College Basketball Nation: Brady Heslip

Tournament-worthy Tuesday

March, 5, 2014
Mar 5

If the NCAA tournament comes anything close to what we witnessed during Tuesday night’s slate of 7 p.m. games, we’ll have a fulfilling end to the college basketball season.

This closing week of the regular season felt like the opening weekend of the tournament with upsets that will potentially upset the tournament bubble. A must-win for Georgetown ended with a 75-63 victory over No. 13 Creighton. A must-win for Baylor ended with a 74-61 triumph over No. 16 Iowa State. Georgia Tech contributed to the downward spiral of No. 7 Syracuse by pulling off a 67-62 upset.

No. 1 Florida and No. 25 Kentucky both needed second-half awakenings before pulling away for their respective wins.

No. 12 Michigan was the only team than made the outcome totally boring. The Wolverines secured the Big Ten title outright by pummeling Illinois 84-53.

Baylor and Georgetown played with the desperation of teams needing to solidify their résumés. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi had the Bears in as an 11-seed before beating Iowa State. Tuesday’s win should just solidify their standing -- especially if they end the regular season with a win at Kansas State to reach .500 in Big 12 play.

[+] EnlargeBrady Heslip
Jim Cowsert/USA TODAY SportsBrady Heslip scored 18, including five 3-pointers, to help Baylor upset No. 16 Iowa State.
Eight of Baylor’s 10 losses had come to ranked teams, but the Bears changed that narrative by executing down the stretch. They held the Cyclones scoreless the last four minutes of the game.

Brady Heslip broke a 61-61 tie with his fifth 3-pointer of the second half and the Bears never trailed again.

Georgetown’s win over the Bluejays propels it into Saturday’s regular-season finale with another opportunity to impress the committee at No. 6 Villanova. The hot-shooting Hoyas jumped on Creighton from the beginning en route to shooting 54 percent from the field.

It was the defensive job they did on Creighton’s Doug McDermott that keyed their win. Though McDermott did score 22 points, he needed 23 shots to get there. The Hoyas held him to just six points on 3-of-10 shooting as they built a 42-28 lead at halftime.

McDermott got hot in the second half and led a charge that cut a 16-point deficit down to five with 1:34 left. But the Hoyas made five of six free throws and Creighton couldn’t muster another basket to close the game.

Syracuse’s fall from being a potential No. 1 seed in the tournament appears to be complete unless it can turn things around quickly. That doesn’t seem likely as the Orange lost for the fourth time in five games and suffered their second setback to a team in the lowest third of the ACC.

The Yellow Jackets were a perfect senior night opponent having entered the Carrier Dome as losers of their past four. But they were in control most of the game against a Syracuse offense that again struggled to score.

C.J. Fair delivered 28 points and Tyler Ennis added 18, but no other Syracuse player reached double figures. Guard Trevor Cooney went 3-for-12 from the field -- including just 1-of-7 from 3-point range -- and finished with seven points.

The Orange sorely missed the presence of sophomore forward Jerami Grant, who is nursing a back injury and did not dress out for the game. Grant averages 11.8 points and is their leading rebounder with 6.7 rebounds.

The loss dropped Syracuse one step closer to a full scale panic. Kentucky nearly joined them.

The Wildcats trailed Alabama 28-25 and were flirting with their first three-game losing streak in five years. Tied at 32-32 in the second half, they used a 9-2 spurt to take the lead for good en route to a 55-48 win.

It wasn’t an overwhelming show of strength for the Cats. They shot just 32 percent from the field, including a 1-for-11 outing by James Young, but they showed fortitude they didn’t have in the loss at South Carolina. Julius Randle's 11 rebounds powered a 41-27 advantage for Kentucky, which helped it outscore Bama 18-3 in second chance points.

No. 1 Florida made upset-minded South Carolina believe that it was headed toward paying another SEC fine. The Gamecocks knocked off Kentucky on Saturday leading their crowd to rush the court after the game. That drew a $25,000 fine from the league for violation of policy and another violation would have upped the ante to $50,000.

The Gators led just 28-26 at halftime and by four points at the under-12 media timeout. The Gamecocks’ confidence seemed to be rising with each minute they remained close, but Michael Frazier II put an end to that.

Frazier already had five 3-pointers in the half. He made six more over the game’s final 11 minutes, including his first of those six that ignited a 15-0 run en route to a 72-46 win. Frazier set a new school record with his 11 3-pointers, beating Joe Lawrence’s mark of nine set on Dec. 27, 1986. He also scored a career-high 37 points.

The Illini never really had a chance against Michigan. They held their previous four opponents to less than 50 points. The Wolverines scored 52 in the first half. They bombarded Illinois by shooting 11-of-14 from 3-point range and 67.9 percent overall from the field.

The win secured Michigan’s first outright Big Ten title since 1986. The Wolverines were the only ranked team that seemingly were never seriously challenged on Tuesday. That’s why, although the tournament is still two weeks away, the madness has already started.

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- The lure, at least in part, is still the kid. Even with Joel Embiid's emergence as the new best prospect in 20 years, the old best prospect in 20 years (not to be confused with Jabari Parker, last year’s best prospect in 20 years) is still part of the curiosity.

And then Andrew Wiggins is meh for two games, maybe a B- for the weekend. He played, in his coach’s estimation, the worst game of his baby-aged career on Saturday, and needed Bill Self to light a fire under him at halftime to chalk up a deceptive 17 points in a 78-68 win against Baylor. Deceptive because it was so quiet, 10 of the points coming at the free throw line, the other seven parsed out in the context of the game, none in really jaw-dropping fashion.

Yet it doesn’t matter, not to Kansas, not to a giddy fan base that is dreaming of an April weekend in Dallas, and it really shouldn’t matter to Wiggins.

The Jayhawks are beyond all of that now, beyond the fretting of what will happen if Wiggins has an off night, beyond falling apart if, heaven forbid, a freshman has the audacity to play like a freshman for a weekend, and well beyond being a one-man team.

Wiggins could still become the greatest prospect in 20 years, but for now, he is exactly what he should be, what every freshman used to be before they were tracked as soon as they could lace up a pair of high tops.

[+] EnlargePerry Ellis
Denny Medley/USA TODAY SportsPerry Ellis (34) had 18 points to help Kansas to a fourth straight win over a ranked opponent.
He is part of the process.

“Because of our society, the hype, if you don’t produce you’re the most talked about person,” Self said. “If you do, it’s expected, so it’s really a no-win. There was no way he was going to live up to the hype.”

Now he doesn’t have to. As Kansas collects its fifth win a row, its fourth against ranked opponents, the story is less and less about Wiggins. The draw isn’t so much to see what the kid can do, but rather what the Jayhawks are doing.

That’s what’s supposed to happen. Teams are supposed to come together somewhere between January and March, find an identity, master the process. The ones left relying on just one player this late in the game? If you see them in March, you aren’t likely to see them for long.

