College Basketball Nation: Myck Kabongo

3-point shot: Tough blow for Texas

August, 21, 2013
8/21/13
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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.
It’s not my job to second-guess the decisions the following players made when they entered the NBA draft without exhausting their collective collegiate eligibility. There are often personal situations tied to these calls.

But the reality is that these athletes were not selected during Thursday night’s draft. So perhaps another year in school would have been beneficial. It’s also important to note that many undrafted players will earn a slot on an NBA summer league squad or sign a free-agent contract soon, so this doesn’t mean that their NBA dreams are finished.

[+] EnlargeC.J. Leslie
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesDespite having another stellar season at NC State, C.J. Leslie got passed over in Thursday's draft.
C.J. Leslie (NC State) -- After leading his team to the Sweet 16 in 2012, Leslie appeared to be a lock for the first round of that summer’s NBA draft. He decided to return for his junior season, and his numbers were similar to his stats from 2011-12 (15.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 1.0 SPG). He scored 20 points (8-for-12) in NC State’s round-of-64 loss to Temple in the NCAA tournament in March. Maybe another year would have allowed Leslie to add some muscle to his 6-foot-9, 200-pound frame, squash concerns about his leadership ability and prove that he can be a high-energy guy every night. Still, many players who were drafted lack his upside. This is stunning.

Phil Pressey (Missouri) -- Pressey was both brilliant and frustrating in three years at Missouri. On his best days, he was a 6-foot dynamic playmaker who could get to the rim and create offense for the Tigers. On his worst days, he was a turnover machine who made poor choices. His decision to turn pro was certainly surprising. He averaged 3.5 turnovers per game and only made 32 percent of his 3-pointers last season. Both were declines from the season prior. For an undersized point guard with turnover issues and limited shooting ability, one more year in Columbia could have enhanced his pro future.

Adonis Thomas (Memphis) -- Everyone wants a LeBron James clone. In recent years, the value of the 6-7 wing has skyrocketed. If you’re big and you can play on the perimeter a little bit, then the general assumption now is that you have “pro potential.” Thomas has pro potential, but his sophomore season was not an affirmation of that. He shot just 40.5 percent from the field and made 29.2 percent of his 3-pointers. It was his first full season after an ankle injury interrupted his freshman campaign, and even though he has all of the physical tools to compete in the NBA, he apparently didn’t wow execs in Year 2.

Vander Blue (Marquette) -- This was a classic case of “instant draft buzz,” I think. Blue had a stellar postseason and led Marquette to the Elite Eight. That effort included a 29-point barrage against Butler in the round of 32, but also included a 3-for-15 performance in a 55-39 loss to Syracuse in the regional final. But the perception about his NBA future had shifted dramatically during Marquette's run in the Big Dance. Blue could have entered 2013-14 as a preseason All-American. I wasn’t surprised when he entered the draft. I was surprised when he stayed in the draft. The 6-4 wing will have to find another way into the league.

Myck Kabongo (Texas) -- Well, this wasn’t the plan. Kabongo, a former McDonald’s All American, turned pro following a tumultuous season with the Longhorns. He was suspended for 23 games as a result of an NCAA investigation, but was a standout in the limited time he was available. He averaged 14.6 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 5.5 APG and 2.0 SPG in 2012-13. Pro execs, however, might have had concerns about his character; Kabongo was suspended after he lied to investigators about receiving impermissible benefits. His brief appearances last season did not help his cause. Looking at the current mess in Texas, however, returning might not have been the best move, either.

Dewayne Dedmon (USC) -- Dedmon had an unconventional journey to Division I basketball. He was a gray shirt and redshirt at Antelope Valley College before joining USC’s program. And he redshirted in 2010-11 with the Trojans. The 7-footer is a project. And that’s probably why he went undrafted. He hasn’t played a lot of organized basketball, so he’s still raw. He averaged 6.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.1 BPG and 1.1 SPG in 2012-13. Solid numbers, but not enough to convince NBA teams to draft him. His size and upside, however, suggest that he’ll get a shot somewhere.

B.J. Young (Arkansas) -- During the 2012-13 season, Young scored 29 points against Arizona State, 25 against Syracuse, 25 against Tennessee and 27 against Missouri. The 6-3 combo guard was an offensive catalyst for the Razorbacks. But shooting concerns only magnified questions about the position he’d play at the next level. He was a 23 percent shooter from beyond the arc last season, and he made just 67 percent of his free throws. Those numbers were probably more significant for NBA execs than his 15.2 PPG average and offensive explosions.

C.J. Aiken (Saint Joseph’s) -- Aiken is an explosive athlete who tortured Atlantic 10 squads with his ability to alter and block shots. But can a 6-9, 201-pound post presence duplicate that in the NBA? And if he can’t, can he defend NBA wings? Those were the immediate questions after he decided to enter the draft. Plus, his offense is raw and limited; he shot 25.3 percent from the 3-point line last season, but also averaged 10.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG and 2.6 BPG. He’s the kind of young man some NBA team will sign this offseason. He’ll get a chance to prove that he’s equipped to be an effective defender and offensive contributor at the next level.

