Opening day winners and losers: Young UK struggles, Duke doubles up on good news

It's time to do a little jig and celebrate, because Friday marked the official start of the college basketball season across the country. All told, 21 ranked teams will be in action by night's end, giving us a marathon Friday of action to cover in our winners and losers recap. So let's get to it.

Loser: Michael Porter Jr.

While fellow frosh standout Marvin Bagley III scored 25 points in his Duke debut -- the most ever by a former No. 1 recruit -- former No. 2 recruit Michael Porter Jr. rode the pine for most of his first college game. Porter, a candidate to be the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft along with Bagley, played only two minutes and scored two points in the early going before sitting due to a tweaked hip he suffered in warmups.

On the plus side, though, Porter Jr. had courtside seats to an incredible outing by his Tigers. Mizzou made a season-opening statement with a 74-59 win over Iowa State, behind a balanced scoring attack from Jordan Barnett, Kassius Robertson and Kevin Puryear.

Winner: Texas A&M

Even without the services of suspended big man and potential lottery pick Robert Williams, the Aggies buried No. 11 West Virginia 88-65. They did so by overcoming a 13-point deficit, too, which makes the win all the more impressive.

Granted, WVU was without Esa Ahmad, one of its better players. But Texas A&M, a trendy pick to challenge for the SEC this season, made a nice season-opening statement with this one. It didn't feel like an upset. Texas A&M was just flat out better.

Winner: The SEC

It's way too early to make any sweeping judgements on conferences, but the SEC had a strong showing on opening day, most notably with the aforementioned Texas A&M Aggies getting a win over a really solid West Virginia squad. But the SEC also made impressive statements elsewhere, including a dominant Mizzou win over Iowa State without Porter Jr., and an  82-70 Alabama win over Memphis without all-everything point guard Collin Sexton.

The SEC is expected to be a better conference, top-to-bottom, than it was last season. And after one full day of games, that notion appears accurate.

Loser: NCAA

You'll never believe this, but the NCAA did a dumb thing on Friday. Again.

This time, Houston senior Rob Gray is the subject of the silliness. According to Mark Berman of Fox 26 (and later confirmed by Houston), Gray, the leading returning scorer in the AAC and the No. 51 player in the CBS Sports Top 100 (and one) player rankings,  was ruled ineligible for Houston's season-opener against McNeese State for ... participating in a church rec league game earlier this summer.

Seriously, a church league rec game! Look, I get that NCAA rules restrict that sort of participation from student-athletes. But considering the state of the NCAA and its recent rulings -- including ruling Braxton Beverly ineligible and landing on the wrong side of the cases of Evan Battey and Jalen Hayes -- this doesn't seem like the type of hill the NCAA should be dying on. Oh, and I didn't even mention that the NCAA completely let North Carolina off the hook for one of the biggest academic fraud cases in history just a month ago.

I'm just glad dangerous church league rec players are punished so they can't be a threat to society! 

Winner: Duke

Before the Blue Devils began their season Friday night, Coach K received some overwhelmingly positive news on the recruiting trail when consensus No. 1 overall prospect R.J. Barrett committed to Duke over Oregon and Kentucky. Barrett is the star of the Class of 2018 and gives the Blue Devils their third five-star pledge in the class, to go with Cam Reddish and Tre Jones.

Duke now boasts the No. 1 overall recruiting class for 2018, leap-frogging cross-state rival North Carolina with Barrett's Friday night pledge, giving the Blue Devils a solid chance to finish atop the rankings for the third consecutive season.

On the court, Duke also had a good night with a 97-68 win vs. Elon. Marvin Bagley set a school record for freshmen on opening night with 25 points. 

Loser: Kentucky's young squad

Kentucky fell behind by nine points at halftime to Utah Valley before riding a big second half run to a 73-63 win. But there were some red flags that stuck out early, not the least of which was a late-first half lull in which Kentucky missed 15 consecutive field goal attempts. 15!

It wasn't all bad, though. The Wildcats followed that up by shooting 59 percent (19 of 32) from the field in the second half and getting a team-high 18 points from Hamidou Diallo, including a second half streak in which he threw down dazzling dunk after dazzling dunk. But if UK sleepwalks into its game Sunday against Vermont like it did against Utah Valley, the Catamounts have the horses to make this young Kentucky team pay.

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Loser: Oklahoma State

Hours before Oklahoma State even began its 2017 season vs. Pepperdine, the school announced that senior guard Jeffrey Carroll -- the Big 12's leading returning scorer and preseason All-Big 12 first team pick -- is being withheld from play pending the ongoing internal investigation into the men's basketball program. 

Carroll is undeniably OSU's best player, and without him, the team picked in the preseason to finish last in the Big 12 might be in for an especially bad season. For now, it's unclear how long Carroll will be held out, as the school announced he would be withheld "pending the ongoing review of the men's basketball program." Any extended time out, though, would spell disaster for the Pokes. It's hard to imagine anyone starting their season on a worse foot.

Winner: Cincinnati

Surprise, surprise. Cincy won big over Savannah State 107-77. But the way in which the Bearcats did it -- with a balanced effort from their top players -- is what impressed me most.

One of Cincinnati's top players, Kyle Washington, scored just 5 points and played 16 minutes. But Mick Cronin got incredible production across the board from Jacob Evans, Gary Clark and Jarron Cumberland, who combined to score 42 points. Cane Broome, a transfer from Sacred Heart, scored 17. He's an X-factor for Cincy's hopes of winning the AAC.

Losers: Indiana

The Archie Miller era in Bloomington is not off to a swell start, to put it nicely.

The Hoosiers fell victim to Indiana State -- a team picked to finish eighth in the Missouri Valley Conference -- by a score of 90-69 on Friday on Indiana's home floor. It makes Miller the first Indiana coach since 1924 to lose a season-opening debut.

Indiana State hit 17 of its 26 3-point attempts to bury the Hoosiers, who have an even more brutal slate ahead. Friday nights game is one of seven of a grueling 20-day stretch which includes a road trip to face No. 23 Seton Hall, capped by a November-ending battle against No. 1 Duke at Assembly Hall.

It's going to take time and patience for Indiana fans to see Archie Miller's vision through, but it's hard to imagine the new era getting off to a worse start.

Winner: Lamar

This one could go down on the official winners/losers scorecard as either a win for Lamar or a loss for Tulsa, but I'm more of a glass half-full guy. So let's give some credit to Lamar -- a team picked to finish seventh in the preseason -- for dumping the Golden Hurricane 74-67. On the road, no less!

Tulsa sleep-walked and trailed for most of this game while leading returning scorer, Junior Etou, battled foul trouble and struggled to find a rhythm. He finished with just 2 points as Lamar's Nick Garth, a junior from Houston, lead the way with 23 points. To put the loss for TU into perspective, it was literally a buy game for the Golden Hurricane.

Winner: Baylor's Manu Lecomte

Baylor did as Baylor was expected to do in its season-opener against Central Arkansas on Friday afternoon, throttling UCA 107-66. There's not much to be taken away, except for the encouraging scorched earth performance by the Bears' leading returning scorer Manu Lecomte.

With 2016 leading scorer Johnathan Motley now in the NBA and moving on from Baylor, Lecomte is expected to take on a major role as the No. 1 guy for No. 24 Baylor this season. And while he's never been a first option during his time in college, he made a loud-and-clear statement that he's more than capable of filling that role with a team-high 22 points on 6-of-10 shooting, including 6-of-8 from the 3-point line.

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