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Saturday’s Things To Know: A recap of all of today’s college hoops action

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PLAYER OF THE DAY: Markus Howard, Marquette

Marquette was a team badly in need of a win entering Saturday’s date with No. 12 Kansas State in Milwaukee.

The Golden Eagles had whiffed on their chance to land a marquee win last week, blowing an 11 point first half lead against No. 2 Kansas, a loss that forced them into a consolation game against Louisville instead of the NIT title game against No. 5 Tennessee. They had lost by 23 points at Indiana. Their best win of the year to date was a three point overtime win against a Louisville team that is profiling as a borderline top 25 team.

With the Big East looking like it is going to be a hodge-podge of mediocrity this year, the Golden Eagles need everything they can get out of their non-conference slate, and they got a big win on Saturday, beating No. 12 Kansas State, 83-71.

And the hero was exactly who you would expect it to be.

Markus Howard, the all-american.

He went for 45 points on just 17 shots on Saturday, going 11-for-17 from the floor, 4-for-10 from three and 19-for-21 from the line. The rest of his team combined for 38 points on just 27 shots and 15 free throws.

We’ve seen Howard have explosions like this before, and part of the reason that Marquette is a team that I’ve been bullish on since the preseason is that when he gets on a role like he did today, Howard can carry Marquette to a win over literally anyone. Kansas State has one of the best on-ball defenders in the country in Barry Brown, and he got cooked.

It’s hard to top all of that.

TEAM OF THE DAY: Gonzaga

The Bulldogs went into Omaha on Saturday as the No. 1 team in the country and quickly realized why we always talk about how the CHI Health Center is one of the most difficult places to play in America.

The Bluejays got on an early role, with Ty-Shon Alexander and Mitch Ballock burying some threes and Davion Mintz dunking on the entire frontline of the Zags, and with all 18,000 people in the building going absolutely bonkers, the Zags slowly but surely cut away at what was at one point an 11 point lead. By the time it was all said and done, the Zags had a 103-92 road win that will carry some weight come Selection Sunday.

And perhaps the best part of this for head coach Mark Few was that the Zags didn’t simply rely on one guy going nuts. Yes, Zach Norvell Jr. caught fire in the second half (22 of his 28 points), but Gonzaga wouldn’t have been in firing range if it wasn’t for the play of Brandon Clarke (27 points, 10 boards, two steals, two blocks), Rui Hachimura (22 points, 11 boards, three assists, three steals) and Josh Perksins (13 points and 13 assists).

Just an all-around solid win.

ONIONS OF THE DAY: Lagerald Vick, Kansas

Vick has been the most important player this season for Kansas. He bailed them out against Vermont and Louisiana, shooting 15-for-20 from three in those two games, scoring an average of 32.5 points and helping the Jayhawks avoid bad home losses in the process.

On Saturday, he did the same thing against Stanford, hitting the game-tying three to force overtime and then lighting up the Cardinal with the first eight points of the extra frame:

We wrote about Vick last week. Bill Self ran him out of the program. He declared for the draft with the intention of signing with an agent before he realized the NBA wasn’t in his future and returned to school, only without the same number or any guarantee of playing time.

SATURDAY’S BIGGEST WINNERS

MARQUETTE: We touched on it above, but Marquette landed a win that they really, really needed to get. Playing in a league where the best team is a Villanova that is not the same Villanova that we’ve known for the last half-decade, the Golden Eagles needed to do some work in the non-conference to ensure that A) they get into the tournament, and B) they get into the tournament with a seed that allows them a chance to make a run.

Thanks to that 45 point outburst from Howard, they now have one of those wins. Combine that with a win over Louisville and, potentially, wins against Wisconsin and Buffalo, and that would be a solid start to a tournament resume.

LOUISVILLE: The Cardinals picked up a pretty nice road win over Seton Hall on Saturday, coming back from an early double-digit deficit to pick up a 70-65 win in Newark. This comes of the heels of Chris Mack’s ballclub knocking off No. 9 Michigan State in Louisville on Wednesday night. The Cards are putting together a pretty solid non-conference resume. They’ll have a couple more chances to add to it, with games against Indiana and Kentucky remaining.

