Why Wichita State benefits from the absence of Kevin Ware

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ATLANTA — What does Wichita State need to do to be able to beat Louisville?

I’ve been asked that question upwards of 20 times heading into Final Four weekend, and the answer is alarmingly simple: protect the basketball.

You see, what Louisville does better than anyone is to use their press to force turnovers, converting those turnovers into easy buckets at the other end of the floor. They lead the country in pick-sixes, if you will. Since they can only get into their press when they score, those pick-sixes become even more devastating; not only do you turn the ball over and give up a bucket, you now have to try and get the ball over half court against Russ Smith and Peyton Siva again.

Louisville plays streaky defense. They can get on these roles where they look absolutely suffocating because those turnovers and those easy baskets wear on you, both physically and mentally. Not only do those guards get in your head, they’re in peak physical condition. They don’t get tired. You will. And if trying to dribble against Smith and Siva wasn’t tiring enough, then you have to drop back and defend them at the other end.

The Cardinals have solved some of their issues with half court offense as the season has gone on, but they still aren’t a great team in that aspect of the game. Avoiding turnovers allows your defense — in Wichita State’s case, Pitino referred to them as “the best team we will have faced this year on the defensive end” and “Marquette on steroids” — to get set.

But it will also allow Wichita State to capitalize on what may be their greatest advantage heading into Saturday.

For all that Louisville does well, they’re not a great defensive rebounding team. the Cardinals allow opponents to grab almost a third of the available offensive rebounds. The Shockers are 18th in the country in offensive rebounding percentage. Fewer turnovers means more shots, and even if Wichita State shoots a low percentage, that’s beneficial for them; Gregg Marshall’s best offense on Saturday may be a missed shot.

Make sense?

Now think about this: Kevin Ware isn’t playing. The first guard off of Louisville’s bench? Tim Henderson, a walk-on. Ware isn’t Smith or Siva, but he’s the biggest of the three of them and had been playing the best basketball of his career before getting injured on Sunday. He’s just as much of a turnover creator as Smith and Siva can be. Henderson isn’t.

“We don’t have a back court substitute,” Pitino said. “We had a great rotation. All three guards were playing well. Obviously when you press and run as much as we do, it becomes a great concern when you don’t have a substitute. We substitute every game and give those guys breaks. Now we can’t change our style of play because we won’t win or have a chance of winning.”

“Now we have to play a walk-on. He’s got to do the best job he can do.”

Ware’s a good player, but he was anything but a household name before his injury.

It’s ironic that his absence in the lineup could end up being what costs Louisville.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Nevada’s Jordan Caroline pulls out of 2018 NBA Draft

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Jordan Caroline has opted to pull his name out of the 2018 NBA Draft as he will return to Nevada for his senior season, he announced on Saturday.

The 6-foot-7 Caroline put together a strong season for the Wolf Pack as he averaged 17.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game as Nevada made the Sweet 16 behind one of the most talented offenses in the country.

Caroline’s return is a huge boost for Nevada as they still await the NBA draft decisions of Caleb and Cody Martin.

Currently ranked No. 17 in the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25 (without the Martin twins), the Wolf Pack will still have a ton of talent around Caroline next season. Five-star freshman center Jordan Brown recently committed to Nevada. The program also a number of talented transfers entering the mix, including Tre’Shawn Thomas, Nisre Zouzoua and Ehab Amin.

If the Martin twins return to school (and that is a big if) then Nevada could have a potentially elite offense next season. But even if the Martin twins go pro, Nevada should still be the favorite in the Mountain West and a threat to once again make the second weekend of the NCAA tournament.

Dewan Huell returning to Miami for junior season

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Miami received some positive news on Saturday afternoon as the school announced the return of forward Dewan Huell for his junior season.

After testing the NBA draft waters without an agent, the 6-foot-11 Huell will be back for the Hurricanes. Starting all 32 games for the program last season, Huell averaged 11.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game while shooting 57 percent from the floor.

