Observations: Freshman Thomas Bryant gives Indiana a new dimension

Indiana ‘s Thomas Bryant was brought to Bloomington, Ind. with the hope that he would stabilize the Hoosiers’ interior defense, but early this season he’s also proven that he’s a real threat on offense.

Bryant, a 6-foot-10 freshman, scored 17 points, grabbed seven rebounds, and had four blocks in Indiana’s 86-65 win over Creighton on Thursday night all while showing the ability to extend the defense from deep. Bryant made just one of four 3-point attempts, but his comfort level from behind the 3-point arc was evident and that could make the Hoosiers even more explosive offensively.

If Bryant is regularly able to bring the opposing team’s big man away from the basket it will open up driving lanes for Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon, and Troy Williams to get to the rim. Indiana already feels like it’s playing the game on a decline because they always seem to have momentum on offense. That theme could be magnified if Bryant continues to show comfort from behind the 3-point line.

Arizona’s greatest strength is its collective experience

Arizona is deceptively old. Yes the Wildcats lost four of its top six players from last year’s team that lost to Wisconsin in the Elite Eight, but they still boast a nucleus that has plenty of miles on its tank.

Gabe York and Kaleb Tarczewski are both in their fourth year in college basketball while two of Arizona’s other starters — Mark Tollefsen and Ryan Anderson — are in their fifth year because they transferred. The fifth starter for Sean Miller’s squad is Kadeem Allen, a former JUCO All-American who red shirted last year.

That means that everyone that the Wildcats put on the floor last night to start the game against Boise State were at a minimum in their fourth year in the sport. The result? A solid 12-point victory over a team that will compete with San Diego State for the Mountain West Conference regular season title.

Iowa’s win over Marquette reiterates value of returning players

Elite freshmen have become one of the most common things that people talk about at the beginning of a college basketball season, but unless you’re Kentucky or Duke or have a talent like LSU’s Ben Simmons then you’re going to deal with highs and lows.

Returning players are and always will be more significant than incoming ones unless you have the elite of the elite and Iowa ‘s 28-point win over Marquette illustrated that on Thursday night in Milwaukee. The Hawkeyes start five players from last season’s team that won a game in the NCAA Tournament while the Golden Eagles are still building a program despite the additions of several key first-year players. You have to go through adversity before you can experience success and Iowa’s performance last night reiterates that.

Thomas Bryant (USATSI)
Indiana’s Thomas Bryant had plenty to scream about after scoring 17 points vs. Creighton on Thursday. (USATSI)

This just in

Miami’s Kamari Murphy (suspension) will play tonight in Puerto Rico against Utah, a school spokesman told CBS Sports. The 6-8 power forward averaged 6.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game two years ago at Oklahoma State and is expected to be a potential starter for the Canes.

Michigan State ‘s Marvin Clark (foot) will return to practice in the next few days and could see game action as early as next week, Tom Izzo told CBS Sports on Thursday afternoon. Clark has yet to play in a game this season. He averaged 4.5 points per game in 2014-15.

This and That

Gonzaga’s Domantas Sabonis is the epitome of efficiency. The 6-11 sophomore had 26 points in 21 minutes on Wednesday night against Northern Arizona and shot an astronomical 12-of-13 from the field. The son of former NBA star Arvydas Sabonis, the sophomore was perfect from the field in seven separate games last season. Imagine this guy didn’t play behind an All-American in Kyle Wiltjer?

Today’s game between Miami and Utah in the semifinals of the Puerto Rico Shootout has the feel of a Round of 32 NCAA Tournament game. The Hurricanes blew out Mississippi State by 26 Thursday and are clearly going to be one of the better teams in the ACC. The Utes meanwhile have several key pieces back from last year’s team that lost to Duke in the Sweet 16. This is appointment viewing for the college basketball junkie.

Villanova’s three primary ball handlers — Ryan Arcidiacono, Jalen Brunson, and Phil Booth — have a combined 26 assists and just five turnovers through the Wildcats’ first two games. It’s going to be awfully tough to come from behind on this team because of how well it handles the ball. Jay Wright’s squad has 40 assists on 63 made field goals in its first two games.

San Diego State ‘s Dakarai Allen has started the season on an offensive tear. The 6-5 junior is averaging 11.7 points per game through the Aztecs’ first three games while shooting 40.0 percent from 3-point range. Allen averaged 2.6 points per game last season as a sophomore. Steve Fisher needed someone to emerge offensively when Matt Shrigley was lost for the year with a torn ACL and it looks like Allen is more than up to the task.

Something I learned on Thursday? Texas Tech is going to be an absolute nuisance to play in Lubbock during Big 12 play. Tubby Smith has two veteran guards in Devaughntah Williams and Toddrick Gotcher along with a deep sophomore class that’s only getting better. This team is sneaky good.

Rutgers transfer Jerome Seagears is the X-Factor for UNLV this season and thus far he’s answered the bell. The fifth-year senior is averaging 11.3 points in the Runnin Rebels’ first three games, but more importantly has 15 assists and just four turnovers. It will be real interesting to see how Seagears handles a higher level of competition next week at the Maui Invitational.

Boise State’s James Webb is going eventually be a first-round draft pick. The 6-9 forward was the best player on the floor in the Broncos’ loss at Arizona on Thursday night and torched the Wildcats for 27 points and nine rebounds. Long, athletic, and active, Webb is the type of versatile athlete that executives at the next level salivate over.

Through three games Saint Joseph’s is averaging 81.0 points — it averaged 62.0 last season. Can the Hawks continue to score the ball at a high level? We’ll have a better idea after this weekend. Phil Martelli’s club faces Florida on Saturday at the Hall of Fame Classic in Connecticut and will play the winner/loser of Purdue/Old Dominion on Sunday.

How hard is it to sustain momentum in college basketball? Six months ago Arkansas was a five seed in the NCAA Tournament and wound up winning 27 games in a season in which it was the SEC’s second-best team behind Kentucky. Today the Razorbacks are coming off a home loss to Akron and have five brand new starters. It’s amazing how quickly things can turn.

Three weeks ago St. John’s lost to a Division II team by 32 points in an exhibition game. Today Chris Mullin and the Red Storm will head to Maui with a 3-0 record after last night’s come from behind win over Rutgers at Carnesecca Arena. College basketball — where the unexpected becomes the ordinary.


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