July Live Period Week Three Superlatives

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The third and final five-day open evaluation period came to a close Sunday evening, with players and coaches alike now having the opportunity to get some much-needed rest. While Raphielle Johnson was in Las Vegas taking in games at four different grassroots events (and a juco showcase), Scott Phillips was in Louisville for the AAU Nationals and the AAU Super Showcase. Below are CBT’s superlatives from this past weekend.

MORE: Week one superlatives \ Week two superlatives

PLAYER OF THE WEEK:

  • Isaiah Briscoe (2015): Much has been said about Briscoe’s skill set as a lead guard and rightfully so, as his ability to break down opponents off the dribble to create for himself and others was on full display. But what really impressed me was his toughness. The young man simply will not be denied. Highly impressive showing in Las Vegas. (Raphielle Johnson)
  • Raymond Spalding (2015): The Louisville commit has an impressive basketball frame at 6-foot-9 and his feel for the game in very good, as well. If Spalding can get more comfortable and assertive as a scorer, then he’ll be incredibly difficult to guard on the wing, but in his current iteration, he’s already a good passer both in outlets and high-low situations. With wide shoulders, Spalding also has the type of frame that will allow him to add weight. (Scott Phillips)

BEST PROSPECT:

  • Thon Maker (2016): At a certain point some people will stop reaching for wild comparisons to make and simply focus on the skills that Maker brings to the table. While the perimeter shot was inconsistent this weekend he can score from just about anywhere on the floor, and Maker was solid defensively and on the glass as well. Maker’s a gifted player who will only get better as his body matures and he becomes stronger. (RJ)
  • Edrice Adebayo (2016): While other five-star prospects in his class have received a lot of publicity the last three weeks, Adebayo chugged along this July and helped Boo Williams win a lot of games. A strong and physically imposing interior big man, the 6-foot-9 Adebayo had the motor running high as he rebounded, defended, hunted tip dunks and got more comfortable with his post touches as July went along. (SP)

MOST UNDERRATED RECRUIT:

  • Justin Wright-Foreman (2015): Of the top six scoring performances at the adidas Super 64 two were turned in by the same player. That would be Wright-Foreman, who scored 48 points in one game and 31 in another, and the southpaw guard had it rolling offensively all weekend long. Just as important as the point totals is the fact that Wright-Foreman was efficient in racking up those impressive totals, something that can’t be said for all guards. (RJ)
  • Admiral Schofield (2015): Mid-majors were all over the big-bodied wing from Team NLP this week. At 6-foot-5, Schofield has a lot of skill and some good athleticism for a player his size and he comes from strong bloodlines, as his brother, O’Brien Schofield, is a linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks after a strong career at Wisconsin. The younger Schofield is starting to make his own name and high-majors are tracking to see if he can play at the highest level. (SP)

MOREQuotables Part I | Part II | Part III | All content from the 2014 July Live Period

FAVORITE 2016/2017 PROSPECT:

  • DeAndre Ayton (2017): This young man is going to be a player we’re talking about quite often over the next few years. At 6-foot-11 the height is already there, and one would think that as he gets older Ayton’s physical strength will improve. He can handle the ball some on the perimeter, although there are times in which he gets sped up in that area, and he’s a very difficult player to stop once he gets the ball in the paint. (RJ)
  • Gary Trent, Jr. (2017): The son of Gary Trent — former MAC legend and NBA veteran — Trent, Jr. is starting to develop his own reputation as a 6-foot-3 guard. Trent, Jr. does a nice job on high ball screens, moves well without the ball and scores from all three levels. With the ball in his hands, the young guard seemed very comfortable and he made a lot of plays in Louisville. (SP)

BEST SHOOTER:

  • Kyle Guy (2016): Teammate and Purdue commit Ryan Cline stole the show in the title game for Indiana Elite, but it was Guy who consistently knocked down shots throughout the tournament. And given his showing in Las Vegas, it won’t be a surprise when even more programs look to jump into the race for his services. (RJ)
  • Aaron Falzon (2015): One of the things I liked about the 6-foot-7 Falzon, was not only his feathery touch from the outside as a stretch forward, but also his shot selection. In Louisville, Falzon wasn’t the type of player that hoisted up a lot of volume threes just to see what fell like a lot of guys that can heat up from beyond the arc tend to do. He hit shots coming off of screens and also hit threes in transition by spreading the floor and finding a corner. (SP)

BEST SCORER:

