Matthew Holst/Getty Images

Monday Overreactions: Kansas State’s rise, Jack White’s demise, Justin Robinson’s absence

Leave a comment

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Jordan Bohannon, Iowa

Let’s start with the obvious one here: Bohannon scored 13 of his 15 points in the final three minutes, sparking a game-ending, 23-7 run that culminated in the Iowa point guard burying a three in the final seconds to beat Northwestern at home:

That was impressive, and it came on the heels of an even more impressive performance. Bohannon went for 25 points and six assists without committing a turnover as the Hawkeyes went into Assembly Hall and picked off Indiana. Bohannon hit a number of critical jumpers in the final minutes of that game as the Hoosiers threatened a late comeback.

TEAM OF THE WEEK: Kansas State Wildcats

Entering the week, Kansas State held a share of the Big 12 lead, tied with Baylor atop the conference standings with dates against Kansas (at home) and those Baylor Bears (in Waco) on the schedule.

As of this morning — and thanks, in part, to wins from Texas and TCU — the Wildcats sit all alone in first place in the league with a two game lead in the loss column over the field and just eight games left on their regular season schedule.

It’s baffling to truly comprehend. A month ago, Kansas State was sitting at 0-2 in the Big 12, coming off of a home loss to Texas where they mustered all of 47 points. They were ranked outside the top 200 in adjusted offensive efficiency according to KenPom, and after digging themselves a 21 point second half hole against West Virginia in Manhattan, it looked like this might finally end up being the season that cost Bruce Weber his job. It sounds foolish to admit to saying that now, but it’s true. Kansas State looked like they were going to miss the NCAA tournament as a preseason top 15 team.

And now, after beating their archrival at home and then picking off the No. 2 team in the league on the road, the Wildcats are the favorite to end the Kansas reign in the Big 12.

This is what K-State’s remaining schedule looks like:

  • at Texas
  • Iowa State
  • at West Virginia
  • Oklahoma State
  • at Kansas
  • Baylor
  • at TCU
  • Oklahoma

If they go 5-3 down the stretch — which is very doable — they are going to win the Big 12.

MONDAY OVERREACTIONS

1. MARQUETTE CANNOT RELY THIS HEAVILY ON MARKUS HOWARD

Howard was absolutely sensational in No. 10 Marquette’s win over No. 14 Villanova on Saturday. He finished with 38 points on 13-for-24 shooting, hitting 5-for-11 from three and carrying the weight in a 66-65 win for the Golden Eagles. The problem is that the rest of the Marquette roster combined to score 28 points, and 18 of them came from Sacar Anim, a role player that is not known as much of an offensive threat. The Hauser brothers were a combined 2-for-10 from the floor and finished with four points.

On the one hand, this was a win that the Golden Eagles had to get if they wanted to have a shot at the Big East regular season title. Howard’s performance made that possible. On the other hand, there is no chance that they can win the league — or anything in March — if they are just going to hope Howard carries them there.

I am all in on the Markus Howard bandwagon. I think he’s sensational. But the Hausers cannot disappear like this in a big game again, because next time Marquette won’t be so lucky.

They probably should have lost this game as it is. Phil Booth, one of the best decision-makers and best players in college hoops, had a chance to win it on Saturday and did this:

Look at this screenshot:

Booth has to be able to score that. He didn’t, and it kept Marquette in the title race.

2. THE MOST IMPORTANT INJURY IN THE COUNTRY IS JUSTIN ROBINSON’S

On January 30th, in a win over Miami, Virginia Tech point guard Justin Robinson suffered a foot injury that has since left him on the Hokie bench during games wearing a boot and, on Saturday, using crutches. This is the same player that was averaging 14.4 points and 5.5 assists while shooting 41.1 percent from three. This the guy that put 35 points and eight assists on Syracuse four days before he was hurt and had 17 points in 19 minutes when he went down against the Hurricanes.

