It was that time of year again – time for our annual Christmas party at our home! For the past several years, my wife and I have opened our home to a handful of youngsters from the Sarasota Boys and Girls Club. They come for an afternoon of food, fun and presents! This year we had a surprise visit from Santa at the house. The kids had a blast ripping open their gifts and enjoying time with Santa. There is nothing better than being able to bring a smile to youngsters during the holiday. I have been so blessed in my life and I feel fortunate to be able to give a little something back.
Two traditional powers hooked up on Saturday in Chapel Hill. I had a great time calling the Kentucky-North Carolina game with Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas and Jennine Edwards. The Tar Heels showed once again that they are capable of big things. Roy Williams’ squad now has wins over Kentucky, Louisville and Michigan State. On the flip side, there were losses to Belmont and UAB. UNC has been without veterans P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald due to eligibility issues. The NCAA has taken a long time to make a decision on their eligibility. I believe the NCAA will come out with a ruling in the near future. With those two, Roy Williams has a team capable of beating anybody. Kentucky has passionate fans, but they have to be patient. There were some talking 40-0 before the season, but that was unrealistic. The Wildcats have a lot of young talent and it will take time for the squad to play as a cohesive unit. There are so many players that won championships and were stars in high school. They have to adjust to losing a few games. You will see the real Kentucky team later in the season with more experience.
There was a great environment at the O-Dome as I called the Kansas-Florida game Tuesday night. The Rowdy Reptiles were pumped up as the Gators extended their home win streak to 21 games.
It was a good win for Billy Donovan’s team and the zone defense really bothered the Jayhawks. Turnovers were a major story in the game as Kansas had 24 in the loss.
Wiggins showed why he is a big-time player with 26 points and 11 rebounds. He is surrounded by a number of experienced players, and that is a factor.
Bill Self could not be happy with a 21-0 Gator run in the first half to break the game open. Self also looked unhappy over the Jayhawk rebounding effort in the first half.
Kansas has three losses this season; the last time it lost three games this early was back in 2006. Self will get his youngsters to right the ship. Florida showed up with more healthy bodies as Scottie Wilbekin and Kasey Hill played, with Wilbekin making a number of key shots.
Duke came into Tuesday night with a couple of incredible streaks on the line. The Blue Devils had won 106 straight non-conference home games, dating back to 2000. Duke had not lost back-to-back non-league games since 1999. Both streaks remained safe thanks to a great defensive effort against Michigan. They held Nik Stauskas, who was averaging over 20 ppg, without a field goal. It was a total team effort at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Matt Jones did a good job in the first half against Stauskas when given the opportunity. Andre Dawkins came off the bench and provided a big time boost with a couple of key three pointers. Quinn Cook was brilliant distributing the rock. Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker led the way in the first half. Michigan has to go inside to Mitch McGary more, plus Glenn Robinson III has to be more productive. Both teams will have very good seasons, though Duke got to the winnner’s circle on Tuesday night.
I love when teams don’t have cupcake city during the pre-conference schedule. Matchups like the ACC-Big Ten Challenge guarantee some great games.
I am excited to be calling the Michigan-Duke game on Tuesday. There should be excitement galore as the Blue Devils try to bounce back from a loss to Arizona.
This season, the ACC and the Big Ten are clearly the best two conferences in America, so there is pride at stake with this series. There should be great competition and I am looking forward to seeing which league comes out on top.
