Allow me to set up your weekend with another read-thru of some exhibition game box scores:
UCLA 62, Concordia 61. I wrote in my postcard from UCLA that this team was going to struggle early on, but I didn't mean this early. The Bruins didn't close out the win until junior guard Mustafa Abdul-Hamid hit a game-winning three with 16.1 seconds remaining. UCLA was without injured starters Michael Roll (ankle) and Jerime Anderson (groin), but that's no excuse to allow Concordia to shoot 45.3 percent from the floor. Freshman forward Tyler Honeycutt, who was completely inactive this summer because of an injured back, started the game and put up a big fat bagel in 21 minutes, while starting center J'mison Morgan only had four points and three rebounds in 12 minutes. Interesting that Ben Howland started Morgan and Honeycutt while bringing Drew Gordon and Nikola Dragovic off the bench. Gordon put up solid numbers (17 points, 11 rebounds in 28 minutes), but Dragovic was three for 13 from the field. Good thing Ben Howland has already lost most of his hair.
Notre Dame 70, Lewis 54. Yes, The Gody was sensational (33 points, nine rebounds), but the Irish only got four points from their bench. Usually the starters only play about a half in these exhibitions, but Mike Brey played four of his starters 35-plus minutes. That is not a good sign. And for a team that is supposed to be highly-skilled, going four for 19 from three (Ben Hansbrough went zero for four) is a problem.
UConn 106, American International 67. Jerome Dyson and two subs (junior Donnell Beverly and freshman Jamal Coombs-McDaniel) didn't play in this one because they are waiting to get certified as eligible. (The school said it was a matter of paperwork.) That aside, two numbers jumped out at me: 25 points from Stanley Robinson and 16 rebounds from freshman Alex Oriakhi. I've been hearing great things about Oriakhi in the preseason. He seems to understand that the key to his getting a lot of playing time is to hit the boards. (Getting rebounds will also help him score; he had 16 points on seven for nine shooting.) In other news, Kemba Walker only had 28 points, 12 assists and three turnovers. He must have been feeling under the weather.
Ohio State 86, Alcorn State 48. If Evan Turner is really going to be the Buckeyes' fulltime starting point guard this season, he is going to help this team a lot and improve his pro stock dramatically. His numbers in this one were remarkable: 15 points, 14 rebounds, six assists, one turnover. He even had two blocks. Jeremie Simmons, who played point guard for much of last season, came off the bench and had four assists and zero turnovers. The other main thing that I took from this box score was the fact that Jon Diebler, the 6-6 long-range shooting specialist, is listed as the starting forward. Thad Matta is committed to playing four out and one in this season. Given his personnel, he has no choice.
Wisconsin 90, Bemidji State 54. Who's coaching this team, Bo Ryan or Mike D'Antoni? It's not easy to get 90 points without having anyone score more than 15, but that's what Wisconsin did. Ryan told me over the summer he'll need big things from seniors Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil. Leuer had 15 points in 17 minutes but Nankivil had just five points in 16 minutes. Perhaps the most promising stat was redshirt freshman Ryan Evans' 12 points off the bench. This was a nice outing for the Badgers, but I'd be surprised if they played this much up-tempo once the Big Ten rolls around.
Villanova 110, Kutztown 84. The first thing that jumped out at me was Taylor King going 4-4-4. That's four for four from three-point land plus four rebounds in 21 minutes. King, a transfer from Duke, has a well-earned reputation as a great long-range shooter, but he's also big enough that he needs to help this team on the glass. So he can check that box for at least a game. Also a nice start here for freshman forward Mouphtaou Yarou, who had six rebounds. Even better was Antonio Pena grabbing seven boards. I still think the best future pro on this team could be freshman forward Dominic Cheek, but he had just two points in 14 minutes, so we'll have to wait to see how quickly he develops. Oh, and Scottie Reynolds got to the foul line 13 times, making 11. That's how you get Capone.
Cincinnati 86, Saginaw Valley State 58. The big news came a few hours before tipoff, when UC announced that Lance Stephenson had been certified by the NCAA and would not miss any games. I imagine Stephenson had to ice his wrist after the game; he fired up 14 shots in just 18 minutes. He only made four and did not have an assist, so by my lights it was a rather inauspicious debut. The far more impressive –- and important –- debut came from redshirt freshman point guard Cashmere Wright, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. Wright had seven assists to just one turnover. The Bearcats also hoisted up 28 three-pointers but only 12 free throws. Cincy has a nice collection of individual players, but its potential will only be reached if it takes smarter shots and learns to function as a unit.
Memphis 98, LeMoyne-Owen College 68. Elliott Williams' stat line has to make Memphis fans soar and Duke fans wince: 24 points, six rebounds, six assists, two steals. If Williams was still in Durham, the Blue Devils would be in everyone's top five. As it stands, until further notice he is my front-runner for POY in Conference USA. (Tulsa center Jerome Jordan was the league's official preseason choice.) What was most remarkable about this box score was that Memphis shot 56.9 percent from the field but only 63.0 percent from the foul line. Same old Memphis. Even so, just going down the names reminded me that this team has more talent than people seem to realize. The question here is depth; the reserves only scored 19 points against LeMoyne-Owen, which isn't much considering the Tigers put up 98 as a whole.
Washington 77, Central Washington 48. Given that the Huskies missed an entire week of practice because of a flu outbreak, it would be understandable if they looked a little ragged. So we'll give them a mulligan for committing 26 fouls. That's a small price to pay for holding Central Washington to 23.4 percent shooting, including three for 23 from three-point range. Offensively, it was a quiet night; the big three of Isaiah Thomas, Venoy Overton and Quincy Pondexter did their thing (44 points combined). Lorenzo Romar has been singing freshman point guard Abdul Gaddy's praises, so I was surprised to see that Gaddy didn't start, but I doubt it will be long before he does. Gaddy had six assists and three turnovers in 24 minutes off the bench, but he was zero for three from the floor. Also a little troublesome: None of Washington's frontcourt players scored more than six points.