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Rothstein Files: Nigel Hayes shows maturity for Badgers

rothstein-files

1. Nigel Hayes showed major signs of maturity in Wisconsin’s win over Syracuse

The Big Ten preseason player of the year has made the majority of his headlines so far this season for his stand on social issues and constant need to display his ability to shoot the ball from the outside.

On Tuesday night against Syracuse, Hayes made headlines for simply being himself as a basketball player.

The Badgers’ 17-point win over the Orange was a result of Hayes’ ability to pick apart Syracuse’s zone from the high post.

Hayes didn’t force offense and merely allowed the game to come to him.

When he saw a seam, he made a pass. When he had an open shot, he took it. And when he didn’t, he refrained.

The result?

A nine-point, 11-rebound, 10-assist performance that reiterated all the attributes that made this kid special in the first place.

Hayes doesn’t need to score at the highest of levels for Wisconsin to win big and the way he played Tuesday against Syracuse reiterates that very sentiment.

MADISON, WI - NOVEMBER 29: Wisconsin Badgers forward Nigel Hayes (10) yells after missing a fee throw that would of given him a triple double durning an NCAA Basketball game between the Syracuse Orange and the Wisconsin Badgers at the Kohl Center in Madison, WI on November 29, 2016. Wisconsin defeats Syracuse 77-60. (Photo by Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire)

MADISON, WI – NOVEMBER 29: Wisconsin Badgers forward Nigel Hayes (10) (Photo by Dan Sanger/Icon Sportswire)

2. Frank Jackson’s consistency has been off the charts for Duke

Three quarters of the Blue Devils’ freshman class — Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles, and Marques Bolden — has yet to play a game this season, but the one player out of that group that’s been healthy has made a major contribution.

Jackson didn’t come to Durham with the same cache as the other players listed above, but he’s been pretty darn good out of the gate.

The 6-3 guard has scored in double-figures in all eight of Duke’s game so far this season and is averaging 15.4 points.

In Jackson’s last three games, he’s only had a combined two turnovers in 82 total minutes.

This kid isn’t getting the same ink as the other members of the Blue Devils’ recruiting class that have yet to play a game, but he’s a major reason why Duke is 7-1.

3. UNC-Indiana will be highlighted by upperclassmen

College basketball is sometimes an infomercial for elite freshmen, but that won’t be the case tonight in Bloomington.

The battle between North Carolina and Indiana as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge likely won’t feature a single first-year starter and that’s a good thing for a sport that sometimes focuses on potential rather than production.

Incoming players are always celebrated because they’re new and exciting, but history has shown that returning players are always more important to a program’s success and tonight’s game at Assembly Hall exemplifies that.

The Tar Heels will likely start two juniors (Joel Berry, Justin Jackson), two seniors (Isaiah Hicks, Kennedy Meeks), and a sophomore (Kenny Williams) while the Hoosiers will likely start three juniors (Josh Newkirk, James Blackmon, Robert Johnson) and two sophomores (Thomas Bryant, OG Anunoby).

That’s a rarity in the sport, but it’s also refreshing.

The 40 minutes that we see tonight between two storied programs is a prime example of what college basketball used to be and what it should always try and remain when it’s possible to do so.

February 23, 2016: Kentucky Wildcats head coach John Calipari during the 1st half of the NCAA basketball game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY. Kentucky defeated Alabama. (Photo by David Blair/Icon Sportswire)

(Photo by David Blair/Icon Sportswire)

This and That:

– We’ll learn a lot more about Kentucky over the next few weeks. In the next 21 days, the Wildcats will host UCLA, face North Carolina in the CBS Sports Classic in Las Vegas on Dec. 17th, and also travel to Louisville on Dec. 21st. Things are about to get real for John Calipari’s squad.

– Cal freshman Charlie Moore is currently averaging 20.8 points and averaging 7.8 free throw attempts. The diminutive (5-10) floor general initially committed to Memphis, but has turned out to be a major find for Cuonzo Martin and the Bears.

– If Northwestern wins five of its final six non-conference games — which is very realistic considering its schedule — then the Wildcats will be 10-3 heading into Big Ten play. Northwestern’s two major remaining non-league games are DePaul on Saturday in Evanston and Dayton in Chicago on Dec. 17th.

– Texas A&M’s Tyler Davis is the best low post scorer in the SEC and is averaging 1.8 more field goal attempts than he did last season. The 6-10 Davis is tallying 12.8 points and 7.3 rebounds on just 8.2 attempts. The Aggies are currently 4-2 following Sunday’s loss to UCLA in Southern California.

– Washington transfer Nigel Williams-Goss is doing a little bit of everything for Gonzaga. The 6-3 guard is averaging 12.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 4.8 assists while shooting an impressive 45.0 percent from three-point range and 94.7 percent from the foul line for the Bulldogs, who are 6-0 following Sunday’s win over Iowa State in Orlando.

– UConn really misses Shonn Miller’s interior defense. The Huskies’ program was known under Jim Calhoun for having dominant big men and there is currently a major void in that area this season under Kevin Ollie. This team needs more production out of guys like Amida Brimah and Steve Enoch.

– Temple sophomore Shizz Alston is quietly having a breakout sophomore year. The Philadelphia native is averaging 12.8 points and 5.2 assists for the 4-2 Owls after only tallying 2.1 points and 0.6 assists last year as a freshman. Alston has an impressive 31 assists to four turnovers so far this season. Temple travels to Big 5 rival Saint Joseph’s tonight. Tip off is at 7 PM ET on CBS Sports Network.

– It’s going to get harder before it gets easier for Bobby Hurley and Arizona State. On the heels of Monday night’s 46-point loss to Kentucky in the Bahamas, these are the Sun Devils’ next five games: UNLV, Purdue (Jimmy V Classic), at San Diego State, New Mexico State, Creighton. Brutal.

– Louisville transfer Shaqquan Aaron is having a major impact at USC. The 6-7 wing is starting for the Trojans at small forward and averaging 11.8 points and 3.8 rebounds. Andy Enfield’s team is currently 6-0 heading into tonight’s game at San Diego.

– Will the WCC have more teams in the 2017 NCAA Tournament than the Mountain West? It’s a very realistic possibility considering that both Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s are top 15 teams. The Mountain West has yet to shown any mettle aside from San Diego State’s win last week over Cal in Sacramento.

Jon Rothstein has been a college basketball insider for CBS Sports since 2010 and is the lead college basketball columnist for the FanRag Sports Network. He is also the host of the College Hoops Today Podcast via Compass Media Networks, which is available via iTunes. Rothstein is also a regular in-studio correspondent for both WFAN and CBS Sports Radio. He currently lives in Manhattan.

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