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The Afternoon Before College Basketball: Tyrese Maxey again, Jalen Pickett is now, picks and Davidson

For those who didn’t love Thursday’s schedule in college basketball, you should feel a little better knowing that Friday’s matchups are much better.

There are several potential Final Four-caliber teams in action, and that should make for some entertaining games featuring some entertaining players.

Let’s look ahead to the most noteworthy storylines.

Heavyweight Showdown, Pt. 1

Blake Lovell (@theblakelovell): There are two Friday games that are must-see television. If your friends want you to gallivant around town for a nice stroll, tell them that the only place you will be strolling is to your couch and that if they want to bring you a nice beverage and some snacks, you wouldn’t hate it.

Let’s start with Auburn vs. Davidson in the Veterans Classic in Annapolis. The Tigers made their first-ever Final Four last season, and despite losing several key contributors, they still have SEC title aspirations this season.

Bruce Pearl’s squad started the new campaign with an 83-74 win against Georgia Southern, but the competition is about to get tougher.

And that brings us to the Wildcats, who return all five starters from a team that won 24 games in 2018-19. Bob McKillop’s squad will shoot a lot of 3-pointers, and more than likely, they’ll hit a lot of them. Davidson ranked 42nd nationally with 312 made 3-pointers, and Kellan Grady and company are so disciplined offensively that they’ll be patient in finding the best shot possible.

So, there’s no doubt that the Wildcats are going to present some challenges. They’re the more experienced team, and they probably have better chemistry at that stage of the season than Auburn, who is mixing a lot of seniors with a lot of freshmen.

I mentioned in my most recent SEC podcast that this Davidson team could be very similar to Pearl’s team a season ago. When the Tigers got hot, they couldn’t be stopped. The same could be the case for the Wildcats this season.

Auburn’s Final Four run was the talk of college basketball, but it wouldn’t be all that surprising if we’re talking about Davidson making a memorable March run of its own this season.

The game tips at 6 p.m. EST on CBS Sports Network.

What’s The Followup For Tyrese Maxey

Joseph Nardone (@JosephNardone): Tyrese Maxey, to put it bluntly, announced himself as a star when the Kentucky Wildcats toppled the Michigan State Spartans in Madison Square Garden. After all, rare is the freshman who scores 26 points in his debut against the No. 1 ranked team in the country.

However, now that expectations have risen through the roof, what happens when Big Blue Nation hosts an opponent such as Eastern Kentucky? Does the young man come back to Earth a bit? Is there a letdown game? How will, given how insanely great Maxey was against the Spartans, John Calipari change his role?

Time is undefeated and will eventually let us know. Even with that being the case, especially as a college basketball loving nation is ready to claim Tyrese Maxey as the sport’s next big thing, we’ve only done so while playing small sample size theater.

It doesn’t really matter if Maxey comes off the bench or not. Against MSU, he still played over 32 minutes. The thing to keep an eye on is the guard’s usage. If he gets off to sluggish start, will Calipari be patient enough to let the former five-star volume-shoot his way out of a slump?

It’s more questions than answers at this point. Furthermore, as it appears as though I’m rooting for Tyrese Maxey to have an awful game, it’s more so the wanting of increased evidence to backup our idea of his stardom. It isn’t easy to be as great as he was against the No. 1 ranked team in a debut game. Nevertheless, there’s as much data that can be gathered when watching a youngster face adversity.

Maxey hasn’t faced it yet. Doubt he will against Eastern Kentucky. Nonetheless, as fun as it was to watch him go off on opening night, it will be as interesting to see how he develops as the season grows longer in the tooth.

Remember this, kids: Development isn’t linear. Simply because Tyrese Maxey went bonkers one game-one it doesn’t inherently mean he’s “that guy” for the remainder of his freshman voyage.

Heavyweight Showdown, Pt. 2

Blake: The other must-see game is Baylor vs. Washington in the Armed Forces Classic in Anchorage. There’s a ton of talent on the court for both teams, but this matchup will certainly feature a vast difference when it comes to experience.

The Bears boast a solid group of upperclassmen who have been through the rigors of Division I basketball. Meanwhile, the Huskies lose quite a bit of production from a season ago and will replace that with a host of players who have never played a college basketball game before.

The positive for Mike Hopkins is that his freshmen are good. Very, very good. He landed a top 15 recruiting class this offseason, which obviously includes two 5-star talents in Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels.

Washington also adds Kentucky transfer Quade Green, who should make an immediate impact after showing his potential with the Wildcats.

It’s clear that the Huskies could be a major player in the Pac-12, but Baylor may be a little further along this early in the season due to the experience factor.

Either way, it’s one of the most anticipated games of the opening week in college basketball.

The game tips at 9:30 p.m. EST on ESPN.

Our Hero Jalen Pickett Facing A Ranked Team

Joseph: For those who have read my work or follow me on Twitter, you know this is a Jalen Pickett fan account. He might not yet be a household name to casual hoop heads, but those who follow basketball closely have been on the kid’s bandwagon for some time now.

Jalen Pickett is different, even if only because his style of play is yet without a proper definition. Not insanely athletic, but with the Siena Saints moving on to a new head coach, and apparently abandoning the plodding style of play used last season, Pickett had himself a tremendous outing in his first game of the season, scoring 22 points, grabbing five boards and dishing out four assists.

For some context, he finished last season averaging 16 points, seven assists and five boards per game. He’s been very good for more than a full season now — though, to be clear, he largely amassed those numbers in the MAAC last year, with that league being one of the very worst in the country.

Still, look at this:

On Friday, however, the Saints played a very good — and ranked! — Xavier Musketeers.

Unfortunately, a large portion of the country is unlikely to see this event, as it’s not on ESPN, but it doesn’t mean there won’t be a coming out party of sorts for both Jalen Pickett and a Siena Saints team expected to fight for the MAAC’s auto-bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Without getting too hyperbolic, if you’ve yet to see this kid in action, find a way to watch this game. Jalen Pickett is a 6-foot-4, do-it-all point guard. Again, he’s unlikely to wow you with his athleticism, but you’ll be impressed by his inability to find holes in the defense either for himself or others.

Outside of Vermont’s Anthony Lamb, Pickett might end up being the best mid-major player in the country this season.

In Closing Picks Of The Night

Blake’s Picks:

  • Davidson 71, Auburn 69
  • Memphis 89, UIC 68
  • North Carolina 88, UNC Wilmington 65
  • Baylor 72, Washington 64
  • Kentucky 84, Eastern Kentucky 59
  • Ole Miss 81, Arkansas State 62
  • Missouri 75, Northern Kentucky 64
  • LSU 82, Bowling Green 70
  • Mississippi State 82, Sam Houston State 68
  • Colorado 79, Arizona State 75

You can listen to and subscribe to the Cutting The Net Podcast on Apple here or at Soundcloud here. 

Blake Lovell is a national writer for ClutchPoints. He’s also a contributor for the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook and Athlon Sports College Basketball Preview magazine. He hosts two podcasts: Marching to Madness (CBB) and Establish the Pass (NFL). 

You can follow him on Twitter @theblakelovell.

Joseph Nardone has been covering basketball for nearly a decade for various outlets in a variety of ways. He currently contributes to Forbes and Clutchpoints. You can follow him on Twitter @JosephNardone.

Also, be sure to follow the ClutchPoints NCAA Facebook page for more great basketball, Tyrese Maxey, Kentucky Wildcats, Siena Saints, Jalen Pickett, Davidson, gambling picks, recruiting, original analysis and whatever other kinds of discussion. We’re also on Twitter over here. Give us a follow. Davidson, too.