Allen Crabbe

Player of the Week: Allen Crabbe, Cal


Player of the Week: Allen Crabbe, Cal

Let’s put aside, for a second, the shove that had the twittersphere in an uproar last night. Because when you focus solely on that interaction, you ignore the fact that Crabbe scored 14 second half points — including 12 in the final minutes — to lead the Bears back from a 15 point deficit to USC at home. A loss in that game would have been disastrous for Cal’s NCAA tournament hopes, especially when you consider that last Sunday’s win at Arizona and Thursday’s demolishing of UCLA had put them into a great position to make the Big Dance.

Crabbe had 23 points, 10 boards and six steals last night. He went for 16 points, five boards and five assists in the win over UCLA. He had 31 points, seven boards and five assists against Arizona. He’s one of the nation’s best-kept secrets, although if he keeps playing this way, he won’t be a secret for much longer.

The All-They-Were-Good-Too Team:

G: Russ Smith, Louisville: Smith averaged 19.5 points, 6.0 boards and 4.0 assists in two games this week, shooting 45% from the floor and 40% from three. Rick Pitino told reporters after a win over South Florida that “I thought Russ Smith played the smartest game he’s played in a long time.” Smith playing Smart is the difference between Louisville being a top three seed and Louisville being a national title contender.

G: Ben McLemore, Kansas: The Jayhawks desperately needed a big performance on Monday this week, and McLemore had one of his best games of the season, finishing with 30 points on 9-13 shooting as Kansas stormed past Kansas State in Phog Allen. He followed that up with 13 points in a blowout win over Texas on College Gameday. Not a bad way to snap a three-game losing streak.

F: Scott Wood, NC State: Coming off of a game-winning three to beat Clemson on the road, Wood scored 22 points and hit six threes as the Wolfpack narrowly avoided a disastrous loss to Virginia Tech in Raleigh.

F: Kenyatta Smith, Harvard: After playing a grand total of seven minutes in two games last week, Smith put together a pair of dominant performances as Harvard took a one-game lead on Princeton in the Ivy League race. Smith had 20 points, nine boards and 10 blocks against Penn, and then went for 14 points, seven boards and six blocks in the win over Princeton on Saturday. He also shot 13-14 from the floor and 8-9 from the free throw line.

C: Alex Len, Maryland: Len finished with 19 points on 6-8 shooting, nine boards and three blocks in Maryland’s one game this week, which just so happened to be a win over No. 2 Duke. But more importantly, Len helped the Terps shut down Mason Plumlee, which was the biggest reason they were able to pull the upset while committed 26 turnovers.

Bench: Ramon Galloway (La Salle), Dorian Green (Colorado State), Nick Minnerath (Detroit), Kelly Olynyk (Gonzaga), Marshawn Powell (Arkansas), Nate Wolters (South Dakota State)

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Battle 4 Atlantis title proves Syracuse will be relevant this season

rad Horrigan/The Courant via AP
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Michael Gbinije scored 20 points and Trevor Cooney added 15 points and five assists as Syracuse left the Bahamas with a title, beating No. 25 Texas A&M 74-67 in the finals of the Battle 4 Atlantis.

I guess it’s time to start taking the Orange seriously.

There’s a lot to like about this group. Gbinije and Cooney are both fifth-year seniors that not only understand how to operate at the top of the 2-3 zone that Jim Boeheim runs, but they both have developed into versatile offensive weapons. Cooney was known as nothing more than a jump-shooter when he arrived up north, but he’s now averaging 3.5 assists on the season.

And Gbinije?

He has been one of the best players in the country through the first two weeks of the season. Through six games, he’s averaged 19.7 points, 4.2 assists, 3.0 boards and 2.8 steals while shooting 51.3 percent from beyond the arc.

Freshman Malachi Richardson, who had 16 points in the win over A&M, has scored double-figures in all six games this season while another freshman, Tyler Lydon, was against terrific on Friday, finishing with 13 points and eight boards. He’s now shooting 58.8 percent from beyond the arc this season.

And that’s where this team is going to do the majority of their damage this season.

Through six games, they’re shooting 41.1 percent from beyond the arc. In the three wins in the Bahamas, the Orange knocked were 34-for-73 from beyond the arc, a 46.5 percent clip. The question isn’t whether or not that rate can continue — four of the six players that saw action on Friday are dangerous three-point shooters while the other two, Tyler Roberson  and DaJuan Coleman, aren’t going to be shooting threes — but what happens on the nights where the threes aren’t going down.

There are going to be nights where they shoot 5-for-25 instead of 11-for-25. Will they have enough firepower then? Will their defense be good enough? Will guys like Roberson and Coleman be able to supply a scoring punch? Will Cooney, Gbinije and Richardson attack the paint instead of settling for jumpers?

Because at the very least, these three games in the Bahamas have proven that the Orange are going to be relevant this season, even in the loaded ACC. Whether that means they’re going to push for a top four finish or simply end the year as a tournament team remains to be seen, but this much is clear: Jim Boeheim has himself a squad Upstate.

No. 10 Gonzaga outlasts No. 18 UConn despite late offensive struggles

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No. 10 Gonzaga survived a furious rally from No. 18 UConn to win the third place game in the Battle 4 Atlantis, 73-70.

The Zags were up by as much as 21 points early in the second half, leading 48-27, but UConn slowly chipped away at the lead. Kyle Wiltjer led four players in double-figures with 17 points while Eric McClellan added 15 points, making a number of key plays in the second half when it looked like the Zags were in danger of giving away the lead.

As good as Gonzaga looked in the first 22 minutes of this game — and they looked really, really good — the second half exposed the concerns that many had with this group entering the season. Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr., who both shot around 40 percent from beyond the arc and started for four years, graduated, meaning that Gonzaga’s point guard situation is, more or less, Josh Perkins.

Perkins was terrific in the second half of a loss to Texas A&M on Thursday. He played 17 foul-plagued minutes against UConn. When UConn’s defense ratcheted up during the second half, Gonzaga struggled finding a way to consistently get good shots on the offensive end. Part of that was due to ineffective point guard play and part of it was a result of not really having anyone on the offensive end that can create a look on their own. As skilled as Wiltjer is, his impact can be limited when pick-and-pop actions aren’t working and he’s getting doubled in the post.

Perkins is talented, but this is essentially his first season of college basketball; he was a medical redshirt last season after breaking his jaw last November. There are going to be ups-and-downs, and that’s problematic on a team where he is essentially the only point guard on the roster.

The good news?

Gonzaga beat a good UConn team on a day when their best players struggled in crunch-time. It was McClellan and Kyle Dranginis that made the big plays down the stretch, not the big names on the Gonzaga roster.