College basketball games are back, and I could not be more excited. I spent the entire weekend binge-watching games on multiple screens and still could not get enough. While there weren’t that many “big-time” matchups on opening weekend, there was always plenty of quality basketball.
Here are some thoughts from the start of the college basketball season:
Rule Changes to the 2017-18 Season:
No significant rule changes this year. You can check them out here:
I think the coaching box change was a small, but significant adjustment by the rules committee.
Best Game I Watched:
Rhode Island-81 @ Nevada-88…Two, well-coached, tough, NCAA Tournament level basketball teams are going at it. Both teams could do some damage in March. Props to Rhode Island traveling across the country to play an on-campus game…we could use so much more of this- two quality, tournament level teams playing each other in on-campus gyms.
Most Impressive Wins from this Opening Weekend of College Basketball Games:
Texas A&M-88 vs. West Virginia-65
Minnesota-86 @ Providence-74
Most interesting thing I saw:
The new look New Mexico Lobos. There wasn’t much to get excited about when you see New Mexico vs. Northern New Mexico. It was just another D1 vs. NAIA game on an opening weekend where one team is looking for an easy victory to ease into their season, and another is there to take a beating and collect a check. What caught my eye from this game was the final score: 147-76. That’s a lot of points. My curiosity immediately led me to ask the question: how did they score so many damn points? What I found was a new, exciting style of play directed by new coach Paul Weir. New Mexico pressured the ball all over the floor…and not just on made baskets, on misses as well. Once the possession of the ball changed, make or miss, the Lobos organized into a 1-2-2 (or 1-2-1-1) formation and put extreme pressure on the ball. It was like watching “Press Virginia,” but on steroids. The pressure forced Northern New Mexico into 33 turnovers and many, many quick shots.
That’s not the only thing. As fast as they played on defense, that’s how fast they tried to play on offense. They pushed the ball hard looking for early shot attempts, rarely grinding deep into the clock (they averaged ~12 seconds a possession for the game).
I am curious to see more. It is one thing to play this style against an out-matched NAIA school, but will it be effective against other D1 schools? Will it work in the Mountain West? Are they conditioned enough or have enough depth so that it is sustainable enough to play 40 minutes every time out- sometimes with only a day in between games?
It is certainly a style that will impact the teams they play and will bring excitement and some buzz to the Lobo program. I can’t wait to see some more. Their next game is Tuesday vs. Nebraska-Omaha.
College Basketball games and Teams that got me excited (and I want to see more of):
Wichita State Shockers…they’re fighters and not afraid of anyone. The opened the season with two “woodshed ass-kicking’s,” including an 81-63 win over CAA favorite College of Charleston. This year, they will not be flying under the radar into March, but also don’t receive the respect they deserve.
Florida Gators…Mike White has got it going down in Gainesville. A year ago, they were a defensive minded team that used their length, athleticism, and toughness to get within a couple of possessions of the Final Four. This year, they are more offensively explosive led by two fabulous guards in KeVaughn Allen and Chris Chiozza. But the surprise though one game is Rice transfer, Egor Koulechov, who opened his Gator career with a 34-point (6-9 from 3) performance vs. Gardner-Webb.
Seton Hall Pirates…to me, they are the definition of “junkyard dogs.” They are a physical, tough, blue-collared basketball team filled with underrated talent led by veteran seniors Khadeen Carrington, Angel Delgado, and Desi Rodriguez.
College Basketball Games that I am most looking forward to watching this week:
11/14/17 Duke vs. Michigan State
Kansas vs. Kentucky
Purdue @ Marquette
UNC Wilmington @ Davidson
11/15/17 Butler @ Maryland
Creighton @ Northwestern
11/17/17 Virginia @ VCU
New Mexico @ New Mexico State
11/18/17 UT Arlington @ BYU