NCAA Basketball

College Basketball Maui Invitational: Day 1

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The first day at Maui is in the books and a few good story lines are developing for the next couple of days…

Game one of day one saw Connecticut pull out a win over a good Wichita State club. If you take one thing from this game take this: Kemba Walker is the real deal. He scored 29 of his 31 in the second half and was generally unstoppable. It’ll be fun to watch him against Michigan State.

Speaking of the Spartans, they won, as expected, but faced a stiff challenge in the Chaminade Silver Swords. The number two team in the nation and the division II team were even tied at halftime. Chaminade is more talented than Oklahoma. Write it down.

A lot of teams are more talented than Oklahoma actually, including UK. The Cats did their best impersonation of a crappy team in stretches though. We started out strong and hit some threes but our transition defense was terrible and we couldn’t make free throws. The floor and ball were too wet and the officiating was questionable. Doron and Brandon disappeared in the second half after scoring 10 and 8, respectively, in the first. Darius was nonexistent and made one of the dumbest / funniest plays I’ve seen in a long time when he tried to grab his own missed dunk while still hanging on the rim.

However there was a beautiful bright point for our team in Terrence Jones. Jones dominated every single aspect of the game. He rebounded, finished around the rim, was active on defense with steals and blocks and was generally a badass. I have to admit, every time Terrence stared down his man after he made a big play I had goosebumps.

DeAndre Liggins also came out and stepped up for the Cats. He was diving all over the floor and generally disrupting everything the Sooners tried to accomplish. If you claim to appreciate good college basketball then you can’t not like DeAndre. The guy just gets it. He was scoring, passing, stealing, rebounding and all while not turning the ball over. He was even drying the floor after someone hit the deck. Games like that from him will win us a lot of games.

Oklahoma was terrible and we should have beat them by far more than 12 but if points were given for players that look like assholes then the Sooners would finish the season undefeated.

I mean, seriously?

On the subject of assholes, our game today will be against Washington. This is a match up that Huskies fans (those exist, right?) have been waiting for since we beat them on the recruiting front not once, but twice for Enes and Terrence Jones.

Washington’s game was like our game on crack. They got off to a fast start and never stopped. They were, however; playing Virginia. Virgina may be worse than Oklahoma. If not, they’re close.

If our transition defense against UW is anything like our D against OU then we may be in for a long game. Sometimes it seemed like we scored and spent five or ten seconds just patting ourselves on the back while the Sooners ran down and got an easy layup. That won’t work today.The Huskies push the ball and score in bunches, especially from beyond the three point line.

Their undisputed leader is the spectacularly little scoring point guard, Isaiah Thomas. Thomas who lost not only a teammate when Terrence decommitted from the Huskies but also a friend who could reach things on the top shelf, will come into this game like a jilted lover. As will the UW fans who started a “We want Terrence” chant in the waning minutes of their clobbering of Virginia.

I’m very excited to see who Calipari will put on Thomas defensively. Obviously Liggins is our best defender but that may be a stretch to have him guard the 1 from the 3 spot. Brandon Knight will match him in position but I saw Knight give up too many easy layups against Oklahoma to trust him against the talented Thomas. Doron Lamb will probably get the nod. The guy just plays great defense and that coupled with his length would make him a good match against Thomas. I’d like to see Doron get the starting spot if for nothing other than his defense.

Our real problem will probably be interior defense, however. None of Washington’s big men in the starting line up have impressed me much other than Matthew Bryan-Amaning. The senior from England can score and rebound with the best of them. He’s not as big as Josh or Eloy but he should be able to make that up with his skill. They also have a 7 footer from Senegal named Aziz N’Diaye who came off the bench to put together an impressive highlight reel.

Josh Harrelson and Eloy Vargas just didn’t cut it defensively against Oklahoma. They both play weak and timid and commit fouls too often. I expect Lorenzo Romar to attack us down low. When he does, Bryan-Amaning and N’Diaye will be the guys to do it.

This will be Washington’s biggest game all year and their players are going to come out with a chip on their shoulder. It’s definitely not a gimme but I still expect the Cats to pull out the win and Terrence Jones to have a big day. Washington was able to easily shoot 3s over the stubby arms of the UVA players. Look for our length and athleticism to disrupt the rhythm that the Huskies have enjoyed so far this season.

Go Cats! Beat the Huskies!