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.

Jordan Mathews three sends No. 1 seed Gonzaga past No. 4 West Virginia

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Jordan Mathews hit a three with less than a minute left and West Virginia missed a pair of threes on the final possession of the game as No. 1 seed Gonzaga won a dogfight, 61-58, over No. 4 seed Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 on Thursday night.

Mathews, who finished with 13 points on the night, spent 4:30 on the bench before checking into the game right before hitting the eventual game-winning three. It came on a possession fitting of this game, which was the embodiment of the mantra ‘a close game is not always a good game.’ Nigel Williams-Goss, who played arguably his worst game as a member of the Zags, turned the ball over immediately after gathering a defensive rebound. But West Virginia’s Nathan Adrian had a shot blocked at the rim and, after corralling the loose ball, Williams-Goss found Mathews open in the wing for a three that put the Zags up 60-58 with 37 seconds left.

No. 3 Oregon advances after thriller with No. 7 Michigan

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Oregon is returning to the Elite Eight for the second consecutive season following a thrilling, 69-68, victory over No. 7 Michigan in the Sweet 16 in Kansas City on Thursday night.

In a game in which neither team could fully grasp control of the game, it came down to the wire. Michigan held a 3-point lead with two minutes to play. Jordan Bell, who was unquestionably the deciding factor in this contest, came up with the first of several critical hustle plays down the stretch. He knifed in on a missed free throw, for lay-in, cutting the deficit to one.

On the ensuing Michigan possession, Bell didn’t block it but affected Derrick Walton Jr.’s shot enough to force the miss. Tyler Dorsey, the other hero for the Ducks, continued his stellar play this month with a go-ahead layup after he spun through the Wolverine defense. Bell’s close out on D.J. Wilson sent his 3-point attempt way off the mark. Bell would corral another offensive rebound on the other end of the floor, and while Dylan Ennis left the door open for Michigan following another missed free throw, Bell, deservedly, rebounded Walton’s miss as time ran out.

“Do whatever you can to win,” Bell told reporters after the game. “Me, get every rebound, offense or defense, help my team out as much as possible.”

Bell had 16 points and 13 rebounds. Tyler Dorsey poured in 20 points. Walton Jr., who front-rimmed a potential game-winner at the buzzer, ended his collegiate career with stat-line of 20 points, eight assists, and five rebounds. Zak Irvin added 19.

Dillon Brooks is definitely the star, but Bell and Dorsey could round out a big three that could lead the Ducks to Phoenix.

Before the start of the Pac-12 Tournament championship game on March 11, Oregon announced that Chris Boucher would miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. How would this effect Oregon’s defense days before it began its quest for a Final Four?

Bell has helped answer those questions on Thursday night. He’s a big reason why Oregon outscored Michigan, 34-16, in points in the paint. But his greatest impact was how he slowed down the two-headed monster of Moe Wagner and D.J. Wilson, two forwards whose increased production is a big reason why Michigan’s unlikely run extended into the second weekend of the tournament. The duo scored a combined 19 points off 7-of-20 shooting.

The other for Oregon was the continued offensive tear of Dorsey. In six postseason games, the sophomore two-guard is averaging 23.0 points per game. Playing at this level, Oregon has another go-to scorer, one who has no issue taking a big shot late in the game. In either matchup in the next round, that should come in handy. Dillon Brooks, one of college’s toughest matchups, will either be busy with Purdue’s massive frontline or locked in an all-out war with Kansas’ Josh Jackson the perimeter.

“I’m really fortunate to have Jordan for three years and Tyler for two and Dillon Brooks,” Oregon head coach Dana Altman said. “We’ve just been really fortunate. We’ve got good players and guys that are unselfish. They want to win. They’re competitive. We got down four there and guys could have gave into it. They didn’t. They fought their way back. Shows you what kind of competitive spirit they’ve got.”

The Ducks, the No. 3 seed in the Midwest region, will face the winner of top-seeded Kansas and No. 4 Purdue on Saturday night at the Sprint Center.

“We know Purdue is really big and Kansas is Kansas,” Altman said.

WATCH: Steve Alford end practice with half-court shot

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UCLA head coach Steve Alford ended practice on Thursday by drilling a half-court shot on the first attempt.

According to the Associated Press, this has been a season-long battle between the UCLA coaching staff and the players.

“Truth be told, we’ve been getting slaughtered. We’ve got guys like Lonzo (Ball) literally takes a jump shot from the timeline. We were just lucky that they only got one shot at it. I think coaches are down about eight on the half-court shots this year. I told them, though, that the coaches are ahead at the Sweet 16. I don’t think they’re buying it.”

No. 3 seed UCLA is set to play No. 2 seed Kentucky in the Sweet 16 on Friday night in Memphis. The Bruins defeated the Wildcats, 97-92, in a non-conference matchup on Dec. 3.

Florida State guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes to enter NBA draft

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida State point guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes is entering the NBA draft.

The 6-foot-4 junior made his announcement on Instagram on Thursday and also informed the school of his decision. He did not say whether he intends to hire an agent, a move that prevent him from returning to school.

Rathan-Mayes averaged 10.6 points per game this season and averaged 4.8 assists, which was sixth in the conference. His assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.6-to-1 was third in the ACC.

The All-ACC defensive team selection helped Florida State (26-9) reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012. The Seminoles advanced to the second round before a 91-66 loss to Xavier.

Rathan-Mayes averaged 12.4 points in his three seasons with the Seminoles and is the 46th player in school history to reach 1,000 points.

More AP college basketball at http://collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25

Rutgers guard Corey Sanders to enter NBA Draft

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PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) Rutgers sophomore guard Corey Sanders is entering the NBA draft.

In making the announcement Thursday, the university said Sanders will not sign with an agent.

Sanders will be able to attend workouts scheduled by NBA teams and will be eligible for invitation to the league’s combine next month. Players have until 10 days after the combine to remain in the draft or return to school, as long as they don’t sign with an agent.

Sanders started 31 of 33 games this season, averaging 12.8 points and 3.2 rebounds.

Rutgers coach Steve Pikiell said Sanders needs to make an informed decision on his future.

“My dream has always been to play in the NBA,” Sanders said. “I look forward to determining where I am in that journey.”

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25.