“I like where we’re at,” Self said. “Considering after San Diego State, losing at home, to flip it and play like we did three days later against Oklahoma and get it going, we showed some toughness. We’ve definitely played better over the last five games than we have all season long.”

They are playing better because everyone is doing more.

On Saturday night, Wiggins, Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden Jr. were a combined 6-of-22. So Naadir Tharpe picked them up with 21 points, while Jamari Traylor and Tarik Black combined for 17 off the bench.

Against Baylor, Wiggins had 17, Ellis had a team-high 18 and Selden put himself on "SportsCenter" with a dive over the press table into the stands for an assist to Embiid play that was so ridiculous, even his opponent didn’t care if replay showed he was out of bounds.

“That was a great play by him to even get it,” Baylor’s Brady Heslip said. “Maybe he deserves it because that was great hustle by him.”

And for the record, Wiggins is just fine, too. He is still Kansas’ leading scorer and in 18 games has failed to notch double figures just three times.

His biggest problem, if you can call it that, is he’s too nice. He’s a sweet-natured, easygoing kid, the kind who should make his parents proud.

It drives his coach bananas.

After a stagnant first half during which Wiggins was far too content shooting jumpers, Self challenged him to get aggressive.

“He told me to do what I do best which is attack the rim, get more rebounds and get more involved,” Wiggins said.

The result: eight trips to the free throw line and one 3-pointer launched, as opposed to the three in the first half.

Self also switched Wiggins on Heslip, and the freshman’s length all but stuffed the hot shooter. Heslip went 4-for-4 from the arc in the first half, and just 2-of-5 in the second.

Ideally, though, all of that would happen on its own. Self wouldn’t have to challenge him.

“He leaves me wanting more,” Self said.

There was a time when a visitor to Kansas might have felt the same.

Not anymore.

You come to see the kid.

You leave impressed by the team.

3-point shot: Tough blow for Texas

August, 21, 2013
1. The easy thing to do is pile on Texas and coach Rick Barnes for Ioannis Papapetrou's decision to sign with Olympiacos BC, a professional team in his native Greece. This departure is completely different than the decisions made by Jaylen Bond, Julien Lewis and Sheldon McClellan. Papapetrou got a multi-year, multi-million-dollar deal. He was already in Greece, ripe to be convinced to stay. From all accounts, Papapetrou was happy with his situation in Austin -- and the Longhorns loved having him. This was not a planned departure, nor one that was pushed by the Texas staff. And that's why it stings more than the traditional transfers or Myck Kabongo's decision to leave early for the NBA draft. Texas needed a player who could produce, was experienced and wanted to be there. Losing someone like Papapetrou -- the top returning scorer once those players above bolted -- in late August is a crushing blow because he cannot be replaced. This puts even more pressure on returnees Javan Felix, Jonathan Holmes and Demarcus Holland to not only lead, but also to score and defend at a higher clip to avoid a second consecutive losing season.

2. Baylor senior guard Brady Heslip made the 14-man Canadian national team that will compete in the Continental Cup in Puerto Rico as a precursor to the FIBA Americas tournament in Venezuela. Heslip was the only collegian who made the team. Contacted late Tuesday, Heslip was obviously thrilled. So, too, was Baylor coach Scott Drew. If Heslip returns from these tournaments as a stronger shooter, defender and all-around player, the Bears will benefit greatly. Baylor is/should be a top-three team in the Big 12, behind Kansas and Oklahoma State. The Bears have the bigs with Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson but are green at the point. If Heslip can produce and create an inside-outside threat again, Baylor will be a real contender.

3. The NCAA can't have it both ways on preseason scrimmages. If the NCAA wants these scrimmages to be played, but not seen or heard from by the media or the public, then they can't be deemed some sort of official competition. Yet Old Dominion's Donte Hill has been ruled ineligible for what would have been his final season because he played in a scrimmage before transferring from Clemson to ODU. He played as a freshman at Clemson and then the past two years at ODU, redshirting the season in between. Hill's appeal was denied. He should try again and again. And if he's rejected, then these scrimmages -- especially the ones between two schools that travel to a neutral site to play -- need to be viewed as real exhibition games with countable stats, media and an opportunity for fans to watch.

Bracket reveal: Maui Invitational

July, 17, 2013
Editor's note: Over two days, we're releasing the brackets/matchups for 11 of the top early-season events. A thread of previews and info for all 11 tourneys can be found here.

Tournament bracket for the EA Sports Maui Invitational

When and where: Nov. 25-27 at the Lahaina Civic Center in Maui, Hawaii

Initial thoughts: The 2012 EA Sports Maui Invitational will be tough to top.

Chaminade’s stunning annihilation of Texas ... Rotnei Clarke’s buzzer-beater to lift Butler past Marquette ... North Carolina’s uncharacteristic display of mediocrity ... Illinois players hoisting the championship trophy after winning three games by an average of 23.3 points. Each game brought a new storyline.

This year’s event could provide similar drama. Although there is only one preseason top-10 team (Syracuse) in the bracket, the 2013 field is far from weak. Gonzaga spent time as the nation’s No. 1 team last season, Cal and Minnesota made the NCAA tournament, and Baylor won the NIT championship.

Each of those teams (with Baylor being the possible exception) should take a small step back this season, but all of them will still be solid and contend for NCAA tournament berths. In other words, there’s not a dud in this bunch, which leads me to believe that almost every game in this year’s event will be entertaining and competitive.

[+] EnlargeAndre Hollins
Kevin Jairaj/US PresswireMinnesota will be counting on Andre Hollins to provide a scoring punch again this season.
Matchup I can’t wait to see: Minnesota vs. Syracuse. Event organizers couldn’t ask for anything better than a first-round game pitting two of the biggest names in coaching: Pitino and Boeheim. Ha-ha. Gotcha. This isn’t Hall of Famer Rick Pitino we’re talking about. Instead it’ll be his son, Richard, coaching for Minnesota against Jim Boeheim’s Orange. Richard is in his first season with the Gophers after being plucked from Florida International to replace Tubby Smith. Minnesota lost two of its best players (forwards Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams) to graduation, but guards Austin Hollins and Andre Hollins return in the backcourt and may be able to make this game competitive, especially since Syracuse is replacing a few key parts as well.

Potential matchup I’d like to see: Baylor vs. Gonzaga. Baylor shouldn’t have any problems beating Chaminade in the opening round and advancing to the semifinals against either Gonzaga or Dayton. The Flyers are always pesky, but I still think Gonzaga wins that game. Baylor and Gonzaga have faced off in two of the past three seasons, with Gonzaga winning both times by single digits. But I’d pick the Bears in this one. The Zags lost their top two post players (Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris), and Baylor’s strength is in the paint with Cory Jefferson, Isaiah Austin, Ricardo Gathers, Taurean Prince and Royce O’Neale. Gonzaga boasts one of the country’s top point guards in Kevin Pangos while Baylor is searching for a replacement at that position following the graduation of Big 12 scoring leader Pierre Jackson. Still, Baylor’s overall depth in the backcourt is strong with experienced players such as Brady Heslip and Gary Franklin there to guide newcomers like Ishmail Wainright, Kenny Chery and Allerik Freeman.

