Seventh Woods (Kelly Kline, UA)

Hoop Group Pitt Jam Fest Saturday: Tevin Mack outshines Seventh Woods

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Seventh Woods (Kelly Kline, UA)

PITTSBURGH, Pa. — When you talk about the Carolina Wolves, the first name that is going to be mentioned is Seventh Woods.

An electrifying athlete, Woods made waves last spring when a scintillating mixtape of his freshman season exploits went viral. He spent last summer playing in the U-16 World Championships with Team USA and shot up the Class of 2016 recruiting rankings, where Rivals currently ranks him No. 5 nationally.

But through three games at Hoop Group’s Pittsburgh Jam Fest, Woods has been an after thought on his own team as Tevin Mack has taken over. Mack is averaging 36.0 points in the three games, including a pair of 38 point performances on Saturday, making him by far the most productive scorer in the tournament.

“Best thing I do is shoot,” and Mack certainly showcased that skill in Pittsburgh. As a 6-foot-6 wing with a lengthy wingspan, Mack has the size to be able to take advantage of that shooting ability over smaller defenders. And while he’s more than just a spot-up shooter on the offensive end of the floor, part of the reason that he’s only ranked No. 97 in the Class of 2015 in Rivals top 150 is that he’s limited as an athlete and a ball-handler.

The good news?

Mack is aware of where his deficiencies lie. When asked what his goal is for this spring and summer, he said he wants to improving his “defense, ball-handling and getting more athletic.”

And if he does? “I’ll get my ranking up and show people I’m actually good.”

Georgia is considered the favorite to land Mack, as his family has a relationship with head coach Mark Fox from when his brother played for Fox at Nevada and Tevin has already made a couple of visits to the campus. But Mack, a native of Columbia, S.C., said that VCU recently extended an offer and that Clemson, Wake Forest, Southern Cal and South Carolina have shown interest in recent week.

“Stability in the program,” Mack said of what he’s looking for in a school. “The coaches that are recruiting me are going to be there the entire time. A winning program, but somewhere that I can make an impact.”

Mack shined, but Seventh Woods struggled: Woods did not have his most impressive performance in a pair of games on Saturday. He struggled with his perimeter stroke and committed a handful of unforced turnovers. His potential is evident to anyone that makes an effort to watch something as simple as layup lines, and Woods certainly has a knack for making some incredible plays on the defensive end of the floor. The problem? He seems to be trying to prove that he’s a point guard, facilitating offense and distributing the ball, which takes him out of what he does best: attacking the rim off the dribble. I’ll chalk this up as a bad day, so it will be interesting to see what kind of performance he has on Sunday.

Moustapha Heron shows out in front of Pitt fans: Heron is a beast, plain and simple. The 6-foot-5, 220 pound wing is an overpowering athlete that is strong enough to bully any wing that he will run into at the Pitt Jam Fest despite playing up an age group. Heron, the No. 19 recruit in the Class of 2016, showed off that physical prowess on Saturday, posting 27 points in a blow out win for his New Heights (NYC) over the very talented Team Thad. Panther fans would have a reason to get excited about Heron, who committed to Pitt last fall, if there wasn’t a concern that he will be reopening his recruitment soon. Barry “Slice” Rohrssen was the coach that recruited Heron, and Rohrssen left Jamie Dixon’s staff and accepted the same position with Kentucky last week.

Doral Moore’s post game is coming along: Like every lanky, athletic big man that comes through the high school ranks, Doral Moore has been an excellent shot blocker and finisher throughout his younger years. But the God-given ability to be seven-feet tall and able to dunk a basketball will only get a player so far if he can’t develop the rest of his game, and on Saturday, Moore showed off some of that development. He’s always had a soft touch on the perimeter, but Moore showed off a nice, right-handed jump hook as the Atlanta XPress advanced to Sunday’s quarterfinals. Given his length and athleticism, if Moore can perfect that shot, it can be unstoppable.

“Mostly my post-up game,” Moore said of what he’s been working the hardest on to develop. “I can shoot, but I have to get down and dirty sometimes. Finish strong.”

Moore is the highest-rated Class of 2015 prospect in Pittsburgh, ranking No. 16 on Rivals. He listed Illinois, Ohio State, Texas, Kentucky, Kansas, Indiana and Louisville.

Derrick Jones is still learning how to play: Derrick Jones will never lose a dunk contest.



He’s the freakiest of freak athletes that you are going to come across. I’d give 5-to-1 odds that he’ll give himself a concussion by hitting his head on the rim at least once in his career, and the fact that he’s 6-foot-8 with long arms only makes him that much more impressive.

The issue is that the rest of his game is still developing. His ball-handling, his ability to shoot the ball, developing his slender frame. His ceiling is limitless, but he’s got a way to go before he reaches that ceiling. Until then, just don’t try to jump with him.

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.