So far this season, all we have is Coaches vs Cancer. A lot of matchups between elite teams and bad teams, or so we thought. A couple of these games have been a bit closer than expected:
#3 Memphis 80, Richmond 63
I'm not the only one who thinks that the Richmond logo is hideous, am I? If I was a recruit, I would seriously view that spider logo as a reason to choose another school if it was close in other respects. It's the same reason I wouldn't want to compete for NYU and be called a Violet. Oh, yeah, and a game was played. The story of the day was freshman Derrick Rose. 21 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field. 2.6 points per shot? John Hollinger must be drooling. In all seriousness, Memphis won this game the same way they win most games - superior athletes. John Calipari always recruits guys who can run faster and jump higher than almost anybody that they play. All he has to do is throw them on the court and tell them to play ball, and wins like this are easy. It should be interesting if this team gets far enough to play Kentucky or UConn in the finals of this tournament, to see how they do against high-level talent.
UConn 69, Morgan State 65
The final score is not deceptive, this game really was close. UConn was never really in danger of losing, but they simply could not pull away. The score vacillated between about 4 and 12 points throughout most of the second half. I'd like to say it was because Morgan State played real well and pushed UConn, but they really didn't. Their shooting, specifically, was awful. Meanwhile, UConn fans have to be distraught after seeing what must have felt like a mirror image of last season. A lot of raw talent, no senior leadership, no go-to guy - I feel like I've seen this movie before. If this team gets their act together and plays to their potential, it's going to be because Hasheem Thabeet plays to his potential. You can see why the NBA scouts are so high on him. He's like a more-athletic Roy Hibbert. But he still looks awkward on the floor, and he can't stay out of foul trouble. Tonight he lasted two minutes in the first half before picking up his second foul and having to sit out the rest of the half. If Morgan State can do that to him, don't you think the Big East powers will be able to neutralize him? Of course, anyone can have a bad day, especially on opening day. Let's give UConn a few games to play before we conclude that this is 2006-07 all over again.
Gardner Webb 44, Kentucky 31, about 17 minutes remaining
As opposed to the UConn/Morgan State matchup, this game actually has two teams playing well. Gardner Webb came out absolutely firing on all cylinders, and you have to wonder if they'll wear out. I like how Billy Gillespie made his guy play it out a little bit without bailing them out with a lot of timeouts. These early games are a growing experience, and we'll see soon whether Kentucky can come back and avoid a bad upset to start the Gillespie era.