Deonte Burton

Nevada’s Deonte Burton deserves national respect but needs wins to get it

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Nevada Athletics

All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here.

Their first season as a Mountain West member was a tough one for the Nevada Wolf Pack. Lacking depth in the front court, David Carter’s team took more than its fair share of lumps in a season that ended with eight straight losses and an overall record of 12-19 (3-13 Mountain West). Offensively guards Deonte Burton and Malik Story were asked to lead the way, with Burton averaging 16.3 points and 3.6 assists per game.

For his efforts the Los Angeles native was a third team All-Mountain West selection, and the league’s coaches named him to the league’s preseason all-conference team earlier this month. But due in large part to the Pack’s lack of success, Burton remains anything but a household name outside of the conference, and that’s something both player and coach understand.

“I think sometimes it falls on your record and how you finish,” Nevada head coach David Carter told NBC Sports. “In our conference I don’t think he’s overlooked at all. We finished at the bottom of the league last year and he was still a third-team all-league selection. I just think that around the country he’s probably one of the most underrated players, especially at his position.”

(CLICK HERE to read NBCSports.com’s Mountain West Preview)

Amongst Mountain West players who factored into at least 24% of their team’s possessions Burton ranked sixth in offensive rating per kenpom.com, and with four of the top five players ahead of him gone (Boise State’s Anthony Drmic is the lone returnee) Burton should be able to improve his standing in that statistical category. And if there’s one area in which Burton saw the need to improve entering the 2013-14 season, it was his perimeter shooting.

After making 37.2% of his three-point attempts as a sophomore, Burton shot just 30.1% in his Mountain West debut. Burton noted that he worked on his perimeter shooting and overall shot selection throughout the offseason, but on a team that didn’t have a high number of consistent scoring options, the shot selection was bound to be an issue last season. A contested shot by Burton was, at times, their best option offensively.

“Myself and Malik Story were the only two guys who had the ability to pick the team up offensively, so it was tough in that regard,” said Burton. “This year I have great teammates, guys who can finish and score inside and hit perimeter shots that I can rely on.”

It’s a lot to ask a point guard to run a team as well as be a primary scoring option, and for that reason there aren’t a high number of players at the position entrusted with both tasks. Arizona State’s Jahii Carson and California’s Justin Cobbs would be two examples of this, but both had multiple scoring options at their disposal and that ultimately led to more team success. The hope in Reno is that even with Story having graduated, there are enough pieces around Burton to help him flourish while also lightening the load on his shoulders.

The team’s summer trip to Italy helped with the growth process, as Burton and the other returnees were able to get some valuable court time with the team’s seven newcomers.

(CLICK HERE to read through the rest of NBCSports.com’s feature stories)

“They want to get better each and every day. That alone is a big step for them,” said Burton when asked of the newcomers with one being UTEP transfer Michael Perez, who’s expected to help fill the void left by Story. “They’re willing to listen and want to get better, and they come in each day and work hard at everything we do.”

With Story gone Burton’s role won’t change much at all, but the presence of those seven newcomers means that the senior point guard’s role as a team leader becomes even more important. The summer trip to Italy certainly helped in regards to Burton’s individual skill set and his bond with his teammates, but it also helped Burton improve as a leader.

“I think for him, his role stays the same in terms of being a leader and taking ownership of the team, and that’s what he’s done so far,” Carter said of his point guard. “His teammates were obviously excited that he chose to come back, and I think when he decided to come back that sent a strong message to our guys who were returning that he’s the leader. I think Italy just strengthened that bond between Deonte and his teammates.”

Ranking in the top ten in school history in points (10th), assists (8th) and steals (9th), Burton’s destined to go down as one of the most productive players in Nevada history. The respect from Mountain West foes is there as well.

The national praise hasn’t come as quickly however, but all involved know that the only way to change that is to go out and win more games.

No. 5 Xavier stumbles at Creighton, lose 70-54

Creighton's Cole Huff (13) and Toby Hegner, left, guard Xavier's Jalen Reynolds (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
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Mo Watson went for a career-high 32 points, seven boards and five assists as Creighton jumped out to an early 21-4 lead and never looked back, beating No. 5 Xavier, 70-54, in Omaha on Tuesday night.

 

It was a massive win for the Bluejays, who still have an outside shot at earning an at-large bid this season. (We wrote all about that here.)

