College Basketball Nation: Big Ten
Not in Indiana. On Thursday, Fred Glass was fully be-girded.
“I think if people are willing to look at this, they'll see it as really terrific and appropriate naming," Glass said. "Not everybody will, and I get that. But my responsibility is to be a good steward of the department.”
Glass was speaking, of course, about the big news out of Bloomington, Ind., on Thursday, when the school announced that philanthropist (and heir to Simon Malls, the nation’s largest mall company) Cindy Simon Skjodt had donated $40 million, the most immense sum in the history of IU athletics, to pay for renovations to Assembly Hall.
(Let’s leave aside, for the moment, the entire logistical and philosophical questions of university spending on facilities and salaries in lieu of salaries for revenue-generating players, because that is a rabbit hole we already spend far too much time burrowed in. Moving on.)
There are a half-dozen reasons why this is a good thing: Assembly Hall is 42 years old. Amid renovations to Memorial Stadium and the introduction of Cook, the university has internally debated the merits of renovation against a more expensive, long-term construction project. Glass has been steadfast in his determination to keep Assembly Hall around; the problem was getting enough money to renovate it. In Simon Skjodt, he has done so: The $40 million will pay for all (or nearly all) of Indiana’s planned renovations, including luxury seating, jumbotron installation, entryway and restroom refreshes and escalators in the place of some of the building’s notorious balcony stairwells. That all of this might be accomplished without public funds — or further stress on a football-agnostic athletic department’s budget — is a legitimate win.
But, of course, the price of that donation was a slight tweak to Assembly Hall’s name. Glass knew it might not go over before he even had a chance to announce it. And he was right:
“Give um back the money I don't have a problem with the bathrooms” … “what a shame! ... sell outs--no one will accept that name!” … “Donation or not, if truly cared about IU's traditions it wouldn't be so important to have your name on the building. It's self aggrandizing and prideful.” … “Why not donate and keep your name OFF the building? What a narcissistic stab in the gut to the tradition of IU BB. I need it to have my name on it so everyone knows that I'm so amazing and generous.”
To be fair, this is just a minor sample of the debate going on in the comments of Inside the Hall’s (otherwise incredibly positive) renaming post; there are just as many commenters unbothered by the change. But that is the dynamic Glass was preparing for in his announcement, when he stressed the deep ties to Indiana basketball Simon Skjodt and her family share:
“Cindy's one of us," Glass said. "She went to games as a little girl with her dad. She was a student here. She's been a season-ticket holder. She's from one of the most philanthropic and sports-minded families in the state of Indiana.
“I don’t think it’s too much of an overstatement to say (Simon Skjodt is) saving Assembly Hall for Indiana University,” Glass said. “I think it’s incredibly appropriate that this terrific arena is going to be graced by the name of someone who is in many ways every Hoosier, every member of Hoosier Nation.”
Glass is right about that, too. Without Simon Skjodt, Assembly Hall could have decayed to the point that a $40 million renovation wouldn’t cut it, to the eventual point that it would make more sense to just build a new building and be done with it. Or, perhaps, Indiana could have sought out a partnership like Illinois, turning its arena (now the “State Farm Center”) into one more generically leveraged corporate branding module. How violated would the Indiana traditionalists feel then?
No, sorry, this is the real world. And in the real world, massive facilities upgrades cost money, same as any other building on the campus, and sometimes the people willing to make those donations like to get just a little something — their name — in return. Don’t like it? Leave off college sports. It’s a business. Don’t pretend it’s not.
Also, no one calls the Willis Tower “Willis Tower.” Call it what you want. Sheesh.
We’re a long way from March. So I’m sure I’ll miss a bunch.
But in last week’s picks, I was accurate on every game except Iowa-Iowa State. That Cyclones-Hawkeyes matchup was one of the best games of the season. Great finish between a pair of talented teams.
This weekend’s slate is stacked, too.
Last week: 4-1
No. 7 Oklahoma State vs. No. 20 Colorado (Las Vegas), 11:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2: Colorado has already upset one Big 12 contender (Kansas). Will Oklahoma State be next? Well, maybe. Colorado hasn’t lost since suffering its season-opening 72-60 loss to Baylor and have knocked off Harvard and Kansas during this 10-game winning streak. But Oklahoma State will be a different test for Colorado. Marcus Smart, Markel Brown, Le’Bryan Nash and Co. can’t match the size of a team that’s fourth in offensive rebounding percentage per Ken Pomeroy, but Oklahoma State’s speed, athleticism and sheer star-power will push Colorado’s bigs out of their comfort zones. It’d be easier to believe in Colorado’s chances to win what I expect to be a tight game if it weren’t one of the Pac-12’s worst 3-point shooting teams (32 percent).
