College hoops weekend preview: BracketBusters and more

1 Comment

source: AP

Game of the Weekend: Sat. Ohio State @ Michigan, 9 p.m.

While the rivalry between these two schools isn’t quite as intense on the basketball side as it is for football, that doesn’t mean that this game isn’t carrying a ton of weight in the Big Ten standings. The Buckeyes are currently sitting in a tie with Michigan State for first place in the conference, one game in front of Michigan. A loss would put the Spartans in the driver’s seat for a league title, as OSU still has to go to East Lansing this year.

The first time these two teams met, OSU won 64-49, but it was far from a pretty affair. Jared Sullinger spent much of the game in foul trouble and William Buford was still mired in a slump. The Buckeyes used a dominating performance on the glass — lead by 17 points and 12 boards (eight offensive) from Lenzelle Smith — in the win. Aaron Craft did a solid job slowing down Trey Burke, who finished with 13 points and five assists but turned the ball over five times and shot 5-11 from the floor. As a team, Michigan only shot 8-25 from three and 35.8% from the floor. That is going to have to change for Michigan to win.

There are basically going to be two things that Michigan has to do if they want to win this game. The first is that they must put up more of a fight on the glass, particularly if Sullinger doesn’t spend the entire game in foul trouble. They cannot allow second chances to a better team, particularly if it is Lenzelle Smith that is creating those opportunities. The Wolverines are also going to have to shoot better from the floor. Burke is going to have a tough day going up against Craft, who is arguably the best on ball defender in college basketball right now. He’s not going to be able to carry Michigan to a win. If their threes are dropping, then that takes the pressure off of Burke to have to try and create.

My pick: Ohio State. I think William Buford, who has played very well in two of his last three games, snaps out of his funk and Michigan struggles to find an answer for Sully inside.

Five more to watch

Sat. UNLV @ New Mexico, 1 p.m.: I’m becoming a bigger and bigger fan of Mountain West basketball. Not only is the quality of the basketball being played very high — that’s what happens when seemingly every roster is made up of top 100 recruits that couldn’t “latch-on” at a Pac-12 school — but the games are intense, the arenas are raucous and the players are respectful. I watch San Diego State lose to both UNLV and New Mexico the past week, and I have to admit, I’ve never seen so many opponents helping each other off of the floor as I do in the MWC.

Anyway, back to the point, New Mexico — who most had pegged as the favorite in the conference heading into the season — has finally found their stride. They are stalwart defensively, they get on the offensive glass and they have a number of shooters on the perimeter that make them a very dangerous and explosive offensive teams. The surge of Kendall Williams of late has been a good thing to see. A win puts the Lobos up two games on UNLV and a game on SDSU. A loss for the Lobos means that, once again, we have a three way tie atop the conference.

Sat. Arizona @ Washington, 3 p.m.: All of a sudden, it looks like three teams have separated themselves from the Pac-12 pack. After losing Kevin Parrom for the season and now playing without Jordin Mayes, Arizona has gone on an unlikely streak, winning five in a row to move to 10-4 in the league, just a game off of the pace set by Cal and Washington. The Wildcats are also coming off of road wins against Cal and Stanford, but the Huskies are a tough team to beat in at home.

Sat. St. Mary’s @ Murray State, 6 p.m.: This is easily the most entertaining BracketBuster game of the weekend, even if it has lost some of its luster. St. Mary’s has lost two of their last three games while Murray State is no longer undefeated thanks to a loss to Tennessee State. That doesn’t mean that the game should be any less entertaining. Both teams can score a lot of points, both teams get up and down the floor, both teams play a bit undersized and both teams have an entertaining star in the back court. I’ll watch Isaiah Canaan and Matthew Dellavedova. Any day of the week.

An added wrinkle has been thrown into this game: both teams really need this win to avoid putting themselves in more bubble danger. If Murray State loses and falls in one of their last four league games, they may actually have to worry about winning the OVC Tournament. The exact same thing can be said about the Gaels. That should make this matchup all the more fun to watch.

Sat. Long Beach State @ Creighton, 10 p.m.: Like St. Mary’s and Murray State, this game lost some of its pizzazz when Creighton lost three games in a row. But that doesn’t change the fact that we will have two teams on the court than can score with anyone in the country. LBSU has one of the nation’s best kept secrets in Casper Ware, a dynamic point guard that is capable of putting up 30 points. He’s got talent around him, but not the kind of shooting the Bluejay’s do. Creighton, whose losing streak was the result of a stretch of poor-shooting, hit 77.5% from the field on Tuesday against Southern Illinois and shot 12-14 from three.

