2023-24 men's college basketball opening day overreactions

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

USCfreshman guard Isaiah Collier was as advertised. The nation's No. 1 recruit scored 15 of his 18 points in the first half of the No. 21 Trojans' 82-69 win over Kansas State in a Hall of Fame Series game at Las Vegas' T-Mobile Arena. Collier made 7 of 9 shots and added three rebounds and a game-high six assists. But he also had six turnovers and fouled out with 4:50 to play in Monday's season opener.

"Definitely great to get my feet wet with the college game," Collier said. "So, I mean, I learned a lot tonight, as far as the crowd and just staying engaged in the game."

The Trojans limited the Wildcats, who were coming off an Elite Eight run, to 31.0% shooting from the field and 24.2% from beyond the 3-point line. Kansas State forward Arthur Kaluma, a transfer from Creighton, was 0-of-5 from deep, while North Texas transfer Tylor Perry, who shot 41.3% from 3-point territory over the previous two seasons, was just 4-of-12 from behind the arc. Perry led the Wildcats with 22 points.

USC freshman Bronny James, who suffered cardiac arrest during a team workout in July, traveled with the Trojans but watched the game from the bench in sweats. He did not participate in warmups. His father,Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James, said in Miami that Bronny would undergo a checkup later this month and, if cleared, would start practicing with the Trojans in anticipation of playing this season. -- Paul Gutierrez

N'Faly Dante carries momentum from last season in Oregon's win

The former five-star recruit finally enjoyed a true breakout campaign last season, averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 rebounds, both career highs. Dante took his game to a different level down the stretch, putting up 14.3 points and 12.2 rebounds in his final six healthy games, including five double-doubles. In Monday's victory over Georgia, it was more of the same for Dante. The center finished with 16 points and 21 rebounds and was completely dominant in the paint and on the glass. Oregon really struggled in nonconference play over the past two campaigns, so Monday's performance was a step in the right direction. -- Jeff Borzello

The bigs will run amok again in 2024 (and 2025 and 2026 ...)

As my perceptive colleague Mr. Borzello has indicated, Dante recorded a mighty outing for Oregon against Georgia in the 2023-24 season's first Division I vs. Division I game. Dante's lead was soon followed by the usual suspects in the paint, asZach Edey, Armando Bacot and Hunter Dickinson all rampaged against somewhat overmatched competition. By now, we're accustomed to seeing dominant big men filling box scores and All-American teams. But it's worth recalling how this picture has shifted.

The NBA was still using multiple first-round picks per year on college players who didn't shoot 3s as recently as six years ago. Not so much anymore, though the occasionalDereck Lively IIorJalen Durendo still get drafted. The common denominator there, and with others likeMark Williams, Day'Ron Sharpe and Isaiah Jackson, has been an average age under 20. Conversely, veterans in the paint like Edey (21 years old), Dante (22), Dickinson (who does shoot 3s and will turn 23 this month) and Bacot (coming up on 24) stick around the college game and wreak some wonderful havoc. -- John Gasaway

The breakout buzz on Wooga Poplar is real

Throughout the offseason, there was steady scuttlebutt coming out of Coral Gables, Florida, surrounding the potential emergence of Miami junior guard Wooga Poplar. Hurricanes coach Jim Larrañaga seemed to confirm that at ACC media day, telling ESPN that Poplar "looks like a pro."

"He looks like a first-round draft choice," Larrañaga said. "He's in for a big year."

While it's only one game, Poplar is proving the offseason reports right. He led the Hurricanes to a 101-60 victory over NJIT, scoring 21 points and going 5-for-9 from 3-point range. With ACC player of the yearIsaiah Wongleaving in the spring, Larrañaga needs someone to step up and fill his shoes on the perimeter. Poplar looks like he will be that guy. -- Borzello

North Carolina has some work to do to avoid a repeat of last season

The Tar Heels entered their first game of the campaign determined to put last season's historic miss behind them, after they became the first preseason No. 1 team to not qualify for the NCAA tournament. But they struggled during their eventual 86-70 win over Radford. North Carolina needed a late second-half push to pull away after the Highlanders cut the lead to 56-55 with 14:56 to play.

I don't know how much you can take from that shaky start. But Radford's backcourt of Kenyon Giles, Bryan Antoine and DaQuan Smith combined to score 49 points, getting to the lane with ease before UNC figured out how to clamp down. Against more talented teams, those gaps will be costly -- the Tar Heels' opponents made 48.4% of their shots inside the arc last season -- if coach Hubert Davis doesn't work it out. -- Myron Medcalf

ACC freshman guards make statements

While most of Monday's freshman focus centered around USC's Isaiah Collier orKentucky's newcomers, two under-the-radar ACC point guards had statement-making debuts.

First up wasNotre Dame's Markus Burton, who notched 29 points while going 11-for-20 from the field and adding four rebounds and four assists. He took over in the second half against Niagara, scoring 16 points in a six-minute span over the final nine minutes.

Not to be outdone, Pittsburgh freshman guard Carlton "Bub" Carrington posted the program's first triple-double (18 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists) since 1998 to help the Panthers cruise past North Carolina A&T. Coach Jeff Capel has a team that on paper looks quietly competitive in the middle of the pack of the ACC this season, especially if Carrington can run the show at the point guard spot. -- Borzello

John Calipari is playing the long game

Although Kentucky struggled from 3 (9-of-29) in its 86-46 win over New Mexico State on Monday, it's the number of attempts that matters.

Under Calipari, Kentucky's 3-point shots have never exceeded 32% of its overall field goal attempts in a season, per KenPom. On Monday, the Wildcats attempted 45%. Those shots will have to fall for Calipari to trust his shooters to keep taking them. But the sheer volume could mean Calipari will allow this team to play with more freedom on the perimeter than past groups. -- Medcalf

Will Wade beats his former team in his McNeese debut

Last season, the Cowboys finished 11-23 (6-12 in the Southland Conference). Then the school hired Wade this offseason. He won't be available for a lengthy stretch to serve out his 10-game suspension and two-year show-cause penalty, handed down from the Independent Accountability Resolution Process for his connection to the FBI investigation of college basketball in 2017.

But with a fleet of transfers, Wade aimed to start this new chapter quickly. Monday's 76-65 win over VCU--the reigning Atlantic 10 champion that Wade coached from 2015 to 2017 -- suggests McNeese is on track to trend up. The Cowboys haven't had a winning season since 2011-12. -- Medcalf

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