are regular top-5 outfits and virtual shoo-ins for big postseason success? If not, then what’s the big deal?

There are plenty of different ways to build championship teams in college basketball. All the five-star recruits in the world don’t guarantee top-of-the-line success any more than the slightly less glitzy methods of building by programs such as Villanova or Gonzaga. In other words, if a team didn’t get Zion Williamson, it’s not the end of the world, and there will be plenty of opportunity for schools to get their chance to beat Duke and Williamson in a much more important area: on the court. Where our focus should be this time of year, anyway.

Side Dishes:

  • Hoopville’s Phil Kasiecki again has his Saturday Notes covering all of the day’s biggest games.
  • Among Saturday’s top individual performances, they’re once again led by Oklahoma’s Trae Young, who scored 48 points to tie a Big 12 single-game scoring record. But the 48 points came in an 83-81 overtime loss to Oklahoma State, only stoking more questions and debate by some wondering if Young’s current play-lots of points, but also lots of shots and lots of turnovers-is really the best play for the Sooners.
  • Young wasn’t the only one to touch 40 on Saturday. Texas Southern guard Donte Clark rolled up a career-high 41 points as the Tigers rallied from a halftime deficit against the winless Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils to win 91-77. Also in the SWAC, Martavious McKnight scored 39 as Arkansas-Pine Bluff picked up a 72-66 win over Prairie View A&M to put the Golden Lions at 6-0 in conference-incredible since UAPB started 0-14 against the traditional impossible road-loaded SWAC non-conference schedule.
  • Also, Oakland’s Kendrick Nunn rang the bell for 38 points in the Golden Grizzlies’ 92-86 win over Detroit Mercy. And Duquesne’s Eric Williams totaled 34 points and 11 rebounds in the Dukes’ 95-89 double-overtime win over George Mason.
  • Central Florida had a major injury to deal with much of the season with B.J. Taylor out, and now it has another: 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall will miss the rest of the season after having shoulder surgery. The Knights were fortunate to have Taylor back yesterday, as he scored 25 in UCF’s narrow 71-69 win at South Florida.

Today’s Menu:

  • Looks like it’s about time for North Carolina State to spring another surprise at home in the ACC; the Wolfpack hosts Miami (Fla.).
  • Rutgers has been at least a pest at times in the Big Ten this year. They’ll be running into what should be a motivated Michigan team, though, after the Wolverines were skunked by Nebraska on Thursday (Noon Eastern, Big Ten Network)
  • There’s a big one in the Metro Atlantic as Canisius travels to face Iona. Both are tied for first place, and the Golden Griffins can take a hold of the MAAC race with a win, as they already topped the Gaels at home earlier this month. Free throws were a big factor in the first meeting: Canisius shot 19-for-22, while Iona was just 13 of 24.
  • Vermont just keeps cruising in the America East and has won eight straight. An unlikely challenger to the Catamounts is Hartford, which is 1 1/2 games the leaders and hosts UVM today. Also, second-place Maryland-Baltimore County goes to Albany, which has hit hard times but everyone knows is capable of coming on at any time.
  • Loyola (Ill.) attempts to keep a share of first in the Missouri Valley but has a tricky road test at Valparaiso (4 p.m., ESPNU). The Crusaders’ size should test the Ramblers.
  • No. 2-ranked Virginia is on the road at Wake Forest (6 p.m., ESPNU). The Demon Deacons have the outside shooting to beat UVA’s defense, though they don’t use it as much as most teams hitting nearly 40% on triples do.

Have a relaxing Sunday.

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