–Marcus Paige, G, Jr., North Carolina – Arguably one of the Top 2 point guards in the nation (more on that below). He’ll be one of the front runners for the Cousy Award and might have to shoulder more of the scoring load with James Michael McAdoo gone. That’ll be interesting considering he clocked 17.5 points per game last season, along with 4.2 assists per.
–Fred VanVleet, G, Jr., Wichita State – Here’s that other member of the Top 2 point guard club I was talking about. I really didn’t want to choose between the two so I went this way. While Paige is more dynamic, VanVleet might be the coolest guy on the floor. Even-keel the whole way. He dished out 5.4 assists per game last season and gets a lot of the Shockers’ production back (sans Cleanthony Early, obviously).
–Georges Niang, F, Jr., Iowa State – I had Niang pegged as a guy that would come out for the 2014 NBA Draft. The college game is better for him not doing it. Niang has the ultimate “old man” game with a variety of moves, both midrange and under the basket. His spot-up game is on point too, hitting 48 threes last season. He’ll be relied on a little more with Melvin Ejim gone.
–Karl-Anthony Towns, C/F, Fr., Kentucky – I normally don’t put freshman in these spots, but Towns has been too hyped since he was an 8th grader to ignore it. I watched him in the UK Scouting Combine/Practice/Brilliant Calipari PR move and was impressed. There aren’t many times when you say that about a player in practice, but you can say that when that practice includes around 8-9 future NBA Draft picks. He’s hitting threes at a decent pace for a non-Durant guy his size, too (127 in three years as a prep).
–Cliff Alexander, C/F, Fr., Kansas – OK SO MAYBE I LIKE THE FRESHMAN THIS YEAR (My 2006, sophomore-in-college self nods in approval) I saw Alexander play a few times in AAU, and every time I did, he was a monster. He tried to rip the rim down every single time he was under the basket. Kansas won’t miss Joel Embiid (that much) with Alexander in, because Alexander isn’t the project Embiid was. His post game is incredibly polished.
–Juwan Staten, G, Sr., West Virginia – Here’s a guy who doesn’t get the love he should. Staten was the best player on a bad team last season, averaging 18.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg and 5.8 apg as the Mountaineers finished 17-16. In 2014-15, he’ll be looked to for everything as the top 3 scorers behind him are gone. But Bob Huggins brings in host of junior college talent in Jaysean Paige, Jonathan Holton, BillyDee Williams and Tarik Phillip. It’ll be interesting to see if the three freshman (including redshirt Elijah Macon) will contribute early.
–Delon Wright, G, Sr., Utah – Another guy who didn’t get the national respect he should’ve. That’ll change this season. Wright averaged 15.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg and 5.3 apg for the Runnin’ Utes last season and helped them shock a number of people under coach Larry Krystkowiak (yea, I had to Google the spelling, at least I tried first), going 21-12. Utah could make the NCAA Tournament this season, and Wright will be a big reason why — if they do, or if they don’t.
–Stanley Johnson, G/F, Fr., Arizona – Sean Miller has a type, and that type is “slender with a ton of bounce.” Johnson slides right into the spot vacated by Aaron Gordon. He’s got a better penetration game from the perimeter and a slightly better jumper. He should enjoy his one season in Tuscon. At which point he’ll break up with Miller and the Wildcats head coach will have to find a new crush.
–Montrezl Harrell, F, Jr., Louisville – Everyone said he was gone to the NBA Draft, including this guy. But he went back to Louisville and has landed on everyone’s All-American list. I’m one of the few that put him on their second team. The reason why has nothing to do with his talent. If he lands on all first-team rosters, it won’t shock anyone. But if he does, it’ll be because he improved his midrange game, which was already vastly improved last season, when he finished with 14 ppg and 8.4 rpg.
–Jahlil Okafor, F, Fr., Duke – I swear, I’m not fishing for clicks. I like Okafor. I think he’s a Top 10 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. But it’s the preseason, and in the preseason, I look at what’s coming in. Duke has a lot of talent, per usual. For that, I think that Okafor won’t need to do a lot to start out. I really think he’ll average somewhere around 11 ppg up until ACC play, where coach Mike Krzyzewski will unleash him on the North Carolinas, Virginias and Louisvilles. But there will be an adaptation to the college game, and that lands him on my second team. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m totally wrong and he goes for 20-12 per and is a bonafide first team All-American by mid-season.
