Andrew Wiggins

Andrew Wiggins picks Kansas, makes Jayhawks a title contender

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Remember all that talk about how this could end up being the year that Kansas ends their streak of winning at least a share of nine straight Big 12 regular season title?

Remember how we all thought that Marcus Smart and Le’Bryan Nash — and maybe Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson — returning to school for another season would be the biggest news of the offseason in the Big 12?

Remember when Oklahoma State was the best team in the conference?

That all changed on Tuesday afternoon when Andrew Wiggins, the Canadian-born forward out of Huntington Prep (WV) and the top high school recruit in the country, announced that he would be spending his one year of college basketball playing for Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawks.

Of the four teams involved in the final pursuit of a prospect many believe to be on par with Kevin Durant and LeBron James, Kansas probably had the most to gain by bringing in the freakishly athletic, 6-foot-7 wing. Wiggins is a pure-bred scorer, a kid whose athleticism borders on genetic mutation — that’s what happens when your father was a first round pick in the NBA and your mother won silver medals as a sprinter in the Olympics — that has the handle and shooting ability to be so much more than just a dunker. He’s the go-to guy that Self has desperately needed since Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor headed off to the NBA after the 2012 national title game.

Because the Jayhawks do have talent on their roster, it’s just young talent.

Joel Embiid may be the best center in the Class of 2013. He’ll team up in the front court with Perry Ellis, a scoring machine when he was in high school that finally gained some confidence by the end of the season. Self will have a myriad of perimeter weapons at his disposal as well– five-star freshman Wayne Selden, Andrew White, Brannen Greene and the three-headed attack at the point of Naadir Tharpe, Connor Frankamp and Frank Mason.

The problem is that as good as all of those kids are going to be down the road, they are all young and/or inexperienced right now. Tharpe is going to be next year’s ‘veteran leader’, and he was so shaky at the point last season that Self was forced to play Elijah Johnson there even when Johnson was playing with the self-confidence of a middle school tuba player hitting on Blake Lively. Ellis was a touted recruit coming out of high school, but he played behind a guy that transferred in from Loyola Marymount. Combined, those two played fewer minutes per game last season than Travis Releford.

That’s the kind of experience that Self was going to be forced to deal with in 2013-2014.

But with Wiggins on the roster, those young guys can simply embrace being role players. They won’t have to shoulder too much responsibility, because Wiggins will be the guy that a) Self builds his offense around and b) defenses focus on stopping. It will be a lot easier for someone like Ellis or Selden or Embiid to have an impact offensively when they are constantly going up against a defense shaded towards Wiggins.

The beauty of it is that this is also a good thing for Kansas basketball in the future. Wiggins is gone after this season, but with a year of development at the collegiate level, who’s to say that someone like Embiid or Selden can’t turn into an all-american caliber player as a sophomore? Self is as good at developing talent as any coach in the country, and with Wiggins in the fold, he can do just that with his youngsters without having to worry about putting too much on their plate too early in their career.

Because that streak is a burden.

No one wants to be a part of the Kansas team that couldn’t win the Big 12 regular season title.

With Wiggins on the roster, the burden of that pressure lands on his shoulders.

And he’s good enough to handle it.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

No. 5 Xavier finds shooting touch in 74-57 blowout at Butler

Xavier head coach Chris Mack talks with James Farr (2) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Butler, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Indianapolis. Xavier won 74-57. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
AP Photo/Darron Cummings
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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) No. 5 Xavier learned its lesson.

To keep winning, it must continue do the dirty work.

Four days after stumbling at Creighton, the Musketeers got back to basics and used a balanced offense and a smothering defense to run away from Butler 74-57 on Saturday.

“We played much better today and after about the first four or five minutes, we defended,” coach Chris Mack said. “Our shots were, in my opinion, really good ones because we got in the lane, we made the extra pass and I thought that was the difference.”

Whatever the explanation, the Musketeers (22-3, 10-3 Big East) certainly looked worthy of the highest ranking in school history.

After making a season-low 30 percent from the field and just 1 of 21 3-point attempts in Tuesday’s loss, Xavier rebounded by shooting 56.9 percent and going 9 of 18 beyond the arc. J.P. Macura led the way with 13 points while Edmond Sumner and Remy Abell each had 12.

But the biggest improvements showed up in other areas – defense, rebounding and effort. They allowed 36 points over the final 31 1/2 minutes.

“Everybody was boxing out and rebounding, and on the offensive end we have so much talent we could get whatever we wanted,” said Abell, who started his college career playing for the Indiana Hoosiers.

The difference was obvious.

Butler (17-8, 6-7) was held almost 25 points below its season average.

Kelan Martin, with 15 points, and Andrew Chrabascz, with 12, were the only players to score more than 10. And the top three scorers – Martin, Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones – were a combined 11 of 39 from the field as the Bulldogs’ three-game winning streak came to an end.

