Welcome back to the Starting 5. The Starting 5 is written multiple times per week by Adam Spencer to keep you up-to-date on all the news and events in the world of college hoops. You can follow Adam on Twitter at @AdamSpencer4 and @SDSBasketball.

1. Opening tipoff

I know I’ve talked about Jaden Ivey a bit already this year, but we’re going to dive into the Purdue superstar’s play once again to start off today’s column. He’s that good. Just ask North Carolina and Villanova.

In a 93-84 victory over North Carolina at Mohegan Sun on Saturday, Ivey scored 22 points to go with 10 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals. On its own, that’s a great stat line.

But, it’s more about how he puts up those numbers.

Take this 1-minute stretch, for example. With the Boilermakers and Tar Heels tied at 65-65 with 9 minutes left in the second half, Ivey took over. In the clip below, he grabs 2 rebounds, dishes out 2 absolutely ridiculous assists (leading to 6 Purdue points) and then goes coast-to-coast to draw an and-1 opportunity:

That’s a 9-0 run that Ivey created before UNC could catch its breath. And, you’ll notice that the Boilermakers won by 9 points. That was a soul-snatching stretch of dominance from Ivey.

Those assists show off his NBA-ready court vision, and he’s also able to jump out of the gym with his athleticism. Just watch him throw down these 2 huge dunks on back-to-back plays:

Those highlights came against then-No. 18 North Carolina. Surely, he couldn’t back it up against then-No. 5 Villanova, right?

Well, it wasn’t a double-double, but he once again showed his all-around prowess, scoring 10 points, grabbing 7 boards, dishing out 7 assists and blocking a shot.

But, as you can see here, when his team needed him the most, he delivered, making several incredible plays (including another ridiculous assist) to help the Boilermakers take the lead:

Ivey is getting some top-10 NBA Draft buzz, and he’ll likely continue to rise up draft boards with performances like this. His driving ability, ball-handling skills, court-vision and spot-up shooting prowess bring to mind James Harden.

He makes everyone around him, including Purdue’s fellow standout players like Zach Edey, Sasha Stefanovic and Trevion Williams, better. That’s the true mark of a great player.

With Harden (er, Ivey) leading the way, the Boilermakers are legitimate national championship contenders this year. First, though, they’ll need to navigate what is always a brutal Big Ten season.

2. SEC notes

Not to pile on North Carolina, but we have to start the SEC section with the Tennessee Volunteers, who went 1-1 at Mohegan Sun over the weekend. After not getting anything going on Saturday against Villanova, the Vols bounced back in a big way against the Tar Heels on Sunday, winning 89-72.

After the loss to Villanova, I explained why I wasn’t worried about the Vols’ struggles in this short Twitter thread:

The Tar Heels were always going to be a better matchup for the Vols, as UNC’s players haven’t played together as much as Villanova’s guys have.

Rick Barnes had a great game plan. UNC’s stars — Brady Manek (24 points), Armando Bacot (16 points, 12 rebounds), RJ Davis (14 points) and Caleb Love (12 points) — got their buckets. But, the rest of the team combined for only 6 points.

Meanwhile, the Vols got a surprise performance from Zakai Zeigler off the bench. He scored a team-high 18 points, knocking down 3 3-pointers. He also had 5 assists. He showed a real knack for scoring in the paint with tough layups:

Zeigler was only a 3-star recruit coming out of New Jersey in the 2021 class, so he didn’t get the hype that 5-stars Kennedy Chandler and Brandon Huntley-Hatfield got. But, if he can continue to contribute, watch out for the Vols this year!

