Film Study: What’s behind Jabari Parker’s recent slump

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What in the world has happened to Jabari Parker?

Three weeks ago, he was being hailed as the best offensive weapon in the history of college basketball. Ok, that may be overstating it just a bit, but there really wasn’t much that Parker wasn’t doing on the offensive end of the floor. Put a smaller defender on him and he would abuse them in the post. Put a bigger defender on him and he’d show off his highly-developed perimeter repertoire. He finished alley-oops a possession after grabbing a defensive rebound and going coast-to-coast for a dunk.

He was special, and Duke looked like a legitimate title contender.

But Jabari hasn’t been the same player since the calendar turn, and that no doubt plays a major role in why Duke has suddenly looked like a borderline top 25 team.

Check out these numbers:

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It’s pretty clear that his numbers have gone way down.

But why?

The obvious answer is the ‘Freshman Wall’, and there is certainly some merit to that. There is plenty of film to study on Parker at this point in the season, which means that coaches in the ACC are going to know what he’s done well and what he’s struggled with. Opponents will be game-planning around slowing him down. This is the first time in his career that he’s been scouted this thoroughly and he’s going to have to learn to adjust to what defenses are taking away. When you are as good as Parker is on the offensive end of the floor, defenses are going to be designed to slow you down. That’s just how it works.

And it’s also fair to assume that, eventually, Parker was going to regress to the mean. He shot lights-out for the first month of the season, especially from beyond the arc. No one can possibly keep up that rate, and while Parker was always a threat from the perimeter, he was never really known as an elite three-point marksman.

There’s more to it than that, however. I went through Synergy and watched about three hours worth of film on Parker and this is what I came away with:

1) Parker is settling for jumpers

The guy that was the nation’s most versatile offensive weapon has become a one-trick pony in recent games. He’s not posting up as often anymore. The majority of the looks that he is getting are coming off of spot-up jumpers and isolations where Parker settles for contested, step-back jumpers. To get an idea of his aggressiveness, Parker shot 43 threes and 70 free throws in the first 12 games. In the last five, he’s shot 21 threes and just 14 free throws.

There are two reasons for this:

  • Opponents are defending him with bigger, more athletic opponents. Virginia used Akil Mitchell on him. Notre Dame used Zach Auguste and Austin Burgett. Georgia Tech put Kammeon Holsey on him. His best game in ACC play came when he was guarded by 6-foot-7, 215 lb freshman Jaron Blossomgame at Clemson. As a result, when Parker does get his post touches, they come farther away from the rim and he has a tendency to simply face-up and shoot over the defender. On the perimeter, since he’s not getting all the way to the rim as easily as before, they are able to challenge those perimeter jumpers more easily thanks to their size and length.
  • For a guy that is as talented and well-rounded offensively as Parker is, Duke certainly doesn’t run a lot of sets for him. When they do, he’s not running off of down screens or getting a chance to curl to the rim, he’s getting set up for a chance to square his man up and go one-on-one. I did a breakdown here of how Creighton uses Doug McDermott off the ball, running him off screen after screen after screen in the half court. Far too often, Parker simply spends a possession standing in the corner. Granted, Duke has more weapons offensively that Creighton does, but it’s still striking how often he’s essentially a decoy used to pull a big man away from the rim.

2) Is Parker out of shape?

Parker’s legs look like they’re dead. He’s not getting as much lift on his jumpshot as he was early in the season. When players are feeling good, they miss long. When they’re tired, they miss short because their shot is flat, or to the right or left, losing some accuracy as they try to get a little bit of extra ‘oomph’ on their jumper. This problem gets magnified by the fact that Parker is becoming so much more reliant on that jumper.

Parker was never going to be confused with Patric Young in terms of his physique, but early on in the season, he looked svelte, like he had lost a few pounds since his high school days. I saw the Blue Devils in person five times in the first month of the season, so maybe it’s TV playing tricks on me, but it looks like he’s added a bit of weight as well. A heavier frame certainly won’t help dead legs.

3) Is his defense affecting his offense?

Watching film on Duke, it was striking seeing just how poor of a defender Parker is. Part of it is that he’s being forced to play out of position. Often times, he’s guarding an opponent’s best interior player, and that can take a lot out of a player’s legs. But there’s more to it than that. He loses track of his man defensively. He’s late rotating from helpside. He routinely forgets to box his man out.

That’s part of the reason that Parker was benched for the final 3:35 in the loss against Notre Dame, which makes you wonder how much of this recent slump is simply Parker losing some of his confidence on the offensive end of the floor.

Whatever the case may be, the bottom line is that Jabari Parker is not playing well right now.

Duke will not be a legitimate threat to win anything until he is.

Indiana hires Dayton head coach Archie Miller

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Indiana is expected to hire Dayton head coach Archie Miller, the school announced.

The deal will be for seven years, according to The Vertical. Miller had spent the last six seasons as the head coach at Dayton, getting to four straight NCAA tournaments, including the Elite 8 in 2014, while winning the last two Atlantic 10 regular season titles.

Miller had been targeted by seemingly every high major program with an opening since he reached the Elite 8, but similar to Shaka Smart when he left VCU, Miller simply waited for the right job to come long.

Indiana is the right job.

