College Basketball Nation: Juvonte Reddic

On Holiday is College Basketball Nation's daily rundown of the holiday tournaments, complete with previews, recaps, and links to all of the early-season tournament info you'll need in the weeks to come.

In Review

[+] EnlargeShabazz Napier
Elsa/Getty ImagesConnecticut's Shabazz Napier was "too good," according to Indiana coach Tom Crean.
Top story: Shabazz Napier is above the law (2K Sports Classic): "Shabazz Napier is just too good," Indiana coach Tom Crean said. "I imagine it would be in the NFL like trying to deal with a great running back like Barry Sanders or Adrian Peterson now, something like that where a guy can change direction at the drop of a hat, he can play with both hands, both feet, he's explosive to the basket, he's got the pull-up (jumper), obviously. He's got the straight pull-up, he's got the step-back, he's got the 3. And he's got one of those unteachable abilities to make big shots at really crucial times." — Kieran Darcy, ESPN.com

New Mexico is not (Charleston Classic): New Mexico's struggles in Charleston didn't end with UAB. A day after an occasionally thrilling, often ugly two-overtime survival of the Blazers, Kendall Williams & Co. lost for the first time this season, 81-65 to Massachusetts.

New Mexico fans shouldn't panic, and not only because it's still just Nov. 22. For one, UMass is an experienced team on the cusp of a very good season. They also happen to play very fast basketball — difficult to slow down, anyway, but especially so just one day after a double-overtime scrap. New Mexico played the Minutemen even through 30 minutes. In the final 10, they were outscored 22-8. That reeks of fatigue.

Michigan (somehow) survived Florida State in OT (Puerto Rico Tip-Off): "Michigan’s offense was as effective in the second half as it was dreadful in the first. The Wolverines scored 27 points on 30 first-half possessions compared to 55 points on 42 possessions in the second half and overtime. That’s 0.9 points per possession in first and 1.31 points per possession after the halftime horn. Florida State’s length was as advertised inside and Michigan shot just 46 percent on twos but made some threes, 37.5 percent, and got to the free-throw line. Converting the freebies was a different story; Michigan was just 17-of-27 at the stripe. The free-throw shooting almost cost the Wolverines down to the final horn, when Florida State had a desperation heave at the win. … A loss to Florida State would have been crippling to Michigan with games against Duke, Arizona and Stanford still on the schedule." — Dylan Burkhardt, UMHoops

In Puerto Rico, Florida State pounded VCU and took Michigan to the wire — and honestly, probably should have finished the Wolverines off in regulation. I don't know whether this is a short-term November blip or a sign of a team that is much better than anyone outside Tallahassee expected — but the latter option is officially on the table.

VCU survived, too, needing an eight-point second-half run, and an 8-of-14 night from Juvonte Reddic, to shed Long Beach State. A win's a win and all, but the no-turnover-no-stop formula that eventually sank VCU last March reared its ugly head again here (Long Beach turned it over on 16.4 percent of its possessions and scored 1.10 points per trip.)

Michigan State got by Virginia Tech with relative ease, their first cruise since beating Kentucky and earning the No. 1 ranking 10 days ago. Next up is Oklahoma, a more challenging, but still eminently winnable, test.

What else? The semifinal rounds of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off are under way as of this writing; read Andy Katz, Dana O'Neil and C.L. Brown on North Carolina and Louisville (and their opponents Fairfield and Richmond) here.
Another wacky week in the Atlantic 10, another mostly futile attempt to place the lion's share of these teams in something resembling a hierarchy. Let's give it a less wordy shot:

1. Virginia Commonwealth. For most of the nonconference season, VCU was an elite defensive team. Shaka Smart's constant pressure system worked: It forced opponents into the highest turnover rate in the country -- a distinction it still maintains; Rams opponents cough it up on 29.3 percent of their possessions -- while VCU's all-men-on-deck combination of lightning-quick guards (Treveon Graham, Darius Theus, Briante Weber, Troy Daniels, Rob Brandenberg) constituted one of the most exciting watches in the sport.

But a weird thing happened on the way to the Atlantic 10: VCU's defense got mediocre. The Rams still force a ton of turnovers, of course, but when they don't force turnovers, they don't get stops. VCU's league opponents make 38.0 percent of their 3-pointers and 50.2 percent of their 2s, and have averaged 1.01 points per trip, making VCU's defense the seventh-best in the league. Another weird thing happened: VCU's offense took off. Through nine games, the Rams have the best per-possession offense in the A-10. Talk about a reversal of fortune.

