Film Session: A breakdown of Okafor-vs.-Kaminsky, Duke-Wisconsin’s key matchup


There may not be a better game all season long than the battle between No. 4 Duke and No. 2 Wisconsin that will take place in Madison on Wednesday evening.

It’s not difficult to figure out why. The Blue Devils and the Badgers are both currently sitting in the top three of the Top 25 largely because you may not find two better offensive teams in the country. Some teams will score more points than the Badgers because of their style of play, but no one runs better sets and, by the time the season is all said and done, there may not be a more efficient team than Wisconsin. Duke? They have as much firepower on that end of the floor as anyone.

And that’s really all you need to make a college basketball game held in December must-see TV, but it gets even better. Duke and Wisconsin feature the nation’s two best players, two guys that play the same position, are from the same area and just so happen to be the focal point for those powerhouse offensive attacks. One of them, Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky, is a senior that came out of nowhere to become an all-american. The other is a freshman, Duke’s Jahlil Okafor, that has been pegged as a superstar since he hit the high school ranks.

It does not get any better than this.


Okafor and Kaminsky may play the same position and are both be labeled as offensively skilled, but the way that they play is not all that similar.

And therein lies the most intriguing part of this matchup.

Okafor is one of the most skilled low-post scorers I’ve ever seen come through the college ranks. We talk about upside and ceiling all the time when it comes to basketball prospects, and Okafor’s ceiling is the next Tim Duncan. He needs to become a better out-of-his-area rebounder and he’s still learning how to defend and use his size to overpower defenders, but when you combine the fact that he’s 6-foot-11 and 260 pounds with nimble feet, a soft touch around the rim and an exquisite ability to pass out of the post, what you’re left with is a guy that is almost impossible to game-plan for.

In his first game against high-major competition, Okafor had 17 points on 8-for-10 shooting in a 77-63 win over No. 19 Michigan State. The Spartans began the game allowing their big men — Gavin Schilling and Matt Costello — to go one-on-one against Okafor in the post, and it wasn’t pretty. He scored eight of Duke’s first 14 points, assisting on one bucket and creating a dunk for Amile Jefferson with his passing out of the post on another possession.

Michigan State mixed up their defenses later in the game, which helped slow down Okafor but which also created mismatches elsewhere on the floor. The problem with defending Duke is that they can surround Okafor with a lineup where they have four players with three-point range that are capable of scoring 20 points on a given night. Quinn Cook, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow, Rasheed Sulaimon, Matt Jones, Grayson Allen. All of those guys can hit open threes, can put the ball on the floor and get to the rim, and will make the next pass if their teammate has a better look.

And Okafor?

He’s able to find the guys that are left open when defenses collapse around him.

When the Blue Devils played Stanford, Johnny Dawkins started the game by putting 6-foot-8 Reid Travis — a guy that was recruited by BCS schools to be a football player — on Okafor and 7-footer Stefan Nastic on Jefferson. The Cardinal would double Okafor on the catch, which did not work out at all for Stanford.

Here are two examples of what I mean. In the first, you can see Okafor (red circle) getting double-teamed. Jefferson (green circle) is left all alone until the basket, and Okafor found him for a dunk:

Screengrab via Synergy

In this next example, Okafor (red) is trapped in what looks like a bad spot on the baseline, but Tyus Jones (green) is all alone in the corner on the other side of the floor. Okafor sees him, and while he doesn’t get the assist, Duke ended up getting a dunk on the play as the ball was moved and the Stanford defense broke down:

Screengrab vis Synergy

What Stanford did in the second half was to allow Nastic to try and defend Okafor one-on-one, and given Nastic’s size, that was as effective as any defense that Okafor has seen this season.

I expect Wisconsin to do the same on Wednesday night.

Kaminsky is a 7-footer. He’s just as big and just as strong as Okafor. He’s not quite as good as Nastic is on the defensive end of the floor, but his size will give Okafor trouble as the freshman hasn’t quite figured out how to bully players his own size. It’s the same way that the Badgers defended Josh Smith last week when they beat Georgetown in the Battle 4 Atlantis.

Add in the fact that Okafor does not draw a lot of fouls — he’s gone to the line 23 times in seven games, nine of them coming against Army — and Bo Ryan doesn’t have to be all that concerned about his all-american getting into foul trouble.

