The most anticipated (for various reasons) basketball season in recent memory is underway, but everything happened so fast that we didn't really have a chance to talk about it. While there's certainly a great deal to look forward to this week, let's first take a look at the highs and lows of the weekend that was inside Freedom Hall.
Easily the most pleasant surprise of the season so far has been the defensive play of Andre McGee. I don't think that any of us are naive enough to believe this outside shooting streak is going to be a four month deal, but just how well he's moving laterally after being hampered with injuries since he's been here bodes well for the prospects of this team.
I mean, I think we all expected him to be a little bit quicker and in a little bit better shape now that he's healthy, but nothing like this. In one spurt during yesterday's game he was all over his man and forced a steal, then raced down the court with the ball and dished to an open Derrick Caracter (who missed a bunny), he then flew back down the floor, got up on his man, and was just as active as he'd been the possession before.
Of course we should all keep in mind that this is happening against Jackson State. I'm still not sure whether or not he's ready to handle the Ty Lawsons of the world, but here's hoping we get the chance to find out pretty soon.
I'm not sure if it's just because McGee is shooting the ball so well or whether it's an idea that Rick is actually bouncing around, but in each of the first two games Edgar Sosa has entered the game and played the two. He shot the ball well against Hartford, but in both games he looked really unsure of himself.
If he can wrap his mind around what it takes to be a true point guard on a team with this much talent, then him at the one gives us the best chance to make a serious run at a national championship. But if he's playing in practice the way he played against Georgetown and Carleton, then maybe bringing him off the bench to play the two is the best thing right now.
I wish it were otherwise, but history tells us we should be very worried about David Padgett.
My exact quote when watching the team in the tunnel before the Jackson State game was "uh oh." These guys are a naturally loose bunch, and I think most of the time it plays to their advantage. For example, our two biggest victories last year came on the road in hostile environments. But there's a fine line between being yourself loose and I'm not taking this game seriously because I know we're going to roll loose, and that line was crossed on Sunday.
Now everybody picked it up after the first eight minutes, but coming out that unfocused could be the difference in a game against the St. John's and Seton Halls of the world. These guys won't have any problem getting up for this week's games or the big games in the Big East, but if this attitude rears its head again then don't be surprised if someone like Dayton or Miami of Ohio hangs around much longer than they should.
Rick Pitino's pregame speech on Saturday was awesome.
Thank God it's basketball season.
Many of T-Will's eight turnovers on Saturday weren't his fault in that they should have been handled by the intended recipient, but they were his fault in that they were passes that shouldn't have been made in the first place. Like a quarterback knowing his receivers, Williams still needs to learn which teammates can make the bullet pass in the lane successful. For example, a simple chest pass to an open Jerry Smith on the wing is better than a difficult bullet pass to a semi-defended Terrance Farley under the basket.
Speaking of Williams, his shot looks much, much better to me this season than it did a year ago. He still isn't a natural shooter per say, but his hard work in the offseason is paying dividends. He still falls away every now and then, but for the most part his shot looks significantly improved. I have no problem with him taking an open, in rhythm three-pointer.
Derrick Caracter's game is still all about focus. The ridiculously quick spin moves and the soft touch that amazes the crowd comes naturally to him, it's the part that seems so easy for us that he struggles with. Don't be surprised if he has a monster week.
I'm definitely not the first to say this, but that doesn't make it any less true: Earl Clark has no idea how good he can become. His basketball IQ still leaves a great deal to be desired, but his raw talent makes him an extremely valuable commodity on the floor. If he attacks the glass with the same ferocity he's shown the past few games, it will be enormous for this team. He's also still the best finisher on the team, an attribute thats importance can't be understated.
Juan Palacios stepped it up in the style department this weekend. It was refreshing to see, but it will be more refreshing to see him don a more traditional outfit in a couple of weeks.
I thought the crowd was great both days. The anticipation of a free taco-clinching basket is always good for some laughs.
The dance competition promo was already a disaster before the music problems on Saturday.
Jerry Smith displayed a willingness to shoot off the catch with a man semi-in his face, which is good. I also keep forgetting what a leaper he is. That take to the bucket on Sunday was impressive.
Preston Knowles has officially assumed the Perrin Johnson role of "guy most likely to be subbed in after a foul with under a minute to play in the first half." You're taking over for a legend Preston, embrace it.
I miss the Perrin call already.
Bob Valvano and Ari Wolffe are talking even less about the games this season than they did last year, which is scary. I enjoy playful Nascar banter in the middle of a huge run by the team I'm tuning into watch as much as the next guy, but every now and then let's keep the convo centered on what's going on 20-feet in front of you.
By the way it looks like Bob has lost some weight, so kudos to him. Ari looks about the same.
Warren McClendon for Hartford is a beast. He's a transfer from the Citadel and I'd be willing to bet that he's on his way to having quite the season in the America East.
Have I said thank God it's basketball season yet? Because thank God it's basketball season.