Rushed Reactions: #3 Arizona 61, #15 San Diego State 59

Posted by rtmsf on November 27th, 2014

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Three Key Takeaways.

Arizona the 2014 Maui champs. #mauihoops

A photo posted by RTC (@rushthecourt) on

  1. San Diego State Needed This More Than Arizona. And they weren’t able to get it, in large part because of the same old bugaboo that has limited Steve Fisher’s teams the last few seasons: offensive production. From the 9:17 to the 0:18 mark of the second half, the Aztecs scored a grand total of three points on a Skylar Spencer free throw and a Trey Kell jumper. What will cause Steve Fisher to lose even more sleep over this loss tonight is that Arizona only moderately took advantage of the drought (going from a one-point deficit to a six-point lead) — opportunities were there, and Fisher mentioned as much in the postgame press conference. But far too often, the Aztecs simply don’t know what to do with the basketball on the offensive end other than to give it to Winston Shepard (14 points, six rebounds) and ask him to create something. There’s more on a possible remedy to that problem below, but the bigger takeaway here is that this was a winnable game that could have really bolstered the Aztecs’ seed line in March when they have another gaudy record that people are uncertain about. Arizona, on the other hand, will play Gonzaga and Michigan in coming weeks to bolster its bona fides as the Wildcats position themselves for another #1 seed in the West Region.
  2. Stanley Johnson is the Real Deal. I’m not sure if I was more impressed with the all-around abilities of Johnson in his Tournament MVP performance, or his relative nonchalance while dominating the action here in Maui. With four California state titles under his belt, Johnson was as well-decorated as they come heading into college. But his demeanor on the floor is so unflappable that, incessant chewing of the mouth guard aside, it belies his relative inexperience in a college uniform. In what was easily the poorest shooting night of his young career (4-14 FG), he still found plenty of ways to impact the game beyond scoring (which he made up for at the line): nine rebounds, including five offensive; three big steals; a block; an assist. Sean Miller said after the game that Johnson has only recently — the last month or so — started to understand what it takes to be successful at this level: “He couldn’t have won Tournament MVP a month ago.” God help us all once he puts it all together. He’s a game-changer in the best possible way.
  3. The Offensive Development of Trey Kell Will Make or Break the Aztecs. San Diego State will beat a bunch of teams with its defense alone, but in order for this group to break through and realistically become a Final Four contender, Fisher needs Trey Kell to become his second reliable scoring threat. Dwayne Polee is a nice third guy in an offense — the kind of player who is best served when defenses aren’t designed to specifically stop him — but Kell showed through three games in Maui that he is more than capable of putting up nice numbers (14.7 PPG on 60% FG and 76% FT) for a team that ranks among the slowest-paced 20 percent of all Division I teams. The question is really whether he can do it reliably. Shepard, as talented and versatile of a player as he is, needs a teammate who can take the offensive pressure off of him, and the freshman clearly has the stones (hitting the big four-point play to give SDSU its final life with 18 seconds remaining) to make a run at it. Mark this down: If Kell becomes an all-Mountain West caliber player this season, San Diego State will play in the NCAA’s second weekend and have a favorable match-up’s chance at the program’s first Final Four.

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Rushed Reactions: #1 Kentucky 72, #5 Kansas 40

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on November 19th, 2014

Tommy Lemoine (@hoopthink) is in Indianapolis for the Champions Classic games tonight.

Three Key Takeaways:

Kentucky was clicking on all cylinders against Kansas tonight. (Photo: AP Photo/James Crisp)

Kentucky was clicking on all cylinders against Kansas tonight. (Photo: AP Photo/James Crisp)

