Category Archives: College Hoops

Live By The Three, Die By The Three

Kohl Center

I’ve been attempting to find a silver lining in Wisconsin’s disheartening loss to Purdue on Senior Day at the Kohl Center. I think I may have found one, however it may be a bit pessimistic.

The Badgers’ loss should remind fans and other observers that expectations need to be tempered as we approach the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments. Bo’s bunch is a solid unit, ranked in the AP top 25 and the KenPom top 5. But the Badgers aren’t built for a deep run in March for one reason, they rely too heavily on the three-point shot.

39.3 percent of the Badgers’ field goal attempt (3PA/FGA) come from behind the three-point arc while 34.5 percent of their points are the result of successful three-point field goals.

According to stats from KenPom.com, the average Final Four team of the last 10 years had 30.9 percent of their shots come from behind the three-point line while 25.4 percent of their points came off three-pointers. Only three Final Four teams had a higher 3PA/FGA than the 2013 Badgers (39.3) – 2011 VCU (41.2), 2010 Butler (39.8) and 2005 Louisville (42.1).

Of that trio, only the ’11 Rams (35.5) and ’05 Cardinals (35.7) had a higher percentage of their points come from three-pointers than this year’s Badgers (34.5). 2005 Illinois and 2011 Butler also had similar three-point profiles to 2013 Wisconsin. The ’05 Illini had a 3PA/FGA of 38.8 and 34.4 percent of their points came off three-pointers, while the ’11 Bulldogs had a 3PA/FGA of 38.7 and 32.1 percent of their points came off three-pointers.

So, of the 40 teams that made the Final Four the last 10 years, only 5 (or 12.5 percent) have similar three-point profiles to the 2013 Badgers. That group includes three of the most surprising Final Four teams in the history of the NCAA Tournament, 2010 and 2011 Butler and 2011 VCU. The other two in that group, the 2005 Illini and Cardinals, both needed legendary comebacks in the regional finals to make the Final Four.

These numbers shouldn’t be shocking. It’s hard for a team to string four, five or six wins together while relying on a low-percentage shot for a large portion of their offense. Teams need an option that will provide easy looks at the basket, be it a strong post-up player or quick, slashing guard/forward.

The Badgers have not been able to consistently work either into their offense this season, relying too much on threes or mid-range/long twos. Ryan Evans, who leads the Badgers in possessions used (26.6 percent) and shot percentage (26.2), attempts mostly mid-range and long twos.

When the Boilermakers started their charge on Sunday, the Badgers seemed to panic. When Wisconsin should have been looking for an easy shot to get the offense the going again, it was jacking up quick, guarded threes.

What can the Badgers do to change their offense? Getting more out of Jared Berggren in the post and Sam Dekker in all offensive facets would be a good start.

Berggren is shooting a solid 56.5 percent on twos, so it would be in the Badgers’ best interest to focus more on getting him the ball in the post. The 6-10 senior seems more likely to get the ball at the top of they key, but he’s shooting just 26.7 percent from three this season, a 10 percent decrease from 2011-12.

Sam Dekker could be the slasher the Badgers need, he has an offensive creativity not seen from a Wisconsin player since Alando Tucker left Madison in 2007. Dekker has the quickness and strength to drive to the hoop with consistent success and he also happens to be the Badgers’ best three-point shooter (44.8 percent). Dekker needs to have the ball in his hands at crunch time, period.

I’ll end with a note of (semi) optimism. Before Sunday afternoon, the Badgers’ most recent putrid March performance came in their 36-33 loss to Penn State in the 2011 Big Ten Tournament. That squad, led by Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor, was able to recover and make the Sweet 16. A two or three win run in the NCAA Tournament is still a distinct possibility for the Badgers in 2013. Just don’t expect more than that.

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North Carolina Vacation – Day Four, Part Two (UNC Chapel Hill)

A light post outside of the Dean Smith Center at UNC Chapel Hill.

Inside of the Dean Dome. We were able to get into the stadium thanks to the Kenny Smith Basketball Camp. We actually caught a glimpse of Smith, who was wearing Carolina blue head-to-toe.

The rafters of the Dean Dome. I’m surprised they have any numbers left to give out with all those jerseys hanging from the roof.

The dome, which allows natural light in to brighten up the stadium.

Kenan Memorial Stadium. I was surprised at how much I liked this stadium. I hadn’t heard much about Kenan, but it has a gorgeous setting, with tall pine trees outlining the stadium.

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North Carolina Vacation – Day Four, Part One (Duke University)

Outside of Cameron Indoor Stadium on the campus of Duke University.

Hopefully they won’t have to re-name this “Blue Devil Ville” some day. Cough, Penn State, Cough.

