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.
Gotta have it list-topper: Titus Rubles is the fourth scoring option
In Sean Kilpatrick, Cashmere Wright and JaQuon Parker the Bearcats have a very good perimeter trio on which to rely. However, when considering the fact that Mick Cronin’s big men aren’t serious interior scoring threats, the Bearcats need a fourth perimeter factor to emerge. Enter Titus Rubles, who is averaging 8.1 points in just under 20 minutes of action per game. In the Bearcats’ three toughest games to date (Iowa State, Oregon and Alabama) the Blinn College transfer averaged 11.0 points and 4.7 rebounds per contest, but he shot a combined 4-of-13 in wins over Arkansas-Little Rock and Maryland-Eastern Shore. If Cincinnati is to get back to the Sweet 16 (or go even further) they’ll need consistent production from Rubles.
Stocking stuffer: Cleaning the glass at a higher rate
Cincinnati has been the best team in the Big East when it comes to attacking the offensive boards, as they’re corralling a league-best 42.2% of their missed shots. But the Bearcats have been a middle of the pack squad when it comes to keeping opponents from doing the same, as their defensive rebounding percentage ranks seventh in the conference (70.6%). With the bulk of the scoring coming from the perimeter, players such as Justin Jackson (6.2 rpg), Cheikh Mbodj (4.9) and David Nyarsuk (4.4) will have to lead the way on the boards. It does help matters that Kilpatrick (6.1 rpg), Rubles (5.4) and Parker (4.6) are all good rebounders, but those big men will be needed if Cincinnati is to make waves in both Big East play and March.
Planning on re-gifting: Non-conference strength of schedule
According to realtimerpi.com the Bearcats enter Friday with a strength of schedule ranking of 246, while Yahoo! Sports calculations have them sitting at a slightly better ranking of 223. But with wins over Iowa State and Oregon (that win over Alabama may take a hit due to the Crimson Tide’s injury issues) and a game against Xavier on the horizon, the are some solid results on Cincinnati’s resume. Conference play will give those numbers the boost they need to look good come Selection Sunday, but you have to wonder if the non-conference number could cost Cincinnati a seed line when the time comes.
RICHMOND, Ky. (AP) Authorities say an Eastern Kentucky basketball player has been arrested on a rape charge.
Records at Kentucky’s Madison County Detention Center show 23-year-old Jaylen Babb-Harrison was arrested Sunday in Richmond and charged with first-degree rape.
A statement from Eastern Kentucky says Babb-Harrison, a redshirt senior guard, has been suspended from the team. It says the school is cooperating with police.
Local media organizations cited an arrest citation in reporting that police were called to a Richmond hospital when a female reported she was at Babb-Harrison’s home and that he had sex with her against her will.
WKYT-TV reports Babb-Harrison declined to be interviewed at a jail. His first court appearance is set for Wednesday.
Online jail records didn’t list an attorney for the player.
Judge dismisses sex charges against ex-Michigan State star
FLINT, Mich. (AP) A judge has dismissed all charges against former Michigan State basketball star Mateen Cleaves, who was accused of sexually assaulting a woman after a charity golf event.
Judge Cathy Dowd in Flint, Michigan, said Monday there wasn’t enough evidence to send Cleaves to trial. Prosecutors can appeal.
A woman said she twice tried to get away from Cleaves but was pulled back into a motel room and sexually assaulted in September 2015. A witness confirmed that she saw the woman try to escape a room at the Knights Inn near Flint.
But a police officer said the woman never indicated that she was assaulted. Cleaves pleaded not guilty.
The Associated Press generally doesn’t name people who say they were sexually assaulted. Cleaves led Michigan State to the 2000 national championship.
Villanova has overtaken Kentucky as the new No. 1 in the Coaches Poll on Monday.
The defending champions also took No. 1 in the new AP poll thanks to an 8-0 start while UCLA beat Kentucky at Rupp Arena this weekend. The Bruins finished at No. 2 while Kansas and Duke are right behind them.
Villanova is atop the latest Associated Press top 25 poll this week as the 8-0 Wildcats are off to a hot start. With Kentucky’s loss to UCLA and North Carolina’s loss at Indiana there were some major shakeups in the polls this week.
Villanova (57 first-place votes)
Five things we learned last week: UCLA, Kentucky, the Big 12 and Lagerald Vick
1. There’s a lot more to this UCLA team than just Lonzo Ball: Entering this weekend, that’s the name that everyone knew on UCLA. Ball is the team’s superstar freshman point guard, a player that has been compared favorably to Jason Kidd and whose ability to spray passes all over the floor is the biggest reason that the Bruins offense is a juggernaut.
