After Just One Game, the Andrew Wiggins Backlash Has Begun

Posted by Taylor Erickson on November 12th, 2013

The power of the Internet can be a wonderful thing, providing someone with virtually unlimited information at the click of a button. But let’s be honest, it can also be quite an inconvenience at times, too (like when your Facebook picture from a party in college may have kept you from that job you really wanted). With the technology we have today, the web serves as an open book of history for anything that’s been said or written if the one speaking or writing is significant enough to have his or her voice published.

So you’re probably sitting here thinking “OK, I get it, but I came to read about college basketball, so please carry on.”

Is there a limit to how many jaw-droppers Andrew Wiggins will give us this season?

Is Andrew Wiggins Still the Best Player in His Class?

Fair enough, as I’d probably be thinking the same thing, so here’s where I’m going with this. In the last month or so, there seems to be a momentum shift in how some media in college basketball are viewing Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins. As I’m sure you’ve heard over, and over, and over again, Wiggins was built up over the better part of the last year as a guy who could be one of the better recruits we’ve seen in the last 10-plus years in college basketball. His name was thrown out there with the likes of Michael Beasley, and Kevin Durant, and even, gulp, LeBron James. Somewhere along the line, someone called him “the best recruit since LeBron” and boy did that sound bite take off like wildfire. Whether those comparisons are accurate is something we can’t all come to an agreement on, but we can all agree that when Wiggins reclassified his graduation year last October, there was no doubt that he was considered the top prep prospect in the nation. Many cited his performance in the Peach Jam in July 2012 as evidence, where Wiggins went head-to-head with fellow top Kentucky recruit Julius Randle in what is the considered the highest profile AAU event in the country. The unanimous belief after the Peach Jam was that Wiggins was the superior talent to Randle, leading to quotes like this one from former CBS writer and current ESPN staffer, Jeff Goodman.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Champions Classic Provides Kansas With an Early Opportunity To Improve

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 12th, 2013

It’s very early in the college basketball season. Before you continue reading the rest of the preview for tonight’s showdown between Duke and Kansas, read that sentence again. Now read it again one more time, just for good for measure. I’ll wait here.

Now that we have that important housekeeping item out of the way, it’s now acceptable for everyone to lick their chops in anticipation of the nightcap of tonight’s Champions Classic in Chicago. It’s everything we could want in an early-season match-up: Two of the nation’s best programs, coaches and freshmen on a neutral court, with their biggest recruiting target in the house to take it all in. While both teams won their season openers Friday night, Kansas needs to change a couple of things if it wants to leave the United Center with arguably its biggest non-conference win since topping the defending champion Florida Gators in 2008:

Wiggins

Andrew Wiggins Needs to Work to Get Open More Often

  • Work To Get Andrew Wiggins Open: In Friday’s victory over Louisiana-Monroe, the Jayhawks struggled at times to get their freshman sensation open looks. Wiggins eventually finished with 16 points on nine shot attempts, and while that was hardly a bad game for someone criticized as passive, it won’t fly against better competition. Naadir Tharpe, who will make his season debut after being suspended for Friday’s opener, isn’t an elite passer – at least not yet. For Kansas to avenge a 2011 loss to the Blue Devils, Wiggins has to either meet his floor general halfway and work harder to get open, or his big-bodied teammates need to free him up — ideally, some combination of the two would occur. While Wiggins has the athleticism to create his own shot off the bounce, odds are he’ll fare better if he makes his defender (likely Rodney Hood) keep up with him from one possession to the next.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big 12 Microsite Roundtable: Predicted Standings

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 8th, 2013

Yesterday, the four Big 12 Microsite writers (Kory Carpenter, Taylor Erickson, Brian Goodman and Nate Kotisso) named their preseason All-Big 12 selections. On college basketball’s opening day, we take a look at each writer’s predicted order of finish.

B12Standings

Some key takeaways:

You can have Marcus Smart and the Cowboys, but we’re picking Kansas until someone knocks them off: As we touched on in the Oklahoma State team preview, the Cowboys have as good a chance to dethrone Kansas as some of the top challengers in the Jayhawks’ nine-year stay atop the conference. But if a Big 12 coach is going to clown our writers by the end of the season, it’s going to be someone other than Bill Self.

