It’s a simple question: With their resume, does Virginia have the resume to bypass the seemingly endless amount of other teams on the proverbial Bubble and make it into the field?
Consider me as one of those who thinks yes, without question. And it all has to do with their quality wins.
According to RealTimeRPI.com (the site I swear by when it comes time to look at such things) the Cavaliers have seven wins over Top 100 RPI teams. Four of them are against the Top 50 in North Carolina State, North Carolina, Wisconsin and now, Duke. The three Top 100 wins are Florida State*, Tennessee and Maryland.
(*Yes, somehow Florida State is still a Top 100 team.)
So we have the wins out of the way. Now, we have to look at the other side of things, the part that might actually weigh on the Wahoo’s NCAA Tournament chances more than anything. The bad losses.
And man, they’re awful. In fact, you could make a case that everything I’m writing is total crap, and these should keep them out.
On the season, Tony Bennett’s team is 20-8. Of those eight losses, six are against teams outside the RPI Top 150, including what could turn out to be the shot to the jugular to their Big Dance chances, the 63-61 loss to a dreadful Old Dominion team that ranks 323rd in the RPI*.
(*I understand there are other ways of determining what Virginia’s chances are. But the RPI is the main factor by which the NCAA Tournament Committee decides, so by that rationale, one has to think like the committee thinks.)
In fact, before back-to-back losses to North Carolina (20th) and Miami (3rd) on Feb. 16 and 19, all of the Cavaliers’ losses were to teams outside the Top 150.
So yea, one might see exactly why the case can be made that Virginia has some work to do, possibly even needing a decent run in the ACC Tournament.
But here’s my main argument, with the numbers all laid out: Those disgusting losses early in the season to bad teams, all of which were in the CAA (George Mason, Old Dominion, Delaware), don’t mean as much as getting four wins over sure-fire tournament teams in Wisconsin, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Duke.
Had the conference wins come in a lesser power conference such as the SEC or Big 12, which range from “bad” to “a bit down” this season, I’d say otherwise. But this a season in which even Miami, who isn’t traditionally a power in the conference, is dominant, and the ACC has shown to be up there with the B1G this season as a best-of-the-best conference (though I believe the B1G to be the best overall, the ACC a slight second).
So the Selection Committee has to ask itself: What do we value more? Good wins or bad losses? When it comes to Virginia, the answer to that question will decide whether they’re celebrating or sulking on national television during the Selection Show in a few weeks.
Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten
Watching tonight’s game between Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, I wanted to see one thing: Marshall Henderson.
All season, I’ve yet to see the Rebels’ redshirt junior play a full game, be it because I was busy or another game was more interesting. I finally got to see it, and wasn’t disappointed.
What’s beyond this link is why (credit to Matt Norlander for the video).
The scary thing is that Henderson squared his feet from 35-feet and leaned only slightly forward to get the leverage to shoot that ball. It was nearly a textbook jumper for a guy who earns his scholarship chunking it from three.
As a fan, that’s tons of fun to watch. A guy that you see in your normal rec league game, playing Division I basketball, only he’s tons more talented. He shoots in bunches and coach Andy Kennedy said he’s given Henderson the green light to shoot numerous times. It’s worked. The Hurst, Texas native leads the Southeastern Conference at 18.6 points per game.
What’s it take to do what Marshall Henderson is doing? Also, how is he limiting himself, offensively? Glad you asked. Even if you didn’t, you can find out below.
Square feet - The great shooters always do it. Lately, it’s become somewhat of a lost art. Something I like to call the “Pigeon Toe” effect is what makes Henderson great. When he sets his feet, his toes point inward, so that when he jumps, his feet — and as a result, his shoulders — are square to the bucket. It will always get the ball going in the right direction.
Defensive energy - Most offensive machines aren’t known for great defense. Henderson is by no means a Russ Smith or Aaron Craft, but he’s one of the more underrated perimeter defenders in the SEC. In his 41 minutes on the court, Henderson got his hands (deflection or steal) on 11 balls, all on the perimeter. He’s 6-2, and even though he averages 1.4 steals per game, he’s not going to do too much when a guard penetrates, but he has active hands, and legs. Four times in the second half alone, even if it was ill-advised, Henderson ran from the top of the key to the deep wing or baseline to chase down a shooter. For better or worse, Henderson likes the play the perimeter on both sides of the ball.
