Late Night Snacks: No. 2 Michigan State, No. 12 North Carolina struggle

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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Nevada 92, San Francisco 90 

The battle between the Wolf Pack and Dons didn’t lack for entertainment, with the two starting point guards leading the way. Nevada’s Deonte Burton finished with 31 points and six rebounds, while San Francisco’s Cody Doolin tallied 33 points and four assists in a losing effort.

A key for the Wolf Pack was their ability to neutralize USF senior forward Cole Dickerson, who finished with nine points and eight rebounds on the night. In addition to Burton three other Nevada players scored in double figures, with Michael Perez and Cole Huff scoring 15 points apiece and Jerry Evans Jr. adding 11.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES: 

1) No. 2 Michigan State 62, Columbia 53: Much to Tom Izzo’s chagrin the Spartans, fresh off of their win over No. 1 Kentucky on Tuesday, came out with little fire against Columbia and struggled for much of the night. But some credit should be given to Kyle Smith’s Lions, who controlled the tempo throughout and likely would have won if not for Adreian Payne (26 points, 11 rebounds).

“We’ve just got to hope now that Kansas blows somebody out so [the voters] move them ahead of us,” Izzo said after the game. “We proved tonight we’re not ready to handle any kind of success, and that disappoints me.”

Michigan State hosts Portland on Monday, and one would suspect that they’ll show up more prepared to play.

2) No. 4 Duke 97, FAU 64: Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker was productive for the Blue Devils, who had no problem moving on from the Champions Classic. And Andre Dawkins, after playing just two minutes in Duke’s first two games, scored 17 points in 19 minutes off the bench. If he can be a consistent perimeter shooter for the Blue Devils, they’ll be even tougher to defend.

3) No. 12 North Carolina 62, Holy Cross 54: Like Michigan State the Tar Heels did not play well against a scrappy opponent, but Roy Williams’ team was still able to pull out to victory. Marcus Paige scored 23 points to lead the way offensively, and it’s quite apparent that this team needs P.J. Hairston on the floor. When that time will come who knows, but until he is UNC will have its issues offensively. And, the schedule will get tougher with games against Michigan State and Kentucky on the non-conference slate.

STARRED:

1) Roscoe Smith (UNLV): Smith was outstanding in UNLV’s 73-70 win over Omaha, posting a line of 17 points and 22 rebounds to lead the Runnin’ Rebels to a win they needed to get.

2) Jalan West (Northwestern State): 30 points (10-for-15 FG), nine rebounds, six assists and three steals in the Demons’ 111-92 win at Auburn.

3) Jabari Parker (Duke): Rodney Hood (28 points) was Duke’s leading scorer, but this selection’s about history more than anything. Prior to Parker’s arrival, no Duke freshman under Krzyzewski managed to score 20 points or more in each of his first three games. With his 21 points and ten rebounds against FAU, Parker accomplished that feat.

STRUGGLED: 

1) Auburn: Tony Barbee’s Tigers led Northwestern State 48-39 at the half, and then seemingly decided that they no longer needed to play defense. The Demons would score 72 second-half points and beat the Tigers 111-92.

2) Jon Severe (Fordham): The good news for Severe is that the Rams beat Lehigh, 80-72. The bad: he shot 5-for-23 from the field (0-for-10 3PT).

3) Angelo Warner and Bakari Turner (Morehead State): The two guards combined to score ten points in the Eagles’ 79-56 loss to Xavier, but they did so while shooting a combined 0-for-13 from the field.

NOTABLES:

