Blogger Spotlight: Hoops fundamentals with The Mikan Drill

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Words sometimes just aren’t enough for college hoops. Sure, you read everything out there, but sometimes you need a play detailed down to every pass, dribble and motion.

That’s where The Mikan Drill comes in.

Josh Riddell’s blog breaks down the game through embedded videos and photos and always turns up an insight or two. It’s fantastic for people like me who are always chasing down just how a team pulled off a play or a win and is perfect for fans who just want to learn more about the game.

So how’s he do it? Glad you asked. I did in the latest Blogger Spotlight

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Q: OK, I gotta start with the name. Are you a DePaul student or grad, or was George Mikan simply one of the first to use video replay breakdowns? I doubt his were as detailed as yours though …

A: I set out to start a full time blog before the 2010-11 season and I did not really have a purpose or subject I felt passionate about. The initial name of my blog was The Legend of Randolph Childress, as seen in the blog url.I am actually a Wake Forest graduate and set out to write mainly about Wake Forest. It was the off-season, so news was slow and it was still too early to write a season preview yet.

I decided to pull up the NCAA Vault and subject myself to watching one of Wake’s recent tournament losses, their 2004 Sweet Sixteen loss to St. Joe’s. I wanted to write how Wake Forest failed to get the ball to Eric Williams in the second half, which is part of the reason they lost. Instead of just writing that, I wanted to show readers, so I came up with this post, which is admittedly bad.

I realized that there was not really any blog out there that showed this kind of analysis on a nightly basis. I always liked reading game recaps and analysis but I always felt a desire to be shown what the author was saying instead of just taking it at face value. I wanted the blog to be about the fundamentals of basketball and why plays did or did not work. In my mind, it doesn’t get any more fundamental than the Mikan Drill, which is where I got the name.

Q: As hoops sites go, yours is invaluable. The essential breakdowns of offense and set plays through video and pictures is fantastic. What’s your feedback been like? Do you have any metrics about your audience?

A: The site does fairly well. I think one of the reasons that there wasn’t a blog like mine before was that people were not really interested in reading about the X’s and O’s, especially if it wasn’t about a team they like or a game they saw. My mission is to change that and get people thinking more critically about the game as they watch it. Like you said, it’s one thing to describe a play, it’s another thing to let the reader see what you are talking about. If I can show something about a team (like how the defend the pick and roll one game), I hope readers can take that info and see how it stayed the same or changed to the next game.

Q: I’d guess the pop you got during last year’s NCAA tournament from Luke Winn’s blog must’ve helped too. What’s the site’s future hold? What’s the ideal situation for you?

A:  I’m not really sure what the future holds. I did a couple projects that helped the readership (Winn’s tourney blog, KenPom’s coaching resume database) and have a few freelance opportunities for this season for some cool new sites, so you will see my work a few different places. I also have some new ideas for my own site this year and hope to be able to continue to provide nightly coverage of the X’s and O’s of college basketball.

Q: Give me a hint to the new ideas. C’mon, just a teaser.

A: Ha ha, I wasn’t trying to hide anything from you. I just am not sure I will be able to get all the video I want to make the posts happen. I don’t have access to Synergy Sport Technology, so it can be difficult to find tape sometimes.

The main thing I want to focus on this year is a bigger picture view of teams and players and how they play from game to game. Last year I focused on things that happened in a single game, while this year I hope to show how teams are changing (or not changing) from game to game. I will still be posting on what happens in single games, such as set plays/inbounds plays/end of game situations, etc but I hope to move beyond that and show how teams are changing or how they are staying the same. It does depend on the video I can get, which is why I can’t make promises at this point.

Q: Any conferences you tend to focus on more? Or is simply what interests you and what’s available?

A: I would say the conferences I focused on the most last season were the Big East and the ACC, mainly because they are on ESPN the most. However, I do like to cover all conferences so you will see plenty of mid-major and low-major focus this season. On a Saturday when there are 5 games broadcast at one time, I usually try to pick one game and watch it closely, instead of having 4 games that I am all paying partial attention to at the same time. While this lead me toward major conferences more, I do try to make time for the smaller conferences and try to focus on the teams near the top of these conferences that I think will make the NCAA tournament. Hopefully this will give readers a sense of how they actually play, so they can get a look at the team outside of just their stats.

