Will Sheehey

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College Hoops Week in Review: Marcus Smart, Arizona back to being awesome

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PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State

Marcus Smart is back.

After playing about as poorly as he possibly could for 30 minutes on Saturday night, Marcus Smart turned in as dominating of a performance as you will see to close out Oklahoma State’s season-changing win over No. 5 Kansas. Smart scored 12 of his 21 points in those final 10 minutes, hitting all four of his field goals, making the only three he shot and handing out three assists without a turnover. That’s before you factor in the plays he made that won’t show up in the stat-sheet, including drawing an offensive foul on Perry Ellis and grabbing an offensive rebound between two Jayhawks as he was flying out of bounds, saving the ball to a teammate.

Therein lies the key to success for both Smart and Oklahoma State. He’s still doing all of the little things that made him so special, but in those final 10 minutes, Smart finally — finally! — played like a guy that accepted the fact that he hurts his team when he fires away from three and makes headlong drives into the paint.

If he plays the way he did in those final ten minutes — distributing, picking his spots to attack, strictly shooting open, rhythm jumpers — the Pokes are going to be a nightmare for whichever No. 1 or No. 2 seed draws them in the Round of 32.

They were good, too:

  • Will Sheehey, Indiana: Sheehey averaged 24.5 points in Indiana’s wins over Iowa and Ohio State this week. All of a sudden, Indiana is back in the bubble conversation. Beat Nebraska and Michigan next week, and things get real.
  • Delon Wright, Utah: Wright won you your college hoops fantasy league this season. In wins over Colorado and Arizona State, Wright is averaging 21.5 points, 7.0 boards, 5.0 assists, 3.0 blocks and 2.5 steals while shooting 14-for-16 from the floor.
  • Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida: Finney-Smith averaged 17.5 points and 5.5 boards in two wins last week, shooting 11-for-21 from the floor and 7-for-14 from three. When he’s hitting threes, Florida becomes a different team.
  • Glenn Robinson III, Michigan: Robinson had 17 points and the game-winning bucket in overtime at Purdue, following that up with 12 points in a win over Minnesota. He’s averaging 14.7 points and 5.7 boards in his last three games.
  • Marcus Paige, North Carolina: Paige scored 31 of his 35 points in the second half and overtime of UNC’s win at N.C. State. He’s been the best player in the ACC the last month and a half.
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TEAM OF THE WEEK: Arizona Wildcats

Arizona blew out Cal by 28 points. Then they took a 25 point second half lead on Stanford. This came after beating Colorado by 27 points in Boulder. Arizona’s back, baby.

What’s changed is that Sean Miller has opened up the floor. The Wildcats are running more. They are taking advantage of the myriad of athletes Sean Miller has at his disposal — Nick Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Aaron Gordon — and allowing them to make plays on both ends of the floor instead of playing grind-it-out half court games where his group struggles to find any kind of consistency on the offensive end in the half court.

Is Arizona the favorite to win the national title right now? That’s hard to say. What isn’t hard to say, however, is that Arizona is playing better than anyone else in the country right now.

They were good, too:

  • Oregon: The Ducks swept their LA road trip, beating UCLA in Pauley Pavilion in double-overtime. Mike Moser led the way, averaging 16.0 points, 16.0 boards and 4.5 assists in the two wins.
  • Wichita State: 31-0. That’s all you need to know.
  • UConn: After slogging their way through a win at South Florida, UConn knocked off Cincinnati at home. They’re still a game out of all-important third place in the American.
  • VCU: The Rams bounced back from three losses in four games, picking off Fordham on the road and following that up with a win over Saint Louis in Richmond. Shaka Smart’s crew is still two games out of first place in the Atlantic 10.
  • Arizona State: The Sun Devils cemented a spot in the NCAA tournament by sweeping Cal and Stanford at home. Win at Oregon and Oregon State next week, and Herb Sendek will have steered his team into third-place in the Pac-12.

No. 20 Iowa’s defensive issues continue in loss at Indiana

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Fran McCaffery has arguably the deepest team in the Big Ten, with his Iowa Hawkeyes able to go two-deep at essentially any position on the floor. But that depth doesn’t do a team much good when they have a tough time defending, and that was once again the case for the 20th-ranked Hawkeyes in their 93-86 loss at Indiana.

Both teams shot the ball very well in the first half, with Iowa taking greater advantage of the shoddy defense being played and leading 52-49 at the intermission. Both teams clearly needed to flip a switch defensively and it was Tom Crean’s team that did, limiting the Hawkeyes to 36.7% shooting from the field and 1-for-8 from three in the final 20 minutes. And after allowing Iowa to score 36 points in the paint in the first half, Indiana “limited” the Hawkeyes to 16 such points in the second half.

