Starting 5: Down goes Duke, ACC falls in Big Ten/ACC Challenge, Tar Heels win big
Welcome back to the Starting 5. The Starting 5 is written multiple times per week by Adam Spencer to keep you up-to-date on all the news and events in the world of college hoops. You can follow Adam on Twitter at @AdamSpencer4 and @SDSBasketball.
1. Opening tipoff
Duke beat No. 1 Gonzaga exactly 1 week ago if you’re reading this on Friday. The Blue Devils then jumped up to No. 1 in the AP Poll, but that stay at the top will only last until this coming Monday.
Why? Well, the Coach K farewell tour hit a major snag on Tuesday night in Columbus. That’s where the Ohio State Buckeyes, who entered the game with losses to Xavier and Florida on their resume, handed Duke its first loss of the season as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
If you read Tuesday’s Starting 5 (and of course you did), you’ll remember I said this had all the makings of a potential letdown game for the Blue Devils — riding high after beating the No. 1 team, heading on the road, facing an Ohio State team that had been struggling, but still had plenty of talent? Yeah, that was a recipe for disaster.
Wendell Moore Jr. was the only consistent player for Duke, scoring 17 points to go with 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals. Superstar freshman Paolo Banchero didn’t have the cramping issues that have plagued him in other big games, but he was still ineffective, scoring 14 points on 4-for-14 shooting in the 71-66 loss.
Ohio State big man EJ Liddell had a much more efficient 14 points. He only needed 10 shots to hit that mark, and he also provided 14 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 blocks for his team:
EJ Liddell 14 Pts, 14 Rebs, 6 Ast and 3 Blks vs Duke pic.twitter.com/qO3McrRa1B
— Frankie Vision (@Frankie_Vision) December 1, 2021
Liddell also knocked down a tough midrange jumper to seal the victory:
THE DAGGER. pic.twitter.com/YNGgfgdFO9
— Eleven Warriors (@11W) December 1, 2021
That’s the reason Liddell returned to school. He needed to show NBA scouts more of his versatility, and this game film will be some of his best this coming draft season.
As for Banchero, he’s still a top-3 pick in this draft, but this was an insane story from the game:
Projected No. 1 pick Paolo Banchero loses about 7 pounds per game by sweating 😳
— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) December 1, 2021
He loses 7 pounds of sweat per game? That explains the cramping issues. But, at that point, it becomes more about preparation. Get the right nutrients in your body before the game and during the game when you don’t feel thirsty. Seems like the Duke training staff should have this down by now.
Finally, perhaps we should have seen this upset coming. After all, Ohio State has an absolutely ridiculous record against No. 1 overall teams:
Ohio State has won 8 of its last 11 games against AP No. 1 teams, and improves to 2-0 against Duke as the AP No. 1 team (won in Dec. 1978). pic.twitter.com/bnmS31QnPI
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 1, 2021
Lesson learned. Don’t play Ohio State when you’re ranked No. 1 in the polls (looking at you now, Purdue).
2. SEC notes
OK, Georgia, I see you. The Bulldogs were ranked No. 14 (dead last) in my SEC power rankings this week, and I had some rather mean things to say about them. So, what did they do?
Naturally, even without one of their best players in guard Aaron Cook, the Bulldogs took down No. 18 Memphis 82-79 in Athens.
This was a breakout game for Kario Oquendo, who led all scorers with 24 points. He was a menace to the Tigers on both ends of the floor:
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) December 2, 2021
Memphis’s offense was disjointed all night long, often settling for less-than-ideal 3-pointers even when cutters were open in the lane:
Penny: "Just do what you did in AAU."
E Money: "Say no more." pic.twitter.com/SLQ0dYIOTB
— JAF (@JonFendler) December 2, 2021
After the game, coach Penny Hardaway was looking for answers, saying his Tigers looked like an AAU team:
Penny: "I'm really gutted from looking at this… we look like an AAU team. It looks really bad and I don't really understand what these guys are thinking."
