ACC/Big Ten Challenge

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 25:  Nate Britt #0 of the North Carolina Tar Heels highfives teammate Joel Berry II #2 in the second half against the Indiana Hoosiers during the 2016 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament East Regional at Wells Fargo Center on March 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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ACC/Big Ten Challenge: Previews, picks and what to watch for

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The ACC/Big Ten Challenge kicks off tonight.

Here is a preview of the 14-game slate.

No. 3 North Carolina at No. 13 Indiana, Weds. 9:15 p.m.

Easily the biggest game of the event, the streaking Tar Heels will make their way to Bloomington to face-off with an Indiana team that has been knocked back after a perfect start to the season. The Hoosiers not only lost to Fort Wayne on the road last week, but they may have lost James Blackmon Jr., the hero in the win over Kansas, to a knee injury. Tom Crean said the injury isn’t serious, but for a team that lacks weapons in the half court, not having Blackmon against the Tar Heels would be a major blow.

Why?

Because North Carolina is playing as well as anyone in college basketball right now. Joel Berry II looks like an all-american, the trio of Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks and Tony Bradley are averaging 39.0 points and 22.4 boards and the Tar Heels are hitting 39.2 percent from beyond the arc this season. Playing in Bloomington will be by far their biggest test of the season. The Hoosiers are lethal when their threes are going down, and when Assembly Hall is packed to the gills, those threes tend to go down.

  • Prediction: It sounds like Blackmon has a good chance of playing, so I’ll go with Indiana (+4.5) at home.

Michigan State at No. 5 Duke, Tues. 9:30 p.m.

Michigan State has been playing better of late, but this is still a dreadfully young team missing key players and at the end of a long, long three weeks. they’ve been to Hawai’i, New York and the Bahamas already this season, and they will be heading back out to Durham for this one at some point on Monday.

Miles Bridges is playing much better after the trip to the Battle 4 Atlantis than he did against Kentucky at the Garden and Duke, frankly, does not have anyone that can guard him. That said, I think the Blue Devils will be too much, even with Jayson Tatum, Marques Bolden and Harry Giles III out and Grayson Allen limited.

  • Prediction: Duke (-11.5) coasts, but keep an eye on the status of Grayson Allen’s toe.

No. 22 Syracuse at No. 17 Wisconsin, Tues. 7:30 p.m.

Two teams trending in the wrong direction. Let’s start with Syracuse, who couldn’t find a way to run offense against South Carolina’s half court pressure. It was not a promising performance from the Orange, who mustered all of 50 points as the issues with their point guard play – Franklin Howard and John Gillon – rose to the surface.

On the other hands, the Badgers are still trying to figure out how they are going to be able to turn Nigel Hayes back into an efficient basketball player. A year after getting criticized for settling for too many threes, Hayes is shooting more three per game at a worse clip than he did last season, just 29.0 percent. Someone’s streak has to snap on Tuesday.

  • Prediction: I think Syracuse wins so of course I’ll take the Orange (+7.5).
SYRACUSE, NY - DECEMBER 02: Ethan Happ #22 of the Wisconsin Badgers drives to the basket as Tyler Lydon #20 of the Syracuse Orange defends during the first half on December 2, 2015 at The Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York. (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
Ethan Happ (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

No. 15 Purdue at No. 14 Louisville, Weds. 7:15 p.m.

This is a matchup of two very different teams. The Boilermakers want to pound the ball inside, to take advantage of the fact that they have Isaac Haas and Caleb Swanigan and you don’t. Louisville? They press, they try to force turnovers, they want to speed the game up and take advantage of the talent and athleticism on their perimeter.

There are two keys to this game. 1. Can Louisville’s bigs stay out of foul trouble? The sheer size of Haas and Swanigan got Georgia State into foul trouble and cost them a win in Mackey Arena, and it nearly cost Villanova their win at Purdue. 2. Will Louisville make perimeter shots? Deng Adel and Quentin Snider are shooting under 30 percent from the floor this season. Donovan Mitchell is under 40 percent. That’s not good.