From there, I try to find games that I didn’t watch that had close finishes and watch the last 5 minutes to see how the final possessions went. This often leads to some good material, as we can see what teams are made of in crunch time.

 Q: When you review players and teams, what stands out the most? Do you try to review video with an idea of what you’re looking for or do things usually just present themselves?

A: I sometimes have an idea of what I want to watch for going into a game but I often just watch and see how the games play out. I did a few posts on Texas A&M and FSU this past month, so I ended up watching their tournament game around 5 times (it didn’t get any prettier on offense by the 5th watching). Last year during the season, I usually went in with no idea of what I was going to write on and just let the game come to me. For example, for this post about the Pitt – Notre Dame game, we saw Pitt struggle down the stretch with ND’s pick and roll. One of the topics I like to post on is plays that had an impact on the game, which we may not know until the end of the game, such as these pick and roll plays.

Q: Five times? How much time do you typically spend on a post?

A: That was a bit of an outlier. For my offseason posts this summer, I usually watch 3-4 games two times each. So for the Khyle Marshall scouting report, I watched the UConn, VCU, Florida and Wisconsin game. I think I watched the Wisconsin and VCU game once and the UConn and Florida game twice. During the season, I try to get post up the night of the game or early morning the day after, so I usually don’t watch those games more than once.

Q: It’s that time of year where everyone makes predictions. Give me a national title pick, a sleeper team and the player you love to watch.

A: I feel that with the strength of college basketball this season, the NCAA tournament is going to be insanely tough to win, which is why it is insanely tough for me to pick a team that will win 6 (or 7) games in a row. That said, it is hard to pick against UNC, as much as it pains me to say it as a Wake grad. They have all the components of a national title contender: a strong point guard in Kendall Marshall, a great defense (#6 in defensive efficiency last season), solid rebounders in Tyler Zeller and John Henson and star in Harrison Barnes.

I want to pick FSU as my sleeper team but I do not want to make this too ACC-centric so I will choose Creighton. Each year, a mid-major team makes a deep run in the NCAA tournament and Creighton is the logical preseason pick for that mid major team this year. I think they will be in the top 25 almost all season and will surprise some people come March. Doug McDermott is a great player and one I hope to check out several times this season.

The most interesting story for me going into the first month of the season is what style Mark Turgeon will play at Maryland and how that will affect the team, especially Terrell Stoglin. The ACC is wide open after UNC, Duke and FSU and any number of teams could emerge from that pack. The loss of Pe’shon Howard is big and Maryland still has to rely on getting Alex Len eligible but Maryland could be one of those teams depending on how Turgeon coaches the team. I have talked at length at how Turgeon’s slow pace may affect Terrell Stoglin so it will be interesting to see how that dynamic plays out. Turgeon already puts an emphasis on defensive rebounding, so a lack of a big man may not hurt them that much, at least in that sense. Combine this with the lack of depth that Maryland has and it is looking more and more like Turgeon will have Maryland playing at a slow pace. The question is, will Stoglin regress from his freshman year or will he learn to thrive in a half-court offense?

I could go on and on about players I love to watch: Jae Crowder, Travis McKie or Aaron Craft but if I had to pick one player to watch, based on his fundamentals, it would have to be Ashton Gibbs. He amazes me how he can run his defenders off screens and get open despite his average speed, height and athleticism. He is the perfect example of how to use screens to your advantage to create space. He is such a joy to watch.

You can read more of Josh’s work at The Mikan Drill and follow him on Twitter @TheMikanDrill.

You also can follow me on Twitter @MikeMillerNBC.

College basketball broadcaster Billy Packer dies at 82

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Billy Packer, an Emmy award-winning college basketball broadcaster who covered 34 Final Fours for NBC and CBS, died Thursday. He was 82.

