#5 Kentucky 72, Miami (Ohio) 70
Too much ink will probably be spilled talking about how much Kentucky struggled to beat a lowly MAC team, but I wouldn't try to draw too many conclusions from this. Teams often get out to slow starts under new coaches as they try to learn a new system, and when you've got a new coach as well as so many freshmen and egos as major contributors, it's even harder. I expect Kentucky to have a few more growing pains early in the season before they really got rolling as we move into 2010. Miami of Ohio is the worst type of team for them to play: seasoned and experienced, they were not rattled by the Kentucky crowd or the home cooking from the referees. And the inexperience and immaturity was so apparent watching this game. Too often I saw Kentucky defenders let their man go while trying to hawk the ball away, too often I saw them go for the block rather than getting in front of their men. They have to learn that just staying in front of your man is more important than getting steals and blocks. And DeMarcus Cousins really just behaved like a petulant child. He taunts every time he scores, and is demonstrative towards the ref every time he gets called for a foul or travel. At one point late in the game he took six steps and was called for a travel, and he responded by slamming the ball down on the floor, which would have been called for a technical if the refs didn't fear for their lives leaving Rupp Arena. At one point John Calipari had to put Cousins on the bench where he, and several of his assistants, combined to give Cousins a ten minute speech that I assumed basically consisted of "Grow up, or you're not going to play." But like I said, when you have a new coach and so many highly touted freshmen, you've got to expect a little bit of this. And John Wall did look spectacular and lightning quick with the ball. I expect Kentucky to improve tremendously as the season goes along.
South Florida 66, Virginia 49
A very disappointing start for Virginia, with this bad loss following on the heels of a very unconvincing 13 point win over a bad Longwood team. With so many good players returning from last season, and the head coaching improvement in the form of Tony Bennett, I expected this team to be in the middle of the pack in the ACC and in serious contention for a Tournament bid. To be fair, part of this loss was simply an atrocious day of shooting: 33% shooting, and 2-for-12 from behind the arc. But that doesn't excuse a 17 point loss to South Florida. My guess, and this is probably more of a rationalization since I didn't actually see any of this game, is that the Cavaliers are just a little bit slow in learning Tony Bennett's system, which is fairly complicated. I expect them to play better as the season goes along. As for South Florida, could this be the year that they finally break through and make their way toward the middle of the pack in the Big East? It's possible, but I'd like to see more than victories over Virginia and SMU before I get too excited about this team. They now head to the Charleston Classic where they open against Davidson and then will play potentially two BCS conference teams. We'll see how they do against a few quality opponents after this encouraging start.
Missouri State 73, Auburn 62
After something of a miracle win against Niagara, Auburn now goes and gets thumped by Missouri State. This loss was no fluke as Missouri State won just about every aspect of this game, including a remarkable 19-to-8 assist advantage. Even more disconcerting for Auburn is that they got beat badly on the boards, losing both the offensive and defensive battles. Honestly, I just don't think Auburn is very good. It's hard to see them competing in even a very weak SEC West. As for Missouri State, this is a really nice win to start off this season after the horribly disappointing 2008-09 season, where they finished dead last in the Missouri Valley. Obviously we'll have to see a few more good wins (I'm looking at November 28th against Tulsa as a real opportunity) before we consider them real contenders in the Missouri Valley, but they already looked improved over last year.