By: Bryce Fields
Fans from around the country rejoiced last night as college basketball finally returned to our lives. Many teams from around the country got out on the court last night, but four of the most talented started their season in Indianapolis.
These two matchups started off with the #1 overall ranked Kansas taking on #10 Michigan State, followed by #2 Duke and #4 Kentucky taking the floor.
The Kansas vs Michigan State game was a fun one. Kansas jumped out to almost a 20-point lead early in the second half, but the Spartans were able to cut the deficit to single-digits with 3 minutes left in the game. They were able to get to within 3 points of the Jayhawks lead— ultimately, Kansas pulled out the victory, 92-87.
There was a different narrative in the second game, one which included to major points: freshmen dominance and terrible defense. Duke, who started four freshman in RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, Zion Williamson, and Tre Jones, absolutely dominated Kentucky, who also were starting three freshmen of their own. The Blue Devils put up 118 freakin’ points in a 30-point margin of an ass-kicking they gave to the Wildcats.
While I don’t preference any of the teams above, there are two things to point out. First of all, why is no one playing any defense? You would have thought that top-10 teams would have put some emphasis on not letting the other team put the ball through the hoop, but apparently not.
Duke’s 118-point effort is more than six out of eight NBA team’s put up on the same evening, and all four college teams scored more than the Phoenix Suns did (I am not sure who comes out looking worse by this stat).
Freshmen being the focal points of college basketball is not a surprise. One-and-done talents have been doing this for years now and have had success getting drafted highly into the NBA, but this “who gives a shit about defense,” is a bit surprising. Even in Duke’s massive victory, they gave up 84 points to Kentucky— still a lot.
Barrett, Reddish, and Williamson might be able to score, but is the lack of defense something concerning for NBA scouts?
Actually, probably not. The NBA has always been a scoring-focused league, but this year has gone a step beyond that. NBA team scoring average is at 111.5 points per game, which 6 points higher than last year, and the pace of play is the highest in over 30 years.
Many might think this data is correlation without causation, but I think they go hand-in-hand.
These incredible freshman aren’t dumb, and they know what NBA teams are looking for in their prospects – scoring. That is the single most important stat in the NBA, and freshmen like Duke’s are going to focus on that in order to get drafted.
For years, college basketball enthusiasts have said that the college game was more wholesome due to the team play and focus on defense. Well, that time may be over, and fans should just cheer on their freshmen as they work their way to the NBA.