Here’s a simple rule TV networks should adopt the rest of this season: Oklahoma and Duke can no longer tip-off at the same time.
That’s the only way college basketball fans can avoid missing a single highlight from the sport’s two must-watch players.
For two enjoyable yet exhausting hours on Saturday afternoon, Oklahoma’s Trae Young and Duke’s Marvin Bagley had TV viewers frantically switching back and forth between games on their remote controls. Both further cemented themselves as national player of the year front runners and future NBA lottery picks with brilliant performances in a pair of high-profile games.
Young, the skilled point guard who has drawn comparisons to Stephen Curry, torched 10th-ranked TCU for 39 points and 14 assists in Oklahoma’s 90-89 road victory. Over and over again, Sooners coach Lon Kruger put the ball in Young’s hands and asked him to create off the dribble. Over and over again, the slender 6-foot-2 freshman came through, sometimes via an impossibly deep 3-pointer or a pinpoint pass through traffic and other times by attacking the rim himself and finishing or drawing contact.
Sixty-seven of 12th-ranked Oklahoma’s 90 points were a result of either a basket, free throw or assist by Young. His most important contribution was a pair of tie-breaking foul shots with 7.9 seconds to go after he drew heavy contact driving to the basket.
At the same time as Young was leading his team to a marquee road win, Bagley was helping Duke thwart 24th-ranked Florida State’s furious upset bid in Durham. The talented 6-foot-11 forward scored 32 points and grabbed 21 rebounds as the fourth-ranked Blue Devils rallied from a late four-point deficit and secured a 100-93 victory.
While Florida State shot a sizzling 15 of 32 from behind the arc and Duke misfired on all but eight of its 30 3-point attempts, the Blue Devils made up the gap by dominating in the paint. The big reason for that was Bagley, who hit 13 of 17 shots, went to the foul line 11 times and kept Duke competitive in the second half by repeatedly generating second-chance opportunities by yanking down offensive boards in traffic.
Young and Bagley were so outstanding that viewers had to be nimble with their remote controls to avoid missing something spectacular.
Like this step-back 30 footer from Young.
Or this unfathomable finish through contact from Bagley.
Alright Marvin Bagley, how'd you do this? pic.twitter.com/ExeZX9TQxo
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) December 30, 2017
While the highlights are what will make SportsCenter and go viral on social media, the most impressive trait about Young and Bagley is their consistency.
This was the sixth time already this season that Young has scored at least 20 points and dished out at least 10 assists. He’s now averaging an eye-popping 29.6 points and 10.7 assists per game, both easily the highest among Division I players.
Bagley’s production as a true freshman is nearly as jaw-dropping. In addition to averaging 21.1 points and 10.9 rebounds, he has produced at least 20 points and 10 boards in the same game seven times already this season.
That Bagley is awing NBA scouts is no surprise. This is the No. 1 ranked player in his class, a kid who has had John Calipari, Sean Miller and Mike Krzyzewski scouting him every summer since his freshman year in high school.
Young’s ascendance would have been tougher to predict two months ago. He was a consensus top 30 prospect who turned down Kansas and Kentucky to stay home at Oklahoma, but he wasn’t projected as a one-and-done prospect, let alone a potential top-five pick.
While Bagley and Young may have began the season in different stratospheres, that’s no longer the case anymore. With apologies to Arizona’s DeAndre Ayton or Alabama’s Collin Sexton, they’re the two best freshmen in college basketball and the two leading candidates to stage a memorable player of the year duel over the next few months.
Expect many more Saturdays where both Young and Bagley put up staggering numbers. Next time let’s just hope those performances come a few hours apart.
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