New Year’s resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions: Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Leave a comment
source: AP
Jerian Grant (AP Photo)

Conference play is right around the corner, so over the course of the next two weeks, College Basketball Talk will be detailing what some of the country’s best, most intriguing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams should resolve to do with the New Year right around the corner. What can we say, we’re in a giving mood. Thank Jessica Simpson.

MORE: The rest of our New Year’s Resolutions | Midseason catchups

NOTRE DAME PROMISES TO: Beat some legitimate teams

  • It will happen because: Well, it (likely) has to happen because of the loaded ACC schedule. So there’s that. But Notre Dame has played a ridiculously easy schedule to this point and its two best wins came over UMass and Michigan State. They own no RPI top-50 wins and have won every game in December by double digits after the win over the Spartans. But they’ll get plenty of quality wins because their starting five is so balanced and strong and Jerian Grant is playing at an All-American level. It also helps that Notre Dame only plays Louisville, North Carolina and Virginia one time each.
  • But it might not because: Do we really know how good Notre Dame is if they don’t own a single top-50 win to this point in the season? Granted, they’ve only played Providence among that category, but Notre Dame has played such an easy schedule thus far that they might not be prepared for the rigors of the ACC. The Irish were missing Jerian Grant last season, but this same group went 6-12 last season in the ACC. They should fare better in the ACC this season, but how many of those wins will come against top-50 teams that can boost their NCAA Tournament profile?

NOTRE DAME ALSO SWEARS THEY WON’T: Rely too heavily on its starting five

  • It will happen because: This team isn’t very deep. At all. When V.J. Beachem went down with injury during the non-conference portion of the season, the Fighting Irish relied heavily on a starting five that is already receiving extended minutes. And that came during the easy part of the schedule. Do you think Mike Brey is going to give extended bench minutes to players that he wouldn’t play against a horrible non-conference schedule?
  • But it might not because: If Notre Dame wants to win certain games during the conference season, they’ll need to have other players step up when foul trouble or injury occurs. And it’s not like the role players have played poorly, it’s just clear that Brey feels comfortable with his main lineup and likes to stick with them. Beachem is shooting tremendous percentages off the bench when he’s been healthy. Martinas Geben, Austin Torres, Austin Burgett and Bonzie Colson are all shooting at least 52 percent from the field. While those four aren’t producing huge numbers, they at least know who to get the ball to when they’re in the lineup and they’re keeping it simple with their own offense.

New Year’s Resolutions: Wichita State Shockers

1 Comment
source: AP
(AP)

Conference play is right around the corner, so over the course of the next two weeks, College Basketball Talk will be detailing what some of the country’s best, most intriguing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams should resolve to do with the New Year right around the corner. What can we say, we’re in a giving mood. Thank Jessica Simpson.

MORE: The rest of our New Year’s Resolutions | Midseason catchups

WICHITA STATE PROMISES TO: Get Fred Van Vleet and Tekele Cotton going on offense

  • It will happen because: Van Vleet, in particular, is not shooting very efficiently this season while Cotton, a senior guard, is shooting below last season’s marks as well. Based on their career averages, both guards will improve as the season rolls along. In his junior season, Van Vleet has really struggled, as he’s shot 37 percent from the field, 30 percent from three-point range and 75 percent from the free-throw line after much better splits as a sophomore (48% FG, 41% 3PT, 83% FT). Those numbers should go up after a few particularly bad games made those splits look worse. As Wichita State also gets senior forward Darius Carter more involved in the offense, it should put less pressure on Van Vleet and Cotton to create shots for themselves, which isn’t a strength.
  • But it might not because: Without Cleanthony Early, Wichita State has had to move Van Vleet and Cotton up the scoring ladder as the No. 2 and No. 3 options behind Ron Baker and it hasn’t gone well for either player. Van Vleet is a steady floor leader and intelligent big-game player, but he can’t create his own shot very easily and Cotton is best served turning defense into offense and not being relied on for shots in half-court sets. Darius Carter has looked like a potential No. 2 option to alleviate those concerns, but as one of the Shockers’ only productive forwards, he’s susceptible to occasional foul problems. It just might be that Wichita State is asking too much offensively of Van Vleet and Cotton and they’re not capable of putting up efficient shooting numbers when defenses focus more time trying to stop them.

