The Chase for 180: Nic Moore’s hot start

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Who is the best shooter in the country?

It’s a tough question to answer, isn’t it? Does being a “shooter” simply mean merely being a high-level marksman from beyond the arc? Can a player who thrives in the mid-range but rarely ventures out into three-point land be eligible? How heavily should we be valuing stats like efficiency and effective field goal percentage when taking all of this into account?

One number that we like to use is “180″. How do you become a 180 shooter? By shooting 50% or better from the field overall, 40% or better from three and at least 90% from the charity stripe. From this point forward we’ll track this until the end of the regular season, providing weekly updates as well as a look into how some of the nation’s best find (and connect on) their quality looks.

In their second season under Larry Brown the SMU Mustangs are off to an 8-2 start, and while they may not be mentioned with the likes of Louisville, Memphis and UConn in the American Athletic Conference there’s no denying the fact that the program has taken positive steps since his arrival. With five returning starters and some talented newcomers, SMU is expected to improve upon its 15-17 mark of a season ago.

One of the biggest reasons for the Mustangs’ 8-2 start is a transfer from Illinois State whose also the lone player under six feet tall. 5-foot-9 point guard Nic Moore was one of the best freshmen in the Missouri Valley Conference in 2011-12, earning MVC All-Freshman Team honors and helping lead the Redbirds to the MVC tournament title game. During that season Moore averaged 10.0 points and 3.9 assists per game but his shooting percentages were low, as he shot 39.6% from the field and 38.9% from beyond the arc.

That year in residency spent by the majority of transfers (yes, despite all the waivers that get handed out that rule does still exist) can be highly beneficial, because while it’s a nuisance to sit out players can also use the time to further refine their skills. For Moore, from a statistical standpoint he’s become a much better jump shooter at SMU. Per hoop-math.com, Moore made just 41% of his two-point jumpers in his lone season at Illinois State. Through ten games at SMU, that percentage is up to 56.5%

Overall Moore’s shooting 55.8% from the field, and he tied for seventh nationally in three-point percentage (60%). Moore’s failed to shoot at least 44% from the field in just one game this season, shooting 4-for-11 in the Mustangs’ season-opening win over TCU. A point guard’s primary responsibility is to run his team, but you have to be able to make shots as well.

Moore’s arrival is one of the reasons why SMU has experienced a sharp improvement in offensive efficiency (up to 68th nationally per Ken Pomeroy after ranking 215th last season), effective field goal percentage (20th compared to 207th) and three-point percentage (17th compared to 130th). And if he can keep on the current track that he’s on, Moore has the ability to finish the season as a “180” player while also leading the Mustangs to greater success than they experienced a season ago.

THE TOP TEN (Note: Players much be eligible to be ranked in FG%, 3PT% and FT%. And here’s a glossary that includes the stats you’ll see used in these posts.)

1) Austin Tillotson (Colgate)
67.1% FG, 64.0% 3PT, 78.6% FT = 209.7
Shot%: 18.3%
eFG%: 78.1%
True shooting%: 78.8%

2) Anthony Brown (Stanford)
58.3%, 60.0%, 77.8% = 196.1
Shot%: 19.6%
eFG%: 70.8%
True shooting%: 72.7%

3) Michael Frazier II (Florida)
50.6%, 52.0%, 93.3% = 195.9
Shot%: 20.1%
eFG%: 66.7%
True shooting%: 69.2%

4) Nic Moore (SMU)
55.8%, 60.0%, 79.2% = 195.0
Shot%: 20.4%
eFG%: 73.3%
True shooting%: 74.4%

5) Rashad Madden (Arkansas)
56.8%, 60.0%, 73.1% = 189.9
Shot%: 18.8%
eFG%: 70.5%
True shooting%: 71.9%

6) Drew Windler (Belmont)
56.6%, 56.0%, 73.5% = 186.1
Shot%: 22.1%
eFG%: 73.5%
True shooting%: 74.1%

7) Kevin Pangos (Gonzaga)
47.4%, 47.4%, 91.1% = 185.9
Shot%: 24.2%
eFG%: 61.1%
True shooting%: 65.9%

8) Steve Glowiak (Sacred Heart)
46.8%, 47.5%, 90.9% = 185.2
Shot%: 22.1%
eFG%: 64.6%
True shooting%: 66.5%

9) Shabazz Napier (UConn)
50.0%, 57.1%, 78.0% = 185.1
Shot%: 22.0%
eFG%: 58.9%
True shooting%: 63.0%

10) Joab Jerome (Winthrop)
53.6%, 59.1%, 71.0% = 183.7
Shot%: 22.6%
eFG%: 63.0%
True shooting%: 65.1%

*Tempo-neutral stats courtesy of kenpom.com.

