The Morning Mix

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It’s the last day of 2012. Heckuva year it was too. Luckily for us, college hoops is going out on a high note, finishing 2012 with a full slate of games. Plus we still have to get to what happened this weekend. Before you start prepping for your New Years Eve parties, get caught up on things with The Morning Mix.

Lets hit the links.

Monday’s Top Games:
12:00 p.m. – No. 8 Cincinnati @ No. 24 Pittsburgh
2:00 p.m. – No. 19 Michigan State @ No. 11 Minnesota
2:00 p.m. – South Dakota @ No. 25 Kansas State
2:00 p.m. – Bowling Green @ Temple
3:00 p.m. – Central Connecticut State @ Indiana
3:00 p.m. – Saint Joseph’s @ Drexel
4:00 p.m. – No. 5 Indiana @ Iowa
5:00 p.m – UNC-Greensboro @ No. 23 North Carolina State
6:00 p.m. – No. 13 Gonzaga @ No. 22 Oklahoma State
7:00 p.m. – Nevada @ Oregon
7:30 p.m. – New Mexico @ Saint Louis
8:00 p.m. – North Texas @ Middle Tennessee
8:00 p.m. – Harvard @ Saint Mary’s
 
 
Top Stories:
No. 4 Louisville outlasts Kentucky in foul-plagued rivalry rematch: Kansas survived Ohio State in last week’s Final Four rematch, but the tables were turned in Louisville’s 80-77 triumph over their in-state rivals in the KFC Yum! Center.

BYU’s Tyler Haws put up Jimmer-like numbers against Virginia Tech: No BYU fan will ever forget about Jimmer Fredette, but sophomore guard Tyler Haws made fans momentarily forget, as he scored 42 points in the Cougars’ 97-71 shellacking of Virginia Tech.

Mixed results for college hoops in the Bay Area on Saturday: Santa Clara put up a good fight against Duke, but Cal lost a tough one to Harvard at home. Stanford had trouble putting away Lafayette and an underrated San Francisco squad defeated Dominican U. of California (D-II).

Utah State coach Stew Morrill breaks convention with comments about departing player: Longtime Utah State head coach Stew Morrill has never been one to shy away in front of the media. But it was interesting to see what the Aggies’ head coach had to say about a departing player who was quitting the sport all together.

Big-Ten Conference Catchup: Indiana and Michigan headline a loaded league with Minnesota and Illinois heading in to conference play with big winning streaks. The Big Ten should feature the best conference season out of all the power conferences.

Big East Conference Catchup: Despite realignment, the Big East should remain competitive thanks to a collection of elite teams like Louisville, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and UConn.

 
 
Hoops Housekeeping
– South Florida point guard Anthony Collins was taken off the court on a stretcher during the Bulls 61-57 win over George Mason. Head Coach Stan Heath revealed during the post game press conference that Victor Rudd Junior suffered a concussion in the second half. (The Dagger)

– Former-Louisville forward Angel Nunez has decided to transfer to Gonzaga, making his intentions clear via Instagram on Friday afternoon. (College Basketball Talk)

– Sophomore backup guard Brandan Kearney has decided to transfer out of Michigan State (Fox Sports Detroit)

– Tennessee State’s top scorer Robert Covington will miss the next 4-6 weeks due to surgery he had on Friday to repair a torn meniscus. (OVC Ball)

– Miami had a terrible trip to Hawaii and the Diamonhead Classic. Much of their troubles were due to the absence of center Reggie Johnson, who broke his left thumb during practice leading up to the event. The big-man is the key to the ‘Canes success but will be forced to miss the next 6-8 weeks. (Miami Sun-Sentinel)

– Pittsburgh back-up center Malcolm Gilbert has decided to transfer to Fairfield, where he will join his brother Marcus. (Cardiac Hill)

– Indiana freshman Jeremy Hollowell has been reinstated and will be in uniform tonight against Iowa. He had been suspended since after the Butler game. (Inside the Hall)

