Starting Five: Big win for Memphis, Anthony out at UNC
Penny Hardaway and Memphis got the signature win they were looking for, making them the team of the weekend. The severity and length of Cole Anthony's knee injury could be very problematic for North Carolina. Thoughts on the Tigers, Heels and more in this week's edition of Eric Bossi's Starting Five.
1. MEMPHIS IS THE TEAM OF THE WEEKEND
There were some very impressive and notable performances over the weekend. Gonzaga winning at Arizona, Payton Pritchard willing Oregon to a win at Michigan and Minnesota over Ohio State certainly come to mind. But, in my opinion the most eye-opening win of the weekend was Penny Hardaway and Memphis going to Tennessee and beating the Volunteers 51-47.
Let's face it, many college basketball fans have wanted to take a wait-and-see approach with Hardaway. I've been sold on Hardaway from day one, but I can understand the casual fan wanting to see Penny and Memphis prove it. Well, a win -- and let's call it a short-handed one while James Wiseman sits suspended and Lester Quinones is injured -- in a raucous environment, after a horrific start where they were down 17-5 early on, is impressive.
The Tigers are young and sometimes wild or inconsistent. But, I don't think anybody could have watched them on Saturday and not have been impressed by the defense they played, their effort and how they came together to overcome adversity.
Having watched Penny coach at the high school and grassroots levels, I thought he could be a very successful college coach because of how he can get his teams to play. I always felt his players were the types who would run through walls for him and I'm seeing those signs with this current team. Former five-star Precious Achiuwa went to Memphis to shine as a scorer, yet there he was aggressively setting screens and rebounding like it was the last game he would ever play. Getting guys like Achiuwa to buy in, play a role that is needed and do that, well, that's coaching.
It's a long time between now and March and there will certainly be some ups and downs. But, Memphis is a legitimate top 10 type team and one of the most fun teams to watch. They're going to be really dangerous once Wiseman comes back and they get used to playing together.
2. COLE ANTHONY INJURY A BIG DEAL FOR UNC
Shortly before tip-off of what would be a home loss to Wofford on Sunday, North Carolina announced that star freshman point guard Cole Anthony is out with an injury. How long he'll be out is currently unknown. But, it's obviously something that could be really problematic for coach Roy Williams and the Heels who are now 6-4 with games at Gonzaga and in Las Vegas against UCLA coming up in this next week.
This team struggles to score and without Anthony, they don't really have anybody who can create off the dribble. It's also not helpful that utility wing Leaky Black is also out with an injury. So until those guys are back, UNC is going to have to figure out how to play short-handed.
Ideally for them, former five-star freshman Armando Bacot steps up. He had been on an upward trajectory lately, but his 2-for-14 shooting output on Sunday was a step back. He's going to have to take a big step forward. Most importantly, somebody and what I mean by somebody is anybody, needs to step up on the perimeter. Keep an eye on Anthony Harris, though, I could see him being pretty helpful with a few more games under his belt. I won't be surprised if the spring of 2019 pickup starts to contribute nicely.
The only thing for sure is that the Heels have to be hoping Anthony (and Black) is back sooner than later.
3. DECISIONS LOOM FOR PAIR OF FOUR-STARS
At least two four-star seniors will be announcing their college decisions this coming weekend.
A versatile four man who can put the ball on the floor and is a playmaker at Seattle (Wash.) Garfield, Eason's recruitment has been really hard to read. In fact, I'm really not sure who to consider the favorite with his decision just days away. He's a West Coast guy which would seem to favor the two Pac-12 teams, but Cincy has worked this one hard. Just too close for me to call.
4. 2022 PG BRUCE THORNTON WILL VISIT KENTUCKY
A tough-as-nails and no nonsense floor general who has had some big scoring outbursts this season, Thornton is very steady and he's a winner. He's also exceptional as a defender. The Wildcats haven't offered Thornton, but clearly there is real interest there with him planning a Jan. 4 trip to Lexington.
5. MAJOR HOLIDAY EVENTS TIP OFF THIS WEEK
It's the holiday season and over the next few weeks the major holiday events will really crank up as massive pre- and post-Christmas tournaments dominate the high school landscapes. This week, myself and Corey Evans will be on the move to the Tarkanian Classic and the City of Palms among other events.
I'll be in Las Vegas for the Tark beginning on Tuesday and I'll be there through Friday which is good because I'll likely need all four days to cover all of the talent expected to be on hand for arguably the most important West Coast event of the winter.
Five-star Josh Christopher is the midst of a serious recruiting battle between Arizona State, Michigan, Missouri and UCLA and I'm looking forward to seeing how his game has come along and hearing what he has to say about his recruitment. Along with Christopher, there will be at least eight other five-star prospects in attendance and in the neighborhood of 20 four-stars. Also slated to in attendance is big man Kai Sotto from the Philippines, who has generated a big buzz of late.