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Virginia Tech’s reliance on Erick Green didn’t hurt his chances at an NBA career

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Leading the country in scoring is not an easy thing to do.

It’s even more difficult when playing in one of the Power Six conferences.

In fact, prior to Virginia Tech point guard Erick Green leading the nation in scoring at 25.0 ppg in 2012-2013, the last player to be college basketball’s top point producer while playing in one of the Power Six conferences was the Big Dog, Purdue forward Glenn Robinson. That was back in the 1993-1994 season. To put that in perspective, Glenn Robinson III, the Big Dog’s son, was a freshman at Michigan this season.

That alone should give you a sense of the kind of year that Green had as a senior.

But that number certainly doesn’t tell the whole story.

Green played on one of the worst high-major teams in the country. The Hokies finished 4-14 in a weak ACC. They were 13-19 on the season despite winning their first seven games as teams adjusted to their new style of play. He was the focal point of every defense that Virginia Tech faced this season. And somehow, he still managed to be one of the top ten most efficient major contributors (players with a usage rate of higher than 24%) in the country.

The numbers? Green shot 47.5% from the field and 38.9% from three with an assist rate of 27.0% and a turnover rate of just 11.0%, an extremely low number considering that he used 31.7% of the possessions that he was on the floor. Put it all together, and Green’s offensive rating was 120.0, which more or less put him on par with Trey Burke and Doug McDermott.

In layman’s terms, Green’s season was defined by high efficiency on an even higher volume despite being the focal point of every defense he faced. Yeah, he earned every bit of his spot on NBCSports.com’s All-America third team as well as his ACC Player of the Year award.

All while playing on a team that lost 19 of their last 25 games.

“It was hard,” Green told NBCSports.com in a phone interview, “trying to stay focused when you’re losing, but I had to go out there every night and perform. So I just stayed in the gym, that was the only thing that was important for me, staying in the gym, keep getting better and better.”

Green had always been a good player, taking advantage of an injury to Dorenzo Hudson when Green was a sophomore that allowed him to get more minutes and emerge as a breakout performer. After Malcolm Delaney’s graduation in 2011, Green became the go-to guy for Virginia Tech as a junior. And while first-year head coach James Johnson — he spent years as an assistant on Seth Greenberg’s staff — had always thought Green would have a chance at the pros by the time he left Blacksburg, he said that there was one noticeable change to Green prior to his senior year.

“He always worked on his game,” Johnson told NBCSports.com, “but he went from being a guy working on his game to living in the gym and being a student of the game. Studying tape, wanting to come upstairs and study opponents, coming into coaches offices and studying himself.”

According to Green, there was a change in him, and he can trace back to a moment the summer before his senior year.

“I went to Chris Paul’s camp and I had a good showing there,” Green said. “I thought in my head, ‘man, if these are the best, than I can be one of the best, too’. I took that mentality back.”

“My mentality changed. Everything that I did, I wanted to be the best. I wanted to win every drill, I wanted to show everybody that I’m trying to get ready for the next level.”

The question now becomes whether or not Green’s mentality has to change again. He just proved himself an all-american, but he can’t dominate the offense and be an effective point guard at the NBA level. According to Green, the question that he’s heard the most from NBA teams is whether he thinks he’ll be able to run a team when he’s not being asked to score 25 points a night, when his role requires more than hunting the best shot for himself.

Green believes that he can, comparing himself to George Hill and Devin Harris, two other bigger point guards that were known more for their scoring ability at the collegiate level.

But according to Jonathan Givony, the brainchild between Draft Express, Green’s ability to score should help his chances to land a spot in a rotation as an NBA point guard.

“I think one of the things that we overrate more than anything is this ‘pure point guard’ idea,” Givony said. “In the NBA, a point guard has to be able to score, and if you can’t score, that almost eliminates you entirely from the conversation. I think that it’s much easier for a guy like Erick Green, who is a good ball-handler and who’s unselfish and very smart and great in the pick-and-roll.”

“I would put my money on the so-called combo-guard like Erick Green over just a non-scorer.”

One of the reasons, Givony says, that it’s so important for a point guard to be able to create is the shorter shot clock in the NBA. At the college level, the 35 second shot clock allows a team to try to run a couple of different sets without feeling rushed; in the NBA, that 24 second clock expires in a hurry.

Green can score, and he can do it in an efficient manner. We saw that this season, as he routinely shredded defenses that were geared entirely towards stopping him. “He’s like a quarterback that’s seen every type of blitz coming at him,” Johnson said. He’s become quite a lethal shooter as well — whether it’s of the pull-up or the spot-up variety — which is not something that he considered a strength heading into this season.

