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: Perimeter shooting must improve
The Golden Eagles have some solid pieces, whether it’s a Vander Blue, Trent Lockett or Jamil Wilson. But with their balance (two players averaging double figures; five averaging at least 7.7 ppg) has come the fact that Marquette has struggled from beyond the arc. On the season the Golden Eagles are shooting 31.0% from distance, a number that ranks 14th out of 15 teams in the Big East. Wilson (12-of-23) has been their most accurate weapon in this regard, but with Blue and Lockett making less than 35% of their attempts Buzz Williams will need his players to get better as they approach Big East play. Marquette scores 62.3% of their points on two-pointers according to statsheet.com, and with their shooting woes look for opponents to devise defensive game plans that focus on limiting their valuable paint touches. If Marquette can make opponents pay they’ll be better for it.
Stocking stuffer: Davante Gardner continues to perform inside
Gardner’s been very good for the Golden Eagles this season, as he’s second on the team in scoring (12.7 ppg) and grabbing a team-high 5.4 rebounds per game. Gardner, who is in much better physical condition, ranks in the top ten in the Big East in both field goal (59.6%) and free throw (81.0%) percentage and has been a highly valuable reserve for Marquette. If the senior continues on this path the Golden Eagles will have a valuable piece at their disposal when it come sto alleviating some of the scoring responsibilities for their perimeter players.
Planning on re-gifting: Todd Mayo’s academic ineligibility
With Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom moving on to the NBA, the sophomore from West Virginia was looked upon as one of the key figures for Marquette in 2012-13. That clearly didn’t happen, as Mayo was academically ineligible for the fall semester. The question now is how quickly, if at all, can Mayo get back into the swing of things and become another player for Marquette to call on. Early last season Mayo enjoyed a stretch of five straight games in double figures, including a career-best 22 points in a win over Northern Colorado, so he surely has the potential to help Marquette offensively. But did the missed time stunt his on-court growth?
Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.
It’s worth noting here that Derek Willis is not left-handed, yet he dunks this with his left hand.
No. 8 North Carolina knocked off Pitt on the road on Saturday afternoon, picking up an 85-67 win that clinched at least a share of the ACC regular season title for the Tar Heels this season.
It’s the second straight season and the eighth time in the 14 years that Roy Williams has been the head coach of the Tar Heels that they can make such a claim. For comparison’s sake, Mike Krzyzewski and Duke have won just three ACC regular season titles in those 14 years and they haven’t won one since 2010.
So this is a pretty good run that Roy Williams is on, and that’s before you consider the two national titles — plus a third national title game — that he’s won during that stretch.
And this year may be as impressive as any job that he’s done during his career.
This UNC team is different than past UNC teams in the sense that it’s the first time that one of his great teams doesn’t have a front line anchored by a future first round pick that is a killer on the block and a stallion running the floor in transition. There’s no Brice Johnson or Tyler Zeller or Tyler Hansbrough or Sean May. Joel Berry II is a really good college guard, but he’s not Kendall Marshall or Ray Felton or Ty Lawson, and his inconsistency is one of UNC’s bigger question marks heading into the tournament. Justin Jackson has turned into a killer this season, which is not something we would have said about Justin Jackson in any other year.
Put another way, this team is not a team that you can look at and know will be a title contender.
But they are.
They hold a two-game lead over an ACC that might get 10 teams into the NCAA tournament with two games left. If they win at Virginia next week, they will be playing for pride and for seeding when they take on Duke in the season finale.
I’d go as far as to say that the Tar Heels are as good, or better, than anyone in college basketball this season. They’ll probably end up as the No. 1 seed in the south and could very well make another run to the Final Four this season.
Considering just how good Williams has been throughout his career, and particularly during his tenure in Chapel Hill, you can understand what it means to say that this may very well be the best coaching job of his career.
Duke will be without star junior guard Grayson Allen on Saturday.
According to a report from Greg Gumbel of CBS Sports, Allen will miss the Blue Devils’ road game at Miami with an ankle injury.
The 6-foot-5 Allen is averaging 15.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game this season as he’s battled a few different injuries as well as getting suspended for another tripping incident. Duke is used to playing without Allen and the Blue Devils should still have enough to stay in this one against Miami but it is going to be a tough game to win on the road.
Duke is coming off of a road loss to Syracuse earlier this week as the No. 10 Blue Devils are trying to finish out a tough regular-season schedule these next three games.
Drake senior center Jacob Enevold received a special surprise on Saturday afternoon as his parents flew all the way from Denmark to surprise him for Senior Day.
The 7-foot-1 Enevold appeared perfectly content to take part in the Senior Day celebrations when his parents appeared on the floor and he ran to greet them.
Starting freshman guard De’Aaron Fox will be out for Kentucky on Saturday as the Wildcats host Florida in an important SEC showdown.
The 6-foot-3 Fox has a knee contusion, and without him, the Wildcats will start senior Mychael Mulder. Fox is averaging 15.5 points, 5.3 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game as he’s been one of the country’s best two-way freshmen this season.
Kentucky and Florida both enter Saturday’s game at 13-2 in SEC play but the Gators took the first matchup by 22 points between these two teams in Gainesville on Feb. 4.