Morning Five: 06.27.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on June 27th, 2014

morning5

  1. With the NBA Draft in the books we can officially put last season in the rear-view mirror. The top of the Draft was no surprise as Andrew WigginsJabari Parker, and Joel Embiid went 1-2-3. Actually, most of the Draft was not particularly surprising, but there are a few things that caught our eye. Outside of Toronto drafting a player who is “two years away from being two years away”, we we surprised to see Gary Harris and Shabazz Napier slip so far. I don’t think either were guaranteed top-10 picks and Napier was probably a borderline lottery pick at best, but both probably went at least six spots lower than what we would have expected and teams in higher spots made moves to acquire players at similar positions who simply are not as good as these two.
  2. The annual Coaches vs Cancer event announced their semifinal match-ups on Wednesday with Stanford playing UNLV and Duke playing Temple with the winners playing the following night. We would expect Stanford and Duke to meet although UNLV with all of its freshmen could surprise Stanford. If Stanford does advance (we are going to assume Duke will beat what should be a fairly mediocre Temple team) it would produce an interesting match-up between Mike Krzyzewski and Johnny Dawkins. We would not expect the Cardinal to be competitive with the Blue Devils based on talent alone although the Blue Devils may struggle integrating all of their new pieces early in the season. What would be interesting is seeing Krzyzewski face off against his former player, protege, and potential candidate to replace him if and when he does retire.
  3. So maybe that soccer thing didn’t work out exactly how we wanted, but basketball is still a sport that we do not need to rely on other countries to advance. The US demonstrated its dominance with a 113-79 victory over Canada to win the gold medal at the FIBA Americas Under-18 Championships. The victory was one of the closer games for the Americans as they won their five games by an average of almost 57 points per game including this 34-point win that made their average margin of victory plummet. As expected the Americans had a well-rounded attack. Despite what you might read about these wins and how certain players (not student-athletes until they are in college) played we would not read too much into it as they were playing against vastly inferior competition.
  4. A significant college prospect was taken off the recruiting board on Wednesday when Georgios Papagiannis announced that he was signing with a Greek club rather than going to college. Papagiannis, a 7’1″ center was a consensus top-50 player in the class of 2015 and had already taken unofficial visits to Maryland and Penn State. His decision should not come as a shock to observers because foreign recruits provide another potential source of talent they also have a much higher likelihood of opting to play overseas rather than coming to college in the first place.
  5. With the NBA Draft on everybody’s mind this week, CBS had its own draft, but did it for college coaches. As Gary Parrish, who wrote the accompanying article, notes there are many ways to define the best coach. For the purposes of this exercise they defined it as the best coach for the next five years. Most of the selections seem pretty reasonable, but we would question both Mike Krzyzewski (5th) and Kevin Ollie (22nd) slipping so far. Obviously Krzyzewski’s resume is better than his next five-year prospects, but he would have been in the top two in our draft if we had done one. As for Ollie, you can certainly point out that he was very close to getting eliminated early from this year’s NCAA Tournament, but the fact is that he wasn’t and he might be the most coveted NBA coaching prospect in the college ranks, which ought to count for something with recruiting in the future.
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The RTC Interview Series: One on One with NBADraftBlog’s Ed Isaacson

Posted by Walker Carey on June 25th, 2014

Rush The Court is back with another edition of One on One: An Interview Series, which we will bring you periodically throughout the offseason. If you have any specific interview requests or want us to interview you, shoot us an email at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

With the NBA Draft taking place Thursday night, we thought it would be a good idea to get some input from an expert. RTC Correspondent Walker Carey (@walkerRcarey) recently had the please of speaking with NBA Draft Analyst Ed Isaacson, the founder of NBADraftBlog.com. You can follow Isaacson on Twitter via @nbadraftblog.

Rush the Court: Joel Embiid’s back (and now foot) injuries are the hot topics leading up to Thursday’s NBA Draft. How badly do you see this impacting Embiid’s stock and how would you approach these legitimate concerns if you were a team picking early in the draft?