  1. Kentucky’s size is peerless. Kentucky ranks first in the nation in effective height, but it doesn’t take an advanced statistician to know that the Wildcats are really, really big. That size and length proved the difference against Kansas tonight, as Bill Self’s club was unable to find consistent looks near the basket and shot poorly from the outside – an obviously lethal combination. Altogether, Kentucky blocked 11 shots and held the Jayhawks to eight – yes, eight – two-point baskets on the night (19.5% 2FG). With five contributors standing 6’9’’ or taller, including two seven-footers, the Wildcats’ interior defense is seemingly impregnable. The only way to beat Calipari’s group may be from the outside, and even that remains to be seen.
  2. The platoon remains for now. After the game, Calipari noted, “we’ll figure it out as we go, as far as ‘are we going to be able to play this way?’” and suggested that a more conventional lineup – one based on performance – could develop over time. But after a 32-point thrashing, on a night filled with so much national attention and fanfare, the fact that postgame conversations seemed less about ‘egos’ and ‘one-and-dones’ and more about “just how good can this team be?” suggests that the platoon system will remain in place for the foreseeable future. Five guys in, five guys out.
  3. This is more about Kentucky and less about Kansas. Sure, the Jayhawks were dominated, but Bill Self’s club is and should remain a top-10 team and perceived Big 12 favorites. Fact is, Perry Ellis, Jamari Traylor and Cliff Alexander will be far more productive against normal-sized front lines; the team won’t shoot 20 percent from behind the arc each night; and Frank Mason will develop into a more consistent point guard. Considering Kansas’ talent and Bill Self’s track record, there are numerous aspects about tonight’s game that his staff might be better off just ignoring, moving on from, and chalking up to the fact that Kentucky is just ridiculously talented. There are better days ahead in Lawrence.

Star of the Game: Karl-Anthony Towns. There are no stars in Calipari’s platoon system! Or, there are many stars in Calipari’s platoon system! Either way, freshman center Towns was excellent tonight, logging nine points, eight rebounds and four blocks in just 17 minutes and 34 seconds on the court. It’s all about efficiency for Kentucky this year, and efficient he was.

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Rushed Reactions: #4 Duke 81, #19 Michigan State 71

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on November 18th, 2014

Tommy Lemoine (@hoopthink) is in Indianapolis for the Champions Classic games tonight.

Three Key Takeaways:

Duke big man Jahlil Okafor played big on Tuesday night. (247sports.com)

Duke big man Jahlil Okafor played big on Tuesday night. (247sports.com)

  1. Duke freshmen are as good as advertised. As good as the Blue Devil freshmen were against Presbyterian and Fairfield, they were even better against Michigan State – which says a lot, considering the obvious step up in competition. Jahlil Okafor was dominant early on and nearly unstoppable when he caught the ball within a few feet of the basket. Justise Winslow’s ability to get to the rim and create his own shot proved critical in squashing several would-be Spartan runs. And Tyus Jones – held scoreless in the first half – almost single-handedly put the game on ice, scoring six of his 17 points within two possessions of Jahlil Okafor leaving the floor with four fouls. All told, the highly-touted newcomers combined for 49 of Duke’s 81 points and more than lived up to their preseason billing.
  2. Sparty will be just fine with Travis Trice at the helm. There was a quiet sense of panic among Spartans fans following the team’s narrow victory over Navy on Friday night, especially with Duke right around the corner. And while Michigan State lost tonight’s game – outplayed, to be sure – it looked more like the top 20 Big Ten contender many people pegged it as in the preseason. Travis Trice, who carried the load against the Midshipman over the weekend, was again the lifeblood for the Spartans’ offense (despite shooting 1-of-5 from deep), creating baskets with his penetration and directing traffic each time down the floor. His final stat line – 15 points, six rebounds and eight assists – demonstrates his all-around importance to the team’s performance. He, Denzel Valentine and Branden Dawson should keep the Spartans competitive in the Big Ten race, especially when the team returns to full health.
  3. Quinn Cook is more than capable playing off the ball. With Tyus Jones joining the fold, guard Quinn Cook has played off the ball much more frequently this season – a role he relished on this night. The senior shot 7-of-12 from the field, including 3-of-4 from deep, and tallied 17 points to go along with four assists and zero turnovers. If Cook continues producing at that level alongside Jones, the Blue Devils will be even more offensively dynamic this season.

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Rushed Reactions: Providence 79, St. John’s 74

Posted by Brian Otskey (@botskey) on March 13th, 2014

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Brian Otskey will be reporting from the Big East Tournament all week.

Three Key Takeaways.

