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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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Snakes In The Weeds: 5 Teams Better Than Their NCAA Tournament Seeds

Forward Will Barton is one of five stud sophomores on Memphis.

When you’re filling out your NCAA tournament brackets this week, don’t be deceived by these five teams. They are the snakes lurking in the weeds, waiting to poison any chance you have at winning your pool. These teams are all much better than their seeds would suggest and each has a legitimate chance of making some noise in the coming weeks.

Memphis (26-8) – 8-Seed in the West Region

Computer Ranks: 9th (KenPom), 12th (Sagarin)

The Tigers have been on cruise control lately. Memphis has won seven straight, each by double digits with an average margin of victory of 22.7. Most recently, the Tigers dominated the Conference-USA tournament, beating Central Florida by 31 in the semifinals before trouncing Marshall by 26 in the final.

Memphis is one of just ten teams to enter the NCAA Tournament with a top 25 offense and defense, according to KenPom. The Tigers currently have the 19th ranked offense and the 13th ranked defense. Memphis’ profile is very similar to the average Final Four team of the last nine years. Since 2003, the average offensive rank of a Final Four team is 13.89 and the average defensive rank is 17.44.

Memphis is led by sophomore Will Barton (18.1 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 3.0 apg), who is having an All-America type season. The 6-5 forward leads the Tigers in points and rebounds and has an offensive rating of 116.1 (24th in the nation).

Forward Tarik Black (10.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg, .686 FG%) is one of the most efficient scorers in the country. He ranks second in the nation in effective field goal percentage (68.6) and fifth in true shooting percentage (67.3).

The Tigers also have two solid ball distributors. Guards Joe Jackson (11.1 ppg, 3.8 apg, 1.3 spg) and Chris Crawford (9.3 ppg, 3.9 apg, 3.1 rpg) both have assist rates over 25.0.

TOURNAMENT OUTLOOK:

Ouch, the Tigers got the shaft from the committee. Not only did Memphis receive an 8-seed, they also drew St. Louis in the first round. Like Memphis, the Billikens are much better than their seed would suggest, they are a top-20 team in both the KenPom and Sagarin rankings.

If the Tigers can get past St. Louis, they’ll get No. 1 seed Michigan State in a match-up of top-15 teams. Rebounding may be the Tigers’ downfall against Tom Izzo’s squad. Memphis has not rebounded well this year, they rank 232nd in offensive rebounding and 173rd in defensive rebounding. The Spartans on the other hand rank 25th in both offensive and defensive rebounding.

7-footer Garrett Stutz will pose match-up problems for opposing teams.

Wichita State (27-5) – 5-Seed in the South Region

Computer Ranks: 10th (KenPom), 10th (Sagarin)

I wrote gushingly about Wichita State a couple weeks ago, and my opinion hasn’t changed. The Shockers are one of the ten best teams in the country and are a serious threat to go far in the NCAA Tournament.

The Shockers had won 17 of their previous 18 games (the one loss was in triple overtime at Drake) before losing to Illinois State in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley Conference tournament. They had also won seven straight games by 13 points or more.

Like Memphis, Wichita State is one of ten teams in the nation to have both a top 25 offense and defense. The Shockers rank ninth in offensive efficiency and 18th in defensive efficiency.

Wichita’s success on offense can be explained by their high shooting percentages and their ability to take care of the ball. The Shockers rank 14th in two-point field goal percentage, 60th in three-point field goal percentage, 13th in effective field goal percentage and 47th in turnover percentage. The Shockers have excelled on defense by allowing a low field goal percentage (23rd in effective field goal percentage allowed) and few second chances (sixth in offensive rebounding percentage allowed). Their defense has been superb without forcing a high percentage of turnovers (18.6 percent, 259th in the country).

According to KenPom, the Shockers are the third most experienced team in the nation and second most experienced team in the NCAA Tournament (behind Pat Knight’s awful, horrible group of seniors at Lamar). Of the Shockers’ main rotation of seven, five players are seniors and two are juniors.

While Wichita hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2006 – before any of their current members were on the team – the Shockers won the NIT last season. In my eyes, the squad gained more tourney experience from that run to Madison Square Garden than they would have from a loss in the first round of the NCAAs.

