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Harvard’s first half offensive struggles tie unwanted NCAA record

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Sunday afternoon’s game between Harvard and No. 6 Virginia was set to be a defensive-battle. After one half of play, it was clear that was one-sided, as the Cavaliers led the Crimson 39-8 at half.

Virginia went on to win 76-27.

Harvard was 1-of-20 from the field as a team, compared to Mike Tobey, who was a perfect 6-for-6 from the field, outscoring the Crimson with 15 points — scoring nine points before the first media timeout. The one made field goal — courtesy of Zena Edosomwan at 16:31 — ties an NCAA record with Northern Illinois for fewest field goals in a half.

While Harvard’s first half woes tie the record for fewest field goals, Northern Illinois still holds the title for fewest points and lowest shooting percentage. The Huskies were 1-of-31 (3 percent) for four first-half points against Eastern Michigan in what turned out to be 42-25 win back on Jan. 26, 2013.

Saturday afternoon was actually the second time this season the Cavaliers limited a team to just eight first half points. Virginia held Rutgers to a single-digit second half in a 45-26 win to claim the Barclays Classic title in Brooklyn less than a month ago.

This weekend has shown the result of defensive prowess mixed with offensive futility. On Saturday, top-ranked Kentucky jumped to a 24-0 lead over UCLA, forcing the Bruins to miss their first 17 shots and opening up a 41-7 halftime lead.

That Northern Illinois team from 2013 went on to finish 5-25. UCLA and Harvard were both ranked to begin the season, and are expected to be back in the NCAA tournament field this March.

Top 25 Countdown: No. 6 Virginia Cavaliers

Malcolm Brogdon (Getty Images)
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Malcolm Brogdon (Getty Images)

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. 6 Virginia.

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

Head Coach: Tony Bennett

Last Season: 30-7, 16-2 ACC (1st), lost to Michigan State in the Sweet 16

Key Losses: Joe Harris, Akil Mitchell

Newcomers: Devon Hall, B.J. Stith, Isaiah Wilkins, Marial Shayok, Jack Salt

Projected Lineup

G: London Perrantes, So.
G: Malcolm Brogdon, Jr.
F: Justin Anderson, Jr.
F: Anthony Gill, Jr.
C: Mike Tobey, Jr.
Bench: Evan Nolte, Jr.; Darion Atkins, Sr.; B.J. Stith, Fr.; Marial Shayok, Fr.; Isaiah Wilkins, Fr.; Jack Salt, Fr.; Devon Hall, Fr.

They’ll be good because … : There is one thing that we can always be sure of when it comes to a Tony Bennett-coached team: they are going to play tough, pack-line defense that forces you into tough shots and keeps you from getting to the offensive glass. That will not change this season despite the fact that the Cavs will graduate Joe Harris and the ever-underrated Akil Mitchell.

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Tony Bennett (AP Photo)

The Cavs do bring back every other member of their rotation while adding a solid recruiting class into the mix. Malcolm Brogdon may be the nation’s least-appreciated player. He’s a 6-foot-5 playmaker that should embrace being this team’s leader. London Perrantes grabbed hold of the starting point guard job early on last season and spent the season burying open jumpers and running offense without turning the ball over. Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey are big bodies with quite a bit of potential, and Justin Anderson is one of the ACC’s best athletes and the kind of player that will be among the league leaders in floor burns.

But they might disappoint because … : There are two major concerns I have with this team, and both of them involve the players that they will be losing. Joe Harris did not have a great senior season, statistically speaking, but what he provided the ‘Hoos was a knockdown perimeter shooter and a go-to guy. Harris wasn’t a great one-on-one player, but he was terrific running off of screens; Bennett could call his number and know he was getting a good shot out of it. Who plays that role for Virginia this season?

As for Akil Mitchell, he versatility defensively is going to be missed. Tobey is probably a better low-post scorer than Mitchell (particularly with the way he played as a senior) and Gill is probably better getting to the offensive glass. But neither of them has the lateral quickness of Mitchell. In other words, Mitchell could not only hedge and recover on ball-screens, but he could switch out and guard a wing if needed. Tobey and Gill don’t have that kind of athleticism.

Outlook: Virginia’s basketball program is as good as it has been since Ralph Sampson was roaming the paint three decades ago. They are coming off a dual-ACC title this past season, and they not only returned all but two of their rotation players from a year ago but only one player currently on their roster is a senior. Virginia will not only be good this season, the program’s future looks just as bright.

As far as this season is concerned, it’s going to be difficult for Virginia to repeat as dual-ACC champs even if their team, as a whole, is better than the one they put on the floor a year ago. That’s because the conference is loaded at the top this year. Duke, North Carolina and Louisville are all top ten teams, and that’s to say nothing of programs like Syracuse, Notre Dame, Pitt, Miami and N.C. State. The Cavs could very well finish in fourth place in the ACC’s regular season and I’d still call them a legitimate Final Four contender.