Five players to watch

Justin Cobbs, Cal: Transfers are hit and miss, but things couldn’t have worked out any better when Cobbs left Minnesota for Cal a few years ago. The athletic guard averaged 15.1 points and 4.8 assists a game as a junior last season. He’ll be asked to do even more following the departure of leading scorer Allen Crabbe to the NBA.

Tyler Ennis, Syracuse: Returning standouts C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant are more recognizable names, but no player in the Maui Invitational will be under as much scrutiny as Ennis, the freshman point guard who has been tabbed to replace NBA lottery pick Michael Carter-Williams. How Syracuse fares in the ACC and, ultimately, the postseason will depend heavily on how Ennis performs in his first season of college basketball.

Andre Hollins, Minnesota: Hollins led the Gophers in scoring last season with 14.6 points per game. His 41-point effort in a victory over Memphis in the Battle 4 Atlantis was one of the top performances in college basketball all season. He should combine with Austin Hollins (no relation) to give Minnesota one of the more formidable backcourts in the Maui field. The biggest issue for the Gophers will be finding scoring down low.

Cory Jefferson, Baylor: The Bears power forward is fresh off a breakthrough season in which he averaged 13.3 points and eight rebounds a game. Jefferson was particularly effective in the postseason, when he averaged 21.2 points over a five-game stretch to lead Baylor to the NIT championship. The freakishly athletic Jefferson will combine with the 7-foot Austin and a bruiser in Gathers to give Baylor one of the nation’s top frontcourts.

Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga: A point guard, Pangos ranked third on the Zags in scoring last season with 11.9 points per game and averaged a team-high 3.3 assists. He shot just 42 percent from the field, a number that will need to increase this season. The loss of leading scorers Olynyk and Harris (who combined to average 32.4 PPG) means that Pangos will likely be asked to score at a higher rate.

Title game prediction: Syracuse over Baylor

Baylor has the size, depth, talent and experience to hang with Syracuse, and winning the championship of such an elite tournament would be a huge momentum boost for a squad loaded with potential. Syracuse, though, is an incredibly difficult team to prepare for on short notice because of its unorthodox style. Even though they lost Carter-Williams, James Southerland and Brandon Triche, the Orange aren’t short on experience, depth or talent either. Fair averaged a team-high 14.5 points and seven rebounds a game for a team that reached the Final Four last spring. Grant showed flashes of brilliance when his minutes increased during Southerland’s suspension, and DaJuan Coleman, Rakeem Christmas and Baye Keita are poised for breakthrough seasons. They’ve proved they can excel at the highest level. Look for Syracuse to win an entertaining championship game.

Who others are picking:

Eamonn Brennan: Baylor over Syracuse
Jeff Goodman: Gonzaga over Syracuse
Andy Katz: Syracuse over Gonzaga
Myron Medcalf: Syracuse over Baylor
Dana O'Neil: Syracuse over Baylor
1. The USA's World University Games team will go down as a disappointment for failing to medal in Kazan, Russia. But the intent was to put together a team, not a collection of all-stars. That's exactly what was done in forming the squad. The staff of Bob McKillop (Davidson), Frank Martin (South Carolina) and John Beilein (Michigan) -- a collection of three of the more successful coaches -- will have to decide if they put the players in the right spots after the tournament. But some of the players will also return to the states needing to reassess their season after a subpar performance. A few of them were undecided about whether to declare for the NBA draft or go back to school. Like Adreian Payne of Michigan State, Cory Jefferson of Baylor and Doug McDermott of Creighton. All of three are vital to their team's success next season and McDermott enters as one of the favorites for the national player of the year. The player who deserves the most praise on the team is Louisville's Luke Hancock, who is playing well and through incredible grief after losing his father, William, in late June. Through six games, Hancock was second on the team in scoring and in making 3-pointers. Hancock's play in the WUG and Montrezl Harrell for the gold-medal U-19 FIBA championship team is yet another reason why the Cardinals should be feeling good about being title contenders yet again.

2. Canada's WUG team was undefeated through six games, including a win over the Americans. The play of Brady Heslip (Baylor), Kevin Pangos (Gonzaga), Melvin Ejim (Iowa State) and Jordan Bachynski (Arizona State) should bode well for their respective teams and Canada's future. Remember the best Canadians are in the NBA now and will be coming next season too. Consecutive Canadians could be drafted No. 1 from Anthony Bennett to Kansas' Andrew Wiggins. Kelly Olynyk performance for the Celtics in the summer league adds to the depth of this national team. Heslip had a disappointing season a year ago but should be ready to assume more of a leadership role for the Bears. Pangos will be the focal point for the Zags. Ejim is a major player for the Cyclones and Bachynski has to be the interior scorer for the Sun Devils. The front-running school for former Kentucky forward Kyle Wiltjer has always been Gonzaga and playing with Pangos should be a reason to suspect the Zags will get Wiltjer. Of course, Wiltjer could still decide to come back to Kentucky and either play or redshirt.

3. The freak fractured right ankle for Shane Larkin doesn't mean he didn't make the right decision to leave for the NBA. Larkin suffered the injury while practicing with his Dallas Mavericks team in preparation for the Las Vegas Summer League. Larkin is out for three months with the best-case scenario being that he returns in time for training camp in October. Dallas coach Rick Carlisle was positive about Larkin's return and what he could mean for the Mavericks once healthy. Larkin was a first-round pick and will get serious minutes once he is ready next season. Had he returned to Miami for his junior season then he would have been back for a team that relied too much on him. Larkin wouldn't have been simply a playmaker, he would have had to make the majority of plays and that isn't who he will, or should, be in the NBA. Meanwhile, his injury has likely opened up a chance for Ricky Ledo to earn some time. Ledo left Providence after not being eligible in his one season on campus. Ledo was a long shot to be eligible to play in college and probably made the best decision for his career to leave.
1. Memphis coach Josh Pastner had former Missouri guard Michael Dixon on campus Tuesday for a face-to-face visit. Dixon's case is complicated, as's Jason King reported, and there is plenty he must do to become eligible. There are a few issues at play here for Pastner. One of the downsides of social media is that Dixon's arrival was well-chronicled, and his supposed commitment put out for the world to see before it was actually done. Pastner had no time to make a decision before it was presumed to have been made for him. Now, suddenly, his timeline is pushed up because of the assumption that a commitment has been accepted, whether or not an offer was extended. Pastner doesn't need to take second-chance players. He did once with Geron Johnson and it worked out. And while there is no guarantee that newcomers Kuran Iverson and Rashawn Powell will be eligible, according to a source, it's also unknown whether Dixon will be, either. Pastner has done a fantastic job under the shadow of John Calipari and has the Tigers ready to move to the American Athletic Conference next season on an upward trajectory. He was investigating Dixon on his own, but the visit got exposed before any firm decision was made. Now Pastner has to make a public choice of whether to waste his time on taking a player who is searching for an opportunity that not every program may be willing to give him for one year.