WICHITA STATE ALSO SWEARS THEY WON’T: Forget about the free-throw line

  • It will happen because: This isn’t the same Wichita State offense we saw last season, especially without Early. In 2013-14, the Shockers were getting to the free-throw line an average of 25.8 times per game in the regular season (43rd nationally) and made 73 percent (61st nationally). This season has seen fewer trips to the line and a far worse percentage. Wichita State is only getting to the free-throw line 21.7 times per game (131st nationally) and struggling to 65.8 percent shooting (252nd nationally). That means the Shockers are losing 4.5 points per game at the free-throw line per game compared to last season. Without Cleanthony Early to consistently get to the free-throw line, the Shockers just can’t get it done. They only attempted two free throws in the loss to George Washington and settled for a lot of jumpers.
  • But it might not because: Wichita State still needs time to gel and figure out its rotation and players on the floor at the end of games who can make free throws. It doesn’t help that Baker, Cotton and Van Vleet are all shooting uncharacteristically low percentages compared to last season and those numbers should ideally improve as the season continues. Also, Wichita State has a lot of young players coming off of the bench this season. Those players could find a better understanding of attacking defenses, drawing fouls and making free throws and the Shockers could really use a slasher who can consistently get to the basket.

New Year’s Resolutions: Kentucky Wildcats

Leave a comment
source: Getty Images
Tyler Ulis (Getty Images)

Conference play is right around the corner, so over the course of the next two weeks, College Basketball Talk will be detailing what some of the country’s best, most intriguing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams should resolve to do with the New Year right around the corner. What can we say, we’re in a giving mood. Thank Jessica Simpson.

MORE: The rest of our New Year’s Resolutions | Midseason catchups

KENTUCKY PROMISES TO: Give Tyler Ulis the major minutes at point guard.

  • It will happen because: Tyler Ulis is the best point guard on the Kentucky roster. We’ve been talking about this since the preseason, and while Andrew Harrison has remained in a starting role for the Wildcats, it became plainly evident in Saturday’s win over Louisville who the real star of this back court is. Ulis was calm and collected, creating shots for his teammates, protecting the ball and hitting open shots. Harrison? He was 1-for-6 from the floor, had six turnovers and sulked his way through the final 20 minutes.
  • It won’t happen because: We all saw just how poor Harrison’s body language was Saturday, and that was simply a result of getting outplayed by Ulis. What happens if he loses his starting spot to the 5-foot-10 freshman? There are only two point guards on this Kentucky roster, so John Calipari canot afford to “lose” one of them. If that means sacrificing a couple of minutes and a starting spot to Harrison in games UK is going to win easily anyway, than it may be the best option for his team.

KENTUCKY ALSO SWEARS THEY WON’T: Overlook any opponent, particularly in road games.

  • It will happen because: The SEC may not be all that strong this season, but even the worst teams in the league are better than the likes of Buffalo and Boston U. There’s an air of excitement about league play, and with the possibility of an undefeated season looking better and better, each game will carry with it just that much more importance. And without any marquee league matchups, there are fewer trap games — Kentucky won’t be overlooking Columbia because they have UNC, UCLA and Louisville afterwards.
  • It won’t happen because: If Kentucky does roll through the SEC, do they end up getting bored? What happens when they win five straight SEC games by 20 points and then visit a good Georgia team for a game in front of a half-empty arena three days before they host Florida? Every team in the country is good for a snoozer or two, at least, in conference play, and there’s an argument to make that Kentucky’s strength actually makes them more susceptible. Whether or not that costs them a win is a different story.

New Year’s Resolutions: VCU Rams

Leave a comment
source: Getty Images
Getty Images

Conference play is right around the corner, so over the course of the next two weeks, College Basketball Talk will be detailing what some of the country’s best, most intriguing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams should resolve to do with the New Year right around the corner. What can we say, we’re in a giving mood. Thank Jessica Simpson.

