Nerlens Noel most overrated 2012 prospect? Whoa, now …


If you want clicks from college basketball fans, write about Kentucky. If you want clicks and comments, write something critical of a Kentucky player. That’s a guaranteed formula.

Still not enough? Add a generalization that doesn’t apply to college players.

Cue this story at Rant Sports: “Top Prospect Nerlens Noel is Most Overrated Prospect in 2012.”

Noel, the 6-10 center who re-classified from the class of 2013 to 2012 and committed to the Wildcats in the spring, is the man who’ll step into Anthony Davis’ considerable shoes this season. Noel already earned a rep as the best shot blocker in a generation – yes, even better than Davis – and is seen as a guy whose offensive game can only get better.

But Jason Greenberg at Rant is convinced that Noel won’t match Davis’ production. He says Noel’s offensive game was lacking at the adidas Nations event earlier in June (only scoring off putbacks and dunks) and was outplayed by other prospects such as Isaiah Austin and Steven Adams. Worse yet, he got pushed around.

Here’s the thing: Greenberg is right about one thing. Noel probably won’t match Davis’ production. Not many guys – let alone freshmen – lead their team in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots, win a national title and take all the major awards in the process. That’s a remarkable season. But to use Davis’ performance as a way to call Noel overhyped – and throw in references of Bowie vs. Jordan, Oden over Durant – misses the point. (Is Shabazz Muhammad MJ or Durant in this scenario? I’m confused.)

Noel doesn’t have to be the next Davis. If he hits the averages Greenberg expects (eight points, seven rebounds, three blocks) then he’ll still be incredibly valuable. Three blocks a game usually means he’s altering another five or six. That’s game-changer in the frontcourt from a defensive standpoint, which is what Davis was most of the season for the ‘Cats. (Remember that at least one scouting site ranked Austin Rivers as 2011’s top recruit.) Noel will be surrounded by enough scorers and shooters that the points will come. Probably off putbacks and dunks. Concerns about Davis’ build also lingered throughout the season, but somehow didn’t matter in the end (having Terrence Jones down low helped a lot).

But hey, who hasn’t trotted out a sensational headline every now and then? Just don’t make it a habit.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

VIDEO: Kris Dunn wills Providence to win over No. 11 Arizona

Kris Dunn, Elliott Pitts
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Kris Dunn spent the first 35 minutes of Friday night’s game against No. 11 Arizona in foul trouble, splitting his time between sitting on the bench and trying to avoid finding himself, again, on the wrong side the whistle.

With 11 minutes left in the game, and with Dunn yet to find a rhythm, the all-american point guard was whistled for his fourth foul as he battled for a rebound with Arizona’s Mark Tollefsen. Head coach Ed Cooley say his superstar beside his for six game minutes, time enough for Arizona to turn a 49-47 deficit into a 58-54 lead.

There were just over five minutes left when Dunn reentered the second semifinal of the Wooden Legacy, and he proceeded to show everyone in the country why he was named the Preseason Player of the Year. Providence had nine possessions after he reentered the game. Dunn scored 11 points and had a pair of assists on those eight possessions, and if Ben Bentil had stuck a wide-open three — that was setup by Dunn — the Friars would have scored on all nine.

In total, Dunn was responsible for all 15 Friar points in a game-changing, 15-7 run in the final 4:30. It was capped off by this Kobe-in-his-prime-esque game-winner:

The win for Providence is huge for a couple of reasons:

  • Dunn showed a killer instinct against a marquee opponent, something that we didn’t necessarily see out of him a season ago. He wasn’t going to let his team lose, and given that Providence doesn’t have anyone else that can consistently create good shots, they are going to need that from him a lot this year.
  • It makes a statement for the Friars. Arizona is overrated at No. 11 in the country, yes, but going out on national television against an elite program and getting this kind of performance from Dunn is a confidence-booster and a tone-setter. Providence hasn’t been accustomed to winning in recent years. This is a way to set a trend.
  • Ben Bentil continues to play like a star. Dunn had 19 points and eight assists on Friday, but Bentil followed up a 24-point performance in the win over Evansville with 21 critical points on Friday.

This win sets up a matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence on Sunday night, which means that Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn — the two best players in the country, sorry Ben Simmons — will be going head-to-head.

Oh. Hell. Yes.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.