Chris Udofia, Pierce Hornung

College Hoops Team of the Week: Colorado State

Leave a comment

Team of the Week: Colorado State

The Rams were pegged as a sleeper in the Mountain West prior to the start of the season, but after losing to Colorado and following that up with a loss at Illinois-Chicago, there were those (me!) who had their doubts about whether or not this group was actually going to be able to compete with the likes of UNLV, San Diego State and New Mexico. Well, CSU has won four straight games, since then, all of which were by at least 17 points, and capped the run off with a 36 point win over Virginia Tech on Sunday night.

Pierce Hornung was the best player for the Rams this week. In the three games, he averaged 17.3 points and 9.7 boards, a welcome offensive boost from a guy that wasn’t averaging double figures at the start of the week. Hornung and Minnesota transfer Colton Iverson make up one of the nation’s most underrated front lines.

Five Teams Deserving a Shoutout

Cincinnati: The Bearcats picked up a pair of solid wins this week. After knocking off intra-city rival Xavier in the first installment of the newly sanitized Crosstown Classic on Wednesday, Cincy erased a six point halftime deficit while running over Wright State. Cincinnati is one of just five undefeated teams left in the country, but we may not get a chance to fully gauge just how good Mick Cronin’s club is until they play New Mexico on Thursday and travel to Pitt next Monday night.

Kansas: I’ve been saying it for a while, but it’s now time to consider Kansas one of the nation’s elite. As in this is a top five team. Their defense is just as tough as always and anchored by the nation’s best shot blocker. Naadir Tharpe is morphing into a quality back up point guard. And Ben McLemore is ahead of the curve when it comes to being a dominant scorer and go-to guy. The Jayhawks are the truth.

Temple: The Owls may have lost to Canisius on Wednesday afternoon, but they more than made up for it on Saturday as Fran Dunphy led Temple to what may end up being the best win of the regular season: beating Syracuse in their de facto second home court. (Go ahead, Nunes Magician. Make fun of me for saying that.) Khalif Wyatt had 33 points in the win, but the MVP of the game may have been Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson, whose presence in Temple’s high-post offense was the biggest reason Temple was able to dissect the Syracuse zone.

UCLA: The Bruins won two games this week, but the most important win came on Saturday. That was against Fresno State, and while Fresno State isn’t exactly a juggernaut, it was the box score that mattered the most. Jordan Adams finished with 25 points, seven boards, five assists and five steals. Kyle Anderson had 20 points, 17 boards, seven assists, three blocks and two steals. Shabazz Muhammad had 27 points and seven boards, all of which came on the offensive end of the floor. That’s what Ben Howland expected out of those three.

UTEP: Tim Floyd’s UTEP Miners might turn out to be a force to be reckoned with this season. After Konner Tucker missed a wide-open three that would have won the game at the buzzer against UNLV, UTEP went out and won three games last week: they beat Oregon in triple overtime on Wednesday and followed that up with wins over Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Nebraska. Keep an eye on this group.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Duke knocks off No. 13 Louisville in first game of critical four-game stretch

Duke's Grayson Allen (3) and Marshall Plumlee (40) react during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Louisville in Durham, N.C., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Duke won 72-65. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Leave a comment

Grayson Allen scored 16 of his 19 points in the first half and Brandon Ingram added 18 points, 10 boards and four assists as Duke picked up a critical win over No. 13 Louisville in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Monday night, 72-65.

A call this a critical win for the Blue Devils because it kicks off what may be the most important two-week stretch of Duke’s schedule This weekend, the Blue Devils square off with No. 9 Virginia. Next Wednesday, they’re at the Dean Dome to take on No. 7 North Carolina. Four days after that, they head to the Bluegrass State to pay a visit to Louisville.

 

With the way that Duke has been struggling on the defensive end of the floor without Amile Jefferson, that’s a stretch that could derail Duke’s season; entering Monday, all four of those games were losable. But a four-game winning streak — or even going 3-1 in that stretch — could completely change the tenor of what has been a fairly disappointing year for the defending champs, and that’s before they get Jefferson back to 100 percent.

And the difference was defensively, at least in the first half.

I’ve written in this space a number of times about how opponents know what they’re going to get from Duke defensively. Coach K, traditionally, plays half court man-to-man defense, switching every exchange — ball-screen, off-ball pick or simply when two players run by one another — that doesn’t involve the center. In recent years, he’s played some zone in situations where he defense has struggled or, like this season, when he doesn’t have the depth to risk foul trouble. We’ve even seen some 2-2-1 pressure from him of late.

But on Monday night, Duke played straight man-to-man for much of the game, and in the first half, it seemed to fluster the Cardinals. They scored just 24 points in the first 20 minutes, and while Louisville did find a way to break Duke down defensively in the second half — they shot better than 55 percent from the floor after the break — but part of the reason Duke was able to win this game was the lead they built. After a three from Allen opened scoring in the second half, the Blue Devils were up by 14, and while Louisville made a run down the stretch, they could never get control of the game.

Duke is becoming appointment viewing for basketball nerds like me that pay too much attention to X’s-and-O’s to see what kind of wrinkle Coach K is going to put in to try and compensate defensively, so I’m not sure that this performance sticks. But it is worth noting that this was the first time in eight games the Blue Devils gave up less than 1.0 PPP, and the first time since Dec. 19th they did so against an NCAA tournament-caliber team.

As far as Louisville is concerned, you have to tip your hat to those kids. They played their hearts out and fought back from a big deficit in one of the toughest places in the country to play. They did all that three days after their school ripped their hearts out with an NCAA tournament ban for this season.

So good for them. You never know how a team is going to react to something like that, but the Cardinal players showed that they have some serious fight in them.

Iowa State’s starting center Jameel McKay remains suspended

Iowa State forward Jameel McKay celebrates on the court at the end of an NCAA college basketball game against Oklahoma, Monday, Jan. 18, 2016, in Ames, Iowa. Iowa State won 82-77. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Leave a comment

Steve Prohm announced on Monday that starting center Jameel McKay will not be in the lineup on Wednesday when the Cyclones take on Texas Tech.

“He’ll practice today because I want him in practice,” Prohm said, “but game-wise, he’s suspended.”

McKay did not make the trip to Stillwater with the team on Saturday, where Iowa State beat Oklahoma State, 64-59. Prohm has not gotten into specifics regarding the cause of McKay’s suspension, but it’s reportedly an issue with the way he has been practicing. McKay is dealing with a nagging knee injury, which may play a role in the situation as well.

“My hope is he’ll be with us on Saturday,” Prohm said.