Spartan Swap: Will Josh Langford Seize Eron Harris’ Role?

Posted by Jim Root on February 22nd, 2017

“Will Eron Harris step up and become a leader for a young Michigan State team?” After waiting almost the entire season to learn the answer to this question, the issue was rendered meaningless over the weekend as Harris suffered a season-ending knee injury during the Spartans’ road loss at Purdue (for the record, the evidence was pointing toward a resounding ‘no’). The question now becomes who will step up in his absence? Tom Izzo’s team is still very much in the thick of the bubble battle, and losing a skilled (if inconsistent) scorer is a tough pill to swallow. Sixty percent of the Spartans’ potential preseason starting lineup now sits in street clothes (Harris joins center Gavin Schilling and forward Ben Carter), and Izzo is left with little choice but to embrace the youth movement on his roster.

Josh Langford drives against Florida Gulf Coast in East Lansing on November 20th. (247 Sports)

The burden to replace Harris will fall most heavily on the shoulders of freshman wing Josh Langford, a consensus five-star prospect who has mostly flown under the radar while deferring to Harris and fellow freshmen Miles Bridges and Nick Ward. His usage while on the floor is only 14.8 percent this season, per KenPom, a ratio that Pomeroy’s data refers to as filling a “Limited Role.” To wit: In a four-game stretch several weeks ago, these were Langford’s usage rates: 8%, 13%, 10%, 4%. He’s essentially wearing an invisibility cloak! Prior to Harris’ injury, Langford was playing only three fewer minutes per game than the redshirt senior, yet he’d taken 106 fewer shots. Langford has hit a higher percentage of his threes (42% vs Harris’ 39%) and twos (58% vs 47%), and with nine new shots available per game, the Spartans could really benefit from Langford embracing a higher-usage role while maintaining those pristine percentages. Read the rest of this entry »

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Judging the Seeding Impact of Major Injuries and Suspensions

Posted by Shane McNichol on February 3rd, 2017

The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee faces a number of difficult decisions while building the field for this year’s NCAA Tournament. After sifting through home and road performances, quality wins, RPI and every other tool currently available, the committee faces one particularly difficult task: evaluating teams that were without the services of a certain player because of injury or suspension. Of the myriad criteria the committee considers, no subject is more nebulous as judging a missing player’s effect on games in which he was not involved. The committee does not ignore those games nor does it consider them victories had the player been in action, but the gray area in between those two extremes is where it gets tricky. The injury bug and suspensions have hit quite a few likely NCAA Tournament teams this year, but four in particular could face some upward or downward seeding movement based on those missing players. Those four teams — Creighton, Xavier, Arizona and Duke — will be evaluated on more than just their wins and losses.

The Loss of Creighton’s Maurice Watson Makes the Bluejays a Tough Decision (USA Today Images)

  • Creighton: The Bluejays lost Maurice Watson, the nation’s assist leader and catalyst of Creighton’s high-powered offense, to an ACL injury two weeks ago. In the four-plus games since his season-ending injury, Creighton has been a mixed bag. The next two games were troublesome, with the Bluejays losing a home game to Marquette in which they gave up 102 points, followed by a blowout defeat at Georgetown. Since then, a win over lowly DePaul and an impressive victory over Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse seems to have steadied the ship. It appears that head coach Greg McDermott is rerouting his team’s trajectory by increasing the offensive load carried by Justin Patton and Marcus Foster. Creighton’s ceiling as a Final Four contender has certainly changed, but its overall resume should be strong enough to place the Bluejays safely in the NCAA Tournament. This team’s performance in its final eight Big East games will heavily impact the committee’s seeding decision, though, especially in crucial games like a February 25 rematch with Villanova.

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How Will Michigan State Adapt to Its Injuries?

Posted by Jim Root on November 9th, 2016

The losses Michigan State sustained after last year’s disappointing First Round NCAA Tournament exit would cripple most programs: a national Player of the Year (Denzel Valentine), the Big Ten’s best three-point shooter (Bryn Forbes), a stout senior interior presence (Matt Costello), and a one-and-done freshman (Deyonta Davis). Fortunately, Tom Izzo was able to reload with perhaps his best recruiting class ever, and along with some veteran returnees, it looks as if the Spartans once again have a team capable of winning the Big Ten and making a run in March.