  • Watch out, because the Kentucky freshmen are starting to get hot! No, the Wildcats haven’t been playing any quality opponents since an opening night loss to Duke, but TyTy Washington and Daimion Collins are gaining some much-needed confidence. Collins only had 6 points against Albany on Monday night, but they were loud points:

  • And, more importantly, he had 3 blocks. Meanwhile, Washington scored a team-high 20 points. He made 7 of his 14 shots, which is important for him. He needs to shoot a higher percentage than he’s shot so far this year. Monday night was a big step in the right direction. Much tougher tests await for the Wildcats.
  • I’m all aboard the Florida hype train now. That’s a scary thing to type, as I have been wrong about Mike White-coached teams before. But, now that the Gators have a dominant win over Cal under their belts, I can’t wait to see them take on Ohio State in the title game of the Fort Myers Tip-Off tournament on Tuesday! Colin Castleton, Tyree Appleby, Phlandrous Fleming Jr. and Myreon Jones all scored in double figures against Cal. This team spreads the ball around and is a lot of fun to watch.
  • I want to give a shout-out to the No. 1 South Carolina women’s basketball team. The Gamecocks smothered No. 2 UConn in the second half of Monday’s Battle 4 Atlantis title game in The Bahamas. Aliyah Boston is an amazing player, putting up a 22-point, 15-rebound double-double to lead her team to a statement victory:

  • When she plays like that, the Gamecocks are going to be impossible to beat. South Carolina put a stamp on the No. 1 ranking with that win.

Now, let’s take a look at some Big Ten headlines.

3. B1G notes

Outside of Purdue, it might be time to start talking about this being a “down” year for the Big Ten. The poster child of the league’s struggles is Michigan.

The Wolverines were No. 6 in the preseason AP Poll, then rose to No. 4. Since then? Losses to Seton Hall and, over the weekend, to Arizona.

Hunter Dickinson got absolutely worked over by Arizona big man Christian Koloko in the Roman Main Event in Las Vegas on Sunday night. Koloko had 22 points, 7 rebounds and 4 blocks:

He’s a game-changing defender who had a little extra motivation since his mom was watching him play for the first time ever:

What a great story that is. Arizona should bring his mom to every game!

Where does this leave the Wolverines? Well, they desperately need some scorers to step up. Michigan shot an embarrassing 1-for-14 from 3-point range. Arizona didn’t have a good night from beyond the arc, making only 4 of its 21 tries, but it was good enough to win.

My colleague Dustin Schutte probably said it best:

The good news? There’s still plenty of time for the Wolverines to turn things around. Once they figure out who their scorers are, expect that turnaround to begin.

  • Speaking of overrated, how about the Illinois Fighting Illini? Even with Kofi Cockburn back on the court after a 3-game suspension, the Illini were outclassed in the second half by a gritty Cincinnati team. The Bearcats outscored the Illini 37-20 after halftime to earn a 71-51 victory. Illinois guard Andre Curbelo is an exciting player, but his inconsistency has been hurting the team at times this year. This stretch shows why he frustrating:

  • So much talent, but he’s also careless with the basketball at times. As a team, the Illini stopped getting the ball down low to Cockburn for a long stretch in the second half. That should never be the case. Feed the big man! Illinois now has 2 losses on the season — to Marquette and Cincinnati. The Illini are far from elite right now.
  • Now, let’s get to some good news for the Big Ten. First, Ohio State managed to bounce back in Fort Myers against a ranked Seton Hall team. Coming off a road loss to Xavier, this was big for the Buckeyes’ confidence. And for Meechie Johnson Jr.’s confidence. He hit an incredible game winner:

  • Kudos to coach Chris Holtmann for trusting his players to get a good look when he could have used a timeout. Johnson rewarded him for that decision.
  • Wisconsin also put up a victory for the Big Ten on Monday, overcoming a slow start to take down a feisty Texas A&M squad. The game turned just before halftime. With the Badgers trailing big and missing ugly shots, things quickly changed. All of a sudden, Wisconsin went on a 15-1 run to close the first half with a 1-point lead. From there, the Badgers never looked back. Keep an eye on Johnny Davis this year. He finished with a career-high 21 points and 9 rebounds against the Aggies. Here was a play to cap off that first-half run where Davis picked up both a bucket and a rebound:

  • He’s stepped into the starting lineup nicely. We’ll see if he can lead the Badgers to an upset over a ranked Houston team in the Maui Invitational semifinals on Tuesday. Don’t be surprised if the Aggies win a couple of games in Las Vegas during this tournament, too.