2. The U.S. World University Games team will have its hands full with Canada during the competition, set for July 6-17 in Kazan, Russia. The Canadian roster, released Tuesday, isn't as loaded but boasts plenty of major-college talent. Boston College's Olivier Hanlan, the ACC freshman of the year, is joined by headline players Kyle Wiltjer (Kentucky), Kevin Pangos (Gonzaga), Dwight Powell (Stanford), Brady Heslip (Baylor), Melvin Ejim (Iowa State), Laurent Rivard (Harvard) and Jordan Bachynski (Arizona State). Each of these Canadians will have a significant role on his respective team, with all of them starting the season in position to make a run at an NCAA bid. Ejim may be the most intriguing of the lot, with a real shot to be even more of a breakout player in the Big 12. Pangos will have more scoring next season. Powell led the Cardinal last season. Rivard will be a fixture on a stacked Crimson. Wiltjer has to adjust his role with the newcomers at Kentucky but can still be a matchup problem. Heslip must be more consistent. Bachynski has to absorb some of Carrick Felix's numbers after his departure. And Hanlan will be responsible for leading the Eagles higher in the ACC.

3. Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg has taken plenty of transfers his first few years in Ames. He has had success stories mixed in with quality newcomers. I'll be very interested to see if he can maximize the talent of DeAndre Kane, who was a disappointment for Marshall after starting last season with such promise. Kane was essentially asked to leave Marshall by coach Tom Herrion; they weren't going to mesh for one more season. Now Kane has to be in step with Hoiberg if his final year in college is going to be productive. Kane originally was looking to go to Pitt, but that didn't work out, either. He pursued Iowa State and the Cyclones were receptive. It's in everyone's best interest that this works for next season so the Cyclones can be relevant come March for a third consecutive season.
1. Baylor coach Scott Drew could have had a myriad problems had he lost Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin to the NBA draft. Instead, Drew's primary offseason focus is what to do at the point. He has plenty of time to discuss, dissect and analyze over the summer, but his first inkling is to go with a combination of Gary Franklin and Brady Heslip to offset the departure of Pierre Jackson. Other options for Drew are Kenny Chery, a newcomer, or L.J. Rose, who was on the team last season. This is a critical upcoming year for the Bears. The disappointment last season of not making the NCAA tournament was softened by the NIT championship. Now that Jefferson and Austin have returned, there is no excuse if the Bears don't make the 2014 field. The Big 12 will be down a bit with Oklahoma State and Kansas as the top two teams. Baylor has the personnel to beat out Iowa State, Kansas State and Oklahoma. But the onus will be on consistent play upfront and a stable point guard.

2. The UMass-Lowell job is open after Greg Herenda took the head coaching position at Fairleigh Dickinson. The Riverhawks are joining the America East next season but have a four-year waiting period to become eligible for postseason. North Dakota State is one of the best models for how to make this transition when Tim Miles and Saul Phillips set up the Bison to make the NCAAs in their first eligible year in 2009. Bryant University handled a similar transition, and while the Bulldogs didn't make the NCAAs in their first eligible year, Bryant spent a good portion of the 2012-13 season atop the NEC and ended up earning a berth in the CBI. The Riverhawks now have to follow a similar path and to do so have a shot to look at area schools for coaching talent. Former Boston College coach Al Skinner, his former assistant and current Northeastern assistant Pat Duquette and current Emerson head coach Jim O'Brien, who was the head coach at BC prior to Skinner, all could be in the mix for this position, according to sources. This is hardly a headline position, but everyone jumping up from Division II to I wants to make a splash. The America East grabbed UMass-Lowell to replace Boston University in the hope it can penetrate the Boston market, making it even more imperative to win the new conference with a coach that has local ties.

3. Ray McCallum Jr. announced his decision to declare for the NBA draft last week but it got lost amid other headline names making the tough call to stay or go. But don't dismiss the Detroit guard as an afterthought. McCallum Jr. could have easily gone to UCLA but chose to play for his father Ray at Detroit. McCallum will be an intriguing prospect to monitor throughout the team workouts and in Chicago over the next two months. Each decision is personal and that's why to guess what direction a player would go in this process is extremely difficult. McCallum chose to leave his dad's team and head to the NBA. Doug McDermott decided to stay and play for his dad at Creighton for one more year. McCallum, though, could very well end up being a higher pick in a draft that needs quality ball handlers.

BPI Talk: Illinois should be on the bubble

February, 19, 2013
Illinois (BPI Rank 55, RPI Rank 28)
Is Illinois, a team below .500 in the Big Ten, solidly in the NCAA tournament field, as its No. 28 RPI suggests? Or are the Illini closer to the bubble, as their No. 55 BPI suggests?

Illinois has had some spectacular performances –- a 17-point win against Butler, an 11-point win at Gonzaga, a 19-point win versus Ohio State, and close wins against Indiana and at Minnesota –- each generating a Game BPI score of at least 94.

But let’s not forget about four losses by at least 14 points, one of which was at home to Northwestern. And three of the Illini's wins aren’t so impressive. They won by two or fewer points against Hawaii (in overtime), Gardner-Webb (at home) and Auburn (at home).

The Illini have had an impressive last four games, but when it comes down to their entire body of work, let’s not forget they lost eight of their previous 11 games.

No team ranked in the BPI top 85 has a higher variation than Illinois, which means the Illini are rather inconsistent. Variation measures the average difference between a team’s Game BPI and season BPI.

Butler (BPI Rank 48, RPI Rank 17)
Joe Lunardi has Butler as a No. 5 seed in his latest Bracketology Insider, but BPI projects the Bulldogs as a No. 12 seed and one of the last four at-large teams in the field.

Three of Butler’s four losses have been by 15 or more points. Meanwhile, its three best wins according to BPI rank –- Indiana, Gonzaga and Marquette –- are by a combined five points. A win is a win, and that certainly counts for a lot, but even the Indiana win wasn’t as strong a performance (by BPI “Game Score” standards) as Butler’s 11-point win against North Carolina.

It can be argued that Butler perhaps being overrated by RPI came to fruition over its last three games. The Bulldogs lost at home to Charlotte, and defeated George Washington by three points and Fordham by five points.

VCU (BPI Rank 16, RPI Rank 35)
VCU has taken care of business against weaker opponents. The Rams haven’t had many lackluster performances. In fact, they only have two Game BPI scores below 68 -– their back-to-back losses to Richmond and La Salle in late January.

