AMERICA! It looked dicey at the beginning of the game, but the United States used a strong second half to defeat Turkey 66-57 in the World University Games opener, and while the game featured some sloppy play, that is to be expected when playing a team of pros who are all multiple years older than the Americans. In general, however, the United States played sound defense, withstood a 3-point barrage early from the Turks, and were led by a couple guys who might be sharing a league with some of these guys in a few years.
There probably won't be much to talk about big picture over the course of the World University Games, as Kansas is without four guys who will feature heavily in the rotation, but it's nice to see some guys add little improvements to their games that we can already see, and imagine how much more they can improve over the rest of the summer and fall.
Neither team shot nor scored well, though I think some of that can be explained by how tight the rims were, the new environment and, for the United States at least, familiarizing themselves with some new rules. Where the USA really won the game was in the turnover battle. Forcing an opponent to turn it over 27 percent of the time is incredible, and is demonstrative of the way the United States usually wins at the international level:
- Frank Mason showed flashes of why he is my heavy favorite for 2016 Big 12 player of the year, making four of five twos, dishing four assists, and grabbing three steals. He had three turnovers and looked hesitant on his 3-pointers, not making one on the night, but he should get more open ones in the NCAA season however. Mason also drew 10 fouls in the game, more than double any player other than Turkey's Sertac Sanli, who drew six.
- Wayne Selden was just 2-7 on 3-pointers, but made six of his nine twos and grabbed nine rebounds, all while playing tough defense on the perimeter. I've said this elsewhere, but just so I can announce to the world: I expect Selden to have a very good season and only be kept off the all Big 12 first team due to Ellis and Mason also being on there, and be in competition to get drafted as high as the late first round by season's end.
- Lagerald Vick struggled in his first competitive game, going 0-3 from the field and grabbing just one rebound in eight minutes of playing time. It's easy to see his athleticism while it's also easy to see that he needs to bulk up and learn the game a bit better, but one game against guys 5 years older than he is doesn't say anything about Vick's potential.
- Nic Moore showed flashes of a guy who could be a strong player in any league in the country, but made just one shot inside the arc, had the same number of assists as turnovers, and struggled defensively at times despite his three steals, though I will say he adjusted well in the second half. He did shoot 40 percent on 3-pointers, however, giving the United States a shot of sorely needed outside shooting.
- Julian Debose was sort of what everyone expected, providing help as a depth guard, though he did have two steals in only seven minutes.
- Carlton Bragg struggled in this one, though it looked like it was mostly due to his broken nose rather than any problem with his skill or ability. He played some good defense both in the post and on the perimeter despite being one of the youngest guys on the court, and grabbed six rebounds in nine minutes.
- Jamari Traylor struggled in this one, grabbing just one rebound and committing four turnovers in 18 minutes. It's clear Self loves his energy, but it's unclear how much Traylor will play when a guy who is expected to have as much energy but more skill is added to the lineup. It's also unfair to grade Traylor when he has to handle the ball a lot and make plays, when he's shown he can be very effective in an energy role.
- Landen Lucas struggled as well, making just one field goal and grabbing four rebounds in 15 minutes. He was bullied a bit down low at times, which is unexpected given his age, size, and (relative) experience at the international level.
- Perry Ellis showed why he should be among the frontrunners for Big 12 player of the year, going 7-15 on twos and grabbing six rebounds. He showed off easy 3-point range, defended well, and didn't look out of place against a bunch of pros.
- Hunter Mickelson did what he does: played sparingly and still managed to block a shot.
The United States next plays Sunday morning at 6:30 America time on ESPNU. Set your DVRs.