The early college basketball season has been mostly a disappointing affair for the Big Ten, with Michigan State losing to Kentucky, Purdue falling at home to Texas, Nebraska staggering winless through two home games against mid-major opponents and Iowa being fairly run off its own floor by DePaul. There's emphasis on the word "mostly," however, because one game in Columbus, Ohio, most definitely did not follow that script. ...
Three things from Wednesday
Allegedly short-handed Buckeyes look amazing
Ohio State faced Villanova on Wednesday without two players who combined for 47 starts last season. Andre Wesson is sidelined for two weeks because of a fractured eye socket, and Musa Jallow is out of action for an undetermined length of time after undergoing surgery on his ankle. None of that mattered in the slightest: OSU jumped to a 19-3 lead on the Wildcats and never looked back on the way to a strikingly easy 76-51 win.
The Buckeyes delivered a masterful performance on both sides of the ball, as Chris Holtmann's men made 62% of their 2s while holding the Wildcats to 28% shooting inside the arc. Ironically, it was a Villanova-style display of lethal and, above all, collective efficiency on offense: Duane Washington Jr. took home leading scorer honors with 14 points. Ohio State spread out the Wildcat D, made the correct reads and spotted opportunities both on the perimeter and in the paint.
The concern with OSU coming into 2019-20 was that a team that struggled to score in Big Ten play a year ago might do so again this season. But if the performance of a short-handed version of the Buckeyes on offense against a top-10 opponent was any indication, those concerns might soon prove to be yesterday's news.
Marcus Santos-Silva can't stay underrated much longer
The big news coming out of the game between VCU and LSU on Wednesday was commonly held to be that Will Wade lost. The Tiger head coach returned to Richmond, where he prowled the sideline for two seasons, and came away on the losing end of an 84-82 contest. True enough, but if Wade lost, it's also fair to say that Marcus Santos-Silva won. The 6-foot-7 junior recorded a 17-11 double-double in 31 minutes on 13 shots to go with four steals. It's hardly a shock that a strong defensive rebounder and career 58% 2-point shooter would post a double-double against a major-conference opponent ranked in the top 25. What is a bit surprising, however, is that a player with this profile was a third-team All-Atlantic 10 selection in the preseason. Santos-Silva on the third team? Voters of the A-10 preseason poll, you are one tough audience.
For one night at least, the Hawks are rebuilding faster than the Huskies
Saint Joseph's and Connecticut are both trying to recapture what they regard, each in their own distinct way, as past glory. That said, the Huskies are supposed to be further along in that quest. Dan Hurley was brought on board prior to 2018-19, and this was thought to be a season in which UConn would show progress. Nevertheless, when Connecticut hosted the Hawks on Wednesday at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut, it was Billy Lange's men who came away with a 96-87 win. The point total's a bit deceiving -- it was the fastest-paced game the Huskies have played in more than a decade -- but just the same, Hurley can't be pleased by Ryan Daly hitting six 3s for SJU or the UConn defense allowing 1.14 points per possession to an opponent that went 6-12 in the Atlantic 10 the previous season. Connecticut needs to, and will, get to work.
Three things for Thursday
Seton Hall might replace one star with a "big three" against Michigan State
Barring a Willis Reed-type surprise, Seton Hall star Myles Powell will not play against Michigan State because of an ankle injury suffered last weekend against Stony Brook. Assuming that is the case, we might see the Pirates attempt to replace the production of their preseason All-American by committee. Specifically, Quincy McKnight, Sandro Mamukelashvili and Jared Rhoden (presumably coming off the bench) could carry the load on offense in Powell's absence. Granted, we have only 36 minutes of after-injury basketball to go by, but that's more or less what we saw when SHU carried on without their star and beat the Seawolves 74-57.
How might that trio fare against Tom Izzo's team at the Prudential Center? The good news for Pirates fans is that McKnight, Mamukelashvili and Rhoden are all at least comfortable with the idea of shooting 3s, an important consideration against what's expected to be another excellent Spartan interior defense. The bad news is that the three players in question have shot a combined 29% on 3s in their careers. Still, that's a far better percentage than what MSU has shot from beyond the arc (24%) thus far this season. On paper, it's unlikely that a no-Powell version of SHU will prevail thanks to points in the paint, but superior perimeter shooting and a very low turnover rate could make things interesting.
An early test for the Hoyas
Georgetown hasn't been to an NCAA tournament since 2015, and, for the record, the Hoyas haven't reached the second weekend of said event since John Thompson III took them all the way to the 2007 Final Four. Could this be the year that one or even both of those streaks comes to an end?
That question will arise when your talented freshman guards both return as sophomores (in the form of Mac McClung and James Akinjo) and when you land a 7-foot transfer who has been a regular on draft-projection sites for three years (that would be Omer Yurtseven, who arrived in the nation's capital via NC State). Now it's time to start answering said question.
The Hoyas spotted Mount St. Mary's to a 12-point halftime lead before coming back to win easily and then brushed aside Central Arkansas. A game against Lamar Stevens and Penn State at Capital One Arena will give us our best read yet on Patrick Ewing's 2019-20 group.
Coach Stackhouse hits the road
Under new head coach Jerry Stackhouse, Vanderbilt is 2-0 after easy wins at home over Southeast Missouri State and Texas A&M Corpus Christi. Next the Commodores will test their momentum with a true road game at Richmond. An away game against an opponent projected to be a .500-level Atlantic 10 team represents the next hurdle for a Vandy program that hasn't won an SEC contest since March 3, 2018.
Aaron Nesmith and Saben Lee have been impressive in the early going, and after just 80 minutes, Coach Stackhouse appears to be comfortable with a (very) perimeter-oriented offense. Taking on the Spiders in Richmond could tell us a bit more about the state of the rebuilding program in Nashville.