In the last 10 days, Butler struggled at George Washington and Fordham, and lost at home to Charlotte. Temple won by a point at UMass. VCU, on the other hand, won at Charlotte by seven, and defeated Fordham, UMass and George Washington at home by a combined 61 points. The Rams have 16 double-digit wins, including 10 by at least 20 points.

All four of VCU’s losses are by single digits. Its only loss to a team outside the BPI top 50 (Richmond) was in overtime. Two of those losses were on a neutral court to Duke by nine points (with all of Duke’s top players) and Missouri by three points.

Virginia (BPI Rank 45, RPI Rank 77)
Virginia’s three worst losses according to BPI rank (George Mason, Delaware and Old Dominion) came without senior point guard Jontel Evans (he played three minutes vs Delaware).

The Cavaliers’ best four Game BPI scores are against teams ranked in the BPI top 100 (Clemson, Maryland, Florida State and Wisconsin). They’ve played their best against some of their toughest opponents.

Baylor (BPI Rank 36, RPI Rank 55)
When Baylor gets in close games, it usually loses. Seven of the Bears’ nine losses are by single digits. Their only double-digit losses are to Kansas and Kansas State. Meanwhile, all of their wins are by at least seven points. All but two of their wins are by double digits.

Furthermore, the Bears were without Brady Heslip when they lost to Charleston –- their worst loss of the season in terms of BPI rank.

Kansas State gets back on track

February, 16, 2013
MANHATTAN, Kan. -- Twenty-four hours before its most impressive win of the Big 12 season -- an 81-61 victory over Baylor -- Bruce Weber kicked his Kansas State basketball team out of practice.

Loafing through drills, snickering during dead balls, not paying attention as they were being given the scouting report. The Wildcats were doing it all -- and Weber had had enough. Using words that aren’t fit for print, he told his players to go home.

There was one problem.

The Wildcats refused.

“He was like, ‘Get out of here! Get out!’” guard Rodney McGruder told “I was holding the ball, and he came up and tried to yank it away from me, but I put it behind my back.”

McGruder paused.

“As a leader on this team, as a senior, I wasn’t going to let that happen,” McGruder said. “It was my job to make sure we finished that practice on a high note.”

One night later, it paid off.

The Wildcats are still tied for first place in the Big 12 standings following Saturday’s shellacking of the Bears. McGruder was far from the star of the game with 10 points, but the stance he took during Friday’s practice clearly helped to focus a handful of his teammates.

Point guard Angel Rodriguez scored 22 points, dished out 10 assists and, more importantly, forced Big 12 leading scorer Pierre Jackson into his first single-digit scoring game of the season.

[+] EnlargeJordan Henriquez
Scott Sewell/USA TODAY SportsJordan Henriquez's work against Cory Jefferson and Baylor's burly front line was key for K-State.
Just as vital was the play of 7-foot center Jordan Henriquez, who had 10 points, 10 rebounds and 5 blocks against Baylor’s imposing front line of Isaiah Austin, Ricardo Gathers and Cory Jefferson.

A senior, Henriquez was brilliant at the end of last season but has been inconsistent in 2012-13. He entered the game averaging just 4.6 points and 4.2 rebounds. Weber was asked after the game if Henriquez’s performance could be a turning point in his season.

“I hope and pray,” Weber said. “He likes playing against bigger teams, bigger players. He definitely responded to the challenge tonight.”

Of course, Weber could’ve said that about his entire team.

Just five days earlier, the Wildcats suffered what could’ve been a deflating loss in a 21-point setback to Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse. Weber, though, reminded his squad it was still tied with KU and Oklahoma State for first place in the Big 12 standings. He pointed out that the Wildcats could claim their first conference title since 1977 by winning the rest of their games.

“We control our own destiny,” Weber told his players.

KSU is now 20-5 overall and 9-3 in conference play. Kansas and Oklahoma State both won Saturday as well, meaning there’s a three-way tie in the league race. Baylor is now 16-9 and 7-5.

“Kansas State showed why they are the 10th-ranked team in the nation,” Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “They really dominated and imposed their will.”

Baylor trailed by as many as 14 points early in the second half before using a flurry of Brady Heslip 3-pointers to pull within two points, 43-41. K-State, though, was hardly fazed.

Weber’s squad responded with a 16-4 run that made it 59-45, basically putting the game out of reach.

“We didn’t hang our heads,” Rodriguez said. “Right when we got into the huddle we said, ‘They punched us. We’ve got to punch them back.’”

That type of resiliency is why the Wildcats’ chances at that elusive Big 12 title are looking more and more realistic.

Four of KSU’s remaining games are against Big 12 bottom-feeders West Virginia, Texas Tech, TCU and Texas. The matchup against the Longhorns could be tricky considering it’s on the road and Texas has welcomed back standout point guard Myck Kabongo from a 23-game suspension. There are also dangerous road tilts ahead with Baylor (March 2) and Oklahoma State (March 9).

Still, while the entire college basketball season has been defined by wacky, out-of-nowhere scores, Kansas State is one of the few teams that has managed to avoid upsets. Its only losses are to Kansas (twice), Michigan, Gonzaga and Iowa State (on the road). There is no shame in any of those setbacks.

“All of our goals are still in reach,” McGruder said. “We have a chance to do a lot of great things.”

Especially after what happened Saturday night in Manhattan.

And Friday night, too.

A closer look: Gonzaga 94, Baylor 87

December, 28, 2012
Overview: In its 94-87 home victory, Gonzaga showed a ton of toughness in staving off a talented Baylor team that has made significant strides since losing home games against Charleston and Northwestern. The Bears threatened to seize the momentum numerous times in the second half, but on each occasion the Zags came up with huge answer shots to keep Baylor at a distance. Gonzaga went up by 10 points early in the second half and maintained at least a five-point cushion the rest of the way.

Kevin Pangos scored a season-high 31 points on 10-of-13 shooting for 13th-ranked Gonzaga, which improved to 12-1. The victory was the fourth for Mark Few’s squad over a Big 12 team. Gonzaga has also defeated West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kansas State. It plays Oklahoma State on Monday in Stillwater.

Turning point: Baylor missed a golden opportunity trailing 80-74 with just under 5 minutes remaining in the second half. The Bears got the ball to Brady Heslip, their top 3-point shooter, who was standing alone at the top of the key. It was one of the few times all evening that Heslip had broken free from his defender. If Heslip would’ve capitalized with a basket from beyond the arc, it would’ve been a one-possession game. Who knows what happens after that? Instead, Heslip fired up a shot that didn’t even hit the rim. It caromed off the glass and the Zags got the rebound. Pangos made the Bears pay with a 3-pointer on the other end that made it 83-74 Gonzaga. Baylor never posed a serious threat after that.

