As has become a recent tradition in college basketball, ESPN's Opening-Tip Marathon gives the sense that hoops are back in full swing and typically produces some great early season games. This year's editions was no different, as six Big Ten teams took to the floor, showing the early strength of the conference to a national stage, going 5-1 as a group.
Game of the Night: #13 Michigan State Spartans (2-0) 79, #4 Kansas (1-1) 73
Those who are placing the Spartans in April's Final Four were given some validity Tuesday night during the State Farm Champions Classic, though it did not look good for Tom Izzo and company early. The Jayhawks jumped out to as much as a 13-point advantage in the first half, with Sparty cutting the lead to 6 before halftime. Kansas was able to keep Michigan State at bay through the majority of the second half, with the Spartans fiannly grabbing the lead with 1:18 left on the clock, their first lead since the 16-minute mark of the first half.
Denzel Valentine messed around and got a triple-double with 23 points, 12 rebounds, and 12 assists. However, the late-game heroics came from freshman Matt McQuaid, who knocked down two of his three 3-pointers later and added a big block on the defensive end. Perry Ellis led the Jayhawks with 21 points, but he and the rest of Kansas were shut down from outside, shooting just 3-15 from beyond the arc.
#3 Maryland Terrapins (2-0) 75, Georgetown (0-2) 71
For the first time in over 40 years, Maryland and Georgetown met on the hardwood in the regular season, despite the school's campuses being separated by 11 miles. The new rules in college basketball this season and tightness of fouls calls nearly had the Terrapins flustered beyond the point of no return with just five and half minutes left and the Hoyas up 61-54.
Maryland caught fire in the final minutes, with Melo Trimble, scoring 9 of his 24 points in the final 4 minutes, 11 seconds of the game. Georgetown senior D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera tried his best to keep the Hoyas' upset bid alive, knocking down two late three-pointers to keep the issue in doubt. Trimble, who struggled early from the free throw line, was able to swish through his final four attempts and clinch the win for Maryland.
Nebraska Cornhuskers (1-1) 63, Villanova 87 (2-0)
The second of two Gavitt Tipoff games did not go as well for the Big Ten. Nebraska jumped out to an early 23-16 lead before the Wildcats went on a 22-2 tear to end the first half, before cruising in the final 20 minutes. Andrew White led the Cornhuskers with 18 points, Shavon Shields chipped in 12, but the other three Nebraska starts contributed a combined 6 points. Freshman guard Glynn Watson Jr. showed some promise with 12 points, though it was on 5-15 shooting, including 0-4 from deep.
Ohio State Buckeyes (2-0) 82, Grambling State (1-2) 55
The Ohio State Buckeyes provided the biggest blowout of the night, a game that truly was never close. The Buckeyes led by 24 at halftime, giving the starters an early night off, starting center Trevor Thompson played just 12 minutes while going 4-4 from the floor. Kam Williams led all scores with 22 points off of the Buckeye bench. Despite the win, the Buckeyes will need to spend some time working on their free throw shooting this week, going just 13-26 from the line. That's the key to the early season cupcakes, have to find something to improve on.
Penn State NIttany Lions (2-0) 68, DePaul (1-1) 62
The opening match-up in the Gavitt Tipoff Games series between the Big Ten and the Big East featured the Penn State Nittany Lions hosting the DePaul Blue Demons. Penn State lead the entire way, holding at least a 3-point lead for the final 22 and a half minutes of the game. Brandon Taylor led the way with 22 points shooting 70-percent from the floor. The deep ball helped carry the Nittany Lions, as 10 of their 22 made field goals came from beyond the arc.
After Wisconsin's opening loss to Western Illinois, I guess nothing is a given, but certainly not even the most die-hard North Dakota fan expected an 8-win team from a year ago to hang with the Badgers. The result; Wisconsin led the entire way cruising to a 14-point win. Bronson Koenig and Ethan Happ led the Badgers with 17 points, but Geno Crandall knocked down all 6 of his 3-point attempts off of the soon-to-be Fighting Hawks or Roughriders bench and led all scorers with 19. So Bo Ryan may need to sure up his perimeter defense in the coming weeks.