Blogger Spotlight: Hoops fundamentals with The Mikan Drill


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.

Biden celebrates LSU women’s and UConn men’s basketball teams at separate White House events


WASHINGTON – All of the past drama and sore feelings associated with Louisiana State’s invitation to the White House were seemingly forgotten or set aside Friday as President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden welcomed the championship women’s basketball team to the mansion with smiles, hugs and lavish praise all around.

The visit had once appeared in jeopardy after Jill Biden suggested that the losing Iowa team be invited, too. But none of that was mentioned as both Bidens heralded the players for their performance and the way they have helped advance women’s sports.

“Folks, we witnessed history,” the president said. “In this team, we saw hope, we saw pride and we saw purpose. It matters.”

The ceremony was halted for about 10 minutes after forward Sa’Myah Smith appeared to collapse as she and her teammates stood behind Biden. A wheelchair was brought in and coach Kim Mulkey assured the audience that Smith was fine.

LSU said in a statement that Smith felt overheated, nauseous and thought she might faint. She was evaluated by LSU and White House medical staff and was later able to rejoin the team. “She is feeling well, in good spirits, and will undergo further evaluation once back in Baton Rouge,” the LSU statement said.

Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, Biden said, more than half of all college students are women, and there are now 10 times more female athletes in college and high school. He said most sports stories are still about men, and that that needs to change.

Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in federally funded education programs and activities.

“Folks, we need to support women sports, not just during the championship run but during the entire year,” President Biden said.

After the Tigers beat Iowa for the NCAA title in April in a game the first lady attended, she caused an uproar by suggesting that the Hawkeyes also come to the White House.

LSU star Angel Reese called the idea “A JOKE” and said she would prefer to visit with former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, instead. The LSU team largely is Black, while Iowa’s top player, Caitlin Clark, is white, as are most of her teammates.

Nothing came of Jill Biden’s idea and the White House only invited the Tigers. Reese ultimately said she would not skip the White House visit. She and co-captain Emily Ward presented team jerseys bearing the number “46” to Biden and the first lady. Hugs were exchanged.

Jill Biden also lavished praise on the team, saying the players showed “what it means to be a champion.”

“In this room, I see the absolute best of the best,” she said, adding that watching them play was “pure magic.”

“Every basket was pure joy and I kept thinking about how far women’s sports have come,” the first lady added, noting that she grew up before Title IX was passed. “We’ve made so much progress and we still have so much more work to do.”

The president added that “the way in which women’s sports has come along is just incredible. It’s really neat to see, since I’ve got four granddaughters.”

After Smith was helped to a wheelchair, Mulkey told the audience the player was OK.

“As you can see, we leave our mark where we go,” Mulkey joked. “Sa’Myah is fine. She’s kind of, right now, embarrassed.”

A few members of Congress and Biden aides past and present with Louisiana roots dropped what they were doing to attend the East Room event, including White House budget director Shalanda Young. Young is in the thick of negotiations with House Republicans to reach a deal by the middle of next week to stave off what would be a globally calamitous U.S. financial default if the U.S. can no longer borrow the money it needs to pay its bills.

The president, who wore a necktie in the shade of LSU’s purple, said Young, who grew up in Baton Rouge, told him, “I’m leaving the talks to be here.” Rep. Garret Graves, one of the House GOP negotiators, also attended.

Biden closed sports Friday by changing to a blue tie and welcoming the UConn’s men’s championship team for its own celebration. The Huskies won their fifth national title by defeating San Diego State, 76-59, in April.

“Congratulations to the whole UConn nation,” he said.

Marquette’s Prosper says he will stay in draft rather than returning to school

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

MILWAUKEE — Olivier-Maxence Prosper announced he is keeping his name under NBA draft consideration rather than returning to Marquette.

The 6-foot-8 forward announced his decision.