–Joseph Young, G, Sr., Oregon – If there’s a player in Division I college basketball who will be asked to do more for his team this season, please show me and I’ll swap him with Young in this spot. After the dismissal of Daymean Dotson, Dominic Artis and Brandon Austin for their alleged involvement in a sexual assault case, combined with the fact that highly-touted recruit JaQuan Lyle didn’t enroll at the school, that doesn’t leave a lot in the metaphorical cupboard for Young. I was against Young’s transfer waiver being granted when he left Houston, but after seeing all that Dana Altman lost, I’m ok with it. Even if it’s just because he has a least one totally competent scorer (18.9 ppg) on his roster.
–Marcus Foster, G, Soph., Kansas State – He was possibly the best freshm— no, he WAS the best freshman no one was talking about last season. The Wichita Falls, Texas native set the Big 12 on fire (in a two-game stretch, he went for 34 against then no.15 Texas and backed it up with 20 against then no.7-ranked Kansas) and came back for more in Manhattan. No one will miss him this season, as he’s got help in the form of senior Thomas Gipson (11.7 ppg), Georgetown transfer Brandon Bolden and junior college transfer Stephen Hurt.
–Andrew Harrison, G, Soph., Kentucky – Once he figured out how to distribute last season, Kentucky was a better team for it. He averaged 10.9 ppg and 4 apg, en route to helping a late-season resurgence in Lexington. Now with a plethora of weapons to hit for threes, midrange jumpers and lobs, he could very well lead the nation in assists. Harrison makes this team go, as he proved it late last season. This year, that shouldn’t change.
–Kelly Oubre, F, Fr., Kansas – Every list has a WTF? pick, Oubre is mine. He’s got the credentials to be an All-American, but can he do it with the likes of Perry Ellis and Cliff Alexander in front of him? I think so. He’s got more athleticism than either Ellis or Alexander in the face-up game and if he can stay consistent on defense, this could be his lone season in Lawrence. I see the potential, so I’m giving him a spot. Being left-handed doesn’t hurt.
–Willie Cauley-Stein, F/C, Jr., Kentucky – He didn’t come to Kentucky with a ton of hype, but has really become the most well-developed player in his two seasons under Calipari. Cauley-Stein has a good shot at being a Top 5 pick if he can raise his midrange and baseline jumper game, but he’ll also have to prove to scouts that he’s over the ankle injury. Yea, I’m reaching for reasons that WCS will have to improve, because there aren’t many.
Player of the Year – Marcus Paige
Freshman of the Year – Cliff Alexander
Defensive Player of the Year – Willie Cauley-Stein
Much like our last post, this one came from a thought about Marshall Henderson. He was (depending on who you cheered for) fun to watch in all his jersey-popping, landshark-throwing glory. But for some, it was really just because he had coach Andy Kennedy’s blessing to shoot from wherever, whenever. It’s a lost gift, really. In these the days of ball-control and efficiency stats, every possession matters, which makes a player who has the ability to chuck it from a different area code a treasure to behold. Like Clear Pepsi or a late 1990s Master P CD.
He wasn’t the only one. Ethan Wragge is done at Creighton, a guy who took 242 shots last season, and 234 were threes.
So I went digging. I started with some of the top players in terms of three-point attempts in NCAA Division I basketball. Then I went further, seeing what their teams look like to see if they could continue their pace of jacking threes like the line was being banned tomorrow.
Here’s who I think could make you sit and watch a game just to watch them hoist threes all night.
Michael Frazier II, Jr., Florida (264 of 343 shots were 3’s in 13-14) – Let’s get the obvious one out of the way. Frazier is one of the best — possibly the best — big-name shooter in the country and he had a breakout season as the Gators reached the Final Four last year. The 6-4 guard was 118-for-264 (44.6 percent), averaged 12.4 ppg and hit big shots when they mattered — he shot 48 percent in the NCAA Tournament and SEC Tournament combined. With Kasey Hill and Eli Carter in to assume point guard duties after Scottie Wilbekin exhausted his eligibility, Billy Donovan will have to give him the green light based on the fact that, well, you don’t leave a stallion locked in the barn.