Iowa needed to match Indiana’s improved defensive effort and they couldn’t, as Indiana shot 48.1% and attempted 25 free throws in the second half. Thursday marked the third consecutive game, all losses, in which Iowa’s allowed at least 79 points. And in those three games the opposition shot 52.6% from the field, with Indiana making 50.8% of its attempts. After doing a solid job defensively in wins over Michigan and Penn State, Iowa’s struggled mightily as a group defensively.

Also of note in the second half on Thursday night was how Indiana’s reserves thoroughly outplayed an Iowa bench that’s both deeper and more experienced. Will Sheehey’s career night (30 points) certainly deserves attention, but the 27-4 edge in bench points had as much of an impact in the second half. And much of the damage was done by Evan Gordon and Stanford Robinson, who combined to score 29 points on the night. Their play allowed Indiana to succeed in spite of quiet nights from Yogi Ferrell (eight points, four assists) and Noah Vonleh (four points, five rebounds).

Indiana’s in the position where they’re looking to improve their standing for a possible NIT berth, barring their going on a four-game run at the Big Ten tournament. As for Iowa, these games represent opportunities to improve their standing both within the Big Ten and in the eyes of the selection committee. But if they continue to defend as they have the last three games, the Hawkeyes’ chances of enjoying success in March are slim.

Gary Harris leads Michigan State to win over Indiana

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For the first 30 minutes or so over the game, Indiana played like a team who was hungrier and wanted to win more than Michigan State. Playing shorthanded without Will Sheehey and coming off of a loss to Northwestern over the weekend, the Hoosiers figured to stand little chance against the No. 3 team in the country — even with the Spartans playing without Adreian Payne for the fourth straight game — yet, they eventually succumbed, 71-66.

For the first half, it was your typical Big Ten game that many are so used to watching — reminiscent more of a boxing match between two heavyweights than a track meet. Without Payne in the middle, Indiana delivered more blows with freshman Noah Vonleh dropping in nine points and six rebounds in the opening half.

The game was an eyesore, but the Hoosiers couldn’t care less about that. They led 28-27 in a game they really had to have.

They seemed to be outplaying Michigan State: getting to more loose balls, closing out on the defensive end better, and were simply tougher — something very difficult to do against a Tom Izzo team. This carried over to the second half, but then the bucket closed up and the Spartans took advantage.

After a Troy Williams layup made it 46-41 Indiana, Michigan State scored 11 points in an 81 second span to take a 52-48 lead; they wouldn’t trail the rest of the way.

Vonleh was terrific tonight, but Indiana didn’t feature him nearly as much as they should have. He had a double-double (13 and 13), but only took eight shots. The Hoosiers let the game get away from them midway through the second half when they didn’t get settled on offense, rushed shots, and didn’t go inside to Vonleh.

Indiana’s failures during this stretch aside, Gary Harris was tremendous. He stepped up in a big way in Payne’s absence. The sophomore had 24 points, 20 of which came in the second half.

On the broadcast, ESPN’s Mike Tirico asked his partner, Dan Dakich, whether Michigan State had an “igniter” — a player who could be depended on each and every night to light a fire under his teammates. Do the Spartans have a player of this sort? More importantly, do they need one?

Tonight, Harris was that player. To go along with this scoring output, he was a menace on the defensive end with five steals.

In all, there were 32 turnovers between the teams, 18 of which were committed by the Hoosiers. Taking care of the basketball has been an issue for Indiana all season, and they weren’t about to upset Michigan State tonight with 18 turnovers.

Michigan State’s next game comes at home against their rival Michigan on Saturday — a game that is shaping up to be the weekend’s best.

Five Thoughts on Indiana after their 102-84 win over Washington

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From Nov. 20th thru Dec. 1st, I’ll be on the road, hitting 21 games in 11 days. To follow along and read my stories from the road, click here.

NEW YORK — I had questions about Indiana entering the season.

A lot of them, actually.

Losing two of the top four picks in the NBA draft and two other four-year starters is not an easy thing to replace, I don’t care how well the program has been recruiting.

How good was Yogi Ferrell going to be? Can Noah Vonleh play the five-spot? Is Jeremy Hollowell ready to become a more consistent contributor? How good will the likes of Troy Williams, Stan Robinson, Luke Fischer and Hanner Mosquera-Perea be? With all of the pieces on the roster, how will Crean be able to get everyone to fit together?