Tahj Tate (Delaware State) -- This might be a case of a player who went undrafted because of the competition he faced and where he played. Or maybe it’s a talent thing. Tate earned second-team All-MEAC honors in 2012-13 after averaging 12.8 points a game. Now, the YouTube clips suggest that the 6-4 guard is a great athlete. But he wasn’t a great shooter (29 percent from 3-point range), and he actually was a better scorer in 2011-12. Still a head-scratcher on the surface. Again, we don’t know his thought process prior to this decision. But he seems like a long shot to crack a pro roster in the near future.

John Taylor (Fresno Pacific) -- Taylor would not have been the first player drafted from the Division II ranks. But it certainly would have been a surprise, even though Taylor had a phenomenal junior season at Fresno Pacific. The guard led Division II with an average of 27.5 points a game and his team to a 21-9 record. He also earned a national title in junior college. This would not be a shock if Taylor had put up similar numbers at a Division I school, but it’s difficult to project a player’s ability when he hasn’t faced the top competition at the collegiate level. Still, he probably did as much as he could within Division II basketball.

Editor's Note: For Dana O'Neil's piece on the search for Renardo Sidney and the perils of basketball talent gone awry, click here.

Path to the Draft: No. 10 Texas

June, 13, 2013
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In the weeks leading up to the June 27 NBA draft, we’ll be taking a look at the 20 schools that have produced the best pros in the modern draft era (since 1989, when the draft went from seven to two rounds). Click here to read Eamonn Brennan’s explanation of the series, which will be featured in the Nation blog each morning as we count down the programs from 20 to 1.

Top Five Draftees Since 1989
  1. Kevin Durant (2007)
  2. LaMarcus Aldridge (2006)
  3. T.J. Ford (2003)
  4. Tristan Thompson (2011)
  5. D.J. Augustin (2008)
Sixth man: Avery Bradley (2010)

The rest: Daniel Gibson, Dexter Pittman, Damion James, Royal Ivey, Jordan Hamilton, Cory Joseph, P.J. Tucker, Chris Owens, Chris Mihm, Alvin Heggs, Lance Blanks, Travis Mays, Dexter Cambridge, B.J. Tyler, Terrence Rencher, James Thomas, Maurice Evans

Why they’re ranked where they are: Kevin. Durant. LaMarcus. Aldridge.

It’s not that simple. But the duo carries the most weight and responsibility for the program’s NBA legacy and standing in our “Path to the Draft” rankings.

In Durant, Texas is tied to a player who could end his career as one of the top 10 players in NBA history. And with Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett likely retiring soon, the next great NBA power forward very well may be Aldridge, who has averaged at least 21 points and 8 rebounds in each of the past three seasons. He’s made the last two All-Star games and has evolved into one of the premier players in the NBA.

And he’s only 27. Durant is just 24. So the Longhorns’ stock will probably rise in the coming years.

It’s necessary to mention Durant and Aldridge because the rest of this list is not necessarily pristine when compared to the other teams we’ve ranked thus far and those we’ll unveil in the coming days.

T.J. Ford played eight years but a spinal cord injury interrupted a promising career. Still, he averaged 11.2 points and 5.8 assists per game.

Avery Bradley (9.2 PPG, 1.3 steals per game in 2012-13) could take on a larger role with the Boston Celtics or another NBA team in the future.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are building a strong post-LeBron James lineup. It certainly helps that second-year big man Tristan Thompson (11.7 PPG, 9.4 RPG) looked like a future All-Star this season.

Cavaliers guard Daniel Gibson hasn’t been the same player since James left town. But he’s just 27, so there’s still time to regain that old swagger.

Cory Joseph might have a future with the San Antonio Spurs, but it’s too early to know. There aren’t many 21-year-old point guards logging minutes in the postseason, though.

D.J. Augustin struggled with the Indiana Pacers this season, but he had three good years with the Charlotte Bobcats. Just five seasons into his career, it wouldn’t be prudent to pass judgment on his career yet.

Chris Mihm had a few solid years with the Los Angeles Lakers. Maurice Evans gets credit for longevity (nine years).

[+] EnlargeKevin Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge
Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)Ex-Longhorns Kevin Durant, right, and LaMarcus Aldridge should be NBA stars for years to come.
But Durant and Aldridge clearly anchor this list.

James became the youngest player in NBA history to score 20,000 points (28 years old, 17 days) earlier this year. That record could be shattered soon. He has scored 12,258 points and won’t turn 25 until September.