There are plenty of question marks regarding Green’s future as a pro. Is he athletic enough and strong enough to defend NBA point guards? Will his struggles finishing around the rim in college follow him to the NBA? Will he be able to draw as many fouls in the NBA as he did in college?

All those are fair concerns.

What isn’t fair, however, is punishing Green for the fact that he had to carry the overwhelming majority of the load as a college senior.

Green is an efficient point guard that can really shoot the ball and has an understanding of how to attack and how to execute in the pick-and-roll. That matters.

And it may matter more than the fact that he had to take 17 shots per game as a college senior.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

POSTERIZED: Dennis Smith Jr. takes flight

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While Lonzo Ball, Markelle Fultz and the Kentucky stars are the freshmen getting all the publicity, Dennis Smith Jr. of N.C. State is quietly sitting as a potential No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft.

Why?

Because’s he’s a point guard that can do things like this:

Manu Lecomte’s 24 points leads No. 9 Baylor past No. 7 Xavier

KANSAS CITY, MO - MARCH 10:  Johnathan Motley #5 of the Baylor Bears shoots a free throw against the Texas Longhorns during the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Basketball Tournament at Sprint Center on March 10, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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Manu Lecomte finished with 24 points, hitting six threes and dishing out five assists as No. 9 Baylor added to what is unquestionably the best résumé in college basketball on Saturday with a 73-58 win over No. 7 Xavier in Waco.

The Bears have already beaten Louisville, VCU, Michigan State and Oregon this season, so it’s not like we needed anymore confirmation that the Bears were good this year.

But we got it.

Johnathon Motley finished with 17 points and eight boards and Jo Lual-Acuil chipped in with 12 points and six blocks, but it was Lecomte that was the star here. Entering the season, the question everyone had with this Baylor team was whether or not they had enough outside shooting and enough point guard, and it just so happens that Lecomte checks both those boxes.

And frankly, I don’t think anyone knew just how good Lecomte was going to be this season.

The Baylor coaching staff did. Word out of Waco during the preseason was that Lecomte looked great, that his redshirt season did wonders for him as a player, but then again, you hear that about every kid that’s ever sat out a season. With Lecomte, it turned out to be true. And on Saturday, we saw him at his best.

It’s also worth noting here just how important these non-conference wins will be not just for the Bears, but for the Big 12 as a whole. If Baylor can somehow find a way to win the Big 12 regular season title – or maybe even if they finish second in the league and win the Big 12 tournament – they’ll be in a great spot to earn a top four seed in the NCAA tournament. A No. 1 seed isn’t out of the question.

That’s great for the conference as a whole. These wins will significantly help the computer numbers for the league, and it also means that there are going to be more quality wins available for the other teams in the conference during league play.

Put another way, bubble teams won’t have to simply rely on trying to steal a win against Kansas at home if they need to inject some life into their at-large profile in February.

The most impressive part?

Baylor has done all of this despite not getting a single vote in the Preseason AP top 25 poll.

Jaysom Tatum to play tonight for Duke

Jayson Tatum (photo courtesy Duke Athletics)
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Duke announced on Saturday afternoon that Jayson Tatum will return to action against Maine.

Tatum is a top five prospect and a potential No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. He has been out since late October with a foot injury.

Grayson Allen and Frank Jackson are not expected to play. Allen has been battling a toe injury that has limited his explosiveness this season.

Marques Bolden is expected to return to the lineup soon, and on the pregame show, head coach Mike Krzyzewski said there’s a chance he could play tonight. He’s been out with a lower leg injury.

No. 15 Purdue uses 3-pointers to beat Morehead State 90-56

WEST LAFAYETTE, IN - NOVEMBER 14: Caleb Swanigan #50 of the Purdue Boilermakers celebrates during the game against the Villanova Wildcats at Mackey Arena on November 14, 2016 in West Lafayette, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) Freshman guard Carsen Edwards scored 16 points, and No. 15 Purdue made 11 3-pointers in the first half Saturday on the way to a 90-56 victory over Morehead State.

The Boilermakers (6-2), coming off a Wednesday loss at No. 14 Louisville in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, used a 15-0 first-half run to stretch a 10-9 lead to 25-9, and Purdue continued to pull away.

Dakota Mathias added 14 points, and Caleb Swanigan and P.J. Thompson had 13 each for Purdue.

Miguel Dicent had 11 points for Morehead State (2-5), which played without coach Sean Woods, who has been suspended with pay since Nov. 22, when the university launched an official investigation into Woods’ treatment of players.

