And so the men's college basketball season started with a deluge of blowouts Monday — 184 games, most of them routs, few of them memorable. Except for that loud bang from East Lansing.
Some of the pertinent numbers and feats from opening day:
That’s when the tip went up between IUPUI and Spalding in Indianapolis, the first game on the 2023-24 docket. The college basketball season began to the shrieks of 4,000 third graders, since several Indianapolis area schools had taken field trips to the Indiana Farmers Coliseum as part of a reading program. IUPUI won 70-63 over Division III Spalding, whose home gym back in downtown Louisville is where Muhammad Ali first learned boxing.
The average victory margin of 20 of the 21 teams ranked in the Associated Press top-25 who made it Walk-in-the-Park Monday. Take Purdue. Up on Samford 21-1. Or Houston. Forced 25 ULM turnovers while allowing only 11 field goals, breezing 84-31 for its fewest points given up in more than 70 years. Or Saint Mary’s. Held Stanislaus State to 15.5 percent shooting and 28 points and won by 79. Hey, the Gaels trailed 3-2 so the 107-28 crushing goes down as a comeback victory. The only two ranked teams to win by under 20 points were North Carolina 86-70 over Radford and USC 82-69 over Kansas State. But then there was...
Tom Izzo’s Michigan State record at home in November before James Madison dropped by Monday. Actually, the last time the Spartans had been beaten at home in November was 1986, when the Navy and a tall Midshipman named David Robinson managed it. Never mind that now. James Madison stunned No. 4 Michigan State 79-76 in overtime for the season’s first ground-rattling upset. Not only that, on the Dukes’ coaching staff is an assistant named Matt Bucklin, the son of Izzo’s sister. Gee, thanks nephew. The Spartans hadn’t dropped a season opener in East Lansing since 1970. Future Michigan State icon Magic Johnson was in elementary school then. How did all this happen? More numbers will explain.
Matt Bucklin, JMU assistant coach and nephew of Tom Izzo, was on the bench for the Dukes tonight 👀— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) November 7, 2023
He leaves East Lansing with a win over his uncle & the No. 4 Spartans 👏 pic.twitter.com/jAtqzgRt00
The Spartans’ 3-point shooting Monday night. They also missed 14 free throws. That’s clanging your way into trouble. Tyson Walker kept his team above water with 35 points, but he was 0-for-5 from the arc and missed six free throws himself. The rest of the Michigan State starting lineup combined for only 21 points and missed 28 of 36 shots. “They came in here and outplayed us,” Izzo said. “Played harder than us, played stronger than us.”
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James Madison’s record against ranked opponents before this season. The win was over California 31 years ago. “We’re not scared of names,” T.J. Bickerstaff said, who added 21 points to the Dukes’ cause. So now they’re making national waves. Just like their unbeaten football team.
Days until Michigan State has to play Duke, with a game against Southern Indiana in between. The Spartans will have to find some answers, not just about the shooting but the breakdowns in defense and rebounding and, in Izzo’s mind, lack of court leadership.
“It’s going to be ugly," Izzo said of the work to come. "Guys are coming to practice and they’re too worried about load management and sports science and this and that. That’s out the door."
“I don’t think guys are reading their press clipping. I think they’re too pampered. They get whatever they want now. I’m not big on that”
He also vowed lineup changes, should he feel the need.
“I don’t have a good answer why three juniors and seniors played like they played. I also don’t care because I’ll play some freshmen. Let the controversy begin,” Izzo said.
Kansas’ record in home openers goes back to 1973. That includes the 99-56 whipping of North Carolina Central on Monday when the Jayhawks shot 69.6, their highest percentage in nearly 27 years, Hunter Dickinson, the keynote speaker for the next what-the-portal-can-do-for-you convention, said hello to Lawrence with 21 points, including seven in the first 90 seconds of his Kansas career.
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Duke returns four players who have 30 or more career starts for the first time in 23 years. That experience showed Monday when the Blue Devils rolled over Dartmouth 92-54. Duke is 43-1 in its last 44 games against the Ivy League.
5 feet 8 inches tall
The size of Samford guard Dallas Graziani. Just to get the season started with a good laugh since the game wasn’t going to be that enjoyable, coach Bucky McMillan sent Graziani out for the opening jump to face Purdue’s 7-4 Zach Edey. News flash: The Boilermakers won the tip. Fletcher Loyer quickly buried a 3 and Purdue was ahead to stay seven seconds into the game. It ended 98-45, with 16 points and 11 rebounds in 20 minutes of work from Edey.
“We’re in Alabama and it’s football season, so we had to do something to let people know basketball is here,” McMillan said of his choice for the tip. “Basketball is supposed to be fun."
