Starting 5: Purdue keeps rolling, Alabama’s big weekend, Kofi Cockburn owns the boards
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
Alabama has been waiting a long time for something good to happen to its sports teams.
Obviously, I’m kidding, as the football team won the national championship last season, the men’s hoops team went to the Sweet 16 and the softball squad made it to the semifinals of the Women’s College World Series.
Even with all that recent success, Saturday night was one for the ages for Alabama fans. First, the football team took down previously-undefeated, then-No. 1 Georgia 41-24 to win the SEC Championship Game. Then, the men’s hoops team went to Seattle and knocked off then-No. 3 Gonzaga, 91-82.
It was the first time ever a football team and men’s basketball team from the same school knocked off top-5 teams on the same night:
On Saturday, Alabama became the first school to beat AP top-5 teams in college football and men's college basketball on the same day.
The Crimson Tide took down No. 1 Georgia in the SEC Championship and No. 3 Gonzaga in the Battle in Seattle. pic.twitter.com/nW89HXTOMH
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 5, 2021
So, how did it happen for the Tide on the court? Simply put, Jaden Shackelford happened. The California native must be pretty comfortable in the Pacific time zone, as he was electric against the Bulldogs. He scored a game-high 28 points, went 6-for-8 from 3-point range, grabbed 9 rebounds and dished out 2 assists.
Everything was falling for Shack. Look at the degree of difficulty on this shot, sprinting away from the basket, stopping and firing up a 3 with 2 defenders in his face:
Make it 20 first-half points for Jaden Shackelford
— Hunter Cruse (@HunterCruse14) December 5, 2021
The Tide were also turning defense into offense, as evidenced here:
Charles Bediako stays vertical on the Timmie post up; leading to transition three for Jaden Shackelford pic.twitter.com/YJ3KKpfh1O
— Hunter Cruse (@HunterCruse14) December 5, 2021
Credit freshman JD Davison for his best game of the year, too, as he scored 20 points and dished out assists like the one above. He’s growing up very quickly.
To dive into the numbers a bit, Alabama went 13-for-34 from 3-point range (38.2%). With the way the Tide play defense, they’re going to be able to hang with any team in the country, even the Dukes and Gonzagas of the world, when they make 10 or more 3-pointers. Sometimes they can shoot themselves out of games when 3s aren’t falling, but when they’re hot from long range, they’re almost unstoppable.
Even in Seattle. Even against Gonzaga. Even on a night when not many people are paying attention to them because they’re celebrating the football team’s SEC title.
What a game. What a coaching job by Nate Oats.
2. SEC notes
Fire Mike White.
Do it now.
Don’t wait another game to do it.
Florida was absolutely embarrassed at home against a Texas Southern team that entered Monday night’s contest with an abysmal 0-7 record. Florida was 26-0 against teams from the SWAC in its history. Now, it is 26-1 after an inexcusable 69-54 loss to the Tigers.
Florida’s offense is stagnant after a hot start to the season. The schemes aren’t working and haven’t evolved as opponents have caught on to what the Gators were doing earlier in the year:
Florida started the season playing 5-out offense, a style I thought fit the personnel. While the groundwork is there, they’re not running the effective actions in that offense and are instead running a lot of non-threatening, easily predictable sets that aren’t working.
— Eric Fawcett (@Efawcett7) December 7, 2021
Florida didn’t have a good shooting night by any means, but my goodness. You. Do. Not. Lose. At. Home. To. Texas. Southern.
It’s as simple as that. I still like the group of players this team has. But, with this coaching staff in place, the Gators are never going to live up to their potential. What an embarrassing Monday night for the Gators.
Big changes need to be made. Now.
- Ladies and gentlemen, Kennedy Chandler is officially a superstar. He scored 29 points in the altitude of Colorado in Tennessee’s electric win against Colorado on Saturday. Check out his highlight reel here:
— B/R Hoops (@brhoops) December 4, 2021
- The Vols had 2 first-round picks in last year’s NBA Draft — Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer. But, Chandler works better with the complementary parts of this year’s team than Springer and Johnson did. He’s a heck of a point guard and is making a big-time case to be a top-10 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.