Sun. Michigan State @ Purdue, 1 p.m.: Thank to Purdue taking advantage of the Illinois collapse, the Boilermakers are right back into the mix in the race for an NCAA Tournament bid. They aren’t defending the way that we normally expect a Purdue team to and they are likely going to get crushed on the glass by the much bigger and more physical Spartans. But their is something about this Boilermaker team. They have some scorers and they can get hot in a hurry. Most of all, they are competitors, and while that does sound so corny and cliche, it matters. Purdue doesn’t quit, especially not when they are going to be looking for revenge for the beatdown they received from the Spartans in East Lansing.

Who’s getting upset?: Sat. Florida @ Arkansas, 6 p.m.

This was just too easy. Florida struggles on the road. Arkansas is awesome at home — they haven’t lost at Bud Walton Arena and haven’t won away from it. Florida doesn’t like to get pushed around. Arkansas is back to playing the 40 Minutes of Hell style that won them a national title back in 1994. Everything about this matchup screams upset.

Except for one thing: Florida’s got the kind of guards that can flourish in a game like this. The Razorbacks are going to press all over the court, which means that this is going to turn into an uptempo, back-and-forth game. Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker — and, to an extent, Mike Rosario and Brad Beal — already play like they are on the playground. What happens when they play a team whose style is to turn this into an AAU game? I think Arkansas wins, but I don’t think its going to be as easy as it looks on paper.

Five more teams on upset alert

Sat. Marquette @ UConn, 12 p.m.: I know UConn lost by 18 at Syracuse last Saturday, but that was not an 18 point game. They were down two with five minutes left, fighting and scrapping and playing the way we’ve been hoping the Huskies would play all season long. They followed that up with a 26 point win over DePaul, which gives some credence to the thought that UConn is back. That may just be wishful thinking, but with UConn’s size advantage in the paint — Davante Gardner and Chris Otule are still out — if they can handle Marquette’s pressure they should have a pretty good chance to pick up a much-needed win at home.

Sat. Florida State @ NC State, 1 p.m.: I’m officially off of the Florida State bandwagon. I think this is a good basketball team, but they aren’t anywhere near great and they certainly aren’t on the same level as Duke and UNC this season. They needed a 13-1 run in the final 73 seconds against an injury-depleted Virginia Tech team at home — a run that saw more scoring that Florida State’s entire second half up to that point — to win. NC State is going to be steaming about the way they lost to Duke on Thursday night. I got the Wolfpack.

Sat. Georgetown @ Providence, 7 p.m.: Providence is still trying to work out the kinks with their new head coach, but the Friars are a tough team to play at The Dunk. They always seem to pick up a win or two there over teams they have no business beating. Ed Cooley does have four talented scorers at his disposal, so if they get hot, watch out.

Sat. Mississippi State @ Auburn, 8 p.m.: This is more about Mississippi State than about Auburn. Simply put, I do not trust this team. At all. Road games. Home games. Neutral site games. The talent is there, but somewhere along the line there is a disconnect. In no way, shape or form should a team with Dee Bost at the point and Arnett Moultrie in the middle be in the middle of the SEC pack this season.

Sat. Gonzaga @ San Francisco, 8:30 p.m.: San Francisco threw a scare into BYU on Thursday night, missing two shots on their final possession that would have won the game. The Dons have already beaten Gonzaga at home recently, upsetting them last season, and hung with them earlier this season. The Bulldogs will have a share of the WCC regular season title on the line, but if this group doesn’t come out ready to play, USF will catch them sleeping.

Mid-major matchup of the weekend: Sat. Nevada @ Iona, 4 p.m.

We put together a fairly extensive BracketBuster’s breakdown here when the matchups were announced, so for more detailed previews of these games you should head that way.

I still want to talk about them, however. It seems unlikely that either of these teams will have a shot at getting an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be an entertaining game to watch. Iona gets up and down the floor and scores points as quickly as anyone in the country. Nevada may have more talent on their roster top to bottom, headlined by WAC player of the year candidate Deonte Burton.