— S. Johnson (@StevenMJohnson_) December 2, 2021
OK, Penny, but that’s your job. Your job is to coach them out of their bad AAU habits and to understand what they’re thinking. Memphis’s recruiting has been good under Hardaway, but the on-court product hasn’t lived up to expectations. Should Penny’s seat be getting warmer?
- Porter Moser put on an absolute clinic against Florida and Mike White on Wednesday night. I’ve been reluctantly buying the hype on this Gator team after they avoided a number of potential letdown games. Then, just when I finally bump them up to No. 1 in my weekly SEC power rankings, the bottom falls out. I’ve been praising big man Colin Castleton’s passing. What did Moser do? Confuse him with late double-teams:
Oklahoma post defense concept—delayed double team that only comes if the player goes baseline. Ensures the double team comes from the post player’s blind side. pic.twitter.com/NImbpgJwHE
— Eric Fawcett (@Efawcett7) December 2, 2021
- How did the Sooners get easy buckets in the 74-67 win in Norman? They found a way to use a defense Florida has used all year against it:
Oklahoma picking apart Florida’s flat hedge ball screen defense. Used designs slips, rejections, and pick and pops to attack the weaknesses of that scheme. Sooners thrived on the screen defender getting up to the level of the ball. pic.twitter.com/GSmurKmW5z
— Eric Fawcett (@Efawcett7) December 2, 2021
- Simply put, that’s Mike White getting out-coached in a huge way. (Maybe Eric Fawcett should be on the staff there?) Combine that with Tanner Groves going for 20 points and 8 rebounds, and Florida shooting 4-for-24 from 3-point range (some to do with Oklahoma’s defense, some just being the Gators struggling), and you have the makings of an upset. I still like this Florida team, but White is susceptible to being out-coached, and that’s a big problem.
- Welcome back, Justin Powell! The former Auburn guard got off to a hot start last year, but then concussion issues kept him sidelined the rest of the year. This offseason, he transferred to Tennessee and this week, he finally got back on the court. What a debut it was:
Justin Powell continua me ganhando.
Agora são 55% de aproveitamento em 4.0 arremessos de 3 tentados por jogo, apenas 20 minutos de média por jogo.
Usa sua gravidade como shooter para atacar closeouts e com sua boa visão de quadra, achar companheiros livres. pic.twitter.com/HeHRmLAdoZ
— BPA – Brasil Prospects Analyst 🏀 (@_BrasilDraft) December 2, 2021
- He tied for the team high with 15 points, coming on a 5-for-5 night from 3-point range. He’s perhaps the best sharpshooter in the SEC and he’s going to be a major weapon for the Vols moving forward.
Speaking of 3-pointers, how about this one from Auburn’s Wendell Green Jr.:
Wendell Green Range pic.twitter.com/n9JAUca4kK
— Drew (@orangeanddrew) December 2, 2021
- That angle doesn’t do the shot justice, so let’s let Green weigh in on the shot himself:
Woah 😂I didn’t know it was that far. https://t.co/vInxwPy7UX
— WENDELL GREEN JR ✞💜 (@icyywen) December 2, 2021
- That’s a casual pull-up 3 from just beyond half-court. That’s Damian Lillard/Steph Curry type stuff. Then, Green can also do this:
Wendell Green Jr leaves ‘em standing in concrete with the skirrr skirrr pic.twitter.com/nu1zTn8A5T
— Power of Dixieland (@PwrofDixieland) December 2, 2021
- He’s really thriving under Bruce Pearl. Why? Pearl lets his guys play. He gives them the confidence to go out and shoot the ball without worrying about getting benched after a couple of misses. Green has been a big surprise this year so far, and he’s only going to get better the more Pearl trusts him.
- And, finally, let’s leave you with an emphatic windmill dunk, courtesy of Ole Miss’s Jarkel Joiner:
Still not over this windmill 😨 @matt_murre11
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) December 1, 2021
- Yes sir! Gotta love a player who puts on a show for the fans.
Now, let’s take a look at some B1G storylines.
