Alford Greenwood Adams McCurdy

Christmas Wish Lists: New Mexico needs to improve its marksmanship

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: Improved shooting
With their lack of a marquee post threat New Mexico asks a lot of players such as Kendall Williams and Tony Snell. But despite their 12-1 record the Lobos are shooting 42.1% from the field and 34.3% from three, numbers that rank eighth and sixth in the Mountain West respectively. New Mexico has shot 45% or better in just three games this season, and in their 70-65 loss to South Dakota State on Saturday Steve Alford’s charges shot 37%. The reason why the shooting didn’t cost them until Saturday: the Jackrabbits were just the third team this season (USC and Valparaiso being the others) to shoot better than 45% against UNM. The Lobos can defend, but if they’re to win another Mountain West crown their best shooters need to knock down shots at a higher rate.

Stocking stuffer: Alex Kirk continues his comeback
Kirk sat out all of last season due to a back injury, and he’s made up for lost time through 13 games. Kirk’s averaging 10.9 points and 7.5 rebounds thus far, essentially doubling his averages as a freshman in 2010-11. Kirk is also averaging 1.2 blocked shots per game, a number that ranks fifth in the Mountain West. With San Diego State adding James Johnson to the fold, UNLV getting Khem Birch and Colorado State having Colton Iverson, Kirk’s play will be one of the keys for New Mexico as they get into conference play. Off to a good start, he’ll need to continue on that path for UNM to be successful.

Planning on re-gifting: Demetrius Walker’s 13 games
With his play in the Mountain West and NCAA tournaments there was the feeling that Walker was beginning to figure things out, and would thus become an even greater weapon for the Lobos. But that hasn’t happened to this point in the season, as Walker is averaging 6.1 points and 1.5 rebounds per game. His field goal percentage (38.8%) is about the same as last year’s mark (38.9%), and while he is making 40% of his shots from beyond the arc Walker is also shooting 56.5% from the foul line. Walker’s had his moments this season, with his 19 points in a win over Idaho being the most notable, but New Mexico needs more from their most athletic asset as the season rolls on.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

VIDEO: Kris Dunn wills Providence to win over No. 11 Arizona

Kris Dunn, Elliott Pitts
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
Leave a comment

Kris Dunn spent the first 35 minutes of Friday night’s game against No. 11 Arizona in foul trouble, splitting his time between sitting on the bench and trying to avoid finding himself, again, on the wrong side the whistle.

With 11 minutes left in the game, and with Dunn yet to find a rhythm, the all-american point guard was whistled for his fourth foul as he battled for a rebound with Arizona’s Mark Tollefsen. Head coach Ed Cooley say his superstar beside his for six game minutes, time enough for Arizona to turn a 49-47 deficit into a 58-54 lead.

There were just over five minutes left when Dunn reentered the second semifinal of the Wooden Legacy, and he proceeded to show everyone in the country why he was named the Preseason Player of the Year. Providence had nine possessions after he reentered the game. Dunn scored 11 points and had a pair of assists on those eight possessions, and if Ben Bentil had stuck a wide-open three — that was setup by Dunn — the Friars would have scored on all nine.

In total, Dunn was responsible for all 15 Friar points in a game-changing, 15-7 run in the final 4:30. It was capped off by this Kobe-in-his-prime-esque game-winner:

The win for Providence is huge for a couple of reasons:

  • Dunn showed a killer instinct against a marquee opponent, something that we didn’t necessarily see out of him a season ago. He wasn’t going to let his team lose, and given that Providence doesn’t have anyone else that can consistently create good shots, they are going to need that from him a lot this year.
  • It makes a statement for the Friars. Arizona is overrated at No. 11 in the country, yes, but going out on national television against an elite program and getting this kind of performance from Dunn is a confidence-booster and a tone-setter. Providence hasn’t been accustomed to winning in recent years. This is a way to set a trend.
  • Ben Bentil continues to play like a star. Dunn had 19 points and eight assists on Friday, but Bentil followed up a 24-point performance in the win over Evansville with 21 critical points on Friday.

This win sets up a matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence on Sunday night, which means that Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn — the two best players in the country, sorry Ben Simmons — will be going head-to-head.

Oh. Hell. Yes.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
Leave a comment

After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.