By Jon Rothstein
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THREE THINGS I LEARNED LAST WEEK
1. MARQUETTE WAS OVERRATED ENTERING THE SEASON
I respect the heck out of Buzz Williams as a coach and have always marveled at how he’s gotten the maximum out of every team he’s coached. But this particular Marquette squad was overrated by many people, including myself. The Golden Eagles don’t have a returning starter in the backcourt, and that lack of experience is obvious each time this team takes the floor. Marquette is 7-5 after 12 games.
2. OHIO STATE HAS THE BEST DEFENSIVE BACKCOURT IN THE COUNTRY
And it’s not close. The Buckeyes trailed Notre Dame by eight points on Saturday with 75 seconds to play and closed the game on a 14-3 run thanks to their relentless full-court pressure. The triumvirate of Aaron Craft, Shannon Scott and Lenzelle Smith Jr. isn’t flashy, but it’s awfully tough. Thad Matta’s team remains undefeated.
3. DUKE’S SEASON WILL BE DECIDED BY ITS ROLE PLAYERS
The Blue Devils’ big three — Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood and Quinn Cook — are all terrific players, but the other two spots on the floor need to be cemented. Mike Krzyzewski loves veterans Tyler Thornton and Josh Hairston, but against UCLA last week Duke got great mileage from both Amile Jefferson and Rasheed Suliamon. If Jefferson can rebound and produce at the “five,” and Suliamon becomes the player he was last season, the Blue Devils will be the team they expected to be when practice started.
THIS AND THAT:
– Villanova freshman Josh Hart has been better than advertised. The 6-foot-5 wing is averaging 9.5 points and 5.0 rebounds so far this season and is also shooting 40 percent from three-point range. Hart was especially impressive in the Cats’ win over Rider on Saturday and scored 19 points on eight shots in 25 minutes of action.
– Dominique Hawkins has carved out a role for himself in Kentucky’s rotation. The 6-foot freshman is a tough on-ball defender and regularly guards the opponent’s point guard. On a team filled with guys who can score, it’s refreshing that the Wildcats have a player who doesn’t need the ball to have an impact.
– Kansas State’s win over Gonzaga on Saturday made me think of one thing. Bruce Weber’s team could be a tough out in the Big 12 when Jevon Thomas makes his debut during the next few weeks. The electric point guard is a blur with the ball and will give the Wildcats another capable perimeter player to go with Marcus Foster, Will Spradling and Shane Southwell. Thomas was academically ineligible for the first semester.
– Florida State’s Michael Ojo is by far the strongest player in college basketball. The 7-foot-1, 290 pound big man is a physical specimen and is gradually improving his skill level. In the Seminoles’ win over UMass on Saturday, Ojo had seven points and eight rebounds in just 19 minutes.
– A name you may hear in March — Belmont’s Drew Windler. The 6-foot-9 senior is a lethal perimeter shooter and the type of player who will scare higher-seeded teams in the NCAA Tournament. Windler is currently shooting 56.9 percent from three-point range and averaging 12.9 PPG.
– Despite going 0-3 at the Battle for Atlantis, Xavier has had a solid start to the season. The Musketeers have victories over Tennessee, Cincinnati and Alabama and are 9-3 after 12 games. It will be interesting to see how this team adjusts in the new Big East, which has been underwhelming nationally to start the season.
– Joe Jones has made Boston University the flagship program in the Patriot League without playing a game in the conference. Jones has recruited well and earned an impressive road win on Saturday over Maryland. The Terriers also have two talented transfers sitting out this season in Eric Fanning (Wagner) and Blaise Mbargorba (SMU).
– Keep an eye on Manhattan freshman guard Rich Williams. The 6-foot-5 wing is really talented and has scored eight or more points in three of the Jaspers’ last four games. Steve Masiello’s team is 9-2 and looks like the team to beat in the MAAC.
– Does Oregon have the best perimeter in college basketball? If they don’t, they definitely have the deepest. The Ducks closed out Saturday night’s overtime win against BYU with a quartet of Johnathan Loyd, Jason Calliste, Joseph Young and Damyean Dotson on the floor with Mike Moser at center. That’s scary.
– If you’re jumping to conclusions about good or bad starts for your respective teams, remember this quote that a coach shared with me a few seasons ago: “Your fate is determined by what you do in league play.” Happy Holidays to all!
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