Five games into the season, it’s tough to answer any of those questions. It’s not because the Hoosiers have struggled — they’re 5-0 on the year with four blowout wins — it’s because they still haven’t played an opponent that’s up to their level. With all due respect to Lorenzo Romar and his Washington team, I would have rather seen UC-Irvine, who beat the Huskies in the 2K Classic “opening rounds”, take on the Hoosiers.

The good news? In their first game away from home, the Hoosiers beat Washington 102-84, and looked quite comfortable doing it.

“I was a little bit surprised how poised they were in this atmosphere,” Will Sheehey said. “It was their first road game in one of the most hectic places in the world today. The guys really brought it today and I’m proud of them.”

Indiana takes on a UConn team tomorrow night that will give them everything they can handle. I got a chance to see the Hoosiers in person on Thursday night, and, frankly, I was impressed. Here are five thoughts on this rendition of Indiana basketball:

  • Noah Vonleh is the real deal. He entered the game averaging 14.8 points and 12.5 boards, and while his streak of consecutive double-doubles came to an end, he made it very obvious that his dominance on the interior was not simply a product of inferior opponents. He finished with 18 points and nine boards (five offensive), teaming up with Troy Williams to dominate the paint. “I think when it’s all said and done, he has a chance to be right up there with [the more heralded freshmen],” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said. “He’s just a pup, he’s going to get better and better.” I don’t think we need to be worried about Vonleh being able to be the biggest man on the floor for IU.
  • The Hoosiers have a ton of length and athleticism. Williams, Jeremy Hollowell and Will Sheehey are all versatile wings that stand 6-foot-7 and can play different plots on the floor. Vonleh’s wingspan is massive. Yogi Ferrell isn’t all that big, but he does not lack quickness and athleticism. more importantly, they take advantage of that size and athleticism by getting to the offensive glass. “They were like Dobermans on the boards, crashing like crazy,” Romar said.
  • Speaking of Ferrell, he was terrific on Thursday, finishing with 20 points, five assists and just a single turnover. “Yogi continues to get his teammates opportunities, make them better early in the game, get things to open up and then take what the defensive is giving him,” Crean said. He’s now averaging 19.6 points, 5.0 assists, 4.8 boards and just 2.0 turnovers on the season. He’ll get a chance to go up against one of the best back courts in the country on Friday, when he squares off with Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright. I’ll refrain from official judgement until then, but it looks like I’m really going to regret leaving him off of my top 20 point guards.
  • When Troy Williams is active, he’s awesome. The kid is just so long and so athletic. He’s not overly skilled at this point, although he looked pretty good going for 22 points and eight boards on Thursday, so it’s going to be an effort and energy thing from him. “When you’re active on defenses it translates into offense,” Sheehey said. “He got a lot of baskets just being around the rim. He’s similar to how Victor was last year.”
  • You know what’s scary? This team is only going to get better. Luke Fischer and Stan Robinson are still trying to get back to 100% and fully in-shape. Guys like Williams and Vonleh are still refining their roles. Hollowell is gifted, but he’s got a way to go before he puts it all together. This team probably won’t peak until January or February, once we’re fully into the swing of conference play. It’ll be fun to watch them grow, because as of now, they’re further along than most people expected them to be.

2013-2014 Season Preview: The Top 20 Wing Forwards

Syracuse Orange forward C.J. Fair (R) drives to the net on Marquette Golden Eagles guard Trent Lockett during the first half in their East Regional NCAA men's basketball game in Washington
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Andrew Wiggins (AP) and Jabari Parker (AP)

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.

Basketball has five positions, but the way that the sport has grown, particularly at the collegiate level, has produced hybrid players, unusual roster makeups and far too many teams with players that don’t fit into a typical positional category. Few teams actually field a traditional starting five, which is why CBT decided to make our positional rankings reflect that.

We will be ranking:

Wing forwards are players that we feel cannot be designated as a member of the back court yet do the majority of their damage away from the basket. A wing player in basketball is one that requires versatility if a player’s to be considered among the elite at the position. Whether they’re a high-level perimeter shooter or a slasher who’s best when attacking off the dribble, the ability to excel in multiple facets of the game is of high importance.

Here’s our list of the 20 best wings entering the 2013-14 season:

1. Andrew Wiggins (Kansas): The Huntington Prep product arrived in Lawrence amidst much fanfare, and whether or not he’s in the spot when the season ends will depend in large part on how he handles the attention. The skill and athleticism are most certainly there, with more than a few scouts pegging Wiggins as the top pick in the 2014 NBA Draft should he enter.