3. B1G notes
We recapped the first 2 games of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Tuesday in this column. Iowa beat Virginia and Illinois took down Notre Dame. Those turned out to be the deciding games, as the B1G earned an 8-6 victory in the annual inter-conference challenge.
So, what was the B1G’s most-convincing victory? Look no further than those pesky Purdue Boilermakers, who I’ve already said should be the No. 1 team in the country come Monday. Honestly, I thought they should have been the No. 1 team this week (and said as much in Tuesday’s column). (Gosh, I’m patting myself on the back for Tuesday’s column, quite a bit, aren’t I?)
Anyway, Purdue played at home against Florida State and earned a big-time 93-65 victory. This is almost certainly going to be a Seminoles team that makes the NCAA Tournament field come March, making the win for Matt Painter and company even more impressive.
I’ve discussed how much I love Jaden Ivey multiple times this week (although, ironically, not in Tuesday’s column), and he showed out again against the Seminoles. He scored a team-high 18 points, adding 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks and 1 steal. He should have had 3 assists:
This pass by Jaden Ivey is ABSURD.
Shot didn’t go in, but what a beautiful pass.
— Barstool Bench Mob (@stoolbenchmob) December 1, 2021
When your point guard gets the ball to you in that dramatic of a fashion, you absolutely cannot airmail a 3-pointer like that!
Ivey made 4 3-pointers on the night, including this one from the mid-court logo:
Jaden Ivey with the catch and shoot three from the logo! pic.twitter.com/uYBix3mxfM
— Global Scouting (@GlobalScouting_) December 1, 2021
He’s the best player on the soon-to-be No. 1 team in the country. Enjoy him while he’s around. He’s a top-10 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.
- Three of the 14 games of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge went into overtime — Wake Forest-Northwestern, Indiana-Syracuse and Nebraska-NC State. The ACC won all 3 of those games. Let’s start by discussing the Hoosiers against the Orange, though. Yes, the Orange won, so you might expect this to be discussed in the ACC section. But, I want to talk about how impressed I am with Mike Woodson’s squad for fighting back. Indiana trailed 49-33 at halftime. Previous Hoosier squads would have shut it down after that. Not this year. Woodson’s squad erased that 16-point deficit and tied the score at 88-88 at the end of regulation. By the time 2 overtime periods had been completed, though, Syracuse held on for a 112-110 victory. I want to highlight Trayce Jackson-Davis specifically. He finished with 31 points, 16 rebounds and 3 blocks for the Hoosiers. He threw down this insane dunk:
— Barstool Bench Mob (@stoolbenchmob) December 1, 2021
- And also forced overtime in a desperation situation for his team, with 2 of his 31 points and 1 of his rebounds:
TRAYCE JACKSON DAVIS FORCES OT FOR INDIANA (-2.5)
— Bet The Hoops (@betthehoops) December 1, 2021
- Simply put, Jackson-Davis is a baller. He’s taken a big step forward this year. I think the Hoosiers can do some real damage in B1G play.
Now, let’s take a look at the ACC.
4. ACC notes/random tidbits
Perhaps the most-convincing win on the ACC side was North Carolina’s 72-51 thumping of No. 24 Michigan in Chapel Hill. Woof, the Wolverines are struggling this year after being ranked in the top 10 prior to the season.
Caleb Love will get all of the … well, love … for his 22-point effort against the Wolverines. And, it’s deserved, as he did hit shots like this:
CALEB LOVE IS LIKE THAT! pic.twitter.com/YndTnyYWN4
— Just Lobs (@justlobs) December 2, 2021
But, the real star of the game was North Carolina big man Armando Bacot. He held Michigan star Hunter Dickinson to only 4 points and 5 rebounds. Meanwhile, Bacot scored 11 points and snagged 14 boards.
