Rayvonte Rice

Illinois’ leading scorer could return Thursday night vs. Michigan

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After suffering a broken left wrist early in Big Ten play, Illinois senior guard Rayvonte Rice was suspended right around the time that he was expected to return to game action. With Michigan visiting Champaign Thursday night, it’s possible that Illinois will have its leading scorer on the court for the first time since their loss at Ohio State January 3.

According to Mark Tupper of the Decatur (Illinois) Herald-Review, Rice is expected to make his return on the same night that Illinois will honor its 2004-05 national runner-up team.

“Source tells me Ray Rice will play for tonight vs. Michigan but Aaron Cosby will not. That would be interesting. We’ll see,” Tupper tweeted Thursday afternoon.

The return of Rice would be big news for Illinois, as he’s averaging 17.2 points and 6.9 rebounds per game on the season. Rice put up those scoring numbers in an efficient manner too, shooting 51.5% from the field, 48.3% from three and 80.3% from the foul line. One of the changes in Illinois since Rice left the lineup was the emergence of sophomore Malcolm Hill, who has been one of the most improved players in the country.

On the season Hill is averaging 14.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per contest, shooting 48.2% from the field, 41.7% from three and nearly 78 percent from the charity stripe. He’s scored in double figures in nine games since Rice suffered his wrist injury, including a 28-point performance in a win over Maryland in the first game post-Rice.

Illinois has won six of the nine games they’ve played since Rice went down, and Hill is a big reason why. If those two can mesh together, head coach John Groce will have a nice one-two punch to rely on as Illinois looks to make a run at an NCAA tournament berth.

Illinois coach John Groce offers no update on Rayvonte Rice and Aaron Cosby

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Illinois has been playing with a shortened back court for the last month, as leading scorer Rayvonte Rice and Aaron Cosby were both sidelined with injuries before the two were suspended.

During Friday’s teleconference, Illinois head coach John Groce provided no update on the status of either player heading into Saturday afternoon’s Big Ten game at Michigan State.

“They’re indefinitely suspended at this time,” was the response Groce used to answer questions regarding Rice and Cosby, according to Shannon Ryan of the Chicago Tribune.

Rice, the senior lead guard averaging 17.2 points per game, as been out since early January after breaking bone in his left hand during practice. The injury bug bit the Fighting Illini later in the month when Cosby was sidelined several weeks with a retinal tear in his left eye. The perimeter duo was suspended last Saturday for a violation of team rules. Neither player appeared in wins over Penn State and Rutgers this past week.

Since being injured both Rice and Cosby have returned to practice.

“At times we’ll pull them out here or there for different things,” Groce said, according to the Tribune. “Both guys are on track. From a medical perspective they look great. More than anything (it’s) trying to keep their cardio up.”

Illinois takes on Michigan State at noon.

Chase for 180: Corey Hawkins turns UC Davis into a Big West contender

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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. 

We’ll update this list throughout the season, 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

While UC Davis senior guard Corey Hawkins was a preseason all-conference selection back in October, his team was picked to finish seventh in the Big West by the league’s media. However to this point in the season Jim Les’ team has exceeded those expectations, as they’re 16-4 overall and part of a three-way tie for first in the Big West with a 6-1 record. And as expected Hawkins has been a big reason why the Aggies have been so successful, as he’s averaging 21.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game.

Hawkins has been a prolific scorer in each of his three seasons at UC Davis after transferring in from Arizona State, but the difference now is that he’s a more efficient player. Hawkins averaged 18.0 points per game in 2013-14, which is a good number, but he did so shooting 44.4% from the field and 32.2% from beyond the arc. Through 20 games this season Hawkins’ shooting percentages are 51.2% (field) and 52.6% (three-pointers), and he’s also shooting 80.6% from the foul line.

According to Ken Pomeroy’s numbers Hawkins’ offensive rating is up to 122.2 this season after finishing the 2013-14 campaign with a rating of 108.3, and that jump is one reason why UC Davis has improved significantly on the offensive end of the floor. UC Davis is ranked third nationally in effective field goal percentage (59.1%), fourth in field goal percentage (50.1%) and first in three-point percentage (45.4%), and they’re ranked 25th in offensive efficiency (not adjusted) after ranking 23oth in that category a season ago.

