College Hoops Week in Review: Five Thoughts

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Could an injury to Moser actually be a blessing in disguise for UNLV?: Before I get to my line of thinking, I want to emphasize something: this is no way, shape or form a good thing. Miker Moser dislocated his elbow — according to head coach Dave Rice, it was “very dislocated” — in a win at Cal on Sunday night, an injury that didn’t cause a fracture but will force Moser out of the lineup for an extended period of time. Maybe even the rest of the season. Considering this kid’s talent and the fact that he passed up on a chance to enter the NBA Draft after a breakout sophomore campaign, the pain from popping an elbow out of place isn’t the only reason this injury hurts. No one wants to see him sitting on the bench. No one.

But this will make Rice’s decisions easier to make in the near future. You see, Moser is a natural four in today’s college basketball. He’s 6-foot-8, he can rebound and defend in the paint, but he can also step out and knock down a three. Spread the floor offensively and protect the rim defensively. It’s ideal. It’s also a position that is currently being manned by Anthony Bennett, whose 25 points and 13 boards pushed his freshman year averages up to 18.5 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. Khem Birch returns next week, and if he’s as good as the hype says he is — I know we always hear a transfer being forced to sit out is the best player in practice, but sometimes that turns out to be the case — than that means Moser would be forced to the small forward spot.

Because you don’t sit a talent like Mike Moser, even if it means playing him out of position.

With Moser out of the lineup, however, that means that the Chuck Brothers — Bryce Dejean-Jones and Katin Reinhardt — can take up residence on the perimeter with Anthony Marshall manning the point, and while I don’t love that trio being tasked with distributing the ball when the front court is where UNLV’s strength lies, it may end up being a better option that using an out-of-position Moser.

Kansas is on track to become one of the nation’s elite: The thinking about Kansas throughout the preseason was that this would be an elite defensive team that will slowly develop into a very good offensive team as Elijah Johnson learns to be a point guard and Ben McLemore becomes more comfortable in a feature role offensively. Well, the former is true, as Withey has become the nation’s premiere defensive force in the paint, anchoring a defense that currently ranks sixth in defensive efficiency, according to Kenpom. And McLemore? He’s averaging 16.0 points with an offensive efficiency rating of 116.0 (a really good number) and a usage rate of 25.6% (meaning he’s the focal point offensively). As he becomes a more consistent three-point shooter (he’s currently at 31.4%), those numbers will only improve.

The only thing Kansas is really waiting on is Johnson, or Naadir Tharpe, to learn how to protect the ball offensively. Kansas is going to be right there in the mix all season long, and a 36 point shellacking of Colorado on Saturday is only further evidence of that.

How many teams constitute ‘the nation’s elite’?: Here’s the way I see it right now: Duke and Indiana are the nation’s top two teams as of this moment. It doesn’t really matter how you rank them — I still have IU in the top spot, but if you want to put Duke there because of who they have beaten this season, I have no qualms with that — but those two need to be No. 1 and No. 2. I think Michigan is the third best team in the country, followed very closely by Syracuse at No. 4. The next tier is made up of Louisville, Kansas and Florida.

I consider those seven teams the ‘nation’s elite’. Arizona, Cincinnati, Ohio State, Gonzaga, Missouri, Illinois, Creighton, anyone from the Mountain West — they’re not on that same level.

What does the loss to Illinois tell us about Gonzaga?: I’m torn over this. Illinois was quite impressive in winning at Gonzaga on Saturday night, but just what does a win at Gonzaga mean right now? The Zags have one of the biggest and most versatile front lines in the country, and their back court is loaded with talent and athleticism, but there are two major concerns I have with this group:

  • Kevin Pangos is a terrific player, but he’s not a point guard; he’s a scoring guard that can handle the ball. The only point guard on Gonzaga’s roster is David Stockton, and he turns the ball over far too often and is a defensive liability, especially when he shares the floor with Pangos. And while Pangos is struggling a bit early on this year, he still needs to be on the floor for this team.
  • The Zags are going to have an advantage in the paint in every game, and they certainly had one against a much smaller Illinois team. But they couldn’t get the ball to Elias Harris, Kelly Olynyk or Prmezek Karnowski in the second half against the Illini. Some of that was due to a zone that Illinois was in, but there was also an issue with perimeter players hunting shots. Is this going to be a consistent issue? Because if it is, Gonzaga won’t be playing to their strength.

It’s too early to write off the Zags, but this loss was a worrisome development given the way the past couple of seasons have gone.

