Lorenzo Brown, Scott Wood

Weekend Preview: Miami-NC State, Ole Miss-Florida highlight slate

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Game of the Week: No. 14 Miami at No. 19 NC State (4:00 p.m. ET, CBS)

Clearly, the best game this weekend is between Michigan and Indiana, but seeing as we already devoted 800 words to that matchup, we’re going to go ahead and highlight some other folks here.

Miami wants to stake their claim as the best team in the ACC, and they did a pretty good job of that when they beat Duke by 27 points to take a commanding two-game lead in the league standings. The Hurricanes have, seemingly out of nowhere, developed one of the stingiest defensives in the country, one that’s strong enough to overcome the fact that they’ve only played about a third of the season at full-strength. Shane Larkin has been a revelation this season, slowly becoming the best point guard in the ACC and a guy that’s going to merit some all-america consideration come March.

And that’s where the problem for the Wolfpack lies. Miami is a tough defensive team with a talented point guard, which is not a good thing for a team that will, in a best case scenario, have a banged up Lorenzo Brown running the show. He sprained his ankle against Virginia and never returned to the game. Can freshmen Tyler Lewis and Rodney Purvis handle the pressure in his absence?

Five more games you have to watch:

  • No. 25 Marquette at No. 12 Louisville (Sunday, 2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN): Louisville ended their three-game losing streak on Monday with a win over Pitt at home. But the win was anything but convincing, as the Cardinals needed a 3-12 performance from the line from the Panthers to avoid another late-game meltdown. There is no program in the country that has a better reputation for winning close games in conference play than Marquette. Keep an eye out for Wayne Blackshear. He missed Louisville’s last game with a shoulder issue.
  • No. 16 Ole Miss at No. 4 Florida (7:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU): Here’s our chance to get a gauge on both Ole Miss and Florida. The Rebels have a gaudy record, but they are coming off of a home-loss to Kentucky where their star — Marshall Henderson — had one of his worst shooting nights of the season. Throw in the fact that he’s had some of his past issues dug up in recent weeks, and we’ll see just how focused he is. Florida, on the other hand, has absolutely obliterated the SEC this season. A lot of that has come against the dreck at the bottom of the conference, however. Can they do the same to Ole Miss?
  • Ohio at Akron (5:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU): The two undefeated teams in the MAC squaring off. Ohio, under a new coaching regime, has one of the nation’s most under-appreciated point guards in DJ Cooper running the show, while Akron has built their team around the presence of the massive Zeke Marshall in the paint. Worth noting: Ohio had their game on Wednesday cancelled when a gunman made his way onto campus.
  • No. 6 Syracuse at Pittsburgh (12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN): ACC basketball doesn’t get better than this.* Syracuse will be a bit shorthanded heading into this game, as DaJuan Coleman and James Southerland will both be in street clothes. That will open room for Jerami Grant to slide into the starting lineup, but it could create a problem for the Cuse: the Panthers look like a Pitt team of old, as they have a massive, veteran front line that attacks the offensive glass. Missing their best shooter and biggest body could end up being an issue.
  • Baylor at Iowa State (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2): I don’t know how good either of these two teams are. I’ll be honest. But the way they matchup — Baylor’s size and athleticism against ISU’s versatility and three-point shooting — should make this game quite the entertaining watch.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

VIDEO: Bill Simmons talks Ben Simmons on DP Show

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Ben Simmons will likely be the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA draft, and possibly end up with the Celtics, making Boston sports junkie Bill Simmons very happy. Bill jokes about sharing a last name with a future NBA star.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR POWER RANKINGS: Kris Dunn still tops a strong list

Kris Dunn, D'Angelo Harrison
AP Photo
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1. Kris Dunn, Providence: I had Kris Dunn as the Preseason Player of the Year, and while he probably hasn’t been the best player in the country through four games — he hasn’t yet had a statement game on national television — he is averaging 18.8 points, 7.8 boards, 6.8 assists and 5.3 steals.

And while his shooting splits are down from a season ago, he only has eight turnovers through four games. I’m not going to drop my guy when he does that just because he hasn’t gotten into the meat of his schedule yet. No way.

I’ve charted the four games that Dunn has played to determine how much of Providence’s offensive runs through him, a stat I’m going to call, for lack of a better word, possessions “ended”.

When he’s on the floor, how many of Providence’s possessions ended with Dunn shooting, getting to the free throw line, turning the ball over, assisting on a bucket, assisting on free throws or assisting on a missed shot.

Through four games, 62.6 percent of Providence’s offense runs through Dunn, which is an insanely high number and a reason that his efficiency, and shooting percentages, are going to be lower than ideal.

Defenses know this.

Illinois had all five defenders in the paint trying to stop Dunn’s ball-screen actions:

(Screengrab via Synergy)
(Screengrab via Synergy)

His defender went over the screen while the man guarding the screener stayed with Dunn. The weak-side defender is in the lane helping on Ben Bentil’s role to the rim while the strong-side defender is helping on Dunn’s drive. Here’s video of the entire action:

2. Denzel Valentine, Michigan State: Valentine is almost averaging a triple-double this season. Seriously. He’s at 15.3 points, 9.8 assists and 9.0 boards through four games. That won’t last, but we can celebrate it while it does. He also is the own of the most impressive performance of the young season, going for 29 points, 12 boards and 12 assists in MSU’s come-from-behind win over Kansas in the Champions Classic.