Prediction: Oklahoma State 80, Colorado 76
No. 5 Michigan State at Texas, 4 p.m. ET, CBS: The Spartans picked a bad time to play the Longhorns in Austin. Rick Barnes’ squad is filled with confidence after upsetting North Carolina in Chapel Hill -- in Chapel Hill?!? -- on Wednesday night. Barnes’ team was projected to finish at the bottom of the Big 12 standings after losing its top four scorers from last season. But Javan Felix, Demarcus Holland, Jonathan Holmes and Isaiah Taylor comprise a legit unit that anchors, somehow, a Big 12 sleeper. But Michigan State won’t squander the opportunities that North Carolina -- the same North Carolina that beat Michigan State earlier this month -- missed against the Longhorns, although the Spartans are struggling from the free throw line (68.2 percent), too. The Spartans will definitely be ready for the Longhorns on Saturday. One problem, though. Texas will be ready, too.
Prediction: Texas 78, Michigan State 74
Notre Dame vs. No. 3 Ohio State (New York City), 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2: The Fighting Irish began the year as a nationally ranked team. That status made sense with Jerian Grant and some of the key contributors returning from a Notre Dame team that reached the NCAA tournament last season. But Notre Dame’s defensive gaps have been its downfall so far this season (125th in adjusted defensive efficiency). The Fighting Irish, however, were better last week in a win over Indiana in Indianapolis when Yogi Ferrell went 5-for-14, but Ohio State is on another level. The Buckeyes are a defensive force (first in adjusted defensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy) and they possess one of the nation’s most-balanced scoring attacks.
Prediction: Ohio State 73, Notre Dame 63
Georgetown at No. 18 Kansas, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN: When he was a pro wrestler, the Rock (Dwayne Johnson) would say, “Finally, the Rock has come home to …” whenever he’d enter an arena. The Jayhawks probably feel that way entering their first game in Lawrence, Kan., since Nov. 22 (88-58 win over Towson). The roller coaster that they’ve been on for the last month has changed early projections about a team that might boast the top two NBA prospects in next summer’s draft (Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins). It should be a pleasant homecoming. Josh Smith will struggle against Wiggins, Embiid and Perry Ellis inside. And the Hoyas will face a variety of defensive matchup problems against the Jayhawks in their first true road game of the season. Kansas has been criticized for its recent mishaps. But Saturday should be another positive mark for the program.
Prediction: Kansas 69, Georgetown 65
No. 22 UMass vs. Florida State (Sunrise, Fla.), 2 p.m. ET, No TV: The Minutemen continue to fly under the radar, but at this rate, they might be college basketball’s last undefeated team. They’ll be tested in the Atlantic 10, but will face Saint Louis and VCU, their toughest A10 opponents, in Amherst. A favorable schedule is certainly a plus for Derek Kellogg’s squad. But Saturday’s game against Florida State could be its toughest matchup of the year to date. Ian Miller is the star of a strong backcourt. The Seminoles can also play big inside with Okaro White and Boris Bojanovsky. Massachusetts can match that size with Cady Lalanne, Maxie Esho, Raphiael Putney and Sampson Carter. And the Minutemen will push the pace beyond what Florida State experienced in a recent 10-point loss at Minnesota. Chaz Williams, however, has to be calm and careful because turnovers have been an issue all year for the Minutemen. But they’ll maintain their unblemished record. Barely.
Prediction: UMass 76, FSU 74
In 2013-14, like most seasons, that goal seems attainable. The Buckeyes haven’t played a great nonconference schedule, so they’re still a difficult group to accurately judge right now. We’ll know soon enough, though, as they’ll play Michigan State in East Lansing, Mich., on Jan. 7.
The Buckeyes are statistical juggernauts right now. That can’t be ignored, even though their résumé lacks a win against a team that’s currently ranked in the top 25.
The Buckeyes held Marquette to 35 points and have held seven opponents to 60 or less. They’re ranked first in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency rankings.
Louisville was ranked third when it won the national title last season. Kentucky was eighth during its title run in 2012.