  • Arizona State senior center Jordan Bachynski blocked six shots, which made him the school’s all-time leader in blocked shots (he passed Mario Bennett). Arizona State beat Idaho State 88-60 with Jahii Carson’s 19 points leading the way.
  • Two Brett Comer free throws with six seconds remaining proved to be the difference as FGCU came back to beat Furman 70-69. Comer finished with 21 points and Bernard Thompson added 20 to lead the way for the Eagles.
  • Kevin Ware made his regular season debut in No. 3 Louisville’s 99-54 win over Cornell. Ware scored five points in 13 minutes of action but it was Wayne Blackshear who stood out, scoring 20 points to lead the way offensively.
  • Trae Golden (18 points) and Daniel Miller (14 points, 13 rebounds) led the way as Georgia Tech beat in-state rival Georgia for the third consecutive season, 80-71.
  • Indiana welcomed back former assistant Bennie Seltzer on Friday, as he’s now the head coach at Samford. The Hoosiers weren’t all that hospitable to Seltzer’s players however, beating the Bulldogs 105-59.
  • Markel Brown (22 points), Phil Forte (22) and Marcus Smart (16) combined to score 60 points to lead No. 8 Oklahoma State to a 97-63 win over UAPB.
  • Cal freshman Jabari Bird scored 24 points to lead the Golden Bears to a 64-60 win over Oakland, which dressed just eight scholarship players.
  • Brandon Taylor (21 points) led four players in double figures as Utah whipped UC Davis, 94-60.
  • BYU guard Tyler Haws did not play in the Cougars’ 108-75 win over Mount St. Mary’s due to an abdominal strain. With BYU playing Colorado Mesa on Saturday and a game against Iowa State coming on Wednesday, it will be interesting to see if he plays.
  • South Florida point guard Anthony Collins made his season debut after missing the opener with a knee injury, accounting for seven points and five rebounds in 26 minutes off the bench in the Bulls’ 75-61 win at Bowling Green.

Creighton loses starter Krampelj for the season

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Creighton big man Martin Krampulj will miss the rest of the season after tearing the ACL in his left team, the team announced on Thursday.

Krampelj was one of the most improved players in the Big East this year, averaging 11.9 points and 8.1 boards while starting 19 games. He suffered the injury in a win over Seton Hall on Wednesday.

Last year, the Bluejays lost all-american point guard Mo Watson to a torn ACL right around this same point in the season.

Colorado freshman out while dealing battling stroke-like symptoms

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Colorado redshirt freshman Evan Battey suffered a medical scare while back at home in California during the semester break, and it’s unclear how and when he’ll be able to return to practice.

The team has not detailed specifics of what happened to Battey but that is mainly because they aren’t quite sure the specifics. They said that he is dealing with stroke-like symptoms after collapsing at his home.

“He’ll be meeting with doctors and starting his rehab process this week as we get going,” Boyle told reporters this week. “The doctors are still gathering information. Now our doctors can look at him, see him, and get him to who he needs to see. They’re still getting everything from the doctors in California from when the event happened. There’s a lot of things that need to go on.”

“Obviously I want it to happen right away. Evan wants it to happen right away. But we’re just going to take it one day at a time, have him get better and improved. He’s been doing that and that’s all we can ask.”

Battey has had some tough breaks during his basketball career. He did not pay his final season in high school after a family issue caused him to have to repeat his freshman year. Since he did not graduate in four years, he also had to redshirt this season.

What’s Wrong With Trae Young: An in-depth look at how defenses are adjusting to the Oklahoma superstar

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In the past two weeks, Oklahoma’s Trae Young learned the hard way that there is always a cost that comes with success, and for him, it appears to be the weight of expectation.

Young has become a sensation in college basketball this season. He is this year’s version of Adam Morrison, or Jimmer Fredette, or Stephen Curry. He is the best story in college basketball, must-see TV not just because of the numbers he puts up but because of the entertainment that comes with getting seats to the The Trae Young Show.

Not only that, but Young is playing in the toughest conference in college basketball for a title contender as a 19-year old freshman in the biggest, most important and most influential role I can ever remember seeing a player in. Put another way, he has the best coaches in the country ranking their brains for a way to slow him down and get the ball out of his hands all while he, in the back of his mind, is wondering how he can top what he did the game before.

Young has never told me that’s the way he feels, but isn’t that human nature? When I write a great story, I want the next one to be just as good if not better. Musicians want their next single to be better than their last. Lawyers that crush a cross-examination want their closing argument to ensure they win the case. And Young wants to be better every game than he was the previous.

And that, it seems, is why Young has hit the first slump of his post-high school career.

On Tuesday night, No. 4 Oklahoma went into Kansas State and got whooped, 87-69, as Young shot 8-for-21 from the floor and turned the ball over 12 times. Against the Wildcats, Bruce Weber came up with a game-plan that was as simple as it was effective. They blitzed Young on every ball-screen and dribble-handoff, forcing the ball out of his hands before face-guarding him to try and prevent him from getting the ball back.