Michigan State's excellent freshman will need to be good right away for Tom Izzo's short-handed squad. (Source: Detroit Free Press)

Michigan State’s excellent freshman class will need to be good right away for Tom Izzo’s short-handed squad. (Source: Detroit Free Press)

Not so fast. Injuries have already struck hard to the Spartans’ frontcourt, sidelining UNLV graduate transfer Ben Carter and senior Gavin Schilling with knee ailments before exhibition games even tipped off. Both figured to see extensive minutes at the four and five slots, and the loss of both leaves Izzo in a precarious position with his frontcourt rotation. Right now it basically consists of two true freshmen (albeit highly-regarded ones): 6’7” Miles Bridges, 6’8” Nick Ward, and 6’6” redshirt sophomore (and former walk-on) Kenny Goins.

The best version of this team’s lineup probably involves Bridges at the four and Ward at the five, although Izzo will likely go with Goins as the nominal center to start (for example, he started against Northwoods). Bridges will be a matchup nightmare up front, too quick for big men and too strong for wings. He has a smooth lefty stroke from the perimeter (going 5-of-5 from deep in the first exhibition game), and he can also grab a defensive rebound and push the ball up the floor by himself. Most of all, he’s an insane athlete – the height he gets when leaping and the sheer power with which he dunks are awe-inspiring. Ward, on the other hand, is a more traditional post player. He’s got great touch around the basket with his left hand and has proven capable of playing above the rim. Given his girth (listed at 250 pounds), he has the best chance of slowing opposing big men, but Izzo will still be forced to double-team against the likes of burly Big Ten bodies such as Ethan Happ, Isaac Haas and Thomas Bryant.

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Rhode Island Loses Hassan Martin in an Injury-Filled Season

Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vbtnblog) on February 25th, 2016

The announcement from Rhode Island head coach Dan Hurley on Wednesday was short but hardly sweet: Starting forward Hassan Martin is done for the rest of the regular season. The consensus all-conference player has tendinitis in his right knee that caused him to log only 10 minutes in the Rams’ 11-point loss at Davidson on Tuesday, and although it’s unclear how long he’ll be out, the school does not expect him back in action prior to the start of the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Coupled with the loss of EC Matthews in Rhode Island’s first game of the season, Hurley has now lost the services of the two players he was most counting on to propel his team into the conference elite.

It was Bad News Wednesday for Hassan Martin and Rhode Island. (Getty)

It was Bad News Wednesday for Hassan Martin and Rhode Island. (Getty)

Hurley retooled his offense to cover for the loss of Matthews, turning to the trio of Fore McGlynn, a fifth-year senior from Towson, and two developing sophomores, Jarvis Garrett and Jared Terrell. Martin, who shared frontcourt playing time with transfer Kuran Iverson, fifth-year senior Earl Watson and freshman Nicola Akele, had already missed two previous games with an ankle sprain, while Garrett and Iverson missed games because of injury back in January. Although Hurley has described his 15-13 squad as exceptionally “resilient,” the loss of Martin for at least the next few games has drastically lowered expectations for the home stretch. Touted as the sleeper team during Atlantic 10 Media Day last October, the Rams will do well to finish .500 in league play and earn the #7 seed at the Atlantic 10 Tournament.

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Naz Mitrou-Long’s Injury Shrinks Iowa State’s Big 12 Title Hopes

Posted by Kendall Kaut on December 16th, 2015

Iowa State announced yesterday that Naz Mitrou-Long will sit out the remainder of the season to recover from offseason hip surgery. His loss will put pressure on the Cyclones’ already tight rotation as they head into Big 12 play. Mitrou-Long, a senior starter averaging 12.0 points per game, is reportedly experiencing pain in both of his hips and will apply for a medical redshirt to play next season.

Iowa State will have to move on without Naz Long this season. (Getty)

Iowa State will have to move on without Naz Long this season. (Getty)

Losing a player of Mitrou-Long’s caliber is never easy. His 30 percent mark from three-point range in the eight games in which he played this season is a career-low (his average is 39.5 percent), so it’s reasonable to conclude that his hip ailment has played a significant role in this season’s dip. Iowa State’s already-short rotation will immediately feel the pressure of his absence as the competition only gets stiffer from here. The Cyclones have yet to play a true road game and are looking down the barrel of two tough upcoming matchups against Northern Iowa (in Des Moines) and a trip to Cincinnati right as they lose their sharpshooter. Long’s knowledge of his teammates’ tendencies, such as those of Georges Niang and Monte’ Morris, will be tough to replace as well. Read the rest of this entry »