Ed Isaacson: I do not think Embiid’s drop is going to be as drastic as Jared Sullinger’s (Note: Sullinger was medically flagged due to back issues) was in 2012 when he went from being a top six guy to being the 21st pick. My basic thought is that there is no way Embiid makes it beyond the Lakers at seven – if he happens to still be around then. If you are a general manager who is already on board with taking the risk with Embiid – he had a back problem in high school and had it again at Kansas – is the stress fracture in the foot suddenly going to be the thing that dissuades you from picking him? Once there is more information regarding the surgery and the timetable for his recovery, I think that will alleviate some concerns. I still believe Joel Embiid will be a top four pick.

Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins Will be the Talk of Thursday Night (Denny Medley, USA Today Sports)

Joel Embiid and Teammate Andrew Wiggins Will be the Talk of Thursday Night (Denny Medley, USA Today Sports)

RTC: Andrew Wiggins entered college with a ridiculous amount of hype. He was a very good player at Kansas, but it would be tough to say that he was a superstar. Do you believe his year in Lawrence negatively impacted his pro prospects and where do you see him ending up Thursday evening?

Isaacson: He is still the number one prospect to me. Even when Embiid was healthy, I had more value in Andrew Wiggins. One year in college is extremely tough to gauge a player and the Kansas system is much more different than at other schools. The main concern with Wiggins is the question if he is too passive on the court. The exact same thing was brought up last year in regards to Ben McLemore. I am not concerned. He is still a 19-year-old kid and I think he is going to be an All-Star. I have had him at number one throughout the process and I really think he is the best fit for Cleveland.

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Morning Five: 06.24.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on June 24th, 2014

morning5

  1. Coming into the season Georgia State was already going to be the favorite in the Sun Belt and they became an even bigger favorite last week when the NCAA granted Kevin Ware a transfer waiver enabling him to play for Georgia State next season. Ware, who transferred from Louisville and is best known for his gruesome compound fracture in their 2013 Elite Eight game against Duke, will have two years of eligibility remaining. Even Ware never regains the explosiveness that made him a key piece of that Louisville title team he could be an important piece in a Georgia State team that already had one of the better backcourts in the country with both R.J. Hunter and Ryan Harrow returning.
  2. If you remember the uproar created by Taylor Branch’s opus in The Atlantic nearly three years ago (here’s our Cliff Notes summary and our interview with Branch), one of his major points of contention was that schools only offer student-athletes one-year renewable scholarships. So in the event that the student-athlete is injured, doesn’t perform up to expectations, or the program decides to move in a different direction, the student-athlete is out of luck. Southern California may have taken one of the first steps to ending that practice by deciding to offer four-year scholarships in its “revenue sports”. Those sports will include football and men’s and women’s basketball. We are not sure what the actual effect of this will be (basically what percentage of student-athletes have their scholarships pulled on a year-to-year basis), but it is great PR for the school.
  3. The NCAA released its attendance figures for the 2013-14 season last week. Outside of the big numbers like over 25 million tickets being sold to watch Division I basketball there were some interesting figures. On the macro side of it, attendance was down slightly from previous years–overall attendance decreased slightly (by 104 per game or 356,532 total) and NCAA Tournament attendance decreased too (more than 61,000)–although both can be attributed to a degree by the venues that the games were played in particularly in the case of the NCAA where the regional games were for the most part not played in gigantic domes. If you want a more detailed, but still big picture overview, check out Jeff Eisenberg’s post highlighting eight other key figures from the report.
  4. With the Ed O’Bannon case playing out in court, it was interesting to see Kentucky sign a 15-year, $210 million multimedia marketing rights deal with JMI Sports. Although the deal does not include TV rights, it does include just about everything else for the school and puts it in-line with Alabama as the richest such contract in NCAA history for a school not giving up TV rights. With schools signing these kinds of deals and looking at other potential revenue streams (such as entertaining the idea of selling alcohol at games) it will be increasingly difficult for schools (particularly bigger ones) to argue against providing athletes with a share of the revenue.
  5. With the NBA Draft just two days away there have been a few big updates over the past week both of which you have probably heard by now. The biggest news was Joel Embiid requiring surgery on his broken foot, which will likely make him miss the first part of the season and drop out of the top 3 in the Draft. The other news was that Isaiah Austin withdrew from the NBA Draft and will end his basketball career after being diagnosed with Marfan’s syndrome through what has been described as pre-Draft testing. We are not sure what triggered the work-up (reports say an EKG abnormality, but testing for Marfan’s based on that seems a bit extreme) or what about Austin’s presentation led them to tell him to stop playing–an aortic root problem is the only thing that we can think of–but at least Austin will not go away empty-handed as he had a $1 million insurance policy.
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Ten Most Pivotal Moments of the 2013-14 Season

