Thanksgiving is here, a key timeframe in the college basketball season, largely because of the number of holiday tournaments that pit some of the nation's top teams together.
Yes, it's easy to be thankful for this week, for basketball seemingly from sunup until past midnight and the ability to see teams in any number of circumstances. Kansas and Dayton gave the college basketball world potentially the season's best game so far, while Baylor and Villanova was certainly in that discussion as recently as Sunday. And while some of those tournaments have wrapped up, Battle 4 Atlantis is only starting its semifinals, and still other tournaments will last through Sunday. In short: It's a week with a ton of basketball.
But that overabundance of college hoops is hardly the only thing to be thankful for. College basketball is a terrific sport to watch, follow and cover, with oversized coaching personalities, players making immediate impacts as freshmen and still others, on different developmental timetables stepping up from smaller roles into starring spots. And there's a beauty in the way it all comes together with one of the greatest events in sports, a three-week tournament to decide the sport's national champion.
With all that in mind, we picked 10 things in college basketball that we're thankful for.
CASSIUS WINSTON’S FORTITUDE
We didn’t rank what we were thankful for, but this has to be high on the list. And it goes way beyond Winston’s clutch ability on the basketball court, though he’s certainly known for having the mental toughness to make the right play when it matters most. No, this is for Michigan State’s preseason National Player of the Year having the strength to continue on after losing his younger brother, Zachary. Winston has done more than just continue to suit up; he’s averaging almost 18 points and six assists per game, and he’s delivered a touching speech thanking Michigan State fans for their support. We’re thankful for Cassius, and hope he’s able to find peace.
What’s more fun than watching a mid-major get its shot at a blue blood or power school, and watching the mid-major star light things up? Obi Toppin was on radars before his performance at Maui Invitational, but he was so brilliant there — the best player in an event that may have included multiple first round picks — that Jay Bilas said he thought Toppin would eventually go in the top 10 picks in the NBA Draft. Vermont’s Anthony Lamb dropped 30 on Virginia, a team that held its last opponent to 26 points. Gonzaga doesn’t even seem like it should count as a mid-major anymore, but it has a typically strong cast of players. Utah State’s Sam Merrill and Justin Bean, Saint Mary’s Jordan Ford and Malik Fitts and UNC Greensboro’s Isaiah Miller, we could go on and on.