SAINT LOUIS: The Atlantic 10 desperately needed someone to start picking up some wins, and the Billikens have been doing so. They won at Seton Hall in November, and on Saturday they added to that with a win over Butler at home. They still get Southern Illinois, Oregon State, Houston and Florida State during non-conference play. That probably won’t be enough to get them an at-large bid given just how bad the rest of their league has been, but it could be enough to get them to a good seed should they earn the league’s automatic bid.

MICHIGAN: The No. 7 Wolverines capped off a wonderful week with a beatdown of No. 19 Purdue on Saturday. The final score was 76-57, but the game never really felt that close. Carsen Edwards finished with 19 points, but the preseason All-American never really felt like he was a threat to do all that much.

More importantly, as we discussed after Wednesday night’s win over North Carolina, was that Michigan was a juggernaut offensively once again. They scored 76 points on 62 possessions, shooting 13-for-26 from three after going 11-for-22 from deep against UNC. This is fun with small sample sizes, but in the last two games, Michigan went from outside the top 25- in three point percentage to 77th.

NEVADA: The Wolf Pack were down by by seven late in the first half at USC. They were up by 16 eight minutes into the second half. This team is talented, explosive and mature enough to not get flustered when they are down early. The problem? Next Friday’s date with Arizona State is the last time they’ll play a game that is actually relevant.

SATURDAY’S BIGGEST LOSERS

STANFORD: The Cardinal had a chance to turn their season around. They had played terrific for 39 minutes and 45 seconds in Phog Allen Fieldhouse, and held a 75-72 lead on the Jayhawks, the No. 2 team in the country. That’s the kind of win that can immediately vault a team into the NCAA tournament discussion and, at this point, it’s almost the kind of win that a borderline team from the Pac-12 needs to get an at-large bid.

Alas, Stanford decided not to foul up three, Lagerald Vick tied the game and the rest is history. Oh well.

CREIGHTON: Like Stanford, Creighton really missed on a chance to land a marquee win. When you play that well against the No. 1 team in the country, it’s not pleasant to lose out in the end, and while I hesitate to credit the Bluejays with a moral victory — who the hell wants one of those? — we did get a glimpse of just how dangerous this group can be. They’re young and talented, and this was, at the very least, a nice little learning experience.

MEMPHIS: The Tigers were up by nine at the half and led by double-digits in the second half against No. 20 Texas Tech. The Red Raiders scored 50 second half points and won by double-figures. Penny is going to be fine in the long run, but there are going to be some growing pains this season.

FINAL THOUGHT

I have never in my life seen a bigger mismatch than watching No. 3 Duke go up against 1-7 Stetson.

The Hatters were a constant stream of turnovers that led to a never-ending series of fast break dunks for Duke. At one point during the second half, Duke led 87-29. I don’t even want to mention the final score here. There’s no need to rub salt in the wound.

And I guess what my biggest question here is ‘Why?’ Why did Duke play this game? I understand why it would make some sense for Stetson to play it. How often do you get to play in a building like Cameron Indoor Stadium? How often do you get to play after three future top five picks? There’s literally no downside — the worst-case scenario is they leave with a game check and the beatdown that everyone expected, while there is always that possibility of that miracle win. That is, after all, why people play the Powerball.

But I don’t understand why this is the game that Duke would schedule.

Quite literally the only thing they are going to get out of it is a chance to play some of their bench guys major minutes in an actual game. I guess there is something to letting Alex O’Connell go out there and show out, but at the same time, with 13 minutes left and Duke up 56 points, Zion Williamson checked back into the game.

Stetson is one of the worst programs in the sport. They were 338th in KenPom entering today. They were 318th in KenPom last season. They have finished inside the top 300 in KenPom just once in Corey Williams’ six-year tenure. Nothing about this result will surprise anyone.