Brandon Triche, the nation’s most prolific starter?: Here’s a cool stat for you: Brandon Triche has started all 115 games of his college career. He’s never missed one and never come off of the bench for one. The record for most starts in a college career was set by Kyle Singler, who started 147 games. Singler came off the bench once as a sophomore, however, which is why former VCU Ram Bradford Burgess holds to current NCAA record for most consecutive starts with 146. Syracuse has played eight games this season, which means that if they can make it to the finals of both the Big East tournament and the NCAA tournament without coming off the bench or missing a game, he’ll be able to break Burgess’ record and tie Singler’s record while setting his record for most career starts without missing a game or coming off the bench in a career.

No other senior in the country has started every single game in his career. The closest is Drew Crawford or Northwestern. He’s currently at 110 career starts, but he came off the bench once as a sophomore. Ohio’s DJ Cooper has started 114 games in his career, but he’s come off of the bench four times. Kenny Boynton has 112 career starts, coming off the bench once in each of his first three seasons. Elias Harris has 108 starts, but he missed a game as a freshman and as a sophomore and came off the bench once as a sophomore.

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

Juwan Morgan’s 34 leads Indiana to overtime win over No. 18 Notre Dame

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Indiana trailed by as many as 14 points in the first half and was still down 65-57 with just over two minutes left before rallying to knock off No. 18 Notre Dame, 80-77, in overtime in the nightcap of the Crossroads Classic on Saturday afternoon.

Juwan Morgan led the way for the Hoosiers with a career-high 34 points and 11 boards. He scored the final 12 points of regulation for the Hoosiers, including a layup with 13 seconds left that forced overtime, and then had eight of the 15 Hoosier points in the extra period.

The Irish were up 77-74 when Morgan scored and got fouled on a layup with 11 seconds left. He would miss the free throw, but Zack McRoberts grabbed the miss and found Morgan for the go-ahead dunk:

Notre Dame’s Matt Farrell would airball a three at the other end and, after a pair of Indiana free throws, Bonzie Colson’s half-court heave rattled in-and-out and Indiana headed home to Bloomington with the best win of the new Archie Miller era under their belt.

Syracuse needs OT to knock off Georgetown

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WASHINGTON — Tyus Battle had 29 points, Oshae Brissett had 25 points, and Syracuse overcame a 13-point second half deficit to defeat rival Georgetown 86-79 in overtime on Saturday.

Frank Howard added 19 points as Syracuse (9-1) made 10 of 23 3-pointers in staging its comeback over the final 10 minutes of regulation to force extra time.

Jessie Govan had 21 points and eight rebounds and Marcus Derrickson had 14 points and eight rebounds for Georgetown (8-1) which entered Saturday as one of six undefeated teams in Division 1. Jagan Mosely had 20 points off the bench for the Hoyas.

Syracuse snapped a two-game losing streak to former Big East foe Georgetown and last beat the Hoyas on the road in 2011.

Hoyas coach Patrick Ewing lost his first game against Jim Boeheim’s Orange after going 8-3 against Syracuse as a player in the 1980’s.

Howard stripped Govan and hit a layup with one minute remaining to tie the score at 69. Syracuse missed three shots at the end of regulation.

Mosely hit two free throws to give Georgetown its largest lead of 53-40 but Syracuse used a quick 5-0 spurt to pull back to within eight after a Brissett 3-pointer with 9:55 remaining.

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Neither team led by more than five points in the first half as both teams shot 37 percent (10 for 27) from the field.

BIG PICTURE

Syracuse: The Orange survived their first road test of the season and won’t play again away from home until traveling to South Bend to face Notre Dame on Jan 6. Syracuse had gone 1-1 in neutral site games in losing to then No. 2 Kansas while defeating former Big East rival in Connecticut at Madison Square Garden.

Georgetown: The Hoyas missed on their only chance to pick up a quality non-conference win against Syracuse. Georgetown’s previous opponents had a combined record of 24-64. The Hoyas last defeated Syracuse three straight times between 2000-02.

UP NEXT

Syracuse: The Orange return to the Carrier Dome to face two in-state foes next week – Buffalo on Tuesday and St. Bonaventure on Friday.

Georgetown: Two more games before the start of Big East play: North Texas on Wednesday and Alabama A&M on Dec. 23.

Louisville tops Memphis in Gotham Classic

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NEW YORK (AP) — David Padgett is not naive.