– Baylor center J’mison Morgan has been suspended indefinitely by the university and has been dismissed from the program because of an unspecified violation of university policy. Morgan redshirted last season after transferring from UCLA. He played in just one game this season, against College of Charleston. (Waco Tribune-Herald)

– Connecticut head coach Kevin Ollie has been rewarded for his efforts with a new five-year, $7-million contract (ESPN)

– Following a three-game suspension in which his team went 3-0 under Associate head coach David Cox, Rutgers head coach Mike Rice returns to the sidelines and will coach his team when they take on Syracuse in their Big East opener on Wednesday. (New York Daily News)

 
 
Observations & Insight:
– BYU’s Tyler Haws scored 42 points against Virginia Tech on Saturday, joining his father Marty Haws as 40-point scorers for the Cougars. Marty starred at BYU from 1986-1990. (The Dagger)

– Providence head coach Ed Cooley was not pleased with his team’s effort and hustle in thir upset loss to Brown on Friday. He called his squad “soft” and said they play with “no chemistry”. Sophomore LeDontae Henton did finish with 37 points. (Providence Journal)

– Gorgui Dieng made his triumphant return to the court on Saturday and helped Louisville defeat Kentucky 80-77. The game carried extra weight for the Senegalese center because his parents were in attendance to see him play for the first time ever. (Louisville Courier-Journal)

– What exactly is clutch, and can it be defined? The Big Ten Geeks tackle a great issue posed by statistical experts Ken Pomeroy and Dan Hanner. (Big Ten Network)

– In order for UNLV to impose their will as the dominant team in the Mountain West Conference, they will need senior guard Anthony Marshall to be the catalyst. (College ChalkTalk)

– Phil Pressey distributed a record 19 assists on Friday night for Missouri, but it came in an entertaining yet losing effort at UCLA. (Eye on College Basketball)

– Kansas’ Ben McLemore is getting all the recognition for the Jayhawks right now, and deservedly so. But the improved play of Naadir Tharpe has really helped to push the Jayhawks into the elite tier of teams. (Need I Say Moore)

– As the title indicates, Boston College as bad as we thought they were going to be. (Run The Floor)

– Led by scrappy guard Jake Odom, the Indiana State Sycamores are a team to watch out for in the ever-difficult Missouri Valley Conference. (Mid-Major Madness)

– Jeff Eisenberg looks ahead to today’s slate of games, which really is nothing short of phenomenal. (The Dagger)

– Mike DeCourcy looks ahead at the top games of the upcoming week. (The Sporting News)

– With Gonzaga headed into Stillwater tonight against a ranked Oklahoma State team, the spotlight is once again shining on Gallagher-Iba Arena. (The Oklahoman)

– A cute little list of early season under-the-radar freshman All-American candidates. High Point’s John Brown is a player to watch, for sure. (Hoopville)

 
 
Odds & Ends
– Indiana head coach Tom Crean isn’t just a good coach, he’s also an excellent civilian, as evidence by this recent story of him helping out a motorist that found themselves stuck in a ditch. (WDRB-41)

– Some nice tidbits on Bill Walton’s return to the mic, include the demons he has dealt with in his past. (Sports Illustrated)

– A creative sign featuring John Calipari and dollar bills was confiscated at the Yum! Center prior to tip-off of the Louisville vs. Kentucky game on Saturday. (Kentucky Sports Radio)

– Of course a guy proposed to their girlfriend at the Louisville vs. Kentucky game. She said yes. (WHAS-11)
 
 
Picture of the Day:
The King and Queen of the Cardinals celebrate Louisville’s victory over their rivals Kentucky (University of Louisville Athletics)

source:
Photo from University of Louisville Athletics

 
 
Video(s) of the Day:
John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats pulled the “ol’ switcheroo” before free throw attempt during their loss to Louisville. (College Basketball Talk)


 
 

Dunk(s) of the Day:
Some fascinating ball work leads to one of the best dunks of the weekend. Josh Sharp exhibits total destruction, which is exactly what BYU did to Virginia Tech.
 