“Thank you Marquette nation, my coaches, my teammates and support staff for embracing me from day one,” Prosper said in an Instagram post. “My time at Marquette has been incredible. With that being said, I will remain in the 2023 NBA Draft. I’m excited for what comes next. On to the next chapter…”

Prosper had announced last month he was entering the draft. He still could have returned to school and maintained his college eligibility by withdrawing from the draft by May 31. Prosper’s announcement indicates he instead is going ahead with his plans to turn pro.

Prosper averaged 12.5 points and 4.7 rebounds last season while helping Marquette go 29-7 and win the Big East’s regular-season and tournament titles. Marquette’s season ended with a 69-60 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32.

He played two seasons at Marquette after transferring from Clemson, where he spent one season.

Kansas’ Kevin McCullar Jr. returning for last season of eligibility

kansas mccullar
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Kevin McCullar Jr. said that he will return to Kansas for his final year of eligibility, likely rounding out a roster that could make the Jayhawks the preseason No. 1 next season.

McCullar transferred from Texas Tech to Kansas for last season, when he started 33 of 34 games and averaged 10.7 points and 7.0 rebounds. He was also among the nation’s leaders in steals, and along with being selected to the Big 12’s all-defensive team, the 6-foot-6 forward was a semifinalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award.

“To be able to play in front of the best fans in the country; to play for the best coach in the nation, I truly believe we have the pieces to hang another banner in the Phog,” McCullar said in announcing his return.

Along with McCullar, the Jayhawks return starters Dajuan Harris Jr. and K.J. Adams from a team that went 28–8, won the Big 12 regular-season title and was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, where it lost to Arkansas in the second round.

Perhaps more importantly, the Jayhawks landed Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, widely considered the best player in the portal, to anchor a lineup that was missing a true big man. They also grabbed former five-star prospect Arterio Morris, who left Texas, and Towson’s Nick Timberlake, who emerged last season as one of the best 3-point shooters in the country.

The Jayhawks also have an elite recruiting class arriving that is headlined by five-star recruit Elmarko Jackson.

McCullar declared for the draft but, after getting feedback from scouts, decided to return. He was a redshirt senior last season, but he has another year of eligibility because part of his career was played during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a big day for Kansas basketball,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “Kevin is not only a terrific player but a terrific teammate. He fit in so well in year one and we’re excited about what he’ll do with our program from a leadership standpoint.”

Clemson leading scorer Hall withdraws from NBA draft, returns to Tigers

clemson pj hall
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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson leading scorer PJ Hall is returning to college after withdrawing from the NBA draft on Thursday.

The 6-foot-10 forward took part in the NBA combine and posted his decision to put off the pros on social media.

Hall led the Tigers with 15.3 points per game this past season. He also led the Tigers with 37 blocks, along with 5.7 rebounds. Hall helped Clemson finish third in the Atlantic Coast Conference while posting a program-record 14 league wins.

Clemson coach Brad Brownell said Hall gained experience from going through the NBA’s combine that will help the team next season. “I’m counting on him and others to help lead a very talented group,” he said.

Hall was named to the all-ACC third team last season as the Tigers went 23-10.

George Washington adopts new name ‘Revolutionaries’ to replace ‘Colonials’

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WASHINGTON — George Washington University’s sports teams will now be known as the Revolutionaries, the school announced.

Revolutionaries replaces Colonials, which had been GW’s name since 1926. Officials made the decision last year to drop the old name after determining it no longer unified the community.

GW said 8,000 different names were suggested and 47,000 points of feedback made during the 12-month process. Revolutionaries won out over the other final choices of Ambassadors, Blue Fog and Sentinels.

“I am very grateful for the active engagement of our community throughout the development of the new moniker,” president Mark S. Wrighton said. “This process was truly driven by our students, faculty, staff and alumni, and the result is a moniker that broadly reflects our community – and our distinguished and distinguishable GW spirit.”

George the mascot will stay and a new logo developed soon for the Revolutionaries name that takes effect for the 2023-24 school year. The university is part of the Atlantic 10 Conference.