MORE: The rest of our New Year’s Resolutions | Midseason catchups

VCU PROMISES TO: Consistent production from Melvin Johnson

  • It will happen because: VCU has seen an increase in Johnson’s points per game and 3-point makes/attempts this season. The Rams offense is going to keep letting him shoot because he’s: A. their best 3-point option and B. he can get rolling quickly. In the last two games, Johnson has gotten early touches to start each half, resulting in identical 4-of-9 shooting from three in wins over Cincinnati and Eastern Tennessee State. Johnson’s 3-point shooting can help as the season progresses, especially in postseason play. With Johnson out injured last March, the Rams lacked its top shooter in a Round of 64 upset to Stephen F. Austin.
  • It won’t happen because: While he can get going quickly, Johnson can be inconsistent. He was 1-of-4 from three against Villanova, 1-of-8 vs. Old Dominion, 1-of-6 in a loss to Virginia and 2-of-9 in 39 minutes in a double overtime win over Northern Iowa. His 3-point shooting can be a lift to VCU’s offense. Havoc has struggled to turn over teams with veteran guards, which limits fast break opportunities. If teams can solve VCU’s full-court pressure they are more than likely to find good looks against its half-court defense, putting VCU in a hole. On nights against top competition, Johnson will need to be firing.

VCU ALSO SWEARS THEY WON’T: Get beat by the three-ball

  • It will happen because: This season, VCU has allowed teams to shoot 38 percent from beyond the arc. That’s up from the 30.3 clip Havoc allowed in 2013-14, which ranked 12th best in the country. However, entering the Atlantic 10 — which as a whole has had a lackluster non-conference despite George Washington’s recent win over No. 11 Wichita State — VCU won’t see a lot of great 3-point shooting teams. Of the top-100 3-point shooting teams, only four come from the A10 with the Rams being one of them.
  • It won’t happen because: In its three losses — Villanova, Virginia and Old Dominion — VCU’s defense has allowed a combined 22-of-48 from three (46 percent) with the lowest shooting percentage being Villanova, a team that had struggled with its 3-point shooting entering the Legends Classic contest. In its two narrow wins — Illinois State and Norther Iowa — opponents shot a combined 18-of-37. Against better teams, VCU will either need to execute better half-court defense or its press will have to force more turnovers. Villanova didn’t turn the ball over and it turned a two-point halftime lead into a 24-point victory. Old Dominion moved the ball around and got open looks, as did Virginia. VCU’s halfcourt defense has struggled: allowing open looks, slow on rotations with no rim protector.

New Year’s Resolutions: Arizona Wildcats

2 Comments
source:
T.J. McConnell (AP Photo)

Conference play is right around the corner, so over the course of the next two weeks, College Basketball Talk will be detailing what some of the country’s best, most intriguing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams should resolve to do with the New Year right around the corner. What can we say, we’re in a giving mood. Thank Jessica Simpson.

MORE: The rest of our New Year’s Resolutions | Midseason catchups

ARIZONA PROMISES TO: Get back to defending at the level they did a season ago.

  • It will happen because: Their head coach won’t demand anything lesss, with last year’s group being tops nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency (per kenpom.com) and in the top five in both field goal percentage (4th) and effective field goal percentage (2nd). Losing Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon from that team was a big deal, and the Wildcats continue to work to account for those losses defensively. With Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson the Wildcats have two high-level athletes on the wings, and their big men are solid defensively (even though UNLV’s Christian Wood did whatever he wanted Tuesday night). One loss doesn’t mean that it’s time to panic, and overall Arizona has been good defensively, and there’s plenty of time between now and their Pac-12 opener January 4 (against Arizona State) to work out the kinks.
  • It won’t happen because: While Hollis-Jefferson has proven to be one of college basketball’s most versatile defenders, the other pieces have some strides to make if Arizona is to defend at a level similar to that of last season’s team. Gabe York, who this far has given the Wildcats solid contributions offensively, was the player UNLV looked to attack at nearly every opportunity Tuesday night and he still has work to do when it comes to defending. The same can be said for Johnson, and a key for this group moving forward will be center Kaleb Tarczewski avoiding foul trouble. Tarczewski’s committing 3.2 fouls per game this season, and he’s fouled out of three games so far.

