Shane Battier

shane battier

Report: Shane Battier retiring after season to commentate college basketball

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College hoops recently picked up a new regular-season commentator when Marv Albert announced he was finished calling football games in favor of more college basketball. Now college hoops will get a former national champion and All-American as former Duke star and NBA champion Shane Battier is joining ESPN’s television team. The story was reported by Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead.

Battier is a two-time NBA champion with the Miami Heat and won a national championship, Player of the Year honors and Final Four Most Outstanding Player in 2001.

If you’ve ever read anything on Battier, you know he’s a very intelligent basketball player that can also eloquently express things about the game in interviews. Battier is keen on analysts in his approach to playing with the Miami Heat and it will be interesting to see if this factors into his broadcasting career.  I would hope that to be the case, as college hoops could use another analyst’s touch in the subject.

ESPN now has former Duke players like Jay Bilas and Jay Williams on staff and Battier adds to that team as former Blue Devils. ESPN may be criticized for being too Duke focused in this approach, but former player Grant Hill also works with Turner Sports and Alaa Abdelnaby is on CBS Sports Network.

Singler comes to terms with Pistons after Euro vacation

Real Madrid's Kyle Singler celebrates af
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It’s easy to forget the lockout casualties when you think about the NBA’s rookie class. We just watched the draft after all, haven’t we seen all of the new guys?

Not really. Duke’s Kyle Singler, who fled the shortened NBA season to play in Spain, will be returning to U.S. shores, ready to start his NBA career after getting some professional seasoning under his belt after agreeing to terms with the Detroit Pistons. He could have come home and played last season, but opted instead to take advantage of the large dose of playing time he was getting with Real Madrid.

“The opportunity to play a lot more was here, but the bottom line was I was happy and felt no pressure to leave and go back to the NBA,” Singler, who was the 33rd overall pick in last year’s draft, told the Associated Press recently. “Deep down, I knew it was the best decision for me to stay. I’ll have another chance to play in the NBA, there was no real rush.”

This is why Duke kids drive fans of other teams crazy. They play hard, keep their noses clean, and they’re smart enough to justify the smugness that attends a Dookie hoopster. It’s hard to fault Singler’s decision in any way. The Pistons finished last in their division last season, and he still probably wouldn’t have seen much playing time. This way, the mop-haired Swiss Army knife of a player once again demonstrated his maturity and skills, and probably came out with more of a guaranteed future than he did as a second-round pick.

As another former Blue Devil, Shane Battier, just proved, a smart, tough player can hang around long enough to get a ring in the NBA. It’s a deal Singler would likely take.

71 percent of NBA champions have had an NCAA champ on the roster

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While much of the basketball world discussed (and obsessed with) what an NBA title would do for LeBron James, there were also two Miami Heat players who joined the list of NBA champions with NCAA titles as well.

Shane Battier (Duke, 2001) and Mario Chalmers (Kansas, 2008) can now add their names to the list, and according to the Sporting News 71% of the teams who have won a title have had an NCAA champ on the roster.

Battier became the first Blue Devil to accomplish the feat while Chalmers is the second Jayhawk to do so (Clyde Lovellette).

Since the first NBA champion was crowned in 1950 with Utah’s Arnie Ferrin helping the Minneapolis Lakers win it all, 43 of 61 NBA champions included at least one player who first won an NCAA title. If the Heat win, that’ll make it 71 percent of all NBA champs that included an NCAA champ in its rotation.

That list of players includes three of the best to have ever picked up a basketball in Magic Johnson (Michigan State, 1979), Michael Jordan (North Carolina, 1982) and Bill Russell (San Francisco, 1955 and 1956).

The Miami Heat also supplied the most recent player before last night to accomplish this double as Derek Anderson, who won a national title at Kentucky in 1996, was a member of their 2006 championship team.

Does the experience of winning at the college level prove beneficial at the pro level? The percentage above (along with the number of players who have won both titles) seems to offer evidence that it does help.

