Obviously with 8 games in 3 days everything is magnified. The good news. Today is the last day for a long time that we don't have any games. So we can get excited about that.
But I think we did learn some things about the four teams headed to New York for the 2K next week through this first week.
Pittsburgh - I had my doubts about the Panthers before the season. Not that I don't respect Jamie Dixon or the program. But simply is it a Top 5 team. From what I saw Monday Night, I think they are closer to where I would put them 10-20, then to where the national media has placed them. Still this is a good team with loads of experience that is going to get after you. I have two main concerns that keep me from really believing they are a national title contender - hence not a top 5 team. Although their backcourt play is very good, they sort of do it without a true point guard which I don't like. And I just don't see a goto guy who can get them key buckets in the NCAA tournament when absolutely needed.
Illinois - I'll say the Illini were the most impressive team in the first two nights of the season. At least they did the most to improve their worth in my view. I've always liked the way Bruce Weber has coached and he seems to believe in this team and has them believing in themselves. They were sharp from the outset of both games (although they didn't play the quality of competition that Maryland or Pitt did, still Irvine might be the best team in that POD). I'm interested to see how they do against a little better competition when they host Southern Illinois over the weekend. And then I think they might end up being the surprise team in New York.
Texas - The Longhorns proved to me at least, that we can put last year's fallout out of our minds, at least for now. The defensive intensity that we expect from Rick Barnes' team was there and they did enough offensively to prove they can be effective. We know that with the way they recruit they've got the athletes and players. They've just got to find a way to make the mix work. It seemed to go fairly well in two games. After a bit of a struggle offensively early against Navy, they still managed to put up better than 1.1 points per possession. That is a number they need to maintain and a number that if they do, they'll be extremely tough to beat with their defense.
Maryland - The Terps turned it over 29 times against Seattle. They made only 5 of 18 free throws against Charleston. Somehow they won both games. I certainly think they are a team that is going to be better in February and March than November. But the more I think about them, the more I'm concerned that they may have too much to overcome this year. Again getting a win next week would be a surprise to me.
So now the season kicks off for real. You'll have to wait for tomorrow. But there are full schedules most of the weekend. The best game of the weekend is likely Georgetown at Old Dominion. If memory serves me correctly the Monarchs won at Georgetown a year ago. I'm anxiously awaiting Rob Burke's debut as the Mount head coach, and am excited to see what Saturday brings for the team in Dayton. I'm also thinking about jumping in the car afterwards and heading to the Palestra Saturday Night to see Davidson and Penn battle. I think that would be a pretty good early season matchup. The games aren't quite as good on Sunday but it will be interesting to see how some big-time majors Oregon and Indiana do as they play against quality enough opponents in UC Santa Barbara and Wright State.
And of course, the Orange takes the floor twice. Friday night versus a very good Northern Iowa team and then Sunday afternoon versus Canisius. Retooled but not necessarily rebuilding are the Orange ready to fly out of the gates like a year ago? It all bears watching.