  • Prediction: I’m on Louisville (-5.5) as I think Louisville’s guards overwhel Purdue’s back court and nullify the advantage the Boilermakers have inside.

Ohio State at No. 6 Virginia, Weds. 7:15 p.m.

Virginia is giving up an average of 41.3 points per game through six games. Their opponents are shooting 31.7 percent from the floor and averaging just 0.708 points-per-possession, which is an insane number. The question here is: Can Ohio State break 50 points on the evening?

  • Prediction: I’m going to say take the under (119.5) here. Virginia is a 12-point favorite, meaning the predicted final score is 66-54. The Wahoos haven’t given up more than 52 points this season and are allowing an average of just 41.3 points. Iowa, who put up 92 on Memphis and 78 on Notre Dame, scored 41 points against Virginia. Ohio State, however, has also been pretty good defensively on the season, and the only proven scored Virginia has on their roster is London Perrantes, who isn’t really a scorer. And all that is before you consider Virginia is the slowest team in the country and Ohio State is 185th in pace. If you’re only into betting lines, I’d say take Ohio State (+12).

Virginia Tech at Michigan, Weds. 9:15 p.m.

This is a win the Hokies badly need after they blew a 16-point second half lead to Texas A&M, missing out on their chance to take a swing at UCLA in the Wooden Legacy title game. Buzz Williams has a good team in Blacksburg, one that will improve their NCAA tournament candidacy with a win at Michigan. The Wolverines looked good at the 2K Classic in New York two weeks ago, but took a beating on the road against South Carolina over the weekend.

  • Prediction: I like Virginia Tech (+5), mainly because I’m not convinced Michigan isn’t overrated and I love the Hokies this season.

Monday, Nov. 28

  • Minnesota at Florida State, 7:00 p.m.: This is going to be a nice gauge game for both of these teams. The Seminoles should, in theory, be able to take care of Minnesota at home, but Richard Pitino’s team is sitting at 6-0 on the year with a 14-point win over Arkansas.
  • Wake Forest at Northwestern, 9:00 p.m.: Is this the year that Northwestern makes the tournament? It looked like it in their 19-point win over Texas. Not so much against Butler and Notre Dame. Wake Forest is 5-1 on the year with a couple of decent mid-major wins.

Tuesday, Nov. 29

  • Pittsburgh at Maryland, 7:00 p.m.: Maryland is 7-0 on the season, but five of those seven wins have come by single digits, including late comebacks against Georgetown and Kansas State. What happens when the Terps face off with a good Pitt team?
  • Georgia Tech at Penn State, 7:00 p.m.: Penn State has struggled early on this season while Georgia Tech is … still Georgia Tech under Josh Pastner.
  • Iowa at Notre Dame, 9:00 p.m.: Iowa scored 41 points against Virginia and lost. They got 42 points from Peter Jok the next night … and lost to Memphis. The Irish, coming off of a
    win in the Legends Classic, have looked good this year.
  • N.C. State at Illinois, 9:00 p.m.: Dennis Smith Jr. has been phenomenal of late, but his team is still missing Maverick Rowan (concussion) and Omer Yurtseven (suspension). This is a win they should be able to get.

Wednesday, Nov. 30

  • Rutgers at Miami (Fla.), 7:15 p.m.: Don’t look now but Rutgers is undefeated. This will be their stiffest test of the season to date.
  • Nebraska at Clemson, 9:15 p.m.: I’m still unsure of what to make of either of these teams. Clemson’s Jaron Blossomgame is a first round pick.

Michigan St. at Duke highlights ACC/Big Ten Challenge

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A matchup in Durham of likely top-10 teams is the headliner of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, whose schedule was released Tuesday.

Michigan State, expected to open the season in the top-10, and Duke, the presumptive preseason No. 1, will meet Tuesday, Nov. 29, at Cameron Indoor Stadium in the most intriguing contest of the 14-game event.

The Spartans are losing Denzel Valentin, Bryn Forbes and Matt Costello, but the recruiting class of Miles Bridges, Cassius Winston, Joshua Langford and Nick Ward is one of coach Tom Izzo’s best and has Michigan State positioned as one of the Big Ten’s favorites.