Led by seniors Joe Ragland and Toure’ Murry, the Shockers have the type of backcourt that long tournament runs are made of. The sharp-shooting Ragland has been one of the best, most-efficient guards in the nation this season. The senior has an effective field goal percentage of 67.0 (third in the nation), a true shooting percentage of 70.4 (first in the nation) and an offensive rating of 128.7 (ninth in the nation). In comparison, sweet-shooting Steph Curry had a 60.7 effective field goal percentage and 64.0 true shooting percentage in 2008, the year he took Davidson to the elite eight.

The Shockers also have a solid interior presence, led by 7-footer Garrett Stutz. As mentioned earlier, Wichita allows very few second chances on defense, ranking ninth in the country in offensive rebounding percentage allowed. A lot of that can be attributed to the strong defensive rebounding ability of Stutz. The senior center has a defensive rebound percentage of 27.0, which ranks 14th in the nation. Stutz also does a nice job on the offensive glass, grabbing 9.8 percent of his offensive rebounding opportunities. Stutz also uses his size to take a good number of high-percentage shots and he converts on them, posting an effective field goal percentage of 57.3 and a true shooting percentage of 61.9.

TOURNAMENT OUTLOOK:

The Shockers didn’t get any favors from the committee either. Wichita State will face a pesky VCU squad in the first round. After their success last season, I expect the Rams to be a popular 12-5 upset pick, but I think the Shockers will hold their own. VCU likes to bring havoc on defense and they force the most turnovers in the nation. However, I think the Shockers have the type of guards in Ragland, Murry and Demetric Williams to be able to take the Rams’ pressure in stride.

The Shockers would then be staring down match-ups with Indiana and Kentucky. It won’t be easy, but I still think Wichita State can hang with any team in the country, so I won’t count out a deep run by the Shockers. Ken Pomeroy gives the Shockers a 17.8 percent chance to reach the Elite Eight and a 11.8 percent chance to reach the Final Four.

Drew Gordon (32) is one of the best defensive rebounders in the country.

New Mexico (27-6) – 5-Seed in the West Region

Computer Rankings: 13th (KenPom), 17th (Sagarin)

The Lobos, champions of the Mountain West Conference tournament, have never gotten the respect they deserve this season. Despite ranking highly in the computer polls all year, the coaches and AP voters have been reluctant to include New Mexico in their rankings. The Lobos were unranked in both polls last week, but no one should be caught off guard if New Mexico wins a few games in the NCAA Tournament.

The Lobos are currently No. 13 in the KenPom rankings and their strength all year has been on defense. The Lobos rank 13th in adjusted defensive efficiency and 39th in adjusted offensive efficiency. New Mexico has done a great job on defense, but their success has not been highly reliant on forcing turnovers. Just 21.3 percent of their defensive possessions have ended with a turnover, the 119th highest mark in the nation. As Luke Winn examined, this could be a good sign for the Lobos. High seeds whose defensive success is heavily reliant on forcing turnovers tend not to have the same success in the NCAA Tournament.

The Lobos ranked 24th in defensive rebounding, allowing opposing offenses to grab just 27.3 percent of available boards. Forward Drew Gordon (13.4 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 1.2 apg) is a beast on the defensive glass. He grabbed 29.0 percent of available boards on defense this season, the fourth best mark in the nation.

On offense, 64.8 percent of the Lobos’ made baskets were assisted on, the third highest rate in the country. New Mexico had four players — Demetrius Walker, Kendall Williams, Jamal Fenton and Hugh Greenwood- who had an assist rate of 20.0 or more.

TOURNAMENT OUTLOOK:

Like VCU, I believe Long Beach State will be a popular 12 over 5 upset pick. However, New Mexico is a really tough match-up for the 49ers, and I think the Lobos have a very good chance of knocking off Long Beach State and Louisville. That would set up a great Sweet 16 game between New Mexico and Michigan State, two of the best defensive rebounding teams in the country. A showdown between seniors Drew Gordon and Draymond Green would be highly enjoyable.

Erving Walker is part of the Gators’ talented trio of guards.