Offensive struggles prove costly for Clemson against No. 17 Virginia

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The month of February is all about separation. For the best teams it’s about making a final push for a conference title, with an eye towards improving their seeding for the NCAA tournament as well. And for other teams, separation refers to the need to rack up quality wins in order to simply earn a spot in the 68-team field. That was the case for the Clemson Tigers entering their game against No. 17 Virginia on Saturday, with a win bolstering a resume that currently features a win over No. 8 Duke.

But the Tigers failed to take advantage of the opportunity, falling 63-58 with the combination of Virginia’s stout pack line defense and Clemson’s relative lack of offensive options being the cause. With Virginia shooting just 34.6% from the field in the second half Clemson had an opportunity to grab a needed quality win but they weren’t much better themselves, shooting 35.0%.

And outside of K.J. McDaniels, who scored 13 of his game-high 24 points in the second half, no Tiger managed to score more than six points in the game’s final 20 minutes. That won’t get it done against a team like Virginia, which finished the game with four players scoring in double figures. Two of those four were forwards Mike Tobey and Anthony Gill, who scored 14 and 12 points, respectively.

Saturday’s performance represented a needed step forward for both Gill and Tobey, with the former looking to rebound from a one-point night against Maryland on Monday. As for Tobey, he’d accounted for a total of six points in Virginia’s last three games. If Gill and Tobey can consistently contribute alongside Mitchell, who grabbed five of Virginia’s 13 offensive rebounds on Saturday, Virginia becomes a tougher team to defend with Joe Harris and Malcolm Brogdon both being capable scorers on the perimeter.

At 12-1 in ACC play Virginia is clearly the biggest threat to Syracuse in the Orange’s quest to win the ACC in its inaugural season. As for Clemson, while this was a game they needed there will be other opportunities between now and the ACC tournament. But in order to take advantage of those chances, Clemson’s going to need more from players not named K.J. McDaniels on the offensive end of the floor.

Mike Tobey takes step forward in Virginia’s beating of N.C. State

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Less than two weeks ago Tony Bennett’s Virginia Cavaliers took their worst beating of the season, losing 87-52 at Tennessee with many wondering if Virginia had what it took to turn things around and be the ACC contender they were expected to be. Since that result: three wins, all by double digits, with their latest conquest being a 76-45 win at N.C. State.

One reason for the margin was Virginia’s defending of T.J. Warren, who they limited to just four points on 1-for-9 shooting. The Cavaliers were also solid offensively despite shooting 3-for-13 from deep, with three starters finishing in double figures and the other two scoring eight points apiece.

Joe Harris scored 16 points on the evening, and since leaving the Florida State win early in the first half due to injury the senior’s averaged 13.5 points per game and has been a more efficient player on that end of the floor. Against Tennessee Harris, a first team All-ACC selection last season, shot 2-for-9 from the field and turned the ball over three times with the Volunteers doing all they could to limit his quality touches.

Saturday’s win marks the second consecutive game in which Harris has shot 50% from the field, and while the shot attempts may not be all that high (4-for-8 in both games) he’s still an offensive threat that opponents have to be mindful of. But even with Harris’ two-game stretch, his play on Saturday may not be the most important development to take from Saturday’s blowout win. That would be the play of sophomore center Mike Tobey.

After averaging 6.8 points and 2.9 rebounds per game as a freshman and making the United States Under-19 team that won a gold medal at the U-19 World Championships this past summer, Tobey was pegged as a possible breakout player in the ACC by more than a few pundits. With Tobey up to 7.1 points and 4.7 rebounds per game it can be argued that he hasn’t reached that status just yet. But against N.C. State’s talented (but young, with the exception of Jordan Vandenberg) front court Tobey tallied 16 points on 6-for-11 shooting and seven rebounds.

Tobey’s afternoon comes on the heels of a two-game stretch in which he accounted for a total of six points and six rebounds, with the 6-foot-10 big man going scoreless at Florida State. Tobey’s now reached double figures in scoring in five games this season, so the ability to be an impact player offensively is there. The next step for Tobey, beginning with Monday’s game against a Duke team that is lacking in the post, is to do so on a consistent basis.

That would certainly help the Cavaliers in their quest to make a run at the ACC title, because Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell can always use some help carrying the load.

2013-2014 Season Preview: College Hoops Breakout Players

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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.

Last November, there were a precious few who actually knew who Kelly Olynyk was. Fast forward a year, and he turned an all-american season into becoming a lottery pick. Every year, there are players that break out and become stars, whether it’s because of a larger role thanks to someone’s departure or the fact that they spent their summer getting after it in the gym. Here are 21 guys that have a chance to do just that this season.

1. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville: I think Harrell is in line for a huge season with the Cardinals. Harrell played really well in limited minutes as a freshman and was quite impressive competing for Team USA at the U19 World Championships. He can’t replace Gorgui Dieng’s passing ability or shot-blocking, but he’s an aggressive big man that will attack the glass, run the floor and play hard for 40 minutes. On a team that lacks interior depth, he could average a double-double.

