The early stages of college basketball have been a blast. Some teams/players have impressed early on, and some have been disappointing so far. Here’s my rundown of “Who’s Hot and Who’s Not” so far this season.
Gonzaga Bulldogs: Mark Few and the Bulldogs have shown that they deserve to be at the top along with the BCS conference powerhouses. The Zags have all the pieces to make a run to the Final Four- a great senior point guard in Jeremy Pargo, strong big men in Josh Heyvelt, Ira Brown and Robert Sacre, and a couple great scorers in Micah Downs and Austin Daye. Stephen Gray is a solid role player and is lights out from beyond the arc when locked in. Heytvelt has looked like the projected lottery pick of old and Daye is emerging as one of the most versatile players in the country. The Zags took down Oklahoma State, blew out Maryland and beat a great Tennessee team to win the Old Spice Classic.
Blake Griffin: Griffin is rapidly becoming the poster child of college basketball and deservedly so. His numbers are off the charts. 25.7 PPG is impressive, but what really jumps out is the fact that he’s shooting 69.2% from the field. His rebounding skills are already well-documented with three 21-rebound performances. His combination of size, athleticism and basketball skills are unlike any I have witnessed in my short time as a college basketball fan.
Tobacco Road Rivals: The best rivalry in all of sports is carrying heavy national implications once again this year. UNC is the favorite to win the title and Duke has shown they are among the best in the land. Even though Duke was in the Top 10 in the preseason polls, there were some questions about their front court going into the season. After the first few weeks, the Dukies have changed any doubters minds with four wins by over twenty points, a 2K Sports Classic crown and a win over #10 Purdue in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge. Singler, Smith, Thomas and Zoubek all look much improved from last season. Scheyer is also playing a huge role in Duke’s early success and Henderson, although he can do better, has been good thus far. On the other side, UNC has been running like a well-oiled machine. Lawson has proven that he is one of the best point guards in the land and Hansbrough looks like he’s in midseason form despite the injury that held him out of the Heels’ first couple of games. February 11th and March 8. Mark your calendars, folks, because these two games between storied rivals are going to be incredible.
Stephen & Seth Curry: Stephen Curry has proven that he is the best scorer in college basketball. He’s still leading the country in scoring after being held scoreless against a constant double-team from Loyola (MD). Going into the season, a lot of people, myself included, were questioning whether or not the transition to the point and the burden of running the offense would hinder his ability to score, but Curry has shown he can score as well as involve his other teammates. He’s averaging 7 APG and has a assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.8. Curry is also contributing on the defensive end with 3 steals per game. Curry has evolved from a pure shooter into a college basketball star and perhaps the best player in the land. His younger brother Seth has shown that he’s learned a thing or two from his father and older brother. He’s averaging 22 PPG as a freshman at Liberty and had a 26 point performance against Virginia and 22 points against George Mason.
Kyle McAlarney: We all knew this guy could shoot. But the way he’s shooting right now is nothing short of insane. He’s shooting 51.3% from beyond the arc and in his last three performances went 10-18, 9-17 and 7-13 from deep. He isn’t only doing this against weak opponents. He went 5-9 against Texas and his 10-18 performance came against UNC, a game in which he had 39 of the Irish’s 87 points. If he keeps on shooting like this, it’ll be tough for even the best of teams to guard the inside-outside combination of McAlarney and Harangody.
Honorable Mention: James Harden, Middle of the Big East, 76 Classic’s Final Four (Wake, Baylor, UTEP, AZ State)
Mullens & DeRozan: This years class of diaper dandies pales in comparison to the classes of the two previous seasons. The big names like Mullens and DeRozan have vastly underperformed their expectations coming out of high school. DeRozan is averaging less than 10 PPG and under 5 RPG against weak competition. Against USC toughest opponents so far, Seton Hall and Missouri, he averaged 5.5 points and 4.5 rebounds. BJ Mullens was supposed to be one of the best big men in the country but has been nothing short of disappointing early. He’s averaging 5.5 PPG annd 4 RPG and has two blocks in his first four games. He’s seen no more than 20 minutes in a game so perhaps Thad is working his freshman in little by little, but a supposed stud like Mullens should see all the playing time he can get, so there must be something wrong.
Siena: For a team that returns all five starters that made it to the second round of the last year’s NCAA tournament, Siena has not looked very impressive in the early going. Granted they did play in the toughest non-conference tournament, but they played two teams they should have beat and lost both games. Siena blew a 12 point lead midway through the second half against Wichita State and never led in the Oklahoma State game. Siena has a good starting five, but their lack of depth has been a thorn in Fran McCaffrey’s backside.
Hurricanes discipline: Miami’s sophomore point guard Eddie Rios was suspended indefinitely on Tuesday for a violation of team rules. This suspension was handed down shortly before the tip of their ACC/Big 10 Challenge matchup against #21 Ohio State. Rios had been filling in at the point for Lance Hurdle, who has been recovering from injury. As if Rios’ suspension wasn’t bad enough, star guard Jack McClinton was ejected with 10 minutes left in the first half after he slapped Ohio State’s Anthony Crater in the face right after McClinton passed the ball. McClinton got the ball back after he slapped Crater and sunk his fourth 3-pointer in the first ten minutes of the game. McClinton hadn’t missed from beyond the arc that game and the Canes were rolling against Ohio State. Ohio State chipped away at Miami’s 14-point halftime lead to secure a 73-68 win. Although the slap didn’t appear to be too violent, McClinton has to keep his cool as the leader of the Hurricanes.
Patrick: C’mon Pat, you jumped out to a pretty nice lead in our daily selections, and now you’re under .500…
Honorable Mention: USC, Charlotte, A.J. Price
Anything else you can think of? Just leave a comment.