  • TE: The reason I went with Kansas as my pick to win the Big 12 is a culmination of several different factors. While I think both teams not only have great talent in Wiggins and Smart, both also have strong supporting players around them. On Smart’s team, Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash are both extremely talented and could go for 30 on any night, and for Wiggins, he has two other potential lottery picks beside him, not to mention Perry Ellis. I think Kansas is just more of a complete team. While Oklahoma State certainly has the advantage at the point guard spot, I’m not sure there’s another position where you could definitively say that OSU is better, and in my opinion Kansas is far better and more talented in the frontcourt. Also, I fully recognize that Marcus Smart is an outstanding college basketball player – maybe the best in the nation – but I do think as point guard and team leader his squad sputtered a bit down the stretch last season when they really had a chance to knock Kansas out of the top spot with a win in Stillwater, along with an early exit in the Big 12 Tournament and a first round loss in the NCAA Tournament. Maybe it’s not fair to put all that blame on Smart, and some of it should be shifted to Travis Ford, which I guess leads me to my last point. If we hold all else equal and believe that the talent levels in Lawrence and Stillwater are more or less a wash, it becomes a question as to who you’d take as a coach to lead your team between Ford and Bill Self, and I think that answer is pretty obvious.
  • KC: Marcus Smart is one of the best guards in the country, but Andrew Wiggins is better. Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash are good guards as well, but there is a reason Wayne Selden is a projected lottery pick in next summer’s NBA Draft while Brown and Nash aren’t. And even if you canceled out both backcourts, the Cowboys don’t match up well with a Kansas frontcourt that has as much depth as any unit in the country. Joel Embiid is projected to be taken in the lottery along with Wiggins and Selden, and he won’t even be starting early in the season. And when you throw in the Bill Self and Allen Fieldhouse factors, it isn’t hard to pick Kansas to win the conference, again.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big 12 Team Preview: Kansas Jayhawks

Posted by KoryCarpenter on November 8th, 2013

This week, the Big 12 microsite will finish previewing each of the league’s 10 teams. Today: Kansas.

Where We Left Off: With seven minutes left in its Sweet Sixteen match-up with Michigan, Kansas led by 14 points. With 21 seconds left, the lead had dwindled but the Jayhawks still held a controlling five-point lead. Not long after that, Michigan guard Trey Burke’s last-second three-pointer sent the game to overtime, and the Wolverines held on to win the game, 87-85. That game was a microcosm of Kansas’ season, with senior point guard Elijah Johnson committing five turnovers without tallying a single assist. All five starters either graduated or, in freshman guard Ben McLemore’s case, declared for the NBA Draft. At the time, the nation’s No. 2 recruiting class – led by five-star recruit Wayne Selden – softened the blow of another tough March loss for Bill Self. But a little less than two months later, everything changed when No. 1 overall recruit Andrew Wiggins committed to Kansas and transformed this year’s team from a top-25 squad into national title contenders.

Andrew Wiggins Has A Lot Of Reasons To Be Smiling These Days.

Andrew Wiggins Has A Lot Of Reasons To Be Smiling These Days.

PositivesThe Jayhawks have more talent and balance than almost any team in the country. Andrew Wiggins is the CBSSports.com Preseason Player of the Year, an AP First-Team All-American, and the projected No. 1 pick in next summer’s NBA Draft. He’ll be joined on the perimeter by the No. 12 overall player in the 2013 class, Wayne Selden, forming one of the best backcourts in the country. Freshman center Joel Embiid has only been playing basketball for a few seasons but skyrocketed up the recruiting rankings during his senior year, ending up at 25th overall and a projected lottery pick next summer. He’s unlikely to even start at the beginning of the season. That looks to be Memphis transfer Tarik Black, who graduated early and is able to play immediately at Kansas. Even with three potential lottery picks in the starting lineup, Bill Self has said that sophomore forward Perry Ellis could lead the team in scoring. I wouldn’t bet on that, but Ellis did come on strong late last season, leading the team with 14.3 PPG in the Big 12 Tournament. There isn’t a big dropoff when Self looks to his bench, either. Three freshmen – Brannen Greene, Conner Frankamp, and Frank Mason - were four-star recruits and will be fighting for playing time this season on the perimeter behind Selden and Wiggins.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Naadir Tharpe is the Key to the Kansas Offense

Posted by Kory Carpenter on November 1st, 2013

Search for the lone weakness on a Kansas team loaded with NBA lottery talent and McDonald’s All-Americans and you won’t be looking for long. He stands about 5’11” and couldn’t crack the starting lineup on a team last season that was one point guard away from another Final Four. You can see why Kansas fans are everywhere from curious to anxious to worried about junior point guard Naadir Tharpe‘s play this season. It’s not that Tharpe isn’t capable of running an offense with future NBA Draft picks at the other four starting spots. It’s that if Kansas falls before the national title game, Tharpe’s play will likely be the reason.