Prediction – Over 130 makes and 290 attempts, keeping him at around his normal 44 percent for the year.
Q.J. Peterson, Soph., VMI (244 of 549 shots were 3’s) – When you’re in the right system, everything will come together. For Peterson, he plays for a Keydets team that, as most know, love to get up-and-down the court. As a freshman, Peterson, a 6-foot guard, had no conscience, shooting 244 threes with 78 makes (31.9 percent). That’s a pretty awful percentage, but it’s what comes with the territory when your coaches make line changes for substitutions and average a Division I-leading 88.3 ppg as a team. Peterson averaged 19 ppg, but he basically got the greatest situation for a shooter short of Marshall Henderson at Ole Miss.
Prediction – 110 makes with over 310 attempts, which will improve Peterson’s percentage to around 35 percent.
Johnny Dee, Sr., San Diego (225 of 425 shots were 3’s) – This season it should be more of the same for Dee, who hit 94-of-225 (41.7 percent) threes last season. Two of the other top three scorers return for the Toreros in Christopher Anderson and Duda Sanadze return, which will keep the offense relatively the same. The 6-footer has been one of the more consistent shooters his whole career, averaging around three three-point makes and 6.5 attempts to this point. The Toreros also have eight freshman or sophomores on the team this year, so he’s going to be asked to maintain leadership on the court.
Prediction – Around 100 makes with 230 attempts, which should keep him around his current averages. Dee can also get to the rim, which is evident with his free throw-percentage hovering around 90 percent for his career and averages of around six trips to the line per game.
Damon Lynn Soph., NJIT (282 of 405 shots were 3’s) – Lynn led the Highlanders with 17.2 ppg and hit 37.9 percent from three-point range, which was actually better than the 37.3 clip he hit at overall. The 5-11 guard was easily NJIT’s hottest scorer (Terrence Smith was second at 12.2 ppg and after that no teammates were in double-figures) and with some improvements from the rest of the roster, Lynn could be have the freedom to score. For Lynn, a unchanged situation puts him in the perfect one.
Prediction – Until NJIT finds a conference, guys like Lynn should get the nod to score at will. I’d expect his ppg to climb, but his three-point percentage to drop. Around 90 makes and 250 attempts.
Did I miss anyone? Got a better idea? Email me at email@example.com or hit me on Twitter @David_Harten.
The differences in Aaron Craft and Marshall Henderson were astounding, really.
When you think about it, the 2013-14 basketball season, in part, was a study of how two men can be seen as “evil” to different people on totally different ends of the spectrum. Craft was, by all accounts, clean-cut, nice and did all the right things. Though he was still hated as if he somehow victimized an entire student section.
Then you had Marshall Henderson, who was 180-degrees in the other direction. The history with drugs. The arrests. The four schools in five collegiate seasons. Not to mention all the trashing-talking, jersey popping and general anger he incited….and that was just against Auburn.
They were the villains of the 2013-14 season (the last two seasons, really). But those two were seniors and have exhausted their eligibility.
So now we search for the next batch of possible prospects who are ready to cause fans to be ejected, security to be beefed up around the visiting bench and boosters’ wives to leave games early.
One caveat: No Duke players. Because, for the love of God, that’s just too easy. And y’all are better than that.
Ryan Boatright, Sr., G, UConn – The Mouth – There aren’t many great players going into 2014-15 that are known for their trash talk, but Boatright is one of them. He’s a smaller, talkative point guard who loves to get the the basket (12.1 ppg. 3.4 apg) and isn’t afraid to let you know that his game is up there with the best. He’s got a mouth to match his talent and I’d bet your life that we see it on a national stage.
Ron Baker, r-Jr., G, Wichita State – The Gun – Ron Baker has a well-rounded game (13.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.4 spg) , but he’s known for his range more than anything. He’ll piss off a fanbase from deep nightly (38 percent from 3-point range last year) and he’ll do it quietly, which added another dimension to how he’ll drive opposing fans crazy.
