Sweet 16 Previews: Can NC State do to T-Rob what Purdue did?

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On Sunday night, Purdue very nearly pulled off an incredible upset of No. 2 seed Kansas, eventually succumbing to the Jayhawks as Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Johnson turned three turnovers into fast break baskets in the final 70 seconds.

Up until that point, however, Kansas had only held one lead in the entire game, when Johnson hit a three at the 3:04 mark to put Kansas up 57-56, and trailed by as many as 11 points in the first half.

Much of that credit falls onto the shoulders of Robbie Hummel, who wowed the nation with one final display of his shooting ability, scoring 22 of his 26 points in the first half and sparking the surge that gave the Boilermakers their lead. Hummel wasn’t completely alone, either, as DJ Byrd hit a pair of first half threes and Ryne Smith, Terone Johnson and Byrd made big shots in the second half to help Purdue sustain the lead for so long.

As good as Hummel was leading his team offensively, it was the defense that he played on Thomas Robinson that was more impressive.

A contender for National Player of the Year, Robinson was held to his worst performance of the season on Sunday, finishing with 11 points on 2-for-12 shooting from the field. Hummel spent much of the game matched up with T-Rob. How did a jump-shooting power forward with one good leg mange to keep the nation’s biggest bully on the block in check for 40 minutes?

Easy.

He brought his friends with him.

Purdue spent the majority of the game bracketing T-Rob with (at least) two defenders. Here’s an example of a typical possession. With the ball in Tyshawn Taylor’s hands on the far side of the court, you’ll see Sandi Marcius bodying up Robinson despite being on the opposite block. Hummel is sloughed off of Travis Releford on the same side of the floor as Robinson:

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After the ball is swung around the perimeter, you’ll see Terone Johnson in the lane as Robinson is attempting to post up. Hummel is playing a good five feet off of Releford, who has the the ball, to prevent an entry pass:

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When Robinson finally does get the ball in the post, he is not only double-teamed by Marcius and Hummel, but all five members of the Purdue defense are in the paint:

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Here are a couple more examples of just how much attention Robinson received from Purdue. Here, Robinson is bracketed on the far block while Teahan is left wide-open in the corner with no defender even concerned about Johnson on the near side of the floor:

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Naadir Tharpe has the ball on the far side of the floor, and Anthony Johnson is daring Tharpe to shoot while basically doubling Robinson to prevent a post touch. Also not where Hummel is in help-side:

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Robinson has three people circling him before he even gets a touch. Hummel is completely disregarding Kevin Young:

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Robinson actually has the ball on the far block. Yes, that’s a triple-team:

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Who needs to send a triple-team when you can just double-team Robinson before he even gets a touch:

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The Jayhawk’s strategy was simple: make someone else beat us. And it almost worked. Tyshawn Taylor was 4-for-11 from the floor, with two of those field goals being breakaway dunks in the final minute. Releford had 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting, but the majority of his damage was done early in the first half. Connor Teahan was 2-for-8 from the field. Withey and Young combined to go 1-for-7 from the floor.

In fact, if it wasn’t for Elijah Johnson, who had 18 points and scored 13 in the final 13 minutes, Purdue would be preparing for NC State right now, not the Jayhawks.

I hope Mark Gottfried was taking notes, because that is precisely what the Wolfpack are going to need to do on Friday night.

The good news for NC State is that their front line is going to be bigger than Purdue’s. Richard Howell and CJ Leslie have more size, more strength and more athleticism that Marcius and Hummel. The bad news? They still aren’t going to matchup that well with Robinson and Withey.

Out of curiosity, I went back and watched the tape of NC State against UNC (with and without Henson), Virginia and Florida State. The Wolfpack didn’t double the post against the Cavs or the Noles, opting to allow their big men to try and defend one-on-one against Mike Scott and Bernard James.

But against UNC, the Wolfpack sent a double-team every time Tyler Zeller or John Henson got the ball on the block with their back to the basket (they didn’t double-team James Michael-McAdoo). The example I’m showing you is of Kendall Marshall making the post-entry … :

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but regardless of who threw the pass into the post, the double-team was coming off of Marshall (or Stilman White or Justin Watts, depending on who was in the game):

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The strategy didn’t exactly work, as NC State went 0-3 against the Tar Heels. In the first game, Zeller had 21 points and 17 boards. In the second game, Zeller and Henson were held in check, but Marshall destroyed NC State to the tune of 22 points, 13 assists and no turnovers. And in the ACC tournament, despite Henson not being available, Zeller still finished with 23 points and nine boards.

Not exactly a great omen for the Wolfpack.

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

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.