Florida (23-10) – 7-seed in the West Region

Computer Rankings: 19th (KenPom), 17th (Sagarin)

I have been down on Florida all season, but I can’t deny that the Gators are a dangerous, talented 7-seed. On the surface, the Gators are very similar to 2-seed Mizzou, but with worse defense, less success and perhaps more talent (Florida has two projected first round picks in Bradley Beal and Patric Young). Unlike the other teams on this list, I’m not arguing that the Gators should have received a higher seed. Florida had a disappointing season, losing 10 games including four of their last five and six of their last 10.

According to KenPom, Florida has the third most efficient offense in the country. The Gators shoot a high percentage (54.8 effective field goal percentage, 8th in the nation) and take good care of the ball (16.6 turnover percentage, 14th in the nation). The Gators boast a trio of highly-efficient guards in Kenny Boynton (16.3 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.5 apg), Erving Walker (12.1 ppg, 2.8rapg, 4.7 apg) and Bradley Beal (14.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.2 apg). Each has an offensive rating higher than 110.

Florida relies heavily on their three-point shooting as 39.1 percent of their points this season came from three-pointers, the third highest mark in the nation. Luckily, the Gators were a good three-point shooting team, hitting on .390 percent of their attempts, 19th best in the country. The Gators have four players who attempted 120 or more three-point shots this season: Boynton (246), Walker (175), Beal (167) and Erik Murphy (120). Two Gators, Boynton (.427) and Murphy (.442) had three-point field goal percentages above .400.

Unfortunately for the Gators, they rank 119th in defensive efficiency. Florida allows opponents to shoot a high percentage (48.9 effective field goal percentage, 176th in the nation), especially from behind the three-point line where teams have shot .356 percent this season. Florida also ranks 188th in turnover creation and 132nd in defensive rebounding.

TOURNAMENT OUTLOOK:

Florida’s first round match-up with Virginia will be an interesting clash of styles. The Cavaliers are a basically a mirror-image of the Gators, boasting the fifth ranked defense and the 106th ranked offense. Virginia has done an excellent job defending the three-point line, allowing opponents to shoot just .295 on three-point attempts (13th best in the nation). The Gators will have to rely less on the three-pointer, so Patric Young (10.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.2 apg) will have to have a big day if the Gators are to advance to the round of 32.

Kerron Johnson’s Belmont Bruins are not your typical 14-seed.

Belmont (27-7) – 14-seed in the Midwest Region

Computer Rankings: 23rd (KenPom), 33rd (Sagarin)

After losing to Wisconsin in the first round of last year’s tournament, Belmont is back for more. The Bruins are in the tournament for the fifth time since 2006 and are looking to notch a victory for the first time. This could definitely be their year.

The Bruins, winners of 14 straight, are one the strongest 14 seeds in recent memory. They’re ranked No. 23 by KenPom, which equates to being a 5-seed. That’s rough news for Georgetown, a team that has lost to 10-seed Davidson, 14-seed Ohio and 11-seed VCU in their last three tournament appearances.

The Bruins are deep and experienced. Eight players average at least 13 minutes of action per game, and all eight of those players saw time in the last year’s NCAA Tournament game.

Belmont also has a highly efficient offense. The Bruins rank 13th in offensive efficiency overall and four players have an offensive rating higher than 115.0. The Bruins shoot a very high percentage (55.7 effective field goal percentage, fifth in the nation) and turn the ball over at a low rate (17.6 turnover percentage, 35th in the nation).

The Bruins are led by junior Kerron Johnson (14.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 5.2 apg). The 6-1 guard has a superb offensive rating of 121.0 and leads the team in both scoring and assists. Johnson’s assist rate of 33.6 is the 47th best mark in the country.

Senior Drew Hanlen (10.9 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 3.8 apg) is one of the sharpest shooters in the country. Hanlen ranks ninth in effective field goal percentage (65.1) and 14th in true shooting percentage (66.3). The 5-11 guard is a deadly three-point shooter, he connected on .481 percent of his attempts behind the arc this season.

Senior Scott Saunders (10.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg) , the team’s sixth man, is the best rebounder on the Bruins. Saunders grabbed 10.4 percent of available boards on offense, and 22.8 percent on defense. The 6-10 forward also averaged 10.2 points per game in just 17 minutes of action.