Xavier crushed the Bulldogs so thoroughly that chants of “Let’s Go X” resounded throughout sold out Hinkle Fieldhouse over the final minutes.

“We didn’t have near the effort, the juice, the purpose defensively and we didn’t move the ball offensively and that was actually the case from the opening minute,” Butler coach Chris Holtmann said. “We mentioned that in the four-minute media and said that had to improve and when it doesn’t these things happen.”

Butler used a 9-0 first-half run to take a 21-13 lead midway through the first half.

Xavier answered with a 27-6 run that included four 3s and a three-point play in a 27-6 run to make it 40-27. The Bulldogs got as close as 47-39 early in the second half, which later became a seven-point deficit after a replay review gave Dunham a 3.

But the Bulldogs couldn’t get closer.

“You can go 1 for 21 one game, and then the next game it’s – I’m sure it was better,” Macura said. “That’s basketball.”

POINTERS

Xavier’s dominance showed up in two key stats on the box score. The Musketeers outscored Butler 36-14 in points off the bench and 36-18 in the paint despite having only two offensive rebounds. Xavier has won six of its last seven.

ON THE ROAD

Even the road has been kind to the Musketeers this season. They have won seven times in true road games, their highest season total since 2010-11. They have also won five Big East games on the road – more than they won in either of their first two seasons in the league and they have won 10 of the last 13 at Hinkle.

MOVING UP

Dunham continues his ascent on the Bulldogs’ career scoring list. After moving from 14th to sixth on the list in the first 23 games this season, Dunham moved passed Lynn Mitchem (1,798) for fifth and within one point of A.J. Graves (1,807) for fourth. Matt Howard is third (1,939) and the only 2,000-point scorers in school history are Chad Tucker (2,321) and Darrin Fitzgerald (2,019).

TIP-INS

Xavier: Former Indiana prep star Trevon Bluiett had 11 points and four rebounds and James Farr had 12 rebounds. … Each of Xavier’s 22 wins has come by at least seven points. … The Musketeers were the highest-ranked team to play at Hinkle Fieldhouse since No. 3 DePaul visited Feb. 23, 1981.

Butler: Shot 33.3 percent overall and was 8 of 22 on 3s. …. The Bulldogs only have three wins at home against Top 10 teams – No. 8 Gonzaga in January 2013, No. 3 Michigan in 1965-66 and No. 5 Tennessee in 1958-59. … Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence attended the game.

UP NEXT

Xavier hosts No. 20 Providence on Wednesday.

Butler hosts Creighton on Tuesday.

YOU MAKE THE CALL: Did Duke’s Grayson Allen travel on his game-winner vs. Virginia? (VIDEO)

Duke's Grayson Allen (3) and Marshall Plumlee (40) react during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Louisville in Durham, N.C., Monday, Feb. 8, 2016. Duke won 72-65. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
(AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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Duke star Grayson Allen hit a game-winner on Saturday afternoon, a tough, driving layup that gave the Blue Devils a 63-62 win over No. 7 Virginia in Cameron Indoor Stadium:

The location of said game matters, because it appears that Allen traveled on the play.

Well, more than “appears”.

Allen did travel.

Twice actually. As you can see in this screen grab, Allen’s foot came down before he got the shot off:

Screen Shot 2016-02-13 at 6.44.34 PM

And if that wasn’t bad enough for UVA fans, Allen also quite clearly took three steps before releasing the shot:

There’s not really much to argue about here. Allen traveled. But before you get all riled up about the no-call, a few things to keep in mind:

  1. A player taking three steps on a drive is the call that referees miss more than anything, including block-charge decisions. It’s a very difficult call to see in real time, and if you’re going to make it in that situation — final seconds, in Cameron, on a Duke player — you better be damn sure that you’re right.
  2. The same can be said about Allen’s foot hitting the ground before he got the shot off. To figure out that the refs got it wrong, I had to take a screen grab from a slow-motion replay on an angle that none of the three referees had. It’s a split-second thing, and that’s something that’s rarely going to get called unless it’s obvious. Especially then.
  3. So yes, the referees blew the call. But I’m not sure there is a ref in the world that gets that one right.

And for what it’s worth, I’m not buying the whole Allen got fouled angle. That was great defense from Marial Shayok and an even better finish by Allen. It’s tough luck for the Cavs, but not really all that much different than winning a game like this.

Whatever the case may be, the result isn’t changing.

Duke got 25 points from Brandon Ingram, picked up their second win of the week over a ranked opponent and now head to their most difficult week of the season — at North Carolina and at Louisville — playing some of their best basketball.

In the last two games, the Blue Devils have given up 1.016 points-per-possession, a marked improvement over 1.081 PPP they were giving up entering the day.

Have the Blue Devils solved their issues defensively?