First glimpse of Coach K Court. A big moment for a college basketball nerd like myself.

Inside of Cameron Indoor. It felt more like a church than a major college basketball arena.

Again, the very church-like interior of Cameron Indoor.

A not-pretentious at all light post outside of the stadium.

Wallace-Wade Stadium. Did you know that Duke had its own football team and stadium?

Duke Chapel.

Inside of the chapel.

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NCAA Tournament: Isaiah Canaan and Casper Ware Headline The Mid-Major Stars Worth Watching in the West

Murray State’s Isaiah Canaan has already led the Racers to a 30-win season.

WEST

F Julian Boyd, LIU Brooklyn

2011-2011 Stats: 17.4 ppg, 9.5 rpg, .427 3-pt%

The high-flying (evidence here) Boyd has been able to put up some big numbers in the Blackbirds’ up-tempo offense—LIU Brooklyn is No. 2 in the nation in adjusted tempo. But Boyd’s numbers are not just the byproduct of playing in a run-in-gun offense, he’s had a highly efficient season. The native Texan has a solid offensive rating of 116.3 and ranks in the top 100 nationally in both effective field goal percentage (58.5) and true shooting percentage (62.4). Boyd hasn’t shot below 50 percent from the field since he went 3-for-8 against Central Connecticut State on Feb. 4.

Boyd is also a pretty good three point shooter for his size and position. He’s shot 42.7 percent from behind the arc this year, but he’s shooting 64.7 percent (11 for 17) from three over his last seven games.

The explosive 6’7″ forward is an excellent rebounder. He has the 23rd best defensive rebounding percentage in the nation, grabbing 25.6 percent of available boards on defense. He also has a solid offensive rebounding percentage of 10.9. Boyd notched a 20-20 game last month, registering 21 points and 20 rebounds against Farleigh Dickinson on Feb. 23.

F De’Mon Brooks, Davidson

2011-2012 Stats: 16.0 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.0 spg

He’s no Stephen Curry, but Brooks is pretty damn good. Davidson’s leading scorer and rebounder, Brooks is highly involved in the Wildcats offense. When he’s on the floor, the sophomore forward uses 30.9 percent of his team’s possessions (26th highest in the nation) and takes 34.5 percent of their shots (14th highest in the nation). The Wildcats are smart to run their offense through Brooks as he’s an efficient player. He owns a solid offensive rating (115.6), effective field goal percentage (56.6) and turnover rate (13.6).

Brooks attacks the glass on offense and defense. He collected 12 percent of the available boards on offense, and 19.1 percent on defense. Considering how many shots he takes, Brooks’ offensive rebounding percentage is impressive.

PG Isaiah Canaan, Murray State

2011-2012 Stats: 19.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.7 apg

Canaan is the best player on 30-win Murray State, and quite simply, he’s been one of the best players in the nation this season. He leads the Racers in points and assists. Canaan is a deadly shooter—he ranks 37th in the country in effective field goal percentage (61.2) and 14th in true shooting percentage (66.1). He’s taken more three-pointers than twos this season, and he’s connected on a sizzling 47.3 percent of his three-point attempts. He’s made five or more three pointers in a game eight times this season. Canaan is also an 84 percent shooter from the free throw line, and he gets there often, drawing 5.3 fouls per 40 minutes.

PF Kyle O’Quinn, Norfolk State

2011-2012 Stats: 15.9 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 2.7 bpg

O’Quinn might be the best player in college basketball that even die-hard fans have never heard of.  The 6’10” senior led the MEAC in rebounds, blocks and field goal percentage. He ranks in the top 100 nationally in effective field goal percentage (59.0), true shooting percentage (62.4), defensive rebounding percentage (25.7), block percentage (8.9) and free throw rate (64.0). Evidence of his shot blocking expertise can be seen here.

O’Quinn will go up against Mizzou’s Ricardo Ratliffe, the national leader in field goal percentage, in the first round. The Tigers play a small lineup, so O’Quinn should pose some match-up problems.

PG Casper Ware, Long Beach State

2011-2012 Stats: 17.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 3.3 apg

Ware, a 5’11” point guard, is one the most exciting players in the country. He put up 33 points as the 49ers knocked off UC-Santa Barbara in the Big West tournament title game. Ware registered 25 points or more in six games this year.

Ware cut down on turnovers this season, posting the lowest turnover rate (16.1) of his college career. For the first time at Long Beach, Ware took more three-pointers (255) than twos (197) this year. He shot a respectable 36 percent from beyond the arc.  And while the senior is a big time scorer, Ware put up a solid of assist rate of 20.4.

Ware and the 49ers are battled tested, they faced eight NCAA tournament teams in non-conference. Six were on the road, and two were at neutral sites—Long Beach went 1-7, defeating only Xavier in Hawaii.

