Ohio St. better hope Jared Sullinger’s injury isn’t serious


Jared Sullinger’s back failed us all.

This was supposed to be one of the most interesting matchups of the young season, and not solely because of the names on the front of the jerseys. While having two programs with as much prestige as No. 2 Ohio State and No. 13 Kansas share the court for 40 minutes in a storied Phog Allen Fieldhouse is terrific television viewing in and or itself, the fact that it featured two of the most intriguing big man prospects in the country only increased the intrigue.

But Sullinger couldn’t get his back loosened up, and as a result, Ohio State had to take the floor without their star center and a first-team all-american.

The Jayhawks took advantage. Thomas Robinson finished with 21 points and seven boards while Kevin Young had his best game in a Kansas uniform, scoring 14 points off the bench, as the Jayhawks rolled to a 78-67 win.

The question is how we judge this win. How do we look at it when the rankings are released on Monday? How do we interpret it come Selection Sunday? How can we, with any realistic accuracy, determine what would have happened in this game had Jared Sullinger played?

Because right now this win has an asterisk, and it goes beyond the fact that Kansas was playing the game at home. Ohio State is a different team without Sullinger in the lineup. Losing a guy that averages 19.1 ppg and 10.3 rpg is a massive blow no matter how you look at it. When Evan Ravenel and Amir Williams are the players that see time as replacements, the impact of that loss gets maginifed.

But there is more to it than that.

Sullinger forces a defense to do so many things differently when he is on the floor. He’s such a threat on the block when he catches the ball that defensive game-plans have to be built completely around how to help down on or double the post and rotate to shooters if the ball gets kicked out. Even when Sullinger doesn’t touch the ball, his presence in the paint and his ability to seal his defender forces the opponent’s defense to loosen up and slough to the paint a little bit more.

With Ohio State’s ability to swing the ball around the perimeter, those couple of extra steps makes a world of difference in getting open looks for shooters and creating 1-on-1 isolation opportunities on the perimeter. Given the fact that this season, Thad Matta has guys like Lenzelle Smith and Jordan Sibert as secondary offensive options instead of David Lighty and Jon Diebler, and creating those open looks through ball movement becomes all-the-more important; the Buckeyes simply don’t have the same kind of talent and shot creation on the perimeter.

This is still a fairly impressive win for Kansas as Ohio State never really threatened the lead despite the fact that both DeShaun Thomas and William Buford managed to get into a pretty good rhythm for a half. The Jayhawks, frankly, didn’t play their best game, either. Robinson’s 21 points and seven boards were quiet, meaning he did a lot of his damage late in the game — with about 10 minutes left, he had just 11 points and two boards. Even without Sullinger on the court, Robinson did not dominate the Buckeye front line.

Tyshawn Taylor wasn’t particularly great either. He did dish out 13 assists, which is a very impressive total for anyone, but he turned the ball over seven times in the process and shot just 3-9 from the floor.

Sullinger’s injury — which, hopefully, is not something that will plague him all season long; they said on the broadcasy that his back is so inflamed that it is difficult for him to bend down and touch his toes — took away from a matchup that a lot of people were looking forward to.

But it also made it very difficult to get any kind of read on what this performance means for both teams.
What We Learned


– The Jayhakws are not going to be at their best until they can learn to protect the ball better. They had 18 assists but also 18 turnovers against Ohio State. Tyshawn Taylor is the biggest culprit. He has 32 turnovers in his last five games and has an assist-to-turnover ratio that was below one heading into today. You cannot have your primary ball-handler be that careless.

– Kevin Young is going to be an important piece for the Jayhawks if he can develop into an inside-outside threat. Young had 14 points, grabbed a couple of offensive boards and knocked down a pair of threes. If Young can provide Self with a steady face-up option to play alongside Robinson, it gives Kansas that much more versatility.

– It was nice to see Elijah Johnson bust out of his shooting slump with a 5-7 day from beyond the arc.

Ohio State:

– The Buckeyes better hope that Sullinger’s injury isn’t very serious. Without him in the lineup, they are a very different team.

– The biggest issue offensively for Ohio State is that they just don’t have the kind of weapons on their perimeter that are going to consistently be able to create points and shots. William Buford is not exactly a go-to scorer; he’s more of a complimentary player. DeShaun Thomas can get buckets, but I am concerned that telling him he has free reign to shoot whenever he pleases can be like opening up Pandora’s Box. Aaron Craft is more of a steadying influence and a facilitator at the point than he is a dynamic creator. Sullinger’s presence nullifies that.