Providence Advances to the Big East Tourney Semifinals (USA Today)

Providence Advances to the Big East Tourney Semifinals (USA Today)

  1. Providence is alive. St. John’s, not so much. With the win today, Providence lives to see another day. I’m not quite sure that the Friars are in the field of 68 just yet, but they get another opportunity for a win tomorrow night. However, that win would have to come against Seton Hall, a sub-100 RPI team. Now we know the Pirates are not a bad team, but a loss to them would qualify as a “bad” loss on Providence’s NCAA resume. The Friars surely don’t want to lose that one and put themselves in jeopardy with a chance to win their way into the NCAA Tournament. As for St. John’s, it is the unfortunate loser of what was likely an NCAA elimination game. With 12 losses on its resume and not many quality wins to boot, the Red Storm appear to be NIT-bound. Still, it has been a remarkable turnaround for a team that started 0-5 in conference play.
  2. It was important for Providence to show it can win without a strong Bryce Cotton performance. Cotton, the star Friars senior, struggled to the tune of a 1-of-10 shooting night and yet the Friars still held a comfortable advantage for most of the game. Cotton made up for that by getting to the line 13 times (making 10), but it was certainly not a dominant game for him. It was interesting to note that Cotton played “only” 34 minutes, his lowest game total since playing 32 minutes against Vermont on November 18. The good news for Providence? Cotton isn’t likely to shoot this poorly tomorrow night, and as an additional bonus, should be relatively well-rested.
  3. Free throw shooting continues to serve Providence well. The Friars are the No. 2 team in free throw shooting nationally and Carson Desrosiers’ clutch makes at the end of the game sealed this win. For the game, the Friars got to the free throw line 30 times, making 22. When you can get to the line that often (specifically Cotton), great free throw shooting can be a lethal weapon. It quells runs and seals games in the final minute. If Providence does end up in the NCAA Tournament next week, don’t be surprised if it wins a game based on free throw shooting alone.

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Rushed Reactions: #10 Kansas 77, Oklahoma State 70 (OT)

Posted by Greg Mitchell on March 13th, 2014

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Here are three key takeaways from Kansas’ thrilling win over Oklahoma State in the Big 12 quarterfinals.

Andrew Wiggins is heating up at the right time for Kansas (sportschump.net).

Andrew Wiggins is heating up at the right time for Kansas (sportschump.net).

  1. How about that for a follow up performance from Andrew Wiggins? After scoring 41 in a loss to West Virginia last Saturday, the freshman scored 30 points on 9-of-17 shooting in his third, and likely final, game against Oklahoma State. For most of the game the Cowboys did a good job in taking the baseline away from Wiggins and forcing him to beat them with his jump shot. And beat them he did, going 3-of-6 from three, and hitting a stepback jumper to tie the game at the end of regulation. Wiggins found more space going to the rim in the second half, and finished off an elevator of an alley-oop. He was also tasked with guarding Markel Brown the majority of the game, and forced the senior into a 5-of-13 shooting afternoon. This occurred after Brown had an efficient 20 points on 5-of-9 shooting the night before. In these last two games Wiggins has played the type of basketball that can carry a team deep into the postseason. That’s pretty good timing on his part.
  2. Wiggins took the headlines today, but the bigger story is how Kansas fared against a quality opponent without Joel Embiid in the lineup. Tarik Black and Jamari Traylor combined for 21 rebounds, 13 points and two blocks, and production like that will go a long way in allowing the Jayhawks to weather the absence of the seven-foot difference-maker. It’ll need to be an all hands on deck mantra for the Kansas big men, and it was this afternoon. Embiid is a dynamic defensive player, but Kansas may feel his loss just as much on the offensive end. Foul trouble limited Perry Ellis to just eight second half minutes, and without him in the game the Jayhawks had no one to draw the Cowboys’ defensive attention in the low post. If not for Wiggins’ scoring heroics, Kansas likely wouldn’t have been able to weather the Oklahoma State comeback. Though raw offensively, Embiid still demands attention, and that will be missed for as long as he’s out.
  3. Number one seeds now might be able to breathe a sigh of relief. The Cowboys’ late season surge (with wins over Kansas and Kansas State), paired with their solid performance this afternoon, may have served to bump them off of the rumored #8/#9 seed line. Given their star power and reputation going into the season, it wouldn’t be surprising if the committee gives them the benefit of the doubt this weekend. That’s good news for any potential top seed. As Bill Self said after the game, if the Cowboys avoid foul trouble, they are good enough to play with just about anyone in the country. Neither Brown nor Marcus Smart shot the ball well today, but Le’Bryan Nash displayed why he’s a such a tough match-up problem. He’s developed into a capable low post scorer, but by nature is more of a slasher. Contending with both of these styles is a tough task for any big man attempting to guard him.

