Duke Louisville Basketball

Late Night Snacks: Coach K drinks Pitino’s milkshake. Again.

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It’s been an exhausting week for the Duke Blue Devils. They’re 6-0 the hard way, following up a win over then-No. 3 Kentucky with a three-games-in-three-days marathon that saw them conquer Minnesota, VCU and No. 2 Louisville on their way to the Battle 4 Atlantis title. When a weary-looking Coach K was asked if he and his kids would hit the white-sand beaches to celebrate, he answered with a rueful shake of his head.  His team was leaving the island on the redeye, with just four short days to prepare for now-No. 3 Ohio State.

Hope Coach K made the most of his summer tour with Team USA, because this is going to be one looooong season.

Games of the Night

No. 5 Duke 79, No. 2 Louisville 71 – Even without Gorgui Dieng in the middle, Louisville made a good game of it. But the night belonged to Coach K and his cool-headed Blue Devils. The guard triumvirate of Quinn Cook, Seth Curry and Rasheed Sulaimon scored every which way and kept the ball in motion, while big men Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly did the dirty work inside. It’s another machine in Durham.

College of Charleston 63, No. 24 Baylor 59 – Pierre Jackson was his usual brilliant self, and Isaiah Austin is rounding into a nice young player, but the Bears were dead in the water without sharpshooter Brady Heslip, who was unavailable after having his appendix removed on Tuesday. Charleston’s Willis Hall was the hero, making buckets down the stretch to finalize a huge road win for the Cougars.

No. 13 Missouri 68, VCU 65 – You knew Shaka Smart would make a game of this. Throughout much of the game, the Rams were unable to make Havoc pay off, but they clawed back into it in the second half before Phil Pressey slammed the door, splitting two VCU defenders to loft in a shot that sent Mizzou home victorious.

Important Outcomes

No. 19 Memphis 52, Northern Iowa 47  – There was little doubt that Memphis was going to fall out of the Top 25 after losses to Minnesota and VCU in the Battle 4 Atlantis. But a loss to Northern Iowa in the seventh-place game might have even pushed the Tigers out of the “Also Receiving Votes” basement. The Panthers led this game for a good long while, but Josh Pastner eventually put the pieces together and got the face-saving win.

Minnesota 66, Stanford 63 – The Gophers gutted out a close win, keeping their heads while those around them lost theirs. More on that later. Tubby’s boys saw some signs of life out of Trevor Mbakwe, which they’ll need if they’re going to survive the rugged Big Ten.

Northwestern 72, Illinois State 69 (OT) – Northwestern beat an in-state foe in a small gymnasium on South Padre Island, Texas. It matters because the Wildcats have these huge claws and teeth, but they so often can’t figure out how to kill the bunny. This 6-0 doesn’t really mean much, but it’ll look great if the purple and white can pair it with a victory over Maryland next week.


Stan Okoye (VMI) – Sure, the Keydets are the kind of team that caused tempo-free statistics to be invented in the first place. They run and gun and throw the rock up with abandon sometimes. But it’s a thing of beauty when it works. Stan Okoye, favored for Big South POY honors, put up an amazing line of 30 points, 16 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and 3 blocks against a rather good Elon team. And then he goes home to sleep in a barracks. That’s man-style.

Trevor Mbakwe (Minnesota) – The Gophers big man has been in a funk of inconsistency so far this season. He scored just 5 points in the Atlantean win over Memphis. Mbakwe seemed to come alive vs. Stanford, however, putting up 19 points and grabbing 12 boards. Tubby Smith would like to see a lot more of this guy.

The Ohio Bobcats – The dangerous MAC contender swamped a well-coached Richmond team, winning by a score of 73-48. The Bobcats, with just one sophomore and no freshmen, are going to be incredibly dangerous this season.


Chasson Randle (Stanford) – Randle’s Stanford teammate coolly swished two free throws to tie Minnesota with :14 left in a consolation game in the Bahamas. As Andre Hollins brought the ball up the floor to attempt a desperation heave from mid-court, Randle unaccountably contested the shot, fouling Hollins and sending him to the free throw line with one second remaining. Hollins sunk all three, and the game was over. The Gophers went home with a 6-1 mark, and Stanford fell to 4-3.

Wagner and North Carolina Central – The two schools combined for a grand total of 74 points in an absolute brick-fest set in Durham, NC. Wagner’s 28.6% from the field was enough to give them a 38-36 win over the homestanding Eagles, who shot 22.6% from the floor and a putrid 57.1% from the charity stripe.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

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.