With Josh Ritchart (12.4 ppg) being the only other Aggie averaging double figures and Josh Fox at 9.4 ppg, a lot is asked of Hawkins (who also leads the team in rebounding and assists) on that end of the floor. Yet even with the attention that opposing teams pay him, Hawkins has flourished for a team that has a realistic shot at its first NCAA tournament berth as a member of the Big West.

In wins over UCSB and Cal Poly last week Hawkins averaged 25.0 points per game, shooting 53.1% from the field and 64.3% from beyond the arc while also averaging 5.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per. UC Davis’ schedule down the stretch will be tougher, beginning with a road game at UC Irvine Thursday night and remaining games against Long Beach State, Hawaii (which gave them their lone conference loss) and a rematch with UC Irvine.

But if Hawkins can continue to play as he has to this point in the season, Jim Les’ team will be a factor in the Big West title race. And given his ability to shoot the basketball, Hawkins is the kind of player who can carry a team through a conference tournament.

50-40-90 Players

Jack Gibbs (Davidson)
51.7% FG, 41.4% 3PT, 90.8% FT = 183.9

Gibbs remains sidelined due to a slight tear of the meniscus in his knee.

He’s Close to 50-40-90 Status

Derrick Marks (Boise State)
52.7%, 54.7%, 83.8% = 191.2

Marks (23 points on 9-for-13 shooting from the field) was too much for Utah State on Tuesday, helping to propel Boise State to its first-ever win in Logan after losing their last 18 games there.

Tyler Harvey (Eastern Washington) 
50.5%, 47.6%, 86.1% = 184.2

Harvey shot just 4-for-13 from the field in the Eagles’ win over Idaho on Saturday, and he’ll need a better performance Thursday night at Montana.

Seven More “180” Players

Corey Hawkins (UC Davis)
51.2%, 52.6%, 80.6% = 184.4

Jacob Parker (Stephen F. Austin)
55.6%, 44.9%, 81.8% = 182.3

The Lumberjacks still haven’t lost since late November, and Parker’s shot 50 percent or better from the field in each of the last six games.

Marc Loving (Ohio State)
49.1%, 53.2%, 79.7% = 182.0

Loving didn’t make the trip with the team Wednesday night, and the Buckeyes could have used his shooting as they lost by two at Purdue.

Alec Peters (Valparaiso) 
50.5%, 46.3%, 84.8% = 181.6

In the Crusaders’ three-game win streak Peters has shot 22-for-36 (61.1%) from the field and 7-for-15 (46.7%) from three.

Tim Huskisson (Northern Colorado) 
50.8%, 45.0%, 77.3% = 180.3

Huskisson shot 5-for-11 in a 2-0 week for the Bears, which included a win over Weber State on Saturday.

Justin Anderson (Virginia)
49.7%, 50.0%, 80.6% = 180.3

Anderson bounced back from his showing in the Cavaliers’ loss to No. 4 Duke, shooting 6-for-10 from the field (3-for-5 3PT) in a win at No. 12 North Carolina Monday night.

Rayvonte Rice (Illinois)
51.5%, 48.3%, 80.3% = 180.1

Rice was expected to return to the court against Rutgers, but he and teammate Aaron Cosby were suspended by head coach John Groce.

 

Chase for 180: Already a good shooter, Tyler Harvey’s been even better in 2014-15

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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. 

We’ll update this list throughout the season, 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

Eastern Washington guard Tyler Harvey enjoyed a productive debut season after redshirting in 2012-13, scoring an average of 21.8 points per game while shooting 44.3% from the field and 43.3% from beyond the arc. Obviously the opportunities Harvey saw a season ago would once again be present in 2014-15, and he’s certainly taken advantage for head coach Jim Hayford. But the scary thing for the rest of the Big Sky is that while Harvey’s scoring 24.0 points per game, he’s putting points on the board in a more efficient manner than he did last season.

Harvey’s percentages have risen to 51.4% from the field and 48.6% from beyond the arc, with the biggest change coming in the way he’s scored inside of the arc. After making 45.2% of his two-point attempts as a freshman, Harvey’s shooting 54.3% this season. The ratio has changed some this season, with the majority of Harvey’s shots coming from outside of the arc (163 three-point attempts, 92 two-point attempts) after attempting just 24 more three-pointers than two-pointers in 2013-14 (234 three-point attempts, 210 two-point attempts).

But Harvey’s done a better job of converting the two-point looks he does get, even with the increased attention that comes with being the focus of every opponent’s scouting report.

