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Minnesota exposed Indiana as a flawed team

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BLOOMINGTON, IN – Indiana fans are going to want to chalk up the Hoosier’s 77-74 loss to Minnesota, who was previously winless in Big Ten play, to having an off day.

They wouldn’t necessarily be wrong. Indiana did have an off day. Coming off of a game at Penn State where they shot 16-24 from beyond the arc, the Hoosier’s pedestrian 4-18 performance provides a stark contrast.

But frankly, any team is going to win when they shoot 16-24 from three. The fact Penn State was able to make the Hoosiers work down the stretch is fairly amazing. And it also should have provided Hoosier fans with the forewarning they needed that this is a team that would be vulnerable on nights when the shots don’t drop. As they say, you live by the three, you die by the three.

“The easiest thing to do in the world is to be sky-high when you’re making shots,” Indiana head coach Tom Crean said after the game. “The hardest thing to understand is how committed you need to be to the game of defense and rebounding when you’re not.”

“We lost this game on the defensive end. The shooting obviously wasn’t good, but we lost this game on the defensive end.”

Therein lies the problem for Indiana.

The Hoosiers have plenty of offensive firepower in their lineup. Cody Zeller has proven to be the kind of program-changing recruit that the Indiana faithful had hoped he would be when he picked the Hoosiers over Butler and North Carolina. He’s a terrific low-post scorer and arguably the best big man in the country when it comes to running the floor from offense to defense.

And he’s not alone. Christian Watford is the perfect four to compliment Zeller, a perimeter oriented scorer that can spread the floor and give the big fella room to operate. Jordy Hulls is an underrated offensive option and a lights-out shooter. Verdell Jones, Will Sheehey and Victor Oladipo provide athleticism and aggressiveness on the wing while Matt Roth has proven capable of getting hot on the perimeter.

But for all of that offensive talent, Indiana lacks the kind of toughness that will allow them to survive when they are struggling to score.

As Tom Crean put it a dozen times during his post game press conference, the Hoosiers didn’t have an edge.

“We weren’t playing on edge the way that we have,” he said. “That may sound like a buzz word, but those are real. They practice hard and they prepare and all those things, but you’ve gotta have an edge.”

But the issue is more than just playing with an “edge”.

The issue is that Indiana is an inherently flawed basketball team, and the issues all lie on the defensive end of the floor.

For starters, this is not a group that is going to lock down the way that title contenders have to. For all of the ability that Hulls has offensively, he’s not a very good defender. He’s not all that big, he’s not all that quick and he’s not all that strong, especially when it comes to fighting through screens. But he’s also far and away the best point guard that Crean has at his disposal, which means that the Hoosiers, to be at their most effective offensively, need him on the floor.

Hulls isn’t alone in his struggles on that end of the floor. Far too often, Indiana simply fails to execute defensively as a team.

“It starts with our lack of awareness defensively,” Crean said. “Communication, weak side, ball side, challenging shots, block outs. The awareness never got where it needed to be until the end of the game. I said it to them all week, its a step they gotta take.”

“Teams that take the next step totally get that defense is what comes first in every situation. Defense creates the offense, defense creates more opportunities, defense creates the fast break. The best teams gain confidence from their defense, not the other way around.”

The other thing this group is missing is a bruiser in the paint. If Watford doesn’t deserve to be called soft, than he is dangerously close to the ledge. For all that Zeller gives the Hoosiers when he is on the floor, he’s a freshman that still needs a good 15-20 pounds of muscle added to his frame. Older, stronger post players are going to be able to push him around.

That was evident down the stretch against Minnesota, and its what cost Indiana the game. The Gophers had 16 offensive rebounds on the game, but nine of them came in the final 6:41. The reason Indiana wasn’t able to come back wasn’t because Minnesota continued to get good looks from the field; they didn’t.

The Gophers shot 50% from the field in the first half, hit 6-13 from beyond the arc and get whatever shot they wanted offensively. In the second half, that wasn’t true. Minnesota got a couple of good looks early in the half, but Indiana’s defense unquestionably tightened up down the stretch.

The problem was that after forcing the Gophers into a tough shot, they couldn’t finish the possession. Minnesota got second and third shots, and they capitalized on those opportunities. Simply put: Indiana’s struggles on the defensive glass hindered their ability to string together stops.

“Its deflating to give up that many offensive rebounds,” Zeller said.

The good news for Indiana fans is that this is still an inexperienced team. They aren’t necessarily young in this day and age of college basketball, but this is really the first time that any of the kids in this program have experienced success at the collegiate level. Think about it: prior to this season, the Hoosiers had been irrelevant on a national scale since Crean took over. The mindset of the 19 and 20 year olds on the roster will, eventually, become one that assumes they will be able to win simply by stepping foot onto the court. That gets magnified when every single Hoosier fan had all but assumed that this group was destined for the Final Four.

