Two full weeks of the college basketball season are in the books. After a week full of great games that included dominant performances, top 25 match-ups and upsets, it’s time to digest what we learned from the past seven days. Here are five of our biggest takeaways from week 2 of the college basketball season.
If Defense Really Does Win Championships…
Then it’s time to consider Virginia as a legit national title contender. Yes, the Cavaliers have yet to play a great team, but allowing just 41.3 (!!) PPG is incredible no matter who a team is playing. The most points they’ve allowed are 52 to Providence on Saturday in the Emerald Coast Classic title game. They won that game by 11, by the way. Virginia has held 3 teams to under 40 points and held an electric Iowa offense to 41 on Friday night (Iowa is averaging 95.4 PPG in their other 5 games). There are still a lot of question marks offensively for this team and on the inside. The Cavaliers had to dismiss arguably their best post presence in Austin Nichols and they’re still trying to replace Malcolm Brogdon and Anthony Gill’s offensive production. They have a great leader in London Perrantes, though, and I believe the pieces are there for the Cavaliers to be just good enough on offense. You could say “Yeah, well Virginia was in the top 7 in the nation the last three seasons for adjusted defensive efficiency and none of those ended in final four trips.” That’s true. That trend may continue this season, too, but after what I saw this week, I think it’s time to consider this team a real title contender.
Melo Trimble is Back and On a Mission
Last season was not a very good season for Melo Trimble’s standards. His PPG dropped from 16.2 to 14.8, his 3 point percentage dropped from 41.2% to 31.4% and his overall field goal percentage dropped from 44.4% to 41.0%. A lot of people thought Trimble would leave College Park and chase the NBA dream. Instead, Melo came back. And he is BACK. Through seven games, he’s averaging 21.1 PPG and is shooting 47.2% from the field. His 3 point percentage is getting better as well, up to 34.1%. Imagine if he gets that number back to where it was his freshman year. Trimble has lead a team that lost its #2, #3, #4 and #5 scorers from last season to a 7-0 start, including wins over Georgetown and Kansas State. He led the huge late comeback to beat the Hoyas and had the game-winning basket against K-State on Saturday. Melo is clearly on a mission, which could put him in the national player of the year conversation and it also makes Maryland a potentially dangerous team this year.
Scott Drew Can Coach and This Baylor Team Can Play
For some reason, Scott Drew gets tons of hate and never the credit he deserves for his teams’ performance. I don’t know why this is, to be honest. Maybe it’s the back to back first round exits that have Baylor fans upset and make people around the nation assume he can’t coach. I’m not sure. But as Seth Davis has tweeted a few days the last week, it’s been a rough time for the “Scott Drew can’t coach” crew. Drew has taken a team that lost its two best players from last year, Taurean Prince and Rico Gathers, and coached them to a 6-0 start. That blazing hot start includes wins over Oregon, VCU, Michigan State and Louisville. There’s early season fluke type upsets and then there’s that. That is legit and so is this Baylor team. Johnathan Motley is playing like an All-American for the Bears and Miami transfer Manu Lecomte has been terrific at the point. The Bears are looking like a top 15 team in the nation and the biggest threat to Kansas in the Big 12. You have Scott Drew to thank for that, Baylor fans.
We Were Very Wrong About South Carolina
We had South Carolina finishing 8th in our pre-season SEC predictions. That was a big swing and a miss. After winning 25 games and making the NIT last season, we thought the Gamecocks would snap back to reality. Instead, Frank Martin has his team out to a 6-0 start. That includes a win over Monmouth in overtime and double digit victories this past week over both Michigan and Syracuse. They’re allowing just 56.7 PPG and Sindarius Thornwell is becoming a star in Columbia. Thornwell is averaging 20 points and 7 rebounds a game so far. If Thornwell and the Gamecocks keep playing at this level, they won’t be getting snubbed on Selection Sunday this season. South Carolina may finally be dancing for the first time since 2004.
Joel Berry II is Ready to Breakout
One of North Carolina’s biggest questions coming into the year was who would step up in the backcourt with Marcus Paige’s graduation. After two weeks, it’s clear that the answer is Joel Berry II. As a sophomore last season, Berry averaged 12.8 PPG and 3.8 APG. That’s pretty good, but Berry is cranking it up and then some to start this season. Through seven games, he’s averaging 17.1 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 4.3 APG and is shooting 47% from beyond the arc. That last number probably won’t stay quite that high, but the other numbers will. En route to becoming the Maui Invitational MVP this past week, Berry 24 points and 22 points against Oklahoma State and Wisconsin, respectively. The Tar Heels need a big time player to run the offense and lead them if they want to contend for a title, and it’s looking like Joel Berry II is going to answer the call and breakout this season.