Scoring-wise, Harvey’s reached double figures in every game this season and he’s scored no fewer than 16 points in any of those games. In conference play Harvey’s been even more productive, averaging 26.1 points per game on a team that’s 6-1 in Big Sky play. In wins over Northern Colorado and North Dakota last week, Harvey averaged 30.5 points per game on 59.3% shooting from the field, 46.7% from three and 88.0% from the foul line.

While the presence of three other double-figure scorers in conference play, led by freshman forward Bogdan Bliznyuk (15.1 ppg), helps Harvey from a spacing standpoint teams still know who EWU’s primary scoring option is. And yet he continues to put up highly impressive numbers for the Eagles, who are aiming for their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2004.

50-40-90 Players

Jack Gibbs (Davidson) 
51.7% FG, 41.4% 3PT, 90.8% FT = 183.9

Gibbs has missed the last two games for the Wildcats due to a knee injury.

He’s Close to 50-40-90 Status

Derrick Marks (Boise State)
51.9%, 53.8%, 86.2% = 191.9

Marks and the Broncos have now won five straight, with the senior scoring 28 in a win over Colorado State Tuesday night.

Tyler Harvey (Eastern Washington)
51.4%, 48.6%, 85.8% = 185.8

Seven More “180” Players 

Jacob Parker (Stephen F. Austin)
55.6%, 46.2%, 81.6% = 183.4

Parker followed up a 13-point outing in a win over Sam Houston State with a 20-point (7-for-13 FG), 12-rebound night in a win over Lamar on Monday.

Justin Anderson (Virginia)
50.0%, 51.9%, 81.0% = 182.9

Like his teammates Anderson got off to a slow start Sunday at Virginia Tech. But he scored ten points in the final 7:05 to lead the Cavaliers to the 50-47 win.

Corey Hawkins (UC Davis) 
50.9%, 51.0%, 80.0% = 181.9

Shooting wasn’t an issue for Hawkins in the Aggies’ loss at Hawaii last Thursday (5-for-8 3PT), but the seven turnovers were.

Nic Moore (SMU) 
45.9%, 46.3%, 89.2% = 181.4

With the Mustangs navigating multiple personnel losses, it’s been Moore leading the way for a team one game behind Tulsa in the conference standings.

Alec Peters (Valparaiso) 
50.2%, 46.4%, 84.4% = 181.0

Peters bounced back from Friday’s loss at Green Bay in a big way Monday night, shooting 10-for-14 from the field to lead the Crusaders past Milwaukee.

Kevin Pangos (Gonzaga)
49.7%, 47.0%, 83.6% = 180.3

Pangos played just 18 minutes in the Bulldogs’ blowout win over Pacific on Saturday, making three of his five three-point attempts.

Rayvonte Rice (Illinois)
51.5%, 48.3%, 80.3% = 180.1

Like Gibbs, Rice remains out of the lineup for Illinois due to injury (left wrist).

Illinois adds senior student manager to roster, will dress against Minnesota

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Illinois head coach John Groce has seen two of his guards sidelined with injuries this month, which has prompted the motto, “Next Man Up” for the Fighting Illini.

The next man in line is senior Ryan Schmidt, who until Friday was one of the student managers for the program. Groce announced the addition of the 6-foot guard, who will suit up on Saturday against Minnesota.

Schmidt has been with the program throughout his four years in Champaign after starring at Central Catholic High in Bloomington, Indiana.

The Fighting Illini has been without leading scorer Rayvonte Rice since Jan. 6, breaking a bone in his left hand. Last Saturday, Aaron Cosby suffered a retinal tear in his left eye in Illinois’ loss to Indiana. The original timetable for Rice’s return was 4-6 weeks while Cosby should be able to join the team in a week or two.

Illinois and Minnesota tip at 2:15 p.m. on Saturday. The Illini get a week-break following the Big Ten matchup.

Chase for 180: Boise State rebounds from 0-3 conference start thanks to Derrick Marks

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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. 

We’ll update this list throughout the season, 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

Entering the 2014-15 season expectations were high for a Boise State team returning its two best players in seniors Anthony Drmic and Derrick Marks, even with the graduation of all-Mountain West performer Ryan Watkins, as they were picked to finish second in the conference’s preseason poll. And if dealing with an inexperienced front court wasn’t tough enough for Leon Rice to do, there was also the loss of Drmic to back and ankle injuries.

