No. 19 Oklahoma State needs to move the ball to break its slump

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Although No. 19 Oklahoma State had some recent concerning losses entering Monday night’s Big 12 home game against No. 16 Iowa State, the Cowboys still had plenty of games against top-25 teams left on the schedule to right the ship.

But after Monday’s 98-97 triple overtime loss to Iowa State, should Oklahoma State be concerned? The Cowboys have lost four out of five games and dropped to 4-5 in a very tough Big 12, and their four wins have come against Texas and TCU at home while sweeping West Virginia. Winning against Texas is a solid win, but Oklahoma State hasn’t won many tough games since the loss of Michael Cobbins to a torn ACL right before the conference slate began.

The biggest concern for Oklahoma State has to be the way they move the ball and how poor shot selection can really hurt them at times. The Cowboys can’t control their lack of depth after the loss of Cobbins and the Monday dismissal of freshman guard Stevie Clark, but they can control what kinds of shots they take and how they utilize their talent.

The Cowboys still have multiple McDonald’s All-Americans on the floor. Talent isn’t the question.

I questioned Marcus Smart’s shot selection on Saturday after Oklahoma State’s home loss to a struggling Baylor team — and it was a little bit better on Monday — but he is only part of the problem.

Markel Brown is prone to his fair share of hero ball looks and Le’Bryan Nash can have some black hole tendencies when getting the ball in the mid-post as well. Oklahoma State, as a team, just doesn’t move the ball very well sometimes.

Need proof? In this thrilling triple-overtime contest against Iowa State most of the team stats were pretty similar but one stat in particular sticks out: Iowa State had 22 assists on 34 field goals while Oklahoma State only had nine assists on 34 field goals.

Nine assists in 55 minutes of basketball.

The Cowboys just don’t have someone willing to set up all of their scoring threats if they get stagnant on offense. This isn’t about a lack of scoring balance because Oklahoma State has multiple double-figure scoring threats and all of those guys get shots. It’s the shots they’re taking that are questionable from time-to-time.

Marcus Smart, Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash can all score buckets on isolations against most of America, but in tight games against good teams like Iowa State, the bad looks that those players took instead of working the ball around ultimately haunted them.

DeAndre Kane passed up a shot to get it to Naz Long for the game-tying three-pointer in the second overtime and Long made another extra pass to an open Monte Morris in the corner for a critical three-pointer in the third overtime.

While the Cyclones made the extra pass to find the open man in key situations, Oklahoma State relied on isolations in those same situations and their guys fell short.

Markel Brown forced a contested mid-range fadeaway with the Cowboys leading by three with under 30 seconds left in the second overtime. Marcus Smart was given the ball on an isolation in the mid-post to take the potential game-winner in the third overtime. Both players missed tough looks and because the Cowboys lacked ball movement on those plays, Iowa State’s defense heavily contested both looks.

Players as talented as Brown and Smart will make those shots sometimes, but Oklahoma State has to do a better job of moving the ball and taking smarter shots throughout the game.

A lack of depth is certainly hurting Oklahoma State right now, but the Cowboys are also shooting themselves in the foot with so many poor possessions on the offensive end.

Report: Texas’ Jones to test NBA possibility

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Both of Texas’ McDonald’s All-Americans from its 2016 class will test the NBA waters.

Andrew Jones will declare for the draft, but will not hire an agent, according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The 6-foot-4 guard joins Jarrett Allen, the Longhorns’ star center, in utilizing the rule change that became available to players last year in which they can declare, workout for teams, attend the NBA combine and still return to school.

Jones averaged 11.4 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game as a freshman. He shot 42.5 percent from the field overall and 32.8 percent from 3-point range.

Allen seems the likelier candidate to remain in the draft as a potential lottery pick, but Jones came to Austin with similar one-and-done possibilities given his status as one of the class’ top recruits.

Texas, of course, is hoping both return, not just because they’re both big talents, but because incoming and highly-touted recruit Matt Coleman fills the major hole in last year’s lineup – point guard. If the three of them can share the floor together, Year 3 of the Shaka Smart era will be much more interesting.

Morrow announces transfer from Nebraska

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Nebraska was once again hit with a surprising and damaging transfer.

Ed Morrow, Jr., who led the Huskers in rebounding last year, announced his intention to transfer, the school announced Wednesday.

“I support Ed in his decision to transfer schools and wish him well,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said in a statement. “We appreciate his hard work over the last two years. Although I am disappointed, we will continue to recruit young men who are committed to our mission of building Nebraska Basketball with a culture of success in all areas…life, school and winning basketball at its highest level.”

The 6-foot-7 sophomore’s departure is a major hit to the Huskers, who are coming off a 12-19 year in which Miles’ job security was called into question. It almost assuredly will be again this year as Nebraska hasn’t been able to build on its 2014 NCAA tournament appearance, instead putting together three-straight losing seasons.