“After getting feedback from NBA teams and talking it over with my family and coaches, I would like to announce that I will be returning to Miami for my junior season,” Huell said in the release. “I’m really excited to get back to work with my brothers so we can accomplish more than ever during the 2018-19 season.”

A former McDonald’s All-American coming out of high school, Huell’s return gives the Hurricanes stability in the front court for next season as he’ll play with other returning players like Sam Waardenburg and Ebuka Izundu. With Miami losing both Lonnie Walker and Bruce Brown early to the 2018 NBA Draft, Huell could be expected to provide more offensive production as a junior.

Bruce Weber receives contract extension at Kansas State

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Kansas State and head coach Bruce Weber have agreed to a two-year contract extension, according to a release from the school.

After leading the Wildcats to a surprising Elite Eight appearance in March, Weber will be the head coach at Kansas State through the 2022-23 season, which gives him another five seasons to work with. Weber will be paid $2.5 million in 2018-19 and he’ll receive a $100,000 increase to his salary in each remaining contract year.

Weber had already signed a two-year extension in August 2017, but this move gives the veteran head coach more job security (and positive recruiting perception) for the next few seasons.

“We are very fortunate to have not only such an outstanding basketball coach but also a man in Coach Weber who conducts his program with integrity and class and is widely respected across the nation,” Kansas State Director of Athletics Gene Taylor said. “Certainly last season was one of the most memorable postseason runs in our program’s history, and we are excited for next season and the years ahead under Coach Weber’s leadership.”

With Kansas State returning most of its roster from last season, including the return of guard Barry Brown from the 2018 NBA Draft process, expectations are sky-high for Weber and the Wildcats this season. Currently ranked as the No. 8 team in the NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25, Kansas State’s veteran club could give Kansas a serious run for a Big 12 regular season title this season.

Northwestern loses incoming freshman point guard

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Northwestern and incoming freshman point guard Jordan Lathon are parting ways. The 6-foot-4 Lathon was viewed as a potential candidate to replace Bryant McIntosh at lead guard for the Wildcats this season, but Northwestern has reportedly revoked his offer of admission and basketball scholarship.

It is unclear why Lathon was unable to be admitted into Northwestern, but the school’s VP for University Relations, Alan Cubbage, gave a statement to Inside NU’s Davis Rich and Caleb Friedman.

“Northwestern University has revoked its offers of admission and an athletic scholarship for Jordan Lathon, a recruit for the Northwestern men’s basketball team,” the statement said. “Out of respect for the privacy of the student, the University will have no further public comment.”

Lathon later acknowledged the situation in a tweet explaining to fans that he will no longer be attending Northwestern.

While it is unclear why Lathon and Northwestern are parting ways, other high-major programs are already very interested in bringing in Lathon for next season. Oklahoma State immediately jumped in with a scholarship offer. There is also speculation that Lathon, a native of Grandview, Missouri, could also hear from the in-state Tigers as well.

It’ll be interesting to see where Lathon lands, and how this also affects Northwestern’s point guard situation. The loss of a four-year starter like McIntosh will be tough to fill, especially since Lathon was committed to Northwestern since last June. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the Wildcats and head coach Chris Collins seek out a veteran point guard graduate transfer to try and get some immediate help.

Nebraska’s James Palmer Jr. returning to school

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Nebraska received some important news on Friday night as senior guard James Palmer Jr. will be back for next season.

The 6-foot-6 Palmer had tested the NBA draft waters, but he decided to return to the Cornhuskers. After putting up 17.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game last season, Palmer is expected to be an All-Big Ten candidate once again this season. Palmer shot 44 percent from the floor and 30 percent from three-point range last season.

After transferring in from Miami, Palmer became the Huskers’ go-to scorer last season in helping Nebraska to a 22-win season and NIT appearance.

With Palmer back, Nebraska will have some legitimate expectations for the upcoming season, especially if the team’s second-leading scorer, Isaac Copeland Jr., also returns from the NBA draft process.