Packer’s son, Mark, told The Associated Press that his father had been hospitalized in Charlotte for the past three weeks and had several medical issues, and ultimately succumbed to kidney failure.

Packer’s broadcasting career coincided with the growth of college basketball. He worked as analyst or color commentator on every Final Four from 1975 to 2008. He received a Sports Emmy for Outstanding Sports Personality, Studio and Sports Analyst in 1993.

“He really enjoyed doing the Final Fours,” Mark Packer said. “He timed it right. Everything in life is about timing. The ability to get involved in something that, frankly, he was going to watch anyway, was a joy to him. And then college basketball just sort of took off with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and that became, I think, the catalyst for college basketball fans to just go crazy with March Madness.”

Packer played three seasons at Wake Forest, and helped lead the Demon Deacons to the Final Four in 1962, but it was his work as an analyst that brought him the most acclaim.

He joined NBC in 1974 and called his first Final Four in 1975. UCLA beat Kentucky in the title game that year in what was John Wooden’s final game as coach.

Packer was also part of the broadcast in 1979 with Dick Enberg and Al McGuire when Magic Johnson’s Michigan State team beat Larry Bird’s Indiana State squad in the title game. That remains highest-rated game in basketball history with a 24.1 Nielsen rating, which is an estimated 35.1 million viewers.

Packer went to CBS in the fall of 1981, when the network acquired the rights to the NCAA Tournament. He remained the network’s main analyst until the 2008 Final Four.

In 1996 at CBS, Packer was involved in controversy when he used the term “tough monkey? to describe then-Georgetown star Allen Iverson during a game. Packer later said he “was not apologizing for what I said, because what I said has no implications in my mind whatsoever to do with Allen Iverson’s race.?

Sean McManus, the chairman of CBS Sports, said Packer was “synonymous with college basketball for more than three decades and set the standard of excellence as the voice of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.”

“He had a tremendous impact on the growth and popularity of the sport.” McManus said. “In true Billy fashion, he analyzed the game with his own unique style, perspective and opinions, yet always kept the focus on the game. As passionate as he was about basketball, at his heart Billy was a family man. He leaves part of his legacy at CBS Sports, across college basketball and, most importantly, as a beloved husband, father and grandfather. He will be deeply missed by all.”

Packer was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.

ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale took to Twitter as word of Packer’s death spread. “So sad to learn of the passing of Billy Packer who had such a passion for college basketball,” Vitale tweeted. “My (prayers) go out to Billy’s son Mark & the entire Packer family. Always had great RESPECT for Billy & his partners Dick Enberg & Al McGuire-they were super. May Billy RIP.”

College basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla tweeted: “We fell in love (with) college basketball because of you. Your voice will remain in my head forever.”

Packer was viewed as a controversial figure during his broadcasting days, often drawing the ire of college basketball fans, particularly on North Carolina’s “Tobacco Road.”

“As a kid, I was a big NC State fan growing up, and I would watch a game and the next day I’d be like, `Boy you sure have it out for NC State, don’t you?’ And he would just laugh,” Mark Packer said.

The younger Packer, who is the host of ACC PM on the ACC Network, said it didn’t matter what school – most fans felt the same way about his father.

“He would cover North Carolina game and Tar Heels fans would be like, `you hate North Carolina,”‘ Mark Packer said. “Wake (Forest) fans would be like, `you hate us.’ And Billy just sort of got a kick out of that.”

Mark Packer said that while most fans will remember his father as a broadcaster, he’ll remember him even more for his business acumen. He said his father was a big real estate investor, and also owned a vape company, among other ventures.

“Billy was always a bit of a hustler – he was always looking for that next business deal,” Packer said.

Clemson starter Galloway will miss time after surgery

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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson starter Brevin Galloway is expected to miss games for the 24th-ranked Tigers after having surgery on his groin area Thursday.

The 6-foot-3 Galloway has started 20 of 21 games after transferring from Boston College this past offseason.

Galloway posted on social media that he’d had the surgery. Clemson coach Brad Brownell confirmed in a text to The Associated Press that Galloway had the operation.