So what’s the point of playing it?

CBT Podcast: ESPN’s Myron Medcalf on Jahvon Quinerly, Quade Green, Kentucky

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Rob Dauster was joined by Myron Medcalf from ESPN.com on Friday morning to talk through all of the week’s biggest college basketball stories, from Jahvon Quinerly and the fake Instagram hack to Quade Green’s transfer to whether or not Kentucky can still recruit basketball players that matter.

No. 16 Wisconsin overwhelms Savannah State 101-60

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Brad Davison scored a season-high 24 points and No. 16 Wisconsin had a school-record 69 first-half points to overwhelm Savannah State 101-60 on Thursday night.

Davison was 6 of 9 from 3-point range. Preseason All-American Ethan Happ had 18 points and 11 rebounds, and freshman Tai Strickland added a career-high 14 points for Wisconsin (9-2).

The Badgers shot 71 percent in the first half to take a 69-32 lead in their first 100-point game since 2013. Savannah State (3-9) is the only team in Division I allowing 100 points a game.

Jaquan Dotson had 20 points to lead the Tigers, a team that likes to shoot 3s. Second in the NCAAs in hitting 13 3s a game, Savannah State managed to shoot 11 of 39 (28 percent) from the arc at the Kohl Center.

Wisconsin put on a first-half clinic, hitting 24 of 34 from the field, including 69 percent (11 of 16) from 3-point range.

Strickland’s night exemplified the Badgers’ early fortune after two of his three 3s banked off the backboard.

It was just the kind of breather that Wisconsin needed after 74-69 loss in overtime last week to in-state rival Marquette.

This game was decided in a hurry, especially with the way that Savannah State liked to run and put up deep 3s

At one point, Davison was trapped in the corner in the frontcourt by two defenders before jumping and slinging a pass to Kobe King at the opposite wing. King hit a bucket and drew a foul for a 39-20 lead with 9:25 left in the first.

Later, Wisconsin’s Charles Thomas blocked Romani Hansen’s layup attempt from behind. At the other end, D’Mitrik Trice punctured the undersized Tigers’ zone with a diagonal pass to a cutting Davison for an easy layup and 21-point lead with 8:13 left in the first.

TIP INS

Savannah State: In the middle of a 12-game trip, coach Horace Broadnax dressed just eight players. Their tallest player is 6-foot-8 Romani Hansen, but 6-6 guard Adam Saeed faced the 6-10 Happ for the opening tip. Allowing foes to shoot 50 percent on the season, the Tigers were routed, as expected. They were also outrebounded 45-20.

Wisconsin: F Khalil Iverson sat out with a lower left foot injury. Coach Greg Gard didn’t really need one of his best defenders anyway. … The 11 3s in the opening 20 minutes were a school record for a first half. …. Wisconsin finished the night shooting 47 percent.

UP NEXT

Savannah State: At Tennessee Tech on Dec. 20.

Wisconsin: Hosts Grambling on Dec. 22.

Freshman Luguentz Dort shining for No. 20 Arizona State

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TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Luguentz Dort is a freshman in name and age only.

At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, he’s built like linebacker on the Arizona State football team, not some scrawny teenager disdainfully bumped out of the lane on a basketball court.

The Sun Devils’ 19-year-old guard is supremely confident and has already taken on a leadership role on a team filled with older players, like he’s been in Tempe all along,

Dort’s default is to play with aggression, attack at all times without concern, not look to the bench for coaches’ approval every time he makes a mistake.

“He doesn’t play like a freshman,” Arizona State junior guard Rob Edwards said. “And he’s certainly not built like one.”

Duke’s trio of NBA lottery picks garnered most of the freshman attention heading into the 2018-19 season, with players like North Carolina’s Nassir Little, Oregon’s Bol Bol and Indiana’s Romeo Langford also mentioned well ahead of Dort.

Through No. 20 Arizona State’s first eight games, Dort has proven he belongs in the elite freshmen spotlight and, possibly, on a much bigger stage beyond his college playing days.