Whether it’s college coaches who try to mine successful scholastic programs or NBA teams that like to draft players from winning colleges, adding players who “know how to win” can provide the ultimate reward.

Raphielle is also the assistant editor at CollegeHoops.net and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Kansas can beat Kentucky — just ask these four favorites

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Upsets are in the NCAA tournament’s DNA. They’re the best part of the first four days and become some of the most memorable moments when they happen in later rounds.

N.C. State over Houston. Villanova tops Georgetown. Duke stuns UNLV. Kansas knocks off Oklahoma. Four examples of a team beating a more talented opponent on college basketball’s biggest stage.

Who says it can’t happen Monday night?

*****

Kansas is a 6-point underdog to Kentucky. That’s not a massive point spread – Duke-Butler in 2010 was higher – but it reflects the Wildcats impressive record (37-2), abundance of talent and consistency all season. No team spent more time atop the polls. Few teams sport better chemistry and balance.

It’s the best Kentucky team John Calipari’s had while coaching in Lexington. Considering the last two years (64-12, two SEC titles, a Final Four, an Elite Eight and eight NBA drafts picks) that’s impressive.

But Kansas isn’t Butler. It’s not N.C. State or Villanova or many of those other teams that pulled off stunning wins in previous years. It has NBA talent and a coach who won this tournament in 2008. The Jayhawks (32-6) entered this tournament as a No. 2 seed and won the Big 12 by two games. If there’s a comparison to previous NCAA tourney teams, it’s much more similar to these four. (Point spreads from armadillosports.)

Kansas, 1988
What happened
: Beat No. 1 Oklahoma, 83-79 in title game.
Point spread: Oklahoma by 8.5
Sound familiar? OU sported future NBA players Mookie Blaylock, Stacey King and Harvey Grant and ran away from pretty much every team in the tournament. Yet the Jayhawks (27-11) played Oklahoma’s style for the half, matching the up-tempo Sooners (35-4) 50-50 at halftime. This year’s Kansas team also loves to run, but conventional thinking is that it’s foolish to try and outrun Kentucky – especially with all of its NBA talent.
Yeah, but … The Sooners had talent, but it’s not close to what this year’s Kentucky group sports. Also, those Sooners liked to run, but didn’t care about defense and could be soft. That doesn’t apply to Kentucky. Also, Kansas had Danny Manning, the nation’s top player. The 2012 top player suits up for Kentucky.
The takeaway: It’s possible to match a more talented opponent in style using personnel that most write off. And Kansas isn’t dwarfed by Kentucky’s talent.

Duke, 1991
What happened
: Beat No. 1 UNLV 79-77 in Final Four.
Point spread: UNLV by 9.5
Sound familiar? The Rebels were that season’s dominant team, entering the game with 34-0 record and boasting the national player of the year (Larry Johnson) who was flanked by two other lottery picks. But the 2nd-seeded Devils (30-7 entering the game) were a 2-seed that won the ACC, had an All-American frontcourt player and a balanced supporting cast that was underrated athletically. Also, Duke was motivated for revenge after getting crushed in the 1990 title game.
Yeah, but … Duke turned out to have just as much NBA talent in Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley and Grant Hill as the Rebels did with Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and Greg Anthony. We just didn’t know it then. UNLV seemed flustered an surprised when Duke hung with the Rebels. That doesn’t apply to Kentucky. Also, Duke made 51.7 percent of its shots that game. Kansas snapping out of a shooting slump seems unlikely by now.
The takeaway: One of the best examples that a perfect team can stumble, even with elite NBA talent.

Arizona, 1997
What happened
: Beat No. 1 Kentucky 84-79 (OT) in title game
Point spread: Kentucky by 6.5
Sound familiar? Arizona, a 4 seed, was coming off wins against 1 seeds Kansas and North Carolina. This wasn’t Lute OIson’s most talented Wildcats team by a longshot, but it somehow was in the title game, facing a loaded Kentucky team – four future pros – that had the game’s best player in Ron Mercer.
Yeah, but … Kentucky wasn’t exactly the team that rolled to a 35-4 record entering the game. Guard Derek Anderson was out with an injury while its big men could be negated with Arizona’s middling frontcourt. The Wildcats were quicker, just as athletic and hot. The ’12 Kentucky team is perfectly healthy and more balanced.
The takeaway: Randomness happens in the oddest spots. Miles Simon scored 30 vs. the ‘Cats. Could Elijah Johnson produce a similar scoring outburst?