Posted by Bennet Hayes on April 16th, 2014

Within every 40 minutes of college basketball, there is a moment or two that sets a tone, shifts momentum, or otherwise dictates the game’s final result. If we think bigger picture, we’ll notice that the five-month college basketball season is also shaped by a number of similarly formative moments. We may not always know their full significance at the time, but these moments conspire to transform the course of a season. In 2013-14, these were those 10 moments – some occurring inside the lines, others far away from the hardwood – that proved most pivotal to the season’s final snapshot.

UConn Felled Florida Back In December In What Would Turn Out To Be The First Installment Of Many  Napier Clutch Shots

UConn Felled Florida Back In December In What Would Turn Out To Be The First Installment Of Many Napier Clutch Shots

  • 10. Tyler Ennis Downs Pitt at the Horn (February 12). The Syracuse freshman’s memorable game-winner extended the Orange’s inspiring perfect start, but might it have ended up wounding both teams? Pitt would never really find its way over the hump, while Syracuse’s continued chase of perfection may have shielded a few critical flaws that would later cause its sharp downfall.
  • 9. Scottie Wilbekin Returns From Five-Game Suspension (November 25). A solid performance (12 points, seven assists, three steals) in a rout of Atlantic Sun also-ran Jacksonville was just the beginning of a redemptive season for Wilbekin, who overcame offseason turmoil to become the unquestioned leader and MVP of a team that, for the better part of 2014, played at a far loftier level than any other squad in the country.
  • 8. Wichita State Comes Back Against Missouri State (January 11). Shockermania hadn’t yet grown into the hysteria it would become, but Wichita State overcame a 19-point second half road deficit in the most improbable of their season-opening 35 victories. Read the rest of this entry »
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Morning Five: 04.10.14 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on April 10th, 2014

morning5

  1. As expected Kansas freshman center Joel Embiid announced that he will be entering this year’s NBA Draft. In our minds, there was really no question as to Embiid’s decision as he is a guaranteed top-five pick (barring any serious findings during his physicals). Before his back injury we would have said that Embiid might have been the favorite to the #1 overall pick. Now we would only hedge a little bit by saying that he will be a top-five pick because despite his back injury, which can be concerning, he does have a skill set that very few NBA big men have, which makes him an extremely valuable commodity. Embiid’s departure could also open the door for Kansas to land Myles Turner, the #2 overall recruit in the class of 2014 and the lone remaining uncommitted recruit, as Embiid and Turner likely would have been sharing minutes. With Embiid off to the NBA it might lead Turner to head to Lawrence.
  2. Wisconsin-Milwaukee will not be repeating its surprise run to the NCAA Tournament next year. In fact, they won’t even be able to defend their Horizon League Tournament crown after receiving a one-year post-season ban for its low APR score. This clearly is not as high-profile as Connecticut’s one-year ban in 2013 and we don’t expect to see a player (sorry student-athlete) standing next to Rob Jeter talking about being banned, but it is a significant blow to the program. At this point, we have to place blame the program particularly when they have known about these APR guidelines for years.
  3. The big news of the day in the college basketball world was Massachusetts point guard Derrick Gordon announcing that he is gay. There have been countless opinions posted online and spoken over the air so we won’t get into the issue too much other than to applaud Gordon for his decision to make the announcement more for the change it can make for others than anything related to himself although that clearly is a big issue too. We hope that opposing players and fans (particularly the fans) behave appropriately when they play Massachusetts. We also hope that we see the day when this type of announcement not only does not need to be made, but it also is not a news story because society has become so accepting.
  4. It did not take Jim Fox very long to become one of our favorite college basketball coaches. Just one day after taking over at Appalachian State, Fox released Devonte Graham from his previously signed National Letter of Intent. As we mentioned yesterday, Graham had signed before his recruiting stock rose significantly and then wanted to back out. The entire issue had been handled poorly by the previous Appalachian State coaching staff and probably affected their ability to recruit players. In the end, this works out best for both Graham and Appalachian State so we are glad that the new staff was able to take a step back and do what was best for both parties.
  5. Tony Jasick will be introduced as the new coach at Jacksonville later today. Jasick, who led Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne to a 25-win season and a win in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament this season, is just 36 years old, but already has three years of head coaching experience compiling a 52-47 record with a significant improvement in the team’s record each season. He recently received the Hugh Durham National Coach of the Year as the top Division I mid-major coach in college basketball, which we guess is a big deal even though we have never heard of it. Jasick will be replacing Cliff Warren, the longest tenured coach in the school’s history, but who also finished with three losing seasons.
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Joel Embiid Headed to the NBA: What Does Kansas Do Next?