TOURNAMENT OUTLOOK:

I think the Bruins have a pretty good chance of knocking off the Hoyas. Even though Georgetown has been vulnerable to early round defeats, I think my previous statement says more about Belmont than it does the Hoyas. Belmont is a highly skilled team, much better than a typical 14 seed. I don’t think too highly of San Diego State or NC State, so I think the Bruins actually have a pretty good shot of reaching the Sweet 16 in St. Louis. Experience and strong guard play goes a long way in the NCAA Tournament, and Belmont has both.

As always, all tempo-free stats came from KenPom. All other stats came from ESPN.

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It’s All About the Brow: Anthony Davis Sweeps the SEC Awards

Freshmen Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist both made the all-SEC first team.

FIRST TEAM

F Anthony Davis, Kentucky: 14.4 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 4.7 bpg

Anthony Davis was outstanding this season. The native Chicagoan is going to rack up a lot of awards and honors in the next few months: first team All-America, National Player of the Year, National Unibrow of the Year, No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, etc.. More on Davis later.

F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky: 11.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.1 apg

Kidd-Gilchrist might be the second best freshman in the country, but he also happens to be the second best freshman on No.1 Kentucky. As outstanding as Anthony Davis has been, Kidd-Gilchrist has been great in his own right. The future top-five pick is an all-around stud with one hell of a motor. Kidd-Gilchrist’s offensive rating of 111.o ranked eighth among SEC players who used at least 20 percent of their team’s possessions. The 6-7 forward also ranked among the SEC’s top 25 in effective field goal percentage (49.8), true shooting percentage (56.0), offensive rebounding percentage (10.3), defensive rebounding percentage (17.3) and block percentage (3.3).

G John Jenkins, Vanderbilt: 20.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.1 apg

The sharp-shooting junior was one of the most efficient offensive players in the country. Jenkins’ offensive rating of 127.3 ranked first in the SEC and fifth in the country among players who used at least 20 percent of their team’s possessions. The 6-4 guard was one of the best shooters in the SEC and the entire country. Jenkins led the SEC in points per game (20.2) while ranking second (behind Anthony Davis) in effective field goal percentage (63.8) and true shooting percentage (67.0). He also ranked eighth in the nation in effective field goal percentage and 12th in true shooting percentage. Jenkins shot a blistering .461 percent from behind the arc (third in the SEC), and led the conference in three-pointers made (118). He also was second in the SEC in free throw percentage (.849).

G Jeffery Taylor, Vanderbilt: 17.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.8 apg

Taylor teamed up with teammate John Jenkins to form one of the sharpest-shooting duos in the country. Taylor, the SEC’s second leading scoring (17.1), ranked sixth in effective field goal percentage (59.2) and ninth in true shooting percentage (60.2). Taylor shot .451 percent from three, the fourth highest mark in the SEC. His offensive rating of 114.5 was best among the 14 SEC players who used at least 24 percent of their team’s possessions.

G Kenny Boynton, Florida: 16.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.5 apg

Boynton was the most-efficient guard in the Gators’ crowded, talented backcourt. The 6-2 junior ranked second in the SEC and 29th in the nation in offensive rating (125.2) among players who used at least 20 percent of their team’s possessions. Boynton is an accomplished scorer. He was the fourth leading scorer in the SEC (16. 8 ppg) and ranked fifth in both effective field goal percentage (59.9) and true shooting percentage (62.2). He also ranked fourth in three-point percentage (.434) and second in three-pointers made (102).

Gators Brad Beal and Erving Walker both made the all-SEC second team.

SECOND TEAM

F Terrence Jones, Kentucky: 12.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.9 bpg

F Arnett Moultrie, Mississippi State: 16.1 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 1.1 apg

G Bradley Beal, Florida: 14.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.0 apg

G Erving Walker, Florida: 12.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 4.7 apg

G B.J. Young, Arkansas: 15.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.3 apg

Trae Golden is one of two Volunteers on the all-SEC third team.