But that offense isn’t going to be the difference-maker for the Bruins this season, because the Bruins were able to score last year, too.
No, the reason that UCLA has a chance to win a national title this season is that they can actually defend. They’re not Virginia. They’re not going to hold good teams to 50 points. They’re not going to be forcing 20 turnovers a night. They don’t have to. All they need to do is to be ‘good enough’ on that end of the floor. Limit penetration, protect the rim, clean the defensive glass.
If we learned anything on Saturday, it’s that the Bruins are going to be able to do the latter two things on that list. T.J. Leaf injected a shot of athleticism into the front court while Ike Anigbogu provides a physicality and a toughness they haven’t had in the paint under Alford. Throw in Thomas Welsh, who more than held his own against the Wildcats, and this is a pretty good front line that UCLA is working with.
And given what we already know about this team’s guards, that’s a scary proposition.
2. Kentucky is going to be just fine: Saturday’s loss was a humbling one for the Wildcats. After steam-rolling through literally everyone they’ve played this season – Kentucky entered the game having won by at least 21 points in every game – the Wildcats got outplayed by UCLA pretty thoroughly. That’s going to happen with young teams, regardless of how well they play against inferior competition, and it may happen again before SEC play starts; Kentucky still have to play North Carolina and Louisville before Christmas.
The Wildcats are an elite defensive team, and they are even better at scoring in transition. Where they struggle, however, is with half court offense. They simply don’t have enough shooters to be able to consistently create high-percentage looks against a set defense, and the way to force them into half court offense is, simply, to score on them. UCLA is one of just a handful of teams that has the guard play and the offensive weapons to be able to do that consistently for 40 minutes, and even then, it took the Bruins a while to grow into the game.
In other words, there aren’t very many teams that can do what UCLA did to Kentucky’s defense.
Thus, there aren’t very many teams that can actually beat Kentucky.
So don’t be worried about the ‘Cats.
They’ll be just fine.
3. Turns out, the Big 12 is really good: The narrative on the Big 12 entering the season was that the league was down outside of Kansas. The Jayhawks were the favorite to win the league just like they always are, but once you got past Bill Self’s club, there really wasn’t much of substance in the league.
That looks to be a dumb narrative.
It starts with Baylor, who has been awesome this season. The Bears picked up yet another excellent non-conference win on Saturday, coming from behind at halftime to beat No. 7 Xavier by 15 points in Waco. It turns out that Baylor actually has the supporting cast around Johnathan Motley to be relevant, and if the tournament was to start today, Baylor would very likely be the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament.
Then there’s West Virginia, who went into Charlottesville and picked up a road win over No. 6 Virginia the same week that they forced 40 turnovers in a 40 minute game. Iowa State is probably still top 25 good, even with that home loss to Cincinnati last week, and we’d be remiss not to mention the play of both Texas Tech and TCU, the latter of whom is one of just two teams in the league and 11 teams in the country that are still undefeated.
Here’s the kicker: As of today, the No. 1 conference in college basketball, according to KenPom.com, is … the Big 12.
4. Is LaGerald Vick the most surprising player in the league?: Baylor’s Manu Lecomte has been better than expected, as has his teammate, Jo Lual-Acuil. Jawun Evans has been a star for Oklahoma State, but we all knew that he was going to be good. Texas A&M transfer Alex Robinson is leading TCU in points, assists and steals, but he was a good player for the Aggies before he left. We knew he would do good things in Fort Worth.
I’m not sure anyone expected Vick to develop into a starter for Kansas just weeks into the season, but here we are. He’s averaging double-figures on the season. He’s made 9-of-11 threes in the last three games, a stretch where he’s averaging 15.3 points. He’s been terrific defensively, and his presence has allowed Kansas to put plus-defenders on the floor at every position while playing small-ball lineups.
Who saw that coming?
5. So maybe the North Carolina hype train got a bit out of control: Yes, North Carolina played well early on this season. Yes, they were impressive in their wins against Chattanooga and in the Maui Invitational. Yes, Joel Berry II and Justin Jackson have both gotten better.
But the fact that the narrative last week somehow turned into North Carolina being the most impressive team in college basketball seemed a little bit weird, a fact that was confirmed by UNC’s loss at Assembly Hall on Wednesday night.
Now let me be clear: There’s no shame in losing in Assembly Hall, not when IU was playing the way they were playing. But UNC dug themselves a 26-9 hole early in the first half that they were never really able to dig out of. They were rattled by the atmosphere. They did not play well at all, and I just don’t think that if this was truly the best team in college basketball, that doesn’t happen that way.
UNC is good, and probably better than many thought entering the season, but before we go anointing them the champs can we take a second to remember these are basically the same dudes we’ve been unimpressed by for a couple of years now?