Louisville’s interim men’s basketball coach is fully cognizant that the immediate future of the Atlantic Coast Conference power is an unknown as the university’s leaders decide upon who will lead the program following the ugly end of Rick Pitino’s tenure at the school. Yet there is a season that must be played out.

And so he is navigating a delicate balancing act: Trying to plan for tomorrow while recognizing the importance of today.

“I don’t think you’re going to get a kid in the country to commit per se to Louisville until they know who the head coach is going to be moving forward,” Padgett said after Louisville’s 81-72 win over Memphis in the showcase game of the Gotham Classic on Saturday at Madison Square Garden. “But like I said before, that’s not my concern, that’s not our players’ concern, that’s not our staff’s concern. We really are just trying to focus on winning right now.”

Louisville improved to 8-2 with its fourth straight win. Quentin Snider led four players in double-figure scoring with 19 points. V.J. King finished with 17 points, Deng Adel 15 and Ray Spalding 12.

“We knew (it would take) just one game (and) everyone was going to at least hit a 3 or something,” Snider said. “We were going to catch hot.”

Whereas the Cardinals were hot from the field, Memphis left Madison Square Garden angry at itself after its four game-winning streak came to an end. The Tigers fell to 7-3 overall, and 36-54 all-time against Louisville. Jeremiah Martin tied a career high with 26 points, and Kyvon Davenport had 12.

“We have a chip on our (shoulders),” Martin said. “People (are) always saying we’re not good enough, and they have 11 new guys; they’re not going to be anything.”

Tied 38-all at halftime, Louisville outscored Memphis 17-4 in the first 5:30 of the second half to take a 55-42 lead. The key to the spurt was 3-point shooting with Adel knocking down two from behind the arc and Snider one.

“(Adel) … can shoot over people,” Memphis coach Tubby Smith said. “You have to play him for the drive. We didn’t make him put it on the floor like we said we should have, like we were going to do; the adjustment we had to make at halftime. That was really disappointing.”

Defense aided the Cardinals’ cause. Louisville entered the game second nationally in blocked shots (7.9), ninth in field goals allowed (.367), 36th in 3-point field goals allowed (.293) and 44th in points allowed (64.3) per game. Louisville forced 12 turnovers and blocked 14 shots, while limiting the Tigers to 4-of-11 shooting from 3.

“We responded in the second half,” Padgett said. “Came out with more of a defensive mindset. … Came out of the gate in the second half, took the lead and did a good job of maintaining it even when they would go on a couple of runs. (I am) really proud of our team.”

As well as Louisville as played, though, the Tigers fought back, using a 13-5 spurt spanning 4:53 to cut a 58-46 deficit to 63-59. Martin scored seven of his 26 in that run.

“I’m not happy about the way I played,” Martin said. “Because we didn’t win.”

Memphis didn’t get closer as Louisville responded with a 9-0 run of its own to extend its lead to 72-59.

“The thing I was pleased with — and I kept telling them in the timeouts — every time they went on a run we needed to respond with a run of our own and we seemed to do that,” Padgett said.

BIG PICTURE

Louisville: The Cardinals entered Saturday’s game ranked 11th in the 15-team ACC in 3-point percentage with a .342 success rate. Naturally, the Cardinals connected on 53.8 percent (14 of 26) of their attempts from behind the arc.

Memphis: The Tigers’ modus operandi is pretty simple: Attack the paint. The Tigers did so routinely in the loss. Thirty-four of Memphis’ 72 points came in the paint. Moreover, the Tigers had a 14-6 advantage in second-chance points.

NOTABLE

Louisville: Saturday’s matinee marked the Cardinals’ second road game of the season. Louisville only other game away from home was the 66-57 loss to Purdue on Nov. 28.

Memphis: The Tigers fell to 16-23 all-time in games contested in New York City.

UP NEXT

Louisville: Hosts Albany Wednesday night.

Memphis: Hosts Siena Wednesday night.

No. 6 Miami stays unbeaten with win over George Washington

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Miami coach Jim Larranaga is staying on the Hurricanes while they keep piling up wins.

Dewan Huell had 15 points and 12 rebounds, and No. 6 Miami used a fast start to beat George Washington 59-50 on Saturday.

One of six remaining unbeaten teams in Division I entering the weekend, the Hurricanes (9-0) ripped off 13 of the game’s first 15 points on their way to a 21-point lead. The scrappy Colonials pulled within seven with 13:53 remaining, but the rally fizzled down the stretch.