Ball-screen awareness - Any shooter worth his salt knows how to properly come off a screen, especially off the ball in a catch-and-shoot situation. What sets Henderson apart is his ability to know when to come off the screen. He’s great at coming off the shoulder of the screener. But, for example, five minutes into the game against Vanderbilt on Tuesday night, Marshall started on the right baseline, hesitated when he saw the ball get to the top of the key, and instead of coming off the screen of Reginald Buckner immediately, put enough of a stutter-step up to freeze the defender, Kedren Johnson to get the space he needed to go wide off the screen, wrap around, catch and shoot from 25 feet. It’s the fact that he knows how to do this that gets Henderson space.
There’s obviously, always a downside to giving a player free-reign to pull whenever he wants. There are definitely things Henderson could work on.
Overconfidence - Henderson has no fear. That’s fine. He’s got the tools to always believe he’s going to drop 30 in a game. But some nights, it’s not going to be his night. Henderson’s got the shooting part down, but the percentages suggest there’s night when they wont fall. He’s hitting 36.1-percent from three and 39.7-percent overall. All hoopers have that night. When that comes, Henderson has a tendency to rely on jacking up threes to regain the swagger he shows — and pisses a ton of people off with. He had to learn to defer to teammates. His ability to pull the defense deep outside the perimeter can open a ton of mid-range looks for Reginald Buckner and Nick Williams.
Perimeter floating - Henderson is a bomber. He’s thrown up an mind-numbing 158 threes this season already. With that, home is on the perimeter. That can make any shooter complacent. There wasn’t much crashing the boards when it mattered for Henderson and a ton of cherry-picking. This can be a good thing on outlet plays, but to rely on it against a team like, say, Kentucky, could end in a lot of athletic guards like Archie Goodwin getting some offensive rebounds.
Henderson falls into the category that guys like Jimmer Fredette and J.J. Redick did in college. Gunner. Deep range with no conscience. I can dig that. So can a lot of fans. And it’ll help Ole Miss a bunch this season. To break down Henderson’s game is lesson in controlled chaos. Beautiful chaos. It’s what happens when that chaos starts to hinder the team’s gameplan that will determine if this is Kennedy’s year to take the Rebels to the NCAA Tournament.
Yes, Marshall Henderson is that important.
Last season might as well served as Quinn Cook’s redshirt season. The then-Duke freshman averaged 4.4 points, 1.9 assists and shot 25-percent in 11.7 minutes per game in 2011-12 and after all the hype surrounding him, looked well on his way to being a bust. Which doesn’t happen much with Mike Krzyzewski’s recruits.
This season, we’re finally seeing exactly why Coach K wanted Cook.
The sophomore point guard is averaging 11.4 points. 6.1 assists and 3.9 boards to accompany his 1.9 steals per game and has taken firm hold of the reins of the Blue Devils’ offense. He serves as the facilitator for national player of the year candidate Mason Plumlee.
But I guess the question is, how?
The obvious answer is hard work, but what’s different?
Let’s examine? (And we’re throwing out “experience” here, that’s a given).
Increased Offensive Role
This might as well be called “the departure of Austin Rivers”. Rivers was not only the point guard — even if his skill set screamed shooting guard — but was the lead scoring threat. When essentially both guard spots were spoken for by one player, that makes it hard to pick a role for Cook. This season, with Rivers gone to the NBA, he can do what he does best, whatever he wants. That starts with being the point man. He gets everyone involved. Along with his 6.1 dimes, four other players besides Cook are averaging double-figures in points. He spreads it out. With Ryan Kelly out with a foot injury, he’ll have to get another starter involved as well.
The Rise of Rasheed Sulaimon
When the freshman Sulaimon got to campus this season, no one saw what they’re currently getting from their starting two-guard. He’s taken on an unexpected scoring load (11.3 points, 41.3-percent shooting) and when both guards spots were question marks coming into the season, this makes things easier for Cook to not only be selective with his shots — he’s 45.3-percent on the season with fifth-most shots attempted on the team — but has another reliable three-point shooter with Sulaimon taking the second-most three’s on the team, behind the obviously lead gun Seth Curry, at 56. Sulaimon has made 21 on the season, for a 37.5-percent clip.