- Jarkel Joiner is the alpha on this year’s Ole Miss team. He’s taken over, and he led the Rebels to a big win over a then-ranked Memphis program over the weekend. He was doing it on both ends of the floor, too:
The SMOOOOOOOOOTH finger roll from @JarkelJoiner in transition!
— Ole Miss Men’s Basketball (@OleMissMBB) December 4, 2021
- I have a strong take on Memphis that we’ll get to in a bit, but for now, suffice to say that this was a really big win for the Rebels. Kermit Davis is doing a great job with that program, but there’s still a long way to go.
- This is my column, so I’m going to continue to talk about Jabari Smith. I love watching him play. He’s so smooth and he is so versatile. He can play defense just as well as he can shoot the 3, as he demonstrated on this play:
— Auburn Basketball (@AuburnMBB) December 4, 2021
- Oh, and he can also throw down highlight-reel dunks. Check out this slam. The defense didn’t even try to stop him:
— Auburn Basketball (@AuburnMBB) December 4, 2021
- I talked about Kennedy Chandler’s superstardom earlier. Smith is every bit the star that Chandler is. He’s going to be a higher draft pick than Chandler, too. We’ll see how far he can carry Auburn in his 1 year on The Plains.
Now, let’s move on to some Big Ten notes.
3. B1G notes
Kofi Cockburn had himself a weekend. Since my last column on Friday morning, the Illinois big man has grabbed 33 rebounds as the Illini have beaten Rutgers and Iowa to start Big Ten play.
He had a career-high 18 boards against Iowa on Monday night in an 87-83 victory, the Illini’s first win at Iowa since 2017. But, he also had 17 points. He does a lot of work before he even gets the ball. When he gets the ball here, it’s game over for the defense:
Kofi Cockburn: 17pts, 18reb (career high) pic.twitter.com/dm8nqQnm9E
— IllinoisLoyalty (@IllinoisLoyalty) December 7, 2021
He also can gain that position with his brute strength:
— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) December 7, 2021
He’s an incredible player. As long as he’s playing well, Illinois can compete for a Big Ten title once again. We’ll see how this team fares when guard Andre Curbelo comes back from his injury issue.
- Speaking of Iowa, the Hawkeyes have proven why starting the year with a weak nonconference schedule isn’t always so great. Iowa entered this weekend with a perfect 7-0 record. Then, Big Ten play started and all of a sudden, they’re 0-2 in conference action. Yes, they played at No. 1 Purdue and vs. a tough Illinois team, but still. If Iowa’s toughest nonconference game thus far hadn’t been against a bad Virginia team (more on the Cavaliers later), perhaps it’d been more prepared for these 2 matchups. We’ll see if the Hawkeyes can regroup moving forward.
- Purdue continues to be dominant now that it has moved up to No. 1 in the latest AP Poll. The Boilermakers will have to watch out, as both Gonzaga and Duke have lost from the No. 1 position this year. But, this is a deep Purdue squad. In a 77-70 B1G-opening win against Iowa on Friday, the Boilermakers got 40 points from their starting 5 (hey, that’s the name of this column!) and 37 points from their bench. That’s balance. Jaden Ivey continues to do Jaden Ivey things, too, which is always fun:
JADEN IVEY pic.twitter.com/W68ToCZF2S
— Action Network Colleges (@ActionColleges) December 4, 2021
- What a player. What a team. We’ll see how long Purdue can hold on to the top spot in the rankings.
Now, let’s take a look at the ACC and the rest of the country.
4. ACC notes/random tidbits
The ACC is going to be ridiculous this year. Note that I didn’t see “ridiculously good” this year. I simply said “ridiculous.” Any team can beat any other team on any given night. That absolutely is not a compliment.
Case in point: Syracuse beat Florida State 63-60 on Saturday after a big second-half comeback. Florida State had won 25-straight ACC home games, which is an incredibly impressive feat. But, the Fighting Boeheims snapped that.