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NCAA Tournament: Andrew Nicholson Headlines The Mid-Major Stars Worth Watching In The East

Andrew Nicholson led the Bonnies to the dance for the first time since 2000.

EAST

F Kyle Casey, Harvard

2011-2012 Stats: 11.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.2 bpg

The junior forward will go against one of the high-major schools he turned down in favor of the Ivy League. Just 6’7″, Casey provides a big presence for the Crimson down low on defense. Casey is a strong defensive rebounder, he grabbed 22.3 percent of the available boards on defense. He also put up a block percentage of 5.3. The native Bay Stater is also a high percentage shooter, he posted a solid 55.5 effective field goal percentage this season.

Casey and 6’8″ forward Keith Wright will face a tough challenge in Vanderbilt 7-footer Festus Ezeli. The Nigerian center is one of the best shot blockers in the country. I wouldn’t mind seeing Casey put up a dunk like this on Ezeli.

G Will Cherry, Montana

2011-2012 Stats: 16.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.4 apg

Well, first off, Cherry apparently has some great taste in TV and music. According to his online bio, he loves Jersey Shore and Miley Cyrus. He also happens to be a pretty damn good basketball player, probably the second best in the Big Sky conference behind stud Weber State point guard Damian Lillard. The 6’1″ guard leads the Grizzlies in scoring and has posted double-digit in 19 straight games. He’ll put that streak on the line against the stingy defense of Wisconsin.

Cherry’s effective field goal percentage (52.6) jumped six percent from last season. While his two point field goal percentage dropped slightly (.518 in 10-11, .505 in 11-12), he shot much better from behind the three-point line this season. Cherry made .371 percent of his threes this season, compared to the paltry .225 percent he made as a sophomore.

G Matt Dickey, UNC Asheville

2011-2012 Stats: 16.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.6 apg

Dickey, the Big South’s player of the year, is a highly efficient guard. He posted an offensive rating of 120.5 (77th in the nation) and a true shooting percentage of 63.9 (35th in the nation). Dickey is effective in getting to the free throw line, drawing 5.7 fouls per 40 minutes this season. He also happens to be one of the best free throw shooters in the country. The native Alabaman made 86.5 percent of his 208 attempts on the year.

If Dickey and the Bulldogs pull off a monumental 16-over-1 upset of Syracuse, I hope it ends on a play like this.

PF Andrew Nicholson, St. Bonaventure

2011-2012 Stats: 18.4 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 2.0 bpg

Nicholson is a high percentage scorer, strong rebounder and adept shot blocker. He led the Atlantic-10 in scoring (18.4 ppg) and ranks in the top 50 nationally in both effective field goal percentage (60.2) and true shooting percentage (64.0). Nicholson rebounds well on both sides of the court, grabbing 11 percent of available boards on offense, and 23 percent on defense. His block percentage of 7.73 was the 77th best mark in the nation.

Nicholson showed off all his skills in the A-10 tourney final, posting 26 points, 14 rebounds and eight blocks as the Bonnies knocked off Xavier. The native Canadian’s strong performance down the stretch elevated his NBA draft prospects. DraftExpress has the 6’9″ forward ranked as the No. 6 senior, and projects him as an early second round pick in this year’s draft. The highly-skilled, and intelligent (Physics major), big man might sneak in to the late first round. Scouts will be very interested to see how Nicholson performs against Florida State’s trio of trees (6’10” Bernard James, 6’11” Xavier Gibson and 7’0″ Jon Kreft).

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NCAA Tournament: Ray McCallum and D.J. Cooper Headline The Mid-Major Stars Worth Watching In The Midwest

Ray McCallum and Detroit are a very dangerous 15 seed. Beware Bill Self.

MIDWEST

PG D.J. Cooper, Ohio

2011-2012 Stats: 14.6 ppg, 5.7 apg, 3.8 rpg

Michigan beware—Cooper and the Bobcats are no strangers to the NCAA Tournament. As a freshman, Cooper put up 23 points (5-8 three-point shooting) and eight assists as the Bobcats trounced No. 3 seed Georgetown 97-83. The diminutive point guard doesn’t shoot a high percentage (43.0 effective field goal percentage), but he’s an adept ball handler and floor general. Cooper’s assist rate (37.3) is twice as high as high turnover rate (18.1).  The native Chicagoan (attended Seton Academy) is also pesky on defense, ranking 17th in the nation in steal percentage (4.4). There’s a well-done mini-documentary on Cooper on YouTube, check it out.