No Need to Be the Leader
In the past, this hasn’t been the case for most star guards at Duke. From Jason Williams to Kyrie Irving to Rivers, the point guard has always been the guy to star, by way of scoring and passing. Cook is fourth on the team in scoring and, as previously mentioned, fifth on the team in field goal attempts. He’s not asked to score. And while Krzyzewski hasn’t demanded a bulk of the scoring load, he has demanded a bulk of the leadership come from the guard spot, at least on the court. With Plumlee, Kelly and Curry all seniors pacing the team in the huddle, Cook is asked only to make sure to minimize mistakes while making plays when the opportunities are presented.
Watching tape of Cook this season, compared to last, is like night-and-day. A number of pundits believed he just didn’t get the system, I’d say that, looking back, the coaching staff was just saving him, grooming him, even. He played 387 minutes all of last season, so far in 2012-13, he’s already clocked 492.
Cook has made 0ne of the largest improvements from last season to this season, and the reasons are equal-parts patience and opportunity.
Think hard. Really hard. What’s the one thing that Bo Ryan’s good Wisconsin teams have always had?
I’ll give you a hit. Alando Tucker. Need another? Jordan Taylor.
Yea, smart point guards.
With Josh Gasser out for the season with a torn ACL and Taylor exhausting his eligibility, the Badgers don’t have that smart point guard. It showed in a 74-56 thrashing at the hands of Florida on Wednesday night. And the game wasn’t even that close.
The numbers aren’t staggeringly bad. Through two games, Wisconsin has 18 turnovers against 26 assists. But it was clear in an admittedly hostile arena like the O’Connell Center, you need a calming presence. Gasser was that. Taylor was that. Without it, a team can give up 74.
Gasser, Tucker and Taylor were also incredibly good on-ball defenders. Taylor averaged a steal per game while Gasser was at 0.7 per game last season. Tucker averaged a little under a steal per game for his career. When you don’t have that, the opposing teams’ guards does his thing. Dre Evans scored 13 for Southeastern Louisiana in the season opener and Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario combined for 25 points in the Gators’ win.
It’s not like the Badger could do anything about this. Gasser suffered the injury on Oct. 27. But the point is, they have no choice. Find a replacement, or the closest thing to it, or have fun losing a few games you should win.
Florida is by-and-large a good team. With proven scorers like Rosario, Boynton and Erik Murphy (24 in the win), along with a serious banger like Patric Young, they are a tough match-up for anyone.
But one thing that Bo Ryan’s best teams have had is a great point guard who can control the team in the half-court and one that can hold down the perimeter defensively. Gasser can’t be that guy this year and it’s going to have tragic consequences in B1G play if Ryan can’t find someone to replace him to some extent. Whether individually or by-committee.
Over the next day or so, we’re bring you a few superlatives we believe will pan out, or not. The choice is yours to believe. Over the weekend, we’ll have our “Superlatives of the Ridiculous” up.
For now, four serious topics, with four totally subjective answers.
Doug McDermott, Creighton – Shocker, right? The leading returning scorer in the nation at 22.9 points per game has so much in his arsenal that it’s not fair. He can score on the inside (60.1 percent from the field), the perimeter (48.6 percent from three), can get ot the foul line (79.6 percent) and can move without the ball to get open. It’s frankly not even a tough decision. He’s a future NBA lottery pick whenever he chooses to come out for the draft and with the team he has around him, it’s fair to say the Bluejays will have no problem running the Missouri Valley Conference and a deep run in the NCAA Tournament isn’t out of the question. And we all know being on a good team just helps your cause.
Most likely to lead the nation in scoring
Frank Gaines, IPFW – WHO!? That’s the general reaction I get when I tell people this. But this dude can pour it in. He averaged 21.2 last season for the Mastadons (best mascot in sports) and has been the focal point of the Fort Wayne offensive attack for the past two seasons and knows how to handle double-teams and every team’s best defender. He’s a fifth-year senior who will contend with South Dakota State’s Nate Wolters for Summit League Player of the Year honors. Though he’s not as complete at Wolters. But he has to score to help IPFW, so score he will.
Kris Davis, SIU-Edwardsville – Again, WHO!?!? This one is actually easier than you would think. Davis led the nation in 3-point percentage last season but didn’t have the amount of shots to qualify at 59.8 percent (58-of-97). This season, he’s got some eyes on him, even if he does play for one of the worst teams in the Ohio Valley Conference. He’s going to get the green light on a team that doesn’t have a ton of scoring — Davis is their third-leading returning scorer at 11.6 ppg — so expect the volume to come, but does the percentage follow? I think so.
