Shabazz Muhammad

Late night snacks: Shabazz and Chaminade make the headlines

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The first day of Maui and we had to classic moments from a tournament that always delivers a few. Shabazz Muhammad makes his UCLA debut in Brooklyn, and all the stats you can shake a stat sheet at. Here’s your daily recap.

Games of the Night

Chaminade 86, Texas 63 – This one takes it. Division II Chaminade takes down mighty Texas in a game that they controlled from the beginning. A 32-point night from De’Andre Haskins propelled the Silverswords. Great night for the hosts of the Maui Invitational.

New Mexico 66, UConn 60 – It’s a statement game for New Mexico, who has been buried under San Diego State and UNLV in terms of headlines in the Mountain West Conference this preseason. They hit all 21 of their free throws and Kendall Williams had 15 points, five rebounds and five assists in the win to give the Lobos the Paradise Jam title.

Butler 72, Marquette 71 – It was more about the shot than the game. Junior Cadougan missed the second of two free throws, Butler’s Khyle Marshall rebounded and got it to Rotnei Clarke, who weaved his way down the court and launched a running 30-footer as the buzzer sounded that dropped and gave Butler the win. Great way to start the Maui Invitational.

Georgetown 78, UCLA 70 – Retuuuurn of Shabazz (get it?). Yea, well, anyway, Shabazz Muhammad made his collegiate debut to the tune of 15 points in the Bruins first loss of the season. He was sporadic, he was indecisive, he was a freshman in his first game of the season. He’ll be fine. It’s just good to have him on the court.

St. Louis 70, Texas A&M 49 – With all the buzzer-beaters, upsets and debuting superstars, this game was lost. The Billikens, playing in their first game since hearing the news that coach Rick Majerus would retire after taking a leave of absence from coaching for the season, ran the Aggies off the court. Dwayne Evans had 21 points for St. Louis, who shot 51-percent from the field (25-for-49).


Rotnei Clarke, Butler – It’s all about the shot. Despite a 7-for-21 shooting night, Clarke shook it off and hit a running 30-footer at the buzzer to give the Bulldogs the win over the Golden Eagles. The line itself was vintage Clarke, who never saw a shot he didn’t like. One great shot can make up for a night of bad ones.

De’Andre Haskins, Chaminade – A special shoutout to the Division II boys in this one. A former Division I player at Valparaiso, Haskins went for 32 points in the Silverswords stunner over Texas. The guy played like he deserved to be back in the high ranks and showed absolutely no fear on the court.

Kendrick Perry, Youngstown State – The Horizon League Player of the Year candidate furthered his case, pouring in 34 points on 13-of-25 shooting and eight boards in 83-80 loss to North Dakota State. The loss doesn’t make the production any less impressive, considering Perry does so much for the Penguins. He’s incredibly legit.

Bilal Dixon, Towson – The opponent is what kept Dixon from getting the “stuffing the stat sheet” honor, but nonetheless, 10 points, 11 rebounds, six blocks in 79-40 victory over Cincinnati Christian isn’t a bad day at work.

Tony Mitchell, North Texas – Looks like the Mean Green are starting to come out of their earlier funk — including a loss to Division II Alabama-Huntsville. Franklin dropping 21 points, nine rebounds, four blocks, three steals and two assists in 80-66 win over IUPUI. Franklin’s starting to post the consistent numbers everyone thought he would from the beginning this season.


USC – Blame it on Hawaii? From beginning to end, the Trojans just didn’t show up in a 94-64 loss to Illinois in the nightcap of the Maui Invitational. The Trojans shot 42-percent overall (22-for-50), but hit just three threes and never seemed to find a rhythm at all. The reward for losing? A date with the recently-upset Texas Longhorns on Tuesday.

Elston Turner, Texas A&M – He led the Aggies with 16 points but went 5-for-12 to get it and committed four turnovers. He’s the leader and clear-cut best player on a team that got housed by St. Louis 70-49. They’ll need better overall games from him.

Arsalan Kazemi, Oregon – The transfer from Rice learned he was eligible this season  a matter of weeks ago, I’ll admit, but he hasn’t had the best start to the season in a situation he asked for. The senior went 1-for-5 for two points in 24 minutes in a 67-45 victory over Jacksonville State. To his credit, he did have eight rebounds and five steals. But he’s a scorer and the Ducks will need points from him down the road.