There had been some speculation that Miller wouldn’t want to take Indiana, that his dream job is Ohio State and that the idea of coaching in a fishbowl like Bloomington is not something that would be all that appealing to him. But Indiana is an elite job. It’s the kind of opening that happens once every four or five years, and if Miller had said no to the Hoosiers now, it’s very possible that an opportunity like this wouldn’t come along for years, if ever.

Elite 8 Preview: Saturday’s picks, predictions, betting lines and channels

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So Friday got good.

If Zak Showalter’s game-tying three and subsequent discount double-check wasn’t enough, we had Canyon Barry’s chasedown block and, well, this game-winner from Chris Chiozza.

And all that came after De’Aaron Fox took out what felt like a season’s worth of frustration out on Lonzo Ball.

What is on tap for tonight?

No. 1 GONZAGA (-8) vs. No. 11 XAVIER, 6:09 p.m., TBS: Someone is going to be making their way to the Final Four for the first time on Saturday night, as Xavier’s Chris Mack and Gonzaga’s Mark Few square off for the right to play on the final weekend of the season.

And in a way, this is the perfect Final Four game. Both the Zags and the Musketeers are basketball schools in basketball leagues. They come from outside the power structure and have head coaches that have spurned jobs from within the power structure to remain there. They are built for a run like this, even if they were both overlooked on the way here.

Xavier was obvious. Playing without Edmond Sumner and Myles Davis, the Musketeers just haven’t been the team that they were supposed to be this season. That’s why they lost six straight games in February, but things have turned around in March, as Trevon Bluiett has put the program on his back and willed them to the Elite 8. Gonzaga is the opposite. They went 29-0 to start the season, but they have yet to be accepted as a legitimate title contender by most of the people that watch the games.

My guess on Saturday night is that the Zags make their statement and emphatically get into the Final Four.

PREDICTION: Gonzaga (-8)

No. 1 KANSAS (-7) vs.  No. 3 OREGON, 8:49 p.m., TBS: This matchup is a lot tastier on paper than it is likely going to end up being on the floor. As good as Oregon has been this season, they are, essentially, Kansas light. They play two lead guards together and they play small-ball, with a natural wing lined up at the four.

The problem?

The Kansas guys are just better. Josh Jackson is a better player than Dillon Brooks. His length and athleticism should give the Oregon star fits. Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham are better than whatever combination of Payton Pritchard, Tyler Dorsey and Dylan Ennis the Ducks opt to use.

And, for that matter, no team is playing better right now that they Jayhawks, who beat Michigan State by 20, Purdue by 32 and became the first team to score 90 points in their first three NCAA tournament games since 1995. I think that trend continues on Saturday night.

PREDICTION: Kansas (-7)

Sunday’s NCAA Tournament Elite Eight schedule, tip times, and announcer pairings

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Regional Finals – Sunday, March 26

2:20 p.m.,CBS, New York
No. 7 South Carolina vs. No. 4 Florida (Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce)

5:05 p.m., CBS, Memphis
No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 2 Kentucky (Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery, Tracy Wolfson)

Steve Alford: ‘I’m very happy at UCLA’

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UCLA head coach Steve Alford was still processing an 86-75 season-ending loss to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 on Friday night when he had to answer questions about another blueblood program.

Sine the dismal of Tom Crean at Indiana, Alford has been one of the names rumored to be in the mix for the coaching vacancy. A reporter in the press conference in Memphis didn’t even get a chance to finish his question before Alford cut him off and a publicly state that he was happy in Westwood.

“I said it last week, and I’ll reiterate it again even more so, I guess, that I love Los Angeles,” Alford said. “To begin with, it’s a beautiful place, and our family has fallen in love with it. I’ve got two sons now, Kory first and now Bryce, that have graduated. Bryce is done, so he’s graduating from UCLA, so I’ve got two sons that are graduates from there, a daughter that loves the school she’s going to in Thousand Oaks. I’m very happy. I’m at UCLA. I don’t know of a lot of people that are out there wanting to leave UCLA.

“This is a pretty special place. We’ve worked awfully hard. Our staff has worked hard. We’ve got the No. 2 recruiting class coming in next year. We’re opening a brand-new, state-of-the-art, 60-plus million practice facility, Mo Ostin Center, that is going to be spectacular that we’ve worked awfully hard to be a part of that, and I want to see that through, and we’ve got some special kids that are coming to join us.

“I’m very, very happy where I’m at, and hopefully, that’ll continue.”

Alford won a national championship with the Hoosiers in 1987, scoring more than 2,400 points in his career under head coach Bob Knight. He has been with UCLA since 2013, reaching the Sweet 16 in three of his four seasons with the Bruins.

Crean was fired on March 16 after nine season in Bloomington.

Lonzo Ball has officially declared for the 2017 NBA Draft

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Following a season-ending loss in the Sweet 16 of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, UCLA freshman point guard unsurprisingly announced that he will enter the NBA Draft.

“That was my final game for UCLA. I appreciate the fans,” Ball told reporters.

The 6-foot-6 point guard has a strong case to be the No. 1 overall pick. It could be almost too enticing for the Los Angeles Lakers to pass on a Southern Cal product if the ping pong balls fall in their favor. New Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka were in Memphis for Friday night’s Sweet 16 matchup with Kentucky.

Ball, in an All-American freshman season with the Bruins, averaged 14.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and a nation’s best 7.6 assists per game, while shooting 56 percent from the field and 42 percent from three.

He ended his college career with an 86-75 loss to the Wildcats, scoring 10 points, off 4-of-10 shooting, with eight assists.