Most likely to lead the nation in rebounding
Dennis Tinnion, Marshall – Not so much of an unknown name. Tinnion averaged 10.2 points and 10.0 rebounds last season in his first year of Division I basketball. With DeAndre Kane back, he won’t be the focal point again and he’s got the athleticism, even at 6-8, 232 pounds, to get to balls that seem impossible. Most of rebounding is positioning and Tinnon lives under the basket. He’ll make his living cleaning glass this year.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF: Creighton University; SIU-Edwardsville
For the rest of the week, we’ll be picking the players, coaches and teams most likely to do some big things, or, well, bad things for the upcoming season. We’ll start today with four individuals poised for big seasons.
Most Likely to Win National Player of the Year:
Cody Zeller: Easy answer, right? He’s being heralded as the best player in the nation on the best team in the nation. As someone who grew up in southern Indiana watching and reading about all three Zeller brothers, I’m pretty excited to see what Cody is capable of this year. Simply put, he can do it all. With freshman year averages of 15.6 points per game, 6.6 rebounds and a 62 percent field goal percentage, Zeller helped bring an IU team back from the dead into one of the top 10 teams in the nation. He also averaged over a steal and a block each time out. The Hoosiers have a really deep team this year, but I still anticipate Zeller getting more touches this year. Last season he only had 11 games with more than 10 field goal attempts. This is Zeller’s award to lose, as expectations are as high as they’ve been in over 20 years in Bloomington. Creighton’s Doug McDermott and Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan are the two guys that could challenge Zeller the most.
Most Likely to Lead the Nation in Scoring:
Doug McDermott: One of the guys that could possibly give Zeller a run for his money for PoY, McDermott can flat out score. Averaging 22.9 points per game last year for Creighton, good for third in the nation, McDermott did so shooting a staggering 60 percent from the field. Plenty of people shoot 60 percent, but very few of them are also deadly 3-point shooters. The Creighton sharpshooter connected on 49 percent of his three’s last season, making 1.5 a game. Word is he’s improved his shot off the dribble, so the Missouri Valley better be on the lookout now more than ever.
Brady Heslip: With apologies to Indiana’s Jordan Hulls and Butler’s Rotnei Clarke, I just can’t get Heslip’s performance from last year’s NCAA Tournament for Baylor out of my head. In a second-round game against Colorado, he made nine threes and scored 27 points. For the year he made 100 of them. All this kid does is shoot three’s, but why fault him when he makes 44 percent of them? He made 2.6 three’s per contest, and only 0.6 two-point field goals. Something tells me the folks down in Waco don’t mind, though.
Most Likely to Lead the Nation in Rebounding:
Andre Roberson: Fifth in the nation in rebounding last year, I think this Colorado big man has the tools to finish out on top for 2012-13. Last season he averaged 11.1 rebounds per game, grabbing down double figure boards 26 times. He helped Colorado upset UNLV in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last year, hauling down 16 rebounds to go with 12 points.
Images: Google Images/SI.com
San Diego State and UNLV had players who were awarded preseason player of the year (Jamaal Franklin, SDSU), newcomer of the year (Dwyane Polee II, SDSU; Bryce DeJean-Jones, UNLV), freshman of the year (Anthony Bennett, UNLV) and put three of the five on the all-conference team.
So there we have it, right? Nah, it’s a bit deeper than that.
Early on, it’s a totally reasonable thought to think it’s just two four-letter schools have a shot, but taking a look, this could turn into a three-team affair.
UNLV- Dave Rice just has this team ready. A great leader in Mike Moser. Quality transfers in Bryce DeJean-Jones and Khem Birch. Role players who have been in the system like Quintrell Thomas and Justin Hawkins. A serious freshman haul in Anthony Bennett and Savon Goodman. It’s all coming together on The Strip.
San Diego State – Jamaal Franklin makes this team go. But don’t sleep on guys like shooter Chase Tapley, who poured in 15.8 points per game in 2011-12 and hit 43.3-percent from three-point range. Xavier Thames returns and his 10.1 points per game returns as well. Dwyane Polee II makes his debut after coming over from St. John’s.
New Mexico – No one is talking about this team. It might come back to bite some people later on down the road. Kendall Williams paces the Lobos and coach Steve Alford. Hugh Greenwood provides depth at the guard spot. In the post, a thin line is anchored by 7-footer Alex Kirk and Tony Snell. Someone is going to have to provide more depth there.