Why Gonzaga won: Pangos was obviously huge, but not many teams in the country have a frontcourt as strong as the one at Gonzaga. Seven-footer Kelly Olynyk had 21 points on 9-of-12 shooting while Elias Harris added 17 points. Both players are matchup nightmares because of their ability to handle the ball away from the basket, which makes them a threat to score in a variety of ways. Gonzaga’s overall mental toughness was also huge. Few’s squad never appeared rattled despite trailing for most of the first half. And when leading after intermission, the Zags didn’t appear fazed when Baylor looked poised to make a run. In those moments, Gonzaga simply got tougher. It helped that this game was played in Spokane, but with students out of town for winter break, the Kennel wasn’t as rowdy as usual.

[+] EnlargeKelly Olynyk, A.J. Walton, Taurean Prince
AP Photo/Young KwakGonzaga's Kelly Olynyk drives against A.J. Walton, right, and Taurean Prince on his way to 21 points.
Why Baylor lost: The Bears are still too sloppy and careless with the ball in key moments. Pierre Jackson often looks like one of the top point guards in America, but standout performances like Friday’s -- he scored 26 points -- are soured when you look at the turnover stats and see Jackson with seven of them. His backcourt teammates are also guilty of trying to do too much at times. There’s no need to attempt half-court alley-oop passes in the second half of close games, where every possession is magnified. On the defensive end, Baylor looked soft and/or confused in the paint. Gonzaga had five traditional three-point plays -- “and-1s,” as some call them -- in the second half alone. Some of it is understandable. Isaiah Austin, Ricardo Gathers and Taurean Prince are freshmen and junior Cory Jefferson hadn’t played much before this season. On Friday they were going against a senior All-America candidate in Harris and a Canadian national team member in Olynyk. No need to chastise the youthful Bears for losing that battle.

What it means for Gonzaga: Those that have followed Gonzaga’s program closely over the years think that this might be Few’s best team yet. Anyone who watched the Zags on Friday would have a tough time arguing that point. Gonzaga touts one of the country’s top point guards in Pangos and a frontcourt that is as strong as any in the nation. This team has the poise and moxie of a winner. There is nothing soft about this bunch. One area of concern would be the Zags’ defense on the perimeter, as Jackson wasn’t the first elite-level guard to have his way with Gonzaga. Let’s also not forget that this team lost at home to Illinois and needed a last-second layup by Pangos to beat a mediocre Washington State team on the road. The Zags are vulnerable, just like any other team. Still, when everything is clicking, this looks like a top-10 squad that is more than capable of making the Final Four.

What it means for Baylor: The Bears should be encouraged. If ever there was a time to feel good after a loss, this is it. Three weeks after that dreadful loss to Northwestern in Waco, Scott Drew’s squad went on the road and dropped 87 points on the country’s 13th-ranked team. The Bears shot 51.6 percent. Granted, their defense was atrocious, so that’s a concern. But if it plays as well in the Big 12 as it did Friday, there’s no reason Baylor can’t finish second in the conference behind Kansas. Austin, a 7-foot freshman, looked like a top-10 draft pick while scoring 20 points against strong competition. Even with his turnovers, Jackson looked like one of the top five point guards in the country, and Gary Franklin continues to improve off the bench. Drew has shortened his rotation, as only seven Bears played double-digit minutes. That’s a good thing. Baylor’s shot selection seems iffy at times, but it’s hard to criticize Drew’s team too much considering it shot 51 percent Friday and ranks 24th in the country with a 47.9 percent mark on the season.

What’s next: Gonzaga plays Oklahoma State in Stillwater on New Year’s Eve. It will likely be the toughest road environment the Zags will experience all season. Baylor’s next game is its Big 12 opener against Texas in Waco on Jan. 5.

Baylor makes statement with victory

December, 2, 2012
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Lost amid the caterwauling and worry over the fact that Kentucky has now lost two games in a row is this little nugget: In beating the Wildcats 64-55, Baylor won a nonconference road game against a Top-25 opponent for the first time in the program's history.

And won it, by the way, in one of the most notoriously difficult places to win a game: Rupp Arena.

That no one really paid the victory any mind isn't a surprise to Baylor. After two Elite Eight runs in the past three years, the Bears still feel like outliers on the national college basketball picture.

[+] EnlargeJackson
Mark Zerof/US PresswireBaylor's win at Kentucky marked the first time the Bears beat a ranked, nonconference opponent on the road in their program's history.
"Oh yeah, people don't give us the respect we deserve," senior guard Pierre Jackson said. "We still have to prove people wrong."

A year ago, Baylor waltzed into the preseason armed with a loaded roster and a heap of expectations, and though the Bears made it back to the Elite Eight, they never looked quite as good during the games as they did in the layup lines.

This season, head coach Scott Drew has another pretty roster -- including 7-foot-1 freshman Isaiah Austin -- but an equally shaky start. Before their win over Kentucky, the Bears lost to College of Charleston.

It is that inconsistency that gives the doubters credence to go all-in on Baylor, a niggling sense that their margin for error is minuscule. And no doubt, that was the case against UK. Kentucky shot 29 percent for the game and 18 percent from the arc, pulled down 21 offensive rebounds but only scored eight second-chance points, and yet was in the game until the bitter end.

Why? Because Baylor coughed up 19 turnovers and got smoked on the boards 48-37.

So this was not exactly a thing of beauty. But what Baylor has, at least right now, is a healthier balance of freshmen and veterans. Drew's roster includes five rookies, but he also has a been-there-done-that veteran backcourt in the form of Jackson, A.J. Walton and Brady Heslip. They simply don't get rattled, and when the game needed to be won, they won it.

"They've been through big games, they've been through 30-win seasons, they've been through [being] a game away from a Final Four," Drew said. "They're used to playing in front of big crowds, big stages and again make big plays."

A year ago, Kentucky ended Baylor's season in the Elite Eight, eliminating the Bears with relative ease, 82-70. Players from that team -- Quincy Acy among them -- reached out to guys on this season's squad and asked them to exact a little bit of revenge.

Never mind that this Wildcats team is entirely different from the one that beat Baylor -- the Bears wanted to take back the victory.

They did, but that only wins the battle, not the war. Baylor is a team that, on personnel alone, should factor into the Big 12 race. Whether this game is a one-hit wonder or the start of something with more staying power will determine that.

"We wanted to come out strong and show people that our two losses at the beginning of the season don't mean anything," Austin said. "We're still a powerhouse program."

Rapid Reaction: Baylor 64, Kentucky 55

December, 1, 2012

LEXINGTON, Ky. – A quick look at Baylor’s 64-55 win over No. 8 Kentucky, the Bears' first-ever nonconference road win against a top-25 team (had been 0-18).

Overview: Coming off an uninspired loss at Notre Dame, Kentucky didn’t do much to settle the worries in the Commonwealth. This young team in progress has a lot of progress to make to be as good as everyone expects the Wildcats to be.