He did it at both ends of the floor, taking it to Dickinson offensively:
North Carolina goes right to Armando Bacot to start the second half. Michigan had to double the post all night. Bacot reads the help perfectly and shoots the jump hook over his left shoulder going away from the second defender coming from the top side. @HeelIllustrated pic.twitter.com/ERT97fmeKl
— David Sisk (@CoachDavidSisk) December 3, 2021
And also playing some great defense. This was 1 of his 2 blocks:
Armando Bacot with some post defense pic.twitter.com/wftJoKxa8v
— Trevor William Marks (@twmarks_) December 2, 2021
Bacot looks like he could challenge Paolo Banchero for ACC Player of the Year. He stepped up and helped the Tar Heels pick up their best win of the year thus far.
- Four overtimes. That’s how much extra basketball it took to decide a winner in the Nebraska at NC State game on Wednesday night. An extra 20 minutes, the equivalent of another full half of basketball. At the end, the Wolfpack won 104-100. But, it wasn’t without controversy. TV Teddy Valentine was on the officiating crew, so of course multiple players got ejected and a blatant foul was missed down the stretch:
Last play of regulation.
Looks 100% clean.
Except for the part where Alonzo Verge had his arm hacked. pic.twitter.com/bjTpWfLVu3
— Matt Schick (@ESPN_Schick) December 2, 2021
- But, the Huskers had no answer for Dereon Seabron, who finished with an incredible 39 points and 18 rebounds. He also played a whopping 57 minutes. He definitely earned a day off after that! These 2 points in the fourth overtime were the most important for the Wolfpack, though:
Dereon Seabron is now up to 37 points tonight as he gives NC State a 5 point lead with this strong finish! pic.twitter.com/nKhVk4venJ
— Aram Cannuscio (@AC__Hoops) December 2, 2021
- What an incredible individual effort when his team needed him most.
Now, let’s take a look at the best games of the weekend around college basketball.
5. Outlet pass
Conference play starts in the Big Ten this weekend, and that means there will be a couple of intriguing matchups in that league. Elsewhere, there are some high-profile nonconference bouts and the Big 12/Big East Challenge. Here are the 5 games I can’t wait to watch between now and Monday:
- No. 16 Alabama vs. No. 3 Gonzaga (Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2) — This game is technically a “neutral-site” game, but it takes place in Seattle, so it’s a de facto Gonzaga home game. Both of these squads have lost recently, so this figures to be an intense matchup. Can the Tide make enough 3s to hang tough with the Bulldogs? We’ll find out on Saturday night!
- Iowa at No. 2 Purdue (Friday at 9 p.m. ET on BTN) — Iowa is undefeated, but the Hawkeyes’ best win thus far is against a Virginia squad that is already having an awful year. Meanwhile, if Purdue wins this game, it’ll likely be the No. 1 team in the country next week. There’s a lot to play for if you’re the Boilermakers.
- Illinois at Iowa (Monday at 7 p.m. ET on FS1) — As mentioned above, Iowa is undefeated. Illinois has a couple losses on its resume already, but the Illini are still a very dangerous team. Look for Illinois big man Kofi Cockburn to be a big factor in this contest now that the Hawkeyes don’t have Luka Garza to go toe-to-toe with him.
- No. 19 Iowa State at Creighton (Saturday at 9 p.m. ET on FS1) — Iowa State is one of the feel-good stories of the young season so far. The Cyclones are a perfect 7-0 under first-year head coach T.J. Otzelberger. But this trip to Omaha as part of the Big 12/Big East Challenge won’t be easy.
- No. 13 Tennessee at Colorado (Saturday at 2 p.m. ET on FS1) — This is a tough trip for the Vols, having to go play at altitude in Colorado. The Buffaloes are also a talented squad, but this is still a game Tennessee should win. If the Vols want to put their consistency issues of last year behind them, this would be a good start.
It’s crazy that certain conferences have league play starting this week, but that’s the reality in today’s college basketball. All I know? It makes for some intriguing matchups this weekend, and I can’t wait to watch them all!
Enjoy the Starting 5? Have a question? Want to yell at me about something? Follow me on Twitter @AdamSpencer4 or email me at ASpencer@SaturdayDownSouth.com.