The college basketball season, such as it is, is off to what you might call a rocky start. There have been star freshmen injured, suspended and held in Chinese jails, and in the Champions Classic Tuesday night, four top-rated teams showed college basketball in all its November splendor and sputtering.
A week into the season, these five things are undeniable:
This is going to be a big Grayson Allen year and people are not going to like it
The Grayson Allen Restoration Job is off to a winning start. He lit up No. 2 Michigan State for 37 points on Tuesday, in a game that looked more like April than November. Allen is averaging 26 points per game and shooting 65 percent from the 3-point line.
In the Blue Devils’ opener, freshman Marvin Bagley set the Duke record for scoring in a debut game, with 25 points and 10 rebounds in a win over Elon. He left the Michigan State game with an eye injury, but is expected to be back Friday. With him, Allen and guard Travon Duval (13 points, 10 assists per game) Duke looks like every bit of a No. 1 team.
Alabama’s Collin Sexton is insanely fast
Alabama freshman Collin Sexton has been described as “ballyhooed” in the local press, so you know people were expecting a lot, and he delivered in his debut against Lipscomb, scoring 22 points with five assists.
Sexton is extraordinarily fast with the ball, and loves to make hard drives to the basket. His extra gear and carefree style remind me a lot of a player I covered at Kansas, Tyshawn Taylor. Plus, he’s got an outstanding haircut that bobs up and down while he runs.
Consider the foe, of course, but Alabama looks like it will be really entertaining this year. It looks like Avery Johnson finally has a team that can really, really run.
Texas’ Mohamed Bamba is trouble
It is easy to see that Mohamed Bamba is going to cause all sorts of trouble for opponents this year. He is extremely tall, and he can really run. Texas will get many putback dunks, alley-oops, and offensive rebounds when Bamba is on the floor, and that’s not even mentioning his considerable defensive presence.
Kansas and Kentucky are running a little rough
The No. 4 Jayhawks are 2-0, with a win over No. 7 Kentucky, but things nonetheless seem to be a little behind schedule. Their most important freshman, Billy Preston, was held out of the first two games for two different reasons, and their leader, Devonte Graham, seems to be trying a bit too hard to replace Frank Mason.
The Kentucky game was played sloppily by both teams, but Bill Self called it a great win considering the Jayhawks’ shooting woes. He loves to win those sorts of games, and you never sneeze at a win over Kentucky, but there is work yet to be done.
Kentucky is 2-1, and there’s no real shame in losing to Kansas, but look at the wins: 73-63 over Utah Valley and 73-69 over Vermont. The roster’s talent isn’t in dispute — freshman Kevin Knox scored a game-high 20 against Kansas and freshman Hamidou Diallo looked soaringly athletic — but as with the Jayhawks, the Wildcats’ engine has a bit of a rough idle.
Indiana needs to pick it up, quick
The Hoosiers got smacked by Indiana State, 90-69, in the season opener. “It wasn’t the effort we’re accustomed to,” first-year coach Archie Miller said.
Two days later, Indiana beat Howard by nine, going 12-for-29 at the foul line. It’s never a surprise to see some hiccups early in a coach’s first year at a program. Transitions are hard, and some take longer than others. The trouble for Miller is, the Hoosiers play No. 23 Seton Hall, No. 1 Duke, Michigan, Iowa, Louisville and Notre Dame between now and Dec. 9.