Michigan State v Ohio State

Late Night Snacks: Craft’s career day leads No. 18 Ohio State past No. 4 Michigan State

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Game of the Day: Wagner 94, LIU Brooklyn 92

Most people were occupied with the Oscars, and they missed a thriller on Staten Island. A Kenneth Ortiz putback with eight tenths of a second remaining proved to be the difference as Wagner pulled into a tie for fourth place in the NEC with the Blackbirds. Jonathon Williams (20 points) and Mario Moody (19) led the way offensively for the Seahawks, while C.J. Garner paced LIU with 22 points, six assists and five rebounds.

Why is the result important? Home-court advantage in the NEC tournament goes to the higher seeded team, and Wagner’s victory not only keeps them in the race for fourth but it also moves them to within a game of Bryant and Quinnipiac (both 10-5) in the loss column.

Important Outcomes 

1. No. 18 Ohio State 68, No. 4 Michigan State 60

After losing by 22 at Wisconsin last Sunday the Buckeyes have won two in a row, using a second half run to beat the Spartans in Columbus. Deshaun Thomas shot 4-of-16 on the afternoon but Aaron Craft picked up the slack, scoring a career-high 21 points and dishing out six assists to lead the way. Adreian Payne scored 12 points and grabbed 15 rebounds and Gary Harris scored 14 points to lead Michigan State, but the Spartans really need Keith Appling to get untracked.

2. No. 7 Michigan 71, Illinois 58 

Trey Burke scored 26 points and dished out eight assists for the Wolverines, who completed a season sweep of the Fighting Illini. Jordan Morgan played just 17 minutes and didn’t attempt a shot for the Wolverines, but the big man played an important role in the victory defensively and on the glass (six rebounds). Three Illinois players scored ten points apiece, but their 7-of-22 shooting from beyond the arc and Michigan’s 51% shooting proved to be too much to overcome.

3. No. 25 Notre Dame 62, Cincinnati 41 

Notre Dame really wasn’t challenged at home, and Mike Brey’s team is in position to play for seeding in both the Big East and NCAA tournaments at this point. The same can’t be said for the Bearcats, who have lost five of their last six with games against Connecticut and Louisville next on the schedule. Cashmere Wright played just 23 minutes and Sean Kilpatrick struggled (3-of-13 FG) for the Bearcats, who won’t be successful if those two can’t get out of their current funk.


1. G Tony Johnson (Lafayette) 

Johnson was outstanding in the Leopards’ 79-71 win over Lehigh, scoring 29 points on 10-of-12 shooting (5-of-5 3PT) and dishing out four assists.

2. G Trey Burke (Michigan) 

Burke was one of the difference-makers in the Wolverines’ 71-58 win over Illinois, accounting for 26 points (8-of-11 FG) and eight assists with just one turnover.

3. G Rasheed Sulaimon and F Mason Plumlee (Duke) 

Both Sulaimon and Plumlee played integral roles in the Blue Devils’ 89-66 win over Boston College. Sulaimon scored a career-high 27 points (10-of-15 FG), and Plumlee added 19 points (11-of-15 FT), 15 rebounds and four assists. Plumlee also became the ninth player in school history to eclipse the 1,000-point and 1,000-rebound marks in a career.


1. G Cashmere Wright (Cincinnati)

Wright played just 23 minutes in the Bearcats’ 62-41 loss at No. 25 Notre Dame, missing both of his shot attempts and going scoreless. The question for Cincinnati, who has lost five of its last six games: is Wright healthy?

2. G Keith Appling (Michigan State)

Appling found the going tough against No. 18 Ohio State on Sunday, shooting 1-of-6 from the field and finishing with three points, one assist and three turnovers in the 68-60 loss.

3. Northwestern

Thanks in part to injuries the Wildcats simply don’t have the horses needed to be competitive in this season’s Big Ten. In their 74-43 loss at Purdue the Wildcats shot 28.6% from the field and were out-rebounded 41-21.

Three Facts 

1. Stony Brook wrapped up at least a share of its third America East regular season title in the last four years, winning 69-53 at Maine. Steve Pikiell’s Seawolves can clinch the title outright on Thursday night at Boston University. Stony Brook did not enjoy the same luck when it comes to travel however, as the team bus broke down on the way back from the game. They’re slated to return to the Long Island campus on Monday.

2. Two teams that helped themselves by avoiding losses that would not help their NCAA tournament resumes: Temple and Virginia. The Owls won 71-51 at Charlotte, with Scootie Randall leading the way with 18 points and six rebounds. Virginia whipped Georgia Tech 82-54, avenging a loss in Atlanta earlier this season. Also, freshman forward Mike Tobey (seven points, four rebounds) made his return after missing the last five games due to a case of mononucleosis.

3. One team that did not help itself: St. John’s. The Red Storm shot 25.9% from the field in the second half of their 63-47 loss to No. 20 Pittsburgh, dropping to 16-11 overall and 8-7 in Big East play. With two of their final three games against Notre Dame and Marquette the Red Storm will have opportunities to improve their resume before the Big East Championship, and they need to take advantage.

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

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.