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Rushed Reactions: Seton Hall 64, #3 Villanova 63

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 13th, 2014

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Brian Otskey will be reporting from the Big East Tournament all week.

Three key takeaways from Seton Hall’s dramatic Big East Quarterfinal upset of Villanova.

  1. Villanova’s chances at a top seed took a major hit. Seton Hall isn’t a terrible team but because of some bad losses and a weak non-conference schedule, its RPI is well outside of the top 100. This is only Villanova’s fourth loss of the season, but it means that it won’t be playing any more games until next week after the brackets are announced. The Wildcats are light on big-time wins so their resume will be looked at with more scrutiny after this loss. The general consensus was that Villanova would earn a No. 1 seed with a Big East Tournament title or even just a trip to the championship game, but that won’t happen now and Villanova’s chances of getting the final top seed are significantly lower.
  2. Seton Hall played with a ton of confidence. After surviving a Butler team that beat them twice, the Pirates played with nothing to lose and gave it everything they had today. For a hard-luck team, it finally paid off. Coming into this tournament, Seton Hall had lost an astounding six games either by one point or in overtime. In two games at Madison Square Garden, Kevin Willard’s team has flipped the script with two one-point victories and one massive upset. This win against Villanova, ranked third in the AP Top 25, was Seton Hall’s first ever top-three win in program history. The Pirates had previously been 0-30 against the top three of the AP poll before this afternoon’s win.
  3. Free throw shooting cost Villanova the game, but points off turnovers nearly won it for the Wildcats. Villanova shot 15-of-25 (60 percent) from the charity stripe this afternoon with JayVaughn Pinkston in particular having a very rough game (3-of-10). For as much as free throws eventually wound up costing the Wildcats the game, disrupting Seton Hall’s offense and creating live ball turnovers. Villanova turned those into quick points with most of them coming during a 16-0 run that allowed the Wildcats to turn a 13-point deficit into a three-point lead, a run that seemed to take the air out of Seton Hall’s upset bid at the time. Villanova’s pressure bothered the Pirates for most of the second half, forcing them into wasted possessions and bad shots. However, the free throw struggles proved insurmountable for Villanova.

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Rushed Reaction: #24 North Carolina 105, Wake Forest 72

Posted by nvr1983 on February 22nd, 2014

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Here are our observations after North Carolina crushed Wake Forest, 105-72:

  1. UNC will be an extremely difficult out in March. This shouldn’t be too much a surprise after their early season victories against Michigan State, Louisville, and Kentucky, but for much of the season the Tar Heels were dogged by the perception that they were inconsistent and for good reason. Mixed in with their big early wins the Tar Heels also had some awful losses–at home against Belmont and Miami and on the road against UAB and Wake Forest. Since their loss at Virginia on January 20, the Tar Heels have won nine straight and are starting to display the type of consistency that they will need to make a run in the NCAA Tournament. Some of their win streak can be attributed by the current weak state of the ACC, but it also includes wins against Duke and Pittsburgh. Current bracket projections have the Tar Heels being anything between a #5 and #8 seed after this week they should be somewhere near the top of that range.
  2. Jeff Bzdelik needs a real estate agent. I know that the Wake Forest administration showed a lot of faith in Bzdelik by firing Dino Gaudio, who had taken them to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances, to hire Bzdelik, who was 36-58 in three seasons at Colorado. With nearly three seasons in the books in Winston-Salem, Bzdelik is approaching 30 games under .500. Ron Wellman talked about culture when he hired Bzdelik, but we doubt that he was thinking of this type of culture at the time. At this point we would be shocked if Bzdelik returned next season so the question really is who will replace him. The two names that get thrown around for every power conference vacancy are Bruce Pearl and Ben Howland, but we cannot see either of them going to Wake Forest with the options they will have in front of them. Perhaps the most interesting potential candidate we have heard is Jeff Capel, who has experience at Oklahoma and knows the ACC well sitting alongside Mike Krzyzewski. We obviously have our reservations about hiring a retread who went 27-36 A.B. (after Blake Griffin departed), but he would be a relatively safe hire and one with some decent credentials.
  3. Roy Williams seems much more relaxed. Early in the season there were rumors that this might be Roy’s last year. Those were obviously premature particularly with what appears to be an outstanding freshman class coming in. Still everybody who followed the Tar Heels could clearly tell that this team and this season was taking a toll on Roy. The turnaround in how the Tar Heels are playing has led to Roy’s mood to improve significantly (shocking). Although Williams is certainly not young at 63 years old, we would be looking at some of his colleagues in the ACC to retire before we would expect Roy to do so.

