tom crean

Tom Crean and the most important coaching decision in the Sweet 16


Tom Crean will have the most interesting coaching decision of the Sweet 16 on his hands heading into tonight’s matchup with No. 4 seed Syracuse.

How will he matchup with the Orange on the perimeter?

Syracuse is as big and has as much length up and down their roster as any team in the country. Michael Carter-Williams, the Orange point guard, is 6-foot-6 with the wingspan of a pterodactyl. Starting off-guard Brandon Triche is 6-foot-4, as is Trevor Cooney, who is the first back court player off the bench. That’s before you get to their front court, where 6-foot-8 James Southerland plays the three while CJ Fair and Jerami Grant, who are both lanky, 6-foot-8 athletes, also man one of the wings in the Syracuse zone.


Well, their starting back court consists of 6-foot Jordy Hulls, 6-foot Yogi Ferrell and 6-foot-4 Victor Oladipo.

Now, this will obviously create issues on the offensive end of the floor. The length that Syracuse is able to employ in that zone is going to make it difficult to get a clean look at a three, something that the Hoosiers are going to have to rely on if they want to win this game. But it’s also going to make it a nightmare to try and get the ball into the high-post. The way to break down the Syracuse zone is to get the ball into the high-post, whether via the dribble or the pass, and find either Cody Zeller at the rim or one of the myriad of shooters Indiana will have on the perimeter. Can the Indiana guards feed the high-post with all of those arms between them and Christian Watford? Will they be able to pass out of the zone if they are able to penetrate to the foul line? Ironically enough, the ability of IU’s back court to penetrate the zone with the dribble may be more important given the fact that Watford is not exactly known as a great passer.

Those are concerns, but they may not be the biggest concern for Tom Crean.

The issue is going to be on the defensive end of the floor. The ideal would be for Oladipo, one of the best on-ball defenders in the country who also has the length and athleticism to matchup with Carter-Williams, to matchup with the Syracuse point guard to try and take away his effectiveness in the half court. But if Hulls and Ferrell are both on the floor, that would mean that one of those two would be stuck guarding Southerland or Fair or one of Syracuse’s other forwards. That’s a matchup that cannot happen.

The obvious answer? Play Will Sheehey and Remy Abell more minutes, but that creates a problem on the offensive end of the floor. Hulls is the zone-buster, one of the best catch-and-shoot players in the country. He doesn’t miss. Ferrell is easily Indiana’s best penetrator, the guy that can split the top of that 2-3 zone and break down the defense. Indiana’s effectiveness against a zone on the offensive end of the floor will take a hit with either of those two sitting out.

So what will Tom Crean do?

Does he play a 2-3 zone of his own?

Will he slide Oladipo onto Southerland and hope that Hulls and Ferrell can matchup with Triche and Carter-Williams?

Does he role the dice on rotating his little guards?

How Tom Crean handles the size differential may be determine the outcome of this game.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.

Tyler Ulis injured as No. 1 Kentucky beats South Florida

Tyler Ulis, Ky Howard
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MIAMI (AP) Jamal Murray had 21 points and No. 1 Kentucky scored the final 15 points of the first half on the way to beating South Florida 84-63 in the HoopHall Miami Invitational on Friday.

Skal Labissiere added 17 points for the Wildcats (6-0), who led by as many as 31. Charles Matthews scored 11 points and Isaiah Briscoe finished with seven assists for Kentucky, now a winner of 37 consecutive regular-season games and 39 in a row against unranked opponents.

Chris Perry scored 14 points for USF (1-5), which has lost 18 consecutive games against teams ranked in the Top 25. Jaleel Cousins added 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting, and Jahmal McMurray scored 11 points for the Bulls.

Kentucky played the second half without starting guard Tyler Ulis, who departed with a right elbow injury after getting hurt while fighting for a ball loose on the floor.

Kentucky announced after the game that the injury was a hyperextension of the elbow and that he will be day-to-day.

The Bulls were within 27-21 with 6 minutes left in the first half after McMurray banked in a 3-pointer only a few feet away from where John Calipari was standing, and the look of anguish on the Kentucky coach’s face was clear.

It didn’t last long.

The Wildcats scored on seven of their next nine possessions and the game was over by halftime, Kentucky going into the break with a 42-21 lead.

It was a reunion for plenty of people on both benches. Calipari squared off with his former assistant Orlando Antigua, now in his second year leading USF. Antigua’s staff includes another former Calipari assistant in Rod Strickland, plus former Kentucky basketball staff members Mike Malone and Dominic Lombardi.

So the staffs have plenty of familiarity. On the court, there was plenty of disparity. Kentucky finished with a commanding 23-6 edge in points off turnovers and finished with 16 assists to the Bulls’ six.