Dort fired out of the gate in his first game, overcoming some early jitters to score 28 points against Cal State Fullerton, an Arizona State freshman debut record.

Able to initiate contact in the lane or shoot from the perimeter, he leads the Sun Devils (7-1) with 22 points per game on a team full of capable scorers, including 33 against Utah State, and is second on the Sun Devils with 6.3 rebounds as a guard.

When point guard Remy Martin went out with an injury — along with Edwards and forward Mickey Mitchell — Dort adeptly took over primary show-running duties. Known for his defensive aggressiveness before arriving in Tempe, Dort has lived up to those expectations, leading the Sun Devils with 16 steals and in frustrating opposing guard.

“As soon as he got here in our workouts, he got the players’ respect,” Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley said. “We knew what we had. I kind of knew before he got here, but he validated that real quick.”

Dort’s parents were born in Haiti and moved to Montreal when they were 21. He’s been to Haiti once, though he doesn’t remember much, outside of being scared, because he was so young.

Dort hears from Haitians on social media and someday plans to visit his parents’ homeland.

“I want to go there so bad. I just need to find the time in the summer or whenever,” he said. “I’m proud to say I’m Haitian Canadian.”

Dort’s sport early on was soccer and he was good at it — first as a goalie, then as a midfielder — but he was the only kid among his friends playing it. They played basketball and convinced Dort to start playing with them.

Wise move.

Dort took to basketball quickly and later started getting the attention of American coaches while playing on the AAU circuit.

Wanting to broaden his game and his almost non-existent English-speaking skills, Dort made the difficult decision to play high school ball in the United States. Turned down by one team, he ended up at Arlington Country Day in Jacksonville, Florida, his sophomore year in high school.

It was not an easy transition.

“I was sad when I left home and couldn’t really speak English,” Dort said. “I was lonely at first.”

Dort’s transition to American life was made easier by a group of French speakers in Jacksonville and the next year he moved to Orlando, playing at Conrad Academy. Wanting to spend his senior season back in Canada, Dort returned home and played at the Athlete Institute in Ontario, where he garnered attention from major U.S. colleges like Oregon, Baylor, Indiana, Michigan State, Miami and Arizona State.

He chose the Sun Devils and Hurley. Dort liked the campus and the players, the direction of the Arizona State program and Hurley’s pitch to help him transform from shooting to point guard.

Dort’s best chances for playing professionally are as a point guard and who better to learn from than Hurley, a two-time national champion at Duke and former NBA point guard.

“He was one of the coaches who really put in my head that I could be a professional player one day,” Dort said. “He told me what I needed to do to get better and get ready for the next level. That’s something I really fell in love with.”

It’s worked out so far and Sun Devil fans have quickly fallen in love with the bruising-but-athletic freshman guard.

Kevin Durant: Zion Williamson is a “once-in-a-generation athlete”

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Count Kevin Durant as a fan of Zion Williamson.

The former MVP and Golden State star was plenty complimentary of the Duke standout freshman while making an appearance on making an appearance on The Bill Simmons podcast.

“I believe he’s special,” Durant said. “He’s a once-in-a generation-athlete. I’ve never seen somebody like that before.

“Zion WIlliamson, I’ve never seen somebody that’s lefty that can dunk with this right hand like that and cock the ball back so far and jump so high off two feet. I’ve seen people jump high, but not that way.”

Durant certainly has an opinion worth listening to when it comes to once-in-a-generation athletes as one himself. He’s a 7-footer (despite being listed at 6-foot-9) that has shot 38.3 percent from 3 for a career and has one 50/40/90 season under his belt. He’s already a sure-fire Hall of Famer though he just turned 30 years old a couple months ago. His size, athleticism and shooting is a paradigm shift in what’s possible on a basketball court. He also had a transcendent freshman season at Texas, though he didn’t have the supporting cast that Williamson is working currently with at Duke. Just like Durant became appointment television while with the Longhorns, Williamson is becoming in what is assuredly his only season with the Blue Devils before he becomes a top-five NBA draft pick.