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Four Takeaways From Iowa State’s Win Over Baylor

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 7th, 2014

If you are just now turning your attention to college basketball, you can thank the Big 12 scheduling committee for throwing you a bone. One day after both teams moved into the top ten of the AP Poll (not ours, which as you saw tonight was more accurate), Baylor met Iowa State in Ames, with the Cyclones pulling away in the second half for a resounding 87-72 win in Hilton Coliseum. If you didn’t catch it, however, we have you covered with four key takeaways:

DeAndre Kane and the Cyclones didn't need Hilton Magic to take care of Baylor. (USA Today)

DeAndre Kane and the Cyclones didn’t need Hilton Magic to take care of Baylor. (USA Today)

  1. Welcome to the national spotlight, DeAndre Kane: The graduate transfer from Marshall has been terrific all season, but he completely outdid himself Tuesday night scoring 30 points, grabbing eight rebounds, and dishing out nine assists. Oh, he also had five steals. Kane excelled at picking his spots to drive right to the hoop, stop on a dime and pass, or pull up from three as well as regularly beating the Bears down the floor in transition. With conference play revving up in earnest, he is going to start gathering a lot of headlines, so be sure to tune in when the Cyclones hit the floor over the next two months. Read the rest of this entry »
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Rushed Reactions: #18 Kentucky 73, #6 Louisville 66

Posted by rtmsf on December 28th, 2013

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Rush the Court was in Lexington today for the Kentucky-Louisville game from Rupp Arena.

Three Key Takeaways.

John Calipari Moved to 78-2 at Rupp Arena With a Win Over Louisville.

John Calipari Moved to 78-2 at Rupp Arena With a Win Over Louisville.

  1. Louisville Won’t Repeat Unless Mangok Mathiang Becomes a Trusted Defensive Finisher. The Louisville big man came into tonight’s game as a freshman starter with elite-level numbers — an offensive rating that ranks among the nation’s 100 best players, a top 25 ranking in offensive rebounding percentage, and a top 75 ranking in block percentage. So what’s the problem? The issue is that he only plays 18 minutes per game (22 tonight), which suggests that Rick Pitino doesn’t trust him as much as he does some of his veterans like Stephan Van Treese, Montrezl Harrell, Luke Hancock and Chane Behanan. Van Treese doesn’t bring much other than a big body for spot minutes to the table, but the latter three — while key contributors, all — are simply not big enough to compete with the elite big men around the country. A lineup where 6’5″ Wayne Blackshear is expected to defend seven-footer Willie Cauley-Stein in the post is simply ridiculous. Pitino needs one more reliable defensive post player whom he can trust down the stretch of close games, and Mathiang is really his only viable option there. 
  2. Kentucky Playing Most of the Second Half Without Julius Randle Will Serve Dividends Later. For an extended period of the second half, Kentucky star forward Julius Randle was sidelined with cramps, briefly re-entering the game with about 12 minutes remaining only to beg out a few seconds later. The key stretch was from around the 14-minute mark to the six-minute mark, as the Wildcats, led by Andrew Harrison and James Young, outscored the Cardinals 15-4 to take a commanding lead in what had been a tight one. Not only is this huge for a young team’s confidence, but the black hole aspect of a post-up by Randle was removed from the offensive equation (and why wouldn’t you keep feeding a guy who had 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting in the first half?), and Kentucky’s offense actually got better as a result. Penetration-and-kick became the offense, and the Harrison twins are as good as any guards in the country at both getting shots up in the lane and finessing them into the hole. Young, with a jumper and a three of his own during this stretch, did his part, but the key takeaway here is that the other Wildcats are also incredibly talented offensive players, and tonight revealed a dimension that they can rely on in the case of foul trouble or injury to Randle down the line.
  3. Kentucky’s Ceiling is Higher than Louisville’s. It’s tough to draw deep conclusions from a young team playing at home in front of a rabid crowd that willed them through. But after seeing both teams in person today, it’s obvious enough that in the battle of which team has fewer flaws and a higher potential ceiling, it is Kentucky. Even though the Wildcats are a lot younger than Louisville and exhibit it by making a lot of dumb mistakes (and missing half their free throws), they have more guys who can just go get buckets when called upon. Few teams in the country have that luxury — maybe Arizona and Kansas, perhaps Duke and Florida — but the Wildcats of November will look a lot different than the one of March, and we’re seeing that transformation happening right before our eyes.