Can Naadir Tharpe Keep The KU Offense Running Smoothly?  (USA Today)

Can Tharpe Keep The Kansas Offense Running Smoothly? (Credit: USA Today)

Last season the Jayhawks went down in flames against Michigan in the Sweet Sixteen with senior shooting guard Elijah Johnson putting the finishing touches on a mediocre season at point guard, all while Tharpe came off the bench playing 19.4 minutes per game. The sophomore averaged 5.5 points per game and shot just 34.3 percent from the floor. Watching Johnson struggle to run the offense for the first time in his college career made you wonder how little Self trusted Tharpe to do the same.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Morning Five: 10.30.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on October 30th, 2013

morning5

  1. Yesterday night was filled with exhibition games from many of the top teams in the country (Kentucky, Kansas, Michigan State, and Oklahoma State were all in action), but the most interesting news may have come from the Kansas post-game press conference where Bill Self revealed that Naadir Tharpe will not play in the team’s season opener after violating a NCAA rule by playing in a summer league game in Chicago. Tharpe played well in the team’s exhibition yesterday against Pittsburg State (yes, it is Pittsburg and it is in Kansas not Pennsylvania) putting up nine assists without committing a turnover so we know he can play well against schools that we have never heard of, but by missing their game against Louisiana-Monroe (Frank Mason will start in his place) his next game will be against Duke, a school that we have definitely heard of.
  2. With the season a little over one week away most teams are in the process of fine-tuning their line-ups for the opening tip, but UCLA finds itself scrambling to rearrange its lineup after Travis Wear was hospitalized on Monday night for appendicitis. Travis, the more productive of the Wear twins (his brother David also plays for the Bruins), averaged 10.9 points and 5.2 rebounds per game and would probably be UCLA’s top inside player this season. We have no idea how long he will be out (it depends on if he has any complications), but a prolonged absence would create a big hole in the middle for a Bruin team that only has two other serviceable interior players–David Wear and Tony Parker–available at the moment. Fortunately, the Bruins have two exhibition games to adapt before they start the regular season on November 8 and have a very manageable schedule during the month of December.
  3. We will have to wait two more weeks until North Carolina announces P.J. Hairston’s suspension, but at least we know how long Ole Miss has suspended Marshall Henderson for multiple behavior-related issues: three games, which will include the regular season opener (against Troy) and the team’s first two SEC games (against Auburn and Mississippi State). The suspension is the result of Henderson’s repeated taunting (or responding) to fans during the season including using his middle finger after Ole Miss lost in the NCAA Tournament as well as being pulled over by local police on May 4 and found to have marijuana and cocaine in his system. Although we find the split suspension a little odd it is good to see that it will have a bigger effect on the team as they are much more likely to be challenged in those SEC games than they would if he had sat the second and third games of the regular season (against Coastal Carolina and Mississippi Valley State). We hope that Henderson can find a way to control his behavior, but still keep that edge that made him such a dangerous player.
  4. We usually do not make fun of a player, often a teenager or just beyond that stage, for their indecisiveness, but we might make an exception for Michael Chandler, who committed to Oregon yesterday. The commitment by itself (a 6’10″ center from Northwest Florida State, who was forced to go to junior college after failing to academically qualify in 2011) is not particularly remarkable. What is remarkable is the fact that this is at least the fourth school that Chandler has committed to as his previous commitments were to Louisville, Xavier, and UCF before he failed to qualify academically. We hope that Chandler eventually finds his way into Division I basketball, but you will have to forgive us if we hold off in writing his committment to Oregon down in pen.
  5. Tanking doesn’t relate directly to college basketball, but you will be hearing about it quite a bit throughout the year as NBA teams lose games in order to increase their chances of landing Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Jabari Parker, or some other highly-coveted college player. So the admission by an anonymous NBA general manager that his team was tanking (known explicitly by everybody, but the players) is somewhat interesting. Obviously the story would be more interesting if it had not been anonymous, but then the GM would no longer be employed. Based on what was said in the story we can probably narrow down the list of potential GMs to a handful of individuals. As the NBA season progresses and a certain number of elite college players emerge we suspect that we will see the list of potential tanking teams grow.
Share this story