The rules have changed, but Ohio State’s ability to constrict offensive flow has not. Aaron Craft, LaQuinton Ross, Shannon Scott and Lenzelle Smith Jr. put a lot of pressure on perimeter players. The Buckeyes are ninth in defensive turnover percentage, per Pomeroy. Former McDonald’s All-American Amir Williams (2.4 BPG) is third in the Big Ten in block percentage.
That’s a dangerous defensive group.
Most of the concerns and questions about Ohio State center on its offense. With Deshaun Thomas gone, scoring by committee is Ohio State’s approach this season, which isn't a bad thing.
Too many teams earn exaggerated praise for scoring in bunches. That doesn’t necessarily suggest that they’re good, though.
Plus, the Buckeyes are a solid offensive team (31st in adjusted offensive efficiency). They’re just anchored by their defense.
Ohio State doesn’t have to win a shootout over the weekend to prove folks wrong, but a victory over the Fighting Irish might be more valuable if Mike Brey’s squad continues to shake its early rust and excel in the ACC.
The Buckeyes don’t need a guy who can score 25 per night to be viewed as a great team. Their defensive approach proves that they are.
They’ve scored 80 or more three times this season, but those tallies came against subpar competition.
Level of competition won't be an issue in the Big Ten. If the Buckeyes continue their defensive prowess, they could end the season at the top of the Big Ten and with a slot in Arlington.
Iowa State's 85-82 victory over Iowa on Friday night was many things.
It was a seminal moment, a truly great game, and a line of demarcation for two basketball programs that haven't had a truly marquee rivalry game since 1987, in a state that really does love basketball -- if you give it a little nudge.
Iowa State 85, Iowa 82 was also a thrilling, high-speed affair. It was 40 minutes of sheer, evenly matched entertainment. It was a clear indication that, in their twin streaks to national prominence, both the Cyclones and the Hawkeyes have not only become good but somehow become have done so at exactly the same time. It was a gigantic vibrating cardinal-and-gold love-in, or a high-decibel world-record attempt, or both.
It was, more than anything, a great win for Iowa State and coach Fred Hoiberg, which is starting to become a habit.
And it was a brutal, heartbreaking, kick-in-the-teeth kind of loss for Iowa -- a glaring, gobstopping missed opportunity for a team that was sure it kicked that tic in 2012-13.
Perhaps the most frustrating part for Iowa fans is the inability to direct frustration. Viewed from a more remote, detached perspective, Friday night's loss was less a breakdown than a very good 40-minute effort in a difficult road environment that came down to 13 seconds and two statistically advantageous circumstances, all of which went Iowa State's way.
Instead, Gesell -- facing a storm of noise at Hilton Coliseum; "You could feel the vibrations in the building again," Hoiberg said -- missed the first. He rimmed out the second.
Iowa still had a chance. After the Cyclones' Dustin Hogue made two foul shots to put the Cyclones up by three, Gesell advanced again. The Hawkeyes ran a pretty simple wing-screen set and got a shockingly open look for guard Zach McCabe. Down three, with overtime on the line, it was the kind of look college basketball teams never, ever get. Iowa got it, and got it for one of the best shooters in the country to date this season -- a 48.5 percent 3-point shooter. McCabe was lined up. He was square. His shot rimmed out, too.
How do you even get mad about that? Where do you direct your anger? The gulf between process and outcome can be vast. Even with Iowa's issues down the stretch in the second half, it got the shots it needed to get to win the game. They didn't go in. What are you going to do?
All of which takes nothing away from Iowa State. The Cyclones trailed for longer during the game than Iowa did, but not by much; in any case, you knew the run would come. That is the chief strength of Hoiberg's program: The Cyclones have become so skilled and versatile on the offensive end that no gap seems too large for them to close before the end of regulation. The ensemble setup also allows them to cover for sudden productivity dips.
Friday was a perfect example. Guard DeAndre Kane, Iowa State's best player to date, shot just 1-of-6 (albeit with nine assists). But Niang and Melvin Ejim combined for 46 points, 7 assists and 9 rebounds. No worries, right? Meanwhile, Hogue -- a junior college transfer grabbing 26.4 percent of available defensive rebounds, and shooting 67 percent inside the arc -- added 16 boards and 12 points. And while all of the Cylcones have slightly different strengths, they are thrillingly non-traditional: Kane is a big, versatile ballhandler who can hold his own in the lane; Ejim is an undersized forward who uses his quickness to his advantage; Hogue might be one of the best rebounders in the country at 6-foot-6; and Niang is one of the quirkiest and most unclassifiable stretch-point-forward players in recent college hoops memory.
