Surprises, overreactions and the whole lot we discovered on opening night time in males’s faculty basketball

The 2021-22 faculty basketball season commenced Tuesday, ending seven-plus months of aggressive inactivity with almost 200 video games involving Division I groups on the boys’s facet. A complete of twenty-two AP High 25 groups have been in motion on Tuesday, with a number of shut calls and one large upset among the many outcomes. Top-ranked Gonzaga and No. 2 UCLA rolled as anticipated, fellow 2021 Ultimate 4 participant Houston got a major scare from Hofstra, and the Hubert Davis and Chris Beard eras started with wins at North Carolina and Texas, respectively.

On a banner night time for the game that was highlighted by Duke vs. Kentucky and Kansas vs. Michigan State within the Champions Traditional, ESPN’s group of school basketball consultants Myron Medcalf, Jeff Borzello and John Gasaway weighed in on the whole lot they noticed from Madison Sq. Backyard and all through the nation as the sport took its first tentative step towards crowning a nationwide champion in New Orleans on April 4:


Duke won the game 79-71, however did you be taught extra in regards to the Ninth-ranked Blue Devils or Tenth-ranked Kentucky on Tuesday night time?

Medcalf: Duke. That was a dominant effort for the Blue Devils. The best way they fought by means of adversity was in all probability probably the most vital improvement. In several stretches, Wendell Moore Jr., Trevor Keels and Paolo Banchero have been all sidelined with what seemed to be cramping points. That is when Duke showcased a depth that helped the group preserve its momentum with a few of its prime gamers on the bench.

However when Banchero is on the ground, Duke simply seems the a part of a group that may win the nationwide title and run by means of any group within the nation. A 6-foot-10 athlete and projected No. 1 decide within the 2022 NBA draft shouldn’t be in a position to deal with the ball or transfer the way in which he does. It simply provides a dynamic that makes Duke a novel problem. And Keels did not seem like a freshman. His energy was a significant factor within the recreation. We knew what Duke was on paper. We understood the quantity of expertise the Blue Devils had signed. To see all of it work collectively on Tuesday night time was spectacular. Duke may not be the group to beat in faculty basketball. However the Blue Devils are definitely one among them.

Borzello: I believed Kentucky could be a little bit of a work-in-progress resulting from well being and function allocation questions, and that appeared to be the case — however I discovered quite a bit about Duke’s gamers not named Paolo Banchero. Banchero is a implausible participant, after all, and there is a motive he was thought-about probably the most college-ready prospect in the highschool class of 2021. Kentucky merely had no solutions for him. He’ll push for the Picket Award. However the way in which Duke stepped up when Banchero went to the locker room within the second half was eye-opening.

Keels was probably the greatest scorers within the 2021 class, however it was unclear if he could be relied upon to that extent straight away. Properly, he was, and he answered the bell. His dimension, capturing, imaginative and prescient and defensive capability are extremely, extremely spectacular. Moore has taken the subsequent step; he is far more fluid offensively this season. Theo John provides some physicality and toughness the Blue Devils lacked final season. The bench is not loaded, however there’s sufficient depth. I picked Duke to go to the Ultimate 4 earlier this week, and Tuesday night time did not change my thoughts — however it did make me extra optimistic.

Gasaway: I discovered that an older Kentucky group than we’re used to seeing might have about as a lot time to jell as lots of the youthful groups did. Take nothing away from Duke. Banchero was each bit nearly as good as marketed and Keels is already a grown man as a freshman. It is simply that there have been instances early within the recreation the place it appeared like we’d be showering this reward at first on Oscar Tshiebwe. He completely dominated the offensive glass for so long as he was within the recreation and he’ll likely proceed to take action going ahead. The questions will probably be what number of minutes he performs and what his teammates carry to the desk. John Calipari’s prime non-Tshiebwe performer was in all probability Georgia switch Sahvir Wheeler. If UK will get the anticipated contributions from TyTy Washington and a wholesome variety of 3s from guys like Kellan Grady, Davion Mintz and CJ Fredrick, this will nonetheless be a gaggle that lives as much as its billing because the SEC favorites.

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Lunardi: I proceed to lean extra into Duke as a reliable nationwide championship contender. This season was already going to be all about Coach Ok’s farewell. If the Blue Devils are actually ok to achieve the Ultimate 4 and past, it might be nearly Picket-esque.


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Madison Sq. Backyard goes wild over Christian Braun’s alley-oop lob to Ochai Agbaji for the thunderous slam.

Did you come away extra impressed with Kansas or involved about Michigan State in KU’s 87-74 win?

Medcalf: I used to be extra impressed by a Kansas group that separated from Michigan State within the second half, although it did not have Jalen Wilson (suspension). Ochai Agbaji will probably be an All-American if his 29-point effort (3-for-6 from the 3-point line) is an indication of what is forward. David McCormack struggled on offense however he made some key defensive performs. Remy Martin remains to be looking for the appropriate rhythm together with his new group (see: three turnovers), however 15 factors (5-for-9), six rebounds and two assists is not a nasty begin for the Arizona State switch. The Jayhawks additionally acquired 21 factors from their bench. It was simple to see that Kansas has the items to win the Huge 12 and make a deep run within the NCAA event.