Big 12 M5: 10.29.13 Edition

Posted by Taylor Erickson on October 29th, 2013

morning5_big12

  1. In the last few weeks leading up to the tip-off of the college basketball season, it seems like every media outlet universally decides to release as many meaningless preseason lists as possible. Despite how little weight these opinions actually carry, we love to read them anyway. On Monday, CBSSports.com posted a rundown of the top 30 players poised for a breakout season that featured Big 12 players Perry Ellis (#2), Thomas Gipson (#9), and Naadir Tharpe (#10). While there’s plenty of room for debate as to whom else from the Big 12 should have been included on this list, it’s clear that these three individuals will need to perform well this season for their respective teams to fulfill expectations. At Kansas, Tharpe will be the leader of the team at the point guard position, and despite the talents of Andrew Wiggins and Wayne Selden surrounding him, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Ellis lead the Jayhawks in scoring. In Manhattan, Gipson will pair with Shane Southwell to anchor Bruce Weber’s team.
  2. Ask anyone around the country who the best player in the Big 12 is this season, and you’ll probably receive a split vote between Marcus Smart and Andrew Wiggins.  Monday, NBCSports.com recognized Smart as its preseason Player of the Year, and joining Smart on the All American first team was fellow Big 12 rival, Andrew Wiggins. There’s been no shortage of words this preseason directed at Wiggins by both Smart and his head coach Travis Ford that have set up one of the most anticipated conference match-ups as there has been in recent memory. We will certainly enjoy the first two and a half months of the season, but the first meeting between these two teams on January 18 in Lawrence can’t come soon enough.
  3. As if the first two preseason lists we discussed weren’t enough, Gary Parrish at CBSSports.com posted an article discussing coaches on the hot seat as the season gets underway, and to no surprise, Texas’ Rick Barnes was featured. Although Barnes has made the NCAA Tournament 14 times in 15 years in Austin, the days of Kevin Durant, T.J. Ford, and D.J. Augustine are but a distant memory he once enjoyed with the Longhorns. Couple the lack of recent success with the fact that Texas has missed out on several recent high profile recruits from the Lone Star state – Julius Randle and Emmanuel Mudiay, to name a couple – and there’s no wonder Barnes’ job security seems to be in serious question. Given the facilities and alumni support at Texas, many consider the basketball program a sleeping giant waiting to erupt with the right fit at head coach.
  4. We discussed on Monday how Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger would be relying on Cameron Clark to bring leadership to this team this season, and because Halloween is on Thursday we figured any opportunity we had to use the name “Kruger” this week would be fitting (although the two are spelled differently, you get the point). This time, the Oklahoma head coach was featured at the school’s media day explaining how his trio of sophomore guards – Isaiah Cousins, Buddy Hield and Je’lon Hornbeak – would be looked upon to use the experience they gained during their freshman campaign to play a vital role in the Oklahoma system this season. Although the Sooners are replacing several outstanding scorers from last season, the goal will be to follow up last season’s success with a return trip to the NCAA Tournament.
  5. In a press conference yesterday, Kansas head coach Bill Self explained how his lineup appears to be taking shape. Anticipated starters Naadir Tharpe, Wayne Selden, Andrew Wiggins, Perry Ellis and Tarik Black are joined by Joel Embiid, Andrew White III, and Jamari Traylor, all of whom appear to be poised for significant minutes this season. In customary Self fashion, the lineup will fluctuate throughout the season, but the biggest battle in the first few exhibition games appears to be for the backup point guard position to Tharpe.  Both Frank Mason and Connor Frankamp were highly touted guards in Self’s latest recruiting class, and each will be important in spelling Tharpe at points throughout the season. Mason may be the more natural point guard of the two, while Frankamp is regarded as one of the best shooters in this year’s incoming class.
Share this story

Looking Ahead: Kansas Jayhawks Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on April 15th, 2013

