Thad Matta,  LaQuinton Ross, Evan Ravenel

Christmas Wish List: OSU needs production from Ross, Smith

Leave a comment

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: Lenzelle Smith and LaQuinton Ross to keep playing well

The key to Ohio State’s season hinges almost entirely on the play of Smith and Ross. Let me explain. We all know how good of a scorer Deshaun Thomas is. He shoots a ton, he’d be a miserable guy to play pickup ball with, but there’s not denying the fact that he’s one of the most potent scorers in the country. Aaron Craft is an all-american. I love his game. He’s one of the best leaders and on-ball defenders in the country. He’s a throw-back point guard, and he does it better than anyone else in the country. But he struggles when he’s forced to be a primary scorer, a guy that needs to hunt shots and get 13-15 points for the Buckeyes to have success.

That’s where Smith and Ross come into the picture. Both players are currently averaging double-figures on the season, and while Smith is showing more promise as a spot-up shooter and Ross is better is more of a slashing role, the bottom-line is that they can score. And if Ohio State is going to contend with Michigan and Indiana at the top of the Big Ten this season, they need those two to take pressure off of Thomas and Craft.

Stocking stuffer: More minutes for Shannon Scott

Believe it or not, Scott has actually been better than Craft this season. Granted, it’s come in some limited minutes and he’s done some damage in garbage time against bad teams, but Scott’s raw numbers (5.0 assists, 2.6 steals, 5:1 assist-to-turnover ratio) and efficiency stats (he’s got a better offensive rating, assist rate and steal percentage than Craft) are phenomenal. Maybe, one day, the Ohio State staff won’t regret taking him over Columbus native Trey Burke.

Planning on re-gifting: Opponents outside the Kenpom top 100

Frankly, it’s difficult to truly form an opinion on this Ohio State team as is. They’ve only played one team in the Kenpom top 100 this year — Duke — and they put up a performance with two extremes. For about 28 minutes, they dominated the Blue Devils and looked like a legitimate top five team. For the final 12 minutes, they looked like they might finish sixth in the conference. Now, their weak schedule is entirely their fault. Rhode Island is way down because of a coaching change, Washington is usually better than they are this year, Long Beach State didn’t have their transfers eligible yet and Kansas comes to town on Saturday. But that doesn’t change the fact that the Buckeyes have played an extremely weak schedule thus far this season.

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

Brunson scores 18 points, No. 8 Villanova beats Stanford

Jalen Brunson
Associated Press
Leave a comment

NEW YORK (AP) Villanova struggled to score and rebound on Thursday night.

The Wildcats’ defense was good enough to still get a win.

No. 8 Villanova compensated for offensive and rebounding struggles by forcing 23 turnovers in a 59-45 victory over Stanford in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tipoff.

“We played pretty good defense but couldn’t rebound with them,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “It was one of those nights we couldn’t make shots but hung in there defensively. Their rebounding was almost a difference maker but thank God it wasn’t.”

The Wildcats (5-0) advanced to face Georgia Tech in the championship game Friday.

Villanova won despite shooting 30.6 percent and getting outrebounded by a 55-35 margin against an opponent starting three players 6-foot-8 or taller. The Wildcats started one player taller than 6-6 but compensated for the size differential by holding Stanford to 26 percent from the floor.

“I didn’t think it would be this ugly on the boards but if we could have made a couple of shots it might not have been as ugly,” Wright said. “But I was proud the guys really grinded defensively.”

Freshman Jalen Brunson was one of few Wildcats not to struggle offensively and scored a career-high 18 points. Josh Hart added 10 points but was 4-for-13 shooting and combined with Ryan Arcidiacono to shoot 6 of 24, including 1 of 15 from 3-point range.

“I was doing what I always do,” Brunson said. “I try to play aggressive all the time. I saw they were backing off me a little bit so there is time for me to shoot and time for me to make other plays.”

Leading scorer Marcus Allen had 12 points but was 3 for 12 for Stanford (2-3). Dorian Pickens added 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Stanford lost its third straight by double digits and will face Arkansas in the consolation game. The Cardinal missed their first 15 shots of the game and their first eight attempts of the second half while falling behind by 16.

Stanford was within seven on a basket by Reid Travis with 6:34 remaining, but Villanova scored the next six points and finished the game with a 13-6 run.

“They’re a very good defensive team, they’re active and they made a lot of plays,” Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins said. “The thing we did most was we turned the ball over 23 times, so that was disappointing.”


Villanova: Seven of Villanova’s school-record 33 wins came in New York last season. The Wildcats won twice in the Legends Classic at Barclays Center, beat St. John’s and Illinois during the regular season at Madison Square Garden and won three games there for the Big East Tournament championship. … Guards Arcidiacono and Hart combined to miss their first 11 3-point attempts. Arcidiacono came into the game shooting 44 percent from 3-point range while Hart entered at 45 percent. … Darryl Reynolds tied a career high with 19 minutes, getting most of those in the second half after Daniel Ochefu picked up his fourth foul.

Stanford: Thursday was Stanford’s 13th game in New York since 2011-12. Last year, the Cardinal appeared in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, beating UNLV and losing to eventual national champion Duke. … Stanford faced Villanova for the second time. The other meeting was a 96-70 Cardinal loss on Dec. 23, 1970. … Stanford missed 12 layups and tip-ins during the first half. … Allen hit his head on the court trying to deflect the ball on a layup by Hart. Dawkins said Allen was a little dizzy but didn’t think the junior would miss any time.


Villanova: Georgia Tech in the championship game on Friday.

Stanford: Arkansas in the consolation game on Friday.

Justin Robinson, Monmouth knock off No. 17 Notre Dame

King Rice
Associated Press
Leave a comment

Less than two weeks after they opened their season with an upset win at UCLA, Monmouth picked up its first-ever win over a team ranked in the AP Top 25.

Two Justin Robinson free throws with 3.6 seconds remaining proved to be the difference as King Rice’s Hawks upset No. 17 Notre Dame at the Advocare Invitational in Orlando, and the diminutive point guard was a problem for the Fighting Irish all night.

Robinson scored 22 points, with 14 of them coming from the foul line as Notre Dame’s guards struggled to keep the quick guard contained off the dribble. He was one of three Hawks to score in double figures, and their combination of depth and athleticism proved problematic for Mike Brey’s team. All five Notre Dame starters scored in double figures, with Demetrius Jackson’s 20 leading the way, but the lack of depth proved problematic as the game wore on.

Notre Dame didn’t get a single point from its bench, with Matt Farrell and Matt Ryan combining to play 28 minutes. That lack of depth not only cost Notre Dame Thursday night, but it’s something they’ll have to figure out if they’re to be a contender in the ACC. Jackson and Steve Vasturia ran into foul trouble against Monmouth, and the lack of a bench option capable of picking up the slack led to Monmouth building up a ten-point lead in the second half.

Notre Dame tried to account for that by slowing down the tempo, but in doing so they struggled to find quality looks against the Monmouth defense. And given the players at Rice’s disposal, it’s tough to slow the game down against a team that can get after you on both ends of the floor.

Monmouth entered this season with expectations of contending for a MAAC title alongside the likes of perennial favorites Iona and Manhattan, and their start to the season backs up that belief. With two players in Robinson and Deon Jones who have earned all-conference honors during their careers and a host of contributors that includes guards Je’lon Hornbeak and Micah Seaborn, this is a group to keep an eye on as the season wears on.

Because if they can earn a bid, Monmouth’s non-conference schedule will have them prepared for the NCAA tournament.