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Mike Lopresti | | November 15, 2021

Gonzaga's Drew Timme affirms national player of the year hype, UCLA's top-five win and more Week 1 notes

College basketball rankings: UCLA tops first Power 36 of the season

Time for the first Monday citations of the season. Give us your good, your bad, your quirky from the past weekend.

UCLA and Villanova . . .

This will suggest the quality of basketball in Pauley Pavilion Friday night: Villanova committed only seven turnovers, shot nearly 46 percent from the 3-point line, had five players score in double figures . . . and lost.

So kudos to both teams for providing a whiff of March in the second week of November. It was the first top-five matchup in the hallowed Pauley in 30 years. “Nobody should have lost this game,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said after the Bruins chugged from 10 points behind to win 86-77 in overtime. That was one of 11 OT games over the weekend, by the way. We found UCLA’s Johnny Juzang just where we left him last April – hitting big shot after big shot after big shot . . .

This was the Insomniacs Game of the Week, ending at nearly 2 a.m. in the East. The question is, why? Yeah, UCLA games are by nature late, but did it really have to tip off at 11:30 p.m. EST, or 8:30 in Westwood? That’s supposed to help raise the profile of the early season?

Drew Timme . . .

How to make a really, really good first impression for the season 101. Score 37 points in a top-five showdown and do it the old-fashioned way, with 15 2-pointers. Take 19 shots, miss only four. Do we already have a front-runner for national player of the year? Next question.

“He’s a load,” Texas coach Chris Beard said of Timme after Gonzaga confirmed its No. 1 ranking with an 86-74 win over the No. 5 Longhorns. No opposing player had ever scored more than 10 2-point field goals against a Beard-coached Division I team. Until now.

Now we await Thanksgiving week, when Gonzaga and Timme face UCLA and Duke within four days.

Georgia and Cincinnati . . .

What were the odds, that when they put this game together, the two schools would be No. 1 and No. 2 in the AP poll at tip-off — in football? The last time that happened was when Alabama edged Clemson by a point in 2015.

Cincinnati beat Georgia by five points. The Bearcats who wear helmets wouldn’t mind something similar in January.

LATEST TOP 25: See the latest AP poll

Furman . .  .

You know it’s a rare night when you’ve done something that hasn’t happened since Richard Nixon was in the White House. Louisville hadn’t lost a home November game since 1972 — until the Paladins showed up. A senior named Mike Bothwell put 30 points on the Cardinals in the 80-72 Furman overtime win. The Paladins hadn’t beaten an ACC opponent in 21 years.

It’s been bombs away for 2-0 Furman, with 34 3-pointers in the first two victories. Meanwhile, one team’s big night is another coach’s upset stomach. With Louisville coach Chris Mack suspended, assistant Mike Pegues is the head Card. Presiding over the end of a 59-game November home court winning streak was not much fun. “I know Coach Mack is normally doing this press conference, but I’m here right now,” he said afterward. “It is my responsibility to hold it down, but I didn’t do that tonight.”

Kentucky’s transfers . . .

When one-and-done freshman phenoms stop working so well, time for Plan B. Bring in vets from somewhere else. So here’s Oscar Tshiebwe, late of West Virginia, with 39 rebounds in the first two Wildcat games. And Sahvir Wheeler, formerly of Georgia, with 22 assists already. And Kellan Grady, last seen at Davidson, going 7-for-13 in 3-pointers, which should be a boost. You might recall that in recent seasons, Kentucky’s outside shooting percentage sometimes suggested the 3-point line must be in another county.

Tshiebwe’s start in rebounds is particularly startling, and suggests a raucous winter in the paint ahead for the 6-9 Lexington newcomer. But John Calipari does have a worry: “He is so big that there are times he’s going to jump for a rebound and the guy in front of him is going to act like he got hit. The officials need to know he’s 255 pounds with seven percent body fat. If he pushes in the back call it. But if he jumps for a rebound and that guy is fighting like crazy and he ducks his head, it is not a foul. My concern right now is you go on the road and all of a sudden the guy is going overboard trying to box him out and (Tshiebwe) rebounds it and they say over the back. Then I’ll lose my mind.”

Iowa State . . .

On Nov. 12, the Cyclones beat Oregon State 60-50 to go to 2-0. In 2020-21, they won two games all season. This break in the clouds has come courtesy of defense. Iowa State’s first two opponents have shot 38.1 percent while averaging 19 turnovers.

“As we continue to play at a high level, ultra-competitive basketball with toughness and aggressiveness, it’s going to make Hilton (Coliseum) the place that I know it is, where nobody wants to come play here,” said T.J. Otzelberger, back as head coach after two early stops in Ames as an assistant under three different men.

Minnesota’s Payton Willis . . .

Willis’ long and winding road in college basketball started at Vanderbilt, then went to Minnesota, then to Charleston, now back to Minnesota. Right up to Sunday night when he scored 16 of his 29 points in the two overtimes to lead the Gophers past Princeton 87-80 for the Asheville Championship. It was Willis’ 115th game in college basketball — but his first point-rebound double-double.

Oakland . . .

Or as the Golden Grizzlies are getting to be known in the Big 12: A real pest. They caused trouble at West Virginia, out-rebounding the Mountaineers by a rather shocking 48-33 margin but losing 60-53, then they moved on to Oklahoma State and stunned the Cowboys 56-55. It was Oakland’s first win over a power conference team in five years. The two Big 12 teams shot only 18 percent from the 3-point line against the Golden Grizzlies.

The Ivy League . . .

The teams are back from COVID exile, playing their first games in more than 600 days, and already having some fun.

Take Dartmouth, knocking aside Georgetown 69-60 for its first win over a major conference opponent in 32 years. Yeah, that Georgetown. The one that won the Big East tournament last March.

Or Princeton beating South Carolina to advance to the championship game at Asheville.

Or Brown. Visiting North Carolina, the Bears turned out to be obstinate and unawed weekend guests. The Tar Heels did get by 94-87 but needed a 21-6 gap in free throws to do it. Brown shot 50.7 percent and committed only five turnovers — the second fewest for a visiting team in Smith Center since the place opened 35 years ago. Makes you wonder a bit about the Carolina defense. “We don’t feel good after a loss, ever,” Brown coach Mike Martin said. “This is a not a surprise for the people in our program. We lost a game we felt we should’ve won.”

Andy Katz on the return of Ivy League men's basketball

Abilene Christian . . .

Remember the Wildcats summarily ejecting Texas from the NCAA tournament last March? They might be the liveliest 0-2 team in the land, pushing Utah and the losing in two overtimes at the buzzer Friday at Texas A&M. But in two games, the defense has forced 40 turnovers with 22 steals. Alas, if only they could shoot free throws. They’re 14-for-30.

Ohio . . .

Opened the season by beating Ohio Valley Conference favorite Belmont. Saturday, took down Horizon League top pick Cleveland State. We may have a trend here. What conference favorite is next on the Bobcats' to-do list? Uh, Kentucky.

Florida . . .

Drama! Emotion! Tears! And that was all after the game. The Gators emphatically ended their seven-game losing streak against Florida State, 71-55, with a monster night from Colin Castleton — 15 points, 16 rebounds, six blocked shots. And that wasn’t even the best part. It was the hugs everyone had for Keyontae Johnson afterward. He’s the former Gator who made all of college basketball gasp last December when he collapsed during the Florida State game. Johnson has never been back on the court but he was Florida’s star Sunday. Do you even have to ask who was awarded the game ball?

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