Posted by Taylor Erickson on April 9th, 2014

Joel Embiid officially declared his intention to enter the 2014 NBA Draft in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon. Embiid is projected as a top three pick in the upcoming draft despite missing seven games at the end of this season because of a stress fracture in his lower back. Given how rare it is for big men to come along with a demonstrated ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor, it should come as no shock that the seven-footer from Cameroon has decided to leave Kansas after just one abbreviated season.

Kansas big man Joel Embiid will enter the 2014 NBA Draft.

Kansas big man Joel Embiid will enter the 2014 NBA Draft.

The most optimistic Kansas fans, however, were holding out hope that Embiid’s comments to ESPN earlier this year would convince him to stick around in Lawrence for another season. In that January article, Embiid talked about studying other talented big men and cited how many years they stayed in school as a contributing factor to become the best at his position one day. But make no mistake about it, the game isn’t the same as when Olajuwon, Duncan, and Shaq were dominating college campuses. Players now more than ever are drafted on potential, and in Embiid’s case, he has it in spades. In the end, this announcement comes down to making a sensible business decision, and capitalizing on the opportunity to make life-changing money — something that could be significantly hindered if he were to return to campus and experience another year of back problems.

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Reflecting on the Andrew Wiggins Era at Kansas

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 31st, 2014

There was never a shred of doubt that this would be Andrew Wiggins‘ only season at Kansas, but with his time in Lawrence officially coming to a close at today’s news conference, we can now safely look back at the mark he left in Lawrence over the last five months. To start off, it’s necessary to frame Wiggins’ season in the context of proper expectations coming into the season. Wiggins was never going to be a Durant-like scoring superstar that many thought he could be when he committed to the Jayhawks last May. Bill Self’s philosophy of sharing the ball and using a balanced offensive attack doesn’t allow a single player to contribute eye-popping stats, no matter how good he might be. There’s a reasonable discussion to be had over whether Self should have done more to take advantage of a unique individual asset like that of Wiggins, but that’s a separate conversation. As much fun as it would have been to see Wiggins running repeated isolations and pick-and-rolls, anyone who has followed Kansas during the Self era knows that that’s just not how the head coach does things. He wasn’t going to make significant changes to a system that has led him to 10 consecutive Big 12 titles, a national championship, and future Hall of Fame status.