That came on the heels on committing nine turnovers against TCU over the weekend. He currently leads the country in turnovers – 5.2 per game, including 39 turnovers in his last five games – and it’s a result of the degree of difficulty of the plays that Young is trying to make; it’s almost as if he’s trying to get an assist, to make a highlight reel pass, on every possession, an issue that gets magnified by the number of layups opponents get off of those turnovers:

“He’s trying to do too much,” Young’s father, Rayford, said this week. “He wants to win so bad. He’s got to understand in this league coaches make a lot of money to scout you and shut you down.”

“That’s the difference between now and the beginning of the year. People didn’t understand how to get the ball out of his hands. Now there is some film on him.”

The other issue with Young of late is making the right read. I wrote earlier this season about Young’s passing and how he is so good at reading where defenders are in pick-and-rolls. He had a knack for almost always making the right pass:

But he’s made mistakes more often in recent games than in the first couple of weeks of the season.

In the first clip below, you’ll see Young try to make a no-look pass to the roll-man out after getting blitzed, not seeing that Kansas State was sending a weak-side defender to help. The pass that was open was to the weak-side corner, where Christian James would have had an open look at a three:

In the second clip above, the pass Young tries to make isn’t wrong – getting Jamuni McNeace the ball with a smaller defender on his back can work – but he didn’t put the ball on the money.

That is another trend I noticed watching Young in recent games. I’m not sure sloppy would be the right word to use, but where he typically had been putting the ball exactly where it needed to be previously, he’s now throwing the ball into the crowd.

In the first clip below, you’ll see Young make the right read and find Brady Manek for an open three. The shot didn’t go down, but that’s the shot that Oklahoma is looking for. In the second clip, Young does the same, except the pass ended up three feet off the mark and resulted in a turnover. At the end of the play, Young is visibly frustrated:

In the end, I think the fix here is fairly simple.

For starters, Lon Kruger just needs to settle the kid down. The first action of a possession doesn’t have to lead to a shot. Keeping possession and running more offense is better than forcing a pass with 20 seconds left on the shot clock. I would also expect Kruger to find more ways to get Young into a ball-screen action that goes beyond a simple high-ball screen. Some false motion at the start of a possession can work wonders moving a defense around and getting individual defenders into uncomfortable positions.

Young also needs to trust his teammates a little more, and not in the sense that he doesn’t think they can get the job done but because it would alleviate some of the pressure that falls on his shoulders. Brady Manek, Christian James, Kameron McGusty. Those are good players that can probably handle more of the load.

At the end of the day, opponents have made some adjustments to what Oklahoma wants to do.

And now it is on the Sooners to tweak what they do.

This happens with every team in the country during the course of the season, but given how reliant Oklahoma is on one player, the effect is magnified.

That’s a long-winded way of saying this: The Sooners are fine.

Stanford’s surprising mid-season turnaround continues with upset of No. 16 Arizona State

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Stanford earned a huge home win over No. 16 Arizona State on Wednesday night, taking down the Sun Devils for an 86-77 Pac-12 win.

The win for the Cardinal continues one of the best (and most surprising) turnarounds in the nation as Stanford is keeping pace with Arizona atop the Pac-12 standings. Now sitting at 5-1 in the conference, the Cardinal have won five consecutive games after sitting at 6-8 for the season following a loss to Cal. Stanford has picked off UCLA, USC and Arizona State since the start of 2018 while also sweeping the Washington schools on the road last week. Now Stanford is 11-8 overall while looking like one of the more dangerous teams in the Pac-12.

So how did this turnaround exactly happen?

Stanford figured things out with the mid-season addition of touted freshman forward Kezie Okpala. A bit of a late-blooming prospect coming out of high school, the 6-foot-8 Okpala was a high-end four-star recruit who had to sit out Stanford’s first 12 games this season due to academic complications.

During his final semester of high school, Okpala dropped below the threshold of what Stanford required in an AP calculus course while he tried to juggle the academic rigors of three AP classes. Stanford’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions notified Okpala of this and said they’d honor the original decision to admit him if he agreed to sit out of competition.

It was initially unclear if Okpala would play this season, but he’s figured out the academic side of things, and Stanford is very happy that he’s with them on the court. Since Okpala’s debut, the team has gone 5-2 with the freshman playing extended minutes in all seven contests. Okpala has even scored in double-figures in five of seven games he’s played in so far this season.