Kentucky lost its first game in Rupp Arena since Billy Gillispie’s last stand on the homecourt, back in 2009, ending the 55-game streak and John Calipari’s perfect home mark.

The shots weren’t falling for the Cats, but then again, they weren’t exactly slipping through the twine for Baylor, either. The problem was just general sloppiness -- turnovers, missed free throws, coming up short at the rim, bad rebounding.

There is plenty of time to fix all this -- it’s only Dec. 1. But there’s also a lot to fix.

Turning point: Down by as many as 10 in the early second half, UK clawed back to make it a four-point game and get the tense crowd back on its feet with about five minutes to play. But Isaiah Austin scored on the next play and Wildcats never could capitalize.

Key player: The point guard position was going to be pivotal in this game, what with Kentucky trying to find one and Baylor in possession of a good one in the form of Pierre Jackson. No surprise that it came down to a point guard. Jackson’s heady play, timely big shots and perfect stroke at the free throw line was the difference. He didn’t shoot very well from the field, but finished with 17 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals.

Key stat: The keys here weren’t the pretty stats, but the ugly ones. Kentucky had lots to choose from -- 29 percent from the floor (21-of-72), 19 percent from the arc (4-of-22) and 16 turnovers. All bad.

Miscellaneous: Brady Heslip started for Baylor, returning to action after an emergency appendectomy on Nov. 20. … Kyle Wiltjer is going to have nightmares about this game for a long time. The usually money long-distance shooter was a horrific 1-of-9 from long range and 1-of-11 overall, a huge drain on the Wildcats’ offense. ... All five Baylor starters finished in double-figures scoring for the first time this season.

Next game: Calipari still won’t have a lot of time in practice to fix what ails the Cats. Kentucky hosts Samford on Tuesday. Baylor, meanwhile, will host Northwestern on the same day.

Conference Power Rankings: Big 12

November, 30, 2012
While most Big 12 programs are mired in a “transition year,” the team at the top -- not surprisingly -- remains the same. Ranking the league beyond Kansas isn’t quite as simple, but here’s my best guess three weeks into the season.

1. Kansas. Jeff Withey leads the Jayhawks in scoring (14.2) and rebounding (8.7) -- and his 6.2 blocks per game rank first in the nation. Kansas, though, needs to improve its outside shooting. Bill Self’s squad is making just 29.6 percent of its 3-pointers. KU needs more leadership from senior point guard Elijah Johnson.

2. Oklahoma State. The Cowboys’ victories over Tennessee and North Carolina State are the two best wins of the season by any Big 12 team. Guard Marcus Smart is playing as well as any freshman in the country and Le’Bryan Nash has made noticeable strides.

3. Kansas State. Wildcats fans were upset that K-State lost to No. 3 Michigan. But seriously ... who thought they had a chance to win that game? Bruce Weber is doing a nice job as he experiments with his roster. Eleven players are averaging double-digit minutes. That’s too many.

4. Baylor. The league’s most talented team has been its biggest disappointment thus far. The Bears lost a two-point heartbreaker to Colorado, but the game would’ve been lopsided if the Buffaloes had hit their free throws. Even without Brady Heslip, losing at home to Charleston was inexcusable. A victory against a vulnerable Kentucky squad in Lexington on Saturday could get Baylor back on track.

5. Oklahoma. Lon Kruger is in just his second season in Norman and already the hire is paying off. The Sooners are 5-1, with the only setback coming against a top-10-caliber Gonzaga squad. Four of Oklahoma’s five victories have come by single digits. A win at Arkansas on Tuesday would be huge.

6. Iowa State. The Cyclones have the potential to move all the way up to No. 2 in these rankings -- especially during a down year for the league. Iowa State’s two losses came against ranked teams (UNLV and Cincinnati) and Fred Hoiberg’s squad performed admirably in both games. Michigan State transfer Korie Lucious (28.6 field goal percentage) needs to get on track.

7. Texas. The Longhorns’ 13-point loss to Division II Chaminade at the Maui Invitational ranks as one of the worst setbacks in Big 12 history. This team has no chance of making the NCAA tournament unless the NCAA clears point guard Myck Kabongo. And even that might not be enough to save a squad with one of the nation’s toughest schedules. Texas plays Georgetown on Tuesday.

8. West Virginia. The Mountaineers are attempting to incorporate three transfers into their rotation, and it isn’t working. At least not yet. Bob Huggins’ squad is shooting just 41.2 percent overall, and point guard Juwan Staten is only averaging 1.8 assists. Upcoming games against Marshall and Virginia Tech won’t be easy.

9. Texas Tech. Interim head coach Chris Walker has made a good impression thus far -- but the undefeated Red Raiders haven’t played anyone. That, of course, was by design as Texas Tech tries to build momentum for its dormant program. Saturday’s home game against No. 9 Arizona will be Texas Tech’s first test against a formidable opponent.

10. TCU. The Horned Frogs have won five games by single digits, but none of those victories came against good teams. The most telling score is a 24-point loss to Northwestern, in which TCU only scored 31 points. Trent Johnson’s squad averages just 55.3 points per game.

Video: Baylor 97, St. John's 78

November, 18, 2012
Brady Heslip, Pierre Jackson, and Cory Jefferson combined for 68 points to lead No. 16 Baylor over St. John's 97-78.
You can’t learn how to dunk. You either jump, or you don’t. You can, however, learn how to shoot: feet shoulder-width apart, right foot an inch ahead of left, elbow over the knee, wrist parallel to the floor, ball gently placed in fingertips, elbow straight, up and out, follow through with the wrist. Rinse, repeat.

That’s the great thing about the art of long-range shooting. It requires nothing but a few quick mechanics and tons and tons and tons of practice. The best players in the world are rarely the best shooters, because they don’t have to be. But if you can master your shot, you can level the playing field at all levels, from your local pickup game to the NBA. And aesthetically, there are few things more satisfying than watching a beautifully shot ball drop perfectly through the net. I love good shooting.

As you can imagine, it was rather fun to put together the following list -- the nation’s 10 most dangerous 3-point shooters. (Freshmen, as always, were excluded.)

1. Doug McDermott, Creighton: Let’s get one thing clear: There are 3-point specialists on this list that have made more 3-pointers than McDermott in his career. They are arguably better “pure” shooters. But none of them, not a single one, manages to blend the sheer overall offensive efficiency that McDermott brings to the game; none of them maintains utterly deadly 3-point shooting in their reportoire as an afterthought. But that’s exactly what McDermott did in 2011–12, when he was one of the most efficient offensive players in the country. McDermott attempted 400 2-point field goals and made 63.2 percent of them. He attempted 111 3-pointers and cashed 48.6 percent. His true shooting percentage (67.8) and effective field goal percentage (65.4) were third- and sixth-best in the country, respectively.

