Why a 30.5% shooting day is No. 18 Duke’s most important performance this season

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Saturday was not the best game that No. 18 Duke has played this season.

It’s hard to put that label on a game when a team shoots as poorly from the field (30.5%) as the Blue Devils did against Florida State.

It was, however, the most important game that Duke has put together this season, because the Blue Devils ran the Seminoles off of Coach K court, 78-56, despite the fact that they really did not play all that well offensively.

Let me put this into perspective: the Blue Devils win because they can score. They are the nation’s second-most efficient offense and win because of the matchup problems that they can create with their pair of uber-talented forwards, Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker.

But Parker and Hood combined to shoot 7-for-26 from the field, a torrid 26.9% clip. As a team, the Blue Devils looked completely ineffective going up against Florida State’s half-court defense, which typically would have been the recipe for disaster for the Blue Devils. Ask Clemson. That’s how the Tigers were able to knock off Duke.

The difference on Saturday was on the defensive end of the floor, particularly in the first half. Duke scored 29 points off of the 17 turnovers that they forced, a notable number for a team that ranks 73rd nationally in defensive efficiency and 140th in defensive turnover percentage. They looked like the Duke of old, pressuring out on the perimeter and forcing Florida State to start their offense 40 feet from the basket.

That’s not all. The Blue Devils grabbed 27 (!!!) offensive rebounds which they turned into 29 second-chance points. To put that in perspective, Duke’s offensive rebounding percentage on the season is 31.0%. On Saturday, it was 61.3%.

Also worth noting: Marshall Plumlee had his best game of the season, finishing with seven points and seven boards while bringing a toughness to the paint that quite clearly got under Florida State’s skin. And Parker? He may have shot 3-for-14 from the floor, but he set the tone in the first half with his aggressiveness going to the rim. It’s hard to call this a ‘slump-busting’ performance, but his struggles were rooted in the fact that he settled for too many jumpers.

That wasn’t the case Saturday.

As ugly as this was for Duke, this performance was very, very important.

There is simply too much talent on Coach K’s roster to struggle this much offensively for any extended period of time.

They’re not always going to force this many turnovers and they’re rarely going to have this kind of dominance on the offensive glass, but it’s inarguable that this is a trend in the right direction for Duke.

If they continue to bring this kind of effort defensively and on the glass, Syracuse won’t have a cakewalk to the ACC title.

Felder no longer part of South Carolina basketball program

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina point guard Rakym Felder is no longer part of the Gamecocks basketball team.

Felder, a key freshman reserve for South Carolina’s Final Four team two years ago, was dismissed from the program by coach Frank Martin on Monday.

The 5-foot-10 Felder, from Brooklyn, New York, was suspended last summer after his second arrest in less than a year. Felder was not enrolled last fall. He was allowed to return in the spring semester although he did not play.

Martin said there were guidelines Felder had to follow upon coming back “and unfortunately, he has not met those expectations.”

Martin has not detailed those guidelines for Felder’s return to the court.

Felder had 15 points in South Carolina’s NCAA Tournament win over Duke in 2017

Washington’s Thybulle returning for senior season

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Matisse Thybulle will return to Washington for his senior season after contemplating declaring for the NBA draft following a junior campaign in which he was named the Pac-12 defensive player of the year.

“The NBA is really enticing and it was definitely something that I seriously considered when the season was over,” Thybulle told the Seattle Times. “I talked it over with my family and we came to the conclusion that it would be in my best interest to stay and get my degree (in communications) and grow as a basketball player and take this last year to mature and fine tune everything so I can be fully prepared to take that next step when it’s time.”

The 6-foot-5 guard averaged 11.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 3.0 steals per game last season. He shot 44.5 percent from the field and 36.5 percent from 3-point range.

“I talked to coach (Mike Hopkins) and he gave me some good advice that was honestly something that helped in the grand scheme of things,” Thybulle said. “He told me that if I do it (enter the draft), then I should be all in because that’s what I’m going to be up against is a whole bunch of guys fighting for their lives. He thought it would be a better idea for me to stay in school until I’m at that point.”

Washington is awaiting the decision of Noah Dickerson, who declared for the draft but has not hired an agent. The 6-foot-8 averaged 15.5 points and 8.4 rebounds last season.

Koby McEwen transferring to Marquette

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Steve Wojciechowski added a significant piece to his 2019-20 team over the weekend.

Koby McEwen announced his intention to transfer to Marquette from Utah State late Sunday evening.

“I would like to thank God, my family, inner circle and all the schools/coaches that recruited me during this process!” McEwen tweeted. “With that being said, I’m proud to announce that I’ll be furthering my college career at Marquette University.”

McEwen picked the Golden Eagles over fellow finalists Creighton and Grand Canyon after he decided to transfer when the Aggies announced South Dakota coach Craig Smith was taking over the program last month. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 15.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game while shooting 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from 3-point range as a sophomore.

After sitting out the upcoming season, McEwen will have to years of eligibility remaining. Marquette went 21-14 last season, but missed the NCAA tournament for the third time in Wojciechowski’s four years in Milwaukee.

Minnesota adds Vanderbilt transfer Payton Willis

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Minnesota has added some depth for the future.

The Golden Gophers received a pledge from Vanderbilt transfer Payton Willis over the weekend, giving him a guard with two seasons of eligibility remaining starting in 2019-20.

Willis will sit out the upcoming season under NCAA transfer rules.

The 6-foot-4 guard played a limited role in two seasons in Nashville, never averaging more than 18. 5 minutes or 5.2 points per game. He scored in double figures in three games as a sophomore.

Willis was a top-150 prospect in the Class of 2016 coming out of Fayetteville, Ark. with offers from the likes of Tulsa, Rice and Dayton. Vandy and Minnesota were his two high-major offers.

After being ranked in the top-15, Minnesota was beset by injury and suspensions last season as they limped to the finish line in a 15-17 season that featured losses in 12 of its last 13 games.

Richard Pitino still has two available scholarships for the 2018-19 campaign.

Report: Quade Green returning to Kentucky

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John Calipari just landed a critical recruit for 2018-19, and he was already on the roster.

Quade Green, who averaged 25 minutes per game last season, is returning to Kentucky for his sophomore season, his mother told the Lexington Herald-Leader on Monday.

Given that six Wildcat players have entered the draft (Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Hami Diallo are signing with agents), getting the 6-foot point guard back for a second season is a massive deal for Calipari and Co. The Wildcats have always been at their best under Calipari with returning players as the cornerstones of the roster with talented one-and-dones providing the extra boost. Getting one such returner at the point guard position is even more critical.

Green, who came to Kentucky as a five-star recruit last year, averaged 9.3 points and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 45.1 percent from the field and a respectable 37.1 percent from 3-point range, an area where Kentucky continually needs help.

With Green back in the fold, Kentucky will now await the decisions of PJ Washington, Wenyen Gabriel and Jarred Vanderbilt, who are all going through the pre-draft process without hiring agents, which will potentially allow them to return to school and bolster a Kentucky roster has the look of a top-five team.