– I think that the offensive end is where Ohio State will be hurt the most without Sullinger, but defensively they should still be fine. Sullinger takes up a lot of space, but he’s not a shot-blocker and he’s not a guy that is going to go out of his area to grab rebounds. Ravenel and Williams aren’t quite as strong and don’t hold position as well, but they really aren’t that big of a drop-off.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @ballinisahabit.

Gonzaga’s Timme among five finalists for men’s Wooden Award

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES – Drew Timme of Gonzaga is one of five finalists for the John R. Wooden Award as the men’s college basketball player of the year.

He’s joined by Zach Edey of Purdue, Trayce Jackson-Davis of Indiana, Houston’s Marcus Sasser and Jalen Wilson of Kansas.

Timme took his team farthest in the upset-riddled NCAA Tournament with Gonzaga losing in the Elite Eight. Sasser helped Houston reach the Sweet 16. Purdue lost in the first round, while Indiana and Kansas were beaten in the second round.

The winner will be announced April 4 on ESPN. All five players have been invited to Los Angeles for the 47th annual presentation on April 7.

Also among the top 10 vote getters were: Jaime Jaquez Jr. of UCLA, Brandon Miller of Alabama, Penn State’s Jalen Pickett, Oscar Tshiebwe of Kentucky and Arizona’s Azuolas Tubelis.

Voting took place from March 13-20.

South Carolina’s Dawn Staley will receive the Legends of Coaching Award during the ceremony at the Los Angeles Athletic Club.

Indiana’s Teri Moren wins AP Coach of the Year

Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times / USA TODAY NETWORK

DALLAS – Teri Moren has led Indiana to some unprecedented heights this season.

The team won its first Big Ten regular season championship in 40 years, rose to No. 2 in The Associated Press women’s basketball poll and earned the school’s first No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Moren was honored Thursday as the AP women’s basketball Coach of the Year, the first time she has won the award. She received 12 votes from the 28-member national media panel that votes on the AP Top 25 each week. South Carolina’s Dawn Staley was second with eight votes. Utah’s Lynne Roberts received five and Virginia Tech’s Kenny Brooks three.

Voting was done before the NCAA Tournament.

“I think a lot of people were like this is going to be a year where Indiana is reloading, rebuilding, they won’t be as good as they had been the year prior. We were picked third in the Big Ten,” Moren said.

Moren was surprised by her team, who told her she won in an elaborate ruse.

“Anytime you can share it with people that made it happen. the staff, the players, the most important people who have been instrumental in the season and this award is special. I was speechless.”

Moren accepted the award at the Final Four, sharing the stage with AP Player of the Year Caitlin Clark to complete a Big Ten sweep.

The team has come a long way from when Moren was a young girl growing up in southern Indiana. She was a diehard fan of the Indiana basketball team. The men’s one that is.

She would attend men’s games with her family when she was a kid and was a big fan of coach Bob Knight. She has a constant reminder of the Hall of Fame coach in her office as a picture of his infamous chair-throwing incident hangs by the door. Moren said it’s the last thing she sees before heading to practice.

As far as the women’s team, they just weren’t very good. Times have changed, as Moren has built the program into a blue-collar team that focuses on defense and is a consistent Top 25 team the last few seasons, appearing in the poll for 75 consecutive weeks starting with the preseason one in 2019-2020. That’s the fourth-longest active streak.

Before that, the Hoosiers had been ranked for a total of six times.

“People still talk to me about living in Bloomington and they couldn’t afford a ticket to the men’s game. Not that they settled, but became women’s basketball fans. At that moment, you could walk in and find any seat you wanted and watch women’s basketball,” Moren said.

“There were 300-400 people in the stands, now to what it is today, it’s an unbelievable thing to watch it grow. Things you dream about to see fans and bodies up in the rafters.”

The Hoosiers had six of the school’s top 10 most attended games this season, including crowds of over 13,000 fans for the first round of the NCAA Tournament and 14,000 for the second round game – a shocking loss to Miami.

“It stings right now, but that last game doesn’t define our season,” Moren said.

AP source: Alabama’s Brandon Miller declares for NBA draft

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Alabama All-American forward Brandon Miller is heading to the NBA after displaying versatile talent and athleticism in a lone season of college ball that was blemished by revelations he was present at a fatal shooting in January near campus.

ESPN first reported on Miller’s decision, and a person with knowledge of the situation confirmed the report to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because Miller hadn’t yet made an official declaration for the draft.

The 6-foot-9, 200-pound freshman, who was one of the nation’s top high school recruits, is projected as a potential top 5 draft pick.

Miller displayed his accurate 3-point shooting and athleticism in the most productive season of any freshman in Alabama history. He led the Tide to their first No. 1 ranking in 20 years and first No. 1 NCAA Tournament seed.