Why put them back at No. 1 this week? Because I think VCU's defense will come back. And if it does, and this offensive pace continues, the Rams will be as dangerous as any team in the country.

Also, Thursday night Juvonte Reddic did this. So you know.

2. Butler. If power rankings are a balance between a team's long-view work to date and an evaluation of its current performance, you could still make the argument that Butler is the best team in the Atlantic 10. After all, no one else can lay claim to a win as good as Indiana, not to mention Gonzaga at home. (Marquette in Maui wasn't too bad, either). But the Bulldogs, it should be noted, entered Wednesday night's home date against Charlotte with a conference efficiency margin of only 0.08 points per possession, tied with La Salle and George Washington for fourth-best in the league. And then they lost to Charlotte at home. I'm not panicking just yet, nor should Butler fans; there is still much to recommend the Bulldogs. But it is not heresy to admit that Butler has struggled in the past two weeks, even as wins over Rhode Island, St. Bonaventure and George Washington masked that fact.

3. Saint Louis. The Billikens, meanwhile, are headed in the opposite direction: Since back-to-back losses to Temple and Rhode Island on Jan. 12 and Jan. 19, St. Louis has won six in a row in mostly easy fashion, including a 73-58 victory over Butler. Its defense allows the fewest points per trip in the league (0.915), mostly because Saint Louis rarely allows offensive boards. But the schedule only gets tougher from here: versus Charlotte, versus VCU, at Butler, versus Saint Joseph's, at George Washington, at Xavier, versus La Salle. In other words: go time.

4. La Salle. Were it not for that baffling mid-November home loss to Central Connecticut, the Explorers might well be the subject of some national discussion. Because other than that, the rest of La Salle's losses (at Bucknell, Miami, Charlotte and Xavier, and a 61-60 home loss to Massachusetts) are completely forgivable. Saint Louis has been stifling on the defensive end in conference play, but La Salle is right there with its friends from the Midwest, and perhaps it's time non-A-10-heads sat up and took notice.

5. Massachusetts. OK, UMass fans: You win. I have officially decided to stop qualifying everything I write about the Minutemen with some version of "Well, their efficiency numbers haven't been very good, so the other shoe could drop any time now." It's not that I didn't like UMass, or something sinister like that; it just felt like fair warning. I'm done now. The bottom line is UMass is the fourth-fastest team in the country -- in this hyper-slow modern college basketball landscape, this is something we should be praising in and of itself -- and that pace, aided by the speed of point guard Chaz Williams, allowed the Minutemen to post the A-10's second-ranked efficiency offense performance and fourth-ranked defense prior to Thursday night's game at VCU. The Minutemen were blown out in that game, but that'll happen at VCU. Either way, it's time to start taking Derek Kellogg's team seriously.

6. Charlotte. On Wednesday night, Charlotte won 71-67 at Butler. I reacted to this in some detail Thursday, so instead of repeating myself, I'll merely send you there.

7. Xavier. For a young team that struggled so much in the nonconference, Xavier sure seems to be headed in the right direction now. Maybe that was bound to happen. Maybe it's a product of the Musketeers' backloaded schedule. All three of Xavier's league losses came on the road; its only real quality A-10 win (La Salle) came at home. The Musketeers go to Dayton on Saturday, and then Rhode Island next week. Those will be tests, sure, but it gets really gully starting Feb. 23, when Xavier closes with -- get this -- VCU, Memphis, UMass, St. Louis and Butler. This is going to be really interesting.

8. George Washington. As mentioned above, the Colonials' league efficiency margin of 0.08 points per trip was, before Wednesday's games, tied for the fourth-best in the league. George Washington hasn't played since. The ceiling is pretty limited here, but Mike Lonergan's team plays defense, and that makes it a very tough out.

9. Temple. More like TempLOL, am I right? No? Come on, Owls fans. Now might not feel like the time to joke, but I find the hoary old chestnut holds true: "Laughter is the best medicine … for getting over an 84-83 home loss to Duquesne." That actually happened Thursday night; that's a real thing. And it's a perfect summation of this insanely unpredictable, defense-averse Temple team, a team that can now say it beat Syracuse in Madison Square Garden and lost to Duquesne at home. Your guess is as good as mine.