At some point, complacency is bound to set in. Winning — and understanding that continued success comes with consistent effort — is a skill, and its one that comes with a learning curve.

“Its different for all of them. We don’t have a lot of guys that come form winning back grounds,” Crean said. “So when you start to win, and things change around you, your mindset can’t change. They gotta learn and they gotta grow through that. You know this is new to them. As coaches, we’ve won before. We’ve been ranked. We’ve gone on the road and won. We’ve been to the Final Four. They haven’t.”

“When you’re going through that, the No. 1 thing is to stay committed to that improvement and never lose that edge.”

We can debate all day and night what, in particular, that “edge” is.

But what is indisputable is that the Hoosiers have major question marks that need to be answered.

When the Hoosiers are hitting their shots, they can hang with and beat anyone in the country, especially if that game is getting played in Assembly Hall. But if they don’t learn how to defend and they don’t get more physical under the basket, than this won’t be the only time that the Hoosiers end up on the wrong end of the score against a team they should be.

Even in Assembly Hall.

VIDEO: Gillon’s banked in 3 gives Syracuse win over Duke

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Syracuse trailed for much of its game against Duke on Wednesday night.

John Gillon made sure the Orange were on top at the end.

The win snaps a three-game losing streak for Syracuse, which keeps itself square in the NCAA tournament hunt with the victory.

No. 3 Kansas clinches their 13th straight Big 12 title

LAWRENCE, KS - FEBRUARY 22: Frank Mason III #0 of the Kansas Jayhawks lays the ball up against JD Miller #15 and Jaylen Fisher #0 of the TCU Horned Frogs in the first half at Allen Fieldhouse on February 22, 2017 in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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It’s official.

No. 3 Kansas has now tied UCLA for the most consecutive conference titles one program has won as a 87-68 win over TCU locked up at least a share of the 13th straight Big 12 championship that Bill Self has won in Lawrence.

Self already held the record fro the most consecutive league titles that a single coach has won; John Wooden won the majority of UCLA’s 13 straight titles, but head coaches Gene Bartow and Gary Cunningham were part of that streak as well.

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Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham combined for 37 points and 11 assists in the win, and Josh Jackson chipped in with yet another double-double, adding 15 points, 11 boards and four assists to go along with a tweaked ankle, but the story of this game is the record.

It was a foregone conclusion after they had beaten Baylor in Waco last weekend — Kansas wasn’t going to lose their last four games of the season, are you nuts? — but that doesn’t make it any less spectacular.

The popular refrain for people that aren’t Kansas fans is to let everyone know that this record occurred in the Big 12, a conference where the Jayhawks are the only elite basketball program. UCLA has to contend with Arizona. Duke has North Carolina and Louisville. Indiana has Michigan State. You get the point, and frankly, there is some merit to that point, even when you factor in just how good the Big 12 is and has been in the KenPom conference rankings. Those numbers stem from the fact that the league is as deep as any conference, and the bottom of the league tends to be as good or better than the bottom of just about any league.

Put another way, the Big 12’s computer numbers always look great because the gap between the second-best team and the second-worst team is as small as any power conference on a consistent basis.

I say second-best because Kansas — as a program, historically, and as a team, annually — is a cut above the field. I think we can all agree on that.

But it’s still a dumb argument, because even the best program in a conference has down years. Gonzaga, who is clearly the class of the WCC, didn’t win the regular season title in 2012, snapping Mark Few’s streak of 11 straight seasons as champion. Or how about this: Kentucky, who is the SEC’s version of Kansas and is rolling under Coach Cal these days, didn’t win the SEC regular season title in 2011, 2013 or 2014.

Perhaps the most impressive part of all of this is that Self hasn’t slowed down in the one-and-done era, where program continuity is so difficult to achieve.

That should tell you everything you need to know about this streak.

It should lock up Bill Self’s trip to the Hall of Fame this spring.

And if it doesn’t convince you about how incredible this streak is or how good Self is at his job, then there is no hope for you.

Jayson Williams says Charles Oakley lent him $20K while at St. John’s

24 Jan 1999: Jayson Williams #55 and Sam Cassell #10 of the New Jersey Nets cheer on of the St John''s Red Storm during the game against the Duke Blue Devils at the Madison Square Garden in New York, New York. The Blue Devils defeated the Red Storm 92-88. Mandatory Credit: David Leeds  /Allsport
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Another Madison Square Garden tenant has been brought into the feud between Charles Oakley and Knicks owner James Dolan.