The combination works. With a road win at BYU and a home win over Michigan under its belt, Iowa State's win over the Hawkeyes was its third genuinely impressive victory of the season.
Iowa, despite all available evidence of its quality, can not say the same.
Friday night's three-point loss is unlikely to hurt this Iowa team the same way last season's series of close losses did down the stretch. The Hawkeyes were much younger and on the bubble then, fighting a desperate uphill battle against their own soft RPI. This year's team is older, deeper, stronger, and more balanced, especially with the addition of Wisconsin transfer Jarrod Uthoff. Iowa should be fine.
Even so: Iowa's two best chances for nonconference plaudits this season were an overtime loss to Villanova, 88-83, in the Bahamas, and Friday night. The Hawkeyes played good basketball; they are good. But they still missed on both.
So you can excuse Iowa fans if they don't quite feel up to the spirit of the occasion. Iowa State 85, Iowa 82 was a lot of things Friday night, from the basketball to the atmosphere to the symbolism of both programs' recent history. But for Iowa fans, it was another missed opportunity -- another instance of a bad habit everyone involved would be more than happy to correct.
What we're reading as we make our list of preparations for a Friday night spent in front of ESPNU. Hy-Vee Chinese, anyone? Submit links via Twitter.
- This isn't a link, but if you'll allow me … I've written about it already, and been asked about it a bunch this week, both professionally and as a civilian, and I have to say: I can't remember a bigger night for college basketball in the state of Iowa in my lifetime. Sure, the state at large has had some good teams, some great seasons, some fun matchups and some tournament upsets. But I can't remember when both of the state's premier programs, both of which fans openly loathe the other (at least as much as any Iowan can openly loathe anything before retreating into a redoubt of general good cheer) have been this good together. Things usually alternate: A Tom Davis team there, a Tim Floyd era here, a Steve Alford era there. The last half-decade, if not longer, has been depressingly bad for everyone involved. Now, when you throw in the underrated rivalry with the newfound quality of both teams, and mix it with my personal nostalgia for Friday nights spent in basketball gyms in Iowa, you start to get why I'm so irrationally excited for tonight's 9:30 p.m. tip. Now, if I could just some Happy Joe's delivered …
- Black Heart Gold Pants, as good a team-specific blog as there is anywhere, has an immensely insightful scouting report on the Cyclones' and Hawkeyes' collective styles: "Iowa State boasts the nation's top-scoring team, and the formula for getting there has been fairly simple: Dominate the defensive glass, push constantly in transition, and take as many shots as possible. Iowa State is the nation's best defensive rebounding team, pulling down 78 percent of opponent misses. The Cyclones are seventh nationally in tempo (Iowa is 43rd) and run the fifth-shortest possessions in college basketball so far this season (Iowa is third). The tempo statistics belie the fundamental difference between the two teams, a difference that could prove crucial Friday night. Iowa runs in transition and takes extremely fast shots, but forces opponents into long possessions on the other end through the half-court trap and matchup zone: Iowa's opponents spend more time with the basketball per possession than all but six teams nationally, which is the only reason why the Hawkeyes' tempo stat is in the mid-40s. Iowa State has no such qualms about defensive tempo. They play man-to-man defense but don't force many turnovers or commit many fouls, they contest every shot, and they grab every rebound to feed the transition game. It's a simple formula, and it works."
- The formula is hugely reliant on the versatile play of Iowa State guard DeAndre Kane, yet another of the crucial transfer stars that have fueled Iowa State's rebirth under Fred Hoiberg. As CBS's Jeff Borzello wrote this week, Kane's path to Iowa State involved not only a tumultuous, angry, oft-derided career at Marshall, but also, in February of 2012, the sudden death of his father.
- "Cyclone Fanatic's Chris Williams had Iowa State assistant coach, Matt Abdelmassih, on his radio show the other night and Abdelmassih spent a good amount of time raving about how well Iowa pushes the ball up floor … he said this might be a game where Iowa State actually tries to turn it into a half-court battle to limit Iowa's transition opportunities." -- Interesting tidbit from Wide Right and Natty Lite's Cardinal-filtered preview.