THIRD TEAM

F Patric Young, Florida: 10.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.2 apg

F Jeronne Maymon, Tennessee: 12.6 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 1.2 apg

G Dee Bost, Mississippi State: 15.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 5.3 apg

G Trae Golden, Tennessee: 13.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 4.5 apg

G Doron Lamb, Kentucky: 13.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.7 apg

AWARDS

Never shave it, Anthony.

Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year: Anthony Davis, Kentucky

Um, Anthony Davis is pretty good at basketball. Let’s start on offense. Davis’ offensive rating of 138.1 was No. 1 in the SEC and No. 2 in the nation. He was first in the SEC and fourth in the nation in effective field goal percentage (66.7), and first in the SEC and fifth in the nation in true shooting percentage (68.4). The 6-10 freshman also ranked ninth in the conference in offensive rebounding percentage (11.7), first in turnover rate (9.3) and sixth in free throw rate (55.4). On defense, no player impacted the game like the unibrowed Chicagoan. He was the best shot blocker in the country, ranking first in blocks per game (4.7) and third in block percentage (14.7). He also averaged 1.4 steals per game and ranked 14th in the SEC in steal percentage (2.7). Say what you want about the one-and-done rule, but it’s been a ton of fun watching Davis play at the college level this season.

I’ll use any excuse I can to get more Derrick Rose on this blog.

Coach of the Year: John Calipari, Kentucky

Yes, John Calipari is coaching the most talented team in the country, but if your team goes a perfect 16-0 in conference play, you’re going to win coach of the year in that conference every time. Calipari has led the young and immensely talented Wildcats to 30 wins and a No. 1 ranking.

As always, all stats come from Ken Pomeroy’s amazing website.

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Yes, the Pac-12 did play this season: Handing Out Awards in the Pac-12

Aussie Brock Motum was one of the Pac-12’s best players this season.

First off, let me admit that I watched a small amount of Pac-12 basketball this season. There are a couple reasons for this. One, not many Pac-12 games are on TV in the Midwest. And two, I haven’t been very motivated to seek out Pac-12 basketball, it’s been pretty mediocre this season. So, for good or bad, my picks are based mostly on tempo-free stats.

Having not watched Pac-12 basketball this season, I was surprised to see that Cal’s Jorge Gutierrez was named the conference’s Player of the Year. I put Gutierrez on my second team. I know those type of awards usually go to a player on the best or second-best team in the conference, but I thought Cal teammate Allen Crabbe, and maybe even Justin Cobbs, was better statistically than Gutierrez. On to the awards:

FIRST TEAM

F Brock Motum, Washington State: 18.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.7 apg

The junior forward was highly featured in the Cougars offense. He ranked eighth in the Pac-12 in minutes played (80.6), fourth in possession percentage (28.8) and second in shot percentage (29.0). Of the four Pac-12 players who used at least 28 percent of their team’s possessions, Motum had the highest offensive rating (108.2). The native Australian was an efficient shooter, ranking fifth in effective field goal percentage (58.6) and third in true shooting percentage (61.8).

F Andre Roberson, Colorado: 11.1 ppg, 11.2 rpg, 1.9 bpg

Roberson was one of the best rebounders in the nation this season. His 11.2 rebounds per game ranked first in the Pac-12 and fourth in the nation. The sophomore grabbed 30.4 percent of available boards on defense, the best mark in the Pac-12 and second best in the entire country. His offensive rebounding percentage of 13.4 was good for third in the Pac-12. Roberson also ranked first in the conference in blocks per game (1.9) and fourth in block percentage (7.1).

G Terrence Ross, Washington: 15.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.3 spg

The talented Ross was the best player on the Pac-12’s best team. More on him later.

G Jared Cunningham, Oregon State: 18.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.6 apg

Cunningham was the Pac-12’s leading scorer in 2012, edging out Motum by .1 points. The junior guard also led the Pac-12 in steals per game (2.6) and steal percentage (4.2). His steal percentage was the 27th best in the nation. Cunningham was effective getting to the free throw line, ranking third in the Pac-12 in free throw rate (64.9) and fouls drawn per 40 minutes (6.6). He shot .755 percent from the charity stripe.

