Film Study: How San Diego State stopped Kansas in the post

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Kansas put together one of their worst offensive performances in recent memory on Sunday evening in Phog Allen Fieldhouse.

They shot a whopping 29.8% from the floor, hitting just 4-of-16 from beyond the arc while needing a late flurry just to make it look that respectable.

In recent games, Kansas has become a team that is more and more focused on running their offense through their talented front court duo of Perry Ellis and Joel Embiid. When you have two players capable of scoring the way that those two can score with their back-to-the-basket — and when your team has talented-but-enigmatic perimeter players that have been, to date, unable to dominate — you give those big fellas the ball.

According to Synergy’s logs, 13.8% of Jayhawk possessions are post-ups, which ranks 20th nationally and fifth — behind only LSU, North Carolina, Marquette and Stanford — among power conference teams. As a team, they’re scoring 0.993 points-per-possession (PPP) on post-ups, which is top 40 nationally even after dropping as a result of their struggles against the Aztecs.

I went through and charted every Kansas post touch in their 61-57 loss, and here’s what I found:

  • All told, the Jayhawks got 28 post touches: Embiid had 16 and Ellis had seven while Tarik Black (2), Jamari Traylor (2) and Andrew Wiggins (1) combined for the other five. Post touches aren’t the same as post possessions-used, as a number of times an SDSU double-team forced Kansas to simply throw the ball back out to the perimeter and run a different set, or the ball got knocked out of bounds forcing an out-of-bounds play, etc.
  • Those post touches led directly — meaning either through a basket, a foul shot, an assist or a “hockey” assist — to just 16 points. Their bigs only drew three fouls on SDSU big men in post-up situations while committing four turnovers.
  • There were only three field goals that were scored by Kansas bigs in post-up situations. Two came after Embiid passed out of a double-team to create a driving lane, with one layup coming off of an assist from Naadir Tharpe and the other coming off of an offensive rebound. The third came when Embiid found Ellis under the basket for a layup after dribbling out of a double-team. In other words, neither Embiid nor Ellis scored a basket on a post move.

So what did SDSU do to slow down the Jayhawk big men?

It was a simple big-to-big post-double. As soon as a Jayhawk big man caught a ball in a post-up situation, SDSU ran their second big man at them to double-team.

Here’s an example: As Wayne Selden is making his post-entry to Embiid, you can see where San Diego State’s J.J. O’Brien (circled in red) and Josh Davis (circled in green) are positioned:

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As you can see, even before Embiid controls the ball on the block, O’Brien has left his man to double Embiid while Davis has left his man to guard against a pass from Embiid to Ellis:

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This limits Embiid’s options. The help is coming from the middle, so he can try to spin baseline, where helpside defense is waiting if he’s able to beat his man. Or he can dribble out of the double-team and look to pass to one of the guys left open around the perimeter. He chooses the latter in this case (click on the image to see the GIF):

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There are ways to beat this defense. It requires quick ball movement and weak-side cutters, allowing the offense to attack close-outs on the opposite side of the floor. For example, on this possession, you’ll see Andrew Wiggins and Ellis cut hard to the ball side, drawing in SDSU’s defense and leaving Tharpe wide-open on the other side of the floor (click on the image to see the GIF):

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That creates a driving lane, and Embiid ends up finishing at the rim off of a nice assist from Tharpe.

The problem was that Kansas got far too little movement like on the offensive end until SDSU had already built their lead, and by then it was too late.

(all images and GIFs courtesy of CBS Sports broadcast)

Wake’s Collins declares for NBA draft without hiring agent

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) Wake Forest’s John Collins is entering the NBA draft but will not hire an agent and is keeping open the option of returning to school for his junior season.

In a statement Wednesday announcing the decision, Collins said he wants “to make an informed decision about what is best for my future.”

Collins is a 6-foot-10 forward who as a sophomore blossomed into one of the best big men in the Atlantic Coast Conference and was voted to the Associated Press all-ACC team.

He averaged 19.2 points and 9.8 rebounds, putting together a string of 12 consecutive 20-point games late in the season.

His progression was a big reason why the Demon Deacons earned their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2010. Kansas State beat Wake Forest in the First Four.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org

Porter, Jr. will ask for Washington release

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There may be an overwhelming assumption on where Michael Porter, Jr. – and his father – will ultimately end up, but the five-star recruit is said publicly that he see his re-recruitment process through.

Porter, Jr. said in a teleconference Wednesday that he will ask for his release from Washington, and his father, a former Huskies assistant, has been offered a job at Missouri by new Tigers coach Cuonzo Martin.

“Right now I’m just trying to take it slow with my family and weigh my options,” Porter Jr. said, according to the Kansas City Star. “I plan to get my (national letter of intent) from Washington back and just go from there, not saying that I’m not going to Washington anymore, but I just want to get it back and weigh my options.”

The prevailing thought has been that the Porters will ultimately land in Columbia, where they have significant history.

Still, it would appear at least publicly that Porter, Jr., a potential No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA draft, will weigh his options in at least the short-term.

Calipari signs two-year extension with Kentucky

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Kentucky continues to take care of John Calipari.

The Wildcats coach has received a two-year extension, keeping him under contract in Lexington through the 2024 season, the school announced Wednesday.

The contract will pay Calipari $7.75 million next season and increase to $8 million per season thereafter.

