OSU Texas Tech Basketball

Billy Donovan, Tom Izzo weigh in on Marcus Smart situation


The roar of Saturday’s Marcus Smart, fan-shoving controversy from Oklahoma State’s loss at Texas Tech is finally starting to die down a bit, but on Monday, college basketball head coaches gave their take on fan-player interactions and Smart as a player.

One of the more interesting takes came from Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo. Izzo was a guest on Mike & Mike in the Morning on Monday and had some really unique takes on the fan and player dynamic and the Marcus Smart scenario. The full excerpt comes from 247Sports/Coaching Search 

“It doesn’t matter what you tweet. It’s what you read,” Izzo said on Mike & Mike on Monday. “That’s what I keep telling my guys. We can control what they tweet, to a certain extent. They’re going to get frustrated sometimes and probably say something stupid. But it’s what they read. If somebody’s writing stuff about your daughter when she’s in high school, I’ll bet you look at it a little differently. I’ve had grown men (my players) in my office in tears because of what’s being written. That’s what brings the frustration level.

“Marcus Smart is one heck of a guy. I love the kid. I spent three hours with him, and he’s every bit what they say. But you know what? We all get frustrated, and I think he’s getting grilled on that. We have no way of getting away from it. When you’re in the gym, two hours, they’re yelling at you, you get away, go back to your dorm and life becomes normal. Not anymore. Those same people at that arena are now yelling at you on Twitter. You can say, ‘Don’t read it,’ but I don’t think it’s the way our kids are brought up.”

Izzo makes some great points in regards to Twitter and the attacks that players may face after a game. Online attacks can come at any time from any place and it sure seems as though some in the college basketball world are feeling that heat a little bit too much.

Smart’s former coach with Team USA, Florida head coach Billy Donovan, also weighted in on the matter and Donovan drew an interesting parallel between Smart’s return to college basketball this season and Joakim Noah’s return to college basketball after his first national title at Florida. Like Smart, Noah was seen as a sure-fire lottery pick that came back to face intense scrutiny during his final season in Gainesville.

Donovan spoke with David Jones of USA Today Sports:

“I never saw anything like that, ever, coaching him,” Donovan said of Smart. “But I will say this, and I saw this happen with Joakim Noah (center on the Gators’ 2006 and 2007 national title teams). You go from a guy that makes the decision to come back and he gets an enormous amount of publicity, he gets an enormous amount of exposure. . . . I don’t know why (Smart) came back or why he didn’t go or what the decision making process but I had him during the draft was going on and I think for Marcus — and this is my opinion I don’t know this to be true this is just my feeling — is because he was a top five pick a year ago, you feel like you have to play like a top five pick, whatever that looks like in his mind, what happens is you can never reach that level. Whether he thinks he has to score 30 points or have 10 assists, five steals, it’s not gonna happen but you feel this unbelievable pressure and I saw it with Noah.”

“When Noah came back after his sophomore year, the pressure he felt to perform every game was totally out of control,” Donovan said. “Him, he made it out of control. And I told Joakim this: ‘You cannot allow people to rob you of your happiness playing the game’ and I think in some ways Marcus has allowed some happiness to be robbed from him a little bit in this whole process of coming back, not going, maybe not playing like they want to. Obviously they’ve had some tough losses, they play a tough schedule. He’s the guy and now all of a sudden he goes from four months ago being this unbelievable kid coming back for college basketball to now he’s in a situation where he’s looked upon in a very negative light.

“And I saw it with Joakim. Joakim hit the NCAA tournament as a sophomore like a lightning rod, we were unranked everybody loved the kid, and then once the next year started, he was like completely a complete dope, chest pumping and all that stuff, but he did that since he was a freshman. What happens is that gets very confusing for young guys, and Marcus is a young kid and he’s a competitor, and he wants to win and I think he’s one of those guys that just kind of keep on grinding and there’s no question his emotions got the better of him.”

The comparisons to Joakim Noah and losing the joy of playing college basketball appears to be a very realistic feeling for Marcus Smart right now, as Smart has struggled in Big 12 play and the Cowboys are free-falling in the conference standings.

Personally, I’m tired of hearing about this saga and will be very happy when Marcus Smart returns to the floor after his three-game suspension. Hopefully, the suspension will give Smart time to clear his head so that he can return to playing an an All-American level as we get closer to March.

VIDEO: Kris Dunn wills Providence to win over No. 11 Arizona

Kris Dunn, Elliott Pitts
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Kris Dunn spent the first 35 minutes of Friday night’s game against No. 11 Arizona in foul trouble, splitting his time between sitting on the bench and trying to avoid finding himself, again, on the wrong side the whistle.

With 11 minutes left in the game, and with Dunn yet to find a rhythm, the all-american point guard was whistled for his fourth foul as he battled for a rebound with Arizona’s Mark Tollefsen. Head coach Ed Cooley say his superstar beside his for six game minutes, time enough for Arizona to turn a 49-47 deficit into a 58-54 lead.

There were just over five minutes left when Dunn reentered the second semifinal of the Wooden Legacy, and he proceeded to show everyone in the country why he was named the NBCSports.com Preseason Player of the Year. Providence had nine possessions after he reentered the game. Dunn scored 11 points and had a pair of assists on those eight possessions, and if Ben Bentil had stuck a wide-open three — that was setup by Dunn — the Friars would have scored on all nine.

In total, Dunn was responsible for all 15 Friar points in a game-changing, 15-7 run in the final 4:30. It was capped off by this Kobe-in-his-prime-esque game-winner:

The win for Providence is huge for a couple of reasons:

  • Dunn showed a killer instinct against a marquee opponent, something that we didn’t necessarily see out of him a season ago. He wasn’t going to let his team lose, and given that Providence doesn’t have anyone else that can consistently create good shots, they are going to need that from him a lot this year.
  • It makes a statement for the Friars. Arizona is overrated at No. 11 in the country, yes, but going out on national television against an elite program and getting this kind of performance from Dunn is a confidence-booster and a tone-setter. Providence hasn’t been accustomed to winning in recent years. This is a way to set a trend.
  • Ben Bentil continues to play like a star. Dunn had 19 points and eight assists on Friday, but Bentil followed up a 24-point performance in the win over Evansville with 21 critical points on Friday.

This win sets up a matchup between No. 3 Michigan State and Providence on Sunday night, which means that Denzel Valentine and Kris Dunn — the two best players in the country, sorry Ben Simmons — will be going head-to-head.

Oh. Hell. Yes.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.