While Okpala actually had his worst shooting performance of the season on Wednesday in the win over Arizona State — finishing with four points on 1-for-8 shooting — his size and skill level on the wing (five assists) helped the Cardinal in other facets of the game. Outrebounding the Sun Devils, 44-30, while adding 13 offensive rebounds, Stanford has a long and athletic main lineup with Okpala in the mix.

Forward Reid Travis (18 points, 10 rebounds) remains one of the Pac-12’s most productive players after helping dismantle the Sun Devils with another double-double. Seniors like guard Dorian Pickens (19 points) and center Michael Humphrey (four points, five rebounds) are solid contributors. Freshman guard Daejon Davis (13 points, eight assists) is also seeing his play improve over time as he’s been picking things up lately as conference play gets going.

It might be too-little, too-late when it comes to Stanford’s NCAA tournament hopes after such a rough start. At least the Cardinal are showing plenty of fight now that they have their prized recruit in the lineup. Okpala’s return has given Stanford a major boost as the Cardinal look like a real threat with its rotation in place.

There’s still a long way to go before the Pac-12 conference race is decided. Stanford still has to prove this five-game winning streak isn’t merely a fluke like the half-court buzzer-beater that lifted them past USC. But the Cardinal has at least put themselves in the conversation among the league’s better teams. Nobody saw that coming a few weeks ago.

Wednesday’s Three Things To Know: No. 8 Texas Tech, No. 19 Seton Hall get dropped on the road

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The nights where there aren’t any marquee games are always the nights where college basketball goes absolutely batty.

Wednesday night was no different.

Here are the three things you need to know.

1. TEXAS TECH BLEW THE ADVANTAGE THEY HAD IN THE BIG 12 RACE

It’s a talking point that never really caught on, but prior to Wednesday night’s trip to Austin, No. 8 Texas Tech had the inside lane in the race for the Big 12 regular season title.

There is a clear-cut top four in the conference: Kansas, West Virginia, Oklahoma and the Red Raiders. The way to win the league was simple: Beat the teams outside of the top four and protect your home court against the other three contenders. Entering Wednesday, Texas Tech and Kansas were sitting one game ahead of West Virginia, who had lost at home to Kansas, and Oklahoma, had lost on the road to Kansas State. Texas Tech already had a leg up on the Jayhawks as well, as they won in Phog Allen Fieldhouse earlier this year.

I would hesitate to call anyone a favorite in the Big 12 that isn’t named Kansas, but the Red Raiders had certainly put themselves in a position where they had the easiest path.

And then the Texas game happened.

Mo Bamba went for 15 points, 11 boards and five blocks and Kerwin Roach poured in 20 in a return to the lineup as Texas beat No. 8 Texas Tech, 67-58. We knew losses were likely coming for the Red Raiders – no one is going to make it through this league without taking some lumps – but it has to be frustrating that those losses came when the program had a chance to keep pace with Kansas.

Credit to Texas. Their defense played as well as it has in weeks, they showed some toughness to get the win against a physical Tech team and they landed a résumé win that should age well.

Texas Tech also did a really cool thing for Andrew Jones prior to the game.

2. SETON HALL GOT BLOWN OUT ON THE ROAD AND DESI RODRIGUEZ GOT BENCHED

Twice in the last eight days, No. 19 Seton Hall has lost by at least 17 points on the road after they fell, 80-63, at Creighton on Wednesday night.

Creighton is a good team. They were playing at home in an arena that routinely puts 17,000 butts in seats. When they get it going they are tough to beat, so there really isn’t all that much to be concerned about here in a vacuum.

But we’re not in a vacuum.

Seton Hall lost by 20 points at Marquette last Tuesday. Marquette is not as good as Creighton and they do not play in as tough of an atmosphere as there is in Omaha.

What’s worse, however, is that Desi Rodriguez – the guy that has probably been Seton Hall’s Player of the Year – played just six minutes. Here is Kevin Willard’s explanation:

“He had that look in his face where he just didn’t want to be out there. When he gets that way, you just got to let him regroup and refocus. And it just never happened.”

That’s probably a cover for something else, but the concern for Seton Hall fans was that Rodriguez was hurt.

Getting benched isn’t ideal. But it’s better than getting hurt.

3. ALABAMA ENDED NO. 17 AUBURN’S 14-GAME WINNING STREAK

But what is more impressive is that they did it without Collin Sexton, who was sitting out with an injury.

That is a massive win for the Crimson Tide’s NCAA tournament hopes, which our Scott Phillips detailed here.