“John has achieved consistent championship-level performance at Kentucky,” Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement. “No one in America is better suited for everything that comes with being the coach here. Not only has he attained incredible success on the court, he is also a leader in our community and in college basketball.

“We have been blessed to have him and Ellen here for the last eight years and we are blessed they will continue to call Kentucky home.”

Not only does the deal extend Calipari, but it continues to keep Kentucky competitive with the NBA, which would seem to be the only outlet that would even potentially tempt Calipari away from Kentucky. An NBA franchise would have to make him among the highest-paid coaches in the league to even match Kentucky financially.

Of course, given that Calipari has spurned interest from the league since returning to college in 2000, it seems unlikely that financial considerations would be the lone or heaviest variable in making a decision to move on.

Certainly, Calipari has an excellent thing going at Kentucky as the premier recruiting program in the country that has enjoyed serious success on the court, culminating in a 2012 national title and a 38-0 start to the 2015 season before a loss in the Final Four.

“The last eight years at the University of Kentucky have been a terrific ride,” Calipari said in a statement. “This extension shows our full commitment to each other. I believe this school is the gold standard and I’m so thankful and blessed that this university has given me this opportunity at this point in my career.”

The Wildcats face UCLA in the Sweet 16 on Friday.

Louisville’s Mitchell declaring for draft, won’t hire an agent

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Louisville’s Donovan Mitchell is the latest to decide to see what the NBA might offer.

“I have decided to test the waters and not hire an agent!” Mitchell wrote in an Instagram post Wednesday. “I am excited to work out this summer for teams and hopefully participate in the NBA combine! I want it to be clear I have not decided to leave Louisville!”

Mitchell, who is expected to be joined by dozens of players, is taking advantage of new NCAA rules that allow him to work out for teams and attend the NBA draft combine before making a decision on whether to remain in the draft and return to school.

Players have until May 24 to withdraw from the draft and return to school.

Mitchell averaged 15.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists as a sophomore, shooting 40.8 percent overall and 35.4 percent on 3-point attempts.

The 6-foot-3 guard is projected as a potential first-round pick, but should he return, the Cardinals would project as one of the top teams in the country with nearly the entire core returning from this year’s 25-9 squad.

Moe-mentum: Wagner stands tall for Sweet 16-bound Michigan

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) Ask Moe Wagner who he looked up to when he was younger, and suddenly the Michigan big man’s fiery demeanor makes a little more sense.

“Kevin Garnett was always my biggest idol, even though our play isn’t really similar. Just the way he brings intensity and energy to his team,” Wagner said. “That always was something that really impressed me.”

Now Wagner is providing his own emotional leadership to a Michigan team that has become one of college basketball’s most remarkable stories this March.

The Wolverines have won six in a row since they were involved in a plane accident on the eve of their Big Ten Tournament opener.

After winning that conference tourney, they opened the NCAAs with victories against Oklahoma State and Louisville – with Wagner scoring 26 points in the win over Louisville that sent Michigan to the Sweet 16.

The 19-year-old Wagner is in his second season with the Wolverines. He showed some promise in 2015-16, but averaged only 8.6 minutes a game as a freshman. He’s been a starter the whole way this season, teaming up with D.J. Wilson to give Michigan some unexpected production in the frontcourt.

The Wolverines entered the season with high hopes thanks to the presence of seniors Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin.

The 6-foot-11 Wagner has made them even tougher to defend. The sophomore from Berlin is averaging 12.2 points a game, and unlike Mitch McGary and Jordan Morgan – two of Michigan’s top big men of the recent past – Wagner is a threat from beyond the arc. He’s made 41 percent of his 3-point attempts in 2016-17, putting even more pressure on opposing teams.

An expressive player on the court, Wagner admits he’s still learning how to keep his emotions under control.

Coach John Beilein says Wagner can be hard on himself, but he has an upbeat attitude the Wolverines can appreciate.

“I don’t want to rob him of his energy and his passion,” Beilein said. “If you heard him in timeouts – I mean, he is really into it. And it’s encouraging things he’s saying.”

The key for Wagner is to stay on the court. He’s been whistled for 100 fouls this season – no other Michigan player has more than 80 – and he picked up two in the first 3:11 when the Wolverines faced Oklahoma State in their NCAA Tournament opener Friday. Wagner played only 14 minutes in that frenetic game, which Michigan won 92-91 .

Against Louisville in the round of 32 , Wagner went 11 of 14 from the field and kept his poise after being called for his second foul late in the first half.

“He’s always just been an excited guy – play hard and play with a lot of passion,” Walton said. “I don’t think anything has changed. I think he’s just channeling it a little better.”

The seventh-seeded Wolverines face third-seeded Oregon on Thursday night in a regional semifinal. Michigan has won seven in a row, a streak that began with the team’s last game of the regular season.

What happened next is well documented. The day before its opening game in the conference tournament, Michigan’s plane slid off the runway .

There were no serious injuries, and the Wolverines arrived in time to play. Then they won four games in four days to take the title.

Now, Michigan is two victories away from an improbable Final Four appearance. If the Wolverines actually make it that far, Wagner will be a big reason why – and he’ll probably be as excited as anyone.

“One of my youth coaches actually used to say that I was somebody who, like, sees the basketball court as a stage and really enjoys it,” Wagner said. “Last year, I started to understand what that actually means, and kind of embraced that this year. That’s just me. I really love it. I really enjoy it.”