The chatter about next season began in Lawrence not long after Trey Burke led an improbable comeback against the Jayhawks in the Sweet Sixteen, and with good reason. Kansas loses all five starters this year. The four seniors — Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford, Jeff Withey, Kevin Young, and redshirt freshman Ben McLemore (who technically hasn’t declared for the NBA Draft yet, but there is a better chance of President Obama reading this article in the Oval Office than McLemore returning next season). He is projected to be a top three pick with many publications predicting that he will go #1 overall. Freshman guard Anrio Adams also announced last week that he had received a release from the coaching staff and was set to transfer, but he has since changed his stance and said he is staying at Kansas. It’s hard to guess where Adams will be playing next season, if anywhere. Either way, the Kansas roster turnover resembles that of the 2008-09 season, when most of the national championship team left and Self returned only two players with experience, junior Sherron Collins and sophomore Cole Aldrich. Collins blossomed into a star that season and Aldrich eventually left early for the NBA himself. Is there that kind of talent returning next season? No, but next year’s incoming class is better than that which arrived in 2009, which should help the transition somewhat.

Bill Self Might Need To Be Patient Next Season.

Bill Self Might Need To Be Patient Next Season.

Returning Players With Experience:

  • Naadir Tharpe, sophomore point guard (19.4 MPG, 5.5 PPG, 3.1 APG, 34.3% FG): Naadir Tharpe is a shoot-first point guard who isn’t a great shooter. When he decides to play like a true point guard and looks to distribute the ball to open teammates, he’s not bad. And as the only point guard remaining with any real game experience, expect him to start from day one. But he needs to realize (or Self needs to be in his ear every day this summer) that at some point, he’s not a scorer. There was a three-game stretch in February where he went 5-of-22 from the floor. He was 2-of-15 against TCU, 2-of-11 against Iowa State and 4-of-17 in the NCAA Tournament. But that’s not all his fault. Self had no other options on the bench, and this Kansas team was sometimes timid. Ben McLemore should have taken 18 to 20 shots a game but also had a tendency to disappear. Elijah Johnson shied away from the ball in certain situations. Travis Releford wouldn’t hurt a mouse, and Jeff Withey was a defensive giant with limited offensive post moves. Tharpe is ever-confident, and you could sense that Self didn’t want to kill his aggressiveness even if it meant a few 2-of-11 shooting nights. Next season might be different, however. It might have to be different.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Big 12 Season Wrap: the Highs, the Lows, All the In-Betweens

Posted by dnspewak on April 15th, 2013

In a big-picture sense, the Big 12 provided us with no surprises this season. Kansas won the league again, TCU finished in last place, five teams made the NCAA Tournament, and all was right with the world. It wouldn’t have taken Nostradamus to make those predictions. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t an interesting six months, however. There were flops–most notably from the state of Texas. There were overachievers–most notably from the state of Oklahoma. There were thrilling finishes, blown calls, standout freshmen and that one time Kansas somehow lost to TCU. Oh, and one team even won a championship this season in, well, the wrong tournament.

Game of  the Year: Kansas 68, Oklahoma State 67 (February 20)

This showdown in Stillwater was simultaneously the best and worst game of the Big 12 season. How’s that for logic? After the Cowboys stunned Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse earlier in the winter and literally celebrated by doing back flips on the court, this revenge game took on even more importance in the league standings. Had Oklahoma State won, it would have seized the proverbial driver’s seat along with Kansas State and would have made the Jayhawks’ path to the regular season title very difficult. We had drama. We had overtime. Two, actually. And we had a game-winner in the final minute of regulation by Naadir Tharpe, who shook off a rusty performance to hit the go-ahead jumper with 16 seconds to play. Instant classic, right? Certainly. The problem was, it was perhaps the ugliest game ever played by two top-15 opponents on the same floor. Kansas did not make a field goal in the first overtime and it did not make a field goal in the second overtime until Tharpe’s game-winner. That’s almost 10 minutes of basketball without a basket. In overtime! Overall, the two teams combined to shoot five for 32 from beyond the arc. Ben McLemore played 49 minutes, missed nine of 12 shot attempts and finished with seven points after barely touching the ball in the overtime periods. And that’s the best game of the year? We still stand by our decision. This was the game that changed the complexity of the Big 12 title race, and two free periods of basketball is never a bad thing.

Bill Self Won Another Big 12 Title (Photo credit: AP Photo).

Bill Self Won Another Big 12 Title (Photo credit: AP Photo).