Izzo’s recruiting class, though, pales in comparison to what coach Mike Krzyzewski is bringing to the Blue Devils, with Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, Marques Bolden, Frank Jackson and Javin DeLaurier in their 2016 class, which is why, when paired with the likes of Grayson Allen, Amile Jefferson and Luke Kennard, make Duke nearly everyone’s No. 1 heading into next season.

Krzyzewski is 9-1 all-time against Izzo’s Spartans.

Among the other highlights of the conference competition is Syracuse at Wisconsin (Nov. 29) Pittsburgh at Maryland (Nov. 29), Purdue at Louisville (Nov. 30) and Ohio State at Virginia (Nov. 30).  

Monday, Nov. 28

Minnesota at Florida State

Wake Forest at Northwestern

Tuesday, Nov. 29

Syracuse at Wisconsin

Michigan State at Duke

Pittsburgh at Maryland

Iowa at Notre Dame

Georgia Tech at Penn State

N.C. State at Illinois

 

Wednesday, Nov. 30

Purdue at Louisville

North Carolina at Indiana

Ohio State at Virginia

Virginia Tech at Michigan

Rutgers at Miami (Fla.)

Nebraska at Clemson

 

Late Night Snacks: ACC/Big Ten Challenge continues while Memphis takes a bad home loss

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GAME OF THE NIGHT No. 17 Michigan 68, Syracuse 65

In one of the better head-to-head matchups of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, the Wolverines got the best of Syracuse thanks to Spike Albrecht’s big second half and late-game heroics. Albrecht’s three-pointer with 31 seconds left in the game put Michigan ahead by three and while his 11-point, nine-assist game looks average on paper, much of that production came when Michigan needed him to step up. Zak Irvin also scored 18 points and All-American candidate Caris LeVert had 12 points and six assists.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

1. Stephen F. Austin 64, Memphis 52

Things were already off to a dicey start for the Tigers this season, but the heat is going to be on after a double-digit home loss to drop Memphis to 2-3. Guard play continued to be really bad for the Tigers as the Lumberjacks won despite shooting only 41 percent from the field and 35 percent from the three-point line. Memphis will need to bounce back quickly and start to string together some wins if they want to build momentum heading into conference play.

2. No. 5 Louisville 64, No. 14 Ohio State 55

The Cardinals jumped out to a 35-18 halftime lead, but the Buckeyes made them sweat out a home win by making the game close in the final minutes. Freshman D’Angelo Russell struggled to shoot consistently for Ohio State but he still made enough plays to finish with 17 points, seven assists and six rebounds. For Louisville, senior Wayne Blackshear had one of the finest performances of his career as he led all scorers with 22 points and added six rebounds while junior forward Montrezl Harrell had a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds.

3. No. 15 Miami 70, No. 24 Illinois 61

This didn’t look like it would be one of the best ACC/Big Ten Challenge games on the schedule entering the season, but in a battle of unbeatens, Miami was able to slow down Illinois’ high-scoring offense for another solid win. Junior guard Angel Rodriguez was limited to nine points on 2-for-9 shooting for the Hurricanes, but Miami’s offense did a nice job piecing together a balanced scoring effort as Deandre Burnett had 19 points off the bench and and Manu Lecomte added 15 points.

STARRED

1. The Big Ten

The conference jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge early in the night before dropping a few and winning the final game of the evening to finish ahead 6-2 with one more night to go. While Wednesday night’s game between top-five teams Duke and Wisconsin and a fun matchup between Iowa and North Carolina will still draw the nation’s attention, it looks like most of the Big Ten’s non-elite teams are stronger at this point in the season.

2. James Madison guard Andre Nation

James Madison guard Andre Nation has only played in two games so far this season after serving a suspension and he made his presence felt for the Dukes in their 63-61 win over Campbell. How, you might ask? With the game-winning alley-oop with 1.9 seconds left.

