Chase for 180: So far, so good for Virginia’s Justin Anderson

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The “Chase for 180″ is back for a second year, and for those who may not be familiar with the project it’s our attempt to identify some of the best shooters in America. But what makes one an “elite shooter?” For some it’s merely the ability to knock down perimeter shots at a high rate, but that isn’t the case for all players. High-level shooting requires proficiency from three, the field overall, and from the foul line. 

“180” refers to the resulting number when adding a player’s field goal, three-point and free throw percentages, with the best shooters either approaching or surpassing that mark. 50 percent or better from the field overall, 40 percent or better from three and 90 percent or better from the foul line. This achievement has occurred more often in college basketball than it has in the NBA, where just six players (Steve Nash did it in four different seasons) have done it in the history of the league. 

This season we’ll update this list weekly, with players also needing to qualify to be ranked by the NCAA in each of the three percentage categories in order to be considered. In order to qualify to be ranked a player needs to have played in at least 75 percent of his team’s games and have averaged: 

  • five or more field goal attempts per game;
  • two or more three-point attempts per game;
  • 2.5 or more free throw attempts per game.

To read prior installments of the Chase for 180, click here

Despite returning three starters from a team that won 30 games, an ACC title, and made the program’s first Sweet 16 appearance since 1995, Virginia had some important questions to answer in advance of the 2014-15 season. Chief among those questions was how they would account for the loss of Joe Harris (12.0 ppg), who despite seeing his role within the Virginia offense change some was still the team’s second-leading scorer in 2013-14. Without Harris the Cavaliers were left with one double-digit scorer, Malcolm Brogdon, meaning that at least one of their supplementary offensive pieces from a season ago would need to step forward if Tony Bennett’s team is to defend its ACC crown.

Enter Justin Anderson, who in each of his first two seasons was a valuable reserve and won ACC Sixth Man of the Year honors in 2013-14. While the Montrose Christian product may not be considered a “lights out” shooter, the strides he’s made offensively are a major reason why Virginia is currently 9-0 and ranked sixth nationally.

After shooting 40.7% from the field and 29.4% from beyond the arc in 2013-14, Anderson’s gotten off to a hot start in 2014-15. Currently shooting 57.0% from the field and 58.8% from beyond the arc, Anderson’s more than doubled his scoring average from a season ago (7.8 ppg) to 15.8 points per game. Thus far Anderson’s reached double figures in eight of Virginia’s nine games, and while he managed to do so on 15 occasions last season Anderson’s been far more efficient this season.

According to Kenpom.com Anderson’s effective field goal and true shooting percentages have jumped substantially, with the former going from 47.0% to 68.6% and the latter from 51.6% to 70.8%. As a result Anderson’s offensive rating has gone from 100.9 to 135.2, but it is early in the season. That leads to the question that was asked in our weekly National Player of the Year rankings: can Anderson sustain this level of production?

Obviously things are going to get tougher for Anderson and the Cavaliers when they get into ACC play. However what needs to be considered are the team’s willingness to work for quality looks regardless of who takes the shot (Brogdon and Anthony Gill are also averaging double figures, and Mike Tobey isn’t far off at 8.4 ppg), and Anderson not taking the increased opportunities as a license to fire away from the perimeter indiscriminately (39.8% of his shots this year have been taken at the rim per hoop-math.com, compared to 30.5% last year).

The percentages for Anderson are likely to change as the season wears on. But given the fact that thus far he’s been a more efficient player in terms of the shots he’s taking, Anderson has the ability (and talent) to ensure that any decrease isn’t too drastic.

50-40-90 Club

1. Marcus Marshall (Missouri State)
56.0% FG, 57.1% 3PT, 93.5% FT = 206.6

One of the best scorers and all-around shooters in the Missouri Valley Conference, Marshall’s scored 18 points or more in five of the seven games he’s played in this season.

He’s Really Close 

2. Tyler Haws (BYU)
49.7%, 43.4%, 90.1% = 183.2

Haws was in part of the “50-40-90 Club” in the last installment, and the concern for BYU is how long they’ll be without him thanks to the ankle injury suffered over the weekend.

Nine More “180” Players

1. Sean Sellers (Ball State)
51.7%, 62.5%, 89.3% = 203.5

December hasn’t been as kind to Sellers as November was, as he’s shot 38.9% from the field in three games, but the three-point shooting (3-for-5) has remained solid.