Galloway said in his post he will be in uniform soon. He is not expected to play at Florida State on Saturday.

A fifth-year player, Galloway has averaged 10.6 points a game this season. He’s second on the Tigers with 55 assists and 18 steals.

The Tigers (17-4) lead the Atlantic Coast Conference at 9-1 in league play.

Clemson is already down two experienced players due to injury.

Point guard Chase Hunter, who started the team’s first 18 games, has missed the past three with a foot injury.

Guard Alex Hemenway, in his fourth season, has missed the past nine games with a foot injury. Hemenway was the team’s leading 3-point shooter (27 of 54) before getting hurt.

Zach Edey has 19 points, No. 1 Purdue beats Michigan 75-70

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Junfu Han/USA TODAY NETWORK
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Zach Edey had 15 of his 19 points in the first half and Fletcher Loyer finished with 17 points to help No. 1 Purdue hold off Michigan 75-70 on Thursday night.

The Boilermakers (20-1, 9-1 Big Ten) had a 15-0 run to go ahead 41-28 lead in the first half after there were 10 lead changes and four ties, but they couldn’t pull away.

The Wolverines (11-9, 5-4) were without standout freshman Jett Howard, who missed the game with an ankle injury, and still hung around until the final seconds.

Joey Baker made a 3-pointer – off the glass – with 5.9 seconds left to pull Michigan within three points, but Purdue’s Brandon Newman sealed the victory with two free throws.

Purdue coach Matt Painter said Michigan slowed down Edey in the second half by pushing him away from the basket.

“They got him out a little more, and got him bottled up,” Painter said.

The 7-foot-4 Edey, though, was too tough to stop early in the game.

“He’s one of the best in the country for a reason,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “He’s very effective, especially if he’s 8 feet and in.”

With size and skills such as a hook shot, the junior center from Toronto scored Purdue’s first seven points and finished the first half 7 of 12 from the field and 1 of 2 at the line.

“He did a great job in the first half, going to his right shoulder and using his left hand,” Painter said. “He made four baskets with his left hand which is huge.”

Freshman Braden Smith had 10 points for the Boilermakers.

Purdue’s defense ultimately denied Michigan’s comeback hopes, holding a 22nd straight opponent to 70 or fewer points.

Hunter Dickinson scored 21, Kobe Bufkin had 16 points and Baker added 11 points for the Wolverines, who have lost four of their last six games.

Dickinson, a 7-1 center, matched up with Edey defensively and pulled him out of the lane offensively by making 3 of 7 3-pointers.

“Half his shots were from the 3, and that’s a little different,” Painter said. “His meat and potatoes are on that block. He’s the real deal.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Boilermakers got the top spot in the AP Top 25 this week after winning six games, a stretch that followed a loss to Rutgers on Jan. 3 that dropped them from No. 1 in the poll. Purdue improved to 7-2 as the top-ranked team.

BIG PICTURE

Purdue: Edey can’t beat teams by himself and he’s surrounded by a lot of role players and a potential standout in Loyer. The 6-4 guard was the Big Ten player of the week earlier this month, become the first Boilermaker freshman to win the award since Robbie Hummel in 2008.

“Fletcher is somebody who has played better in the second half, and on the road,” Painter said.

Michigan: Jett Howard’s health is a critical factor for the Wolverines, who will have some work to do over the second half of the Big Ten season to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. Howard averages 14.6 points and is the most dynamic player on his father’s team.

ROAD WARRIORS

The Boilermakers were away from home for 12 of 23 days, winning all five of their road games. They won at Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan for the first time since the 1997-98 season and beat the Spartans and Wolverines on their home court in the same season for the first time in 12 years.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Hosts Michigan State on Sunday, nearly two weeks after the Boilermakers beat the Spartans by a point on Edey’s shot with 2.2 seconds left.

Michigan: Plays at Penn State on Sunday.

