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
-Ok, obvious headline. But all I keep hearing about is how North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall’s fractured wrist will affect the team as a whole. No one, however, has addressed exactly how.
Sure, this means one of the top distributors in the nation won’t be dishing out assists if he doesn’t play against Ohio — which by all accounts, is a winnable game without him, which is why I believe they save him for the Elite 8 — but what does it limit the Tar Heels main bigs/shooters from doing? A quick look.
Tyler Zeller (16.4 ppg, 55.4-percent from the field): By-in-large, Zeller has been the model of consistency for UNC this season. He’s a definite when it comes to ball distribution in the post (it has to go through him, a la David Padgett for Louisville from 2005-08) but it’s when he gets the ball down low, he does his best work to put it in. Zeller is hardly a face-up guy, which means he lives to get the feeds. Without a penetrate-and-dish PG like Marshall, Zeller will have to learn to possibly live 10-to-15 feet from the basket and use the mid-range jumper he’s slowly developed, or expect double-teams all night.
Harrison Barnes (17.3 ppg, 45.0-percent): By far the one player on the squad who will miss Marshall the least, should he not play. Barnes is nearly NBA-ready with the ability and size to slash in the lane and also create his own shot off the dribble. He doesn’t need Marshall to create for him, but it doesn’t hurt. He does however, benefit probably the most from the defensive collapses that Marshall draws on his forays to the bucket. Barnes will have to create more if Marshall doesn’t play, which could also shine some much-needed light on whether or not this is his final season in Chapel Hill.
James Michael McAdoo (5.8 ppg, 45.5-percent): He’s almost a Barnes-light. He does what the Super Sophomore does, only to a lesser-experienced extent. McAdoo needs Marshall because frankly, he goes off what the floor general tells him. Expect him to take more set shots, if for no other reason, because he’s not going to be able to move much with the ball.
John Henson (13.8 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 50.3-percent): As if it wasn’t bad enough when Henson when down with a wrist injury of his own, now this. Henson has since returned, but while he’s mainly a defensive presence, he’s the soundest on the court for UNC when it comes to acting on the Pick-And-Roll and knowing when to cut to the hoop for a Marshall pass (hence, the dude gets a ton of put-back slams with his insane length). Henson will have to get on the same page with freshman point-man Stilman White quickly or just hope for a lot of second-chance dunks.
Reggie Bullock (8.7 ppg, 42.8-percent): He’s in the same boat as his freshman cohort, James Michael McAdoo, but he lives in the post. Look for Bullock to become the garbage man. He’s going to be looking for a lot of second-chance points, a lot of free throws. Just whatever he can get.
UNC can survive without Marshall, but that means to key players for the Heels will be forced to take on new roles. Roles that could mean if they make a run to the title without Marshall (again, he hasn’t been ruled out yet) it could be a greater run than last year’s UConn team to the ‘ship.
-PHOTO: NATIONOFBLUE.COM/GOOGLE IMAGES
Five games you should’ve watched, and five games you still have a chance to see. All while your wife makes you run around for two hours, including a trip to Sephora that I’m pretty sure qualifies as some sort of misdemeanor kidnapping.
No. 1 Kentucky-83, Vanderbilt-74
-Kentucky (28-1, 14-0 SEC) clinched the overall SEC title with the win over the Commodores (20-9, 9-5), and got one of the best performances of the season out of National Player of the Year candidate Anthony Davis. Davis dropped in a career-high 28 points, pulled down 11 boards and also had six blocks. Coach John Calipari said after that he thought about letting his team take it on the chin, but said he couldn’t. He’s a brilliant basketball mind…but also a notorious BS’er. Nonetheless, UK with a good win.
No. 4 Duke-70, Virginia Tech-65, OT
-This Duke (25-4, 12-2 ACC) team makes everything close this conference season. The Hokies (15-14, 4-10) have had Duke’s number in recent years, but hey, this season there isn’t even talk of VaTech being On The Bubble, so the final was a bit surprising. Cadarian Gaines missed a jumper that would’ve won the game for VT with time running out, and the Blue Devils kept hitting shots in the extra period. Austin Rivers had 23 points in the win and Miles Plumlee showed off his best Ben Wallace with 15 rebounds and only 5 points for the Dukies.
St. John’s-61, No. 18 Notre Dame-58
-Whoa. Any see this coming? (Put your damn hand down). The Redmen (13-16, 6-10 Big East) — it’s more fun to say that than Red Storm, it sounds like a VD — led 31-25 at halftime and an Alex Dragicevich three went begging at the buzzer to give the Johnnies their most relevant win this season. Big hit to Mike Brey’s Irish (20-9, 12-4) squad, who are still probably in the Dance, but might take a seeding hit for this one.
Iowa State-65, Kansas State-61
-Can anyone figure out this K-State (19-9, 8-8 Big 12) team? Beat Mizzou (granted, at home) then get beat by, in fairness, a solid Iowa State (21-8, 11-5) squad that probably will make the Tournament. But damn, this one would’ve helped a lot for the Wildcats, Frank Martin obviously is losing all sorts of heat on his laser-like stare. It doesn’t help when you let Scott Christopherson go for 29 on 10-of-13 shooting.