- "Dustin Hogue is looking like a juco gem for the Cyclones. The 6-7 forward had a three-star rating from Rivals.com coming out of Indian Hills Community College, where he didn't exactly show signs that he'd be this good in D-I. Hogue averaged 10.5 rebounds per 40 minutes, according to the NJCAA's site. At Iowa State, he's pulled down 14.6 rebounds per 40
and had double-doubles in wins over Auburn (22 points, 16 boards) and Northern Iowa (17 and 14) last week. He's producing at the level of a four- or five-star high school recruit." -- Sports Illustrated's Luke Winn on the surprising success of ISU's Dustin Hogue, just one 16th of the national insight on offer in Luke's weekly power rankings.
It happens. It will continue to happen, I’m sure. I’ll get a few right (maybe) and I’ll miss some. Either way, you all will let me know.
There are a variety of must-see matchups this weekend. Let’s see how many games I can pick correctly in a new round of weekend predictions.
Last week: 3-2
No. 23 Iowa at No. 17 Iowa State, 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU: There will be fireworks in Ames on Friday night. Iowa State averages 91.7 points per game (the NCAA's No. 1 scoring offense) and Iowa averages 89.5 (No. 6). This is only the second time that both teams have been ranked during the rivalry’s history. Both teams can obviously push the tempo. But I think the game will be decided at the 3-point line. Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg’s offense is built on the 3-ball (five Cyclones shoot 38 percent or better from beyond the arc). But Iowa’s 6-foot-6 wing Roy Devyn Marble & Co. have held opponents to a 26 percent clip from the 3-point line this year. I think this will be a tight game. But I expect Iowa’s length, depth and ability to defend the 3-point to be the difference Friday night.
Prediction: Iowa 98, Iowa State 97 (OT)
No. 1 Arizona at Michigan, noon ET, CBS: I think we’ll see the best Michigan performance of the year Saturday. The Wolverines will be home and they’re due for an upset. But it still won’t be enough. This is just a terrible matchup for Michigan. I think there’s definitely a chance the Wolverines could get hot from beyond the arc (38.6 percent). But there are so many mismatches against an Arizona team that’s eighth in offensive rebounding percentage per Ken Pomeroy and boasts (arguably) America’s best frontcourt with Aaron Gordon, Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. The Wildcats have held opponents to just 58.0 PPG and a 27.2 percent mark from the 3-point line. That’s a problem for Michigan, even though it’s hosting Arizona.
Prediction: Arizona 73, Michigan 67
No. 11 Kentucky at No. 18 North Carolina, 5:15 p.m. ET, ESPN: Probably the best game of the weekend. I hope. You really don’t know what you’ll get from North Carolina. The Tar Heels have lost to UAB and Belmont and they’ve defeated Michigan State and Louisville. So recent history suggests that they’ll be ready for Kentucky, which will play its first true road game of the season, because this is another big game. Kentucky’s Julius Randle had eight turnovers in his team’s loss to Michigan State last month. He’s averaging 3.5 TPG. That’s significant because he’s such an offensive catalyst for the Wildcats. And North Carolina has the length to frustrate him and force him into mistakes. Marcus Paige will help the Tar Heels harass Andrew Harrison. North Carolina has already defeated two teams that are playing better basketball than Kentucky is right now. The Tar Heels will get another big win on Saturday in Chapel Hill.
Prediction: North Carolina 81, Kentucky 78
Tennessee at No. 12 Wichita State, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN2: Last season, the Vols topped the Shockers 69-60 in Knoxville. But Tennessee has struggled in the first few weeks of the 2013-14 season. Cuonzo Martin has utilized some young players and re-inserted Jeronne Maymon into his rotation after the forward missed last season with a knee injury. The Vols have won three in a row and Maymon is gradually regaining his pre-injury form (15-for-20 in his last three games). But Wichita State is still riding the wave that was created in last year’s Final Four run. And this Shockers team might be even better than last season’s crew. Fred VanVleet is one of America’s top point guards and a healthy Ron Baker has emerged as a star (15.3 PPG). The Shockers recently held BYU (90.8 PPG) to a season-low 62 points. That defense will be tough for Tennessee to overcome.