What will be more interesting is how Wisconsin decides to defend Jefferson, but I’ll come back to that in a second.


The way Wisconsin utilizes Kaminsky is much different from what Duke does with Okafor. Kaminsky is a talented low-post scorer, but what makes him so dangerous is his perimeter ability. Kaminsky was a guard for most of his life, but he hit a late growth-spurt that sent him up to 7-foot without doing any damage to his coordination or ball skills.

He can hit threes and he can put the ball on the floor and he can do things like this, and that opens up a bevy of options for Ryan, who has, since his Division III days, believed that the toughest thing to stop is a bigger player going one-on-one in the post. What he does better than anyone in the country is something called inverting the offense, which is a simple concept, really: He has his big men throwing entry passes to his perimeter players that are posting up. He’s able to do this because he always has skilled big men with three point range.

And in this matchup, the Badgers will have a size advantage at almost every position on the floor outside of Kaminsky, particularly on the perimeter. Sam Dekker is 6-foot-9 and he’ll likely be guarded by 6-foot-7 Justise Winslow, if not someone smaller. Josh Gasser is 6-foot-3 and will have one of Duke’s two point guards on him. Nigel Hayes is stronger than Jefferson, and may end up being guarded by Winslow quite a bit as well.

Regardless of what the matchups are, what we do know is that Kaminsky will be allowed to be the guy that spreads the floor for the Badgers, putting Okafor, who has a reputation for being an average, at best, defender, in a difficult position.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. Trae Jackson (green), Wisconsin’s point guard, is the player posting up with four Oklahoma defenders surrounding him. Kaminsky (red) is wide open at the top of the key:

Screengrab via Synergy

The end result?

Three-ball for Kaminsky.

This is not an uncommon occurrence, either. If you read Luke Winn’s Power Rankings, you would know that all of Kaminsky’s three attempts are coming from the right wing or the top of the key. The reason for this? The sets that Wisconsin run to invert their offense all involve a back-screen for a player on the opposite wing who comes in behind the defense …

Screengrab via Synergy

… and posts up on the left block. To spread the floor, Kaminsky will either be at the top of the key or at the opposite wing:

Screengrab via Synergy

All of this brings me back to Amile Jefferson.

Jefferson is a 6-foot-8 forward that can defend in the post, meaning he is the ideal guy for Duke to have on the floor to deal with Hayes, who is one of the most improved players in the country. That would allow Justise Winslow to slide over and cover Dekker at the small forward spot, but it would also mean that Duke would then have two guys on the floor offensively that can be helped off of.

Teams do not even need to guard Jefferson 12 feet from the rim. When Stanford doubled Okafor, they doubled off of Jefferson every single time. Winslow is an improving shooter, but he’s not to the point where he cannot be helped off of.

Which creates a conundrum for Mike Krzyzewski.

With Jefferson on the floor, it allows him to defend Bo Ryan — and how he uses Kaminsky — better. But at the same time, it makes it that much easier for Ryan to double-team Okafor and force the ball out of his hands.

It’s fascinating.

In a matchup with this much hype and talent and coaching acumen, the x-factor is a guy who takes five shots a night.

North Carolina transfer Caleb Love commits to Arizona

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Caleb Love is now headed to Arizona.

The North Carolina transfer tweeted, less than a month after decommitting from Michigan, that he will play next season with the Wildcats.

“Caleb is a tremendously talented guard who has significant experience playing college basketball at a high level,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said in a statement. “We look forward to helping Caleb grow his game at Arizona. And as we near the completion of the roster for the upcoming season, we feel great about how everything has come together. Now it’s time for the real work to start.”

A 6-foot-4 guard, Love averaged 14.6 points and 3.3 assists in three seasons at North Carolina. He averaged 17.6 points in seven NCAA Tournament games, helping lead the Tar Heels to the 2022 national championship game.

Love entered the transfer portal after leading North Carolina with 73 3-pointers as a junior and initially committed to Michigan. He decommitted from the Wolverines earlier this month, reportedly due to an admissions issue involving academic credits.

Love narrowed his transfer targets to three schools before choosing to play at Arizona over Gonzaga and Texas.

Love will likely start on a team that will have dynamic perimeter players, including Pelle Larsson, Kylan Boswell and Alabama transfer Jaden Bradley.

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
Jeffrey Becker/USA TODAY Sports

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.