2. Jabari Parker (Duke): Parker was one of the most versatile players in the country coming out of Simeon High in Chicago, as he has the ability to score both inside and out. Given his talent Parker is one of two wings expected to lead the way for the Blue Devils as they look to account for the loss of their top three scorers from a season ago.

3. C.J. Fair (Syracuse): Even with the Orange playing their first season in the ACC, it was Fair who the coaches chose as their preseason ACC Player of the Year. As a junior, the southpaw from Baltimore posted averages of 14.5 points and 6.9 rebounds per game for a team that won 30 games and reached the Final Four for the first time in a decade.

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4. Rodney Hood (Duke): Hood has yet to play a game in a Duke uniform as he transferred in from Mississippi State. But that season spent practicing is expected to pay dividends for Hood, who was an SEC All-Freshman Team selection in 2011-12 (10.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.0 apg). And he’s already a trusted leader for Mike Krzyzewski’s squad, as he’s been named a team captain for the upcoming season.

5. Glenn Robinson III (Michigan): The son of the “Big Dog” is poised for a breakout season with the Wolverines having to account for the loss of both Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. As a freshman Robinson posted averages of 11.0 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, and he has the skill needed to take advantage of the increased offensive opportunities that will comes his way in 2013-14.

6. Cleanthony Early (Wichita State): One reason why many expect the Shockers to win the Missouri Valley and possibly make some more noise nationally is Early, who averaged 13.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game last season. The 6-foot-8 forward earned all-MVC and Newcomer of the Year honors, and he’s the early favorite to win MVC Player of the Year as a senior.

7. Kyle Anderson (UCLA): The attribute that would best describe Anderson’s game is “versatility,” with the sophomore being one of the options to run the point for Steve Alford’s Bruins. As a freshman Anderson, who spent the majority of his time off the ball due to the presence of Larry Drew II, led the Bruins in rebounding (8.6 rpg) while also averaging 9.7 points and 3.5 assists per game.

8. Sam Dekker (Wisconsin): The Badgers may have lost some key veterans but Dekker, who was one of the Big Ten’s best freshmen last year, is back for his sophomore campaign. Dekker shot 48% from the field in 2012-13, averaging 9.6 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.

9. James Young (Kentucky): For all the talent at John Calipari’s disposal it’s been Young, another of their six McDonald’s All-Americans, whose received the highest amount of praise from observers of the Wildcats’ early practices. Always a good perimeter shooter, Young has the length (6-foot-6) to be a matchup problem for opponents if he attacks the rim with greater regularity.

10. T.J. Warren (N.C. State): With four starters gone from last season’s NCAA tournament team it’s essentially Warren’s show in Raleigh in 2013-14. As a freshman the 6-foot-8 Warren shot 62% from the field, averaging 12.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per game.

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TEN MORE NAMES TO KNOW

  • 11. Luke Hancock (Louisville): The reigning Final Four MOP is a versatile player who can make things happen both on and off the ball, and his leadership abilities have proven valuable for the Cardinals as well.
  • 12. Will Sheehey (Indiana): Given the amount of talent Indiana lost from last year’s Big Ten champion squad, Sheehey (9.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg) will be expected to do a lot more this season. Sheehey shot 49% from the field as a junior.
  • 13. LaQuinton Ross (Ohio State): Is this the year in which Ross puts it all together? He played very well for the Buckeyes in postseason play, averaging 15 points during the NCAA tournament and hitting the game-winning three to push Ohio State past Arizona in the Sweet 16.
  • 14. Treveon Graham (VCU): For as much attention as the Rams’ “HAVOC” system receives, it should also be noted that in Graham they’ve got one of the nation’s best swingmen. Graham averaged 15.1 points and 5.8 rebounds per game in 2012-13, shooting 45% from the field and 37% from beyond the arc.
  • 15. Dezmine Wells (Maryland): After spending much of last season adjusting to a new program Wells may be poised to take off in 2013-14. The Xavier transfer averaged 13.1 points and 4.9 rebounds per game last season, and he was also second on the team in assists (3.0 apg).
  • 16. JaKarr Sampson (St. John’s): Sampson may be one of the best athletes in the country, and he’ll be a primary scoring option for Steve Lavin’s Red Storm after averaging 14.9 points and 6.6 rebounds per game as a freshman. For his efforts Sampson was named Big East Rookie of the Year.
  • 17. Fuquan Edwin (Seton Hall): Edwin is one of the nation’s most underrated players (the Pirates’ lack of success has had something to do with it), and the hope in South Orange is that he receives more attention in 2013-14. As a junior Edwin posted averages of 16.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game.
  • 18. Damyean Dotson (Oregon): Dotson played very well as a freshman for an Oregon squad that reached the Sweet 16 for the first time in a decade, averaging 11.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game. Dotson ended the season with six straight double-digit scoring outings.
  • 19. Branden Dawson (Michigan State): Dawson’s dealt with injuries for much of his career, but he played in all 36 games last season and averaged 8.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game. Still a high-level athlete, Dawson’s production will be key if the Spartans are to have a shot at getting to the Final Four.
  • 20. Jabari Bird (California): Losing leading scorer Allen Crabbe is a big deal, but the arrival of Bird is one reason why the folks in Berkeley aren’t panicking. An excellent athlete, Bird earned a spot in the McDonald’s All-America Game and averaged 17.2 points and 6.8 rebounds per game as a senior in high school.