[+] EnlargeCreighton's Doug McDermott
Jeff Curry/US PRESSWIREThe versatile game of Doug McDermott includes 48.6 percent shooting from 3-point range.
So, why put him atop this list, when others have made more 3s, who serve as lethal catch-and-shoot specialists for their teams? Because you can’t guard McDermott the way you can guard most of the country’s best shooters. At 6-foot–7, he’s too tall, his post game too sharp, to be put in any particular box. He’ll work you to death with pivots and drop-steps on the low block, just before stepping outside, or catching in transition, and hitting one out of every two 3s he takes.

I mean, seriously: How on Earth do you stop that?

2. Jordan Hulls, Indiana: Hulls may have flaws in his game -- he’s undersized (and definitely shorter than his gentleman’s listing of 6-foot) and an occasional defensive liability at the point of attack -- but he has plenty of strengths, too. He can handle, he can dish, he’s whip-smart and, oh by the way, the boy can really shoot. In 2011-12, he went 72-of-146 from beyond the arc, good for 49.3 percent, the second highest rate in the country. (He also shot 89.9 percent from the free throw line.) And while you’d expect someone with Hulls’ size to struggle to get his shot off, he really doesn’t -- he can get looks from off-ball screens and high picks, he can step under a defender and bury the 20-footer, and he can catch and release as quickly as any player in the country. And if you leave him open? Well, just start running the other way.

3. Brady Heslip, Baylor: In 2011-12, Heslip shot the ball inside the arc exactly 57 times. But don’t worry, he got still got his looks -- fully 220 of them from outside the arc. He made 100 of them, or 45.5 percent. Considering the volume involved, that is very efficient work, and a big part of the reason why Heslip ended the season with an eye-popping 138.6 offensive rating, best in the country among players with similar usage rates. If I was Baylor, I would focus on getting Heslip as many looks as possible this season.

4. Isaiah Canaan, Murray State: Canaan is a lot like McDermott, and a couple of other names on this list, in that he is so much more than a pure shooter … who also happens to be a pure shooter. Canaan is also his team’s primary ballhandler; he posted a 24.1 percent assist rate last season, easily the highest among any frequent Racers' contributor. He also drew 5.3 fouls per 40 minutes, shot 83.7 percent from the stripe and 48.1 percent from the arc. And, oh yeah, he made 45.6 percent of his 215 3-point field goal attempts last season. Defenses, Ohio Valley and otherwise, can’t contain Canaan, because he can get his own shot, or get into the lane, or hit a 25-footer in your face.

5. Rotnei Clarke, Butler: Clarke sat out last season after transferring to Butler, where he will take on a new role that may require him to do much more distributing and far less spot-up shooting. He also suffered a foot injury, though he appears to be recovered fully. In any case, the dude can stroke it: Clarke has shot 39.3 percent, 42.7 percent and 43.8 percent in his freshman, sophomore and junior seasons, respectively, and has 274 career 3s to his name. It will be interesting to see what his new team does for his production/efficiency (his Arkansas teams were never particularly good, so it could just as easily enhance both, too), but there’s no question Clarke is a major threat beyond the arc.

6. Langston Galloway, Saint Joseph’s: I’m guessing most casual hoops fans will not be familiar with Langston Galloway, but it’s time to correct that. In 2011–12, Galloway was one of the best 10 3-point shooters in the country, making 46.6 percent of his 193 attempts. Almost all of those shots came via the spot-up, where Galloway is just lethal. According to Synergy Sports, Galloway scored 1.38 points per spot-up jumper, and 1.49 points for every spot-up shot that came from beyond the arc. It is a bad idea to let him get loose, but with so many other returning weapons making up Phil Martelli’s highly regarded A-10 contender, keeping Galloway in check is easier said than done.

7. Chase Tapley, San Diego State: Tapley’s presence is a through line marking the recent ascendance of Aztecs hoops, beginning with his supporting role* on the Kawhi Leonard-led 2011 breakout squad. He stepped into a larger role last season, and responded by making 43.3 percent of his 3s, an improvement from the year prior despite an 70-attempt increase in volume (and a decrease in 2-point field goal accuracy). Tapley will have to be just as deadly from outside this season if San Diego State plans to live up to its preseason billing. I’m not worried. (*The original version of this post said Tapley came off the bench in 2011; in fact, he started the majority of games that season. My apologies for the error.)

[+] EnlargeChristian Watford
Brian Spurlock/US PresswireChristian Watford drained arguably the most memorable 3 of the college basketball season.
8. Christian Watford, Indiana: There is a reason the Hoosiers offense was the fourth-best in the country last season. Not only did it boast monster freshman center Cody Zeller, and not only did it get efficient shooting from the aforementioned Jordan Hulls, and balance from Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey (to say nothing of Matt Roth’s 54.5 percent 3-point shooting), but its second-most-used player is a 6-foot-9 forward who also happens to be lights-out from the perimeter. Watford made 43.7 percent of his 3s last season, and he shot plenty of them -- 119, to be exact (one of which you may have seen a few times before). Before Zeller’s arrival, Watford was often forced to play in the post, a position for which he is particularly ill-suited. Now that Zeller commands the low block, Watford is free to set up outside, peer over the defense, and fire away. It’s his niche.

9. Kenny Boynton, Florida: Among the handful of players who shot as many 3s in 2011-12 as Boynton, only Vanderbilt guard John Jenkins was a fellow member of a power-six conference. Boynton fired from downtown 270 times last season. If we were talking about his freshman or sophomore seasons -- in which Boynton was similarly free of conscience but far inferior as a shooter -- that would not necessarily be a good things. But because Boynton hit 40.7 percent of his 3s, he was a major reason why Florida’s offense was so difficult to stop. He can handle it and get into the lane, too, but his 3-point attempts dwarf his 2s, and as long as he’s making them at a 40-percent or higher rate, he’s very dangerous to opposing defenses.

10. Scott Wood, NC State: We talk a lot about NC State’s pieces, and these discussions typically center on point guard Lorenzo Brown, or forward C.J. Leslie, or touted freshman shooting guard Rodney Purvis. Far more overlooked is the offense Wood provides, and the way he provides it. At 6-foot–6, Scott is similar to Watford in his ability to step out and see over defenses, if slightly easier to run off the ball. (Despite his size, Wood attempted 232 3s and just 78 2s in 2012.) Whatever his breakdowns, Wood’s 40.9 percent shooting on a large number of attempts is crucial again this season, because NC State’s still-improving offense will desperately need the outside balance.

Honorable mentions: Travis Bader, Oakland; Scott Bamforth, Weber State, C.J. Wilcox, Washington, Allen Crabbe, Cal; Ethan Wragge, Creighton

Freshmen to watch (thanks to Dave Telep for the suggestions): Phil Forte, Oklahoma State; Isaiah Zierden, Creighton; Omar Calhoun, UConn; Katin Reinhardt, UNLV; Melvin Johnson, VCU; Kellen Dunham, Butler; Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke, Michael Frazier, Florida