Five more to watch

Sat. Drexel @ Cleveland State, 11 a.m.: Where Nevada-Iona will be a run-and-gun affair, this will be a heavyweight bout. Both the Dragons and the Vikings pride themselves on their defense. If you aren’t tough, you won’t be seeing minutes in this game.

Sat. Wichita State @ Davidson, 12 p.m.: All of a sudden Wichita State looks like they may be the best team in the country outside of the Power Six conferences, which makes it a bit disappointing they ended up heading to Davidson.

Sat. Akron @ Oral Roberts, 2 p.m.: The best team in the MAC will be a good test for Oral Roberts, a talented, experienced and balanced team that can score with the best of them.

Sat. UNC-Asheville @ Ohio, 7 p.m.: You like back court stars? We got back court stars. Ohio’s DJ Cooper is one of the best point guards in the country you’ve never heard of while Matt Dickey and JP Primm just may form the best mid-major back court in the country.

Sat. Dayton @ Xavier, 8 p.m.: All of a sudden this game looms very large. Both the Flyers and the Musketeers sit squarely on the bubble, although pride may be a more important factor. Dayton has collapsed this season after a terrific start to the year. And Xavier? They are a shell of their pre-brawl selves.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

Bubble Banter: It is a massive night for teams on the bubble

Abbie Parr/Getty Images
1 Comment

As we will do every day throughout the rest of the season, here is a look at how college basketball’s bubble teams fared on Saturday.

It’s worth reminding you here that the way winning are labeled have changed this season. Instead of looking at all top 50 wins equally, the selection committee will be using criteria that breaks wins down into four quadrants, using the RPI:

  • Quadrant 1: Home vs. 1-30, Neutral vs. 1-50, Road vs. 1-75
  • Quadrant 2: Home vs. 31-75, Neutral vs. 51-100, Road vs. 76-135
  • Quadrant 3: Home vs. 76-160, Neutral vs. 101-200, Road vs. 136-240
  • Quadrant 4: Home vs. 161 plus, Neutral vs. 201 plus, Road vs. 240 plus

The latest NBC Sports Bracketology can be found here.

UPDATED FOR SUSPENDED GAME

SETON HALL (RPI: 27, KenPom: 40, NBC seed: 9): The Pirates landed their fourth Quadrant 1 win of the season on Thursday afternoon, picking off Providence in a game that had to be replayed after condensation on the floor made it unsafe to play on; leading scorer Desi Rodriguez sprained his ankle in the game. The tough part for the Pirates is that they have a tough finish to the regular season — at St. John’s, Villanova, Butler — and they may have to play it without Rodriguez.

PROVIDENCE (RPI: 37, KenPom: 69, NBC seed: 8): The Friars dropped to 17-11 on the season on Wednesday after they finished up their suspended game against Seton Hall. The Friars should be alright based on the wins they’ve put together — five in Quadrant 1, including wins over both Xavier and Villanova at home. The problem is that they have two Quadrant 3 and a Quadrant 4 loss. Their remaining schedule isn’t easy, either: at Georgetown, at Xavier, St. John’s. I think the Friars are in a more difficult spot that some are letting on.

WINNERS

KANSAS STATE (RPI: , KenPom: 46, NBC seed: 11): The Wildcats won their third straight game on Wednesday, beating Texas at home. They’re now 20-8 on the season and 9-6 in the Big 12 with three Quadrant 1 wins and a 9-7 record against the top two Quadrants. They have just one non-Quadrant 1 loss. The sticking points here: KSU has an atrocious non-conference SOS and their best wins are TCU, Oklahoma, at Baylor and at Texas. Their remaining schedule: at Oklahoma, at TCU, Baylor.

VIRGINIA TECH (RPI: 49, KenPom: 31, NBC seed: 9): The Hokies added their fifth Quadrant 1 win of the season on Wednesday night as they knocked off Clemson at home. The Tigers have been sliding a little bit and were playing without Shelton Mitchell, but that is not going to factor in in the eyes of the Selection Committee. At this point, with a 20-8 record, I think we can move the Hokies out of the Bubble Banter discussion for the time being.

MARQUETTE (RPI: 58, KenPom: 47, NBC seed: First four out): The Golden Eagles won their second straight game and their third game in the last four. They are 4-8 against Quadrant 1 and 8-11 against the top two Quadrants. Three of their four Quadrant 1 wins went on the road — Providence, Seton Hall, Creighton — but the Golden Eagles can’t really improve themselves during the regular season. Their last three games: at DePaul, at Georgetown, Creighton. Frankly, I think Marquette needs to win four or five in a row to have a real chance at getting a bid.