Andrew Wiggins handled the spotlight well in his first and only season at Kansas, despite an early tournament exit. (Nick Krug/KUSports.com)

Andrew Wiggins handled the spotlight well in his first and only season at Kansas, despite an early NCAA Tournament exit. (Nick Krug/KUSports.com)

What we did see, though, was a very successful season for a freshman in a program that has had mixed results with one-and-done talents. Wiggins was the leading scorer at 17.1 points per game for a team that won its conference (again) and he gave us quite a few eye-popping reasons why scouts have been drooling over his potential for years. Like most freshmen, he needed some time to get used to his role within the offense, ultimately settling in despite some unfair criticism as the young team navigated a brutal non-conference schedule. Once he became more comfortable, he became a more consistent player, one that allowed him to make the all-Big 12 first team at season’s end. Whether he was finishing lobs in traffic, coming from out of nowhere to get an offensive rebound and putback, willing his team back from impossible deficits, or putting the brakes on the opposition’s top scorer as Kansas’ best defender, he did nothing to dissuade us from the idea that he is a top-tier talent with a legitimate chance to become the top overall NBA Draft pick in June. That Wiggins was able to accomplish so much for a team that was highly unstable at the point guard position only raises the impression he left with us over the course of a single collegiate season.

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Will Defensive Issues Spell Doom for Kansas?

Posted by Taylor Erickson on March 19th, 2014

The biggest question surrounding Kansas as it begins the 2014 NCAA Tournament later this week is whether standout center Joel Embiid will be available sometime in the next few weeks, and if so, when his availability might occur. When news about the stress fracture in his lower back came to light early last week, Self indicated that the first weekend of the tournament was a “long shot” but the Jayhawks were hopeful he could return later in the tournament if they were fortunate enough to advance. While we continue to remain in the dark over Embiid’s status, the next biggest question now becomes what can keep Kansas from surviving this weekend’s trip to St. Louis?

With Joel Embiid out of the lineup, Kansas has been left searching for answers defensively.

With Joel Embiid out of the lineup, Kansas has been left searching for answers defensively. (Photo: KUSports.com)

If you’ve spent any time at all watching Kansas over the last few weeks without the services of their center from Cameroon, the answer to this question is the stark inability of Kansas to lock down the defensive end of the floor. Even typing that last sentence feels odd, given Self’s track record of defensive excellence throughout his tenure as the head coach in Lawrence. Consider that every year from 2006 to last season, the Jayhawks have finished #3, #1, #1, #9, #9, #11, #3, and #5 in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency ranking. This season, Kansas currently sits 45th in Pomeroy’s defensive rankings, illustrating just how much this team has struggled on that end of the floor.

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Big 12 M5: 03.19.14 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on March 19th, 2014