GAMES TO COME (All times eastern, home teams first)
No. 5 Kansas (23-5, 13-2 Big 12) v. No. 3 Missouri (25-3, 13-2 Big 12) (4 p.m., CBS)
-It’s a travesty, really. This is the last battle in the Border War in the known future. But at least we get a great one between two top-5 teams in a venue that just might implode in Allen Fieldhouse with the tension as high as it is. Look for the biggest match-up to be a streaking Jeff Withey, averaging nearly a double-double recently, against Mizzou big man Ricardo Ratliffe, who leads the nation in field goal percentage.
Virginia (21-6, 8-5 ACC) v. No. 7 North Carolina (24-4, 11-2 ACC) (4 p.m., ESPN)
-The last time these two teams played, both were ranked. The Cavaliers are close to that now (like it matters?) but Tony Bennett’s squad needs to put together a solid second half this time around. The Tar Heels only led 35-32 at halftime in the first meeting between the two before outscoring the Wahoos by 15 in the second half to pull away.
No. 13 Michigan (21-7, 11-4 Big Ten) v. Purdue (18-10, 8-7 Big Ten) (6 p.m., Big Ten Network)
-This one is more about the Boilermakers than Go Blue. Purdue is most definitely on the wrong side of the bubble right now, and need another solid Big Ten win — and probably need to beat Indiana on the road after that — to get back on it. Robbie Hummel is averaging 26.5 points over the last two games.
VCU (24-6, 14-3 CAA) v. George Mason (23-7, 14-3 CAA) (6 p.m., ESPN2)
-Winner leaves with the Colonial Athletic Association crown, it’s that simple. A Sherrod Wright 3-pointer at the horn was the difference last time in a 62-61 win for the Colonials. Shaka Smart won’t let the Rams forget that.
Harvard (24-3, 10-1 Ivy) v. Penn (16-11, 8-2 Ivy) (7 p.m, ESPN3)
-Harvard can essentially lock up the Ivy League with a win, which will put them three wins and two losses ahead of the Quakers with two games left. After being less than a second from their first NCAA Tournament berth last season, you can bet Tommy Amaker has this squad prepared.
No. 23 St. Mary’s (24-5, 13-2 WCC) v. San Francisco (18-11, 8-7 WCC) (11 p.m., No TV)
-The only reason this one is intriguing is because the Dons defeated Gonzaga last week, and could have their minds on another upset against the Gaels.St. Mary’s demolished Portland, and a win over USF could earn a lot of respect for them after being dominated in their Bracketbuster loss at Murray State.
-PHOTO: GOOGLE IMAGES
From Saturday’s Murray State/St. Mary’s game, Isaiah Canaan alleys, Brandon Garrett oops. Boom goes the dynamite.
MURRAY, Ky. — There’s plenty one could devour when looking at no. 16 Murray State’s 65-51 victory over no. 21 St. Mary’s. I mean, a lot. And afterward, the coaches, they agreed.
But one thing that Gaels coach Randy Bennett did talk about had nothing to do with the game. Well, one name, rather. That was guard Stephen Holt, who sat out with a knee injury suffered in their home loss to Loyola Marymount on Wednesday.
Normally, that wouldn’t be an excuse in a game like this. And if you ask Bennett, it still wasn’t. But the West Coast Conference’s leader in steals not being on the court to guard arguably the Ohio Valley Conference’s soon-to-be Player of the Year, Isaiah Canaan, hurt. Bad. Just look at Canaan’s stat line: 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting, 5-of-8 from 3-point range and only three turnovers.
“It was a big factor,” Bennett said. “You could argue he’s our best player for what he does defensively. We are in a tough spot without him. We didn’t have a lot of quickness out there and were pretty much on our heels.”
It doesn’t help that Holt was St. Mary’s third-leading scorer at 10.4 points per game, on 50-percent shooting on the season (87-for-174). Those numbers could’ve helped in a game that the Gaels couldn’t get a shot to drop from beyond the arch (2-of-14), much less overall (20-of-53, 37.7-percent).
Instead, St. Mary’s was forced to suffer through a 1-for-10 shooting night from guard Jorden Page — who finished with three points — and an overall 12-for-37 shooting night from the healthy starters.
In his post-game press conference, Bennett used Holt’s name too many times for a player who didn’t factor in to the contest. He understands his player’s value. One other thing Bennett knows? That Holt probably won’t play in the Gaels’ next game against Portland on Thursday.
This is definitely not the St. Mary’s team that had folks drooling just last month. Point guard Matthew Dellavadova limped his way to a team-high 17 points, 0-for-4 from three. Racers forward Ed Daniel, all 6-7 of him (eight), out-rebounded St. Mary’s starting front line of Clint Steindl, Rob Jones (10.4 board per game) and Kyle Rowley by himself (seven). They’ve lost three of their last four games and along with the L’s have also lost any hope of an at-large berth, meaning they’ll have to survive possible dates with Gonzaga and BYU in next month’s WCC Tournament to punch a ticket to the Big Dance for the fourth time under Bennett.
“It’s not easy to figure out what the problem is,” Bennett said.
This isn’t the same team we’re used too. And while Stephen Holt may not be the whole solution, tonight, in a game that the Gaels had to win to keep up their at-large hopes, his absence spoke volumes about how far this team has slid in a short amount of time.
-PHOTO: GOOGLE IMAGES/FOXSPORTS.COM