Miller scores 23, No. 10 Maryland tops No. 13 Michigan 72-64

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Diamond Miller scored 23 points, and No. 10 Maryland closed the first quarter with a 13-2 run and led the rest of the way in a 72-64 victory over No. 13 Michigan on Thursday night.

Abby Meyers contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Terrapins (17-4, 8-2), who won for the 10th time in 11 games. Lavender Briggs scored 14 points and Shyanne Sellers added 13.

Maryland gained a measure of revenge after losing twice to Michigan last season – including a 20-point rout in College Park.

Leigha Brown led the Wolverines with 16 points.

Michigan (16-5, 6-4) led 13-9 in the first quarter before a three-point play by Miller started Maryland’s big run. Briggs and Faith Masonius made 3-pointers during that stretch.

The Terps pushed the lead to 16 in the third quarter before the Wolverines were able to chip away. Miller sat for a bit with four fouls, and Michigan cut the lead to seven in the fourth quarter, but the Wolverines still wasted too many possessions with turnovers to mount much of a comeback.

Michigan ended up with 24 turnovers, and Maryland had a 25-5 advantage in points off turnovers.

Miller fouled out with 2:19 remaining, but even after those two free throws, the Terps led 65-57 and had little trouble holding on.

Michigan lost for the second time in four days against a top-10 opponent. No. 6 Indiana beat the Wolverines 92-83 on Monday.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan: Whether it was against Maryland’s press or in their half-court offense, the Wolverines turned the ball over too much to score consistently. This was a lower-scoring game than the loss to Indiana, but the margin ended up being similar.

Maryland: While Miller clearly led the way, the Terps had plenty of offensive contributors. They also held Michigan to 13 points below its season average entering the game.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Wolverines have appeared in 48 straight AP polls, and although a two-loss week could certainly drop them, the quality of their opponents could save them from a substantial plunge.

Maryland is tied for 10th with an Iowa team that beat No. 2 Ohio State on Monday night. Now the Terps can boast an impressive victory of their own.

UP NEXT

Michigan: The Wolverines play their third game of the week when they visit Minnesota on Sunday.

Maryland: The Terps host Penn State on Monday night.

 

Boum, Jones lead No. 13 Xavier over No. 19 UConn, 82-79

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STORRS, Conn. – Souley Boum scored 21 points, Colby Jones added 20 and No. 13 Xavier went on the road and held off No. 19 Connecticut 82-79 Wednesday night.

The win was the 13th in 14 games for the Musketeers (17-4, 9-1 Big East) and it gave them a season sweep over the struggling Huskies (16-6, 5-6).

Jack Nunge had 12 points and Jerome Hunter added 11 for Xavier, which led by 17 in the first half and 39-24 at halftime.

Jordan Hawkins scored 26 of his 28 points in the second half for UConn, leading a comeback that fell just short.

Tristen Newton added 23 points for the Huskies, who won their first 14 games this season but have dropped six of eight since.

The Musketeers never trailed but had to withstand UConn runs that cut the lead to a single point four times in the second half.

A three-point play from Hawkins made it 78-77 with 2:40 left. But a second-chance layup from Nunge put the lead at 80-77 just over a minute later.

Newton was fouled with two seconds left by Desmond Claude, but his apparent attempt to miss his second free throw went into the basket.

Boum then hit two free throws at the other end, and Newton’s final attempt from just beyond halfcourt was well short.

Xavier jumped out to a 9-0 lead as UConn missed its first nine shots.

A 3-pointer from Zach Freemantle gave the Musketeers their first double-digit lead at 20-9, and another from Jones pushed it to 35-18.

BIG PICTURE

Xavier: The Musketeers lead the Big East, and the win over UConn was their ninth conference victory this season, eclipsing their total from last season.

UConn: The Huskies came in with a 17-game winning streak at Gampel Pavilion dating to February 2021. They fell to 1-4 against the four teams in front of them in the Big East standings. The lone win came at Gampel against Creighton.

UP NEXT

Xavier: The Musketeers continue their road trip with a visit to Creighton on Saturday.

UConn: Doesn’t play again until next Tuesday, when the Huskies visit DePaul.