The college basketball season began this week, with most Division 1 teams seeing their first action of the season.
After their improbable Final Four run, the North Carolina Tar Heels, led by junior Caleb Love and senior Armando Bacot, were ranked the number one team in the country in the AP poll. They played their first game on Monday, a 69-54 victory against in-state rivals UNC-Wilmington.
When asked about the narrower-than-expected victory during the postgame press conference, second-year head coach Hubert Davis said, “I’ve only been a head coach for a year and a half, but one thing that I have learned is it’s very difficult to win at this level and a win is a win.”
“Even though there’s some things that we normally do better, and we have to do better, I was really happy and I was really proud of the way that they responded tonight,” Davis said.
Meanwhile, the defending champion Kansas Jayhawks, despite losing Final Four Most Outstanding Player Ochai Agbaji and star Christian Braun to the NBA draft, were ranked fifth in the nation entering the season, in large part due to the return of junior Jalen Wilson.
The Jayhawks also played their first game on Monday, a resounding 89-64 victory against the University of Omaha-Nebraska. Five-star freshman Gradey Dick led all scorers with 23 points, the most scored by a KU freshman since Xavier Henry’s 27 in 2009.
When asked about the freshman’s performance during a post-game press conference, acting coach Norm Roberts (Bill Self, the Jayhawks’ Hall of Fame coach, is serving a self-imposed four-game suspension) said, “He’s a terrific kid – goofy too. He doesn’t worry about anything. He just thinks about the next shot going in. And he’s gotten better and better.”
Meanwhile, the blue blood Duke Blue Devils are beginning to adjust to life without their legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski. In the first game of the Jon Scheyer era, the seventh-ranked Blue Devils routed the Jacksonville Dolphins 71-44, led by freshman forward Mark Mitchell’s 18 points.
When asked about his first win as head coach during the post-game press conference, Scheyer said, “It’s not easy right? You’re anxious. You’re nervous and ready to get out there. I took a moment before going out there.”
“You know, what an opportunity. What a moment,” Scheyer said. “This is the place I’ve grown up in, and to be here, I was not going to be anywhere but this moment…To share that with [my team] was a special thing for me.”
Kansas and Duke will face their first big test of the season when they face off in the Champions Classic next Tuesday.
“The Duke game will be a lot of fun. It’s a great atmosphere to play in,” Kansas acting coach Norm Roberts said. “It’s great for our guys to enjoy that and compete at a very, very high level, but it’s not a make-or-break game. But our guys are excited about it and they should be.”
In local news, Drake basketball tipped off with an 80-48 thrashing of IUPUI on Wednesday. Sophomore Tucker DeVries led all scorers with 22 points, while transfer Sardaar Calhoun put in 18 of his own.
“I thought defensively, to start the game, I loved the urgency we played with,” coach Darian DeVries said in a postgame press conference. “I thought we were really solid.”
The Bulldogs are projected to finish first in the Missouri Valley conference and earn a 12 seed in the NCAA tournament.