Without Drmic, who averaged 15.9 points per game as a junior, even more would be asked of Marks from a scoring standpoint. And for a player who at times had issues with shot selection in 2013-14 (see: their home loss to San Diego State), this could be either a gift or a curse depending upon Marks’ shot discipline. After losing their first three conference games the Broncos have now won three in a row, and while the progress made by James Webb III has been key the most important factor has been Marks’ improvement.

After averaging 14.9 points per game as a junior Marks is up to 18.6 as a senior, and his percentages have improved as well. The senior has raised his field goal percentage by more than seven percentage points (51.7, from 44.1), and the improvements made from beyond the arc have been stunning. After making just 19 of his 66 attempts in 2013-14, through 19 games Marks is shooting 36-for-71 (50.7%) from three.

Marks may not be scoring from the foul line as often as he did last season, with his free throw rate being cut in half, but there’s been improved accuracy from both the mid-range (46.6% FG on two-point jumpers compared to 36.7% last season, per hoop-math.com) and from three. On the whole Boise State doesn’t get to the foul line all that often, ranking last in the conference in free throw rate (conference games only), but they’re still second in the Mountain West in adjusted offensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy’s numbers even with the loss of Drmic.

The performance of Marks, who averaged 29.5 points per game and shot 52.4% from the field in wins over UNLV and New Mexico (we’re going to leave out last night’s 86-36 win over San Jose State), is the biggest reason why the Broncos have rebounded from their 0-3 start to conference play.

50-40-90 Club

Jack Gibbs, Davidson
51.7% FG, 41.4% 3PT, 90.8% FT = 183.9

Gibbs missed Davidson’s win over No. 22 Dayton with a slight tear in his meniscus, and he’ll be out of the lineup for a little while.

He’s Close to 50-40-90 Status

Derrick Marks, Boise State
51.7%, 50.7%, 84.3% = 186.7

Tyler Harvey, Eastern Washington
50.6%, 48.8%, 85.2% = 184.6

Harvey’s scored 21 points or more in eight of Eastern Washington’s last nine games, and he’s a reason why the Eagles are now the favorites to win the Big Sky.

 

Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga
50.0%, 47.2%, 83.1% = 180.3

Still haven’t been able to see how the addition of Eric McClellan will impact Pangos due to McClellan’s foot injury, but the senior continues to lead the way for one of the nation’s best teams.

Eight More “180” Players

Jacob Parker, Stephen F. Austin
55.6%, 46.6%, 84.4% = 186.6

Why are the Lumberjacks 15-3 overall and 5-0 in Southland play? Parker’s one reason, as he’s shot 70 percent or better from the field in each of the last three games.

Justin Anderson, Virginia
50.6%, 52.7%, 79.7% = 183.0

With Georgia Tech in town, Anderson will look to rebound from his worst performance of the season (0-for-8 FG, zero points) in Saturday’s win at Boston College.

Richaud Gittens, Weber State
46.4%, 54.9%, 81.3% = 182.6

Given the amount of talent lost from last year’s NCAA tournament team, Gittens is one player the Wildcats needed to step up. The hope in Ogden is that his last three games (14.0 ppg, 71.4% FG, 9-for-10 3PT) are a sign that the sophomore is becoming a more consistent scoring option.

Alec Wintering, Portland
46.7%, 51.2%, 84.0% = 181.9

Wintering’s been kept in check the last three games, which were all defeats for the Pilots. He managed to score just five points (2-for-9 FG) in their loss at Pepperdine on Saturday.

Marcus Marshall, Missouri State
45.9%, 45.6%, 89.9% = 181.4

Marshall’s played his last game in a Missouri State uniform, as it was announced last week that he’ll be transferring in May.

Alec Peters, Valparaiso
49.6%, 47.0%, 84.0% = 180.6

Peters shot just 34.8% from the field in wins over Wright State and Youngstown State, and the Crusaders will need greater accuracy from their leading scorer if they’re to win at Green Bay Friday night.

Corey Hawkins, UC Davis
51.2%, 50.0%, 79.1% = 180.3

Jim Les’ Aggies remain undefeated in Big West play (4-0) with Hawkins, who’s shooting 50 percent from the field and 54.5% from three, being the biggest reason why.

Rayvonte Rice, Illinois
51.5%, 48.3%, 80.3% = 180.1

Rice (broken left hand) isn’t expected to return until sometime next month for the Fighting Illini.