Prediction: Wichita State 75, Tennessee 67
New Mexico vs. No. 13 Kansas (Kansas City), 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2: Kansas suffered its third loss in four games Tuesday when it faced Florida in Gainesville. Saturday’s matchup against New Mexico will be Kansas’ sixth consecutive matchup outside Lawrence, Kan. The road has not been kind to Kansas thus far. The Jayhawks had a lot of issues against the Gators. But they showed some fight down the stretch. They’ll have to fight for 40 minutes, however, to beat Mountain West contender New Mexico. The Lobos have a potent trio of Cameron Bairstow, Kendall Williams and Alex Kirk. But they’re facing a wounded animal. Kansas is desperate for a win. And the Jayhawks have the size, skill and athleticism to end this slide.
Prediction: Kansas 78, New Mexico 74
Sports fans love predictions. Well, sports fans love to tell you when your predictions are wrong. I would know.
I’ve made a few predictions during my time at ESPN.com. Some right. Some wrong.
Why stop now? Throughout the rest of the 2013-14 college basketball season, I’ll make predictions (winner and score) about five prominent weekend matchups. I’ll tally up my results each week so you all can see how well -- or poorly -- I’m doing overall.
Here we go again …
Prediction: Baylor 78, Kentucky 76
Marquette at No. 8 Wisconsin, 2:15 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network: The biggest issue for Marquette right now? Consistent offense. The Golden Eagles, like their intrastate rivals, are one of the nation’s top defensive squads (both Wisconsin and Marquette are top-25 in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency ratings). But Marquette just can’t score. Consistently. Last spring, Buzz Williams lost a veteran backcourt that registered 30.3 PPG. That didn’t help his offense. And now his program will face a Wisconsin team that held Virginia to just 38 points -- yes, 38 points -- on Tuesday. Plus, Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky are pick-and-pop nightmares for Marquette. The Golden Eagles need this one. But they won’t get it.
Prediction: Wisconsin 58, Marquette 48
No. 6 Kansas at Colorado, 3:15 p.m. ET, ESPN2: Last weekend was a rough one for Kansas, which lost to Villanova in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis. Andrew Wiggins couldn’t find a rhythm. And the Jayhawks continued to struggle from the 3-point line (2-for-11 against the Wildcats). But Bill Self recently announced that he will give freshman Joel Embiid, who leads the nation in block percentage, more minutes in the coming weeks. The fluid NBA prospect will be critical in a matchup against a Colorado squad that’s won eight in a row and held five of its last eight opponents to 65 points or less.
Prediction: Kansas 69, Colorado 65
BYU at No. 21 UMass, 1:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network: Tyler Haws (23.6 PPG, 40 percent from the 3-point line) leads an offense that’s averaging 89.2 PPG (ninth in the country). The Cougars scored 112 points in a win over Stanford and put up 90 in a loss to nationally ranked Iowa State. They’ve also been successful this year because they’re careful (ninth in offensive TO percentage per KenPom.com). But Chaz Williams (15.4 PPG, 6.4 APG, 1.3 SPG) leads a fast attack that balances UMass’ defensive pressure. The Minutemen will challenge BYU inside and outside. And the emerging Cady Lalanne (17.0 PPG, 11.4 RPG and 2.7 BPG) will be a problem in the post for BYU.
Prediction: UMass 80, BYU 74
No. 18 UCLA at Missouri, 12:30 p.m. ET, CBS: The Bruins have one of the Pac-12’s strongest backcourts with Jordan Adams, Kyle Anderson and freshman Zach LaVine. Sophomore Tony Parker has slimmed down, which is one of the reasons he’s averaging 21.6 MPG this year. The Bruins’ defense is relatively mediocre (65th in adjusted defensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy), but it’s tough enough to suppress a Missouri squad that hasn’t played any notable opponents yet. Plus, the Tigers are committing turnovers on 18.6 percent of their possessions per KenPom.com (176th nationally). Jabari Brown, Tulsa transfer Jordan Clarkson and Co. will struggle in their first matchup with a Top 25 team this season.
Prediction: UCLA 71, Missouri 65
The 15th annual Big Ten-ACC Challenge ended with no resolution to conference supremacy. For the second straight season the clash ended in a 6-6 tie, leaving the ACC with a 10-3-2 advantage.
We know which teams really won the night though: North Carolina, for sure, with its upset over No. 1 Michigan State. No. 8 Wisconsin, which like the Tar Heels won on the road, beating Virginia. And No. 5 Ohio State, which is on a steady ascent up the polls.
On the surface the Buckeyes' win doesn't look that big, as they had unranked Maryland at home. But the way they controlled the game from start to finish and gave the Terrapins a harsh introduction to the league they'll join next year.