Honorable Mentions:

  • Kansas 108, Iowa State 96 (February 25): Asterisk on this one. Kansas beat Iowa State in Ames — where the Cyclones hadn’t lost in more than a year — but it needed a blown call at the end of regulation to get the opportunity. You remember the situation. Elijah Johnson‘s charging toward the basket with five seconds left in the game, his team trailing by two points. Georges Niang sets his feet and takes what appears to be a pretty standard charge. But there’s no call, the ball bounces on the floor and the officials eventually blow the whistle on Niang during a scramble. That allows Kansas to tie the game and win in overtime behind Elijah Johnson’s epic 39-point performance. The Big 12 would later admit its referees should have called a charge, but that’s a moot point right now. It’s a shame we’ll remember this game as the No-Call Game as opposed to the Elijah Johnson Game.
  • Oklahoma State 74, Baylor 72 (March 14): The Bears needed a victory in this Big 12 quarterfinal to give themselves a chance for an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. Then they fell behind by 20 points. Dead in the water. Except Pierre Jackson started raining jumpers and floaters all over the place, and Baylor inexplicably tied the game in the final minute of regulation. But the officials made a controversial foul call (that’s a trend this year, across all conferences) and sent Phil Forte to the line, where he made both. That’s an exciting finish in and of itself. But it got even better: Nobody’s quite sure how it happened, but with just seconds left on a desperation, mad-dash possession, Jackson dribbled straight through two Oklahoma State defenders and found himself absolutely, completely wide open from three-point land. He had a chance to win at the buzzer. No hands contesting him, no defender in sight. He missed. That sent the Bears to the NIT, and at least they won that tournament. But Jackson’s failed buzzer-beater signaled the end of Baylor’s tourney chances, and it was another dark moment during an underachieving season.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Saturday’s Kansas Collapse a Long Time in the Making

Posted by KoryCarpenter on April 1st, 2013

You could watch the final possession of Kansas’ 87-85 Sweet Sixteen loss to Michigan 100 times and never figure out what was going through Kansas guard Elijah Johnson’s head. The prep point guard turned college shooting guard turned college point guard never adjusted to his new(er) role as floor general this season, and it was no more evident than in those final eight seconds of overtime against the Wolverines in Cowboys Stadium. Kansas had been melting down like Mickelson at Winged Foot since the 2:25 mark in the second half, but they still had eight seconds to force another overtime or win the game outright. Bill Self drew up an effective play for the situation. Jeff Withey set a fake screen at the top of the key and Michigan bit. The 6’8″, 250-pound forward Jordan Morgan immediately switched off Withey and onto Elijah Johnson with five seconds left, changing directions and giving Johnson momentum to go with his decided speed advantage. “I thought he could get to the rim,” Self said after the game. Correction: Johnson was given a free pass to the rim.

Picture 1

There Wasn’t Much Between Johnson, The Rim, And Double Overtime.

For whatever reason, Johnson didn’t take another dribble after this point. Not only that, but he took an awful route to the basket. And when that awful route led him to no-man’s land under the hoop, he did what coaches for decades have told point guards not to do from first grade to college and beyond: He left his feet to make a pass. But not only that, either. He left his feet before deciding where the pass was going. As most know, he ended up kicking it 30 feet away to Naadir Tharpe for a three-point floater off one foot as the clock expired. Because when you have three seniors and the potential No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft on the floor, giving your backup point guard jack up a floating one-footer from distance is the way to go.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

NCAA Tournament Game Analysis: Sweet Sixteen, Friday Night

Posted by KDoyle on March 29th, 2013

RTC_final4_atlanta

We continue the Sweet Sixteen tonight with games from the South Region in Arlington, Texas, and the Midwest Region in Indianapolis. Here are the breakdowns for tonight’s games.

#1 Louisville vs. #12 Oregon Midwest Regional Sweet Sixteen (at Indianapolis, IN) – 7:15 PM ET on CBS

It's Russ' World, We Just Live In It (Credit Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

It’s Russ’ World, We Just Live In It (Credit Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

The Midwest Regional descends on Indianapolis this weekend, with Louisville and Oregon kicking off the action in a matchup of red-hot teams. If not for Florida Gulf Coast’s otherworldly Tournament performance last week, we would likely be looking at the two most impressive teams of the first weekend. As the top overall seed in the Tournament, Louisville’s tour de force in Lexington may not have been unexpected, but it did drive home the notion that the Cardinals are still the team to beat – in this region, and beyond. On the flip side, Oregon’s pair of resounding victories were not expected (despite getting significant play as the most underseeded team in the field on Selection Sunday), but have quickly afforded the surging Ducks a lot of respect. They will head into a virtual road game as massive underdogs on Friday, but the last two weeks have proven that this is a talented and tough basketball team.

