College Hoops Week in Review: Five Thoughts

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Five Thoughts

Last word on Kansas-Missouri: I still can’t get over this game. I wrote almost 1,200 words on it after it happened, and I still think I shorted it. The way Missouri played for the first 25 minutes should be lauded. Its not easy to build up a 19 point lead on the road; its near impossible to do so at Phog Allen Fieldhouse in a big game. The way that Kansas came back was even more impressive, as they fed Thomas Robinson over and over again what stymieing Missouri’s vaunted offense. There were too many clutch shots down the stretch to remember.

But more than anything, I think the fact that this was one of the best college basketball games you will ever see played in an environment unlike any other will do wonders for keeping this rivalry going. To be frank, the “rivalry” hasn’t been much of a rivalry over the last decade or two. Kansas is Kansas, and while Missouri fields some very good basketball team now and again, they aren’t on the same level as the Jayhawks. That said, during years like this — when Missouri is for real and Kansas is just as good — the games get taken to another level, just like they did on Saturday.

I think that will be enough to convince Kansas to play Missouri again, even if it helps Missouri more than it will ever help the Jayhawks. It won’t be next season. It may be five or ten years. Maybe more. But eventually, this game will come back. Until then, as Joe Posnanski said, we’ll miss it.

The Mountain West race will be fun this week: San Diego State, New Mexico and UNLV are all tied for first place in the MWC at 8-4 with just two games left this week. Barring another upset — which is a ridiculous assumption to make given how often rank has been a factor in the conference this season — SDSU has the inside track for the No. 1 seed in the tournament. They already have a win over fourth place TCU, and they play at TCU. That said, TCU has beaten UNLV and UNM at home. Ugh.

UNLV looks like they will be headed for the No. 2 seed if they can win out this week. New Mexico has already lost to Colorado State, the fifth place team, but the Rebels won at home earlier this season and have to travel to Ft. Collins for the rematch. Oh, and Colorado State has beaten both New Mexico and SDSU this year. Double ugh.

So like I said, the end of the MWC race is going to be some fun this week. Buckle up.

Can the CAA get two bids?: It might be tough. Drexel and VCU are both going to have to make the title game of the league tournament. I’d also expect that Drexel has a better chance of getting in with an at-large bid, so we would probably need VCU to win the automatic bid. The Dragons will be an interesting case. They’ll have 27 wins if they make it to the title game. They’ll have won 25 of their last 27 games. Their 2-4 start? Two of those losses came when sharpshooter Chris Fouch was injured and the other two came when he was back on the court but not 100%. Think about it like this: Drexel, as of now, has lost once since Dec. 3rd and ran through an always tough and always balanced CAA, winning the league outright despite a couple of talented teams. That deserves heavy consideration.

Late whistles: There were a number of late calls that decided games this week. The most notable: the no-call on Phil Pressey’s drive and the foul called on Tyshawn Taylor’s drive in the KU-MU game; the charge called on Kyle Casey that erased what would have been the go-ahead bucket for Harvard in their loss to Penn; the no-call when Roscoe Smith drove in the final seconds against Syracuse. I’m sure I missed some.

My opinion is this: I think down the stretch, you have to allow a little bit to change in terms of how a game is called. You don’t call ticky-tack fouls that will decide the outcome. If a player is hit hard enough, yes, you should give him the whistle. The definition of a foul is termed as when “an advantage is gained”, and so long as the referees stick to that theory late, I think they’ll be fine. There was no advantage gained when Robinson hit Pressey at the end of regulation, but there was also no advantage gained when Taylor drove and drew a foul that gave Kansas their final lead. I like seeing players decide the outcome of a game, but if they draw a foul, it has to be given to them.

Also, I have an issue with how much folks talk about overworked referees. The best in the business get paid upwards of $3,000 per game. For two hours worth of work. If I got paid that much, I would be working 20 hours every day. And frankly, I don’t think refs get that tired flying around the country as much as they do. I certainly don’t blame bad calls on refs being travel-weary. I think the bigger issue is that some of these refs just aren’t that good.

Best game you won’t hear anything about this week: Weber State, who is led by future first-round pick, and Montana are tied for first place in the Big Sky. Weber State won the first matchup between the two by 16 at home, but they will be heading to Missoula, MT, for the rematch. Currently, the third place team in the conference is five games behind these two and the fourth place teams is seven games back; in other words, both Montana and Weber State are good. Which is why this matchup should be fun to watch.

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

VIDEO: Mixtape for North Carolina-bound Nassir Little

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Nassir Little is one of the most improved players in the high school basketball ranks, going from being a guy that was a borderline five-star prospect to being a potential No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.

At 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and athleticism to burn, he has all the makings of being one of the switchable wing defenders that are en vogue in the modern era of the NBA.

Former UNC star Phil Ford has surgery for prostate cancer

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina says former point guard Phil Ford has had surgery for prostate cancer.

Team spokesman Steve Kirschner said Wednesday that Ford underwent the procedure Tuesday after he was diagnosed during his annual physical. Dr. Eric Wallen, the UNC physician who is treating Ford, says the cancer was caught early because Ford “has been proactive regarding his health.”