Connecticut, 1999
What happened: Beat No. 1 Duke77-74 in title game
Point spread
: Duke by 9.5
Sound familiar? The Devils entered the game as massive favorites, sported four players who would be lottery picks in the 1999 NBA draft (and another in Shane Battier two years later) and spent the season trouncing teams with a lethal inside-outside game. Elton Brand was player of the year. Trajan Langdon the deadly outside shooter. Etc, etc. But UConn had a lottery pick of its own (Rip Hamilton), a fearless point guard and an underrated big man. Seriously, this sounds like the 2012 title game.
Yeah, but UConn was a tad better than Kansas. The Huskies were a 1 seed, had lost just two games and had a lock-down defender in Ricky Moore. Plus, ’99 Duke wasn’t nearly as athletic as 2012 Kentucky. Also, Kansas would love to be in the offensive groove those Huskies were.
The takeaway: Don’t overlook a balanced, disciplined team when facing a bevy of future draft picks.

*****
Kentucky’s the better team. It’s shown as much all season and during the tournament. Kansas has about 15 different thing it needs to do to win the game, starting with stopping the Wildcats’ transition baskets and ensuring center Jeff Withey is free to block shots whenever possible to throw off the Wildcats’ post players.

You’ll probably see Kansas occasionally use a zone, force Kentucky to defend for long stretches by being patient on offense and try to get the ‘Cats out of their comfort zone. The Jayhawks will be physical. They’ll be dogged and determined.

If it’s close, that means Kansas has a chance. And that’s a chance at history.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Draymond Green prevents Anthony Davis’ award sweep

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Michigan State’s Draymond Green did what few players could do this season – top Anthony Davis.

Green was named the national player of the year Sunday night by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, preventing Davis from sweeping all the postseason awards in college basketball.

There’s little doubt Green was worthy of All-America honors. He led the Spartans in scoring (16.2 ppg), rebounding (10.6 rpg), steals (54), and 3-point field goals (52), while ranking second in assists (3.8 apg) and blocks (36) and was the reason they went from unranked in the preseason to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

But did he deserve it over Davis? I’d argue no, but there’s also nothing wrong with rewarding a senior who was perhaps the game’s best all-around player.

“Draymond embodies everything that is right about a college basketball player and he’s very deserving of the award,” MSU coach Tom Izzo said in a release. “He’s done what few can do and that’s get better each and every year.

The NABC has broken from postseason award convention before, too. It was the lone organization to name Duke’s Jason Williams as the player of the year in 2001 when everyone else was honoring his teammate, Shane Battier.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

Anthony Davis wins Naismith, closes in on awards sweep

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Anthony Davis wasn’t a unanimous All-American, but winning the 2012 Naismith Trophy makes him one award shy of a postseason sweep as the unanimous national player of the year. Go figure.

Kentucky’s star freshman has now won top honors from the AP, college hoops writers, Sporting News and won the Wooden and Rupp. If he wins the coaches’ award, that’ll make a clean sweep.

He’s the first Kentucky player to win the Naismith Trophy and just the second freshman to do so. Kevin Durant won in 2007.

Davis leads the Wildcats (37-2) in scoring (14.3 ppg) and rebounding (10.0) and is the nation’s blocks leader (4.6).

His offensive efficiency and impressive defensive skills have been the driving force behind Kentucky’s march to the national title game.

If the Wildcats win, he’ll almost certainly add another award to his mantle: Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four. The last time a player swept awards like this and won it all was 2001 when Duke’s Shane Battier won nearly everything. The only award he didn’t win? The coaches named his teammate, Jason Williams, their player of the year.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.