2.  Marc Loving (Ohio State) 
54.9%, 53.8%, 87.5% = 196.2

The sophomore’s been quiet over the last two games for the Buckeyes, scoring a total of eight points on 1-for-5 shooting from the field (6-for-6 FT, however).

3. Justin Anderson (Virginia)
57.0%, 58.8%, 80.0% = 195.8

4. Austin Richie (Western Michigan)
52.8%, 56.8%, 84.4% = 194.0

In two games this month Richie’s shooting 9-for-19 from the field, 7-for-13 from beyond the arc and 7-for-8 from the foul line, averaging 16.0 points per game.

5. Derrick Marks (Boise State)
51.8%, 53.3%, 85.2% = 190.3

With Anthony Drmic struggling with back problems, a more efficient Marks has stepped forward for the Broncos.

6. Alec Peters (Valparaiso)
53.2%, 50.0%, 86.1% = 189.3

After struggling in a loss to New Mexico (4-for-14 FG) the sophomore bounced back in a three-point win over Ball State on Saturday, scoring 23 points (7-for-16 FG, 3-for-8 3PT, 6-for-6 FT) and grabbing ten rebounds.

7. Milton Doyle (Loyola-IL)
58.2%, 63.6%, 66.0 = 187.8

While the free throw percentage can use some work, keep in mind that Doyle (15.6 ppg) is playing with a torn labrum in his right (shooting) shoulder.

8. Atif Russell (Pepperdine)
52.1%, 55.0%, 80.0% = 187.1

Russell (9.6 ppg) isn’t among the three Waves averaging double figures, but his play is one of the reasons why Pepperdine is off to a 7-2 start.

9. Corey Hawkins (UC Davis)
52.5%, 54.2%, 79.5% = 186.2

Already one of the Big West’s best shooters, the senior has improved his percentages across the board from last season and he’s also scored 18 points or more in six of the 7-1 Aggies’ eight games.

Louisville challenges NCAA over recruiting allegations

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville has refuted NCAA allegations against its men’s basketball program in the wake of a federal corruption scandal, requesting that the highest-level violation be reclassified.

The university also is challenging that former coach Rick Pitino failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance in his program.

Louisville filed a 104-page response last week to the Notice Of Allegations sent to the school in May. The document stated that college sports’ governing body seeks to ignore wire fraud convictions against several people involved in the scheme – including a former Adidas executive – by suggesting they were representing its athletic interests. Louisville’s contract with the apparel maker was a standard sponsorship agreement rather than a promotional deal, the response added.

“This argument is as novel as it is wrong,” the school wrote in its response. “Even if an institution has some responsibility for the conduct of its suppliers, that responsibility plainly does not extend to acts of fraud perpetrated against the institution itself.”

Louisville also seeks to have several second-tier violations reclassified even lower. The NCAA has until Nov. 15 to respond with the school responding 15 days after before a decision is made whether the case will proceed through the traditional Committee on Infractions or Independent Accountability Review Process (IARP).

The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations states that Louisville committed a Level I violation, considered the most severe, with an improper recruiting offer and extra benefits along with several lesser violations. Those lesser violations also include Pitino failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

The NCAA notice completed a two-year investigation following a federal corruption probe of college basketball announced in September 2017. Louisville acknowledged its involvement in the federal investigation related to the recruitment of former player Brian Bowen II. Pitino, who’s now coaching Iona, was not named in the federal complaint and has consistently denied authorizing or having knowledge of a payment to a recruit’s family.

Louisville has previously indicated it would accept responsibility for violations it committed but would contest allegations it believed were not supported by facts. The school also noted corrective measures taken in the scandal’s immediate aftermath, such as suspending and then firing Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich.

Louisville also dismissed the NCAA’s contention that former Adidas executive James Gatto and amateur league director Merl Code represented the school while funneling illegal payments to recruits at several schools.

“The enforcement staff’s remaining allegations lack factual support and overread the relevant Bylaws,” the response stated, “and rest on the erroneous contention that the conspirators were representatives of the University’s athletics interests.

“For these reasons and others set forth, the panel should reject the enforcement staff’s dramatically overbroad theory, and classify this case as involving a Level II-Mitigated violation.”

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

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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

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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.