 
 
Dunk(s) of the Day:
Friends, this is what we in the industry like to call “The Dagger”.
 

 
 
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How Duke’s porous defense stacks up historically with past title winners

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For the last three years, Duke’s issues on the defensive side of the ball have been constant and pervasive.

Whether it’s their issues defending on the perimeter, or the problems they have dealing with ball-screens, or the freedom of movement rule changes inhibiting their ability to get out and pressure in the half court, the truth is that Mike Krzyzewski’s program has become synonymous with highlight reel offense and matador defense.

Since 2011, only two Duke teams have finished in the top 45 of KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric, and only one of those teams finished in the top 25. That was in 2015, when the Blue Devils went from being a mess on that end of the floor in January to the 37th-best defensive at the start of the NCAA tournament to national champions after playing defense at a level that would set records if it lasted for the entirety of a season.

The question this year is whether or not Duke will be capable of pulling off a similar turnaround in March, which made me wonder: How unique was Duke’s 2015 national title? Have we seen a team that struggled as much as they did defensively win a national title before? How many times have teams been able to fix their flaws by getting hot for six games in March?

I went back and looked at the offensive and defensive efficiency rankings for every Final Four team in the KenPom era, both after the tournament came to an end and prior to the start of the dance. The numbers that come before the start of the tournament are the most interesting to me, because teams making a run through the dance are going to see a significant chance in their rankings as they best good teams.

The numbers used in here are where each team ranks nationally. KenPom’s adjusted efficiency margins – what he uses to rank teams – cannot be compared across seasons. KenPom’s database dates back to the 2001-2002 season.

Here’s what I found:

1. NO CHAMPION HAS PLAYED WORSE DEFENSE THAN 2009 NORTH CAROLINA

North Carolina’s 2009 title team had the lowest defensive efficiency ranking of the KenPom era. They entered the NCAA tournament ranked 39th nationally, two spots worse than where the 2015 Duke team.

The 2014 UConn team that won the national title on the back of Shabazz Napier was the worst offensive team of the KenPom era to win a title, entering the tournament ranked 58th.  In fact, that 2014 UConn team was ranked lower than 2010 Butler, which is the only other team ranked outside the top 45 in offensive efficiency to get to the national title game.

Defense may win championships, but in college hoops, the average ranking for teams getting to the national title game – and for teams winning the national title – was higher in offensive efficiency than in defensive efficiency.

2. DUKE WOULD BE THE WORST DEFENSIVE TEAM TO GET TO THE TITLE GAME

Duke currently ranks 72nd in adjusted defensive efficiency. The only team to rank that low defensively was Butler in 2011, but that was also a weird year in the NCAA tournament. No. 3 seed UConn, No. 4 seed Kentucky, No. 8 seed Butler and No. 11 seed VCU all reached the Final Four; VCU made it after starting the tournament off in the First Four.

Butler got out of the first weekend that year thanks to what might be the weirdest finish to a game in NCAA tournament history. They handled good Wisconsin and Florida teams to get to the Final Four, where the Bulldogs faced off with VCU – by far the worst team to get to the Final Four in the KenPom era – before losing to UConn in the title game.

The only other team to rank outside of the top 40 defensively was Trey Burke’s 2013 Michigan team. They were 66th entering the tournament:

For comparison’s sake, UConn’s 2014 title is the only time a team outside of the top 50 offensively reached the title game. Only four other teams, all runner-ups, got to a title game ranked outside the top 25 in offensive efficiency, and the only other title team to rank outside the top 20 in offensive efficiency was UConn in 2011:

3. TO WIN A TITLE, YOU MUST BE ELITE AT SOMETHING OR HAVE A SUPERSTAR

Of the 16 national champions in the KenPom era, 75 percent of them ranked in the top 10 of either offensive or defensive efficiency entering the NCAA tournament.