Purdue made 11 of 20 from 3-point range during the first half when it built a 47-25 lead. Carsen Edwards, who made his first start in place of slumping Vince Edwards, and Mathias made four 3-pointers each in the first half.

The Boilermakers played without fifth-year graduate student transfer point guard Spike Albrecht, who suffered a back injury this week.

BIG PICTURE

Morehead State: With Woods suspended indefinitely, the Eagles are a distracted basketball team, and it shows as their losing streak reached five on Saturday, including 0-3 for acting coach Preston Spradlin.

Purdue: It’s a byproduct of opposing defenses centering their attention on Boilermaker big men Swanigan and Isaac Haas, but Purdue entered this game leading the Big Ten in 3-point field goal shooting percentage at 41.8 and made 55 percent from beyond the arc during the opening half on Saturday.

UP NEXT

Morehead State: The Eagles do not play until going to Lipscomb on Dec. 10.

Purdue: The Boilermakers travel to New York City for a Tuesday night game against Arizona State in the Jimmy V. Classic.

 

SATURDAY’S SNACKS: Big road wins for UCLA, West Virginia

MADISON, WI - DECEMBER 03:  Nigel Hayes #10 of the Wisconsin Badgers is defended by Kristian Doolittle #11 of the Oklahoma Sooners during the first half of a game at the Kohl Center on December 3, 2016 in Madison, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 11 UCLA 97, No. 1 Kentucky 92

This one was a ton of fun to watch as UCLA shook off a sluggish start to run past Kentucky at Rupp Arena. CBT’s Rob Dauster has the story on this one and why it was important for both teams.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

No. 25 West Virginia 66, No. 6 Virginia 57: Bob Huggins’ group has a potential signature victory as West Virginia won a big one on the road. I have more about why this one is particularly important for West Virginia here.

No. 9 Baylor 76, No. 7 Xavier 61: The Bears added to what is the best résumé in college basketball with an impressive win over a very good Xavier team. Manu Lecomte was the star of the show, finishing with 24 points and five assists. We went in depth on this game here.

STARRED

Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin: After just missing a triple-double in a big win over Syracuse in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge earlier this week, Hayes dominated in a 90-70 win over Oklahoma with 28 points on 10-for-13 shooting. Hayes made both of his three-point attempts and also added six assists and two rebounds. Hayes is playing like an All-American lately.

Josh Hart, Villanova: Speaking of All-American caliber play, the senior guard put up a triple-double in the Wildcats’ 88-57 win over Saint Joseph’s as he finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Hart was 6-for-10 from the field and 3-for-6 from three-point territory as he had a tremendous outing.

Sebastian Saez, Ole Miss: Underrated nationally, the senior forward had his fourth double-double of the year with 20 points and 16 rebounds in a win over Memphis. Saez also added three blocks as he now has 12 or more rebounds in five games this season.

Anthony Livingston, Texas Tech: The Red Raiders needed three free throws from Livingston with under three seconds left for a one-point win over Rice as Livingston finished with 33 points and seven rebounds.

Collin Smith, George Washington: Also knocking in a huge go-ahead bucket was Smith as his three-pointer with three seconds left gave the Colonials a win over USF. Smith ended up with 22 points and eight rebounds.

STRUGGLED

E.C. Matthews, Rhode Island: Matthews finished 3-for-13 from the floor with just nine points as No. 21 Rhode Island lost their second straight game, this time falling to Providence, 63-60, on the road.

JeQuan Lewis, VCU: Lewis had 23 points and 11 assists in a come-from-behind win over Princeton during the week, but he had just three points and one assists – and turned an ankle – in a 64-46 loss to Illinois in Miami on Saturday.

San Diego State: The Aztecs took a 65-59 loss to Loyola (IL) on Saturday, a loss that puts SDSU is an all-too-familiar hole: Bad losses on their résumé that they won’t be able to make up for in league play.

TOP 25

  • Using a balanced scoring effort, No. 15 Purdue picked up an easy home win over Morehead State. Freshman guard Carsen Edwards knocked down four triples to finish with a team-high 16 points while Caleb Swanigan and P.J. Thompson both finished with 13 points and six assists.
  • Kelan Martin went for 30 points as No. 18 Butler knocked off Central Arkansas, 82-58.
  • Andrew White hit seven threes and finished with 26 points while Franklin Howard chipped in with 13 assists for No. 22 Syracuse as they held on to beat North Florida, 77-71, in the Carrier Dome.

NOTABLE

  • Solid win for Wake Forest on the road at Richmond as John Collins had 16 points, 13 rebounds.