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  1. After cutting down the nets in the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City on Saturday night, Fred Hoiberg’s Iowa State team is riding high on confidence and momentum heading into the NCAA Tournament, as the Cyclones became the first Big 12 team to win the conference tournament while seeded fourth or lower. Travis Hines of the Ames Tribune took a look at how teams that have been in a similar situation after winning their conference tournament as a lower seed have fared in the Big Dance, and found that in all five instances, those squads have fallen in either the first or second round. More recently, however, we’ve seen a pair of teams from the old Big East use their performance in their conference tournament to fuel a run in the NCAAs. Those two teams are the Kemba Walker-led Connecticut team that cut down the nets in 2011, and the Louisville team that challenged Kentucky in the 2012 Final Four. There’s certainly a case to be made for Iowa State building on last week’s success, but they’ll need to continue to shoot the ball with confidence if they intend on writing their own March story.
  2. After a great start to the conference season which propelled them near the top of the league standings, Texas dropped four of its last six regular season games and were bounced in the second round of the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City. If Rick Barnes’ team wants to stick around a bit longer this week, they will be best served by leaning on their elite ability to rebound the basketball, which ranks fourth in the nation in large part because of big man Cameron Ridley. As the Dallas Morning News points out, Texas isn’t really elite at anything else, from a statistical standpoint, outside of crashing the glass. In a Thursday match-up against Arizona State, this could be a big factor against a Sun Devils team that ranks ninth in the Pac-12 in rebounding.
  3. While our infatuation as a society with one-and-done college players seems to grow by the day, Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star points out that freshmen-led teams winning an NCAA title are still the exception, not the rule. Bill Self’s Kansas team has had freshmen play 55.6 percent of the available minutes this season, and only the Anthony Davis-led Kentucky team has won a national championship with freshmen contributing over half of their minutes. Last year’s Louisville championship team gave only 8.1 percent of its total minutes to freshmen, a number that resembles the allocation to this year’s Florida team. From an optimistic standpoint, you could argue that Kansas resembles the 2012 champs in the sense that two Jayhawks are also projected as the top two picks in June’s NBA Draft. But the obvious flaw to that argument is that one of those future lottery picks might not see the court for the rest of the season, as Joel Embiid continues to battle a stress fracture in his lower back.
  4. When the NCAA Tournament brackets were released on Sunday evening, nearly everyone in the nation pointed to a potential third round match-up between Wichita State and Kentucky. The Shockers haven’t seen much of the type of athleticism that John Calipari puts out on the floor in what could be a very interesting showdown. What many failed to realize, however, is that the Wildcats have to survive a tough opening round game against a pesky Kansas State team which, by the way, finished fourth in what might have been the toughest conference in college basketball. The inherent urge to overlook K-State might be the best thing that could happen to Bruce Weber’s team this week, as he will have no problem motivating his team Friday night. While Kansas State won’t have the surplus of athletes of Kentucky, their disciplined approach and motion offense might be the perfect counter to what has been an undisciplined team for a majority of the season.
  5. To say that this season hasn’t gone according to plan for Marcus Smart and Oklahoma State would be quite the understatement. Part of Smart’s motivation to return for his sophomore season in Stillwater was fueled by the Cowboys’ second round loss a season ago against a terribly underseeded Oregon team. Heading into Friday’s game against Gonzaga, Smart has a chance to leave one lasting impression on his short, often criticized career at Oklahoma State. Aside from his mediocre long range shooting ability, there’s no question that Smart is an outstanding talent who could carry a team through several rounds in March. Whether he can change our perception of his college career for the good, though, remains to be seen.
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Bracket Prep: South Region Analysis

Posted by Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) on March 17th, 2014

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Throughout Monday, we will roll out our region-by-region analysis on the following schedule: East (10:00 AM), Midwest (11:00 AM), South (1:00 PM), West (2:00 PM). Here, Bennet Hayes (@hoopstraveler) breaks down the South Region from top to bottom. Also, be sure to follow our RTC South Region handle on Twitter for continuous updates the next two weeks (@RTCsouthregion).

You should also check out our upcoming RTC Podblast with Bennet breaking down the South Region, which will drop both on the site and on iTunes Tuesday.

South Region

Favorite: #1 Florida (32-2, 21-0 SEC). The Gators are the clear front-runner to win the South region, and after winning their last 26 games, should also be the presumptive favorite to cut down the nets in Dallas. Winning four games in a row to reach the Final Four is never an easy chore, but the field’s #1 overall seed has all the necessary ingredients to make a fourth final four run under Billy Donovan.

Billy Donovan And Scottie Wilbekin Are Both Huge Reasons Why Florida Enters The NCAA Tournament As The #1 Overall Seed

Billy Donovan And Scottie Wilbekin Are Both Huge Reasons Why Florida Enters The NCAA Tournament As The #1 Overall Seed

Should They Falter: #2 Kansas (24-9, 15-5 Big 12). The Jayhawks’ case is a tricky one. With Joel Embiid, Kansas is easily the scariest #2 seed in the field and a serious threat to win it all; but the Jayhawks are far more difficult to quantify without their gifted freshman big man. Nothing is definite with Embiid’s prognosis, but if healthy and able to play, Kansas would only be the slightest of underdogs in an Elite Eight rematch with Florida. The outlook gets a little gloomier if the future trumps the present for the potential #1 overall pick in April’s NBA Draft (the one named Joel), but Andrew Wiggins’ recent offensive explosions still make Kansas a threat to run deep in this Tournament. Don’t forget that they will have a nice home court advantage in St. Louis for rounds two and three, and that crutch could help the Jayhawks advance to the second weekend without too much fuss – with or without Embiid. It’s still Bill Self and KU; don’t make the mistake of believing Joel Embiid’s health will be the sole determinant of the Jayhawk’s fate.