3. Purdue big men

One of the most fascinating “platoons” in college basketball this season is the center duo at Purdue in junior All-Big Ten candidate A.J. Hammons and freshman center Isaac Haas. The duo combined for exactly 40 minutes in Tuesday’s ACC/Big Ten Challenge win over N.C. State and finished with 28 points and 12 rebounds on 10-for-17 shooting. Hammons is a load to handle on the interior on his own, but now teams have to worry about the emergence of Haas, who has improved tremendously over the last year coming into his first year of college basketball.

STRUGGLED

1. Pittsburgh starting guards

It looked like Pitt had some momentum entering the ACC/Big Ten Challenge after a big Maui Invitational win over Kansas State last week but the Panthers starting backcourt of James Robinson and Chris Young struggled in the 81-69 loss to Indiana. Robinson was 1-for-9 from the field and Young was 6-for-17 as neither could get consistent production as scorers.

2. VCU’s offense

For much of the season, the Rams have struggled to generate consistent offense — especially when Havoc isn’t working. But thankfully for head coach Shaka Smart, VCU began forcing a lot of Illinois State turnovers in the second half and won despite shooting only 33 percent from the field and 37 percent from the three-point line in a 66-62 win. The Rams will have to figure out some more ways to free up offense in the half court, but they did fight back for a nice comeback road win over a tough Missouri Valley opponent.

NOTABLES

  • Khadeem Carrington had the best game of his young college career as the Seton Hall freshman guard went 8-for-8 for 16 points off the bench in the Pirates’ 78-55 win over Mount St. Mary’s.
  • D’Angelo Harrison had 16 points and nine rebounds to help St. John’s get past Niagara, 70-57.
  • Hofstra junior guard Ameen Tanksley had a night to remember, going for 30 points on 9-for-9 shooting and 5-for-5 three-point shooting in the Pride’s 88-74 win over Norfolk State.
  • Georgia used the scoring of Kenny Gaines (25 points) and Marcus Thornton (24 points) to run past Chattanooga, 86-55.
  • LSU had a big night from Josh Gray as the junior guard had 25 points, five assists, four rebounds and three steals in a 82-60 win over UMass.
  • Minnesota got 27 points and seven rebounds from guard Andre Hollins in an 84-69 win over Wake Forest.
  • In a high-scoring affair, Louisiana Tech got past Northwestern State, 99-88, as guard Alex Hamilton finished with 30 points.
  • Coming off the bench, Texas freshman Myles Turner had 18 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks in a 63-53 win over UT-Arlington.
  • One of the best mid-major guards in the country, Evansville’s D.J. Balentine, went for 28 points in the Purple Aces’ 86-78 win over Wright State.
  • Iowa State had five players in double-figures as the No. 20 Cyclones cruised to a 96-59 win over Lamar. Bryce Dejean-Jones had 12 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists to lead the way.
  • Buzzer beaters are always fun, and Eric Laster from Loyola (MD) made a tough one to give the Greyhounds a win over Columbia.
  • Nino Williams only played 20 minutes but had 19 points on 8-for-11 shooting as Kansas State rolled past Omaha for an 84-66 win.
  • Bradley junior guard Warren Jones dropped 33 points as the Braves won 84-73 over Central Michigan.
  • Stanley Johnson and Gabe York each had 18 points as No. 3 Arizona got past Gardner-Webb 91-65.
  • Gonzaga actually trailed Southeastern Louisiana, 33-32, at the half before taking over and running away with a 76-57 win. Kyle Wiltjer led the Zags with 20 points.
  • Alabama was able to knock off South Florida as Rodney Cooper had 20 points and Ricky Tarrant added 17.
  • An efficient Tuesday evening for Larry Nance Jr. as he led Wyoming with 17 points on 6-for-7 shooting in a 68-42 win over Denver.
  • There aren’t many duos on the west coast better than Tyler Haws and Kyle Collinsworth and they had another big night in a BYU road win at Utah State. Haws went for 35 points and Collinsworth had 20 points and 10 rebounds.
  • DePaul had five players finish with at least 13 points in a 78-67 win over Northern Illinois. Junior forward Myke Henry and sophomore guard Billy Garrett Jr. each had 15.