As well as Creighton played, the bigger story here may actually be Xavier, who lost for just the third time this season; they had been the only top ten team with just two losses to their name.

The issue for the Musketeers tonight was two-fold, but they both are a symptom of what could be an issue down the road for this team: Xavier doesn’t really have a true point guard.

They certainly didn’t have anyone to stop Watson. By the second half, they had essentially asked Reynolds, who was playing the middle of their 1-3-1 zone to matchup with Watson. It was weird but was actually somewhat effective.

The Musketeers also started out ice cold from the floor, missing 11 of their first 13 shots, and those misses led to leak outs from Bluejays, who got layups and open threes in transition to build that 17 point lead. Once Xavier got behind, it turned into scramble mode for Xavier. They forced shots early in the clock and didn’t start pounding the ball into the paint until it was too late. What they needed was someone to be able to settle things, to ensure that offensive would get initiated and sets would get executed when they were able to get the lead down to single digits.

That 1-for-19 shooting performance from beyond the arc certainly didn’t help matters, and neither did the fact that they got just nine field goals all game from players not named James Farr or Jalen Reynolds. The most frustrating part for head coach Chris Mack? They had good shots. It wasn’t like Creighton took away everything that Xavier wanted to do.

The kids just had one of those nights where nothing went down.

Those happen.

And when you combine them with a total inability to contain the opposing team’s point guard, what you get is a 16 point loss on the road against a team that was desperate to get a good win.

Gill’s 16, ‘D’ lead No. 7 Virginia past Virginia Tech, 67-49

Lehigh Virginia Basketball
AP Photo/Andrew Shurtleff
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) Anthony Gill scored 16 points and No. 7 Virginia turned the tables on state rival Virginia Tech with a 67-49 victory Tuesday night, the Cavaliers’ seventh straight.

Isaiah Wilkins added a career-best 14 points and Malcolm Brogdon had 12 for the Cavaliers (20-4, 9-3 Atlantic Coast Conference). Virginia avenged a 70-68 loss to the Hokies in Blacksburg on Jan. 4 in what rates as their worst performance of the season, and extended their winning streak at John Paul Jones Arena to 17 games.

Freshman Justin Robinson scored 16 points and classmate Chris Clarke had 11 in his first action for the Hokies (13-12, 5-7) since breaking his right foot in late December. Virginia Tech’s top two scorers, Zach LeDay (16.0 ppg) and Seth Allen (14.5), were limited to seven and six points, respectively, in part because of foul trouble.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett said his team wasn’t ready to play when it lost to the Hokies earlier, but they have been surging of late and were focused from the outset. They were credited with assists and 14 of their first 15 baskets and forced 10 turnovers in the first half; they forced just eight in the last meeting of the teams.

For most of the game, the Hokies had more turnovers than field goals.

The Cavaliers led 32-20 at halftime and extended their advantage to 47-29 on a three-point play by Mike Tobey with 12:11 remaining. It capped an 11-4 run for Virginia, during which LeDay was whistled for his fourth foul. On Virginia’s next trip down court, it got the ball to Gill inside and LeDay basically backed off and let him score, quickly earning a spot on the bench.

The Cavaliers’ lead never dipped into single digits again.

The Hokies had just eight turnovers and outscored Virginia 26-6 off turnovers in their first meeting. This time, Virginia Tech had 10 turnovers by halftime and the Cavaliers had already turned them into 15 points. Virginia Tech finished with 16 field goals and 15 turnovers.

Already leading 9-6, Virginia got scoring from eight players in a 23-8 run that spanned about 8 1/2 minutes.

Gill started it with a dunk, Brogdon hit a 3-pointer, London Perrantes had a four-point play and Wilkins finished it with two free throws, giving the Cavaliers a 32-14 lead with 2:06 left in the half. They didn’t score again, and the Hokies closed within 32-20 by halftime.

TIP-INS

Virginia Tech: The Hokies shot 57.1 percent (15 of 26) from the field in the second half of their 70-68 victory against Virginia on Jan. 4. … Virginia Tech’s starting five totaled four points in the first half.

Virginia: The Cavaliers have held four consecutive opponents to 50 points or fewer.

UP NEXT

Virginia Tech plays at No. 12 Miami next Wednesday.

Virginia plays at Duke on Saturday.

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The AP’s college basketball page: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org