Jimmy V Classic Recap
Highly ranked Memphis, Kansas, Syracuse and Michigan State invaded Manhattan last night. SLAM was there.
by David Cassilo / @dcassilo
This year’s Jimmy V Classic had a doubleheader that read more like two Elite Eight matchups than a pair of non-conference games. With four top-13 teams squaring off, Madison Square Garden was rocking like a Knicks game in the mid-90′s.
Unfortunately, the games failed to meet the hype as both were decided by double-digits. For Kansas and Syracuse, these were statement victories, and for Memphis and Michigan State, eye-opening defeats.
The Jayhawks have impressive size and it was on full display on Tuesday night. The Morris twins plus sophomore Thomas Robinson combined for 40 points and 25 rebounds, and with just one player taller than 6-9 on the Memphis roster, it was something that Kansas knew to take advantage of. The 44-31 rebounding edge was a major reason Kansas prevailed.
While Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris led the team in scoring with 16 and 14, respectively, Robinson’s play is what makes Kansas so dangerous. Bill Self has the luxury of bringing a double-double machine off the bench. After the game Marcus Morris said that Kansas was “the best frontcourt in the country,” and Robinson is what takes them to that level.
As for the backcourt, while Tyshawn Taylor played well, Kansas’ inability to handle pressure was exposed. Memphis forced 22 turnovers, many of which came against the full court press of Memphis. Many of those times a frontcourt playing was handling the ball at the top of the key.
It’s clear that addition of Josh Selby will be a necessary one if Kansas is going to be a legitimate national title contender. With Selby, Taylor, the Morris twins and Robinson you can slide the Jayhawks right behind Duke.
Let’s not forget that even with a loss to Northern Iowa in the tournament last year, Kansas was one of the best five teams in the country. If Selby lives up to the hype, they might be better this season.
The Tigers just aren’t quite there yet. The talent is there in flashes, but Josh Pastner’s squad needs better consistency – especially on offense. Memphis shot just 37 percent from the field for the game, and that had more to do with settling for early looks on offense than the Kansas defense. With the way their own defense played, the Tigers could have won this game with a better offensive rhythm.
Memphis is perhaps as deep as any team in the country, but it needs to find steady production from its best players. Their leading scorers, Wesley Witherspoon and Joe Jackson, combined for just nine points. While depth is nice, the Tigers must find out who their go-to guy is.
The foundation for success is there, though. With just one senior, this Memphis squad appears like it will be together for at least this year and next. The Tigers should only improve as the season goes on but will struggle against teams like Kansas because of their lack of size.
Look for great things from Memphis and Pastner, just maybe not this season.
Despite coming into Tuesday night undefeated, there were a lot of question marks surrounding the Orange due to their lackluster wins against lesser opponents. After a dominating performance against Michigan State, most of those questions have been answered.
The early season success of Syracuse can be credited mainly to Rick Jackson, who has evolved into a nightly double-double. The Orange were able to get inside at will and exposed Michigan State’s greatest weakness.
The key in this game, though, was Scoop Jardine. An erratic player for much of his Syracuse career, Jardine has come into his own over the past few games. He still might do a few things that will make Jim Boeheim lose his cool, but Jardine has evolved into the third scoring option this team so desperately needs.
With the limited offensive games of Fab Melo and Baye Moussa Keita, there are realistically just six players capable of scoring for the Orange, and that includes freshmen C.J. Fair and Dion Waiters, who are both trying to find consistency. Right now, Syracuse can count on Jackson and Kris Joseph to get baskets. That’s simply not enough, but with Jardine, the Orange becomes dangerous.
Tuesday’s win was a perfect example, and whether it be Jardine, Fair, Waiters or Brandon Triche, the Orange will need that third option every night.
The Spartans staked their claim to biggest early season disappointment on Tuesday with another less than stellar performance in a big game. Need the reason? Look no further than the frontcourt.
The graduation of Raymar Morgan from last year’s team is having a much bigger affect than anyone anticipated. Draymond Green and the rest of the front line was pushed around inside by the Orange all night long. Couple that will early struggles from the guards against the zone, and the Spartans were playing catch-up from the opening tip.
In the beginning of the second half Michigan State was able to settle down, utilize their mismatch in the backcourt and find open shots, but whenever Syracuse needed a basket, it got one. The bottom line is that the Spartan defense is just not that good right now, and that starts down low.
Tom Izzo has showed the last two years that it’s not about how his team starts, it’s how it finishes, so for now we’ll refrain from burying the Spartans. But the Big Ten is stacked this year, and Michigan State will need to find that defense and post production or it will continue to struggle.