St. John’s.

How, exactly, do the Red Storm figure in? Well, the story comes courtesy of former St. John’s and NBA standout Jayson Williams, who spoke to Gio & Jones of CBS Sports Radio.

“So, how we did it at St. John’s was when you were in your senior year, and the guys who made it before you goes to the NBA, that guy would give you,” Williams said, according to CBS Sports, “let’s call it like a loan so you don’t have to go out and get an agent or put St. John’s in any trouble with the NCAA. So when my year was up and I was a senior, it was Mark Jackson. Now if anybody knows Mark Jackson, Mark is the greatest human being on Earth – but cheap as the day is long. That man is so frugal.”

As such, Jackson didn’t lend Williams any money, but his teammate on the 1989-90 Knicks, Oakley, did. More from Williams:

“He said, ‘Come here, man. Once you ask somebody once and they ain’t going to give it to you, you don’t beg. What you do is follow me home after.’ Went home and he gave me 20 (and said) ‘When you get drafted, I’m going to want 25 back.’”

And after that the two became fast friends, even if Oakley charged Williams “mafia rates” on return, Williams said. Williams has been one of many outspoken defenders of Oakley, who is in a very public dispute with Dolan after an ugly incident at MSG.

Williams averaged 14.6 points and 7.8 rebounds per game in his final season with St. John’s before being taken. in the first round of the 1990 draft.

Oakley was one of the few people that came to prison to visit Williams in prison after Williams was sentenced for fatally shooting a hired limo driver in 2002.

“Charles Oakley came to see me once every month like clockwork,” Williams said. “This is why people are so adamant about supporting Charles Oakley.”

 

Bubble Banter: California, TCU and Syracuse with critical games tonight

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 10:  Ivan Rabb #1 of the California Golden Bears stands on the court during a quarterfinal game of the Pac-12 Basketball Tournament against the Oregon State Beavers at MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 10, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. California won 76-68.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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The latest NBC Sports bracketology can be found here. That is where the seeds you see listed below come from. 

This post will be updated throughout the night.

STILL TO PLAY

Vanderbilt at Tennessee (RPI: 50, KenPom: 42, first four out), 6:30 p.m.

Michigan (RPI: 52, KenPom: 27, No. 10 seed) at Rutgers, 6:30 p.m.

No. 10 Duke at Syracuse (RPI: 84, KenPom: 48, first four out), 7:00 p.m.

Pitt (RPI: 59, KenPom: , next four out) at Wake Forest (RPI: 40, KenPom: 31, next four out), 7:00 p.m.

TCU (RPI: 54, KenPom: 43, play-in game) at No. 3 Kansas, 7:00 p.m.

Southern Illinois at Illinois State (RPI: 36, KenPom: 50, No. 12 seed), 7:00 p.m.

Saint Louis at VCU (RPI: 26, KenPom: 41, No. 9 seed), 7:00 p.m.

Xavier at Seton Hall (RPI: 47, KenPom: 59, play-in game), 7:00 p.m.

Texas A&M at Arkansas (RPI: 33, KenPom: 51, No. 9 seed), 8:30 p.m.

No. 6 Oregon at Cal (RPI: 39, KenPom: 47, No. 10 seed), 9:00 p.m.

Oklahoma State at Kansas State (RPI: 51, KenPom: 28, No. 11 seed), 9:00 p.m.

Providence (RPI: 69, KenPom: 58, first four out) at No. 23 Creighton, 9:00 p.m.

Man arrested for selling fake Duke-UNC tickets

DURHAM, NC - FEBRUARY 09:  Justin Jackson #44 of the North Carolina Tar Heels throws the ball in against the Duke Blue Devils during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 9, 2017 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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A man was arrested in Durham on Feb. 9th, the day of the Duke-North Carolina game at Cameron Indoor Stadium, for selling counterfeit tickets to the game, according to the Durham Herald-Sun.

The man, a 24-year old from Ft. Myers, Florida, named Andrew Frank Arvai, was busted in a sting that was set up by someone that had bought fake tickets from Arvai before.

From the Sun:

DPD spokesman Wil Glenn alleged that Arvai placed an ad on Craigslist for the tickets and set up a meeting with a ticket broker from stubhub.com at Northgate to sell the tickets to the Feb. 9 game.

Glenn said the broker had purchased tickets from Arvai in the past and the Feb. 9 transaction was a sting. The broker called mall security and alerted a police officer that he was going to meet the scalper, who he accused of selling phony tickets.

According to Durham jail records, he was charged with four counts of scalping tickets, four counts of counterfeiting a trademark and four counts of obtaining property by false pretenses.