Christmas Wish Lists: Florida State needs the Kung-Fu Grip

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Over the course of the next two weeks, College Basketball Talk will be detailing what some of the country’s best, most intriguing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams need. It’s the spirit of the holidays. We’re in a giving mood.

What do other teams have on their Christmas Wish Lists? Click here to find out.

Gotta have it list-topper: Interior defense

It seems absurd to say that Florida State lacks defense. If there’s one thing a Seminoles fan could count on throughout the Leonard Hamilton era, it’s that the team could lock down, even on nights when the ball wasn’t finding the nets. Last season, FSU finished 15th defensively, and the two years before that, they were No. 1 in back to back seasons. What’s changed? Opponents are now shooting nearly 48 percent inside, a figure unheard of in recent seasons in Tallahassee. The ‘Noles clearly miss former Air Force Staff Sergeant Bernard James, who averaged more than two blocked shots per game for his career as a Seminole, but he was hardly the only one doing the job right; Xavier Gibson also helped form the wall inside in past seasons. This year, Kiel Turpin, Michael Ojo and Boris Bojanovsky — all legit seven-footers — have combined to prove conclusively that sheer size without positioning and technique amounts to very little.

Stocking Stuffer: Windex

Nobody’s cleaning the glass any more, and that’s killing these guys. The only player who seems to have the knack so far is 6’8″ junior Terrance Shannon, and the fouls are starting to mount up on him as he claws for each board. Shannon had a 15/10 double-double against St. Joe’s this season before he copped a DQ, and he had four-foul evenings against South Alabama, BYU, Mercer and Florida. Even if Shannon could do it all without getting into foul trouble, why should he have to? Someone else — if not several someone elses — needs to put in some elbow grease at window-cleaning time.

Planning on re-gifting: Haste

I know I’m getting some dirty looks now. Yes, I am saying that Florida State needs to slow the heck down. They’ve never been burners under Hamilton, but right now, they’re playing much faster than they did in past seasons when they excelled. This year’s team is hitting a pace of 72 possessions per 40 minutes. According to Basketball State, that’s above the national average and the ACC average so far. That’s causing their turnovers to go up, and their scoring to go down. FSU was built to be a bear, not a cheetah.

Clearly, everything on this wish list is tied together. The ‘Noles offense and defense are predicated on a slower pace and great rebounding, things that happen organically when there’s a big man in the middle who knows his business. The team is suffering because there’s no reliable post presence on either end of the floor. Assists are down, and the ball is going up faster and from farther away, because there’s no impetus to pound it inside right now. If they can’t handle the likes of South Alabama and Mercer, imagine what Mason Plumlee will do to them.

Florida State has big men, so they don’t need any more 7-foot-plus boxes under the tree. Maybe just an accessories package; something that replicates the old G.I. James kung-fu grip.

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

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.