By Steve Silverman
It usually doesn’t work like this in the first week of the season.
The top-ranked team in the nation, Duke, meets the second-ranked team, Michigan State. Such an epic confrontation may happen in midseason or during a holiday tournament, but it was a shocker to see those two teams at the top of the AP poll go at it so early in the year.
The two teams met at the United Center Tuesday night as part of the Champions Classic, and put on a heck of a show for an early-season basketball games. The results were eminently predictable as Duke finished the game on a solid run and came away with an 88-81 victory.
Tom Izzo is now 1-11 all-time in his confrontations with Mike Krzyzewski, and it has worn on him quite a bit.
Izzo and the Spartans battled Duke on even terms as the two teams shared the lead throughout before Duke finished the game on a 16-6 run. Izzo drew no comfort from staying close to his ACC tormentor.
“I’m sick of holding my own. OK? I ain’t into holding my own. I give them a lot of credit, they got a good team. But this ain’t about holding my own,” Izzo said Tuesday night. “My team played OK. If there’s a positive — I don’t know what Mike thought of his team — I didn’t think my team played great. And yet, we were right in the game. But we should be. We got a good team.
“We got a little tired, and again, substituting was not good. But I don’t feel good about, oh, it was a tie game with four minutes, three minutes left or something. I’m so far beyond it. And to be honest with you, I’m sick of it.”
If the game was a confrontation of both team’s stars, give the edge to Duke’s Grayson Allen over the Spartans’ Miles Bridges. Allen scored 37 points on 11-of-20 shooting, including 7-of-11 from beyond the arc. Bridges started slowly but finished with 19 points, five rebounds, four assists and four blocked shots. He made 7-of-15 shots, including 5-of-10 three pointers.
These two will be in the conversation for player of the year, and Allen has landed a strong shot in the early going.
Seton Hall may have right formula
When the talk is about the top names in college basketball, the Seton Hall Pirates are not usually at the top of the discussion.
That could change this year as the Pirates have started the season with a 3-0 mark and they have three strong players in Angel Delgado, Desi Rodriguez and Khadeen Carrington who understand the nuances of how to play the game and can also get physical at the most important moments.
Delgado leads the way in the latter department, and he played a key role in the Pirates’ 84-68 victory over an Indiana team that is likely to struggle this year in the Big Ten. Seton Hall had a one-point lead at halftime before stretching it out in the second half.
Delgado had 19 points and 11 boards, while Rodriguez had 23 points and Carrington chipped in with 17 points. The trio combined to make 19 of 28 shots, and if they can keep up anything close to that kind of accuracy, the 22nd-ranked team in the nation will be tough to slow down.
Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard wants to make sure the 6-10, 245-pound Delgado gets his touches in every game.
“(Coach) screamed at me, he said, ‘get him the ball,'” so I said I would get him it,” Rodriguez said. “Every play I throw it into him, because I know nine out of 10 times it’s going to be a good play. I just throw it in there, if you throw it in there you’re not going to make a mistake.”
UCLA on the right track with suspensions
When three of your players cause an international incident because they are caught on videotape shoplifting in China, a basketball program cannot take this kind of behavior lightly.
So far, UCLA appears to be on the right track in its decision to suspend LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley indefinitely from their program.
The trio will not travel to road games and won’t be allowed to suit up for home games either.
However, the “indefinite” suspension may turn out to be a slap on the wrist if the players are forced to sit out something like three games.
A substantial suspension – at least half the season – is required. Ball, Hill and Riley have embarrassed UCLA and have also stained the country. To some in China, Americans want to come over to their country and steal their goods and services. The example for this is the UCLA Three.
Donald Trump had to get involved to get them out of the country. All three thanked the president, and whether you like his politics or not, he has helped those three young men.
Now it’s up to head coach Steve Alford and the UCLA administration to make sure the punishment is substantial. An indefinite suspension is a nice start, but it must be substantial.
Those players know how lucky they are, and now they must pay a substantial price to make the lesson stick.
Missouri on the upswing
Don’t overlook the Missouri Tigers his year.
They have a couple of studs in Kassius Robertson and Kevin Puryear, and they have gotten off to a 2-0 start even though star player Michael Porter Jr. has been out of action with a hip injury.
The Tigers have plenty of size and strength to go along with their athleticism, and this team could be a force in the SEC if Porter gets healthy and starts to play the way he can.
Robertson is averaging 17.0 points in the Tigers’ first two games, while Puryear is averaging 14.5 point and 6.5 rebounds per game. Porter could approach 20 points a game when he gets healthy.