2023 Gavitt Tipoff Games: Three takeaways from Night 2

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By Samantha Rose

After the Big Ten landed the first haymaker in the Gavitt Tipoff Games with a 2-0 start on Monday night, the Big East punched back in a big way, going 3-0 on Tuesday. Providence beat Wisconsin from the jump, Marquette went on the road for a ranked win at Illinois, and Creighton capped off the night by holding serve in Omaha over Iowa. 

The remaining schedule: 

Wednesday:

Georgetown at Rutgers (8:30 p.m. ET, FS1)

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Friday:

Butler at No. 18 Michigan State (6:30 p.m. ET, FS1)

Maryland at No. 21 Villanova (8:30 p.m. ET, FS1)

It was not very surprising to see the Golden Eagles and Bluejays win, as those two entered the season with legitimate Final Four expectations, but the statement-maker on Tuesday night was Providence, which started on a 27-9 run and dominated Wisconsin, 72-59. The Friars have a new-look identity and experienced talent with one of the best home-court advantages in college basketball. 

That’s all part of our takeaways from the second night of the 2023 Gavitt Games!

Devin Carter scores 21 points for Providence in dominant 72-59 victory over Wisconsin

Devin Carter scores 21 points for Providence in dominant 72-59 victory over Wisconsin

Despite dealing with injuries, Marquette looks like a true national title contender

With less than three minutes to play at the State Farm Center in Champaign, Illinois on Tuesday night, Oso Ighodaro was trying to get his shoulder back into place. The senior was grimacing visibly in pain but stayed on the floor in order to avoid a stoppage in the game because his team had momentum. 

Kam Jones proceeded to drive the lane and bank in a clutch layup, increasing the Golden Eagles’ lead to eight in an eventual 71-64 victory over No. 23 Illinois.

The fight of Ighodaro to finish the game with a banged up shoulder was a mirror of how the evening began, with preseason All-American point guard Tyler Kolek deciding to play through the pain of an ankle injury suffered Friday and giving it a go in a road test in the Gavitt Games. 

The reigning Big East Player of the Year put on a master class, going off for a game-high 24 points on 10-of-18 from the floor with six rebounds, four assists and two steals. He and Jones were in control in a game where Marquette wasn’t at its best offensively, shooting 5-for-17 from 3-point range.

On the Illini side, Terrence Shannon Jr. was as advertised with 21 points and Marcus Domask was a revelation, showing just how strong of a fit he is for Brad Underwood’s program. However, the Illini didn’t get enough on the interior, with Coleman Hawkins shooting just 2-for-9 from the floor. 

Illinois will be fine, and there were encouraging signs on Tuesday night, but here’s the takeaway: 

Marquette is a legitimate national championship contender. 

The Golden Eagles have elite culture and material toughness, something head coach Shaka Smart injected from the moment he took the job in Milwaukee in 2021. His foundation pieces of Kolek, Jones, Ighodaro and Stevie Mitchell are all upperclassmen now, and it showed in a resilient effort by the reigning Big East champions on Tuesday night. 

Kolek’s toughness through an injury and Ighodaro’s ability to finish the game said it all about Marquette’s program identity.

Marquette’s Tyler Kolek goes off for 24 points in a tight 71-64 win over Illinois

Marquette's Tyler Kolek goes off for 24 points in a tight 71-64 win over Illinois

Kim English’s offensive philosophy suits this Providence team well

The Providence Friars shot out of a cannon in Kim English’s first big game as the program’s head coach, starting 7-for-9 from 3-point territory and racing out to a 27-9 lead in a 72-59 blowout of Wisconsin at Amica Mutual Pavilion. 

“Credit to Providence. They kicked our ass,” Badgers head coach Greg Gard said following his team’s loss. “We’ll see how we respond to it. They played hard. We didn’t play hard all the time.” 

At 1-2, a Wisconsin team that returned nine of its top 10 scorers from last year is reeling. 

On the flip side, Providence showed the country that the Friars are still a force to be reckoned with, and English’s new-look offensive philosophy can really suit this team well. 

Devin Carter is one of the most underrated players in the Big East, and it was on display again Tuesday as the junior scored 21 points and added eight rebounds in the victory, shooting 6-for-8 from the floor. The way he can take away the opposing team’s best player with his defense, and the efficiency he plays with on the other end, it’s easy to see why he’s the son of 13-year NBA pro Anthony Carter (Memphis Grizzlies assistant). 

But what’s refreshing about English’s offensive style is it allows for pace, spacing and balance. Providence had nice balance in the win over the Badgers, with Bryce Hopkins scoring 16 points and George Mason transfer Josh Oduro, who followed English to the Friars, scoring 13 points with four assists on a perfect 6-for-6 from the floor. 

The other encouraging sign for Providence is that sophomore point guard Jayden Pierre has in fact made a leap, going for 13 points on 5-for-7 from the floor with three assists. 

Wisconsin sophomore sharpshooter Connor Essegian, who has been dealing with a back injury, was held scoreless in just six minutes of action Tuesday night. When Gard was asked about Essegian, he gave a very cryptic response: 

The Badgers host Robert Morris on Friday before heading to Florida to play Virginia in the Fort Myers Tip-Off on Monday, followed by West Virginia or SMU. Meanwhile, the Friars hit the Baha Mar Hoops Bahamas Championship to meet Kansas State on Friday, before taking on either Miami or Georgia on Saturday. 

Trey Alexander shines for a Creighton team that can get buckets in bunches

My take: Creighton made the Elite Eight last season, and the Bluejays’ pieces fit better together this year. 

It’s nothing against Ryan Nembhard and Arthur Kaluma, who transferred respectively to Gonzaga and Kansas State, but 14th-year head coach Greg McDermott has a group with multiple elite bucket-getters and an improved bench. 

Oh, and McDermott has a junior whose name you should remember for the NBA Draft in June: 

Trey Alexander. 

The 6-foot-4 junior can score and make plays for others in such a variety of ways, and he plays longer than his size. In Tuesday’s 92-84 win over Iowa, Alexander posted 23 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. 

The performance marked Alexander’s third straight 20-plus point game to start the season. The last time a Creighton player started the season with three straight 20-plus point performances? Some guy named Doug McDermott. 

Beyond Alexander, fifth-year wing Baylor Scheierman totaled 17 points and four assists, while three others were in double-figures. The revelation for Creighton was 6-10 sophomore Fredrick King, who had two double-figure performances all of last season. On Tuesday, King was a warrior off the bench, going for 12 points and five rebounds, part of a 32-point bench performance. 

On the flip side, I’ll give Fran McCaffery credit because Iowa hung in well with a Creighton team that has national title aspirations. While the Hawkeyes struggled to stop the Jays, something that isn’t surprising, 6-9 senior Ben Krikke had 24 points to lead the way. With point guard Tony Perkins and wings Payton Sandfort and Patrick McCaffery still a part of the program, Iowa looked better than expected, and like a team that you could see in an 8-9 or 7-10 first-round NCAA Tournament game this March.

Trey Alexander drops 23 points to help Creighton defeat Iowa, 92-84

Trey Alexander drops 23 points to help Creighton defeat Iowa, 92-84

John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers the sport in a variety of capacities, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.

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