10. Saint Joseph's. Fun game in Philly this weekend, when Saint Joe's meets La Salle in another Big 5 matchup. At this point, city pride is starting to feel like the best possible outcome for Saint Joe's. It's a really disappointing team.

11. Dayton. In December, back when we thought Alabama was a top-four SEC team, Dayton's victory in Tuscaloosa seemed to foretell another unpredictable, up-and-down Dayton season. Now it just looks like the latter.

12. Richmond. The Spiders have been racked by injuries, which is a good explanation for why an offense that played so well on a per-possession basis in the nonconference season has been the A-10's 12th-best to date. The Spiders have struggled on defense all season; without scoring, they're having a tough time.

13. St. Bonaventure. When they beat Temple and Saint Joe's on the road in late January, the Bonnies seemed to be on the rise. But they've fallen back below .500 since and, despite a valiant effort in a three-point home OT loss to La Salle on Wednesday, are clearly in a rebuilding stage.

14. Rhode Island. Between a road win at Saint Louis -- still can't figure that one out -- and Wednesday's 75-72 home victory over Dayton, Rhode Island lost six consecutive games. And you know what? It was all positive stuff. Remember, this is a team with a first-year head coach that won seven games in 2011-12. Five of the losses in the recent skid came by single digits. The Rams are playing people tough. It's a weekly refrain in this space, but it's true.

15. Duquesne. Duquesne! Huge win over Temple on Thursday night, not for any tangible reason -- it's not as though Duquesne is on the bubble -- but for sheer morale. It's not easy to play in a league like this when you're overmatched, and you had better believe knocking off one of the league's annual contenders in its final season in the league, in its own building, had to be incredibly satisfying.

16. Fordham. Fordham, unfortunately, has had no such fun. Its only two league wins have come over Rhode Island and Duquesne; it has lost its past five games; and on Saturday, Butler comes to town. Ouch.

Rapid Reaction: Duke 67, VCU 58

November, 23, 2012
11/23/12
9:35
PM ET
NASSAU, Bahamas -- A few quick thoughts from Duke’s 67-58 victory over Virginia Commonwealth in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament:

Overview: Two weeks into the 2012-13 campaign, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski already has his squad in midseason -- or dare we say late-season -- form.

Mason Plumlee scored 17 points and Seth Curry added 15 to propel the No. 5 Blue Devils into the championship game of the nation’s toughest tournament. Duke entered the Battle 4 Atlantis touting a victory over then-No. 3 Kentucky. But Friday’s win against VCU might have been even more impressive.

Most teams have more than one day to prepare for the Rams’ full-court, pressure defense. It’s tough to simulate in practice and it’s a style that teams rarely face at any other point in the season.

Duke, however, hardly seem fazed, as Krzyzewski’s squad committed just eight turnovers. The Blue Devils took a 17-15 lead on Rasheed Sulaimon’s layup midway through the first half and never trailed again. Duke led by as many as 12 points in the second half.

That’s not to say VCU didn’t have its chances.

The Rams pulled within four points, 54-50, with more than nine minutes remaining. But they went through a stretch in which they missed seven consecutive free throws, including two that came on the front end of one-and-one opportunities.

The physicality of the game made it tough on the offensive end for both teams. At one point in the second half the schools combined for one field goal during an eight-minute stretch -- and that came on a putback of a missed VCU layup.

Duke improved to 5-0. VCU fell to 3-2.

Turning point: Quinn Cook’s layup with 8:13 remaining extended Duke’s four-point lead to six, 56-50. VCU’s Darius Theus missed a pair of foul shots a few minutes later and the Blue Devils capitalized with a pair of foul shots by Seth Curry that made it 58-50 with 4:58 left. VCU never mounted a serious threat after that.

Star of the game: Plumlee was a beast on both ends of the court for the Blue Devils. He grabbed 10 rebounds to go along with his 17 points. He was credited with only one block but also altered a slew of shots. Juvonte Reddic and Treveon Graham each scored 16 points for VCU.

Key stat: One night after going 13-for-22 from 3-point range in a victory over Memphis, VCU connected on just four of its 20 shots from beyond the arc Friday. VCU shot just 32.8 percent overall.

Miscellaneous: Curry has a chronic leg injury that often makes it difficult for him to play two days in a row. The senior toughed it out Friday, though, playing 31 minutes to get those 15 points.

Up next: Duke advances to play Louisville in Saturday’s title game. Tipoff is at 9:30 p.m. ET. VCU will take on Missouri in the third-place game at 7.

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