Aaron Harrison, Soph., G, Kentucky – Mr. Big Shot – Despite the insane amount of talent that recently descended upon Lexington, there’s no way student sections around the SEC forgot about Harrison’s big shot tour of March 2014. Louisville, Michigan and Wisconsin fans sure as hell won’t. Every time the game is in the balance late, you can bet no. 2 will get more flak than his brother or the freshman phenoms for the Wildcats. And he and his 13.7 ppg will probably get the same attention from opposing defenses.
Kevin Pangos, Sr., G, Gonzaga – The Tradition – Pangos carries on a long, proud legacy for the Zags: Shorter, white point guards who somehow get to the rim with ease. John Stockton, Matt Santangelo, Dan Dickau, Derek Raivio, now Pangos. He’s already the most hated man in the West Coast Conference and, while he’s had some attention on a national stage, it should increase this season as a senior, where he should improve on his 14.4-point, 3.3-rebound, 3.6-assist per game averages. If anything, Pangos is already hated at Wazzu.
Siyani Chambers, Jr., G, Harvard and Wesley Saunders, Sr., G, Harvard – The Nerds -It’s the smart kid syndrome. Despite the Crimson having one of the better mid-major programs in the past five years under Tommy Amaker, the average fan at a college basketball game is going to prey on the fact that they go to a smart-kid school (which is a compliment, but you get the idea). Chambers (11.1 ppg, 4.6 apg) and Saunders (14.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg) have arguably the most talented mid-major backcourt in the land — rivaling Ryan Harrow and R.J. Hunter of Georgia State — and they’ll hear all about how they don’t belong all season.
Tyler Haws, Sr., G, BYU – The Jimmer Effect – I know, I know. It’s an easy play. But sometime you have to point out the obvious. He’s a white guard at BYU who gets all of the buckets — 23.2 ppg on 46.3 percent shooting, 40.4 percent from 3. He’s going to be the focal point of the Cougars attack and their opponents’ defensive strategy. And you can bet that he’ll be at the center of every student sections disparaging chants (though a lot of sections are slacking. Seriously, what’s wrong with you people? Get creative.)
Marcus Foster, Soph,, G, Kansas State – The Most Known Unknown – You’re welcome for the 3 6 Mafia drop. Foster had very few offers coming out of high school and he made the most of his Kansas State one. He averaged 15.5 points last season and with Oklahoma State losing so much and Texas bringing back a ton of good-but-not-marquee players, there needs to be a star in the Big 12 OUTSIDE of Lawrence, Kansas (though he’ll have to fight Georges Niang.) Foster could definitely be it for Bruce Weber’s team. He’s already probably made many enemie in Spokane.
Did I get it right? Did I get it wrong? Did I miss anyone? Let me know on Twitter at @David_Harten or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tonight, The State Farm Champions Classic delivered two quality games to millions around the world from the friendly confines of Chicago. The event featured four of the Top 5 teams in the nation and didn’t disappoint. There’s a solid shot that at least 5-6 players taking part in the event are currently spending their final (or only) season in college during 2013-14, and most are deserved of that.
A bunch of players in this four-team event are already NBA-ready. With that in mind, and using just the players in tonight’s event, how would a draft look using just Kentucky, Duke, Kansas and Michigan State?
Ladies and gentleman, the 2013 TBBC Champions Classic Draft.
Using just one round (because no one is draft walk-ons) we take a look at the talent in this event and how they would fare in a situation where the massive about of talent on the United Center was the only talent you could choose from. I kicked it around, and this is what I came up with.
(NOTE: I included the players’ entire body of work up to now, including Tuesday’s results, as a the measuring stick for where they went in the draft.)
1.) Andrew Wiggins, G/F, Kansas – Duh. The Top 3 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft had a double-double of 22 points and 10 rebounds in the win over Duke. He showed everyone he can play on the biggest stage, now he just has to maintain that.
2.) Julius Randle, F, Kentucky – It was already a race between Wiggins and Randle for next year’s top pick. Randle showed some flaws (free throws?) but it’s obvious the big stage doesn’t scare him. He finished with 27 points and 13 rebounds.
3.) Jabari Parker, F, Duke – The third of the trio of talented freshman to show off on Tuesday night did exactly what every expected too, with 27 points and 9 rebounds, including 4-7 on threes. Well, looks like they’re all gonna be alright.