TCU (RPI: 21, KenPom: 23, NBC seed: 10): For a team that plays in the Big 12, it’s weird that TCU’s two best wins this season came over Nevada (13) and Saint Bonaventure (25) on neutral courts. All told, the Horned Frogs have four Quadrant 1 wins and a 7-9 record against the top two Quadrants after winning at Iowa State on Wednesday. They’re in a good spot, but with home games against Baylor and Kansas State left before a trip to Texas Tech and the Big 12 tournament, I still think that they to win two more games this season.

USC (RPI: 36, KenPom: 54, NBC seed: Next four out): The Trojans won their third straight game, picking off Colorado in Boulder. With just two Quadrant 1 wins and a loss to Princeton (216) at home, I think they need to win their last two games — at Utah, UCLA — if they want to get into the tournament.

ST. BONAVENTURE (RPI: 26, KenPom: 68, NBC seed: Play-in game): There is no margin for error for the Bonnies. With two bad losses on their résumé right now and just three Quadrant 1 wins, they’re right on the cusp of being in the tournament. If they win out during the regular season and lose to Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10 tournament, I think they will get a bid. If they lose to anyone else, it’ll be close. No matter what happens, it is not going to be a fun Selection Sunday for Mark Schmidt and company.

LOSERS

LOUISVILLE (RPI: 52, KenPom: 37, NBC seed: First four out): The Cardinals are not a tournament team as of today, and losing at Duke is not the reason why. They have three Quadrant 1 and 2 wins combined. The Quadrant 1 wins? At Florida State and at Notre Dame. The Quadrant 2 win? Virginia Tech at home. The good news is their “worst” losses are Florida State and Syracuse at home, and they have three Quadrant 1 games remaining: at Virginia Tech, Virginia, at N.C. State. I think they’ll want to win two of those.

FLORIDA (RPI: 64, KenPom: 29, NBC seed: 9): Suddenly, the Florida Gators are 17-11 on the season and 8-7 in the SEC. They’ve lost three in a row. They’ve lost five of their last seven and six of their last nine. And they have their toughest stretch of the season coming up: Auburn, at Alabama, Kentucky. The good news is that they have some really good wins. They’ve beaten Gonzaga on a neutral. They beat Cincinnati on a neutral. They won at Texas A&M, at Missouri and at Kentucky. But 11 losses is a lot of losses, especially when it would be very, very easy for them to lose two of their last three games. Who had the Gators on the bubble after PK-80?

TEXAS (RPI: 54, KenPom: 41, NBC seed: 11): The Longhorns are in a tough spot after losing at Kansas State on Wednesday. Texas has lost four of their last five and five of their last seven. They’re 16-12 overall and 6-9 in the Big 12. But they also have five Quadrant 1 wins and an 8-12 record against the top two Quadrants. They also have some pretty impressive wins. They beat Texas Tech, they beat TCU, they won at Alabama, they swept Oklahoma. They need to win at least two of their next three: Oklahoma State, at Kansas, West Virginia. That still might not actually be enough.

SYRACUSE (RPI: 46, KenPom: 45, NBC seed: Play-in game): The Orange lost at home to North Carolina on Wednesday night. They entered this week having to win two of their last four games to feel good about where they stood heading into the ACC tournament. They’re at Duke on Saturday and then at BC and home against Clemson. The last two were always the two games they were most likely to win.

PENN STATE (RPI: 76, KenPom: 25, NBC seed: Out): The Nittany Lions had a chance to get this thing done. Losing by three at Purdue was a killer; they were up by nine in the first half of a game that would have been one of college basketball’s 10-15 best wins this season. Then, on Wednesday, the lost to Michigan at home. A win at Nebraska would help — that’s a Quadrant 1 game — but it probably won’t be enough. The Nittany Lions are going to have work to do in the Big Ten tournament regardless.

 

Gregg Marshall: Wichita State, Michigan should play non-con game called ‘2013 national title game’

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
4 Comments

Now that Louisville’s 2013 national title is officially no longer in existence, the teams that the Cardinals beat on their way to the top are trying to figure out just what they can do to, possibly, pick up that award.