And just to put Dunn’s numbers in perspective, Valentine “ended” 60.6 percent of Michigan State’s possessions against Kansas.

3. Ben Simmons, LSU: Since we keep talking about whether or not Ben Simmons is overrated, I think this is worth mentioning: He’s currently the leading rebounder in college basketball, averaging 14.5 boards to go along with his 19.3 points, 5.3 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.0 blocks. Oh, and he has just six turnovers in four games.

I’m not going to sit here trying to convince he’s not a great player. He is. Unquestionably. But there are a few things you need to understand when analysts and scouts try to temper the comparisons to LeBron James.

MORE: Transcendent? Overhyped? The shame is if Ben Simmons is irrevelant

Simmons spends a lot of time at the five for LSU, meaning that he is quite often guarded by guys like Luke Fischer, a 7-footer that doesn’t have a prayer of trying to slow down a player that big and that skilled in transition or in a half court setting:

He’s also a terrific passer, one that is so skilled at making defenses pay when the help defenders are too focused on him. Look at Traci Carter when Simmons throws this lob:

(Image via ESPN)
(Screengrab via ESPN)

That’s a direct result of the mismatches that he gets at the college level.

There are layers to this, too. The numbers you don’t hear with Simmons: he hasn’t even attempted a three-pointer this season. Through his first three games, he only shot five jump shots and missed all five. (Synergy’s logs haven’t been updated with last night’s games yet.) He’s shooting 81 percent from the line, so the stroke is there, but it has yet to manifest itself as part of his offensive repertoire.

Put it all together: NBA teams have guys that are big enough and quick enough to guard Simmons — especially if he doesn’t become a consistent shooter from the NBA three-point line — and while his passing ability rivals LeBron’s, he’s not as quick, explosive or athletic.

In simpler terms, Simmons won’t be exploiting mismatches in the NBA the way he can in college, and defenses won’t have to sellout to slow him down. That’s why I would rather see him compared to Lamar Odom, who, by the way, averaged 13.3 points, 8.4 boards and 3.7 assists in a 15-year career that produced two NBA titles and an appearance on a U.S. Olympic team.

He was damn good.

Comparing him to Odom is a compliment.

4. Tyler Ulis, Kentucky: The latest argument that seems to be clogging by mentions is whether or not Ulis or Dunn is the best point guard in the country. My take: Dunn is the best player in the country while Ulis is the best point guard in the country. While the two technically play the same position, the role they play is entirely different. Ulis is a facilitator, a pure point guard. Dunn is the prototype new-age lead guard, a guy built in the mold of Russell Westbrook, John Wall and MVP-era Derrick Rose.

Ulis has been OK in three of Kentucky’s four games, but his performance in the win over Duke — 18 points, six assists, four rebounds, two steals, no turnovers — is what got him this high on this list.

5. Grayson Allen, Duke: Allen has been unbelievable in four of the five games he’s played this season, including back-to-back 30-burgers as the Blue Devils beat VCU and Georgetown in the 2K Classic. Even with that putrid performance against Kentucky, his numbers look like this: 24.4 ppg, 4.4 rg, 3.2 apg and shooting splits of 52.2/53.6/89.7.

6. Tyrone Wallace, Cal: Only one player in college basketball averaged more than 20 points, five boards and five assists last season. This year, Wallace is averaging 20.3 points, 5.8 boards and 5.3 assists for a Cal team that could end up winning the Pac-12. He’ll climb this list if his numbers look as good when the competition gets tougher.

7. Sheldon McClellan, Miami: Picking a player on Miami for this spot was tough, but I decided to go with McClellan for a couple of reason. One: He’s Miami’s leading scorer at 17.4 points. Two: his shooting splits are outrageous (61.7/52.4/94.7) meaning his efficiency numbers are outrageous as well. Three: he’s the guy on that Miami roster that, if I was an opposing coach, I would build a game-plan around stopping.

8. Buddy Hield, Oklahoma: Hield was a first-team all-american entering the season and has scored 54 points in two games this year. He went for 30 in a win at Memphis. Not bad.

9. Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga: Kyle Wiltjer was the guy that was on all the preseason all-american lists, but through two (And a half? Does Pitt still count?) games this season, Sabonis has been Gonzaga’s best player. He’s averaging 20.5 points and 10.5 boards, scoring on post-ups and offensive boards and shooting a robust 82.6 percent from the floor.

10. Evan Bradds, Belmont: There are a number of guys deserving consideration for this spot — Demetrius Jackson, Melo Trimble, Shaq Harrison, Josh Hart — but I’m going to give Bradds a little love here. Through five games, he’s averaging 21.3 points, 8.6 boards and 2.4 assists while shooting 76.2 percent from the floor. He had 24 points and nine rebounds in Belmont’s win at Marquette and, in his last two games, is averaging 29 points and 10 boards while shooting 27-for-28 from the field. A run like that can’t last, but while he’s in the middle of it, we’re going acknowledge it.