The four that didn’t:

Syracuse was led by Carmelo Anthony in 2003. Florida has Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Corey Brewer in 2006 and went on to repeat with that same core of players the next year. UConn has Kemba Walker and Shabazz Napier in 2011 and 2014, respectively.

Player of the Year Power Rankings: Jalen Brunson is making up ground

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1. TRAE YOUNG, Oklahoma: Trae Young is the runaway favorite for National Player of the Year. At this point, if he doesn’t win the award, something crazy will have to happen.

So I’ll be using this space simply to take a look at my favorite part of the way that the players on this list play. Here is a look at the way that Young was able to create space to his threes off against TCU. Like Steph Curry, Young is short, doesn’t get all that much elevation when he shoots and a relatively low release-point. But quick feet, a super-quick release, ridiculous range and an innate ability to stay on-balance lets him do things like this:

(Some of these shots are insanely difficult.)

2. JALEN BRUNSON, Villanova: Brunson has added a new wrinkle to his game this season, as he is now being allowed to post up with more impunity. This creates a nightmare scenario for opponents. He is simply too good and too big for just about any point guard to stop on the block, but you cannot send an extra defender because double-teaming one of the best point guards in the country is just not doable, not when he is surrounded by four knock-down shooters.

Here’s a breakdown of why this makes Villanova that much more dangerous.

3. MARVIN BAGLEY III, Duke: The debate over whether or not Bagley is better than Ayton is going to rage all season long. Personally, I think that Ayton is a better prospect that Bagley largely because I think he has an easier fit defensively at the next level. Right now, however, Ayton is probably a marginally better defender while Bagley is a better offensive weapon.

But Bagley is clearly the leader in terms of the Player of the Year race for the simple fact that he has won games on his own by simply being absolutely dominant in the paint.

4. DEANDRE AYTON, Arizona: See above.

5. KEENAN EVANS, Texas Tech: For my money, four of the spots for first-team all-american are more or less locked in: Young, Brunson, Bagley and Ayton. There is a lot of season left to play, but right now those four have a solid lead on the field.

My favorite subplot of the race for the Big 12 title is that each of the four teams at the top of the conference are led by point guards that have a real shot at being first-team all-americans. Young, obviously, is going to be there. But the fifth-spot is race between Evans, Devonte’ Graham and Jevon Carter. A week ago I thought Carter was the pick. After seeing what Evans did down the stretch in a win over the Mountaineers over the weekend, I’m now leaning his way. But Graham, who has been terrific all season long, was good down the stretch in a win at West Virginia.

6. DEVONTE’ GRAHAM, Kansas
7. JEVON CARTER, West Virginia
8. TRA HOLDER, Arizona State
9. KEITA BATES-DIOP, Ohio State
10. TREVON BLUIETT, Xavier

ALSO CONSIDERED: MIKAL BRIDGES, Villanova; JOCK LANDALE, Saint Mary’s; DAKOTA MATHIAS, Purdue; YANTE MATEN, Georgia; LUKE MAYE, North Carolina; SHAKE MILTON, SMU; JORDAN MURPHY, Minnesota;  DESI RODRIGUEZ, Seton Hall; LANDRY SHAMET, Wichita State; KHYRI THOMAS, Creighton; ALLONZO TRIER, Arizona

VIDEO: Providence coach Ed Cooley always needs a mic

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On Friday night at DePaul, Providence head coach Ed Cooley allowed himself to be mic’d up for a TV broadcast, and things got interesting.

Around the 36 second mark, Cooley starts talking about … vampires and bats and dracula?

Then robbing banks and saying thank you?

I don’t know. Just watch.

VIDEO: Kansas celebrates in locker room after West Virginia win

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After coming from 16 points down to knock off No. 6 West Virginia in Morgantown on Monday night, Kansas had themselves some fun in the visitor’s locker room.

I’m not exactly sure what is happening here, but I do know Devonte’ Graham is having a hell of a time.

