Temple Owls guard Wyatt takes the ball past North Carolina State Wolfpack defenders Leslie and Brown during first half of their second round NCAA tournament basketball game in Dayton

D-ficiencies hurt Wolfpack players in the NBA draft

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Eye-popping athletic talent and an ability to show up on the highlight reel will get you a long look in the NBA draft. Many times, offensive skills will get you into the lottery. In the case of UNLV’s Anthony Bennett, a surprise No. 1 pick was the result.

But ability to “score the ball” isn’t everything, not by a long shot. Victor Oladipo (No. 2), Alex Len (No. 5) and Nerlens Noel (No. 6) have the potential to score plenty after they get used to the NBA game, but you can bet their reputations as defensive stoppers preceded them, and moved them up draft boards from day one.

We write about college hoops, so what does this have to do with us? We have to get in the (a little) wayback machine and think about where we started in November of last year. Specifically, our general feelings about who would rule the roost in the ACC. Local media who covered the conference chose N.C. State as the league’s best team, and few disagreed. I know I was blinded by the light – believing that the Wolfpack would build on their surprising performance in the 2012 tournament and take the next step. I mean, they had such dominant athletes, right?

Read ACC, Pac-12 lead the way with seven draft picks apiece

Cut to my midseason Conference Catchup, and cracks began to appear. Duke took over the head parade float and N.C. State became merely “contenders”. By late January, our lead writer Rob Dauster put his finger on the problem that was keeping the Wolfpack from achieving to their potential: poor individual and team defense.

Eggs were broken, omelettes were rethought as scrambled eggs, and NC State ended up as a disappointing 8 seed, bombing out of the NCAA tournament against Temple in the first round. And what about all of those superior athletes Mark Gottfried had at his disposal?

Lorenzo Brown, the N.C. State point guard, went to the Minnesota Timberwolves with the 52nd overall pick. Both Brown and C.J. Leslie, the forward, departed N.C. State after their junior seasons. Both were projected as early- to mid-second round selections but Brown slid toward the bottom of the first round and Leslie wasn’t picked.

Bilas during the ESPN broadcast described Brown as a “first-round talent” but criticized his defense. “He did not defend with passion, but really nobody on (N.C. State’s) team did,” Bilas said.

When we look at recruiting and talent, and player development, this is kind of a cautionary tale. John Calipari takes mega-talented players and keeps them on track to the lottery. So far, N.C. State has taken lottery-ready players and watched them spiral into professional irrelevance. As Robarino pointed out recently – you have to develop talented players by teaching them. In this case, teaching them to play D. For N.C. State, that teaching would count as development.

Read At the collegiate level, teaching takes precedence to development

I say, if Richard Howell doesn’t catch on with Denver, Gottfried should put him on staff as soon as possible. If there’s one guy on last year’s Wolfpack team who knew how to bust his butt, it was Howell. Maybe his attitude will catch on with the next wave of talented N.C. State recruits.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.