4.) Adreian Payne, F, Michigan State – The senior is following in a long line of experienced bigs to play under Tom Izzo. He finished with 15 points and just three boards, but he showed a variety of post moves and a face-up game that can hang.
5.) Andrew Harrison, G, Kentucky – He’s starting to get it under John Calipari, you can tell. Harrison is the point guard, the most important position in that Dribble Drive Motion Offense. He finished with 11 points and three assists, along with four turnovers, which has to improve.
6.) Keith Appling, G, Michigan State – I really think he could end up as a dark horse lottery pick in the June draft. The senior had 22 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists and 4 steals for the Spartans. Easily the best stat line of the night.
7.) James Young, G/F, Kentucky – The 6-6 shooter had an off-night (3-11 from three) but had 19 points in the loss. He’s got a pull-up game that is pro ready. He’s just got to become more consistent.
8.) Gary Harris, G, Michigan State – The sophomore is fully healthy and showed it with 20 points on the night. He was projected as a one-and-done in 2013, but he made the right decision to come back.
9.) Rodney Hood, G/F/, Duke – The Mississippi State transfer has a lot of “best transfer of the season” hype surrounding him. I think he will live up to it. The redshirt sophomore finished with 11 points in an average showing. He’ll need a few weeks to assimilate.
10.) Rasheed Suliamon, G, Duke – The sophomore probably had the quietest 13 points you’ll ever see, but we all know Suliamon is capable of more. He’ll show it later on in the season.
11.) Alex Poythress, F, Kentucky – A guy who was supposed to be gone after one season has improved dramatically in Year 2. The final line is Ben Wallace-esque, 7 points and 12 rebounds (7 of them offensive). The nasty streak has to develop if he wants to be a success in the NBA.
12.) Branden Dawson, F, Michigan State – Dawson has either a double-double or near a double-double in Sparty’s first two games. He had 8 points and 9 rebounds on Tuesday night. A guy who can do both consistently will get a look in the NBA. A long one.
13.) Tarik Black, F/C, Kansas – The Memphis transfer is a brute that has a game built just like Ben Wallace (second BDub reference!). I don’t care that he didn’t score a point. I want him on my team because he’s not afraid of contact, which is key in the League.
14.) Quinn Cook, G, Duke – More and more, Cook looks like the true point guard Mike Kryzewski wants him to be. He finished with 10 points, 3 assists and 2 boards. If he develops, he’s gone after this season. His decision making has to improve, though.
15.) Willie Cauley-Stein, F/C, Kentucky – Calipari’s ultimate project from 2012-13 has proven to be a successful one. The 7-footer had 5 points, 7 boards and two blocks with only 2 fouls in 27 minutes. He might want to stay another year, but if he came out he’d have a shot to get drafted at a decent slot.
16.) Perry Ellis, F, Kansas – Ellis really hasn’t gotten the love he deserves in two seasons in Lawrence. First because of en McLemore, now Wiggins. Well, that can’t happen much longer after games of 24 points and 7 rebounds like he had against Duke.
17.) Brannen Greene, G, Kansas – Greene will eventually make a splash, which is why he’s a bit high on this list. He only had 5 points, but his consistent stroke is undeniable. He’s going to make some team happy as a result whenever he comes out of KU.
18.) Joel Embiid, F/C, Kansas – He’s only been playing basketball for three years, but Embiid is a 7-footer who shows the makings of being a great defensive big man. He had 2 points with 5 rebounds and 3 assists against the Blue Devils, which previews an all-around game.
19.) Dakari Johnson, F/C, Kentucky – He’s such a project pick, but if Daniel Orton could parlay one mediocre season into a first round selection, Johnson, a much more polished freshman, definitely can. The 6-11 Johnson had 2 points and 5 rebounds in 14 minutes.
20.) Wayne Seldon, G, Kansas – This is probably too low, but Seldon doesn’t look like a great pro. He’s great in the Jayhawks’ system, with 15 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists against Duke, and in this crop, he’d be a Top 20 pick.