Do not expect Oregon to struggle with the aggressive Louisville defense as much as North Carolina A&T and Colorado State did. A quick briefing of the Oregon statistical profile may suggest otherwise – the Ducks are 264th nationally in turnover percentage – but that number is a bit misleading. For one, quick tempo teams are generally going to turn the ball over more, and Oregon plays fast (48th nationally in possessions per game). Also remember that starting PG Dominic Artis (I know, I know — how could we forget at this point?) missed more than half the Pac-12 season, and that backup PG Johnathan Loyd is just now beginning to hit his stride. These two guards will come as close to replicating the quickness and athleticism of that Louisville Siva-Smith combo as any duo the Cardinals have seen all season. Throw in athletes almost everywhere else on the floor – Emory and Dotson on the wings, Kazemi and Woods in the post – and there can be reasonable expectation that Oregon might actually be able to weather the turnover storm that has felled many Louisville foes.

If Oregon can manage that turnover battle, expect this to be a 40-minute game. Points will not come easily for the Cardinals against a well-school (and athletic) Oregon defense, and the Ducks are also a better rebounding team — at least on paper. Dana Altman’s X-factor will be the burgeoning freshman Dotson. If Dotson and others – here’s looking at you EJ Singler — can replicate the three point barrage that undid Saint Louis, Altman’s group has a legitimate change to swing the upset. Too much to ask for? Probably. This is not your typical #12 seed (how is Oregon a #12 seed again?), but they have run into a #1 seed that is playing its role all too well. I expect Oregon to prove a worthy challenger in all facets – managing turnovers, defending the dynamic Louisville backcourt, finding ways to score themselves – but ultimately they run into a team that is just a little better across the board. The Ducks will hang around, but Louisville should be safely bound for the Elite Eight.

The RTC Certified Pick: Louisville

#1 Kansas vs. #4 Michigan – South Regional Semifinal (at Arlington, TX) – 7:37 PM ET on TBS

The last time Michigan advanced this deep into the NCAA Tournament was all the way back in 1994 with the Fab Five coached by current San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher. Ranked in the Top 10 for much of the season, John Beilein’s team certainly won’t be content just advancing to the second weekend; it is Atlanta or bust for the young Wolverines. To advance to Sunday’s South Regional Final, they will have to knock off a team with a wealth of NCAA Tournament experience in the Kansas Jayhawks. Kansas advanced to the championship game last season losing to Kentucky, but are missing two key components of that squad—Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor. While Bill Self has led Kansas to another very successful season—a Big 12 regular season and tournament championship and 30+ wins for the fourth straight year—this edition of Kansas basketball is lacking a rock-solid point guard and dominant scorer. One could certainly make the argument that freshman Ben McLemore is that scorer, but he has largely been a no-show in Kansas’ first two games scoring just 13 points on 2-14 shooting from the field. The combination of Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe at point guard has dished out 11 assists to ten turnovers. Nobody will argue their frontcourt dominance anchored by the defensive prowess of Jeff Withey, but seniors Kevin Young and Travis Releford are prototypical role players and not go-to threats. As such, when looking up and down the roster, this has been yet another good coaching job by Bill Self. If Kansas is to defeat Michigan and advance to Atlanta, Ben McLemore must play up to his Top 5 NBA Draft pick ability. Kansas’ most glaring weakness happens to be Michigan’s clear strength: point guard play. This game will be decided in the backcourt, and Trey Burke along with Tim Hardaway Jr. are simply playing much better basketball than Elijah Johnson and Ben McLemore. Also, let’s not forget the emergence of freshman Mitch McGary who has stepped up in a big way with Jordan Morgan’s nagging ankle injury. Morgan may return to the regular rotation tonight, but he is just 6’8” and would struggle handling Jeff Withey on the insdie. John Beilein doesn’t expect McGary to have a double-double kind of game like he had against Virginia Commonwealth, but if he is able to neutralize Withey then it is mission accomplished. Kansas would be the first one to tell you that they played just 20 good minutes of basketball in their first two games. If they get off to another slow start out of the gate like they did against Western Kentucky and North Carolina, they’ll be hard-pressed to climb their way back into the game.