Ford played for Dean Smith in the 1970s and scored 2,290 points, a mark that stood as the school record until Tyler Hansbrough broke it in 2008. Ford also spent 12 seasons as an assistant to Smith after a seven-year NBA career in which he was the rookie of the year in 1979.

Bruce Pearl: ‘Good chance’ Auburn returns four players testing the waters

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Bruce Pearl told reporters on Monday that there is a “good chance” that his Auburn program will return all four of the players that are currently testing the waters of the NBA draft.

“I think there’s a good chance they’re all going to consider coming back,” Pearl said. “There’s a chance they’re all going to come back, but that’s been the case since the beginning.”

“I just feel as we get closer to the deadline and they gather more and more information, I think that chance improves. It would not surprise me, still, to see a couple of them stay in.”

Those four players are Mustapha Heron, Austin Wiley, Bryce Brown and Jared Harper. Brown was the leading scorer for the Tigers last season, while Heron was arguably their best player and Harper a steady floor general that is the piece that holds everything together. Wiley did not play after he was ruled ineligible as a result of the FBI’s investigation into college basketball. If he returns he will be eligible to play the 2018-19 season.

Heron will be the most interesting decision of the four. A former McDonald’s All-American, when he declared for the draft last month, he announced that he intended to sign with an agent. But he has told reporters in the last week that he never actually signed and is still “50-50” on whether or not he will return. He was not invited to the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago last week. Wiley was, but he did not make enough of an impression to earn himself a first round guarantee. Brown and Harper are very unlikely to be drafted, but both juniors will get feedback from NBA teams on what they might need to do to play their way into the league.

Auburn is coming off of a year where they shared the SEC regular season title with Tennessee, but they struggled down the stretch of the season after Anfernee McLemore suffered a gruesome ankle injury. As it stands, under the assumption that Heron and Wiley are gone, we currently have the Tigers ranked as a top 15 team in the country in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25.

With Heron and Wiley back, however, Auburn will have the pieces to make a case as one of college basketball’s five best teams next season.

Forward Lance Thomas transferring from Louisville

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With Anas Mahmoud out of eligibility and Ray Spalding having made the decision to enter the 2018 NBA Draft, new Louisville head coach Chris Mack had some holes to fill in the front court ahead of his first season at the helm. There’s now another departure to account for, as it was announced Tuesday afternoon that 6-foot-8 forward Lance Thomas has decided to transfer.

Thomas, who will have three seasons of eligibility remaining at his next school, appeared in 12 games for the Cardinals last season and averaged 2.2 points and 1.3 rebounds in 4.2 minutes per game.

Losing Thomas may not appear to be a big deal based upon his production as a freshman. But, given the combination of player departures and misses on the recruiting trail this spring it can also be argued that Louisville is not in a position where it can afford any more personnel losses.

Louisville is now down to four scholarship players in the front court, wings V.J. King and Jordan Nwora and forwards Malik Williams and Steven Enoch, with Enoch eligible after sitting out last season after transferring in from UConn.

Williams made 12 starts as a freshman, averaging 3.8 points and 2.4 rebounds in 10.6 minutes per game, with King averaging 8.6 points per game and Nwora 5.7 points per game. Enoch played in 29 games at UConn during the 2016-17 season, averaging 3.4 points and 2.3 rebounds in 12.1 minutes per appearance.

Four-star wing Romeo Weems commits to DePaul

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DePaul landed its first verbal commitment in the Class of 2019 Tuesday afternoon, as four-star small forward Romeo Weems announced that he will be a Blue Demon. Weems, who attends New Haven HS in New Haven, Michigan, picked DePaul over Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Oregon and is considered by most major scouting services to be a Top 50 prospect in the 2019 graduating class.

The 6-foot-6 Weems plays his grassroots basketball for The Family on the Nike EYBL circuit, averaging 15.0 points and 7.5 rebounds per game this spring. Weems also has experience playing for USA Basketball, as he was part of the Under-16 team that won the FIBA Americas U16 title last year. Weems will also be part of the training camp from which the Under-17 team will be selected next month in preparation for this summer’s FIBA Under-17 World Championships.

DePaul managing to land a commitment from a prospect of Weems’ caliber, a versatile wing who can defend multiple positions while also being productive offensively, could be the shot in the arm that Dave Leitao’s program so desperately needs if they’re to improve their standing within the Big East.

Since making the move from Conference USA in 2005, DePaul has finished above .500 in a season just once (20-14 in 2006-07) with that also being the only time in which the Blue Demons finished above .500 in Big East play (9-7). Since Leitao, who led DePaul to its most recent NCAA tournament in 2005, returned for his second stint at the school the Blue Demons have gone 29-65.

Getting out of Allstate Arena and moving to the new Wintrust Arena ahead of last season was an important move for the DePaul program, but it’s been clear that the rebuild won’t be a “quick fix.” Bringing in a talent of Weems’ caliber should help DePaul moving forward, with the key now being to recruit well enough to ensure that the talented wing has ample help when he arrives on campus next year.

Among the players currently on the roster who will have eligibility remaining in 2019 are guards Devin Gage and Justin Roberts and wing Darious Hall, who will sit out the 2018-19 season after transferring to DePaul from Arkansas. Hall appeared in 35 games for the Razorbacks this past season, averaging 5.1 points and 3.1 rebounds in just under 15 minutes per game.