And as of now, we don’t really have an answer for his status. Buzz Williams has not been forthcoming with information about Robinson’s status, either on the record or off the record. Nickeil Alexander-Walker is the best NBA prospect on Virginia Tech’s roster, but Robinson is their most important player, arguably their best defender and the guy that makes their offense run. In the three games that he’s missed, Virginia Tech is 1-2 while averaging 54 points per game and just 0.931 points-per-possession. The one game they won came when N.C. State mustered just 24 points.

With Robinson, the Hokies are one of the best shooting teams in the country and among the nation’s elite offensively. They are dangerous because of what they can do shooting the ball.

Without him, they are thoroughly average and do not have a point guard on the roster.

3. VIRGINIA IS GOING TO BE JUST FINE

Duke does everything well on a basketball court. They are elite defensively. They are maybe the best team in transition in college hoops history. They will clobber you on the glass. They are always going to have the two or three best players on the court. The equalizer for teams playing against them is that they have not been able to make threes this season.

To beat them, you have to pack in your defense, dare R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson to make shots and go from there. That’s exactly what Virginia did on Saturday in Charlottesville, and Duke hit 13 of their first 18 threes and left with a dominating win.

There’s not much the Wahoos can do about that.

Hell, I’d argue that they played well enough on Saturday to win.

Zion stuffed the stat sheet, but the Wahoos did about as good of a job of keeping him in check as you can. Barrett didn’t do much of anything on the offensive end of the floor after he made those five threes to open the game. Cam Reddish did score 17 points, but his damage was done as a spot-up shooter. Those are the shots that you have to live with as a coach.

Virginia, as a team, shot 46.7 percent from the floor. They were 10-for-24 from three. They forced 15 Duke turnovers and limited the Blue Devils to just eight offensive rebounds. They more or less kept Duke from getting out in transition and beating their defense down the floor. I think Tony Bennett will be able to go to sleep tonight knowing that there wasn’t much else he could have done. It was just one of those nights.

4. MARQUES BOLDEN IS EATING UP JACK WHITE’S MINUTES

Earlier in the season, I made the point repeatedly that I thought Duke’s best lineup came with Jack White on the floor and Zion playing the five.

And while I still think that is their best lineup in theory, two things have changed since then:

1. White has forgotten how to play basketball. Since hitting a career-high four threes against Clemson on January 5th, White is 1-for-23 from beyond the arc. He has scored 13 points in the last 10 games. He started three of those games and played at least 24 minutes is five of of them. He was one of just two players to play all 40 minutes against Virginia. He’s averaged 12.4 minutes in the last five games.

2. That can coincided with Marques Bolden proving himself to be capable defending in a system where Duke switches everything. We know he can protect the rim, that he’s a vertical spacer and that he can rebounder the ball fairly well, but the reason that he has been unable to get consistent minutes during his time at Duke is that he has been a mess on the defensive end of the floor.

That’s not so much the case anymore, and while he’s hardly been a guy that is going to draw comparisons to, say, Clint Capela or Jordan Bell or another player of that ilk, he’s been fine when asked to switch onto guards. He can stay in front for a couple of dribbles, and his length allows him to contest jumpers.

It’s not ideal, but it has worked for Duke this month.

5. THE BUBBLE IS THE WORST IT’S EVER BEEN

I know you hear this every year, and I have been trying to avoid writing this for as long as possible, but I can’t do it anymore.

The bubble is just absolutely atrocious this year, as bad as it has ever been.

The reason I am bringing it up now is because two more at-large spots opened up in our latest bracket projection — the team in first place in the league standings is granted the auto-bid, and with VCU and Buffalo moving back into first place, the Atlantic 10 and MAC once again morphed into one-bid leagues.

This is where we stand: Georgetown, who ranks 78th in the NET, who has beaten just a single top 50 team (St. John’s, who is 49th, on the road) and who has three Q1 wins, a 7-7 record against Q1 and Q2 and two Q3 losses, is our first team out. UCF, who is 0-2 against Q1 teams and whose best win is Alabama (43) at home, is an at-large team. Oklahoma, who is 15-9 overall, 3-8 in the Big 12 and has lost four in a row and six of eight, is in the tournament largely due to the fact that a home win over Wofford is a Q1 win.

Indiana, Providence, Florida, Creighton. These teams are all somehow still in the tournament conversation, and it is baffling.

