While we get all caught up in returning leading scorers, we rarely use the term “star” anymore in college basketball -- and maybe there’s a reason why. Virginia Tech’s star is Malcolm Delaney, who chose not to enter the NBA draft and instead returned to Blacksburg with the hope of leading the Hokies to the Big Dance and before taking his talents to The League.
But Kansas State exposed why Virginia Tech has very little chance of winning the ACC, and frankly, why Delaney is back at school. He is not a point guard who can run a team against legit pressure. He had 10 turnovers against the Cats, seven in the second half.
That is not to say the Hokies cannot beat Duke (they get them at home). But their struggles against the immense pressure of the Wildcats, despite the fact that Jacob Pullen barely played in the first half and Curtis Kelly never suited up, is a sure sign of trouble considering how mightily they struggled to get good shots and run solid offense despite their vast experience on the floor.
Now let’s not put it all on Delaney. He is a great college player and scorer and should still play in the NBA, just not as a starting point. He is hurt by J.T. Thompson's knee injury, which took his second-best option off the floor, and Allen Chaney's heart condition, which took away a 25-minute-a-game low post scorer.
Jeff Allen's intentional foul in the first half on Tuesday seemed to adversely affect the officials, who over officiated and called charge after charge despite the fact that Will Spradling rarely had his feet set. (The charge on Erick Green was an embarrassing mistake by the official.) But again, different year, same Allen -- talented, but prone to the borderline dirty play that gives his team a disadvantage. I know he is smarter and better than that.
As for K-State, its shot selection was way too quick without Pullen, and though Spradling gave them a bounce at times, he took too many quick 3s and is not a good on-ball defender like Martavious Irving or the other guards for KSU. Freddy Asprilla looked better, but is still not the legit low post scorer that we were sold.
But it is early and KSU is still deep, still tough and Rodney McGruder looks improved, as do several other Cats. They should be far more efficient with Kelly, whereas Virginia Tech’s team will be better when not in foul trouble. But the Hokies were supposed to be ahead of the curve at this point in the year, yet their lack of a true point or multiple ball handlers, combined with a lack of depth inside, appears to be fundamental flaw in their makeup. Tech should still dance, but the trip there will be much more bumpy than I had expected.
Some quick thoughts on a few earlier games ...
Baylor looked long and huge in the frontcourt, but very average at the point with AJ Walton. LaceDarius Dunn did not play due to suspension, but the Bears will need better point guard play in order to be as good as they were last year. That said, Quincy Acy is a monster on the boards and J'Mison Morgan actually looked in shape.
Tulsa crushed Oral Roberts in the second half of the Mayor’s Cup. Jordan Clarkson bounced back from a six-turnover game in TU’s loss to Appalachian State and played terrific, especially in the second half. ORU shot the ball way too quickly and struggled to defend outside and Steven Idlet inside. The Golden Hurrican outscored the Golden Eagles 54-32 in the second half. It looked like ORU was gassed, while Tulsa -- coached by marathoner Doug Wojcik -- looked fresh as a daisy.
Southern Illinois pulled a “Webber” and I do not mean Bruce. The verbal timeout can be heard on the broadcast. If looks as if senior John Freeman yelled “Time!” during the tie-up. Though SIU’s shooting was poor from the 3-point line, the team’s 23 turnovers were its ultimate undoing. That said, what a bad way to lose the game as the rest of the Salukis seemed to know they had no timeouts. It was unfortunate.
Hey, Hawaii is 3-0 for the first time in six years. Not sure if Gib Arnold’s Warriors are going to keep it up, but 3-0 is not bad considering just how dreadful the team was last season and the fact that they were picked to finish last in the WAC this year. Bill Amis missed last season with a knee injury and his return, along with Zane Johnson being eligible, allowed Hawaii to slow down touted freshman Trey Zeigler, who seems to be as good as advertised, though he forced some things on his way to 24 and 5 rebounds.
I know its game against Pepperdine wasn’t technically a part of the Marathon, but UCLA looks huge defensively. The Bruins’ offense is still very much a work in progress, but with Reeves Nelson and Josh Smith inside, along with Tyler Honeycutt's length at the three, UCLA is big, long and tough to score on. They match up against UOP (Pacific to non-West coasters) who runs the old Ralph Miller 1-4 High. Watch for how Bob Thompson’s team handles the low post double teams and hard hedge on the ball screens. The Bruins will eat you up if you are weak with the ball, but there are plenty of weak side shots to be had if a team is properly prepared.