ARIZONA ALSO SWEARS THEY WON’T: Continue to have issues at the foul line.

  • It will happen because: Of Arizona’s top six players in free throw attempts just one, Gabe York (77.4%) is shooting better than 70 percent from the charity stripe. That includes point guard T.J. McConnell, who’s made 14 of his 21 attempts and four front court players shooting between 63.6 (Brandon Ashley) and 68.3 (Kaleb Tarczewski) percent from the line. Foul shooting was a problem for Arizona last season as well, and their team free throw percentage has dropped from 65.9 to 64.9 percent.
  • It won’t happen because: The player who attempted the second-most free throws last season was Gordon, who connected on just 76 of his 180 attempts. There’s no such player on this year’s roster, and one would think that Ashley can move closer to the 75.7% he shot before suffering the foot injury that ended his 2013-14 season in early February. And McConnell and Stanley Johnson (66.3%) are both capable of shooting better than they have to this point in the season.

New Year’s Resolutions: Iowa State Cyclones

2 Comments
source: AP
(AP)

Conference play is right around the corner, so over the course of the next two weeks, College Basketball Talk will be detailing what some of the country’s best, most intriguing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams should resolve to do with the New Year right around the corner. What can we say, we’re in a giving mood. Thank Jessica Simpson.

MORE: The rest of our New Year’s Resolutions | Midseason catchups

IOWA STATE PROMISES TO: Maintain tremendous scoring balance

  • It will happen because: Iowa State has been one of the most balanced offensive teams in the country this season, as they have an astounding five different players averaging at least 11 points per game through 10 games. Even better? All five of those players have shot at least 47 percent from the field and four of the five are above 50 percent. With so many weapons on the offensive end of the floor and so many versatile threats who can go inside or outside, it’s hard to see Fred Hoiberg’s ballclub getting slowed up scoring points this season. Georges Niang is an All-American candidate inside, point guard Monte Morris gets other players good shots and Bryce Dejean-Jones gives them an athletic slasher. Naz Long and Matt Thomas can both fill it up from the perimeter. Iowa State has a lot of offensive players who do different things well and it’s tough to stop them all.
  • But it might not because: It’s nice that Iowa State is putting up some good offensive numbers early in the season, but they haven’t exactly played a difficult schedule filled with teams who can get consistent stops. Wins over Arkansas, Iowa and Alabama look nice on paper, but none of them are sure-fire NCAA Tournament teams as we enter the new year and Iowa State’s offense looked completely average in a loss to Maryland. Maryland’s length and athleticism on the defensive end made Iowa State’s look normal and it will be interesting to see how the Cyclones fair against tough and athletic Big 12 opponents like Texas and Kansas.

IOWA STATE ALSO SWEARS THEY WON’T: Falter on the road

  • It will happen because: Away from the magic of Hilton Coliseum, Iowa State has been very average under Hoiberg. The Cyclones were 8-14 in true road games the last two seasons and return many of the same pieces from last year’s campaign. And it’s not like the Big 12 has gotten any easier since last season. As of this writing, seven of the 10 teams in the league sit in the AP Top 25 and Oklahoma State and Kansas State will both be tough outs at home outside of that group. If Iowa State wants to compete in the Big 12 in 2014-15, they need to string together some true road wins against top 25 teams.
  • But it might not because: A favorable schedule means that Iowa State only has three more true road games until February and one of those is a very winnable game at Texas Tech. The Cyclones also already earned an impressive road win at in-state rival Iowa as well this season and with Morris being so steady at point guard, this team is experienced and should be able to handle the pressures of playing in a hostile environment a little better this season. The addition of transfer big man Jameel McKay also gives Iowa State a rim protector that they haven’t had in recent years and that should make them significantly better on the defensive end.