If Durant is wowed by Williamson’s athleticism, that is a major statement.

Williamson, at 6-foot-7 and 285 pounds, has few workable comparisons given his size and athleticism as well. He is, simply, unique. He’s also averaging 20 points and 9 rebounds per game for the Blue Devils, who are 9-1 and ranked No. 2 in the country.

“He knows he’s a beast,” Durant said of Williamson.

 

Film Room: Why is Jahvon Quinerly struggling to get minutes for Villanova?

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After losing to Penn on Tuesday night, snapping a streak of 25 consecutive wins against Big 5 opponents, Villanova — winners of two of the last three national titles — fell to 8-3 on the season with a trip to Phog Allen Fieldhouse coming up on Saturday.

Penn was the second mid-major opponent that Villanova has lost to this season. They fell at home against Furman in overtime. That came just days after they were absolutely humiliated by Michigan in a national title game rematch as they unveiled the newly-renovated Finneran Pavilion.

And while there is plenty to discuss about how and why the Wildcats are now in the midst of what could end up being their worst season since missing the 2012 NCAA tournament, the major talking point for this team has become Jahvon Quinerly. Through the first month of the season, the No. 29 prospect in the Class of 2018 has been easily the most ineffective freshman ranked in the top 30 of the class that is healthy and in school. Ranked between potential lottery picks Kevin Porter Jr. and Luguentz Dort, according to 247 Sports, Quinerly has taken three DNP-CDs through 11 games. The only reason he’s in the box score as logging one minutes in the loss to Penn is because Collin Gillespie fouled out with six seconds left; Quinerly didn’t even play the entirety of the last six seconds. He played two minutes against La Salle. He played three minutes against Oklahoma State. He hasn’t played more than eight minutes in a game that didn’t come against totally overmatched competition.

As you can imagine, it’s been frustrating.

After the loss to Penn, Quinerly hopped on Instagram and posted on his story a black screen with white lettering that read “Was my 2nd choice for a reason;” if you recall, he was initially committed to Arizona before the FBI investigation into corruption in college hoops uncovered information that former Arizona assistant Book Richardson may have funneled as much as $20,000 to Quinerly’s family. Quinerly quickly deleted the post before attempting to make it seem as if his account had been hacked. A friend of his from New Jersey, LSU freshman Naz Reid, even tweeted that Quinerly had been hacked.

Turns out, to the surprise of absolutely no one, Quinerly was not hacked. He just was frustrated about the way the start of his Villanova career has gone and said something on social media that he shouldn’t have said. Villanova head coach Jay Wright said that this was just “the normal frustration of a young kid that’s used to playing a lot, and not playing” and that Quinerly had already apologized to the team. He issued a statement on Thursday on his twitter account apologizing as well.

The story of a frustrated freshman popping off on Instagram isn’t all that interesting to me. Neither is the speculation that this could lead to Quinerly transferring out of the program; I don’t see it happening during the season, and if it happens in the offseason we can talk about it then and there.

What’s more interesting to me is the why: Why has Quinerly been limited to 69 minutes on the season? Why hasn’t he earned Jay Wright’s trust? Why has Wright opted to go with Gillespie who, as one scout put it to me earlier this year, is “playing above his level”?

It starts with the defensive side of the ball.

What Villanova wants to do defensively is not easy for freshmen to pick up. They’re not strictly a man-to-man team, but when they play man, they rarely do it without a lot of switching. They’ll mix in some zone and some 1-2-2 pressure as well, and that often results in players being forced into guarding mismatches.

I cannot speak to what happens in practice. The word coming out of the program is that Quinerly “worked hard” and “continues to work” and is “a great teammate”, which is exactly what you would expect to hear a head coach say about his five-star freshman.

I can, however, see what happens when Quinerly is on the floor during games. I watched every minute that he has played this season, and this is what I am seeing.