But it’s not all that much fun when you’re in Mackey Arena facing Purdue, winner of 25 games in a row against non-conference regular season opponents, nine more than anyone else in the nation.
When Connecticut raised its 2023 national championship banner in Gampel Pavilion Monday night, it added to the space crunch up there. That makes 16 banners for the Huskies, counting the men and women. The men would like to make it 17 – not to mention two in a row — and the 95-52 romp over Northern Arizona Monday got the title defense going. Three UConners who scored in the national championship game last April — Alex Karaban, Tristen Newton and Donovan — combined for 48 points Monday.
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The 25 points and 13 rebounds against Radford gave Armando Bacot his 69th double-double at North Carolina and pushed the Tar Heels through. But they struggled enough to keep the masses worried about echoes from last season.
Princeton and Rutgers are only 23 miles apart but had not played in 10 years before Monday. Princeton was glad to make Rutgers’ reacquaintance with a 68-61 win over the Scarlet Knights, suggesting the Tigers don’t plan on retreating much after their Sweet 16 fantasy ride last March. Matt Allocco was one of the ringleaders back then and he put 21 points on Rutgers. So was Caden Pierce, and he added 15 rebounds. Princeton basketball has already had a big autumn. One of the Tiger's old all-Ivy Leaguers, Chris Young, is general manager of the Texas Rangers, who just rode in their World Series victory parade.
The last time Oklahoma State lost a season opener at home. Change that to 2023, after the Cowboys cut an 18-point lead to three but couldn’t get past Abilene Christian 64-59.
Syracuse has been playing college basketball for 120 years but has had only eight coaches. A big reason is that Jim Boeheim spent nearly a half-century on the job. The last time he wasn’t the head coach, Gerald Ford was in the White House. Eight U.S. presidents later, Adrian Autry was on the bench Monday with Boeheim retired, and the Orange got him started with an 83-72 win over New Hampshire.
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Kentucky was picked to finish fourth in the SEC, the lowest prediction ever for John Calipari in Lexington. Same for the Wildcats’ preseason No. 16 ranking in the AP poll. Yet another reason for angst in the Bluegrass. In other words, Calipari could use a big season. It started OK with an 86-46 blowout of New Mexico State. Five Wildcats in double figures were encouraging, and so was shackling the Aggies. Calipari Kentucky teams are 90-0 when holding the opponent to 55 or under.
That was Louisville’s start to last season, the first three losses by one maddening point each. Thus began a nightmare that never really ended, not until the final record was 4-28. So it’s easy to understand how good Monday felt for the Cardinals when JJ Traynor dunked with seven seconds left to get them past UMBC 94-93. That was after 14 lead changes and trailing by as many as 13 points. Maybe this year will be different. “We needed this win. We needed it for the guys in that locker room.” coach Kenny Payne said.
That’s how many points were returning for Notre Dame this season. No wonder the Irish were picked to finish last in the ACC. Also, Mike Brey retired and for the first time in 8,338 days, a new coach was calling the shots Monday. The debut worked out for Micah Shrewsberry, with a 70-63 win over Niagara. Clearly, Shrewsberry will need some new scorers to step forward. Well, Markus Burton, who went to high school eight miles from Notre Dame’s campus, provided 29 points, the most ever for an Irish freshman in his first game.
This will be Greg Kampe’s 40th season at Oakland, and with Boeheim’s retirement, he now is the nation’s leader in tenure at his school. One reason he’s survived for so long is the Golden Grizzlies catch a big fish every so often. They almost did Monday night before losing at Ohio State 79-73.
Detroit Mercy had played 147 games the past five seasons and Antoine Davis led the Titans in scoring in 120 of them. Now he’s gone — you might remember how he finished with 3,664 points career points last spring, only a single 3-pointer behind Pete Maravich’s NCAA record in an excruciating near-miss. Life without Davis might be a challenge for Detroit Mercy. The Titans opened at Toledo on Monday and lost 94-60. That makes 23 consecutive losses in true road openers.
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Games won by at least 30 points Monday as many of the Division I teams were looking for lighter fare. Only two of the 184 games paired power-5 teams, with Oregon beating Georgia 82-71 — N’Faly Dante’s 21 rebounds were the most for a Ducks player in 49 years — and USC defeating Kansas State 82-69.
At least it was a good day for a lot of smaller schools to get their names on the bright lights of the DI scoreboard. The Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Pomeroys were on there. So were the South Dakota Mines Hardrockers. Both Southwestern Assemblies of God and Southwestern Adventists. Plus Northwest Indian College.
All lost, but went home with the experience, not to mention a check. The inauguration of the 2023-24 season was no day for big upsets.
Except for Tom Izzo's nephew.