’12-’13: 5.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg

2. Sam Dekker, Wisconsin: Dekker is one of the most talented players to come through the Wisconsin program in recent years, the rare five-star recruit that Bo Ryan lands. An athletic, 6-foot-7 wing with range, Dekker should be Wisconsin’s No. 1 option offensively with Ryan Evans, Jared Berggren and Mike Breusewitz graduation. If he can play with the efficiency he had as freshman with a heavier work load, Dekker has a shot at being Big Ten Player of the Year.

’12-’13: 9.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 39.1% 3PT

3. Rodney Hood, Duke: Hood spent last season sitting out in Durham after transferring into the program from Mississippi State, and despite the fact that he’s on a team with Jabari Parker and Rasheed Sulaimon, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hood have the kind of season that earns him All-American consideration. As a freshman, the athletic, 6-foot-8 lefty found a way to average double-figures on a team that included Dee Bost, Arnett Moultrie and Renardo Sidney. That’s more impressive that it sounds.

’11-’12: 10.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg

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4. Perry Ellis, Kansas: Ellis entered Kansas as a freshman with loads of hype surrounding his ability to score the ball, but he didn’t quite live up to those expectations, although that had more to do with opportunity than effectiveness: he posted an offensive rating of 114.1. As the starting four for the Jayhawks this year, Ellis will likely be the No. 2 option offensively, along with Wayne Selden. With defenses keying on Wiggins, don’t be surprised to see Ellis thrive.

’12-’13: 5.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg

5. Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida: Finney-Smith spent last season sitting out after transferring from Virginia Tech, and after a year of working on his game, the sophomore will have a chance to slide into Florida’s lineup immediately. With Will Yeguete banged up and Chris Walker enrolling in December, the versatile forward will have a chance to earn his minutes early in the season.

’11-’12: 6.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.9 apg

6. Jordan Clarkson, Missouri: It’s weird to list someone that averaged 16.5 points as a breakout candidate, but I’d counter with this: How many of you saw Clarkson play at Tulsa? Missouri is ecstatic about how well he’s progressed, so don’t be surprised to see the 6-foot-5 wing generate all-SEC buzz, put his name on the NBA’s radar and become a guy that the nation knows.

’11-’12: 16.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg

7. Mike Tobey, Virginia: This prediction may be a year too early for Tobey, as UVA returns Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell and plays as slow a pace as you’ll find nationally. But that shouldn’t dissuade you from paying attention to this 6-foot-10 sophomore. He put up impressive, efficiency numbers in limited minutes as a freshman and made the U19 team.

’12-’13: 6.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 13.9 mpg

8. Ty Wallace, Cal: Wallace put up solid numbers and was impressive in spurts as a freshman, but his efficiency numbers were fairly low thanks to a season-long shooting slump. But this 6-foot-4 slasher will have the opportunity for more minutes and shots thanks to Allen Crabbe’s departure. If he improves from the perimeter, Wallace will have a big season.

’12-’13: 7.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 2.6 apg

9. LaQuinton Ross, Ohio State: With Deshaun Thomas gone, someone is going to have to take on the role of go-to scorer for Ohio State, and if last year’s stretch run is any indication, Ross should be that guy. He averaged 17.7 points in the last three tournament games. Consistency will be the key to his season.

’12-’13: 8.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 16.8 mpg

10. A.J. Hammons, Purdue: Hammons was dominant at times as a freshman, but he also had stretches where he disappeared. Conditioning was an issue for the big fella, and he reportedly lost more than 25 pounds this offseason. If Purdue makes a run at the NCAA tournament, a lot of it will have to do with this potential all-Big Ten sophomore.

’12-’13: 10.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.0 bpg

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Eleven more guys that should be in for a big season

  • Kris Dunn, Providence (5.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.2 apg): The best point guard in the Class of 2012 is finally healthy.
  • Buddy Hield, Oklahoma (7.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg): A lockdown defender, Hield will need to expand his offensive game to offset Oklahoma’s heavy losses.
  • Jerami Grant, Syracuse (3.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg): With James Southerland gone, there will be plenty of minutes for Grant this season.
  • Kaleb Tarczewski, Arizona (6.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg): Tarczewski needs to take the next step as a physical interior presence for the Wildcats.
  • Josh Scott, Colorado (10.5 ppg, 5.7 rpg): Scott’s 20 pounds of extra muscle should help him in the paint.
  • Kyle Anderson, UCLA (9.7 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.8 spg): With Shabazz gone, Anderson will show what he can do with an offense running through him.
  • Przemek Karnowski, Gonzaga (5.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg): Conditioning is the only thing holding back the seven-foot Mt. Poland.
  • Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky (8.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.1 bpg): Cauley-Stein is not Kentucky’s starting center. He oozes upside, but can he reach his potential?
  • Josh Smith, Georgetown (5.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg): An in-shape Josh Smith is a lottery pick. It’s also something we’ve never seen.
  • Tyrone Garland, La Salle (13.1 ppg, 2.0 apg): The SW Philly Floater will be the primary scorer for La Salle with Ramon Galloway gone.
  • Ben Carter, Oregon (2.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg): There are minutes in Oregon’s front court available, and Carter played well in spurts last year.