PG Kerron Johnson, Belmont

2011-2012 Stats: 14.1 ppg, 5.2 apg, 3.1 rpg

The Bruins’ point guard was once named Alabama’s Mr. Basketball over current NBA players DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe. Johnson is now staring in the Atlantic Sun conference, where he leads Belmont in points and assists. The 6’1″ junior is a highly efficient floor general, his offensive rating of 121.1 ranks 66th in the nation and his assist rate (33.6) ranks 47th. Johnson has shot over 60 percent on his two-point field goal attempts this season, and his true shooting percentage of 63.1 is the 48th best mark in the country. However, he’s made just 32 percent of his three-point attempts. Johnson led the nation in steal percentage (6.3) as a sophomore, but he registered steals on just 2.9 percent of possessions this season (278th in the nation).

Johnson put up 13 points, four assists, three rebounds and two steals in the Bruins’ first round loss to Wisconsin in last year’s NCAA Tournament. I think Belmont will upset Georgetown and N.C. State on their way to the Sweet 16 in this year’s tournament.

PG Ray McCallum, Detroit

2011-2012 Stats: 15.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.9 apg

McCallum turned down offers from UCLA, Arizona and Florida to play for his dad, Ray Sr., at Detroit. His commitment paid off as the Titans are in the Big Dance for the first time since 1999. The sophomore stepped up his game in the Horizon tournament, averaging 23 points (.631 FG%), five assists and five rebounds as the Titans knocked off Youngstown State, Cleveland State and host Valparaiso.

The 6’2″ point guard shot a high percentage on twos (.556) but struggled from behind the arc this season, making just 30 of his 120 three-point attempts (.250 percent).

DraftExpress ranks McCallum 21st among sophomores, and projects him as a late first round pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. It’s rare to see a 15-seed have a former top-50 recruit and projected first round pick leading their squad, so Kansas can’t take the Titans lightly. McCallum and Indiana transfer Eli Holman (10.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.4 bpg) could give the Jayhawks some trouble Friday night.

Bucknell, Bradley, Northern Iowa, VCU . . . Detroit?

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NCAA Tournament: C.J. McCollum and Nate Wolters Headline The Mid-Major Stars Worth Watching In The South

Lehigh’s C.J. McCollum could exploit a shoddy Duke defense in the first found.

SOUTH 

SG C.J. McCollum, Lehigh

2011- 2012 Stats: 21.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 3.5 apg, 2.1 spg

McCollum put up one hell of a stat line this season, and he’ll be out to prove it was more than just a product of playing in the weak Patriot League. Duke has had trouble on defense all season, so McCollum may be able to go wild in Greensboro. Can anyone on Duke stay in front of quick-footed McCollum? The junior guard put up 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists against the strong defense of Michigan State earlier this season (the Mountain Hawks lost by nine in a competitive game in East Lansing).

Besides his great scoring ability (21.9 ppg, sixth in the nation), McCollum has a solid assist-to-turnover ratio and is an impressive rebounder for his size. His assist rate (25.3) is twice as high as his turnover rate (12.2), and the 6’3″ guard has grabbed 17.7 percent of the available boards on defense. McCollum also draws a lot of fouls (6.3 per 40 minutes; 224 FT attempts) and converts once at the line (.821 FT%). The Ohio native has caught the eyes of NBA scouts. DraftExpress currently ranks McCollum as the 34th best junior prospect, and projects him to be a late second round pick in 2013.

F Wendell McKines, New Mexico State

2011-2012 Stats: 18.8 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 1.6 apg

McKines, an explosive 6’6″ power forward, is one of the best rebounders (and dunkers) in the country. The senior has grabbed 11.5 percent of available boards on offense and 24.4 percent on defense (36th in the nation). McKines, New Mexico State’s leading scorer and rebounder, has posted 14 doubles-doubles this season. He’s fresh off a dominating 27 point, 14 rebound performance against Lousiana Tech in the WAC title game.

The Aggies, the No. 4 offensive rebounding team in the nation, will take on Indiana in the round of 64. The Hooiser rank just 117th in defensive rebounding, so watch for McKines and the Aggies to cash in on some second opportunities.

PG Nate Wolters, South Dakota State

2011-2012 Stats: 21.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 6.0 apg

Wolters is a stat-stuffer, he leads the Jackrabbits in points, rebounds and assists. The do-it-all point guard owns an outstanding assist-to-turnover ratio—his assist rate (37.6) is more than three times his turnover rate (11.0). Wolters has had success against high-majors this year, he put up 34 points, seven assists and five rebounds when the Jackrabbits beat Pac-12 champ Washington in December (Highlights here). Like McCollum, Wolters is garnering attention from NBA scouts. DraftExpress ranks the 6’4″ point guard 29th among juniors, and projects him as a late second round pick in 2013.

Hat-tip to CBSSports’ Matt Norlander for turning me on to Wolters a couple months ago. #NatersGonnaNate.

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