2013-2014 Season Preview: No. 25 Indiana Hoosiers

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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. The rest of our Top 25 Countdown can be found here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Last Season: 29-7, 14-4 Big Ten (1st); Lost in the Sweet 16 to Syracuse

Head Coach: Tom Crean (6th season at Indiana: 84-82, 33-57 Big Ten)

Key Losses: Cody Zeller, Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford, Jordy Hulls, Remy Abell, Mo Creek

Newcomers: Noah Vonleh, Troy Williams, Stanford Robinson, Luke Fischer, Evan Gordon, Devin Davis, Colin Hartman

Projected Lineup

 G: Yogi Ferrell, So.
G: Will Sheehey, Sr.
– F: Jeremy Holloway, So.
– F: Noah Vonleh, Fr.
– C: Luke Fischer, Fr.
– Bench: Evan Gordon, Sr.; Stanford Robinson, Fr.; Troy Williams, Fr.; Hanner Mosquera-Perea, So.; Austin Etherington, So.

They’ll be good because …: Indiana certainly has enough talent on their roster, as Tom Crean once again brought in a recruiting class that ranked as one of the best in the country. What that means is that the Hoosiers can go 10 deep before you even consider the likes of Peter Jurkin, Devin Davis and Collin Hartman. Noah Vonleh is a top ten recruit with a chance to be a lottery pick whenever he leaves school, Yogi Ferrell should have a big season as he’ll be expected to shoulder more of the offensive load and Will Sheehey is one of the more underrated wings in the country.

Jeremy Hollowell, Luke Fischer, Troy Williams, Stan Robinson and Hanner Mosquera-Perea are all kids that, with time, should develop into big-time contributors for the Hoosiers. Without question, Indiana has the pieces to remain a contender in the Big Ten.

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But they might disappoint because …: The most important two words in the entire paragraph above are “with time”. The Hoosiers will be one of the youngest, most inexperienced teams in the country next season, especially up front. Ferrell is a sophomore and started at the point last season, which makes him an old man in college basketball these days, and the senior duo of Sheehey and Arizona State transfer Evan Gordon should give Tom Crean some veteran leadership in the back court.

Up front is a different story. Vonleh, Fischer and Williams are freshmen. Mosquera-Perea and Hollowell are sophomores that saw limited minutes last year. That group is loaded with talent and potential, but just how effective they end up being in their first season playing (or playing big minutes) at the college level is yet to be seen.

Outlook: Indiana has a ton of moving parts this season, and just how the starting lineup and rotation shakes out is yet to be determined. At this point, there are a couple assumptions we can make: Ferrell will have the ball in his hands the majority of the time as he’s the only point guard on the roster, Vonleh is as close to a sure thing as freshmen get, and Sheehey will play major minutes in the role vacated by Victor Oladipo.

Beyond that, however, there is a lot unknown. Indiana isn’t looking simply to replace a couple pieces from last year. They don’t simply need to fill a couple roles. This is an entirely new team. Their top four scorers — Oladipo, Cody Zeller, Christian Watford and Jordy Hulls — from last season are gone, and how the pieces that Crean has amassed will fit together is one of the most intriguing story lines in the Big Ten this season. Can Robinson take over the shooting guard role by the end of the year? Does the uber-athletic Williams have enough skill to be a factor in the Big Ten in his first season? Is Fischer strong enough to take over for Cody Zeller in the paint? Did Hollowell put in the work this offseason to build off of a strong finish to his freshman season?

One thing I’m sure of: Indiana is going to look different on March 8th than they do on November 8th. Will that be a good thing or a bad thing for Hoosier fans?