We have to get to 68 teams somehow.

And it is going to get ugly.

Duke lands commitment from five-star forward Matthew Hurt

Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Leave a comment

For the fourth time in the last five years, Duke is tapping into that Minnesota pipeline to mine talent.

Following in the footsteps of Tyus Jones, Gary Trent Jr. and Tre Jones, Matthew Hurt, a 6-foot-9 forward and a top ten prospect in the Class of 2019, announced on Friday that he will be playing his college ball for the Blue Devils.

Hurt ultimately picked Duke over Kansas, but he was also pursued by the likes of Kentucky, North Carolina and Minnesota. He joins Vernon Carey, Wendell Moore and Boogie Ellis in Duke’s 2019 recruiting class.

Hurt is the perfect compliment to Carey, a powerhouse low-post force, and Moore, who is a talented wing. He has size and is extremely skilled, with the ability to stretch the floor out to 25 feet and the potential to be a dangerous face-up scorer, both in the mid-post and on the perimeter. He needs to get stronger and tougher, but that will come with time. As it stands, he’s the piece to the puzzle that Duke needed to add.

UNC women’s coach Hatchell resigns after findings from program review

Grant Halverson/Getty Images
1 Comment

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell had built a Hall of Fame career over more than three decades with the Tar Heels, including a national championship and becoming the Atlantic Coast Conference’s all-time winningest coach.

That tenure ended with her resignation after a program review found concerns over “racially insensitive” comments and pressuring players to compete through medical issues.

The school announced the 67-year-old Hatchell’s resignation late Thursday, along with findings from that external review conducted this month by a Charlotte-based law firm. Among the issues: a “breakdown of connectivity” between Hatchell and the players after 28 interviews of current players and program personnel.

The was enough to end Hatchell’s time in Chapel Hill, which began in 1986.

“The university commissioned a review of our women’s basketball program, which found issues that led us to conclude that the program needed to be taken in a new direction,” athletics director Bubba Cunningham said in a statement. “It is in the best interests of our university and student-athletes for us to do so. Coach Hatchell agrees, and she offered her resignation today. I accepted it.”

Hatchell — who has 1,023 victories, with 751 coming in 33 seasons at UNC along with the 1994 NCAA title — and her coaching staff had been on paid administrative leave since April 1. At the time, UNC announced the review amid player concerns to “assess the culture” of the program.

“The university will always hold a special place in my heart,” Hatchell said in a statement. “The game of basketball has given me so much, but now it is time for me to step away.”

In its release, UNC said the review found “widespread support” among three areas of concern, including the Hatchell-players connection.

The first centered on the racially insensitive comments, compounded by her failure to respond “in a timely or appropriate manner” when confronted by players or staff.

“The review concluded that Hatchell is not viewed as a racist,” the school said, “but her comments and subsequent response caused many in the program to believe she lacked awareness and appreciation for the effect her remarks had on those who heard them.”

Regarding injury concerns, the review reported frustration from players and medical staff with Hatchell’s “perceived and undue influence,” though medical staffers “did not surrender to pressure to clear players” before they were ready.

Wade Smith, Hatchell’s attorney, had defended her earlier this month by saying players had misconstrued comments she made as racist and that she wouldn’t try to force someone to play without medical clearance. That came after The Washington Post, citing unnamed parents of players, said complaints had been made about inappropriate racial comments and players being pushed to play while injured.

In a statement to The Associated Press at the time, Smith said Hatchell “does not have a racist bone in her body” and “cares deeply about (players’) health and well-being.”

Hatchell, who reached 1,000 wins in 2017, trailed only Tennessee’s Pat Summitt, Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer and Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma in women’s Division I career victories. But there had been difficulties in recent years.

She missed the 2013-14 season while battling leukemia and undergoing chemotherapy. The program also spent several seasons under the shadow of the school’s multi-year NCAA academic case dealing with irregular courses featuring significant athlete enrollments across numerous sports, a case that reached a no-penalty conclusion in October 2017.

UNC returned to the NCAA Tournament this year for the first time since 2015 after upsets of top-ranked Notre Dame and No. 7 North Carolina State on the road, though her contract was set to expire after next season.

