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

Former Wichita State assistant returns as a consultant

Chris Jans, Gregg Marshall
Associated Press
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Prior to a one-year stint as the head coach coach at Bowling Green that came to an end in early April as a result of an incident at a Bowling Green restaurant, Chris Jans was a member of Gregg Marshall’s coaching staff at Wichita State from 2007-14. During those seven seasons Jans was a key figure as the Shockers made the progression to a respected national power.

Jans is back in Wichita, with Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle reporting Thursday that he’s serving as a consultant to the program. Jans’ consulting agreement runs for 45 days, which the school can renew, and he’ll be paid $10,000 for the work. While Jans isn’t allowed to do any coaching, he can watch practices and provide Marshall and the coaching staff with his observations.

“He will be able to consult with the coaching staff, only on what he observes in practice,” said Darron Boatright, WSU deputy athletics director. “By NCAA rule, a consultant is not allowed to have communication with student-athletes … not about basketball-related activities or performance.”

While Jans (who according to the story has served in a similar role for another school) can’t do any coaching in this role, his return does give Marshall another trusted voice to call upon when needed. Wichita State bid farewell to an assistant coach this spring with Steve Forbes being hired as the head coach at East Tennessee State, with his position being filled by former Sunrise Christian Academy coach Kyle Lindsted.

h/t ShockerHoops.net

AUDIO: Rick Pitino discusses allegations, future at Louisville

Rick Pitino
Associated Press
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Thursday afternoon marked the first time since Friday that Louisville head coach Rick Pitino commented on the controversy that has taken his program by storm. Speaking with Terry Meiners of 840 WHAS in Louisville, Pitino discussed the escort scandal, what could have possibly led former staffer Andre McGee down the path he’s alleged to have taken in Katina Powell’s book and his future at Louisville.

The interview began with Meiners asking Pitino if it changed his thinking as to whether or not he needed to resign, which (as one would expect) Pitino shot down. Also discussed was the statement released by school president Dr. James Ramsey, which expressed support for athletic director Tom Jurich but did not mention Pitino at all.

“Well I can’t answer that, Terry,” Pitino said when asked why he wasn’t mentioned in the statement. “Twenty-six years ago Kentucky brought me in to make the program compliant to NCAA rules. (Then-Kentucky president) Dr. (David) Roselle and (then Kentucky athletic director) C.M. Newton thought I was the guy to come in and change around the images, change around the culture and add a lot of discipline to the program. And I did that.

“And then I came here to the University of Louisville, and if someone was five seconds late or not early consequences would be paid from a disciplinary standpoint,” Pitino continued. “This is obviously not a person being late, this is not about a person (not) working hard. This is about things that are very disgusting, things that turn my stomach, things that keep me up without sleeping.

“But unfortunately, I had no knowledge of any of this and don’t believe in it. It’s sickening to me, the whole thing. But I’m thinking of my 13 players, I’m thinking of our program, and I’m sorry that Dr. Ramsey did not think enough to mention me but that’s something I cannot control.”

Below is audio of the full interview, which ran just over 17 minutes in length.