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Maryland and Northwestern Suffer Significant Injuries

Posted by Patrick Engel on November 12th, 2015

The college basketball offseason is a long one, but when early November arrives, everyone is already in midseason mode. Attrition, players not enrolling, and other unexpected roster shuffles, while important, are not coaches’ primary concerns at this time. But it is easy to forget the one related thing that can still throw a wrench into the upcoming season: preseason practice injuries. As an example, two Big Ten teams were hit with the bug just this week. Northwestern announced Wednesday that sophomore forward Vic Law will miss the entire season with a torn labrum in his shoulder, while Maryland announced that sophomore guard Dion Wiley will miss around four months with a torn meniscus. Both are former four-star recruits looking for breakout seasons, and their absences will hurt. Here’s what it means for the Wildcats and Terrapins.

Vic Law's season-ending injury will test Northwestern's offensive depth on the perimeter. (Brad Rempel, USA TODAY Sports)

Vic Law’s season-ending injury will test Northwestern’s offensive depth on the perimeter. (Brad Rempel, USA TODAY Sports)

Wiley, the 44th-ranked player in the class of 2014 (according to Scout.com), averaged 4.1 points and 1.5 rebounds in 13.5 minutes per game as a freshman, appearing in all of Maryland’s 35 games. Head coach Mark Turgeon acknowledged in the preseason that Wiley was slotted to start at two-guard this year. While he individually was poised for a boost in production, Maryland’s deep perimeter rotation makes his loss relatively survivable. A significant injury is unfortunate, but the silver lining for Turgeon is that it makes his minutes allocations a little easier to sort out. A result is that sophomore Jared Nickens and Duke graduate transfer Rasheed Sulaimon’s roles have become a little clearer. Nickens, another former top-100 recruit, is likely to start in Wiley’s place with Sulaimon spelling him off the bench. The former’s 113.4 offensive rating (per KenPom) was the second-highest offensive rating on the team last season behind Melo Trimble. He started nine games and averaged 6.7 points per contest with 57 made three-pointers. His offensive game is a little one-dimensional, as three-pointers accounted for 78 percent of his shot attempts last year, but there’s always room for a shooter. Sulaimon brings a little more passing and driving ability to the lineup, but his best attribute is the three-pointer as well.

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What’s Trending: Comeback Saturday Edition

Posted by Griffin Wong on February 2nd, 2015

What’s Trending is a column examining the week that was in college basketball social media. Griffin Wong (@griffwong90) is your weekly host.

Pitino Steals the Spotlight

And it wasn’t because of his team’s come-from-behind win over UNC (more on that later). Pitino went with the Colonel Sanders white suit to go along with the beginnings of a beard.

A bold look, but I guess it paid off.

A Wild Saturday in the ACC

As mentioned above, Louisville came back from an 18-point second half deficit to give Pitino his first career victory over North Carolina (now 1-6). Junior Montrezl Harrell went off with 22 points, 15 rebounds, and a one-handed alley-oop that brought The House That Colonel Sanders Built completely down.

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Kentucky’s Rotations Most Impacted by Alex Poythress Injury

Posted by David Changas on December 16th, 2014

News that broke late last week that Kentucky forward Alex Poythress would miss the remainder of the season with an ACL injury was met generally with the notion that the Wildcats are so deep, so talented, and have such good overall chemistry that it will not impact their quest to win the national championship. Given the Wildcats’ subsequent performance in an 84-70 thumping of North Carolina in Lexington — a game the Wildcats controlled from the start — it’s understandable that people would feel that way. But it’s also impossible to take too much from one game, and any definitive statement of how the loss of the 6’8″ junior forward will be felt is premature.

The loss of Poythress leaves Kentucky without a true small forward (Bleacher Report)

The loss of Poythress leaves Kentucky without a true small forward. (Getty)

There is no question that Kentucky’s depth, and the quality of it, is unmatched in college basketball. The Wildcats have operated well under John Calipari’s much-discussed platoon system, as no one on the team averages more than 24.5 minutes per game. For his part, Poythress played just over 20 minutes per game in his eight contests, and his overall numbers were nothing special. He averaged 5.5 points and 3.8 rebounds per outing, and often appeared lost in the shuffle on the offensive end. Still, given his size and athleticism, he is projected by several outlets as a second rounder in the 2015 NBA Draft. As an explosive leaper with a propensity to make astounding plays, his demonstrated ability to guard athletic wings on the perimeter will be missed because Kentucky does not have anyone else who can be classified as a true small forward.