Borzello: Kansas entered Tuesday night time as a reliable nationwide championship contender and did nothing to mood these expectations — and the Jayhawks did it with out Wilson. I got here away extremely impressed by them as a group. Agbaji has clearly taken the subsequent step in his offensive improvement, displaying extra confidence going off the dribble and attacking the rim, whereas additionally being aggressive in passing lanes, ending in transition and making pictures from the perimeter. If he is that man persistently, Kansas discovered its go-to man.

The opposite spectacular factor for me was the play of Martin. Going from a high-octane system the place he had the ball in his arms most possessions to a extra balanced operation, there have been going to be rising pains. However Martin — after not taking a shot within the first half — completed with 15 factors on 9 pictures and customarily performed inside himself and throughout the Kansas offense.

Gasaway: Impressed by a KU group that performed with out Wilson however seemed that this recreation was put away for a lot of the second half even when the rating remained comparatively shut. Agbaji had an excellent night time, after all, and as a group the Jayhawks gave the ball away simply 9 instances in a quick (77-possession) contest. That can win you some video games. The mix of Agbaji and Martin goes to pose a severe problem to the defenses of the Huge 12. If there is a silver lining for the Spartans it is that sophomore A.J. Hoggard appeared glorious in main MSU with 17 factors in simply 26 minutes.

Lunardi: Because the man within the room who picked Kansas to win all of it, I believe you possibly can in all probability guess my reply. The Jayhawks did nothing to dispel the notion that they belong on the brief listing of nationwide championship contenders. And they’re solely going to get higher when all of the items are in place.


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John Carter Jr. knocks down the late triple to complete off Navy’s upset in opposition to Virginia.

What was your largest shock of opening night time?

Lunardi: Positively the ACC dropping “purchase” video games to Navy (at Virginia), The Citadel (at Pitt) and Miami (OH) (at Georgia Tech). That is three ugly losses within the opening hours of the season. By comparability, the American (8-0), Huge East (8-0), Huge 12 (7-0), Atlantic 10 (13-1) and SEC (10-1) did not have three losses mixed.

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Gasaway: I used to be frankly shocked that Nebraska misplaced at house to Western Illinois 75-74. I climbed out on a limb all on my own after I picked Alonzo Verge Jr. as my Huge Ten newcomer of the yr, and — nicely, he did fairly nicely. Verge rang up 26 factors, however his teammates have been simply 14-of-39 from the sphere in opposition to an opponent coming off a 5-9 season within the Summit League. That is yr three in Lincoln for Fred Hoiberg, who confirmed past doubt that he can get outcomes throughout his tenure at Iowa State. However the Cornhuskers are simply 14-46 below the top coach, and dropping to the Leathernecks suggests this group might need an excellent more durable time than anticipated in a deep Huge Ten this season.

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Akron takes the lead with seconds remaining on a triple plus a foul, then Ohio State responds with Zed Key’s profitable shot.

Medcalf: I will go together with Ali Ali and Akron almost pulling off the upset at No. 17 Ohio State in Columbus. Akron, a mid-major that misplaced its star, Loren Cristian Jackson (22.3 PPG), was picked to complete fifth within the MAC within the preseason ballot. However the Zips had a one-point lead over an Ohio State group that is anticipated to be an element within the Huge Ten race earlier than Zed Key hit the game-winner within the remaining second for the Buckeyes. Nonetheless, John Groce put his group on the map with that efficiency. Simply hours into the 2021-2022 season, Akron almost pulled off a significant upset.

Borzello: There have been a bunch of upsets that shocked me — UC San Diego over Cal, The Citadel over Pitt, Miami (OH) over Georgia Tech, Western Illinois over Nebraska, and so forth. — however I’ll present some like to Ohio, which beat Belmont by 12 within the first recreation of the post-Jason Preston period.

Belmont was anticipated to be probably the greatest mid-major groups within the nation, garnering some votes within the preseason High 25. Ohio made 16 3-pointers and scored 92 factors. Mark Sears, who began simply 5 video games final season, stepped into Preston’s footwear and was terrific, ending with 27 factors and 4 assists. Jason Carter, who spent two seasons at Ohio earlier than transferring to Xavier for 2 seasons and is now again at Ohio, picked up the place he left off again in 2019, going for 20 factors and 10 boards. Throw in continued stellar play from Ben Vander Plas, and the Bobcats is likely to be an element once more come March.


What opening night time occasion elicited the largest nationwide overreaction, in your opinion?

Borzello: Virginia dropping to Navy. Look, it is a horrible loss, and Virginia was the one top-25 group to lose to an unranked group on opening night time. However I noticed lots of people writing off the Cavaliers based mostly off the loss, and I believe that is going to seem like an overreaction. Virginia was one of many largest thriller groups getting into the season, with two key items from final season returning, two key transfers getting into the fold … and never a lot else. The Cavaliers weren’t going to out of the blue be an ACC title menace one recreation into the season. It should take a while. Bear in mind, Virginia misplaced to San Francisco and wanted extra time to beat Kent State final season earlier than happening to win the ACC.