  • Jaylen Brown (2015): Brown cemented his status as one of the best players in 2015 with his play in Las Vegas, as he scored from all three levels (at the rim, mid-range and beyond the arc) for Game Elite. He’s added 20 pounds since last summer, but seeing him up close you can tell that he’s put on “good” weight in doing so. (RJ)
  • Trent Forrest (2016): There weren’t many go-to bucket-getters in Louisville this week, but Forrest did a lot of damage with the ball in his hands. A 6-foot-3 combo guard with long arms, Forrest doesn’t have a polished perimeter jumper, but he uses shot fakes well and scores around the rim using floaters, runners and finishing above the rim when he can gather with two feet. (SP)

BEST DEFENDER:

  • Abdul Ado (2016): Not to say that finding a quality weakside shot-blocker is easy, but you’re more likely to find that kind of big man than the big who blocks/alters shots put up by the man he’s defending as well. Ado was outstanding as a post defender for the Atlanta Celtics, and while they fell to Dream Vision in the quarters he was the primary defender as Chase Jeter was limited to just five points. (RJ)
  • Rayjon Tucker (2015): While he is still figuring out how to use his tremendous athleticism on the offensive end when the game slows down, Tucker can really get out and defend on the perimeter by using his lateral quickness and leaping ability. Tucker is the rare guard that can hunt down chasedown blocks with ease thanks to his ability to run and jump with the best of them. (SP)

NCAA tourney chair addresses non-conference strength of schedule and quadrant system

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The way the NCAA tournament selection committee picks teams for inclusion into the sport’s crowning event is always under intense scrutiny. It’s a national past time, really.

One of the easiest targets is the RPI, an obviously flawed metric. It was the topic of discussion recently in the Omaha World-Herald, most notably the non-conference strength of schedule component.

That post spurred a lengthy response from Creighton athletic director and selection committee chairman Bruce Rasmussen, who defended the committee’s work with a metric that it acknowledges to be imperfect.

Here’s Rasmussen:

“Non-conference SOS is not a predominant tool in selections.

In fact, each year that I have been on the committee, we have discussed why you have to look beyond the number to evaluate a team’s non-conference strength of schedule, and even with this qualifier, non-conference schedule ranks well behind other factors such as how you did against other tournament caliber teams, did you win the games you were supposed to win, and how did you do away from home since winning away from home is difficult and the tournament games are all games away from home.

“I have argued each year that I have been on the committee that non-conference SOS should be taken off the team sheet, but until we develop a new metric it is staying. However, understand that the committee understands its fallacies (as we also recognize other weaknesses in the current RPI formula) and it is not a prominent factor in decisions.”

Rasmussen also examined the quadrant system being used:

“Many think that the first and second quadrants are silos and that every win in the first quadrant or every win in the second quadrant is treated equally.  I think it is important that while we refer to first and second quadrant wins, we also better communicate that this is only a sorting mechanism and each game in these quadrants is looked at differently. They don’t have the same value.”

So while it’s fair to question NCAA selection committee’s decisions and the way in which they make them, it’s clear there is an extensive amount of well-intentioned thought put into the process.

College Basketball Coaches Poll: Michigan State moves atop the Top 25

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Michigan State is your new No. 1 team in the country, according to the USA Today Coaches Poll.

The Spartans received 20 of a possible 32 first-place votes after their comeback from 27 points down to beat Northwestern on the road on Saturday.

Virginia is still sitting at No. 2 while Villanova and Xavier round out the top four. Duke climbed a few spots to No. 5.

Here is the full coaches poll:

1. Michigan State (20 first-place votes)
2. Virginia (8)
3. Villanova (4)
4. Xavier
5. Duke
6. Gonzaga
7. Texas Tech
8. Kansas
9. Purdue
10. North Carolina
11. Cincinnati
12. Wichita State
13. Auburn
14. Arizona
15. Ohio State
16. Michigan
17. Clemson
18. Rhode Island
19. Tennessee
20. Saint Mary’s
21. West Virginia
22. Nevada
23. Houston
24. Middle Tennessee State
25. Arizona State

Was Bob Huggins justified in his anger over foul shots in Kansas win over West Virginia?

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Much has been made of Bob Huggins’ ejection on Saturday evening, as West Virginia blew yet another double-digit lead at Phog Allen Fieldhouse as Kansas picked up a critical, 77-69 win.