Miller averaged 18.8 points and 8.2 rebounds while hitting 38% from 3-point range. But he was scoreless in his first March Madness game, and went 3 of 19 and scored just nine points in a Sweet 16 loss to San Diego State.

Miller was described as a cooperating witness after the Jan. 15 shooting and was never charged with a crime.

But he and the Tide were dogged by off-court questions for the final two months of the season. Former Alabama player Darius Miles and another man were charged with capital murder in the fatal shooting of 23-year-old Jamea Harris, who was killed in early on Jan. 15.

Miller and fellow freshman Jaden Bradley were placed at the scene as well. According to police testimony, Miller brought Miles his gun. Miller’s attorney said the Tide forward was on his way to pick Miles up when Miles texted asking him to bring the weapon, but that Miller never handled the gun and didn’t know any criminal activity was intended.

Miller received threats after the news came out, and was accompanied by a university-provided security guard. “It doesn’t bother me,” Miller said of the threats at the NCAA regional in Birmingham, Alabama, “I send it to the right people and they handle it.”

Alabama finished the season 31-6 and won the Southeastern Conference regular-season and tournament titles.

Iowa’s Caitlin Clark wins AP Player of the Year

caitlin clark
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports
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DALLAS — Caitlin Clark has put together one of the greatest individual seasons in NCAA history with eye-popping offensive numbers.

Iowa’s junior guard, though, saved her best performance for the game’s biggest stage, recording the first 40-point triple-double in NCAA history to get Iowa to the Final Four for the first time in 30 years.

Clark was honored Thursday as The Associated Press women’s basketball Player of the Year. She received 20 votes from the 28-member national media panel that votes on the AP Top 25 each week. Voting was done before March Madness began.

“It’s a huge honor,” Clark said. “I picked a place that I perfectly fit into and that’s allowed me to show my skill set. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t mean something. It’s not the reason you play basketball, it’s just something that comes along with getting to do what you love.”

The Iowa coaching staff surprised Clark by sharing that she won the award while they were visiting the Iowa Children’s Hospital – a place near and dear to her. It also has huge ties to the Hawkeyes athletic department.

They put together a video of some of the children in the hospital congratulating Clark on an outstanding season, and in the middle of it, Iowa coach Lisa Bluder popped on the screen to tell her she won.

“I’m there for inspiring the next generation and being there for the people that you know are going through a hard time,” said Clark, who grew up in Iowa. “Being able to give joy to people that watch you play and watch your team play is amazing.”

She averaged 27.0 points, 8.3 assists and 7.5 rebounds during the season to help Iowa go 26-6. Clark has 984 points, the sixth-most in a season by any player in Division I women’s history. She also has over 300 assists.

“She is spectacular. I don’t know how else to describe what she does on the basketball court,” Bluder said.

Next up for the Hawkeyes is undefeated South Carolina in the national semifinals. The Gamecocks are led by Aliyah Boston, last season’s winner of the award. She garnered the other eight votes this season.

“There’s so many great players, more than just me and (Aliyah),” Clark told the AP. “You can go on and on and list the tremendous players. I think that’s really good for our game when there’s a lot of great players. That’s what is going to help this game grow more than anything else.”

Whether it’s hitting deep 3s from the Hawkeye logo at home games, hitting off-balance game-winning shots or throwing pinpoint passes to teammates for easy baskets, Clark has excelled on the court this year to get Iowa to a place it hasn’t been in a long time.

“It’s funny, because the better the opponent, almost the better she plays,” Bluder said. “It’s like she locks in on those, when we’re playing against Top 25 teams. That’s when her statistics even go up even more, against great opponents.”

Clark is the second Iowa player to win the AP award in the past few seasons, joining Megan Gustafson who won it in 2019.

UCLA guard Jaylen Clark declares for NBA draft

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES – UCLA guard Jaylen Clark has declared for the NBA draft, weeks after a leg injury forced him out of the season’s final six games.

The junior from Riverside, California, announced his plans on his Instagram account Wednesday.

“Thank you to UCLA and coach (Mick) Cronin for believing in me,” Clark’s post read. “I’d like to announce that I am declaring for the 2023 draft.”

Clark didn’t indicate whether he would hire an agent ahead of the June 22 draft or retain his remaining eligibility. He has until May 31 to withdraw and be able to return to Westwood.

He suffered a lower right leg injury in the regular-season finale against Arizona on March 4. Clark averaged 13 points and six rebounds while starting 29 of 30 games. He led the Pac-12 in total steals with 78, tying for third all-time in single-season steals for the Bruins.

He was a second team All-Pac-12 selection, was named the league’s defensive player of the year and made its five-man All-Defensive Team.

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