At a press conference this week, Gregg Marshall — who coached the Wichita State team that Louisville dispatched in the Final Four — brought up the idea of potentially playing a game against John Beilein’s Michigan team, who lost in the title game to the Cardinals.

“I was with Coach Beilein in Maui and he and I had a conversation and I jokingly brought up that we should play a game and dub in the 2013 national title game,” Marshall said.

That would be fun!

But it doesn’t sound like Beilein would actually be open to it.

“We didn’t win it all. We lost to a great team. If someone else wants to come and say ‘hey, you won it all, you’re the champion.’ We’ll take it,” Beilein said Tuesday. “But I’m not going to declare that. I’m declaring that we played our tail off that entire year and got every bit out of what was, remember, a really young team. Freshmen and sophomores all over the place.

“That was a great basketball team.”

Womp womp.

Desi Rodriguez to miss Seton Hall-Providence replay with injury suffered on wet floor

Corey Perrine/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Providence and Seton Hall postponed the final 13:03 of a pivotal Big East bubble battle on Wednesday night due to the condition of the court being too treacherous to continue play.

There was something of a heat wave in the northeast this week, with temperatures in New England reaching into the 70s. In February.

That’s unheard of, which is why it was so difficult for the Dunkin Donuts Center to control the temperature in their building. The result? The warmer than expected arena created condensation on the court due to the ice underneath; the building is also home to a minor league hockey team. When a basketball court gets slippery, it gets dangerous, and the Pirates suffered a casualty as a result.

Desi Rodriguez, Seton Hall’s leading scorer this season, slipped on the wet court in the first half and fell in a way that caused him to suffer a minor sprain of his left ankle. It’s far from a disastrous injury — he’s listed as day-to-day, so it could have been worse — but Rodriguez will not play when the game is resumed at noon on Thursday. And he may miss out when Seton Hall plays at St. John’s on Saturday.

That’s relevant because winning at Providence and at St. John’s would give the Pirates two more Quadrant 1 wins. That would assuredly help them with seeding in the NCAA tournament. They’re not exactly in danger of missing the NCAA tournament at this point, but with an 18-9 record and a 7-7 mark in the Big East, stumbling through these two road games with a Wednesday date with Villanova still on the books, suddenly the prospect of a three-game losing streak in the last weeks of the regular season is staring them straight in the face.

That would be an unfortunate way for their regular season to come to a close.

Wednesday’s Three Things to Know: Duke blows out Louisville, Texas Tech falls to Oklahoma State

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Leave a comment

1. DUKE PICKED UP ITS FOURTH STRAIGHT WIN IN IMPRESSIVE FASHION (DESPITE MISSING MARVIN BAGLEY III ONCE AGAIN).

Duke was, once again, missing freshman star Marvin Bagley III with a knee injury, but it didn’t seem to matter too much as the Blue Devils ran past Louisville for an 82-56 win. Grayson Allen had 28 points to pace the Duke offense while Wendell Carter Jr. continued to look strong on the interior without Bagley.

CBT’s Rob Dauster explores Duke’s recent stretch without Bagley and wonders if the team might have a better defense without the All-American big man.

2. OKLAHOMA STATE UPSET NO. 6 TEXAS TECH AS KANSAS NOW HAS A ONE-GAME BIG 12 LEAD.

The Cowboys dropped the Red Raiders in Stillwater to earn a Big 12 upset win in this one. But the bigger story is Kansas assuming sole possession of first place in the Big 12 with another Texas Tech loss. The two Big 12 leaders are still scheduled to meet in Lubbock on Saturday as the Red Raiders will get a chance to even things up with the Jayhawks in the conference race.

First, Texas Tech has to get senior guard Keenan Evans healthy again. Hampered by a toe injury the past two games, Evans didn’t look close to 100 percent on Wednesday night. An unhealthy Evans is a big reason for Texas Tech dropping a few games.

3. VIRGINIA TECH GETS THE NIGHT’S BIGGEST BUBBLE WIN

On a busy Wednesday night for bubble teams, no team did more for its case than Virginia Tech. The Hokies took advantage of a depleted No. 15 Clemson in picking up an ACC home win.

While Virginia Tech has looked like a safe bet to make the field thanks to some big wins, the win on Wednesday gives the Hokies a fifth Quadrant 1 win — a huge safety net for a team trying to get in the field.