G Devoe Joseph, Oregon: 16.8 ppg, 3.7 apg, 2.9 apg

The former Golden Gopher had a solid senior season for the bubblicious Oregon Ducks. The 6-4 guard was highly efficient, ranking third in offensive rating (118.1) among Pac-12 players who used at least 20 percent of their team’s possessions. Joseph was third in the Pac-12 in points per game (16.8), sixth in effective field goal percentage (58.1) and fourth in true shooting percentage (61.4). His turnover rate of 15.4 ranked third among Pac-12 point guards.

Jorge Gutierrez is one of two Cal guards on the second team.

SECOND TEAM

F Solomon Hill, Arizona: 12.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.7 apg

F E.J. Singler, Oregon: 13.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.2 apg

G Jorge Gutierrez, Cal: 12.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.0 apg

G Allen Crabbe, Cal: 15.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.1 apg

G Kyle Fogg, Arizona: 13.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.3 apg

Sophomore Devon Collier was highly efficient for the Beavers.

THIRD TEAM

F Devon Collier, Oregon State: 12.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.3 bpg

F Josh Owens, Stanford: 12.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.0 spg

G Justin Cobbs, Cal: 12.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 5.1 apg

G Tony Wroten, Washington: 16.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.7 apg

G C.J. Wilcox, Washington: 13.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.1 apg

AWARDS

Sophomore Terrence Ross won an uninspiring race for Pac-12 Player of the Year.

Player of the Year: Terrence Ross, Washington

Honestly, I had no idea who to pick for this award.  There were more than a few Pac-12 players who had very solid seasons, but nobody had an all-around, eye-popping campaign. In a situation like this, I feel the safest pick is the best player on the best team. So, I went with Washington’s Terrence Ross.  The sophomore didn’t even lead the Huskies in points, rebounds or assists, but I felt he was their best and most talented player. Ross ranked sixth in the Pac-12 in points per game (15.3) and fifth in rebounds (6.6). He also ranked among the Pac-12’s top 25 players in offensive rating (108.8), effective field goal percentage (52.6), defensive rebounding percentage (17.8), turnover rate (16.5), block percentage (3.0) and steal percentage (2.3). Ross didn’t do a whole lot to separate himself from the pack, except for being on the regular season champion. Solid cases could be made for Brock Motum, Jared Cunningham, Jorge Gutierrez, Allen Crabbe or Devoe Joseph.

Tony Wroten was solid this year, but definitely has room for improvement.

Freshman of the Year: Tony Wroten, Washington

I might have been a little harsh on Wroten by putting him on the third team. On the surface, his per games averages of 16.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.0 steals look great, especially considering he’s a freshman. Wroten had a huge impact on the court – he used 33 percent of the Huskies’ possessions, the eighth highest mark in the country. A closer examination of Wroten’s numbers shows some holes in his resume. Wroten was inefficient and prone to turnovers.  He ranked 60th in offensive rating (95.0) and 56th in turnover rate (22.0) out of the 75 Pac-12 players who played at least 40 percent of their team’s minutes. Wroten ranked 39th in effective field goal percentage (46.1) and true shooting percentage (49.3) out of the 45 Pac-12 players who played at least 60 percent of their team’s minutes. The freshman shot a dismal .184 percent from behind the three-point line (49 attempts). Wroten was effective in getting to the free throw line – he was second in the Pac-12 in fouls drawn per 40 minutes (7.0) – but he shot just .575 from the charity strip.

Andre Roberson was the second best defensive rebounder in the nation.

Defensive Player of the Year: Andre Roberson, Colorado

The sophomore big man led the Pac-12 in rebounds and blocked shots per game. He grabbed 30.4 percent of available boards on defense, the best mark in the Pac-12 and second best in the entire country. Roberson ranked fourth in the Pac-12 in block percentage (7.1).

Tad Boyle’s Buffaloes finished fifth in the Pac-12 this year.

Coach of the Year: Tad Boyle, Colorado

Colorado was picked 10th in the preseason Pac-12 media poll after losing Alec Burks and Cory Higgins to the NBA.  However, Boyle was able to lead the Buffaloes to a 11-7 conference record and a fifth place finish. Colorado is 19-11 and probably headed for the NIT.

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