Star of the Game. Andrew Harrison, Kentucky. He didn’t have the greatest shooting night at 6-of-16 from the field for 18 points and four assists, but as mentioned above, he was the spark that led his team to victory when Randle left the game. It was really a matter of his penetration into the paint which allowed him to call his own number for floaters a few times as well as to find kickouts for James Young’s jumpers. His brother Aaron came on strong at the end, for what was probably the best combined game for the Texas twins in a Kentucky uniform. Certainly the best meaningful game. 

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Rushed Reactions: Duke 80, UCLA 63

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 20th, 2013

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Brian Otskey filed this report after Duke’s win over UCLA on Thursday night at Madison Square Garden.

Three Key Takeaways.

Duke Used a Superb Second Half Effort to Run Past the Bruins

Duke Used a Superb Second Half Effort to Run Past the Bruins

  1. Duke is getting better defensively. After a so-so defensive first half, Duke held UCLA to 26 points on 34.5 percent shooting in the second stanza. In particular, Rodney Hood did a terrific job containing Jordan Adams and keeping him out of any kind of rhythm. The Blue Devils also frustrated Zach LaVine into a number of bad shots that fueled Duke’s transition attack. Holding the nation’s third-leading scoring team to 63 points is a feather in Duke’s cap and it appears Mike Krzyzewski’s much-maligned defense is starting to come together. If the Blue Devils can defend at this kind of level, they will be the clear favorites in the ACC.
  2. Rasheed Sulaimon may have found his role. Sulaimon had a terrific freshman season for Duke in 2012-13 but his second go-around in Durham has been anything but smooth sailing. After being benched against Michigan and playing only five minutes against Gardner-Webb, Sulaimon gained a lot of confidence in 18 minutes of action tonight. While he was only 3-of-7 from the floor, Sulaimon grabbed five rebounds and dished out four assists. On a team with so many options, he needs to carve out a role for himself without trying to do too much. He did just that tonight and his teammates and coaches noticed. This should serve Sulaimon well going forward and get him out of Coach K’s doghouse.
  3. UCLA needs to figure it out defensively. UCLA entered the game allowing opponents to score 70.2 points per game but allowed 80 Duke points on 48.4 percent shooting. We knew defending the three-point line was going to be key for the Bruins tonight but they did not do a good job. Duke shot a lukewarm 34.4 percent from beyond the arc but it bombarded UCLA with 32 attempts and 11 makes. This has been a recurring issue for Steve Alford’s team this season and until it figures it out, there will be a ceiling to how far it can go. Offense can take you a long way but against top competition such as Duke and the kind they will face in the NCAA Tournament, the Bruins must do better.

Star of the Game:  Jabari Parker, Duke. The stud Blue Devil freshman shined once again under the bright lights. Parker put together a double-double, tallying 23 points and 10 rebounds on an efficient 7-of-13 shooting night. The 6’8” forward also recorded five assists in the win. UCLA had a difficult time matching up with Parker and it showed. He basically got what he wanted on any part of the court whether it was from long range or around the basket.

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Rushed Reactions: #13 Florida 77, #20 Memphis 75

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 17th, 2013

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Brian Otskey attended the Jimmy V. Classic on Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden and filed this report. 

Three Key Takeaways from the second game of the Jimmy V. Classic.