CBT’s Rob Dauster has more on Virginia Tech’s NCAA tournament hopes while he also breaks down the rest of Wednesday’s bubble action in Bubble Banter.

No. 5 Duke’s defense turns up again as Blue Devils look like title favorite

Grant Halverson/Getty Images
1 Comment

Duke is back!

After drubbing Louisville 82-56 in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Wednesday night, the Blue Devils have now won four straight games despite the fact that they have been playing without Marvin Bagley III during this stretch.

Grayson Allen is back, too. He finished with 28 points on Wednesday night, making six threes and handing out threes assists. He entered Wednesday night averaging 22.3 points and 5.3 assists in his last three games, the first time all season long that he has scored more than 19 points in three consecutive games. He’s shooting the ball with confidence. He’s been moved into more of a playmaking, lead guard role in the half court offense as Coach K has transitioned back to being the focal point on that end, the first time he’s been in that role since his sophomore season.

Wendell Carter’s been on fire, too. He missed his fourth-straight double-double by a single rebound on Wednesday, but he did finish with 18 points, six assists and three blocks. In four games without Bagley, he’s now averaging 16.3 points, 10.5 boards, 3.0 blocks and 3.0 assists.

But that’s not why Duke is winning these games.

It’s not why I’m sitting here saying that Duke is back.

The reason why I’m warming up to the idea of Duke finding a way to be a Final Four team again is because they’ve figured out a way not only to just get stops, but to be damn good on the defensive end of the floor.

During this four-game stretch, Duke has not allowed a team to break 1.0 points-per-possession against while holding three of their four opponents to 57 points or less. In those four games, they’ve allowed 0.883 PPP. If they did that over the course of an entire season, the Blue Devils would be third-nationally defensive efficiency* behind only Virginia and Cincinnati. This is the first time they’ve held three straight ACC opponents under 60 points since 1981.

In the process, they’ve managed to climb from 79th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric to 27th, which is precisely the kind of drastic defensive improvement that the 2015 team made. They were in the 60s and 70s in adjusted defensive efficiency for much of the season. They were 37th before the tournament started. They were 11th when they cut down the nets.

And it begs the question: Is Duke better without Marvin Bagley III?

Lol.

No.

Don’t be stupid.

Marvin Bagley III is an alien. He makes every single team that he is on a better one.

What will be interesting to see is how Duke integrates him back into the team when he finally does return to the floor. There are two things that have allowed Duke to improve the way that they’ve improved over the course of the last two weeks, and both of them involve Bagley in a pretty significant way:

  1. The ball doesn’t stick as much offensively as it did when he was on the court. That’s why Allen’s been able to play the way that he’s played of late. The middle of the floor has also opened up because Duke’s gone away from trying to run high-low actions as much as they did before. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better to run offense this way, but you cannot convince that it’s a bad thing that Allen is back into a rhythm.
  2. Much more importantly, however, is that Duke has turned into a very good defensive team in this zone, and the biggest reason for that is the activity of Javin DeLaurier. Bagley is a terrific athlete, but he’s more of a five at this level than a four and he’s also a guy that is not an instinctual or, frankly, energetic defender. DeLaurier is more mobile and, since he’s not really a threat offensively, he can burn off of his energy on that end.

Bagley wasn’t the lone culprit for Duke’s defensive problems.

The bigger issue may have been simply that the Blue Devils vacillated between playing man and zone until these last four games, and Coach K fully embracing being a zone team has allowed them to figure it out. As one high-major coach put it to me, it’s better to be great at one defense than it is to be good at seven of them. Duke is doing that now.

But there is valid reason to be concerned about playing Bagley and Carter together simply because playing them together has been an issue defensively before.

Maybe that means that, instead of seeming them on the court together for 30 minutes a night, they’ll each play 10 minutes with DeLaurier at the four and play together for 20 minutes. Maybe it means that instead of being awesome defensively Duke is simply good enough, and maybe good enough is all they need to make a run in March this season.

And maybe the answer is that Bagley returns and is ready to defend the way that he needs to defend.

We’ve seen that happen, too. Remember the Miami game?

Whatever the case may be will play out over the course of the next six weeks. The one thing that is clear, however, is that these Blue Devils are suddenly a whole lot more intriguing than they were two weeks ago when they lost at North Carolina.

*(For those looking at KenPom, raw points-per-possession and KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric are two different numbers. The latter is the former adjusted for strength of opponent.)