The ejection was hilarious, and everything that I want to remember Huggy Bear by: Cussing out all three refs as he earns his second technical and an ejection while needing to hold up his pants with his hands:

Huggs is a national treasure.

The more interesting conversation, however, centered around why Huggins was tossed. Kansas shot 35 free throws on Saturday. West Virginia shot just two, which is an absolutely staggering number.

And I thought this was deserving of further scrutiny.

Let’s start with the obvious: West Virginia fouls a lot, enough that it’s not an exaggeration to say that a foul could probably be called on every possession. Part of the strategy of playing the way that Press Virginia does is that they are betting that officials are not going to call a foul on every possession, because they won’t. West Virginia is also a jump-shooting team this season, as nearly 40 percent of their field goal attempts come from beyond the arc. Their free throw rate both offensively and defensively is dead last in the Big 12.

Put another way, the Mountaineers are always going to be outshot from the free throw line.

Then you have to combine that with the Kansas stats. The Jayhawks are second in the Big 12 on offensive free throw rate and third in defensive free throw rate. Throw in the home court advantage that comes with playing in the Phog, and the safest bet in the world would have been Kansas outshooting West Virginia from the charity stripe.

It also needs to be noted that the 35-2 advantage was 27-2 before West Virginia started fouling intentionally and before Kansas went to the line for those two late Huggins’ technical fouls.

But that didn’t stop Huggins from going off in the press conference after the game:

“We blew the game last year,” Huggins said. “We should have won the game. We had the game. They did a great job, they made shots, we threw it around, we missed free throws, we did everything humanly possible to lose the game. That was us.”

“I’ve been doing this 40 years. I don’t I’ve ever been in a game where we shot two free throws. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a game where the disparity 35-2. I’ve never been in a game like that.”

But perhaps his most telling line was this, when asked what his message to his team was:

“It wasn’t their fault.”

It’s pretty clear that Huggins believed his team was hosed on the road.

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

West Virginia is normally going to shoot fewer free throws than their opponents. Kansas is normally going to shoot more free throws that their opponents. Studies have proven that home environments in college basketball have an impact referee decisions as much as any sport in the world, including English soccer. That’s part of having a home court advantage, and it’s part of the advantage of having a rowdy, raucous and loud crowd. It’s why places like Phog Allen, and Cameron Indoor Stadium, and Koch Arena, and the McKale Center, and anywhere else with a big and loud fan base.

But 35-2 is 35-2, and it will take quite a bit of video evidence to proof to me that Kansas did not get a significant benefit from playing in front of their home crowd on Saturday night.

So did the referees cost West Virginia the game?

Debatable. I’d argue that Jevon Carter missing some shots and Daxter Miles’ insistence on passing up open threes to try and pass the ball to players going for a rebound played a pretty big role, as did the fact that Kansas is a really good team that made some big shots down the stretch.

But the whistles played some kind of a role.

Just like they always do in the Phog.

College Basketball AP Poll: Virginia, Michigan State, Villanova top the Top 25

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Virginia remained in the No. 1 spot in the AP Poll while Michigan State and Villanova still sit at No. 2 and No. 3 with Xavier once again in fourth.

The biggest change in the poll was that Duke rose to No. 5 after three straight wins; they were No. 12 last week.

Kentucky is still not a part of the top 25.

Here is the full AP Poll:

1. Virginia (42 first-place votes)
2. Michigan State (19)
3. Villanova (4)
4. Xavier
5. Duke
t-6. Texas Tech
t-6. Gonzaga
8. Kansas
9. Purdue
10. North Carolina
11. Cincinnati
12. Auburn
13. Wichita State
14. Arizona
15. Clemson
16. Ohio State
17. Michigan
18. Rhode Island
19. Tennessee
20. Nevada
21. West Virginia
22. Saint Mary’s
23. Houston
24. Middle Tennessee
25. Florida State

VIDEO: Wichita State celebrates in locker room after win over Cincinnati

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Wichita State went into Cincinnati — well, Northern Kentucky — on Sunday evening and landed their biggest win of the season.

They were fired up about it, as you might imagine.

And their locker room celebrating after the win was, as the kids say, litty:

Here’s the funny part to me: This game wasn’t played at Cincinnati. It wasn’t played at Wichita State. It was played at Northern Kentucky, where the Bearcats are playing their home games while they wait for the renovations on their arena to be completed.

Which means that some poor NKU employee that had nothing to do with either of these two programs had to spend the time cleaning up this mess.