George Washington (5-6) outrebounded the bigger Hurricanes 44-39, but shot 18.5 percent (5 for 27) from the field in the first half and 30.2 percent overall. Miami ranks second nationally in scoring defense and field goal defense.

“I thought our defense in the first half was really outstanding,” Larranaga said. “I thought in the second half our defense on the first shot was pretty good, but they offensive rebound like crazy.”

Jair Bolden had 13 points and Terry Nolan Jr. scored 10 for the Colonials, who used a 17-3 run overlapping halftime to cut Miami’s lead to 35-28.

Asked about the key to preventing George Washington from getting closer, Huell said: “Not let them get multiple opportunities at the rim or off the offensive glass.”

Seated next to his leading scorer, Larranaga chimed in. “Yeah, they only got 17 (offensive rebounds),” he said.

Arnaldo Toro had 13 rebounds — four offensive — for the Colonials.

“We started the first half a little bit slow,” Toro said. “We were able to pick that up.”

Playing its first game since Dec. 5, Miami shot 41 percent from the field, including a 5-for-21 day from beyond the arc. The Hurricanes made at least half of their field-goal attempts in seven of their first eight games.

Lonnie Walker IV had 13 points for Miami, which is 9-0 for the first time since the 2007-08 team opened the season with 12 consecutive wins.

The matchup wrapped up a home-and-home series. Miami won 72-64 last season.

“I felt great coming into the game, confident — and then you go 5 for 27 in the first half and miss a bunch of open shots,” Colonials coach Maurice Joseph said. “That’s how it’s going to be sometimes, but our guys are starting to realize their potential if we start games the way we talk about starting games.”

INJURIES

Bruce Brown Jr. started for Miami after missing the previous game with a left-hand injury.

“I was surprised he played today,” Larranaga said. “We were told it would be three weeks. Bruce came after a week and said I don’t want to sit out.”

Permission from the team doctors soon followed. The Hurricanes’ third-leading scorer and assist leader had three points on 1-of-6 shooting with three assists.

ROAD WARRIORS

With a neutral site tournament in Hawaii during Christmas Week and two ACC road games also coming up, Miami will not play at home again until Jan. 7 against Florida State.

HAPPY HOMECOMING

Larranaga spent 14 years in the D.C. area as head coach at George Mason and famously led the Patriots to the 2006 Final Four.

BIG PICTURE

The Hurricanes have yet to trail in the second half this season.

The Colonials fell to 0-2 against ranked teams this season.

UP NEXT

The Hurricanes venture outside the U.S. mainland for the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii. They open the tournament on Friday against Hawaii, followed by a matchup Saturday against either Davidson or New Mexico State.

George Washington hosts New Hampshire on Friday.

Down by 22, No. 10 Xavier rallies for 68-66 win over ETSU

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CINCINNATI (AP) — Trevon Bluiett’s jumper with 6.3 seconds left completed No. 10 Xavier’s rally from a 22-point second-half deficit for a 68-66 victory over East Tennessee State on Saturday.

The Musketeers (10-1) overcame their worst shooting performance of the season, making clutch shots at the end to pull it out. Bluiett missed 11 straight shots and was only 7 of 22 from the field for 18 points, but made the one that mattered.

ETSU (6-4) led 51-29 with 14:24 to go, but couldn’t hold off the Musketeers. Desonta Bradford scored 20 points, but his long 3-pointer was off the mark at the buzzer.

Xavier has won 38 straight nonconference home games since a 56-55 loss to Wofford on Dec. 22, 2012. The streak was in jeopardy until the final minute. Kerem Kanter’s 3-pointer tied it at 66 with 53 seconds left.

Xavier came into the game ranked second nationally at 54.6 percent from the field, but shot a season-low 29 percent from the field in the first half. The Musketeers finished at 38 percent.

BIG PICTURE

ETSU: The Buccaneers had already played a top-10 team on the road, losing at No. 7 Kentucky 78-61 on Nov. 17. They shot a season-low 32 percent against the Wildcats. Against the Musketeers, they shot 37 percent and missed two shots in the final minute.

Xavier: The Musketeers made a habit of getting off to fast starts in the last four games, outscoring opponents 55-28 in the first 5 minutes. They missed 11 of their first 15 shots on Saturday, allowing ETSU settle in and gain confidence.

UP NEXT

ETSU visits Detroit on Tuesday, followed by home games against Georgia Southern and Tusculum.

Xavier hosts Marshall on Tuesday, wrapping up its six-game homestand. The Musketeers then play at Northern Iowa before starting Big East play.