The RTC Certified PickMichigan

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Kansas and Bill Self In Familiar Territory Against Michigan

Posted by KoryCarpenter on March 28th, 2013

Bill Self and Kansas are back in the Sweet Sixteen for the sixth time in seven years, and that’s not good news for Michigan, the #4 seed in the South Region that the Jayhawks will meet Friday night in Cowboys Stadium. Self is 5-1 in this round in nine seasons at Kansas and 7-2 for his career dating back to Tulsa at the turn of the century. But Michigan fans shouldn’t be worried about an arbitrary record in a certain round of the NCAA Tournament. They should be worried because Bill Self has an entire week to game plan for the Wolverines, and that is where he has made his teams most dangerous in March.  Between Tulsa, Illinois, and now Kansas, Self has made 14 NCAA Tournament appearances and has 13 losses, winning the NCAA Tournament in 2008. Of those 13 losses, nine came in the second game of the weekend (Round of 32, Elite Eight or National Championship game). As Self likes to point out, the NCAA Tournament is basically split into three two-game tournaments over three weekends. For teams not in the preliminary play-in games, there are four or five days to prepare for their first opponent after the bracket is announced, followed by a roughly 48-hour turnaround. The next week is the same at the regionals and it continues at the Final Four. With that near-week or so to prepare, Self is nearly automatic. He is 12-2 in the Round of 64,  7-2 in the Sweet 16, and 2-0 in National Semifinal games, or 21-4 overall with a week to prepare. The short turnaround has stung him, though. He is 9-3 in the Round of 32, 2-5 in the Elite Eight, and 1-1 in National Championship games, although a month of preparation wouldn’t have been enough time against last season’s Kentucky team. He has won at an 84% clip with a week to prepare and his winning percentage drops to only 57% with a quick turnaround. But the game still has to be played, and Michigan is not your average #4 seed.

Bill Self Is Money With Extra Time To Scout

Bill Self Is Money With Extra Time To Scout.

Let’s take a look at the match-ups in this game:

Backcourt

Michigan has one of the best players in the country in sophomore point guard Trey Burke, a Sporting News First-Team All-American Selection and possible National Player of the Year. Burke averages 18.8 PPG and 6.7 APG for the Wolverines and controls their offense almost exclusively. According to Ken Pomeroy, his possession percentage of 29.9% (65th nationally) is higher than all but one player remaining in the Tournament, Louisville’s Russ Smith (31.6%). Of the 12 teams remaining that had a player in KenPom’s top 100 for usage percentage, Michigan and Louisville are the only teams remaining. Since 2005 when Pomeroy began publishing possession percentages, only three Final Four teams had a player in the top 100 nationally: UCLA’s Jordan Farmar in 2006, and last year with the Cardinals’ Russ Smith and Kansas’ Thomas Robinson. That’s 90.6% of Final Four teams that have not relied heavily on one player. Fortunately for Michigan fans, Kansas has been torched by point guards several times this season. Baylor point guard Pierre Jackson had 28 points and 10 assists while handing Kansas its last defeat on March 9. Fellow All-American point guard Marcus Smart had 25 points, nine rebounds, and five steals in an Oklahoma State win over Kansas on February 2. Like Jackson and Smart, Burke should have the advantage over Jayhawk guards Elijah Johnson and his backup, Naadir Tharpe. Off the ball, expect to see Travis Releford guarding Tim Hardaway, Jr., and Ben McLemore on Nik Stauskas. Stauskas is a 43.4% three-point shooter and it will imperative that McLemore — or whichever Jayhawk is guarding him — chases him off the three-point line and funnels him into the paint. Burke is going to have a big game regardless. But if Stauskas and/or Hardaway (39.3% from deep) start knocking down threes, Kansas’ best defensive weapon slowly becomes irrelevant. Offensively, Kansas will need better production from McLemore, who had two points on 0-of-9 shooting against North Carolina. He leads the Jayhawks with 15.8 PPG but has disappeared at times this season. He is averaging only 7.0 points per game in the last four outings despite being the most talented player on the court in nearly every situation. Look for Self to draw up a few plays early designed to get McLemore easy buckets and to give him some confidence.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story