The First Take: Welcome
Your daily stop for college hoops discussion!
Good morning SLAM Universe!
I’ve always been a firm believer that great ideas are conceived on a full stomach, so naturally this brainstorm erupted while browsing this site and digesting another fantastic Thanksgiving feast. Having consumed some fine fowl and finished reading another fantastic edition of the Post Up the wheels in my head began to turn: if the leader in hoops literature can have a daily recap and discussion forum for the League, why not for the college game?
Having been lucky enough to produce content for this blog for the past year – focusing primarily on college basketball – and with the blessing of the higher ups at SLAM, The First Take will become the daily stop for everything that is the college game. You’ll get a full dose of the previous nights events, the big games, performances and commentary that you want and need. Even better, YOU get the chance to discuss the teams and players you want. See something you like? Let me hear it! See something you dislike? I want to hear that too! I want this to be THE place to voice your opinions on the beauty that is NCAA action.
For those of you die hard hoop heads that love the major conferences, the top 25 will be covered Monday through Friday, all the results and commentary you can handle. But fear not fans of mid-major hardwood action! As a fan of all schools big and small, those outside the realm of ESPN and CBS coverage (well outside of March anyway) these teams will get their due as well.
This will obviously be a developing blog and concept as the season progresses, but I hope that plenty of you will come along for the ride as we’re now a couple of weeks in and the national scene is starting to take shape. Now, let’s get down to business.
Slow night overall for the top 25 with just three ranked teams in action and none were ever in danger with the margins of victory standing at 37, 34 and 21. Kentucky rolled over UNC-Asheville 94-57 led by 24 and 10 from frosh DeMarcus Cousins with fellow rook John Wall dishing out 14 assists. Thus the Wildcats Jekyll and Hyde season continues. Just five days after being take to overtime by an inferior Stanford team, the Young ‘Cats roll in Lexington. Inconsistency was certainly expected from the freshman loaded squad, but this up and down play will make life difficult in the SEC. I expect them to straighten things out a bit.
Syracuse continues to look like a serious Big East contender, blowing out Colgate 92-58 for the Orange’s 44th straight win over the Raiders. Wesley Johnson (aka The Best Transfer in the Country or the TBTC) was a near perfect 8-10 from the floor including 3-4 from beyond the arc for 19 and 9. Jim Boeheims team registered 35 assists on 39 field goals – that kind of efficiency is going to make life miserable for any team, let alone a Patriot League squad that is already outmanned.
In the late(r) start, Georgetown muscled its way to a relatively easy win over Mount St. Mary’s, getting 19 and 11 from sophomore Greg Monroe and 18 from Chris Wright. The Hoyas weren’t much for defense in this one, allowing the Mountaineers to hit on 41.5 percent of their field goals and 46.7 percent from three, but made up for it with a 40-28 advantage on the glass. I tuned in for part of this one and wasn’t impressed with what I saw from the DC school. GU may have been represented in the NBA All-Star game every year since 1986, but this team needs to develop a more aggressive killer instinct if they want to avoid a conference meltdown like last year.
Surprisingly, the best game of the night by far was Penn State’s 69-66 squeaker at Virginia. After trailing by six at the half, the Nittany Lions turned the ball over to All-Big Ten guard Talor Battle who could not miss in the second half, scoring 28 of his 32 points after the break. On the broadcast the supremely knowledgeable Len Elmore drew comparisons between the diminutive scoring machine and former NBA All-Star (I wonder how long that will last) Allen Iverson due to their stature and versatile offense arsenals. While the AI comparison might be a stretch, there’s no question that when he is on, Battle can lay claim to being one of, if not the best scorer in the Big Ten – and that’s saying something.
Freshman point guard Tim Frazier – a highly touted floor general out of Houston – was also very impressive, proving to be a real nice backcourt complement to Battle. Virginia got the short end of the stick after super soph Sylven Landesberg decided to go ice cold for the entirety of the second half. This is a guys who shoots well over 80 percent from the charity stripe and went 4-for-8 at the line. Nice win for Penn State though as they improve to 5-2 and look to build on their unexpected NIT championship from a year ago. Fun fact for the night: Penn State is now the first Big Ten school to win three consecutive games in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, which by the way has been won by the ACC all ten years.
Further north, Hofstra’s Charles Jenkins did his best to upstage Battle for the individual performance of the night. The junior guard torched Fairfield for 38 points in a four point win. The Queens, NY native won CAA Rookie of the Year honors a couple of seasons ago as Antoine Aguidio’s (remember him?) understudy and has blossomed into one of the most lethal scorers in the conference. He averaged just a hair under 20 ppg last season and if not for a pair of mysterious cold showings against Famingdale and Elon, the junior would be well over that mark with four 20+ points games already.
Memphis cruised past Oakland in a game that otherwise wouldn’t make much noise accept for another brilliant game from sophomore transfer Elliot Williams who notched his fourth consecutive 20-point game. They don’t hand out a National Most Improved Player Award, but if they did, this is your man. Consider this, as a newcomer at Duke last year, Williams averaged 4.2 ppg, 2.3 rpg and .7 apg in just under 17 minutes. This year? How about 20.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg and 3.8 apg in 31.8 minutes. What that means is that even though he is playing nearly twice as many minutes as he did a year ago, he has somehow managed to nearly triple his scoring and assist output per 40 minutes. Take a minute to wrap your brain around that one.
Plenty going on tonight with a full slate of Big Ten/ACC Challenge games including a rematch of last season’s national championship between Michigan State and North Carolina which should be a much closer contest the second time around. Don’t let the Spartans loss to Florida fool you, MSU isn’t that bad, the Gators were just underrated by most going into the season – well someone got it right. Don’t miss Wake Forest and Purdue either, Al-Farouq Aminu may be good enough to carry the Demon Deacons to an upset win all by himself.
It’s getting late, my hands are getting sore and I’m running out of steam. Read, comment, enjoy and welcome!