College Basketball in Full Swing

Staff Writer: Alex Kelly

On November 6, the 2018-19 season of college basketball officially began, and so far, it hasn’t disappointed. There have been upsets, blowouts and nail-biters when its only six games into the season.  

When asked about how he’s felt about the season so far, Will Callahan, senior at Woodstock High School, said, “As of right now, college hoops might be my favorite sport to watch. You never know what’ll happen and this season has a lot to look forward to.” 

On opening night, there were a handful of big games to watch. Kansas vs. Michigan State in the NIT Season Tip-Off, North Carolina vs. Wofford, as well as the biggest game of the night, Duke vs. Kentucky. All the games on opening night went as expected, with the higher seeded team winning every match-up.  

However, one game shocked people. That would be the Duke vs. Kentucky game. Going into this match-up, Duke was the clear favorite due to their incredible recruiting class. They were able to grab the top three prospects in the country (RJ Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cam Reddish). Although Duke might’ve been the favorite, the manner in which they won was something nobody expected to see. Duke was only a 1.5-point favorite coming into this, but they ended up routing Kentucky by a final score of 118-84, handing John Calipari, Kentucky’s head coach, the largest loss of his career.  

Duke

Duke’s four new freshmen from left to right: Tre Jones, RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, Zion Williamson.
Photo Credit: dukereport.com

“Duke isn’t fair. The top three prospects as well as Tre Jones ranked at 17. I don’t think they’ll go undefeated no, but boy are they a deep team,” Brenden Foo, a senior at Woodstock. 

However, Duke has already suffered its first loss to the Gonzaga Bulldogs, in a No. 1 vs No. 3 matchup. Duke and Gonzaga met up in the championship game of the Maui Invitational tournament, and this game didn’t disappoint. Although two of Duke’s biggest stars, RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson, combined for 45 points, they were both unable to score in the final minute of play, leading to Gonzaga edging them by a score of 89-87. Gonzaga, however, isn’t the only other team who should be feared.  

Gonzaga

Gonzaga’s junior star Rui Hachimura concentrating on sinking his free throw.
Photo Credit: sportingnews.com

Another powerhouse team, the Kansas Jayhawks, have also come out to an undefeated start. With topping Michigan State 92-87 in the season opener and escaping Tennessee 87-81 in a tough overtime win, Kansas looks to be one of the top contenders for a national title this year. Star freshman forward Dedric Lawson is a pivotal piece in Kansas’ recent success. Averaging 17.8 points per game and leading the team in rebound and assists with 10.4 and 3.8 per game respectively, Lawson has given Kansas the boost of confidence and morale that they desperately need to succeed.  

Kansas

Kansas’ Dedric Lawson running drills in practice.
Photo Credit: 247sports.com

Along with these top three teams, there are other schools who pose a threat such as Nevada, Virginia and Ohio State, who all remain undefeated, as well as Michigan, who has held every team they’ve played to 61 points or less, including a rout of the defending champions, Villanova, 73-46. 

Michigan.png

Michigan’s star defensive presence, Jon Teske, who leads the team in steals and blocks.
Photo Credit: 247sports.com

“You know, it’s hard to pick who my champion is this year, especially this early. So many teams are looking good, others having slow starts. Its unpredictable,” stated Jeff Ferrari, a student at Creekview High School.  

However, with the shine of some teams comes the struggling teams in their shadow. The most surprising struggle right now is Villanova. After winning the championship, they lost the roles of some key players such as Donte DiVincenzo, Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges. With these losses, we didn’t expect to see a repeat from Villanova, however with a 5-2 record, they’re having trouble staying ranked. After getting trampled by Michigan, they went on to their next game against Furman, who ended up upsetting them in an overtime thriller. Along with the return of senior Eric Paschall and sophomore Collin Gillespie, they added five-star recruit Jahvon Quinerly and four-star recruit Cole Swider, so seeing Villanova play how they are is quite the surprise. 

Villanova.png

Pictured above is Villanova stars Eric Paschall (left) and Collin Gillespie (right) as well as former Villanova star Donte DiVincenzo (middle). 
Photo Credit: zimbio.com 

“Growing up with my dad being a huge Villanova fan, I learned to like them when I was pretty young. So, seeing them play worse than expected isn’t fun to watch. I hope they can get everything together and compete for a title again,” said Wyatt Graham, junior at Woodstock. 

Along with Villanova, another surprising struggle is Syracuse. Syracuse, who is usually ranked by the end of the season, as well as having some Cinderella stories in March Madness, is now 3-2 on the season, dropping them from the ranks. Although one loss came from the 18thranked Oregon team, ranked 13 at the time of the game, they lost by 15, and suffered another bad loss to UCONN, who won 83-76. It is only five to six games into the season however, so we could see a turnaround from both of these teams who hope to find their game come tournament time.  

College basketball has always been a sport of surprises, and it has delivered quite a few of them so far this year. Although it’s too early in the season to determine who will end where, eyes should be kept on Duke, Kansas and Gonzaga to watch their influx of talent compete for a one seed come tournament time. However, you can never be too sure about your team’s chances of survival in the tournament. Last year gave us the very first upset of a one-seed losing to a 16-seed when UMBC routed the then 28-2 Virginia Cavaliers, 74-54. Along with big upsets by Buffalo over Arizona, Marshall over Wichita State, as well as Loyola’s (IL) incredible Cinderella run to the Final Four. In the end, college basketball is always exciting to watch, but this year should bring new headlines that you don’t want to miss.  

 

 

 

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