Five Perimeter Marksmen (attempted ten or fewer two-point shots)
1) Jeff Elorriaga (Boise State)
60.0% 3PT (5-for-6 on two-pointers)

2) Norman Hobbie (Brown)
58.3% (1-for-3)

3) Jaylen Shaw (South Carolina)
58.3% (3-for-4)

4) Eli Harrison (Dartmouth)
55.6% (1-for-5)

5) Naz Long (Iowa State)
55.0% (6-for-9)

Previous Installments
November 11
December 4
December 11

Florida State picks up late commit from McDonald’s All-American

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The losses sustained by Florida State have been numerous and significant. Three players declared early for the NBA Draft. Another two contributors were lost to graduation. All in all, the Seminoles haven’t had the greatest of springs.

Wednesday, though, they got some good news.

McDonald’s All-American wing M.J. Walker committed Leonard Hamilton’s program to give Florida State a late, and important, addition to its 2017 recruiting class, beating the likes of Ohio State, Georgia Tech and UCLA.

Walker, a 6-foot-5 guard, gives the Seminoles yet another five-star prospect after landing Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac in the last two recruiting classes. Walker will help Hamilton and Co. reboot after both Bacon and Isaac, along with Xavier Rathan-Mayes, all left school to pursue professional careers after the Seminoles’ 26-9 season that saw them advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Walker becomes the sixth member of Hamilton’s 2017 recruiting class that was previously headlined by four-star 7-footer Ikechukwu Obiagu. That group will be tasked to retool a team losing not only major NBA-level talent, but also major production. The Seminoles won’t return a single player who averaged double-digit points per-game last year and just one who played at least 20 minutes per night.

Michigan returns Mo Wagner, loses D.J. Wilson

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The best-case scenario did not take place for Michigan this week.

The Wolverines waited for four weeks to hear back from their pair of mobile big men, and the news on Mo Wagner was positive. The 6-foot-10 junior from Germany announced on Wednesday that he will return to school after testing the NBA Draft waters.

The news was not as fortunate with D.J. Wilson, who announced less than ten hours before the deadline that he will be signing with an agent and turning pro. Wilson is projected as a late first round or early second round pick.

Without Wilson in the fold, Michigan lacks some front court depth, which will probably be enough to keep them out of the preseason top 25.

Gonzaga to return Johnathan Williams III

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Losing Nigel Williams-Goss and Zach Collins to the professional ranks probably torpedoed Gonzaga’s chance of making another run to the NCAA tournament national title game, but after Johnathan Williams III announced on Wednesday that he will be returning to school and withdrawing from the NBA Draft, Gonzaga does appear to be a favorite to win the WCC title again.

Williams is now Gonzaga’s leading returning scorer and rebounder, anchoring a front court that also loses Przemek Karnowski to graduation. He was expected to go undrafted.

With Williams back in the fold, the Zags should be right there with Saint Mary’s in the race for the WCC title. Josh Perkins, Silas Melson and Killian Tillie all return as well.

ESPN was the first to report the news.

Injured Gamecocks point guard Blanton gives up basketball

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina guard TeMarcus Blanton is giving up basketball after struggling with a serious hip injury he suffered before his freshman season.

Gamecocks coach Frank Martin says Blanton told him he could not get his body to respond to a level that would allow him to continue playing basketball. Blanton is a 6-foot-5 junior from Locust Grove, Georgia, who hurt his hip during preseason for the 2014-15 season. He needed surgery and could not return to the court until his sophomore year.

Blanton played in 29 games, averaging 1.4 points a game.

He said on social media he is grateful to his coaches, teammates and South Carolina fans, “but my journey of basketball has come to an end.”

Blanton received a medical exemption from the Southeastern Conference to remain part of the Gamecocks’ program moving forward.

North Carolina’s Tony Bradley to remain NBA Draft

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For the first time in a decade and just the third time in 14 seasons as UNC’s head coach, Roy Williams has a one-and-done player.

North Carolina’s Tony Bradley will sign with an agent and remain in the NBA Draft.

Bradley had an impressive freshman season, averaging 7.1 points and 5.1 boards in less than 15 minutes per game as the sixth-man for the national title-winning Tar Heels. He initially declared for the draft without signing with an agent, testing the waters, and the feedback was positive: He’ll likely be a late first round or early second round pick.

As the process dragged on, it became fairly evident that Bradley would keep his name in the draft, and that is a massive blow for a UNC team that is already losing Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks, not to mention Justin Jackson.

As it stands, Roy Williams will likely start the following lineup next season: Joel Berry II, Kenny Williams and Theo Pinson on the perimeter with Luke Maye and either Brandon Huffman or Garrison Brooks, both freshmen, alongside him. Williams is one of the few coaches left in the sport that still relies on playing two bigs and utilizing an overwhelming front court to win games, and that is not going to be an easy thing to do with that group of bigs.

UNC’s perimeter is strong. Berry will likely be a preseason all-american while Pinson and Williams are both above average role players on the wings.

But without that hoss in the paint — Bradley, like Berry, would have popped up on preseason all-american teams — the Tar Heels are going to have a tough time making a run at an ACC title, let alone a third straight trip to the national title game.

North Carolina is currently ranked 18th in the NBC Sports preseason top 25.