Now, let’s head over to the ACC and also look at some other big news around the country.

4. ACC notes/random tidbits

If you’re Virginia, you don’t want to be in a battle with Georgia. But, that’s what happened on Monday night in the Roman Legends Classic in Newark. It has been that kind of year for the Cavaliers.

But, their experience won out down the stretch. Georgia is also not a good team this year, but the Bulldogs don’t have the veteran leadership the Hoos have.

The Cavaliers won 65-55 and it was a breakout performance for 1 of their key transfers — former Indiana guard Armaan Franklin. Without his 23 points, this would have been a different game, as no one else on the Virginia offense was consistently hitting shots.

Franklin scored 23 points, snagged 6 rebounds and had 3 steals. He kept them in the game early:

And also hit a couple of key shots down the stretch when no one else was making anything:

Virginia continues to be tough to watch. But, the defense remains solid. Georgia only made 3 of 21 long-range shots, which absolutely killed the Bulldogs. In the past, Virginia’s slow, grind-it-out style of play wasn’t this hard to watch. Only barely managing to squeak by a Georgia team that might be the worst in the SEC isn’t a great sign:

  • Tyson Etienne sure shut me up. Earlier this year, I criticized the Wichita State star for taking a very ill-advised long-range 3 to win the game. It went in, but I called him out for not working to get a better look with the time he had remaining. Well, apparently those are high-percentage looks for him! He finished with a game-high 28 points in a 74-73 win over UNLV in Las Vegas on Sunday, and 23 of those points came in the second half. Look at some of these ridiculous shots he was making:

  • I mean, that’s just an insane run. If you would have touched his shooting hand during that stretch, you would have burned yourself. I will no longer question Etienne’s shot selection!

Next, let’s look ahead to the next few days in the college basketball world.

5. Outlet pass

Like in Friday’s column, I’m only going to rank matchups that are already scheduled. Keep your eye on the ongoing preseason tournaments, though, as there are great games taking place every single day this week! Here are the 5 games I can’t wait to watch between now and Friday:

  1. No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 2 UCLA (Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN) — Dickie V will be back on the call for this game in Las Vegas. This is a potential title-game matchup and should be a ton of fun to watch. Both squads enter Tuesday night’s contest undefeated. The atmosphere should be electric in Las Vegas!
  2. No. 19 Auburn vs. No. 22 UConn (Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. ET on ESPN) — This is a first-round game in the Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis. That tells you all you need to know about the depth of this tournament in The Bahamas. I’m excited to see if the Tigers are for real. This would be a huge resume-boosting win come NCAA Tournament time.
  3. No. 10 Alabama vs. Iona (Thursday at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN or ESPN2) — This is part of the ESPN Events Invitational in Orlando. Iona is 5-0 and a dangerous squad under coach Rick Pitino. Nate Oats and the Crimson Tide won’t be able to coast to a win in this matchup.
  4. No. 9 Memphis vs. Virginia Tech (Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2) — This game is in Brooklyn as part of the NIT Season Tip-Off. Both will be undefeated when they meet up. Memphis is looking like a legitimate Final Four contender this year. The Hokies will try to slow some of the Tigers’ momentum.
  5. Michigan State vs. Loyola Chicago (Wednesday at noon ET on ESPN) — Another great Battle 4 Atlantis game. The Ramblers have proven they’re more than just former coach Porter Moser (who is now at Oklahoma). But, can they take down Michigan State? The Spartans aren’t a top-25 team like they usually are, so they could be vulnerable, especially in this neutral-site showdown.

These early afternoon hoops games are always so great, in my opinion. Nothing better than turning on the TV at lunchtime and being able to watch elite matchups until well past bedtime. Enjoy it while it lasts!

Enjoy the Starting 5? Have a question? Want to yell at me about something? Follow me on Twitter @AdamSpencer4 or email me at [email protected]