Oregon v Georgetown

Markel Starks on Josh Smith: ‘You never really know what you’re going to get from [him]’

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Joshua Smith has been an enigma since the moment he stepped on a collegiate court.

From a talent perspective, there are few that are on Smith’s level. His size, his hands, his footwork, his touch around the rim. He’s got lottery pick talent.

His problem has always been effort and desire.

Does he want to be good at basketball bad enough to get into — and stay in — game-shape? This is his fourth year as a college basketball player, and the answer, to date, is a definitive ‘no’.

He’s better conditioned now than he was the last couple of years back at UCLA and, to his credit, he does look slimmer. But he’s still not in the kind of shape that would allow him to maximize his potential. He’s still a major defensive liability. And he’s still struggling with his consistency.

I’m not the only one to notice.

“If I come out, if I’m lax, the entire team is going to be lax. Some guys are going to come that are ready to play, but from a mental standpoint, I pose so much for the team to be collectively good,” senior point guard Markel Starks told Ben Standig of CSNWashington.com. “D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, he’s going to come out, he’s going to be ready to play. Josh, it’s a different story. You never really know what you’re going to get from Josh. Not so much we, but he also has to find his rhythm and give us something consistent. No, he’s not going to give us 25 points and seven rebounds a night. Can he, absolutely. He can be the most dominant big in the nation. But is he? We have yet to determine that.”

Starks later added, “Honestly, Josh can play 30 minutes. It’s just does Josh want to play 30 minutes on a particular night. He’s in really good shape. Everybody wants to talk about his weight and stuff like that. That stuff goes out the window. He’s productive and he can be really productive for us and he will be productive for us. (Starks laughs) He doesn’t have any other option.”

It’s important to note here that Starks was speaking with “positive intentions”, according to Standig. It also should be noted that Starks and Smith are roommates, and that Starks is not the kind of personality that will sugarcoat what he says. He’s an intense dude, and if he’s saying something to the media, you better believe he’s said the same thing to Smith.

But it’s interesting to note that someone on the Georgetown roster is recognizing the same thing that we are. Smith, with all of his deficiencies, is the guy that turns Georgetown from an NCAA tournament team to a legitimate favorite to win the Big East.

POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
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Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.