Jabari Parker’s season, as a whole, was quite impressive. He finished the year averaging 19.2 points and 9.0 boards while shooting 48.7% from the floor and 37.1% from three while leading Duke to a top ten ranking and, potentially, a top three seed in the NCAA tournament when the brackets are released.
What made Parker’s season so special, however, was how he was able to adjust the way that he was playing in the middle of the year.
Early on in the season, Parker couldn’t miss from the perimeter. It seemed like every jump he took was destined for the bottom of the net, but as defenses adjusted and he was guarded by bigger, more athletic defenders, settling for step-backs and challenged threes just wasn’t working. That’s why he had that five-game slump right around the turn of the calendar.
Down the stretch, however, Parker made a concerted effort to get to the rim, whether it was in transition, in the half court or in the post. In his last 14 games, there was only one game when he didn’t notch at least six free throws attempts. He also embraced becoming the team’s best defensive rebounder. He had 10 double-doubles during that same stretch — including the last six games of the regular season — and never finished with fewer that seven boards.
What Parker can do on a basketball court didn’t change all that drastically over the course of the season, but his ability to tweak how he played was the difference-maker for Duke this season.
Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.
The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.
It wasn’t pretty.
And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.
Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.
The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.
But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.
POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry