Jarrod Uthoff

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No. 2 Gonzaga wraps up first Sweet 16 appearance since 2009

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Balanced scoring has been a key for No. 2 Gonzaga throughout the season, so it’s no surprise that Mark Few’s team put together that kind of effort in their 87-68 win over No. 7 Iowa to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2009. The Bulldogs shot 61.5 percent from the field and 10-for-16 from beyond the arc, with junior forward Kyle Wiltjer leading the way with 24 points on 10-for-12 shooting to go along with seven rebounds.

After having issues offensively at times last season, Gonzaga’s been one of the best offensive teams in the country this season with Wiltjer’s addition being one of the key reasons why. His ability to hit shots from just about anywhere on the court gives Gonzaga a level of offensive spacing that they didn’t enjoy last year. Add in their ball and player movement, and the Bulldogs are an incredibly difficult team to slow down.

Wiltjer scored 13 of his points in the first half, and with Gary Bell Jr. and Domantas Sabonis adding eight apiece Gonzaga was able to build a 17-point halftime lead. Thirteen of Gonzaga’s 18 made field goals in the first half were assisted, and four players finished the game with at least three assists. Joining Wiltjer in double figures were Bell Jr. (ten points, four assists), Kevin Pangos (16 points, three assists) and Domantas Sabonis (18 points, nine rebounds).

Iowa managed to cut the halftime deficit to 11 with 10:50 remaning thanks in large part to the tandem of Jarrod Uthoff (20 points, eight rebounds) and Aaron White (19 points). However a 9-0 Gonzaga run combined with a stretch of nearly six minutes without a basket for the Hawkeyes removed any lingering doubt.

Next up for Gonzaga is No. 11 UCLA Friday night in Houston, and the two met earlier this season with the Bulldogs winning in Los Angeles. These teams are different than they were at that time, especially with UCLA playing with more confidence now than they did in December.

As for Gonzaga, they’ve managed to rebound from their second loss of the season with five straight wins by nine points or more. And Sunday’s win gets the program back into the second weekend of the NCAA tournament for the first time in six years.

Even though Gonzaga’s been the lower seed in four of their last five NCAA tournament defeats, with the lone exception being their loss to Wichita State in 2013, detractors have been quick to point out the program’s lack of success in March. Sunday’s win may (or may not) quiet some of that chatter, but given their talent and depth this current group is capable of a lot more than just two wins.

Iowa’s season takes another strange turn with road upset of No. 20 Ohio State

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Aaron White and Jarrod Uthoff combined for 36 points, 18 boards and seven assists as Iowa went into Columbus and knocked off No. 20 Ohio State, 71-65, in Tuesday afternoon’s Big Ten opener.

With the win, Iowa’s season gets stranger.

Heading into the season, the Hawkeyes looked like they had a chance to play their way into the top four of the Big Ten this season, but with early-season losses to Syracuse, Texas, Iowa State (at home) and Northern Iowa tempered those expectations. But here’s the thing: Iowa also went into North Carolina and knocked off the Tar Heels, toughing out a win on the road with, of all things, their defense.

That happened again on Tuesday, as Iowa held Ohio State’s star guard D’angelo Russell to 4-for-16 shooting from the floor and again avoided a second half meltdown; they led 43-31 at the break.

So what do we make of this Iowa team? I have no idea, but I do know this: the Big Ten is wide open after Wisconsin, meaning that there’s no reason why this Iowa team, if they put it all together, can’t wind up finishing second in the league.

And yes, I’m aware of how weird that sounds. I can’t believe that I actually wrote it.

Back to Ohio State for a second. Russell is a guy that is already getting all kinds of accolades — he showed up on our Midseason All-American and Player of the Year lists — but the majority of his damage has been done against the little guys. When he’s played high-major opponents, he’s 16-for-58 from the floor and 6-for-27 from three, averaging 11.8 points in four games.

If Russell isn’t going to play well, the Buckeyes are in serious trouble. No one else on that roster is a real threat to score.

Top 25 Countdown: No. 21 Iowa Hawkeyes

Fran McCaffery
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Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package. We continue our countdown today with No. 21 Iowa.

MORE: 2014-2015 Season Preview Coverage | NBCSports Preseason Top 25 | Preview Schedule

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Fran McCaffery (Getty Images)

Last Season: 20-13, 9-9 Big Ten (t-5th), lost to Tennessee in the play-in game

Head Coach: Fran McCaffery

Key Losses: Roy Devyn Marble, Melsahn Besabe

Newcomers: Dominique Uhl, Trey Dickerson, Brady Ellingson

Projected Lineup

G: Mike Gesell, Jr.
G: Josh Oglesby, Sr.
F: Jarrod Uthoff, Jr.
F: Aaron White, Sr.
C: Adam Woodbury, Jr.
Bench: Gabriel Olaseni, Sr.; Peter Jok, So.; Anthony Clemons, Jr.; Trey Dickerson, So.; Dominique Uhl, Fr.; Brady Ellingson, Fr.

They’ll be good because … : Once again, Iowa is going to be one of the deepest, most experienced teams in the country this season. Despite losing two starters from last year’s team, Fran McCaffery will still be starting five upperclassmen with a bench that will go at least six players deep.

The star of this year’s team will be Aaron White, a 6-foot-8 forward that has been a modicum of consistency throughout his career. In three seasons at Iowa, he’s never averaged more than 12.8 points or less than 11.1 points. He’s perennially one of the more underrated players in the Big Ten, but he’s going to have to take a step forward and embrace being the star of this group if the Hawkeyes are going to be a factor atop the conference. White will be joined on the front line by a trio of talented veterans. Jarrod Uthoff is the floor-spacing shooting, Adam Woodbury is the low-post scoring threat and Gabe Olaseni is the energy guy, one of the nation’s best offensive rebounders.

There are a few more question marks on Iowa’s perimeter. Losing Roy Devyn Marble will hurt, but McCaffery has options to replace his scoring pop. Josh Oglesby was arguably Iowa’s best shooter last season, while sophomore Peter Jok had promising moments in his first year in the program. Mike Gesell, a former top 50 recruit, will resume point guard duties, but if he struggles, Anthony Clemons and Trey Dickerson will both be looking to take over his role.

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Aaron White (AP Photo)

But they might disappoint because … : Having depth is a good thing in college basketball. If protects a team against a season-ending injury, it creates competition for playing time and it makes practice a battle as players go head-to-head trying to earn their spot in the rotation. But it’s overrated in the sense that having 11 good players is not as valuable as having two great players and five really good players in a sport where only five guys can take the floor at one time.

That’s where Iowa’s issue may end up being this season. Without Marble in the lineup, Iowa doesn’t really have anyone that will make opposing defenses fret. White is a really good basketball player, but Tom Izzo isn’t going to lose sleep at night trying to scheme a way to slow him down. There’s no star power on this roster, and outside of White, there isn’t anyone on Iowa that could be called a top five player at their position in the conference. There’s even an argument to make that White isn’t a top five player at his position.

Think about it like this: Iowa’s down by one with 20 seconds left on the road at Nebraska. Who does McCaffery draw a play up for?

Outlook: At one point last season, Iowa was thought to be a top ten team, a serious threat to win the Big Ten and a legitimate Final Four contender, which is crazy when you think about the fact that they finished the season 20-13 and in 6th in the Big Ten. There were two things that eventually did Iowa’s season in:

– They couldn’t close out any games. The Hawkeyes lost three big games in the first half of the season — Villanova, at Iowa State, at Wisconsin — in which they held double-digit leads. They were 4-12 in games that were decided by single digits or that went to overtime. The only one of their 13 losses that didn’t end in overtime or come by single digits was a 10 point loss at Michigan State where Iowa led at the half.

– They completely lost the ability to defend, finishing the season as the nation’s 120th most efficient team defensively, according to KenPom.com.

Finding away to replace Marble’s offensive production will be key, but it’s important to note that Marble was also a ball-stopper on that end of the floor. The offense stopped when the ball got into his hands. Iowa’s sets should be more free-flowing this season, which is a good thing given the fact that they don’t have a true go-to- guy.

But that’s not what is going to change the outlook on the season for Iowa. Win close games and avoid defensive meltdowns, and the Hawkeyes should be able to exceed expectations this season.

Iowa defeats Notre Dame 98-93 in offensive shootout

Jarrod Uthoff
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The Big Ten got its first win in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge from Iowa’s offensive firepower. The Hawkeyes, playing in front of a raucous crowd, held off a Notre Dame second half comeback, countering the rally and holding off the Fighting Irish in a 98-93 win on Tuesday night.

The Irish posted 43 points in the first half and still trailed by nine heading into the break. Notre Dame used a 14-3 run to take a 57-55 before the first media timeout of the second half.

Though the Iowa offense Roy Devyn Marble responded to Notre Dame’s run with 13 (of his 17) straight points of his own. The Irish couldn’t stop him, and if it wasn’t Marble, it was Aaron White (20 points) or Jarrod Uthoff (17 points) or any of the other Hawkeyes that scored in double figures that made plays down the stretch.

The Hawkeyes shot 57 percent (53 from three). Notre Dame shot over 50 percent (41 from deep) and like Iowa had multiple double-digit scoring, including Eric Atkins’ 23 to go along with Sherman’ s big night. Iowa wasn’t there defensively either, but the Hawkeyes had more weapons to win the shootout, while also outrebounding the Irish by 10.

The Irish fought back to get into the game, led by Garrick Sherman’s career-high 29 points, but the same problems for Mike Brey’s program caught up to them late in the game. Notre Dame couldn’t get enough stops — whether it was man-to-man or zone — to complete the comeback.

This was a good test for each team. Iowa was coming off a tough loss in the Battle 4 Atlantis title game against Villanova and Notre Dame was playing its first road game of the season. Iowa showed its a talented and deep team, averaging a tick under 90 points per game. Although Notre Dame found itself in a hole early, the Irish battled back, but the similar problems we’ve seen so far handed them their second loss of the season.

On Nov. 17, Notre Dame allow Indiana State to hit 11 threes, 55 percent from deep, on its way to an 83-70 win. And that was in South Bend. If Notre Dame can’t defend, how does it expect to contend in the ACC with the likes of Duke and Syracuse, which both have impressive perimeter attacks of their own?

Notre Dame has three games at home against Delaware, Bryant and North Dakota State — none of them high-major teams, but all contenders in their respective conference — before games against Indiana and Ohio State, both games on neutral floors.

The X-Factors of the 2013-2014 College Basketball Season

Keith Appling
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All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To see the rest of our preview lists,click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Duke’s big men: With Jabari Parker, Rodney Hood and Rasheed Sulaimon on the roster, Duke’s perimeter attack is so loaded that it will be tough to find minutes for guys like Matt Jones, Andre Dawkins and Alex Murphy. The issue for the Blue Devils will be in the paint. With Mason Plumlee having graduated, the Blue Devils will have a couple of options: using redshirt freshman Marshall Plumlee, consistently out-talented Josh Hairston or playing an undersized youngster like Amile Jefferson or Semi Ojeleye out of position. The Blue Devils will be able to spread the floor and create matchup problems, but will they defend the rim and rebound the ball?

Keith Appling, Michigan State: It seems like Appling has been the x-factor for the Spartans for the better part of a decade, and this season is no different. Appling has never been a pure point guard, and it’s taken him time to learn to be a playmaker first and foremost. It will be all the more essential this season, as the Spartans plan to play in transition more often this season. There’s enough talent on this roster to win a national title if Appling can lead them there.

Aaron Gordon’s position: If Aaron Gordon can embrace the idea of playing the four, than he has a chance to be a first-team All-American and Arizona should be considered a legitimate title contender. But if he forces his way into being a wing, it creates problems for the Wildcats. I wrote about this extensively here, so I’ll keep this section brief.

Yogi Ferrell, Indiana: There are so many question marks about the Indiana program heading into this season, but if there is anything that we do know about the Hoosiers, it’s that Ferrell will be the guy running the point. The only guy running the point, as a matter of fact. Indiana doesn’t really have a back-up. He’ll also be asked to be Tom Crean’s go-to guy offensively as well, which is a lot of pressure to put on one player. If he can handle it, Indiana should end up near the top of the Big Ten.

Chris Jones, Louisville: I’m not sure that people truly understand just how valuable Peyton Siva was to Louisville last season. He was the guy with the ball in his hands at the end of a clock, he was their leader and play maker, and he was a perfect fit for what Rick Pitino wanted defensively. More importantly, Siva was a calming influence alongside Russdiculous. Those are mighty big shoes for Jones, a one-time Tennessee commit and the best JuCo player in the country a year ago, to fill.

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Tyler Ennis, Syracuse: Ennis is really the only point guard on the Syracuse roster, which means that Jim Boeheim will be turning over the reigns of his team to a player that has never set foot on a collegiate court before the season. The Orange are once again talented enough to be considered a top ten team and a title contender heading into the season, but if this group is to make a return to the Final Four, they’ll need Ennis to have a big freshman year.

Michael Cobbins, Oklahoma State: Travis Ford will have more guards at his disposal than he will know what to do with next season. In addition to all-league performers Marcus Smart and Markel Brown, the Pokes have Phil Forte, Brian Williams and Stevie Clark on the roster. Throw in Le’Bryan Nash, and Oklahoma State has the pieces to be able to spread the floor quite effectively. To make that happen, however, Ford will need to find a presence in the paint, and Cobbins, a 6-foot-8 redshirt junior that averaged 6.9 points and 6.1 boards a year ago, is the guy that will be called upon.

Joel Embiid, Kansas: You know about Andrew Wiggins and how good he should end up being. You’ve probably heard about Wayne Selden and Perry Ellis and how they can compliment Wiggins offensively. But with a team as young as Kansas is with as many question marks as the Jayhawks have at the point guard spot, consistency on the offensive end will be hard to come by. As always, Kansas will be a team that wins because they are elite defensively, and Embiid, like Jeff Withey was the past two seasons, will be the anchor of that defense.

Derrick Walton, Michigan: Replacing Trey Burke is not going to be an easy thing for Michigan to do, as it was his ability to come off of screens and create that made the Wolverines so dangerous. That’s why Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III got so many open threes throughout the year, and that’s part of the reason that Mitch McGary blew up in the postseason. Burke made everyone that much better with his ability to create. Walton, and to a lesser extent Spike Albrecht, is the hear apparent to the point guard spot at Michigan. No pressure, he just have to replace the National Player of the Year.

Zach Auguste, Notre Dame: The Irish have a terrific perimeter attack this season, but losing Jack Cooley is going to hurt. He was a double-double machine that got Mike Brey’s club so many second-chance points. Tom Knight and Garrick Sherman are known quantities, big bodies that will play hard, use their five fouls and reward you with a couple of buckets and a couple boards. Auguste is more talented than that. He’s good enough to be a real replacement for Cooley, and a real post presence on this team is a difference-maker.

Josh Smith, Georgetown: If Josh Smith can get into shape, he’s an all-american caliber talent. His size, his quick feet, his touch around the rim. He could really be effective for the Hoyas considering how good some of their guards are. The problem? Not only has Smith never been in shape in his career, but he’s still waiting for word from the NCAA when he can suit up this season. If he joins the team in December, will he be as effective?

source:
AP

Here are 12 more X-Factors:

  • Shaq Goodwin and David Pellom, Memphis: The Tigers are loaded on the perimeter, but they’ll need Goodwin and Pellom to be a presence in the paint to compete for the AAC title.
  • Kenny Chery, Baylor: The JuCo transfer will have first crack at replacing Pierre Jackson at the point.
  • Kris Dunn, Providence: Finally healthy, Dunn is a dynamic point guard that should thrive in Ed Cooley’s uptempo system.
  • Cullen Neal and Deshawn Delaney, New Mexico: Replacing Tony Snell’s defense and perimeter shooting will be the key to New Mexico’s season.
  • Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida: With Will Yeguete banged up and Chris Walker ineligible for at least the fall, the versatile Finney-Smith will see plenty of minutes.
  • Xavier Johnson, Colorado: Johnson was awesome in flashes last season and will fill the role Andre Roberson left vacant.
  • Robert Hubbs, Tennessee: The Vols need someone to help Jordan McRae keep the floor spread for their big men.
  • Tony Parker, UCLA: If reports are true and Parker has gotten into shape this offseason, he could be the paint presence Steve Alford needs.
  • Deandre Kane, Iowa State: Kane put up huge numbers at Marshall but wasn’t the easiest player to deal with in the locker room.
  • Deandre Daniels, UConn: With more guards than Kevin Ollie can handle, Daniels will need to help Tyler Olander up front.
  • Alex Dragicevich, Boston College: Can the Notre Dame transfer help take the pressure off of Ryan Anderson and Olivier Hanlon?
  • Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa: We will finally get to see the Wisconsin transfer in action after two straight redshirt seasons.

Are changes coming to the current transfer model?

NCAA Men's Final Four - Practice
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In recent years transfers have become a topic of conversation in college basketball, primarily due to the increased number of players who have received waivers that allow them to play immediately. But also of importance is the way in which players choose a new school, as many need their options to be cleared by the program they’re leaving.

This has caused issues, with the cases of Todd O’Brien (transferred from Saint Joseph’s to UAB), Jarrod Uthoff (Wisconsin to Iowa) and Sheldon Jeter (Vanderbilt to Polk State College) immediately coming to mind. There may be some change in this area, as the NCAA is discussing the possibility of giving players more power when it comes to determining their destination according to ESPN.com.

“It would be a situation where a kid would provide notice that he’s transferring and wants to talk to these five schools, for example,” Kevin Lennon, the NCAA vice president for academic and membership affairs, told ESPN.com. “Schools can’t say, we’re giving you permission but not to these five schools. It’s in the student’s control more.”

It’s likely that some will be against the proposed legislation, arguing that such a move could result in even more “chaos” (for those who choose to use words such as “epidemic” when discussing the current transfer rate) since the players would have a little more freedom when it comes to where they’ll transfer to. But athletic scholarships are one-year renewable, and while many will state during the recruiting process that they’ll honor all four (or five) years that doesn’t always happen.

It’s difficult to say that the proposed move would lead to even more players deciding to transfer, as that’s a decision that in most cases isn’t made overnight. But once that decision is made, why not make the process as simple as possible? Making it incredibly difficult isn’t guaranteed to dissuade others from transferring; if anything, doing so could adversely affect a program on the recruiting trail.

There are still hurdles to be cleared with the proposal, most notably the need to persuade NCAA members this spring. But in the end, making sure the transfer process goes smoothly can only benefit both the schools and the players.