I still don’t think Syracuse can go very far relying so much on Buddy and Jimmy Boeheim, who combined for 19 points on 23 shots against the Seminoles. But, it worked on Saturday.
Joe Girard III was the star in this game, though, hitting shots like this for the Orange:
— Syracuse Men’s Basketball (@Cuse_MBB) December 5, 2021
He scored 16 points on 13 shots, a more efficient outing than the Boeheim Brothers.
Here’s the big number from the night, though: 1. That’s how many bench points Syracuse scored against FSU. That’s right, 1. That’s not going to cut it moving forward.
- I called for Mike White to be fired earlier in this column. It’s also time for Memphis to move on from Penny Hardaway. Yes, he’s a good recruiter. But he’s a terrible basketball coach, as recent losses to Georgia and Ole Miss have proven. He also threw his players under the bus:
Guys, Penny Hardaway has thoughts.
"We’ve got so much negativity in our locker room with veterans being jealous. Nobody is willing to sacrifice minutes, touches, anything. It’s been miserable."@SethDavisHoops convo with Memphis' coach for @TheAthletic: https://t.co/of7sfc78cu pic.twitter.com/qxX18csdvO
— Brian Hamilton (@_Brian_Hamilton) December 5, 2021
- That’s a lack of leadership, plain and simple. You can’t say things like that, Penny. You’re getting paid millions of dollars a year to fix problems like that. I absolutely hate that comment from Hardaway. His recruiting doesn’t outweigh his shortcomings as a coach, in my opinion.
- Virginia is 1-0 in ACC play. It wasn’t a pretty 1-0, though, as the Cavaliers needed this Kawhi Leonard type of shot to beat a really bad Pitt team:
— Mike Monaco (@MikeMonaco_) December 4, 2021
- Credit to Jayden Gardner for hitting that shot, but Vanderbilt routed Pitt a week or so ago. Virginia is too good of a team historically to be locked in a battle and need a last-second miracle against Pitt. If Tony Bennett hadn’t won a title with Virginia in 2019, he’d be on the hot seat right now. This is going to be a long, long year for the Hoos.
Now, let’s look at the next few days in the college basketball world.
5. Outlet pass
There aren’t a ton of games on this week as many teams take some time off to allow players to take finals, but the games that are being played are interesting. Here are the 5 games I’m most excited to watch between now and Friday:
- No. 7 Texas at No. 23 Seton Hall (Thursday at 6:30 p.m. ET on FS1) — Seton Hall is a tough opponent for the Longhorns as part of the Big 12/Big East Challenge. The Pirates are 7-1 with a win over then-No. 4 Michigan, starting the Wolverines’ slide. The Longhorns will have to be very careful with this true road game.
- Iowa at No. 17 Iowa State (Thursday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2) — Iowa State has yet to lose so far this year. However, Iowa will be geared up for this rivalry game. We’ll see if the Cyclones can continue to be a feel-good story as this season moves along.
- No. 13 Tennessee vs. Texas Tech (Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN) — Tennessee heads to New York City to take on the Red Raiders in the Jimmy V Classic. Coming off a win at Colorado on Saturday, the Vols are doing quite a bit of traveling recently. We’ll see if Kennedy Chandler and company can keep racking up the wins.
- No. 6 Villanova vs. Syracuse (Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN) — These 2 teams need to play more often. This just feels like a basketball rivalry. It’ll be the second game of the Jimmy V Classic and it should be every bit as entertaining as the first. Syracuse is full of Boeheims, but Villanova is a legitimate national title contender.
- Indiana at No. 22 Wisconsin (Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET on BTN) — Big Ten play continues with this highly intriguing matchup. The Hoosiers are a better team this year under Mike Woodson, but winning this road game in Madison would be absolutely huge. Can the Hoosiers pull off the upset?
Nonconference play ramps up again toward the end of next week, but there are still plenty of entertaining matchups to keep an eye on this week. Will we see any major upsets? We’ll find out as these intriguing games are played.
Enjoy the Starting 5? Have a question? Want to yell at me about something? Follow me on Twitter @AdamSpencer4 or email me at ASpencer@SaturdayDownSouth.com.