Grossly Overseeded: #8 Colorado (23-11, 12-9 Pac-12). There are no egregious examples of overseeding in this region, but Colorado stands out as the South’s most overvalued team. #3 Syracuse and #5 VCU may also have been generously awarded an extra seed line, but as currently constructed, the Buffs deserved to be closer to the cut-line than their #8 seed would suggest they actually were. Since Spencer Dinwiddie went down on January 12, Colorado managed only a .500 record in the Pac-12 and rarely looked competitive in outings against the upper echelon of the league. They are just 64th in KenPom’s rankings (only NC State is worse among at-large selections), and each of their three wins since February 19 was earned by the narrowest of margins (quirky note: all had final scores of 59-56). Askia Booker has remade himself in Dinwiddie’s absence and Tad Boyle deserves a ton of credit for navigating CU through the storm and into this field, but Colorado is just not one of the 32 best teams in college basketball.

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

Posted by Greg Mitchell on March 13th, 2014

rushedreactions

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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Big 12 M5: 03.13.14 Edition

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 13th, 2014

morning5_big12

  1. Season accolades continued to roll in on Tuesday, as Andrew Wiggins was named as a second team All-American by the United States Basketball Writers Association. Wiggins is joined by fellow Big 12 member and countryman Melvin Ejim as well as Cleanthony Early, C.J. Fair and Sean Kilpatrick. Wiggins carries season averages of 16.8 points and 5.9 rebounds per game into the Big 12 Tournament, and he may have to bump that production even higher if Kansas is to overcome the loss of Joel Embiid this weekend and beyond.
  2. More reports continue to swirl around the back of Embiid. It was revealed yesterday that the big man dealt with similar (though not identical) back problems this time last year as a senior at The Rock School in Gainesville, Florida. While every situation is different, it’s worth pointing out that Emeka Okafor went through a similar pattern of rest and rehab to how the Jayhawks are treating Embiid and returned in time to lead Connecticut to the 2004 national championship. We wouldn’t expect Kansas’ situation to pan out the same way, but would it be that big a surprise if it did?
  3. Yesterday, we brought up the under-the-radar status of Marcus Foster, who has thrived even without the spotlight of Wiggins, Embiid or any of the rest of the country’s top freshmen. While Foster could break out nationally with a big postseason, it’s also worth bearing in mind that as a freshman, he isn’t used to his season running this long. Foster has learned what the college grind is all about, largely thanks to having upperclassmen like Shane Southwell, Will Spradling and Omari Lawrence along for the ride. You may remember that Foster was once a highly sought-after recruit, but conditioning problems led many prolific programs to pull back in their pursuit. Foster rewarded Bruce Weber’s loyalty by shedding some weight, and he’s enjoyed a great first year.
  4. Marcus Smart tends to get the majority of attention for Oklahoma, and most of the time, it’s well-deserved. However, there’s a very good argument to be made that it’s actually Markel Brown who is the leader of the Cowboys. The shooting guard endured two straight seasons where Oklahoma State missed the NCAA Tournament, and has improved every year he’s been on campus. After the Cowboys fell into an early 8-0 hole against the Red Raiders last night, Brown snapped his teammates out of the funk with long-range bombs, defensive stops and a highlight-reel dunk, just as he has most of the last two seasons. A much bigger test comes this afternoon in Oklahoma State’s rubber match against Kansas.
  5. With Oklahoma State’s win over Texas Tech last night, we bid farewell to the Red Raiders. At the time, Tubby Smith‘s acceptance of the job last spring was a head-scratching move, and we will still need a couple of years to see if he can recruit and develop enough talent to crack the occasional NCAA Tournament field, but this season, Tech was a much tougher out than many expected. The Red Raiders delivered upset wins over Baylor, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and Texas, and were competitive in losses to Kansas and Kansas State.
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