Morrow’s decision is surprising not only given he’d been a productive member of the team – averaging 9.4 points and 7.5 rebounds per game – but because he was born in Nebraska before attending high school in Chicago and both his parents were Nebraska student-athletes his father winning a national title on the football team in 1994 and his mother an all-Big Eight performer on the basketball team.

“I want to say thank you to my teammates, coaches, the fans and the University of Nebraska athletics department for giving me the opportunity to play Division I basketball,” Morrow said in a statement. “It is hard to leave home, and Nebraska is my home. I was born and raised here, it is my parents’ alma mater, and I have a lot of friends here. But sometimes you have to venture out to pursue dreams and aspirations in a career. This is a sacrifice I have to make to better myself.”

Morrow’s transfer comes a year after Andrew White surprised Nebraska with his decision to graduate and transfer to Syracuse, which no doubt impacted the Huskers’ poor 2016-17 record.

Miles was on the hot seat at the end of last season and will assuredly begin this season there as well. A roster hit like Morrow won’t do much to help him improve the situation. Nebraska does, however, have three starters returning while Georgetown transfer Isaac Copeland is eligible, as is Miami (Fla.) transfer James Palmer, Jr.

Lonzo Ball says “I’m better than” Markelle Fultz

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Usually, it’s LaVar Ball that makes news for what he says.

His eldest son is now getting in on the business of generating headlines with something other than his play.

The UCLA star, who said he’ll enter the draft after just one season with the Bruins, claimed he’s the better prospect than Washington freshman Markelle Fultz, who many have pegged as the No. 1 pick in June’s draft.

“Markelle’s a great player,” Ball said, according to ESPN, “but I feel I’m better than him,” “I think I can lead a team better than him. Obviously he’s a great scorer — he’s a great player, so I’m not taking that away from him.”

Not exactly inflammatory stuff – like saying you could have beaten Michael Jordan, that you want a $1 billion apparel deal or a number of things his father has said – bu Ball is certainly projecting confidence. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. There’s quite a bit of money – and pride – at stake with the draft, and Ball put up a season worthy of comparison to Fultz, who had great numbers but played for an abysmal Washington team. Ball, on the other had, had strong numbers while leading UCLA to the Sweet 16.

Both are going to go at the top of a draft that’s stocked full of promising point guards. Which player goes before the other remains to be seen, but it’s likely public pronouncements aren’t going to affect the draft order.

 

UMass hires McCall away from Chattanooga

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UMass has found, once more, the man to take over its basketball program.

The Minutemen have reached an agreement with Chattanooga coach Matt McCall, the school announce Wednesday

“The tradition and resources that are in place not only make this one of the best basketball jobs in the Atlantic 10 Conference,” McCall said in a statement released by the school, “but one of the best jobs in the country. We couldn’t be more excited about becoming part of the UMass family and look forward to building upon the rich tradition that has been established here in the past.”

In McCall’s two years at Chattanooga, the Mocs to the NCAA tournament in 2016 and a 19-12 record this year that featured five-straight losses to end the season.

The move will take McCall out of the southeast for the first time in his career as he previously served as at Florida and Florida Atlantic before getting his first head coaching job at Chattanooga.

McCall wasn’t the Minutemen’s first choice to replace Derek Kellogg after three-straight lackluster seasons. Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey had agreed to take the job before a last-minute about-face that saw him return to the Eagles program just before his introductory press conference was scheduled to begin.

“Matt is a rising star in college basketball coaching who has been a key piece of three successful programs in his career,” UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford said in a statement. “He has earned a reputation as a relentless worker, a great teammate and colleague and a confident leader of young men.

“Matt has worked with some of the most respected coaches and administrators in the country, who loudly sing his praises. Coach McCall’s appointment begins an exciting new chapter for our tradition-rich men’s basketball program at UMass.”

Despite being the second choice, McCall’s reputation in the coaching industry makes him a strong hire, having worked under Mike Jarvis and Billy Donovan. He took over at Chattanooga for Will Wade, and brought the Mocs to a 29-6 record and a  12-seed in the NCAA tournament in 2016.

UMass went to just one NCAA tournament under Kellogg (in 2014) during his nine seasons leading the Minutemen.

VIDEO: Frank Martin’s sideline demeanor as a high school coach

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South Carolina coach Frank Martin has the reputation of being rather, shall we say, intense on the sidelines during games.

The coach has a stare that seemingly could bore a hole through his players when they do something that doesn’t reach his level of expectation. Martin’s demeanor, though, didn’t just come into form once he hit the college ranks.

He was plenty intense on high school sidelines as well.

Martin won three titles while at Miami Senior in the mid-1990s, coaching the likes of future pros Steve Blake and Udonis Haslem. Now having reached his first career Final Four, that sideline persona has put him on the precipice of winning yet another championship, this time at the collegiate level.