The biggest reason that Quinerly has been forced to the bench is that he has had some real issues defensively.

He’s not identifying who he is supposed to be guarding in transition. He’s falling asleep when he is supposed to be boxing out. He simply isn’t strong or good enough as an individual defender to handle the assignments he’s been given — in the last clip you see him getting easily beaten off the dribble. To his credit, it doesn’t appear to be an effort issue as much as a ‘he’s not quite ready’ issue.

The biggest cause for alarm here is the third clip below.

This isn’t a complicated action that Michigan is running, as Zavier Simpson cuts between Jordan Poole and Isaiah Livers right before Livers sets a ball-screen for Poole:

When Livers sets the screen, Quinerly should switch onto the bigger defender as Saddiq Bey, another freshman, switches onto Poole. But Quinerly gets confused and goes to guard Simpson, leaving Livers a free run to the rim:

Joe Cremo is forced to rotate over to help, and actually forces a miss at the rim, but Quinerly falls asleep, doesn’t box out Charles Matthews and watches as the Michigan star throws down a monster dunk:

You can see the entire play below:

Quinerly was never going to come into the program and be the best on-ball defender on the roster. We knew that. The problem is simply that he has not been good enough offensively to justify putting him on the floor when he’s a defensive liability. Trae Young couldn’t guard a mailbox last season, but Oklahoma had to have him on the floor because of how good he made them offensively. Ashton Hagans has been a mess offensively through the first month of the season, but Kentucky has been giving him Quade Green’s minutes because he is just so good on the defensive side of the ball.

Quinerly?

He has all of these issues defensively, and on the season he is averaging just 2.4 points with eight assists to 11 turnovers while shooting 26.9 percent from the floor and 17.6 percent from three. Yes, some of that is a result of the fact that he’s been strapped to the bench and unable to develop any kind of rhythm or confidence. I get that. But he also hasn’t quite learned, or bought into, the principles and concepts that Jay Wright drills his players on.

I’ve written long and detailed stories on Villanova’s offense twice in the last year, but the tl;dr version is this: Villanova doesn’t run plays, they teach concepts and reads and develop the kids in their program as basketball players that can function in any environment more than turning them into robots that run set after set after set. It’s takes every freshman time to learn these things. There’s a reason that Villanova has so many redshirts.

Here’s an example: One of the core principles of Villanova’s offense is the jump-stop. It sounds simple, but it’s true. Wright wants his guys to get into the paint, come to a jump-stop and then see what opens up. Maybe they’ll have a layup. Maybe they’ll have room to get a floater off. Maybe they pivot a couple of times before finding an open shooter. Maybe those pivots will create enough space for a turnaround jumper. Half Court Hoops put together an entire video package on this last year.

Quinerly, far too often, has his drives to the paint end like this:

I think Quinerly is going to be fine.

The talent is there. He was never going to be a one-and-done point guard — I’m not sure he is an NBA player, period — but he is good enough to be a really good guard at the college level. He’s also not the only freshman struggling to acclimate on this Villanova roster. Cole Swider, a top 40 recruit, is averaging less than 12 minutes. Brandon Slater, a top 75 prospect, has played just 26 minutes in six games.

But Quinerly is the five-star with all the hype.

He’s Jelly-Fam. He’s the one that Book Richardson tried to buy, according to the FBI.

That brings with it expectation, and when you fail to live up to that expectations, people talk, especially if your failure is spotlighted by a fake Instagram hack.

Quinerly is in a tough spot. You can’t hide a point guard offensively. When you make a mistake with the ball in your hands, everyone knows it. If Swider makes a mistake off the ball, no one outside of the coaching staff notices. And unlike Swider, Quinerly doesn’t have physical tools that can help make up for the times the ends up out of position defensively.

He’ll get there soon enough, but until he’s good enough offensively to make himself a net-positive, or until he figures out what he’s doing defensively, it’s going to be a struggle to take minutes from Gillispie, a veteran that Wright trusts.