J.L. Lewis, Brandon Gibson, Cordarius Johnson, Marcel Davis

Deep rotation, defense spark Louisiana Tech’s 12-0 WAC start

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With seven members slated to leave the Western Athletic Conference at the end of this academic year, much of the press surrounding the conference has focused on realignment and the next step.

However the WAC is also the home (at least for one more season) of one of just eight teams in college basketball that are currently undefeated in conference play: Louisiana Tech.

Michael White’s Bulldogs are 12-0 in WAC play and 21-3 overall, winning games despite having just one player averaging double figures in the scoring department (sophomore guard Raheem Appleby leads the way with an average of 14.5 points per game). So why have the Bulldogs been so successful? Defense.

Whether it’s over 94 feet or in the half court doesn’t matter to Louisiana Tech, whose use of ball pressure has led to them forcing an average of 17.5 turnovers per game. Opponents turn the ball over on more than 24% of their possessions according to statsheet.com, and Louisiana Tech’s 8.6 steals per game rank second in the WAC (Denver- 9.6 spg).

Add to this the fact that in conference games they rank second in field goal percentage defense (38.9%) and first in three-point percentage defense (27.5%) and it isn’t difficult to see why Coach White’s team has enjoyed so much success.

“The kids have bought into playing hard,” White noted in an interview with NBC Sports. “We like to pressure and we have the depth needed to play it consistently.

“Our depth keeps guys sharp, and it allows us to substitute for execution or effort [if needed].”

Louisiana Tech is able to pressure more this season than last due in part to the improvement shown by sophomore forward Michale Kyser, who leads the WAC in blocked shots (3.3 blocks/game).

“His progress has been integral,” White said of Kyser. “His earning more minutes allows us to extend our pressure.”

Kyser still has work to do offensively in addition to getting physically stronger, but he’s another of the Bulldogs who have found a way in which to make an impact. The key for Louisiana Tech going forward: becoming more consistent offensively, as they’re shooting just 39.8% from the field.

“It would be easier if we had four or five consistent options,” said White. “It’s not our strength and we’ve been inconsistent on that end of the floor.”

When the shots aren’t falling successful teams find a way to get stops, and that’s why a Louisiana Tech squad picked to finish fourth in the preseason poll finds itself in control of the WAC race.

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

CBT Podcast: Mark Titus recaps Wednesday’s games

LAWRENCE, KS - FEBRUARY 22: Frank Mason III #0 of the Kansas Jayhawks lays the ball up against JD Miller #15 and Jaylen Fisher #0 of the TCU Horned Frogs in the first half at Allen Fieldhouse on February 22, 2017 in Lawrence, Kansas. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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Wednesday’s slate of games had several wild results.

Former Ohio State walk-on turned blogger turned author Mark Titus, who is currently writing for The Ringer, joined Rob Dauster on the latest episode of the CBT Podcast to go over last night’s games. The two also discussed who is the best team in the nation at the moment, as well Frank Mason III’s rap single from several years ago #BIFM

You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and Audioboom

Roy Williams apologizes to Rick Pitino, hopes that never happens at UNC again

CHAPEL HILL, NC - JANUARY 16:  Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels celebrates after his 800th career victory with a 85-68 win over the Syracuse Orange at the Dean Smith Center on January 16, 2017 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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North Carolina’s Roy Williams called fellow Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino to apologize for a fan’s behavior during Wednesday night’s game in Chapel Hill.

While leaving the floor at halftime, Pitino had to be restrained by members of the Louisville coaching staff and he and a UNC fan exchanged words as he made his way to the locker rom. There’s video of Pitino pointing and shouting at a fan, who reportedly said, “Pitino, you suck!”

“I don’t like that,” Williams said, according to the Charlotte Observer. “I mean we’re in North Carolina. We don’t have to be like everybody else. We can raise Cain. You can boo, but you don’t have to say the stuff that we as coaches have to put up with.”

“I hope that never happens at North Carolina ever again.”

No. 8 North Carolina defeated No. 7 Louisville, 74-63.

Bubble Banter: It’s a quiet night on the bubble

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 15:  Miles Bridges #22 reacts after being taken out of the game by head coach Tom Izzo of the Michigan State Spartans against the Kentucky Wildcats in the second half during the State Farm Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden on November 15, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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STILL TO PLAY

Georgia at Alabama (RPI: 68, KenPom: 61, next four teams), 7:00 p.m.

Nebraska at Michigan State (RPI: 43, KenPom: 55, No. 10 seed), 7:00 p.m.

Towson at UNC Wilmington (RPI: 41, KenPom: 57, No. 12 seed), 7:00 p.m.

VIDEO: Jim Boeheim on DP Show: ‘I might be done this year’

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Jim Boeheim was on the DP Show on Thursday morning, and he admitted that John Gillon’s 23-foot banked-in three at the buzzer was (shocker!) a lucky shot.

But that wasn’t the most interesting thing that he said on the show.

Patrick asked him about his future in Syracuse, and Boeheim had an interesting response.

“I don’t know what’s etched in stone these days,” Boeheim said. “I really don’t. There’s a plan in place, and we’re going to see what happens. But basically right now, I might be done this year. You just don’t know. You just have to wait until the season’s over.”

Boeheim also responded to a column written by Pete Thamel in SI that speculated on when his time in Syracuse would come to an end, saying the only accurate part of the story was that “he spelled my name right”, before adding that, like anyone else nearing the end of a career, when he has a bad day or a bad week, he thinks about calling it a career.

Report: Creighton’s Mo Watson Jr. suspended after sexual assault allegation

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 31: Injured guard Maurice Watson Jr. of the Creighton Bluejays looks on during the game against the Butler Bulldogs at Hinkle Fieldhouse on January 31, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Creighton defeated Butler 76-67. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
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Creighton announced on Wednesday that injured point guard Mo Watson Jr. was suspended from the program on Feb. 13th for “alleged actions that are contrary to university policies and core values.”

The reason for that suspension, according to a report from the Omaha World-Herald, is that he is being investigated for an alleged sexual assault that happened in Omaha this month.

No charges have been filed and Watson was not arrested as of Wednesday night, according to the paper.

Watson was having an all-american season and leading the nation in assists when he tore his ACL on Jan. 16th in a win at Xavier. He underwent surgery in his hometown of Philadelphia a couple of weeks later, but he has not been a part of a Creighton team activity since his return.

Creighton is 4-5 since Watson’s injury, losing on Wednesday night at home against Providence. They’ll likely make the NCAA tournament still.

Watson is not going to participate in Senior Night festivities in Omaha next week, per the OWH.