And Navy is not dangerous! The Midshipmen went 12-1 and gained the Patriot League common season title in 2020-21. The offense stays a priority for Tony Bennett, and they’re going to beat only a few groups when Armaan Franklin and Kihei Clark mix to shoot 3-for-14 from 3. However I nonetheless place confidence in Virginia being an element within the ACC this season.

Gasaway: The ACC’s actually dangerous night time. Virginia misplaced to Navy, Pitt misplaced to The Citadel and Georgia Tech misplaced to Miami (OH) — all at house. These aren’t exemplary outcomes to make certain, however we needs to be cautious of explaining faculty basketball outcomes by reference to convention memberships. One faculty of thought heading into the night held that Duke, Florida State and North Carolina would possibly kind a giant three of kinds on the prime of the ACC, and that the Cavaliers have been maybe being ranked No. 25 within the preseason AP ballot due to their coach relatively than due to what these gamers have executed. Nothing we noticed on faculty basketball’s opening night time basically adjustments that preexisting view of the ACC.

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Medcalf: In all probability the criticism of TyTy Washington. The Kentucky guard struggled in his first recreation. He was 3-for-14 and he was forcing the whole lot. Of us have been calling for John Calipari to bench him relatively than enable the younger participant to work by means of his challenges. However I believed it was the appropriate name for his confidence to let him attempt to determine it out for a stretch.

Duke was higher than Kentucky on Tuesday night time, nevertheless, with Paolo Banchero on the bench. It wasn’t simply Washington’s effort. Proper now, the Blue Devils appear to be the superior group. I believe Washington simply had a nasty night time on a giant stage in opposition to a group that would win all of it. Greater than something, he simply could not discover a rhythm and he appeared extra like a freshman taking part in his first collegiate recreation relatively than a projected first-round decide in subsequent summer season’s NBA draft. Tough night time. However that is all it was.

Lunardi: Michigan being ranked forward of Michigan State within the weekly Faculty Soccer Playoff replace, regardless of simply dropping to the Spartans head-to-head. After I’m king of the world, the CFP won’t be allowed to interrupt the opening night time of a sport that really is aware of methods to crown a champion.


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Villanova’s Justin Moore stays scorching past the arc to empty his sixth 3-pointer of the night time.

Give us one factor you are trying ahead to throughout the remainder of opening week in faculty basketball.

Gasaway: No. 4 Villanova at No. 2 UCLA, Friday night time. The Wildcats and the Bruins are everybody’s selections to win the Huge East and Pac-12, respectively, and this will probably be our first true have a look at two groups that would attain the Ultimate 4. Are they worthy of the lofty rankings? Jay Wright’s group was uncharacteristically regular when it comes to capturing accuracy throughout Huge East play final season. As for Mick Cronin’s males, they famously got here inside an extra time interval in opposition to Michigan State of ending 2020-21 with 5 straight losses. Then once more all the above could possibly be historical historical past in response to each pollsters and laptops. I can not wait to remain up late for this one.

Medcalf: I can not wait to see No. 5 Texas at No. 1 Gonzaga in Spokane, Washington, on Saturday. That is likely to be a Ultimate 4 preview. This additionally begins a wild run for Gonzaga that can embody matchups in opposition to Texas, UCLA and Duke in a two-week stretch. Chris Beard’s depth is his prime asset. If Marcus Carr and Co. can go on the street and beat Gonzaga, the Longhorns will make a robust assertion about the place they stand within the Huge 12 and the nationwide panorama. It is also a check for a Gonzaga group that must defend in opposition to a number of guards. Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren will probably be examined on protection. However the duo might additionally overwhelm the Longhorns with their dimension. Actually trying ahead to this one. It is an essential recreation for each groups.

Lunardi: The primary NCAA title recreation I bear in mind watching was UCLA-Villanova in 1971. We adopted all of the Philadelphia Huge 5 groups in our home rising up, and the Wildcats had simply obliterated undefeated Penn within the East Regional finals. So seeing the Bruins and Wildcats collide 50 years later, in Pauley Pavilion no much less, is nearly as good because it will get for me. The one factor higher could be an in-person matchup on the Palestra.

Borzello: Texas at Gonzaga on Saturday. There are such a lot of intriguing storylines for each groups getting into the season, and so many questions for which we’ll begin getting solutions this weekend. On Texas’ facet, how all of the gifted transfers mesh and purchase into their roles goes to be fascinating. There are solely so many minutes to go round — and in a giant street recreation in opposition to the No. 1 group within the nation, adversity is probably going going to hit in some unspecified time in the future. How will the Longhorns react as a unit? For Gonzaga, what is going to the Drew Timme-Chet Holmgren duo seem like in opposition to a group with reliable dimension and ability within the frontcourt? Does the perimeter group circulate as easily because it did final season? Are the Zags’ freshmen prepared? I can not wait.

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