Hatchell said she will still support the school, including raising money for UNC’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and advocating for gender equity issues.

“While this is a bittersweet day, my faith remains strong,” Hatchell said. “After the fight of my life with leukemia, I count every day as a blessing.”

St. John’s expected to hire Mike Anderson

AP Photo/Gareth Patterson
2 Comments

The coaching search St. John’s started earlier this month is coming to an end, and its finality looks to be as bizarre as the process.

The Red Storm are expected to hire former Arkansas coach Mike Anderson, a source confirmed to NBC Sports. Roger Rubin of Newsday was first to report the development.

Anderson has a perfectly respectable resume after eight years with the Razorbacks and five at Missouri over the last decade-plus, but his history doesn’t suggest why he’s a great fit at St. John’s, a smaller private school in New York City rather than two large public institutions in college towns. New York City is also considerably more northeast than both Fayetteville and Columbia.

St. John’s swung big in a way that made sense when it hired Chris Mullin four years ago. There were question marks given his lack of college experience, but given his status as a Red Storm legend and NBA pedigree – both as a player and executive – you could connect the dots to success, even if Mullin ultimately couldn’t do it himself.

This hire, however, doesn’t make much sense. Anderson just got fired for not progressing enough with Arkansas, a place he spent 17 years at under Nolan Richardson prior to becoming a head coach himself. He had serious legacy there, but it wasn’t enough to overcome just three NCAA tournament appearances and no Sweet 16s in eight years.

That’s the guy that is now, with no clear ties to either the Big East or St. John’s, going to reinvigorate the Red Storm program? Anderson might do it, I guess, but his selection only highlights what a botched search this has been. Bobby Hurley, Porter Moser, Ryan Odom and Tim Cluess all reportedly spurned interest, and it’s about as inarguable as inarguable gets that St. John’s should be a slam-dunk better job than Loyola Chicago, UMBC and Iona, while Hurley is the type of guy an athletic department goes out and gets done if it wants to show it really means business.

Instead, St. John’s search falls to Anderson, who probably won’t win the press conference and didn’t win enough at Arkansas.

Ayo Dosunmu returning to Illinois for sophomore season

Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Wins have been few and far between in two seasons for Brad Underwood at Illinois, which makes Thursday’s victory all the more important.

The Illini got a major April boost with Ayo Dosunmu announcing he would return to Champaign for his senior season rather than heading to the professional ranks.

“I stayed home to help coach Underwood turn the Illinois program around,” Dosunmu said in a video released on social media. “We tasted some success, but we didn’t dance. And Illinois has to dance.

“We are building. We will be better. I will be better, and that starts now.”

Dosunmu averaged 13.8 points, 4 rebounds and 3.3 assists during his freshman campaign, which led to speculation he might be off to the pros, leaving Illinois without its most dynamic scorer and playmaker heading into a critical third season for Underwood, who is 26-39 overall and 11-27 in the Big Ten the last two years. Instead, he’ll be returning giving Illinois a second season with an intriguing young core that will likely be a trendy pick to make a significant jump up the B1G standings next winter.

Oklahoma State lands commitment from top-150 guard Chris Harris Jr.

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
Leave a comment

Oklahoma State is adding another top-150 piece to its 2019 recruiting class as Chris Harris Jr., a guard from Texas, pledged to the Cowboys on Thursday

“I will be committing to Oklahoma State University,” Harris announced via a video on social media.

The consensus three-star recruit picks Mike Boynton’s program over offers from the likes of Texas A&M, Baylor, Kansas State and Georgia Tech. The 6-foot-3 guard visited Stillwater officially late last month. He previously was headed to the Aggies, but was released from his National Letter of Intent after Billy Kennedy was fired in College Station.

His commitment gives Oklahoma State what is increasingly looking like a major recruiting class for Boynton, who has largely exceeded expectations during his short tenure with the Cowboys. Boynton has already secured commitments from top-75 wing Marcus Watson of Georgia and top-125 guard Avery Anderson III as well as three-stars Kalib Boone and Keylan Boone.