College basketball top 25 scores, overreactions: Kentucky has steep climb ahead, Gonzaga exceeding the hype


We’re officially one week into the college basketball season, with a small-enough sample to draw some takeaways but far too small to make any sweeping judgements. To make any conclusive statements about the season, a team, a player or a coach would be premature and, flatly, irresponsible. 

But what fun would that be?

We’ve seen most teams play two, three, maybe four games in the early going. So based on those games, let’s make some sweeping overreactions from the first week of the college hoops season.

Kentucky has a long way to go

The Wildcats fell 65-62 to Kansas on Tuesday and dropped to 1-2 on the season, marking their first official losing streak since last December, when they lost close contests to Utah and Ohio State. This feels a bit different, though. This feels like Kentucky, for all its talent and all its length, has massive problems on the offensive end of the court.

“I’m trying to figure out how we get a good shot,” John Calipari said Tuesday to the Courier-Journal after falling to KU. “I haven’t figured it out for the kids yet, but I will. I will. It will take time, but we’ll figure it out.”

There is hope yet. Isaiah Jackson looks like the second coming of Nerlens Noel. BJ Boston has the shotmaking skills to course-correct into this team’s No. 1. But six players averaging 15 minutes or more per night have a negative assist/turnover ratio thus far this season. There’s not only a lack of offensive creators, but decision-making for the guards has been a huge problem as well. The season — and the team — is still young yet, but the climb UK has to make looks steeper now than it did before the season started a week ago.

Izzo still has a title contender despite lost stars

It’s hard to imagine a team getting better after losing talents like Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case with No. 8 Michigan State, but it’s entirely possible that Spartans coach Tom Izzo has a reloaded squad that could be as successful. The Spartans are 3-0 highlighted by a huge win Tuesday over a No. 6 Duke team that took place inside Cameron Indoor. They appear to have a killer 1-2 combo between Rocket Watts and Aaron Henry, and a surprising amount of depth to boot. Even without its top two stars, Sparty might still be Final Four good.

Gonzaga even better than expected

No. 1 Gonzaga was the preseason team in the top spot of the AP Top 25 rankings, and yet … we might’ve underestimated just how lethal this squad really is. Through two games the Zags have easily handled No. 7 Kansas (which just beat No. 20 Kentucky) and demolished Auburn on a neutral court, all behind an offense that is on a stunningly efficient pace. And look, I get it — the sample is small. But the Bulldogs have boasted the No. 1-rated offense in adjusted efficiency each of the last two seasons, and this one might be even better. Between freshman star Jalen Suggs and veterans Drew Timme, Corey Kispert and Joel Ayayi, there are productive talents littered across this roster. It’s borderline hilarious how loaded this team is. 

Texas is *actually* back

All it took was a global pandemic — and Shaka Smart growing out his hair — but the No. 17 Longhorns seem to have captured a little lightning in a bottle. They are 3-0 on the season and coming off a dominant win over Indiana, setting up a top-20 showdown Wednesday against No. 14 North Carolina. We’ll see how that goes, but Texas’ trio of guards — Courtney Ramey, Andrew Jones and Matt Coleman — looks like the best backcourt Smart has hosted since he took over the program in Austin. With five-star freshman Greg Brown and the combination of Kai Jones and Jericho Sims in the mix down low, this team has very few flaws. The talent, length and strength should power UT to become one of the most disruptive defenses in program history. 

Cade Cunningham is as good as advertised

Expectations were already plenty high for Cade Cunningham, the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2020 class, and he’s already proving that perhaps they weren’t high enough. According to ESPN Stats and Information, he became just the fifth top-two national recruit in the last decade to score at least 20 points and grab 10 boards in his debut. He joins the likes of James Wiseman, Cole Anthony Marvin Bagley III and Anthony Davis — all first-round picks. 

More than that, though, Oklahoma State is 3-0 after claiming a huge road win over Marquette in which Cunningham had 15 points, six rebounds and a pair of assists. The sky is the limit for this Cowboys team with Cunningham running the show. 

Luka Garza is on the fast track to POTY honors

How’s this for a small-sample stunner: Luka Garza through two games this season is averaging 33.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per game on 86.2% (!) shooting. 86.2%! He hung 41 on Southern last Friday after putting up 36 points … at half. (Translated: if it hadn’t been a blowout, he could’ve easily toppled a 50-burger.)

Ayo Dosunmu, Cunningham, Jared Butler and some other stars will warrant POY consideration, of course, and it’s far too early to crown a champ. But Garza was our preseason pick to win the award, and putting up numbers anywhere close to what he’s doing now should mean a season-long coronation for the Iowa star.

Dosunmu-Cockburn is the best 1-2 duo

This isn’t quite a Kobe-Shaq level pairing — though Bill Walton would disagree with that — but the No. 5 Illini’s inside-out dynamic between Ayo Dosunmu and Kofo Cockburn is something special. They’re averaging a combined 40.7 points and 19.4 boards per game through three games, and both came up big in a tighter-than-expected battle against Ohio last week. If you can find me a more dynamic and complementary duo in the game right now … heck, who am I kidding? You can’t. It’s why the Illini should be considered a title contender and in the top tier of the Big Ten’s best alongside No. 3 Iowa, Michigan State and Wisconsin


Show More

Related Articles

Back to top button