Stuffing the stat sheet

Travis McKie, Wake Forest – The Demon Deacons beat Mercer 74-71 tonight behind McKie’s 23 points, 15 rebounds, three steals in 37 minutes. He was also 11-for-14 from the free throw line. The junior is averaging 13.3 points and eight rebounds so far this season. He’ll need more games like that for the Deacs to make a return to any postseason tournament.

Fanbases that can take a breath

New Mexico – There’s been a number of question marks in the post for the Lobos. None of that seems to matter now. After a comeback win in Marathon Madness a week ago, the Lobos earned the Paradise Jam title with the victory over UConn. Big man Alex Kirk had 10 points and four rebounds while the guards hit the boards too, with Hugh Greenwood ripping down seven rebounds to go along with 12 points. They were a perfect 21-for-21 from the free throw line and four starters finished in double figures. New Mexico looks good early.

Fanbases that can take a seat

Texas – I’ve said it enough tonight. The Longhorns lost to Chaminade 86-73 and it didn’t even seem as close as the score. Texas has a lot of work to do to get better and as long as Myck Kabongo is out, it’s not going to make the work any easier.

David Harten is the editor of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

VIDEO: Bill Simmons talks Ben Simmons on DP Show

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Ben Simmons will likely be the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA draft, and possibly end up with the Celtics, making Boston sports junkie Bill Simmons very happy. Bill jokes about sharing a last name with a future NBA star.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR POWER RANKINGS: Kris Dunn still tops a strong list

Kris Dunn, D'Angelo Harrison
AP Photo
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1. Kris Dunn, Providence: I had Kris Dunn as the Preseason Player of the Year, and while he probably hasn’t been the best player in the country through four games — he hasn’t yet had a statement game on national television — he is averaging 18.8 points, 7.8 boards, 6.8 assists and 5.3 steals.

And while his shooting splits are down from a season ago, he only has eight turnovers through four games. I’m not going to drop my guy when he does that just because he hasn’t gotten into the meat of his schedule yet. No way.

I’ve charted the four games that Dunn has played to determine how much of Providence’s offensive runs through him, a stat I’m going to call, for lack of a better word, possessions “ended”.

When he’s on the floor, how many of Providence’s possessions ended with Dunn shooting, getting to the free throw line, turning the ball over, assisting on a bucket, assisting on free throws or assisting on a missed shot.

Through four games, 62.6 percent of Providence’s offense runs through Dunn, which is an insanely high number and a reason that his efficiency, and shooting percentages, are going to be lower than ideal.

Defenses know this.

Illinois had all five defenders in the paint trying to stop Dunn’s ball-screen actions:

(Screengrab via Synergy)
(Screengrab via Synergy)

His defender went over the screen while the man guarding the screener stayed with Dunn. The weak-side defender is in the lane helping on Ben Bentil’s role to the rim while the strong-side defender is helping on Dunn’s drive. Here’s video of the entire action:

2. Denzel Valentine, Michigan State: Valentine is almost averaging a triple-double this season. Seriously. He’s at 15.3 points, 9.8 assists and 9.0 boards through four games. That won’t last, but we can celebrate it while it does. He also is the own of the most impressive performance of the young season, going for 29 points, 12 boards and 12 assists in MSU’s come-from-behind win over Kansas in the Champions Classic.

And just to put Dunn’s numbers in perspective, Valentine “ended” 60.6 percent of Michigan State’s possessions against Kansas.

3. Ben Simmons, LSU: Since we keep talking about whether or not Ben Simmons is overrated, I think this is worth mentioning: He’s currently the leading rebounder in college basketball, averaging 14.5 boards to go along with his 19.3 points, 5.3 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.0 blocks. Oh, and he has just six turnovers in four games.

I’m not going to sit here trying to convince he’s not a great player. He is. Unquestionably. But there are a few things you need to understand when analysts and scouts try to temper the comparisons to LeBron James.