COLUMN: Kansas is back on top in the Big 12

My only question … where is Billy Preston’s shirt? He didn’t even play:

No. 10 Kansas overcomes deficits and its own issues to win at No. 6 West Virginia

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It’s hard to look at Kansas – the roster, the stats, the resume and all that comes with it – and not conclude this is the most vulnerable squad the Jayhawks have fielded since its current domination of the Big 12 began in 2005. The flaws are apparent, and they’re serious. They could easily be enough to sink the Jayhawks in an unforgiving conference.

It also could just be business as usual for Bill Self’s program

Tenth-ranked Kansas sputtered and struggled Monday night, but, ultimately, it didn’t matter as the Jayhawks stole a game at a rowdy WVU Coliseum, topping sixth-ranked West Virginia, 71-66, to keep its spot atop the Big 12 despite whatever issues bothered them against the Mountaineers and may persist well into the winter.

One of the major differences of this Kansas team from the 13 that preceded it is the Jayhawks can’t overwhelm with talent and athleticism. There’s no Andrew Wiggins, Josh Jackson, Thomas Robinson or any other surefire lottery pick to just go get buckets. There isn’t a host of high-level athletes that can help Kansas just run inferior teams off the floor. When you have two things, your margin of error gets padded. Mistakes aren’t magnified. They’re minimized. That’s not a luxury Kansas now enjoys.

Then there’s the issue of the roster. Even with Silvio De Sousa being declared eligible, Kansas is still incredibly thin and inexperienced up front. Udoka Azubuike is a load, but he’s the only big man that even inspires a bit of fear from opponents. If Billy Preston ever gets on the floor, maybe this becomes less of an issue for the Jayhawks, but it’s difficult to believe a true freshman making a whole host of difference this late in the season.

So for Kansas to win its 14th-straight Big 12 regular season championship, the Jayhawks are going to have to have to play a specific way. There’s not much wiggle room. They’ve got to defend. They’ve got to shoot 3s. They’ve got to be tough. They’ve got to be resilient.

That’s exactly what the Jayhawks were against Bob Huggins’ team Monday. If you can out-tough, out-hustle and out-work a Huggins team on their home floor, you’re on to something.

West Virginia led by as many as 16 in the first half. The Mountaineers had Kansas shook. Well Sagaba Konate did, at least. Eulogies were already being written for Kansas, especially as West Virginia’s lead stayed in double digits past the midway point of the second half.

West Virginia is designed to wear down opponents. The Mountaineers try to create a crucible, especially in Morgantown, that will force opponents to wilt. That’s supposed to be its most potent late in games.

That’s when Kansas thrived.

The Jayhawks outscored West Virginia 26-11 over the final 8 minutes. The Mountaineers were 5 of 14 (35.7 percent) from the floor with four turnovers during that stretch. Kansas, conversely, make 7 of 10 shots overall and 3 of 4 from 3-point range.

It wasn’t exactly rope-a-dope, but Kansas saved its best for last. They made winning plays. That’s really what’s going to have to separate them from the pack this season. As good as Devonte Graham is, as effective as Svi Mykhailiuk can be and as good as Self is, the Jayhawks are going to have to grind more than they’re accustomed to. 

The Big 12 is unmerciful this season. Texas Tech already has a win at Allen Fieldhouse, Trae Young has gone full supernova and even the league’s bottom tier looks like tough outs. Kansas faces a major test, and they’ll do so without a roster that compares to some of the powerhouses Self has assembled. The Jayhawks have often been able to win just by delivering broad strokes. They were bigger, faster, stronger and, simply, better. When they coupled that with a mastery of the finer points of the game, they dominated.

If The Streak is going to reach 14, it won’t be with that blueprint. The grittier parts of the game are going to have to come to the forefront. Outlasting West Virginia in Morgantown while shooting 44 percent and facing double-digit deficits would suggest the Jayhawks have the toughness and ability to make clutch plays that can paper over other issues.

Kansas isn’t going to overwhelm the Big 12 this year. They still very well could win it.