Ben Howland

The most disappointing team in the country: UCLA or Memphis?

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The craziest part about the beginning of the college hoops season is the number of teams that are already being labeled disappointments.

Baylor is back to their old tricks, failing to live up to the talent they have on the roster. That’s what happens when you barely beat a team that lost to Bryant or try two two-pointers in the final ten seconds of a game you’re losing by three at home. (Should I mention the latter came against Charleston?) UNLV was thought to be a potential Final Four contender, and they lost on their home court to an Oregon team that is still unproven. NC State, a title contender according to some pundits, got drubbed by Oklahoma State — who nearly got beaten by UC-Davis in their home opener — before hanging on against a rebuilding UNC-Asheville team. West Virginia, St. Mary’s and Drexel can all be lumped in there as well.

But without a doubt, the two most disappointing teams in the country are UCLA and Memphis.

If you didn’t stay up late last night to watch it, the Bruins, who were ranked No. 11 in the country last week, lost at home. To Cal Poly. (Yes, they’re a real team.) After blowing an 18 point lead with 12 minutes left, losing when Norman Powell fouled a Cal Poly player with the scored tied and 14 seconds left because he thought they were down. After losing to Georgetown, barely holding on to beat Georgia and getting taken to overtime (at home) by UC-Irvine.

And frankly, I’m not so sure that UCLA’s problems are fixable. Ben Howland is a defensive-minded coach. That’s how he took the Bruins to three consecutive Final Fours. Those teams never finished worse that third in Kenpom’s defensive efficiency ratings. We all remember how critics of Howland used to say he’d never be able to land recruits because his star players don’t get a chance to shine offensively, right?

Well, this group simply is never going to be good on that end of the floor, and it’s not simply a matter of ability; they have guys that are athletic enough to be good defenders, but do they pride themselves in being able to get stops? It hasn’t looked like it yet, and it certainly didn’t look like it as Cal Poly scored 37 points in the last 12 minutes on Sunday night. A zone won’t work, either, as this group isn’t active on the defensive end of the floor.

My advice? Accept it. Embrace the fact that you’re not going to be beating anyone 62-58 this season and instead try to break the century mark every time out. Use Kyle Anderson at the four, rotate the three wings (Shabazz Muhammad, Jordan Adams, Norman Powell) and Larry Drew II as the three players joining him on the perimeter and let the Wears take turns manning the paint. Run the floor, score as much as possible, and hope that it’s enough.

At the very least, the Bruins will be having fun and into the game. That’s more than can be said for last night.

The issues that Memphis has seem to be more systemic than anything.

Is there an issue for Pastner when it comes to recruiting local kids? Is that why, after turning his team around for the stretch run last season, he team has regressed back to playing timid, mistake-prone basketball? Is that why his team looks like a group of freshmen that lack confidence and understanding?

The bigger question: is that Pastner’s fault? Local columnist Geoff Calkins believes so:

This isn’t about X’s and O’s, either, though plenty would criticize Pastner for his. This is about Pastner’s ability to lead and reach and inspire a team.

[…]

But all good coaches have one thing in common: They get their players to play hard and together and well.

Pastner does not. Or has not, with any consistency. And don’t blame the players, either. Pastner recruited every one of them. It is his team, from the first man to the last. There is nobody to hold responsible but the coach.

I disagree with Calkins here.

I watched quite a bit of Memphis from the Battle 4 Atlantis, and I don’t think their issue is effort. I legitimately believe that the kids on that team, for the most part, played hard. Yes, Joe Jackson sulked when he didn’t play well, but I think that sulking is more of a lack of confidence and frustration issue — understandable — than it is an indictment of Pastner. And to be fair, they lost to a very good VCU team and to Minnesota when a kid from Memphis that got passed over by Memphis went for 41 points.

Neithe of those losses equate to blowing an 18 point lead at home to Cal Poly.

My take: the Tiger’s problems stem from a) poor decision-making, which manifests as silly turnovers and forced shots; b) problems with their preparedness, as I’m not convinced the Tigers really knew what they were getting into against VCU’s pressure; and c) offensive and defensive execution.

Those issues, however, are more problematic than an inability to motivate.

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

No. 10 Florida State uses early run and outlasts No. 12 Louisville

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 25:  Dwayne Bacon #4 of the Florida State Seminoles drives to the basket against the Illinois Fighting Illiniin the second half during the consolation game of the NIT Season Tip-Off at Barclays Center on November 25, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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Using a hot start in which they jumped out to a 16-2 lead, No. 10 Florida State held on from there as they outlasted No. 12 Louisville for a 73-68 ACC home win.

The Seminoles (18-2, 6-1) led for the entire game as this was a one-point game with under two minutes left with a chance for Louisville to take the lead.

Both teams struggled to find consistent offense as 38.5 percent was the high mark between the two teams.

Freshman Jonathan Isaac was a standout on both ends for the Seminoles as the 6-foot-10 forward displayed his versatility in so many ways. Isaac finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds as its his third consecutive double-double. Dwayne Bacon (16 points) and Terance Mann (15 points) also played well for the Seminoles while Michael Ojo finished with 10 points.