MORE: Transcendent? Overhyped? The shame is if Ben Simmons is irrevelant

Simmons spends a lot of time at the five for LSU, meaning that he is quite often guarded by guys like Luke Fischer, a 7-footer that doesn’t have a prayer of trying to slow down a player that big and that skilled in transition or in a half court setting:

He’s also a terrific passer, one that is so skilled at making defenses pay when the help defenders are too focused on him. Look at Traci Carter when Simmons throws this lob:

(Image via ESPN)
(Screengrab via ESPN)

That’s a direct result of the mismatches that he gets at the college level.

There are layers to this, too. The numbers you don’t hear with Simmons: he hasn’t even attempted a three-pointer this season. Through his first three games, he only shot five jump shots and missed all five. (Synergy’s logs haven’t been updated with last night’s games yet.) He’s shooting 81 percent from the line, so the stroke is there, but it has yet to manifest itself as part of his offensive repertoire.

Put it all together: NBA teams have guys that are big enough and quick enough to guard Simmons — especially if he doesn’t become a consistent shooter from the NBA three-point line — and while his passing ability rivals LeBron’s, he’s not as quick, explosive or athletic.

In simpler terms, Simmons won’t be exploiting mismatches in the NBA the way he can in college, and defenses won’t have to sellout to slow him down. That’s why I would rather see him compared to Lamar Odom, who, by the way, averaged 13.3 points, 8.4 boards and 3.7 assists in a 15-year career that produced two NBA titles and an appearance on a U.S. Olympic team.

He was damn good.

Comparing him to Odom is a compliment.

4. Tyler Ulis, Kentucky: The latest argument that seems to be clogging by mentions is whether or not Ulis or Dunn is the best point guard in the country. My take: Dunn is the best player in the country while Ulis is the best point guard in the country. While the two technically play the same position, the role they play is entirely different. Ulis is a facilitator, a pure point guard. Dunn is the prototype new-age lead guard, a guy built in the mold of Russell Westbrook, John Wall and MVP-era Derrick Rose.

Ulis has been OK in three of Kentucky’s four games, but his performance in the win over Duke — 18 points, six assists, four rebounds, two steals, no turnovers — is what got him this high on this list.

5. Grayson Allen, Duke: Allen has been unbelievable in four of the five games he’s played this season, including back-to-back 30-burgers as the Blue Devils beat VCU and Georgetown in the 2K Classic. Even with that putrid performance against Kentucky, his numbers look like this: 24.4 ppg, 4.4 rg, 3.2 apg and shooting splits of 52.2/53.6/89.7.

6. Tyrone Wallace, Cal: Only one player in college basketball averaged more than 20 points, five boards and five assists last season. This year, Wallace is averaging 20.3 points, 5.8 boards and 5.3 assists for a Cal team that could end up winning the Pac-12. He’ll climb this list if his numbers look as good when the competition gets tougher.

7. Sheldon McClellan, Miami: Picking a player on Miami for this spot was tough, but I decided to go with McClellan for a couple of reason. One: He’s Miami’s leading scorer at 17.4 points. Two: his shooting splits are outrageous (61.7/52.4/94.7) meaning his efficiency numbers are outrageous as well. Three: he’s the guy on that Miami roster that, if I was an opposing coach, I would build a game-plan around stopping.

8. Buddy Hield, Oklahoma: Hield was a first-team all-american entering the season and has scored 54 points in two games this year. He went for 30 in a win at Memphis. Not bad.

9. Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga: Kyle Wiltjer was the guy that was on all the preseason all-american lists, but through two (And a half? Does Pitt still count?) games this season, Sabonis has been Gonzaga’s best player. He’s averaging 20.5 points and 10.5 boards, scoring on post-ups and offensive boards and shooting a robust 82.6 percent from the floor.

10. Evan Bradds, Belmont: There are a number of guys deserving consideration for this spot — Demetrius Jackson, Melo Trimble, Shaq Harrison, Josh Hart — but I’m going to give Bradds a little love here. Through five games, he’s averaging 21.3 points, 8.6 boards and 2.4 assists while shooting 76.2 percent from the floor. He had 24 points and nine rebounds in Belmont’s win at Marquette and, in his last two games, is averaging 29 points and 10 boards while shooting 27-for-28 from the field. A run like that can’t last, but while he’s in the middle of it, we’re going acknowledge it.