Defensively, Ohio State dissected everything the Terps wanted to do. Maryland shot just 39 percent from the field and gave up 25 points off 14 turnovers. That included the final sequence of the first half, when Aaron Craft dove to the floor for a steal and passed ahead to Sam Thompson for a buzzer-beating basket.
Columbus discovered the alley-oop Wednesday night as Thompson slammed down lobs on four different occasions.
And those shooting woes that threatened to drag down OSU seem to be a thing of the past too. The Buckeyes shot 52 percent from the field, powered by LaQuinton Ross' 7-of-13 performance. Ross finished with a game-high 20 points.
Ohio State honored former coach Gary Williams prior to the game. Williams coached the Buckeyes from 1986-89 before leaving Columbus for College Park, where he would win the 2002 national title at Maryland. Williams then had to sit through the Terps being handled by the Buckeyes.
Chris Collins also returned to familiar territory, as the Northwestern coach returned to ACC country for the first time since taking the Wildcats job in the offseason. Collins, who played for Duke and also spent 13 years as an assistant coach under Mike Krzyzewski, knows Northwestern's opponent Wednesday, NC State, well. But his intimate knowledge didn’t help the Wildcats muster a win.
Collins’ welcome-back package included a technical foul and 22 points from T.J. Warren, as the Wolfpack cruised to a 69-48 win.
Purdue matched NC State for the biggest margin of victory in the challenge with its 88-67 victory over Boston College. The Boilermakers, led by a season-high 18 points from Terone Johnson, have quietly won five straight in the challenge.
Nebraska salvaged the night for the Big Ten by beating Miami 60-49 in Lincoln. The Cornhuskers held the Canes to a frigid 24 percent shooting performance in the first half en route to a season-low 13 points at the break.
Michigan State didn’t hit new lows against the Tar Heels, it simply didn’t hit back at all.
Most expected Northwestern, Boston College and Miami to have a hard time winning on the road. No one expected the Spartans to lack the fight generally accepted as the norm from Tom Izzo’s team. Even though they bounced back from a 12-point deficit in the first half to tie the game at intermission, they never seemed to bring the fight to the Tar Heels.
MSU’s punchless night could be summed up in one second-half exchange. Branden Dawson seemingly had a clear path to the rim and was poised to give Sparty its first lead of the game, breaking a 38-38 tie. But J.P. Tokoto rotated in time to block the shot and start a fast break that ended with Marcus Paige completing a three-point play.
Carolina never trailed afterward and Michigan State literally hobbled through the rest of the game.
Senior forward Adreian Payne kept cramping up, at one point during the middle of a play, he literally stood on one leg while grabbing his other foot behind him to stretch. Gary Harris, who sat out Michigan State's win over Mount St. Mary’s with an ankle injury, seemed to lack some of his explosiveness. Keith Appling suffered an apparent hip injury late in the first half and shot 5-of-15 from the field.
Virginia joined Michigan State as a big loser from Wednesday night. The Cavs have made quite the acquaintance with the NCAA bubble and missed possibly their last chance for a statement win before conference play begins.
Both of the Cavaliers' losses have come at home to ranked teams, and the common thread is that they haven’t mustered much offense either time.
UVA, which lost to VCU 59-56 on a last-second shot, scored its lowest point total in 20 years against Wisconsin. The Cavs managed only 18 points in the second half, and their total of 38 was the lowest output since losing to UConn 77-36 in 1993.
So while the challenge ended in a tie, the winners and losers Wednesday were clearly defined.
North Carolina forward Brice Johnson attributed some of the Tar Heels' lack of energy in Sunday’s loss at UAB to the fact that they “didn’t get past” their win over Louisville. That actually might bode well for the Tar Heels Wednesday night heading into the Breslin Center to face No. 1 Michigan State.
If nothing else, coach Roy Williams has had the Heels’ full attention heading into this game. Williams lived up to his vow to be tougher on his team, as Johnson described their practices after the loss as more competitive -- with a lot more running. But along the way of breaking them down, Williams has also tried to build them up.
Williams mentioned coaches who have doubted their team’s ability to win on the road. He’s not one of them.
“I never put much stock in where the game is played, and I think over the long term, 25-plus years, I think that has helped our club,” Williams said.
“I thought to myself I would not want my head coach feeling that way if I am a player," he added. "You’ve got to get your team believing, so hopefully that’s what we get to.”
