1.The season began with a trickling of news of extra benefits benching key players. We can quibble on the merits of each extra benefit from C.J. Leslie (NC State), Ryan Boatright (Connecticut) and Festus Ezeli (Vanderbilt). But the reality is that these violations have and will affect these teams from starting the season the way each should. Leslie needed to get off on solid footing for new coach Mark Gottfried at NC State. He’s out for three games and will first play against Vandy. Leslie was a bit of a disappointment last season. He has a chance to start fresh with Gottfried, and now he has to play catch-up. Each of these incidents, and Baylor’s Perry Jones III (out for the first five games, too), weren’t involving the coaching staffs. That doesn’t matter. These forced sit-downs affect each team. No one will miss the NCAAs because of these violations, but it’s just another cautionary tale of how extra benefits prior to college or in the offseason for college players will have consequences.
2. It was just the first weekend of games, but how a conference does out of conference matters in November and December. The Missouri Valley has a chance for multiple bids, much like the Colonial Athletic Association did last season. And any non-conference wins against projected conference favorites help. Missouri State won handily at Nevada in Paul Lusk’s debut as head coach. The Wolf Pack were the preseason favorite in the WAC over Utah State by the coaches (not the media, who had the reverse). Evansville beat Horizon League favorite Butler in overtime at home as Colt Ryan was the star with 0.9 seconds remaining in regulation by hitting a free throw and then six of the 11 points in OT. Northern Iowa dismantled Old Dominion on the road behind Jake Koch’s 18. Creighton and Wichita State are the favorites in the Valley. But the better the rest of the league does, the more likely there will be at-large bids, too.
3. Mississippi State’s Renardo Sidney didn’t play against South Alabama on Saturday because of a groin injury. He is being evaluated each day. Sidney did play in a 10-point loss to Akron last week. It would be a shame if he’s not healthy enough to go against Texas A&M on Thursday night in the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer. The Bulldogs did play better without Sidney against South Alabama, but the competition wasn’t the same against Akron. Still, the Bulldogs need to have some consistency with Sidney and Arnett Moultrie together in the post. The two games in New York against Texas A&M and then either St. John’s or Arizona will help this team get ready for the long haul, as well as possibly provide critical power-rating points.