Nevada – The Wolf Pack (yep, two words) will go as far as Deonte Burton will take them. Burton was a preseason all-conference member after averaging 14.8 points last season. Nevada also gets back 6-5 Malik Story and his 14.1 ppg from last season. Someone will have to replace Olek Czyz down low, along with Dario Hunt’s 10.3 points and 9.7 rebounds per. That might be a job for Kevin Panzer.
Colorado State – Larry Eustachy goes from a program that he could be mediocre with and keep his job, to the same kind of team in a bigger, better conference. Fortunately for the Rams, Eustachy doesn’t do mediocre. He resurrected his own career along with the program at Southern Miss. Now he takes a solid roster left by Time Miles and can go as far as he will take them. I do, however, have questions about the contrast in playing styles from last season to this one.
Mike Moser, UNLV – He’s by far the best player in the league with Drew Gordon gone. Moser can score (14.7 points) and rebound (10.5 boards) and can get his teammates involved (80 assists). He also led the Rebels with 68 steals last season. He’s a stat stuffer and should be a first round NBA pick after this season, barring something catastrophic.
Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State – Another recent product of coach Steve Fisher’s uptempo system. He could’ve come out after last season, maybe, and taken his chances in the NBA Draft. He averaged 17.4 points and 7.9 rebounds last season, taking complete control of the team after the graduation of Kwahi Leonard.
Kendall Williams, New Mexico – Probably the best distributor in the MWC. He led the team with 142 assists (4.1 per game) and a lot of that last season was to one or two guys. This season, he’s got a more wide-open system with more free-flowing offensive structure. He should lead the conference in assists and add on to his 12.1 points per game.
Leonard Washington, Wyoming – If he wasn’t so good at getting in trouble, Washington would get more love. I don’t overlook guys like Washington. The former USC transfer averaged 12.9 points and 6.1 boards for the Cowboys in 2011-12, but was recently suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules. He also led the MWC in blocks at 1.1 per game. He was brought back and the all-MWC second team pick can have the first-team all-conference season he’s capable of if he can keep his nose clean.
Colton Iverson, Colorado State – This guy is a total wild card, but I love his game. He’s a fifth-year senior with this being his only season with the Rams, but he averaged 5.4 points and 5.0 rebounds in the Big Ten (ok, I just want to call it B1G) last season at Minnesota, so I think the 6-10, 261-pounder can do some damage in the Mountain West. I can see an 11-and-10 season from him, enough to give him the nod. Though no one ever accused me of being smart.
MOST UNDERVALUED TEAM
New Mexico – In my writings on the Lobos, I got bombarded by fans of the program that I was foolish to think the team wouldn’t compete with the league’s elite. They have a point. The Lobos have guard depth to spare with Williams and his 12.4 points per game at the point and Hugh Greenwood’s 83 assists last season. Jamal Fenton comes back after a three-game suspension in late November. The only problem might be post depth. With Drew Gordon gone, Tony Snell (10.5 ppg) and company will need to step up.
MOST OVERRATED TEAM
Colorado State – Tim Miles did what not many before him could do: make a football school with limited resources in basketball, relevant. Larry Eustachy taking over gives the Rams great coach to work with, but his and Miles’ styles (rhymes!) are totally different. Miles loves to slow it down, Eustachy loves to shoot and run. Miles thrived on defense, and while Eustachy definitely doesn’t poo-poo the defensive side of the ball, he puts more emphasis on scoring (Southern Miss gave up and average of 65.1 points per game, 111th in Division I last season, while scoring 71.4, 89th in the nation).
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Mike Moser, UNLV – The former UCLA transfer gets his year. He took a few people by surprise with 14.0 points and 10.5 rebounds last season, but he’s possibly the best wing in the nation and could be spending his final season in college. A 17-and-12 season from him certainly isn’t out of the question.
COACH OF THE YEAR
Dave Rice, UNLV – Lon Kruger left a decent nucleus for the former UNLV role player to work with, but Rice has done a phenomenal job with this team. They’re the favorite to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, and with good reason. Expect a lot from this squad now and in the future. Mike Moser, one of the most important transfers in Khem Birch who gets eligible at the semester break, not to mention Bryce DeJean-Jones, this team has been pieced together methodically, and Rice has done it in a way that would make Tark proud.
PHOTOS: GETTY IMAGES/MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE