Observations: Providence’s Kris Dunn will be appointment television

Providence’s Kris Dunn has become a player worth the price of admission. And that’s just after a single game. The 6-foot-4 point guard had 32 points, eight steals, six rebounds, and five assists in Providence’s season-opening win against Harvard on Saturday all while displaying the type of ability that will make him one of the top picks in next June’s NBA Draft.

The Big East needed a star with this type of cache to raise the league’s profile and Dunn’s brand will only continue to evolve as the season progresses. If this Connecticut native was playing at Kentucky instead of with the Friars people would be comparing him to John Wall — seriously. Capable, confident, and armed with a body that only the basketball Gods could create, Dunn should average video game like numbers all season long. Providence next hosts Illinois Wednesday night as part of the Gavitt Games.

Cal has the most explosive starting five in America

That’s a pretty bold prediction for just a few days into the season, but it doesn’t matter because it’s the absolute truth. The Bears’ program isn’t associated with the blue bloods of college basketball, but that doesn’t mean they can’t stand toe-to-toe with those teams this season.

Cuonzo Martin returns three double-figure scorers on the perimeter in Tyrone Wallance, Jordan Mathews, and Jabari Bird to go along with a pair of freshmen — Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb — that have legitimate one-and-done potential. Cal isn’t getting the same amount of ink as Maryland, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Kansas, but it’s ceiling may be higher than those teams when it comes to the first five players that start a game. The Bears have Elite Eight level talent in Berkeley. Do they have Elite Eight level toughness and chemistry? Time will tell.

Parity is again dominating college basketball

What we saw last season with Kentucky, Duke, and Wisconsin running away from the rest of the sport is now a distant memory. The beauty of college basketball is that anybody can usually beat anybody and that’s just what we’ve seen during the first few days of the 2015-16 season.

Arizona State, UCLA, NC State, Illinois, Marquette, Mississippi State, Georgia, Georgetown, and Wisconsin have all already lost at home to mid-major teams that just reiterates how wide open the sport’s landscape is this season. Aside from a few teams at the top — Maryland, Kansas, North Carolina, and Kentucky — everyone is relatively close to the rest. If your team was not just mentioned it may be a wise time to invest in some nitroglycerin pills — there’s a long season ahead!

This and That

North Carolina doesn’t have the same ceiling as it did in 2005 and 2009 when the Tar Heels won a pair of national titles, but Roy Williams’ team has plenty of options. This squad is like an all-you-can-eat buffet — it has a little bit of everything. The Tar Heels have looked the part early and that’s without Marcus Paige, who could wind up being the ACC Player of the Year.

Wisconsin (1-1) has committed a combined 38 fouls in its first two games and that’s awfully high for a Bo Ryan coached team. The Badgers have been a model of consistency under Ryan because they’ve never been a program that’s beaten themselves. We’ll see if Wisconsin can do a better job of defending without fouling tonight when it hosts North Dakota tonight at the Kohl Center.

Cincinnati freshman Justin Jenifer has a chance to be for the Bearcats what Tyler Ulis was for Kentucky — a table setting point guard. The 5-10 Jenifer gets his teammates shots at a high percentage and plays with a pace that can’t be simulated in scouting reports. Jenifer had nine assists and just one turnover in Cincinnati’s 106-44 rout over Robert Morris on Sunday.

The best freshman in the Big East that nobody’s talking about may be Creighton’s Khyri Thomas. The 6-3 wing had 18 points in the Bluejays’ opener and is a freak athlete that could develop into an elite defender. Creighton hosts UTSA tonight before heading to Bloomington Thursday to take on Indiana in the Gavitt Games.

Why was George Washington’s win over Virginia so critical for the Atlantic 10? The league’s top two projected teams — Dayton and Rhode Island — have both dealt with serious personnel issues and now their ability to make hay during the non-conference portion of the schedule is in question. The Rams suffered a massive blow when star guard E.C. Matthews was lost for the season due to a torn ACL and the Flyers are without forward Dyshawn Pierre until at least December. For the Atlantic 10 to have significant representation in the NCAA Tournament it needs its teams to win key games during the first two months of the season. George Washington picked up some of the slack for Dayton and Rhode Island by earning a big win over the Cavaliers on Monday night.

Georgetownis staring at an early season crossroads. The Hoyas suffered an awful loss at home on Saturday against Radford and now have to play at Maryland tonight in the Gavitt Games. After that John Thompson III’s team will head to New York to take on Wisconsin in the 2K Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden with either Duke or VCU looming later in the event. If the Hoyas go 2-1 this week it’s a major success.

You want progress? San Diego State is averaging 73.5 points over its first two games after averaging 62.0 points during last season. If the Aztecs can average somewhere in the high 60s, they’ll walk to another 25-win year.

VCU’s JeQuan Lewis is picking up where he left off at the end of last season. The 6-1 junior is averaging 10.5 points through the Rams’ first two games and has dished out 15 assists to just five turnovers during that span. “He’s really a blur in the open court,” VCU coach Will Wade told CBS Sports on Monday about Lewis. “He’s got a chance to really do some big things for us this year.” The Rams are 2-0 and will next play Duke on Friday in the 2K Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden.

The game betweenPitt and Gonzaga last Friday in China was the third game over the past few years that was played on a military base and wound up having to be cancelled due to condensation issues which caused unsafe playing conditions. You think it’s time to just end these games all together? Ask Jamie Dixon and Mark Few who took their teams halfway around the world for a week and didn’t even wind up with a full game to show for it.

Mississippi State ‘s opponents are averaging 82.0 points per game and shooting 48.8 percent from the field in the Bulldogs’ first two games. Ben Howland better get his team ready to stop some people or they’re going to have a rough couple of days at the Puerto Rico Shootout. Mississippi State opens the tournament on Thursday against underrated Miami.

Tuesday’s games to watch

Duke vs. Kentucky (Champions Classic)

Kansas vs. Michigan State (Champions Classic)

Georgetown at Maryland (Gavitt Games)

Tuesday’s under-the-radar games to watch

Oklahoma at Memphis

Colorado at Auburn

Iona at Oregon State

Kris Dunn (USATSI)
Providence’s Kris Dunn scored 32 points in the Friars’ opener vs. Harvard. (USATSI)


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