21.) Tyler Thornton, G, Duke – I can always get behind a senior glue guy that the younger guys listen to. Thornton, despite the lack of stats, is that guy. Which works great on a bench and in practice. And late in games. No mistakes.
22.) Travis Trice, G, Michigan State – Now that he’s healthy, look for Trice to make his presence felt more often. Trice is a solid defender who provides depth at multiple positions. He had a bucket in 14 minutes.
23.) Naadir Tharpe, G, Kansas – Tharpe is just a calming presence on the floor. He had 7 points and a bevy of 3’s in the stat box (rebounds, assists, turnovers, fouls.) It’d need to be the right team, but Tharpe could be a serviceable defensive guard.
24.) Denzel Valentine, F, Michigan State – He might be a bit higher if he wasn’t a product of the flow of the game. Valentine finished with 5 points, 5 assists and 2 steals.
25.) Andrew Harrison, G, Kentucky – He probably, like his brother, was a first round pick if the one-and-done rule wasn’t around. But now he has a year to develop that jumper. He finished with one bucket and he and Young will be battling each other for the NBA scouts to see who could be the best 2-guard out of the duo.
26.) Marcus Lee, F, Kentucky – We’re talking about ONLY this game, remember? Lee has some skill, or Cal wouldn’t have recruited him. He played 1 minute, but he will come around this season and have a Darnell Dodson-type impact (without the whole leaving the team thing.)
27.) Marshall Plumlee, F, Duke – He’s a Plumlee, so he’s got to have that game like his two older brothers, right? After redshirting and dealing with injuries his first two seasons, the youngest Plumlee to head to Duke is healthy and ready to contribute. His game translates to the NBA because like his brothers, he’s not afraid of contact, Kendrick Perkins style.
28.) Conner Frankamp, G, Kansas – NBA general managers love guys who can stretch a defense. Frankamp can do just that. In a few seasons, he’s going to fit that Brady Morningstar role really well.
29.) Jarrod Polson, G, Kentucky – I really think Polson gets overlooked for his acumen. This kid can play when called upon, and I think Calipari picks his spots with this guy. He didn’t play Tuesday night, but he will definitely in SEC play.
30.) Frank Mason, G, Kansas – You can’t ignore a guy who hits 11-12 free throws and caps the night with 15 points after just 3 points in their season opener.
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.
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
-Bo Ryan is a boring coach. His offenses are boring. His defenses? Boring. One can compare watching his Wisconsin teams to watching paint dry, or getting rusty nails shoved up your eyelids.
It’s almost painful to watch the Badgers. They average 58.8 possession per game according to Ken Pomeroy and his fool-proof numbers. That’s (ahem) the second slowest pace of any team of all 345 programs in Division I college basketball — the only team slower being Western Illinois.
The snail’s pace offense that Ryan has Wisconsin run amounts to 64 points per game, also near the bottom of all D-I teams. It’s excruciating.
But this is just one of the reasons Wisconsin will be a Final Four team. Yea, I said it. Here’s why.
1.) The painfully slow offensive sets.
-The Badgers are a slow-down offense. In a time when patience is a virtue, this team makes it a demand. Being able to run means jack in the NCAA Tournament. Any team that makes the Sweet 16, as Wisconsin now has, can run the fast-break. That’s what elite teams can do. They all have top-tier point guards that can run (I could run through them all, but you can look if you want).
What wins games though? Having the awareness that while the other team wants to pressure you defensively, knowing you’re just content swinging the ball around the perimeter and waiting for the right time to feed the post. It’s a necessity.
2.) A ball-securing point guard.
-Turnovers lose games for teams at this level. Wisconsin has possibly the most reliable point guard in the game when it comes to keeping possession. Jordan Taylor is not only a senior who’s been in this position before (played in 135 career games), but he knows what to do while in it.
The most important thing? Taylor has absolutely no clue how to make the risky pass. That’s a compliment. Along with averaging an even 4.0 assists this season, the 6-1 senior gives it away an average of 1.5 times per game. In 2011-12, he has just 55 total turnovers and just 97 total over the past two seasons (he averaged 4.7 assists last season). This season, he’s got 141 assists as well. In the clutch, you can have your playmakers, for my money, I want a guy who knows not only that a team needs points, but that they need the ball, before they can score.