Believing that they can win and actually pulling it off are two different tasks. Michigan State leading scorer Gary Harris, who averages 17.7 points per game, has said he will play despite a sore ankle that kept him out of the Spartans' last win over Mount St. Mary’s.
The Spartans, traditionally a strong rebounding team, have a plus-five rebound advantage this season. The Heels were just outrebounded 52-37 by UAB.
It’s been tough to believe in these Tar Heels simply because the question most are asking entering this game is which team will show up?
Will it be the Carolina squad that ran away from Oakland and Louisville in wins or the team that looked lethargic in losses to Belmont and UAB. To hear Johnson tell it, the Heels have literally played to the level of their competition.
“Everybody was a lot more energetic (against Louisville), talking a lot more on the defensive end, we were rebounding a lot better,” Johnson said. “We didn’t seem like we had any energy out there (against UAB.)”
Like the Louisville matchup, it will actually help Carolina that the Spartans play at a faster pace. UNC's troubles offensively have come in the halfcourt. If MSU allows the Heels to get in transition, UNC has proved not only that it can play that way, but it can win that way, too.
DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke’s defensive principles and concepts finally morphed from the abstract to the tangible against Michigan ON Tuesday night in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
It might not be the watershed game that changes the entire season, but the No. 10 Blue Devils saw what it was like to win a game by stopping a team rather than simply outscoring them. Their 79-69 win over the No. 22 Wolverines in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge had everything Duke teams generally take for granted, minus its trademark slapping of the floor.
“For a young team I think you have to see it first,” forward Rodney Hood said. “Coach is saying you’ve got to do this or you’ve got to do that, you don’t see it. This is a big confidence boost for our defense knowing that we can shut out a great team. Well not shut out, but we can play really good defense on a great team.”
Michigan extended the game late by fouling and making baskets, scoring 19 points in the final two minutes. The Wolverines shot 56 percent in the second half, which would fool anyone who didn’t watch the game into thinking they were effective.
“Even without stats, we’re playing better defensively,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We played an outstanding defensive game tonight -- not a good one -- an outstanding defensive game tonight.”
Stauskas might have still been a bit hobbled after returning from an ankle injury that kept him out of Friday’s win over Coppin State. But Duke’s Tyler Thornton and Matt Jones never lost him in transition or left him to help out in the post.
“Me and Ty made an effort not to let him catch the ball,” Jones said. I’m going out on a limb and saying it would have been hard for anybody to score the way we were focused tonight.”
Jones played a season-high 18 minutes, presumably taking minutes that Rasheed Sulaimon would have had. Sulaimon did not play, leaving Krzyzewski to say after the game that he “needed to play better than guys who played tonight.”
Duke’s glaring weakness on paper -- its interior defense -- had arguably its best effort of the season. The Blue Devils outrebounded Michigan 32-31. That might not seem like a major feat, but this is the same team that got handled on the boards by Kansas to the tune of 39-24.
“We knew we were going to be a little undersized, but we have guys who will battle,” said Duke forward Amile Jefferson, who tied Jabari Parker with a team-high six rebounds. “I think we’ve really gotten back to that each game. We’ve gotten better -- I think it showed, especially in the first half, our ability to rebound and defend.”
The Blue Devils entered the game allowing opponents to shoot 45 percent from the floor. They haven’t allowed that high of a percentage since giving up 46.7 percent in 1991-92. And like that national championship team, this team has little problem scoring. It's currently averaging 86.1 points per game, which nearly mirrors the 88.0-point average from ’92.
Hood said becoming a championship caliber team will likely be defined by how well -- or ineffective -- it is at stopping teams.
“We can score the ball, that’s not an issue,” Hood said. “We have to have that defensive mindset, and that’s what’s going to get it for us this year.”
Losses to Kansas and Arizona -- and even watching Vermont shoot 64 percent in a narrow Duke win -- proved the Blue Devils’ mortality. But the way they beat Michigan boosted confidence that they can become a better defensive team.
“We’re not a great basketball team,” Krzyzewski said. “We have great kids and they’re trying hard. We’ve got a really tough schedule; we’re just trying to get better.”
They took a major step toward that Tuesday. The Wolverines averaged better than nine 3-pointers a game, but Duke held them to a season-low three.
“We took them out of their offense, we took away their best player and we took away their 3-point shots for the most part,” Hood said. “We talked, we gang rebounded, we scrapped for loose balls. That’s what we have to do to be a great team.”