Playing another game without Quentin Snider, Louisville (16-4, 4-3) the Cardinals struggled to open the game and never really recovered in this one. Tony Hicks led Louisville with 16 points and 17 field goal attempts and that usually isn’t a good sign for an offense that is facing a top-1o team on the road.

Mangok Mathiang had a solid outing with 13 points and 13 rebounds while Deng Adel (12 points) and Jaylen Johnson (10 points) also finished in double-figures.

VIDEO: Clock stoppage costs Georgia win at Texas A&M

NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 11:  Mark Fox the head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs gives instructions to his team during the game against the South Carolina Gamecocks during the quarterfinals of the SEC Basketball Tournament at Bridgestone Arena on March 11, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Texas A&M wiped out a 13-point second-half deficit to defeat Georgia 63-62 on Saturday in one of the season’s odder endings.

The Bulldogs had the final possession trailing by one, but the clock inadvertently stopped with 5.6 seconds remaining. Georgia’s J.J. Frazier dribbled the ball near the top of the key, and thought he had time to pass down low to Yante Maten.

Maten received the pass from Frazier, and officials whistled a foul on the Aggies when Maten attempted a layup. With the clock still stuck at 5.6 seconds, officials used game video to count down Georgia’s final possession, and determined that time had run out before the foul was called on A&M.

Here is the play:

Georgia coach Mark Fox kept his composure afterward but was obviously upset at the outcome.

“Our kid (Frazier) looks up and thinks he has time to make a play, but he doesn’t,” Fox said. “I don’t know who stopped the clock; I’d like to know.”

Afterward A&M officials said a “belt-pack” worn by one of the officials malfunctioned and inadvertently stopped the clock. They were checking further into what happened. The Aggies (10-8, 2-5 Southeastern) snapped a two-game losing streak, while the Bulldogs (12-7, 4-3) have lost two of their last three.

Robert Williams led the Aggies with 18 points and D.J. Hogg followed with 16, while Maten led the Bulldogs with a game-high 19 points.

Central Michigan’s Marcus Keene scores 50 points on Miami (OH)

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(Central Michigan Athletics)
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Central Michigan junior Marcus Keene has been a big story in college basketball this season since he’s become the nation’s leading scorer.

The 5-foot-9 guard had his finest scoring display yet on Saturday as Keene dropped 50 points in a Central Michigan win over Miami (OH) in the MAC. Keene only needed 23 field goal attempts to hit 50, as he was 10-for-15 from three-point range and 15-for-23 overall. He also went 10-for-10 from the free-throw line.

Keene was averaging 28.7 points per game entering Saturday as his previous season-high was 44 points against Montana State. Keene also had 40 in a win over Green Bay.

The last player in a Division I game to score 50 points was South Dakota State’s Nate Wolters when he scored 53 points against IPFW on Feb. 7, 2013.

Oregon’s Dillon Brooks has a sprained foot

LAHAINA, HI - NOVEMBER 21: Dillon Brooks #24 of the Oregon Ducks tires to dribble around Rodney Pryor #23 of the Georgetown Hoyas during the first half of the Maui Invitational NCAA college basketball game at the Lahaina Civic Center on November 21, 2016 in Lahaina, Hawaii. (Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)
(Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images)
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Oregon junior Dillon Brooks was diagnosed with a sprained left foot on Saturday after the star forward left Thursday’s win over Cal.

There is no timetable for when Brooks will return but a sprain is good news compared to what the injury could have been for Brooks.

The 6-foot-7 Brooks is averaging 13.4 points per game this season as the Ducks look like a much better team with him in the lineup. Brooks missed the first three games of this season with a left foot injury, so that is why there was major concern when Brooks left the Cal game.

Oregon’s faces Stanford at home on Saturday.

No. 9 North Carolina survives BC despite Berry’s off night

WINSTON-SALEM, NC - JANUARY 11:  Justin Jackson #44 of the North Carolina Tar Heels reacts after a shot against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons during their game at LJVM Coliseum Complex on January 11, 2017 in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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No. 9 North Carolina survived a scare from Boston College in Conte Forum on Saturday, winning 90-82 in a game that they led by one or two possessions for much of the second half.

Justin Jackson scored 22 points in the win while Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks combined for 34 points, 14 boards, five assists and three blocks.

Boston College isn’t the pushover that they were last season. The Eagles already have a pair of ACC wins in that building this year and their back court seems to have an axe to grind against the schools that didn’t recruit them. Ky Bowman, a Havelock, N.C. native, and Justin Robinson, a Raleigh native, combined for 51 points and seven assists against North Carolina. They had 43 points in a win over N.C. State and 40 points in a loss at Duke.

Put another way, North Carolina had to show up and play well to win this game. Beating BC isn’t a given this year.

And, frankly, UNC didn’t play all that well. They got lit up by BC’s back court and their stars, Joel Berry II and Justin Jackson, did not play all that well. Jackson finished with 22 points and hit a couple big shots, but he was 6-for-16 from the floor. Berry was more-or-less a non-factor. He hit a dagger three with just over a minute left but finished the afternoon with just nine points and sans an assists.

Maybe I’m making too much of it – and maybe I’m undervaluing the return of Pinson and how that affects who UNC needs to be a playmaker – but this win keeps UNC on pace with Notre Dame for first place in the ACC, and teams that win leagues as tough as the ACC is this season can only do so by winning the games in which they don’t play well.