  1. Rebounding made the difference for Florida. The strong Gators front line absolutely dominated Memphis on the boards, out-rebounding the Tigers by 11–37 to 26. This allowed Florida to overcome 17 turnovers and come away with the win. It was an evenly played game in most areas but Patric Young, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Casey Prather were the difference makers on the glass for Billy Donovan’s team.
  2. Despite the loss, Memphis proved it is legitimate. It is rare for a team to impress in a loss, but the Tigers did just that tonight against Florida. While its win over Oklahoma State earlier this season certainly stands out, the Memphis showed once again that it can go toe-to-toe with one of college basketball’s best teams. Josh Pastner’s non-conference slate, which has included two games against Oklahoma State, one against Florida, and one against LSU, has done its job in preparing the Tigers for the rigors of conference play in their new league. Memphis has the talent to battle Connecticut for second place in the American assuming Louisville will win the league.
  3. Florida has so many weapons. The balanced scoring and overall talent on this team is scary. Billy Donovan has six capable scorers on his roster and can mix and match with a variety of different lineups that feature speed, perimeter shooting, interior dominance, or any combination of the three. I especially like what Dorian Finney-Smith brings to this team. The Virginia Tech transfer scored 14 points but his presence defensively and on the boards is what stood out. He changes the dynamic of Florida’s lineup because of his versatility. With Chris Walker possibly joining this already loaded unit, which Donovan significantly downplayed after the game, the Gators have the look of a Final Four contender yet again.

Star of the Game: Casey Prather, Florida. Prather’s terrific improvement from his junior to senior season continued on Tuesday night as the Gator senior led all scorers with 22 points on an efficient 8-of-13 shooting while connecting on all six free throw attempts. Prather was good on the defensive side as well, a key piece of a talented Florida front line that limited Memphis’ Shaq Goodwin to only four field goal attempts in 35 minutes of play. Prather has been among the most improved players in the nation and a key reason why Florida continues to improve, even after two close losses to date in non-conference play.

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Rushed Reactions: Cincinnati 44, Pittsburgh 43

Posted by nvr1983 on December 17th, 2013

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Three Key Takeaways from the first game of the Jimmy V. Classic.

  1. The conference affiliations may have changed, but the style of play remains the same. This was, quite simply, a brutal basketball game to watch. Between all the missed shots, slow pace, fumbled passes, and even multiple clock issues early in the game, you deserve an award if you watched all 40 minutes of this one. The teams combined to shoot 31-for-88 (35.2%)  from the floor and a putrid 5-for-26 from three-point range. It was a fresh reminder of the old Big East and the physical, defensive battles we often saw in that league over the years.
  2. Defense and rebounding won the game for Cincinnati. The Bearcats dominated the battle of the boards, grabbing 16 offensive rebounds to Pittsburgh’s eight. Cincinnati held the Panthers to 31.4 percent shooting for the game en route to the win. In the closing seconds, an offensive rebound and put-back by Titus Rubles proved to be the game-winning basket after Pitt’s Lamar Patterson failed to put a body on him after a missed Cincinnati shot. Mick Cronin praised his team’s effort on the glass and its resilience after a poor showing against Xavier on Saturday and it seemed like a giant weight had been lifted off the team’s collective shoulders.
  3. Pittsburgh missed an opportunity to prove the doubters wrong. It’s no secret that Jamie Dixon schedules soft in non-conference play. While the Panthers have already beaten two decent teams in Stanford and Penn State, tonight was a clear upgrade in competition. Suffice to say, Pitt did not acquit itself well. After the game, Dixon dodged a question about it and reverted to coach-speak in trying to brush aside the issue. While I’m not convinced Pitt’s poor schedule had a lot to do with tonight’s loss, nobody will give the Panthers the benefit of the doubt after this performance. Even if they had won, I figure the reaction would be similar.

Star of the Game: Justin Jackson, Cincinnati. Jackson held Cincinnati together in the first half with 10 points and six rebounds on 5-of-5 shooting. He finished the game with 12 points and totaled seven offensive rebounds for the Bearcats. After the game, Titus Rubles said his game-winning layup wouldn’t have been possible without the effort of Jackson. He has proved to be an effective player in the post in his senior season and could emerge as a reliable option behind Kilpatrick on a team that desperately needs one.

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