I did not expect North Carolina would score an impressive win over Louisville Sunday. The Tar Heels struggled for much of their win against Richmond. North Carolina lost to Belmont. The Cardinals came in 5-0 and winning by almost 30 points per game. Roy Williams got to the winner’s circle against Rick Pitino’s squad. Marcus Paige was the star of stars for the Tar Heels, posting career highs in back to back games at the Hall of Fame Tip-Off event. He had 32 points against Louisville and remained the key outside shooting threat for the Tar Heels. He hit three of five trifectas on Sunday and has made all but two of North Carolina’s three pointers this season (17 of the team’s 19). Louisville’s backcourt was outstanding, but it was not enough. Russ Smith loves to perform on the big stage and he plays for the moment. He had a career high 36 points while backcourt mate Chris Jones added 20. This will serve as a wake up call for the Cardinals. You know Pitino will have his team prepared for an upcoming stretch of home games. North Carolina will gain a lot of confidence from this victory. The Tar Heels will be a very good team when PJ Hairston and Leslie McDonald come back. The question is, how long will they have to wait as the NCAA continues its investigation into eligibility issues.
I had a blast in my first trip to Ames, Iowa. Hilton Coliseum was a special place for me as it was everything that it was made out to be. The Iowa State fans were incredible and I loved the hospitality and the environment. Fred Hoiberg’s team got a great victory over a top 10 Michigan squad. It was a very well played game with few fouls in the first half, and a great flow to the contest. Melvin Ejim, back from a knee injury, scored 22 points and pulled down nine rebounds. Iowa State has made the NCAA tournament two straight seasons and they should make it three. Michigan got Mitch McGary back in the lineup and it will take a little time for him to get into shape and more minutes. John Beilein has a lot of talent and the Wolverines will be heard from in the Big Ten.
I am so excited as I am heading to Ames, Iowa this weekend. That’s right, time to experience some Hilton Magic, baby! Michigan is visiting Iowa State on Sunday and I am thrilled to be calling the game with Dave O’Brien. The Wolverines are a bit different from last year’s squad, which fell just short of the national title. Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. are in the NBA now (though Burke is hurt). John Beilein has a nice club, including Glenn Robinson III, Nik Stauskas and company. Right now, he has to be concerned about Mitch McGary’s back problems. Fred Hoiberg has done a great job at Iowa State, leading the Cyclones to the NCAA tournament each of the last two seasons. The Cyclones love to shoot the trifecta and that should be a big factor this weekend. I hope you will watch the game on Sunday!
It was a special night in Chicago, with four of the top five teams in America on the same court. There were eight of the top 10 diaper dandies based on ESPNU’s rankings. Talk about star of stars – Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle. The Kansas-Duke game was incredible considering how many new players were out there. Both teams executed so well. Pride was really at stake with all four schools. There were traditional powers going at it. Kentucky rallied from a double figure deficit but fell short against a veteran Michigan State team. My friends, all four of these teams will get better and better. We could see all four of them at Jerry Jones Stadium at the Final Four, they are that talented.
College basketball is here and I am really excited. This should be a very interesting season in 2013-14.
There are going to be a few trends that will be important to follow.
1. With the referees not allowing hand-checking, and more whistles being blown, you will see a lot of the physicality taken away. Recently, the physical play has lessened the ability to score. It has changed the game dramatically, and now officials are trying to get things back in order. It will lead to many fouls called, so teams have to work on a daily basis to improve their free throw shooting. It will be vital to make your free throws as it could be the difference in a number of contests. Teams are going to get a lot of opportunities on the charity stripe and they must take advantage.
2. With this change in philosophy, teams are going to have to protect their players. They must have depth, and if you are not deep, you will have major problems with starters in foul trouble. I have often said that I would like to change the scenario to six personal fouls in the college game. Fans to not go to see players perform as assistant coaches on that sideline.
3. Coaches have to make sure that players move their feet on defense. It becomes more important to be in good defensive position, to help draw fouls and to stop the opposition. You do not want to see players in foul trouble because they were not fundamentally sound on defense.
I believe in the long run, the emphasis of cleaning up the game will be a positive. In the beginning, it will be tiresome and boring to see the whistle blown so much, We need a more fluid flow in the basketball game, allowing players to show their athleticism and do what they are supposed to do. There have been some contests that have looked more like wrestling matches out there. There is no place for tackling and holding on the court.
Let’s get ready to tip-off a great season!