No. 15 Miami significantly slows down No. 24 Illinois and its offense in ACC/Big Ten Challenge win

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Miami has already proven itself during the initial weeks of the 2014-15 season. The Hurricanes earned a road win over (then) top-ten in-state rival Florida the first week of the season before winning the Charleston Classic and ascending to No. 15 in the rankings this week.

Tuesday night the Hurricanes passed another important test, as they held high-scoring No. 24 Illinois to a season-low in points in a 70-61 home win. While the Hurricanes have relied at times on strong individual scoring performances from guards Angel Rodriguez and Shelden McClellan during the early part of the season, it was the defense and a balanced scoring effort that got it done to give the ACC their first win in the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Entering Tuesday night’s game, Illinois was averaging 90 points per game on 48 percent shooting. Those numbers plummeted against Miami, as the Fighting Illini struggled to find consistent perimeter shooting — which was a huge issue for them last season — as they were held to 33 percent from the floor and 23 percent from three-point range.

Illinois entered this season with some questions at point guard after starting lead guard and senior Tracy Abrams went down with a torn ACL. Abrams’ replacements in the lineup, transfer guards Ahmad Starks and Aaron Cosby, didn’t answer the call against the Hurricanes. The two combined to go 2-for-20 from the field and 2-for-13 from three-point range and didn’t give the Illini much of anything.

Senior guard Rayvonte Rice had a big outing as the go-to performer for Illinois, going for 22 points and 12 rebounds, but Starks and Cosby need to make life easier for him by hitting shots and providing floor spacing. It doesn’t help that the duo also can’t match the perimeter defense that Abrams provides and it was part of the reason that Miami committed a season-low five turnovers.

But back to Miami’s effort, which was certainly impressive. The Hurricanes only trailed 3-0 early in the game and controlled the rest of the game on both ends of the floor — when the game didn’t devolve into an ugly chuck-fest for both teams. It’s no secret that both of these teams aren’t afraid to hoist perimeter shots and there were quite a bit of quick looks from both teams as neither could really find an offensive rhythm.

Miami also has to be pleased that its offense stepped up when Rodriguez struggled. The junior point guard only had nine points on 2-for-9 shooting, but Deandre Burnett had 19 points off the bench, Manu Lecomte chipped in 15 points and McClellan added 14.

Miami is 8-0 for the first time since 2009 and Jim Larranaga’s team looks like they are starting to get a comfortable feel for how to win tight games in different ways. The Hurricanes beat a good opponent in Illinois and didn’t need Rodriguez to go in beast mode and they held the lead for nearly the entire game despite shooting only 38 percent from the field.

There hasn’t been a time that Miami has faced a truly elite team this season — Florida is very depleted and Illinois is still finding itself offensively around Rice against good defenses — but the Hurricanes are finding ways to win games and look like arguably college basketball’s biggest surprise to this point in the young season.

Previewing, predicting the ACC/Big Ten Challenge

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The ACC/Big Ten Challenge kicked off Monday evening, but the best games of the event will begin on Tuesday night.

Here is the complete schedule, a ranking of the matchups and a quick preview and our picks in each game (all times EST):

1. No. 4 Duke at No. 2 Wisconsin, Wed. 9:30 p.m.: The marquee matchup of the challenge will arguably be the best matchup we get all season long. Two of the nation’s top three teams. The favorite in the ACC vs. the favorite in the Big Ten. Perhaps most importantly, the nation’s two best big men in Frank Kaminsky and Jahlil Okafor will square off. I could not be more excited about this matchup.

CBT Prediction: Wisconsin

2. No. 14 Ohio State at No. 5 Louisville, Tue. 9:30 p.m.: Ohio State has proven to be better than we expected this season, as Shannon Scott looks like the second coming of John Stockton and D’angelo Russell has been quite good early on this season. Watching Russell matchup with Terry Rozier will be fun, but the key may end up being who on Ohio State draws the unenviable task of trying to cover Montrezl Harrell.