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Loss of Devonte’ Graham Puts Kansas Rotation in Even More Flux

Posted by Chris Stone on December 15th, 2014

Kansas head coach Bill Self announced prior to the Jayhawks’ win against Utah on Saturday that freshman guard Devonte’ Graham will miss at least the next four weeks after suffering a severely sprained right big toe in a 75-70 victory over Georgetown last Wednesday. The injury is not likely to require surgery, but the team’s doctors told Self it is possible that Graham won’t return this season. Although the team isn’t planning for it, Kansas would likely seek a medical redshirt if Graham is unable to return. According to Self, “The doctors feel he can come back but also say he may not come back. We’ll have to make a decision before the first half of the season is probably over so we can obviously utilize a medical redshirt if we need to, but we’re not thinking like that.”

Kansas will be without freshman guard Devonte' Graham for at least four weeks (Nick Krug/KU Sports)

Kansas will be without freshman guard Devonte’ Graham for at least four weeks (Nick Krug/KU Sports)

The loss only magnifies Kansas’ lack of depth at the point guard position after the preseason transfer of sophomore Conner Frankamp, as Graham and Frank Mason III are the only two point guards on scholarship. Prior to his injury, the freshman was averaging 14.9 minutes per game, mostly as the backup point guard, but Self has also used Graham and Mason together to increase defensive pressure on ball-handlers. “Just watching the game, we put so much more pressure on the defense when those guys were in there together, as opposed to when just one of them was in the game,” Self said in his news conference last Monday. Indeed, Kansas will miss Graham defensively. His 4.1 percent steal percentage would rank in the top 100 in the country if he had enough minutes to qualify. That number is important because a high steal percentage has correlated well with the Jayhawks’ best defensive efficiency numbers throughout Self’s tenure.

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Texas Loses Isaiah Taylor for “Several Weeks”

Posted by Chris Stone on November 21st, 2014

Texas will be without point guard Isaiah Taylor for “several weeks,” according to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, a report that was later confirmed by Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports and Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog. Taylor injured his wrist in the Longhorns’ 71-57 win over Iowa when he was hit by Iowa forward Gabe Olaseni while driving to the basket. According to Goodman’s source, the injury is not “season-ending,” and Taylor will be re-evaluated to determine if there is a fracture in the wrist when the team returns to Austin after tonight’s game against California. Taylor, a 6’1″ sophomore, averaged 12.7 points and 4.0 assists per game during his freshman season in Austin. Through three games of 2014-15, he has been the Longhorns’ leading scorer at 15.0 points per game while shooting an outstanding 60.0 percent effective field goal rate. Taylor’s loss from the lineup won’t just hurt Texas offensively, though, as the guard is also swiping 1.3 steals per game this year.

Isaiah Taylor was injured late in Texas's win over Iowa on Tuesday (Associated Press)

Isaiah Taylor was injured late in Texas’ win over Iowa on Tuesday (Associated Press)

The injury obviously looms large for a surging Texas team. The sophomore has been an integral piece on both ends of the floor for the Longhorns and their schedule is not particularly forgiving in the short-term. Texas will face California in the finals of the 2KSports Classsic tonight, a team that our own Brian Goodman predicted it would handle easily. However, the Longhorns will now face the Golden Bears without Taylor, which will make it harder to defend a deep California backcourt that includes Tyrone Wallace and Jabari Bird. Over the coming weeks, Texas is scheduled for away games against defending national champion Connecticut and top-ranked Kentucky — two teams that also feature strong guard play with Ryan Boatright and the Harrison twins leading the way. Looking beyond those contests, Texas will need a healthy Taylor to compete in the Big 12 where they have the potential to challenge perennial favorite Kansas.

Taylor’s injury also has implications for the rest of the Big 12. The conference got off to a rough start on Wednesday night when Oklahoma lost on the road at Creighton. Additional non-conference losses will put the league at a disadvantage come Selection Sunday because they drag down the league’s overall RPI. After sending seven teams to the NCAA Tournament last season, the conference will be aiming to achieve that mark again this year with depth that is unmatched by few conferences around the country. For the sake of Texas and the Big 12, hopefully Taylor’s injury is manageable so that he’ll be back on the court very soon.

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