Welcome back, college basketball.
You’ve been missed.
The opening night of the season was a blast, as expected. In general, the best teams played like the best teams – except those few minutes when we thought Kentucky might lose to Utah Valley. The Wildcats trailed by nine at halftime of a game they won by 10. Go figure.
Next up for the Wolverines? Duke, Saturday. Kentucky and Duke could conceivably be a team’s final two games of the season – in the Final Four. Good for Utah Valley not just because it challenged itself, but because it had a real shot at an upset. Utah Valley isn’t better than Duke, but it won’t be scared of Duke.
Well, on second thought: if the Wolverines watch some Marvin Bagley film, maybe that changes. Bagley set a Duke freshman record against Elon, scoring 25 points in his first game and consistently playing way, way, way above the rim.
Duke’s freshman starters – AKA, every starter not named Grayson Allen – combined for 58 points. Not a bad start.
Speaking of freshmen, the moment of the night came in the Syracuse-Cornell game. Freshman Jimmy Boeheim, son of Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, plays for Cornell. So, naturally, his first college game was against his dad. And the first shot of his career was…
The first shot in the first minute of Jimmy Boeheim's college career ...— ESPN (@espn) November 11, 2017
He drains a 3 right in front of his Hall of Fame coach dad. That's how you do it. pic.twitter.com/KnWDIssFYv
Wet. Think Jimmy might know where the soft spots lie in the Syracuse zone? The Orange won the game, but the younger Boeheim had a nice debut, scoring 11 points.
No. 11 West Virginia vs. No. 25 Texas A&M was the most anticipated matchup coming into the night. But with SEC Player of the Year candidate Robert Williams sidelined for the Aggies, and Texas A&M’s usual point guard struggles, it felt like the Mountaineers should feast.
This just about sums up how the night went for West Virginia:
The Aggies won by 23. With Williams out, Texas A&M would have gladly taken any kind of win – be it by one, or 23. But to blow out the No. 11 team without your best player has to be a confidence-builder. Tyler Davis, D.J. Hogg and Admon Gilder combined to score 65 points. It’s hard to believe these guys only won 16 games last year.
Elsewhere in the “unexpected results” category, Indiana faced Indiana State on Friday night. Now, had I told you going into the game that the final score would be 90-69, but I didn’t give you the winner, who would you take? Probably the Hoosiers, right?
The Sycamores dominated Indiana. It was never a game. Given everything IU has lost, it was vulnerable coming into this matchup. But to lose by 21 points is a stunner. Better days are ahead for Archie Miller.Perhaps the most important development of the night: Missouri is more than just Michael Porter, Jr. and a bunch of guys. Porter left the game with an injury and didn’t return, but the Tigers showed out anyway, beating Iowa State by 15. Kevin Puryear had 17 points, Jordan Barnett had 15, while Jeremiah Tilmon chipped in 14.
But what really stood out was the Missouri defense. Iowa State managed just 59 points and shot less than 40 percent. Sure, it’s only one game, and the Cyclones are rebuilding. But this was a great first impression for the Tigers, without Porter. With him in the lineup, these guys could be scary.
And, of course, there were dunks. Glorious dunks.
It was a fun night.
And it's not exactly going out on a limb to say that this is going to be a fun, fun year.