CBT Prediction: Louisville

3. No. 7 Virginia at No. 21 Maryland, Wed. 9:15 p.m.: Well, this is boring. The leagues had a chance to get a rematch from last year’s Sweet 16 thriller between Michigan State and Virginia, but instead decided to send the 10 Cavs on the road to face their old ACC rival Maryland in the Terps’ first season in the Big Ten. Snore. That said, Maryland has played like a top 25 team, but without Dez Wells and with Evan Smotrycz banged up, this matchup has lost some of its luster.

CBT Prediction: Virginia

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4. No. 19 Michigan State at Notre Dame, Wed. 7:15 p.m.: The Spartans have not looked great through seven games, but Branden Dawson, Denzel Valentine and Travis Trice have all played well. That said, Notre Dame looks like a sleeper to finish in the top four in the ACC, and Jerian Grant has played like an all-american.

CBT Prediction: Notre Dame

5. Syracuse at No. 17 Michigan, Tue. 7:30 p.m.: A rematch of the 2013 Final Four minus much of the intrigue. Michigan has great guards, but they are still trying to figure their big men out. Syracuse has the opposite issue. Rakeem Christmas and Chris McCullough have been great, but their back court still has some question marks.

CBT Pick: Michigan

6. No. 24 Illinois at No. 15 Miami, Tue. 9:00 p.m.: So Angel Rodriguez has been pretty good, hasn’t he? Sheldon McClellan too, right? Miami already owns a win over Florida and won the Charleston Classic. But Illinois? They are undefeated as well. The most underrated matchup of the event.

CBT Pick: Miami

7. Iowa at North Carolina, Wed. 7:30 p.m.: This game was a lot more intriguing before we realized that Iowa’s back court was not that good. Intriguing storyline here: Marcus Paige, who has had a slow start to the season, is an Iowa native.

CBT Pick: North Carolina

8. N.C. State at Purdue, Tue. 9:00 p.m.: N.C. State has been one of the most surprising teams in the ACC this season. Purdue? They’ve surprised a lot of people in the Big Ten as well. Cat Barber, Trevor Lacey and A.J. Hammons are all underrated nationally. This will be a good gauge game for both teams.

CBT Pick: N.C. State

9. Pitt at Indiana, Tue. 7:00 p.m.: It will be interesting to see what happens with Indiana this season, as the program is dealing with quite a bit of turmoil. Pitt should make a return to the NCAA tournament as well.

CBT Pick: Indiana

10. Nebraska at Florida State, Mon. 7:00 p.m.: Nebraska has already lost to Rhode Island on the road, but Florida State is missing two key back court pieces, Devon Bookert and Aaron Thomas.

CBT Pick: Nebraska (UPDATE: Nebraska won)

11. Minnesota at Wake Forest, Tue. 7:00 p.m.

CBT Pick: Minnesota

12. Georgia Tech at Northwestern, Wed. 9:15 p.m.

CBT Pick: Georgia Tech

13. Virginia Tech at Penn State, Wed. 7:15 p.m.

CBT Pick: Penn State

14. Rutgers at Clemson, Mon. 7:00 p.m.

CBT Pick: Clemson (UPDATE: Rutgers won)

Syracuse forward’s status against Michigan unknown

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Syracuse defeated Holy Cross, 72-48, without the services of starting small forward Tyler Roberson for the second straight game.

The Orange travel to Ann Arbor on Tuesday night for their ACC/Big Ten Challenge against No. 19 Michigan. Entering that contest, the status of Roberson remains unknown, according to Donna Ditota of Syracuse.com.

“I have no idea,” Jim Boeheim told reporters when asked about Roberson’s availability on Tuesday.

Roberson has been sidelined with a strained muscle for Syracuse’s wins against Loyola (MD) and Holy Cross. Syracuse is still dealing with the absence of Dajuan Coleman, who has not played this season.

“He practiced for a few minutes the other day and was good. And then after 30-40 minutes, he was hurt,” Boeheim said. “It’s just a strain. That’s all it is. Nothing serious.”

The sophomore forward is averaging 6.5 points and 5.0 rebounds in his expanded role this season. Fellow sophomore B.J. Johnson has filled in his role as starter over the last two games.