Speaking of which….
3.) You don’t take their ball.
-Taylor is a major reason for this, but Wisconsin doesn’t give it away very often. In fact, the Badgers only cough it up 15.2 times per game, second in the nation. In big games, holding onto the ball means just as much as having a guy who can score in any way you need. They also know how to keep it from you in the 1-on-1, giving it away on steals only 7.2 times per game, eighth in the nation.
4.) Defense, defense, defense.
-Wisconsin doesn’t just guard you, no, they suffocate you. It’s in the numbers. Checking KenPom.com can really shed some light on it. The Badgers are top 10 in the nation in effective defensive field goal percentage (2nd, 42-percent), 3-point percentage defense (6th, 28.8-percent) and 2-point percentage defense (5th, 41.6-percent). Being that consistent means that you’re doing it right against all levels of competition.
They don’t necessarily force turnovers — they only force an average of 18.3 per game — but if their opponents don’t make shots, that doesn’t matter.
They aren’t flashy, and honestly, they make a lot of crowds that aren’t decked out in their colors want to fall asleep while watching them. But if the opponent is asleep, hey, who can stop them? Another advantage?
-PHOTO: DRAFTXPRESS.COM/GOOGLE IMAGES
-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
It really doesn’t matter that Temple lost on Saturday at St. Joseph’s. And neither should anyone else.
It’s really weird to think that the Owls, who had an 11-game winning streak snapped by the Hawks, haven’t been talked about more this season.
I get it, they play in the Atlantic 10, not exactly the Big Ten, or even, this season, the ACC. But look a little deeper, and Temple deserves more praise — and it has nothing to do with their no. 22 national ranking.
During their 11-game winning streak, they’ve scored at least 73 points in each game, and held six opponents to 60 points or less. At 22-6 and 10-3 in the A-10, a league hell bent on scoring in bunches, that’s pretty impressive.
Like most teams in the A-1o, their strength lies in the deep ball. They shoot 40.5-percent from 3-point range. That’s 11th in the nation, though surprisingly, second in the conference (behind LaSalle’s 40.8).
It seems like forever ago, but everyone seems to forget that this team has a win over Duke. At home, 78-73, on Jan. 4. It didn’t look like a lot against what most though was a down-trodden Blue Devils squad, but it looks better and better by the day. Throw in wins over Penn and Wichita State, two of the better mid-major programs this season, and the Owls A-10 record almost only needs to be average to get them an At-Large ticket.
Being senior-led doesn’t hurt. Ramone Moore (18.0 ppg) and Juan Fernandez (10.9 ppg) are two of the three scorers for the Owls. The second-leading scorer? Junior Khalif Wyatt’s 17.5 ppg.
And that one thing that everyone always harps on late this the season? Depth. Temple has it. Fernandez, Moore and Rahlir Jefferson-Hollis have started all 28 games this season, with With Anthony Lee playing in all 28, starting 17 and Wyat playing in 27 while starting 25. As for the rest, two of their bench players, T.J. DiLeo and Aaron Brown have notched minutes in all 28 games, while Will Cummings (20) and Michael Eric (15) have played in at least half the games this season, with Eric getting 11 starts. That’s effciency, homes.
It’s tough to define which teams will make runs when the Big Dance rolls around. But honestly, what more does a team have to do? Given the Owls’ schedule. As long as the final two games of their regular season, at home against UMass and at Fordham, are W’s, this squad should earn an at-large berth, with a no. 34 ranking in both the KenPom and Sagarin and a no. 15 ranking at RealTimeRPI.com.
Fran Dunphy has his postseason demons, which may be the only thing holding them back — the Owls haven’t been past the second round, and that was once, last season, in his six seasons in Philadelphia — but that doesn’t mean that this season is poised for a run. With Murray State riding a 28-1 record to national headlines and teams like Indiana sparking their own resurgence, it’s easy to understand why a story like Temple’s — a solid, deep, senior-led squad reeling off wins in an average conference — is overlooked.
Not that Temple probably cares. Just don’t say you saw it coming if this team gets on a roll next month.
But please, Fran, please, bring back the ‘stache. People want the ‘stache.
-PHOTO: GOOGLE IMAGES