The 6-foot-9 wing averaged 28.1 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.3 BPG and 1.4 SPG this season. He shot 51 percent from the field. And he made 91 percent of his free throws.

Through six seasons, Durant established his place next to James on the game’s Mount Rushmore of future Hall of Famers and legends. He commands an Oklahoma City Thunder franchise that should remain in the NBA title picture for many years.

There are a lot of lists that utilize a variety of criteria.

We’re all about quality. And in our eyes, Durant, Aldridge and a few other noteworthy players are collectively worth more than a team such as Kansas that has produced dozens of NBA products but only one legitimate star since the 1989 NBA draft -- the cutoff for our rankings.

Texas is also top-10 because its best players have a lot of time left. We’ve already discussed Durant. Aldridge will earn more national recognition for his skills in the coming years. He’s a beast. Bradley and Thompson could rise in the next two or three seasons, too.

Yep, the Longhorns belong here.

Why they could be ranked higher: Durant is a superstar. His presence alone would justify a move up the rankings.

We’re measuring teams according to their abilities to produce NBA talent. And Durant has already had an NBA career that tops the pro achievements of entire programs.

And there’s so much potential with this group. Aldridge is a young star. Thompson will be.

If these were actual teams that competed against one another, it would be easier to make Texas’ case for a higher ranking.

Aldridge and Thompson inside. A bunch of solid guards in the backcourt. And Durant destroying defenders inside and outside.

Makes more sense now, right?

Why they could be ranked lower: So what’s the real difference between Texas (No. 10) and Syracuse (No. 20) and Kansas (No. 14)? The programs owe their rankings, in part, to the presence of superstars. But there was little substance among their respective squads’ overall pro legacies.

Durant is a stud. Aldridge could be an All-Star for the next decade.

But Thompson still has a lot to prove.

And this list features multiple players who fizzled once they reached the next level. J'Covan Brown, who left Texas prior to his senior season, isn’t even mentioned because he wasn’t drafted.

What else can Texas stand on -- other than Aldridge and Durant -- to justify its top-10 status?

What’s ahead?: There’s a bright future ahead for Texas. Durant could win a few titles. Aldridge might be the next great NBA power forward. Thompson could be the franchise star along with Kyrie Irving in Cleveland. Bradley could blossom, too.

Even guys such as Augustin could improve.

Myck Kabongo entered this summer’s draft. It will be interesting to see how he transitions to the NBA after limited playing time last season due to an NCAA investigation.

Texas is No. 10 right now, but a few years from now, the Longhorns might be even higher.

Final thoughts: There’s intrigue with this group because it features a multitude of current players. Its NBA rep could change soon.

Texas has produced one of the greatest players of this generation and another All-Star who’s matured into one of the league’s best power forwards. And Thompson, Bradley and others could boost the team’s profile soon.

Texas doesn’t have dozens of successful NBA players. But the ones who made it are some of the game’s most successful performers. We feel like if you have two of the league's top 15 players, you have to be right in the mix.

And there’s still room for this program to elevate its NBA profile, too.
1. Texas lost 18 games last season. The Longhorns won seven in the Big 12 and were shut out of the NCAA tournament for the first time since head coach Rick Barnes arrived in 1998. Sheldon McClellan and Julien Lewis were third and fourth, respectively, on the team last season in turnovers with a combined 112 and are both transferring. Jaylen Bond, who battled a foot problem for most of the season, also left. According to a source, the decisions weren’t solely the players'. Should Texas be worried that these three, as well as NBA-draft-bound guard Myck Kabongo (23-game amateurism suspension), are out of the program? If last season’s freshmen class is on board with the way Barnes wants to play, the answer is no. Ioannis Papapetrou, Javan Felix, Connor Lammert, Demarcus Holland, Prince Ibeh and Jonathan Holmes will be the core of next season’s team. Holland clearly likes the idea of what remains in Austin. He tweeted after a workout on April 30: “Honestly never loved a team like I do now. Feels great when you can get it in, say family on three, and really feel like brothers. #Horns.’’ At the time, Bond, McClellan and Kabongo were all gone. Barnes told his staff that he wants to get back to the teams he has had in the past, with players who will play with toughness and display the passion for winning. According to someone close to the program, despite the defections, the staff has looked at this spring as one of its best in terms of player development. The Longhorns also brought in four newcomers for next season. Texas will be picked in the lower half of the league, below Kansas, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Iowa State and Kansas State. The onus is on this crew, led by someone like Holland, to propel Texas back to its rightful place in the Big 12, in competition behind Kansas. If these departures are addition by subtraction, Barnes will know early on. If not, next season could seem like a dog year.

2. Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis said there were logistical issues that could not be worked out for the proposed Dec. 7 game against Gonzaga in Spokane, Wash., to honor former Spartans coach and Spokane resident Jud Heathcote. So the game is off -- along with the proposed undercard of Washington State versus Montana. Wazzu coach Ken Bone said Idaho had been willing to move a date for the Cougars, but now that is unnecessary. Meanwhile, an SEC official said the league didn’t have criteria for not including Georgia, LSU, Arkansas and Tennessee in the inaugural SEC/Big 12 Challenge. Scheduling conflicts and the need to balance the series were why those four schools were omitted in a challenge between a 14-team SEC and a 10-team Big 12. Still, organizers probably could have tried to get star-laden Oklahoma State a higher-profile game than hosting rebuilding South Carolina.

3. Gonzaga coach Mark Few said being away from his family was the reason he is stepping aside from coaching the U.S. under-19 team with Florida’s Billy Donovan and Virginia Commonwealth's Shaka Smart in the world championships June 27-July 7 in Prague. Along with the practice sessions, it becomes nearly a month's commitment. The three coaches won gold a year ago in Brazil with the under-18 squad. Virginia coach Tony Bennett will take Few’s spot on the staff. In an event taking place July 6-17 in Kazan, Russia, Davidson’s Bob McKillop, Michigan’s John Beilein and South Carolina’s Frank Martin will coach the U.S. team at the World University Games. Meanwhile, Iowa State’s Melvin Ejim is diversifying his international basketball career. Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg said Ejim will play for Canada this summer after playing for Nigeria a year ago. Hoiberg said Ejim has dual citizenship from the two nations.

Video: Kabongo to enter NBA draft

April, 12, 2013
4/12/13
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Dave Telep discusses Myck Kabongo's decision to declare for the NBA draft.

3-point shot: Xavier's NIT snub

March, 18, 2013
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1.The NIT selection committee snubbed Xavier despite quality the Musketeers' wins over Temple, Butler, La Salle, Memphis and Saint Louis. Xavier coach Chris Mack and outgoing athletic director Mike Bobinski were expecting to get an NIT bid. When one didn’t come Sunday night they both agreed not to pursue the CBI. So, Xavier’s season is over and likely its longtime history in the A-10 has come to a close as well. The Musketeers are expected to be announced, according to multiple sources, with Butler and Creighton, as a member of the new Big East later this week.

2. NIT selection committee chair C.M. Newton said the toughest decision among teams not invited to the NIT was Air Force. He said the injury to Michael Lyons, which occurred during the Mountain West Conference tournament, was a factor in leaving the Falcons out. That’s a shame. Air Force had a terrific season, upsetting league champ New Mexico on the final regular season conference game as well as beating UNLV, San Diego State and Boise State at home. The Falcons weren’t picked to go to the CBI, either. Newton said Wyoming, Murray State, Arkansas, LSU, Richmond and UTEP were all considered as well, but road losses and 10 automatic qualifiers (limiting the at-large pool to 22) were factors in selecting the field.

3. The CBI has some interesting storylines. Texas and Myck Kabongo will continue the season, playing at Houston. Richmond, fresh off that disastrous meltdown to Charlotte in the A-10 quarterfinals, plays at Bryant, which is in its first year of being eligible for the postseason in Division I. Lehigh, which still didn’t have C.J. McCollum healthy for the Patriot League tournament, is at Wyoming, one of the four final unbeaten teams in January. The other games are George Mason at College of Charleston; Vermont at Santa Clara; Tulsa at Wright State; North Dakota State at Western Michigan and Western Illinois at Purdue.

Numbers to Know: Wednesday Recap

February, 28, 2013
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Player of the Night – Jermaine Marshall, Penn State
Penn State entered Wednesday mired in a 14-game losing streak that had left them winless in Big Ten play. The Nittany Lions went on a 33-12 run to overcome a 15-point second half deficit and beat Michigan 84-78. It’s the fifth win over a top-five team in school history, and first since 2001. Marshall was the key to Penn State’s comeback, scoring 19 of his 25 points in the second half.

Scorer of the Night – Myck Kabongo, Texas
Highlighted by an off-balance heave to send the game to overtime, Kabongo scored a career-high 31 points to lift Texas over Oklahoma. That includes 24 points in the final eight minutes of regulation and overtime, as the Longhorns completed a 22-point comeback. To go with the 31 points, he added eight rebounds, six assists and four steals. Kabongo is the only player in Big 12 history to reach all four of those totals in a game.

Bench Player of the Night – Jake Kretzer, Akron
Akron won its 19th straight game and improved to 13-0 in the MAC, as the Zips approach the first unbeaten MAC season in 54 years. Kretzer went 6-for-6 the field, including five threes, on his way to a career-high 19 points in the win over Ohio. He’s the first MAC player in at least 15 years to go 5-for-5 from three-point range off the bench.

Freshman of the Night – Kyle Anderson, UCLA
Anderson, Shabazz Muhammad and Jordan Adams all topped 21 points in UCLA’s overtime win over Arizona State, so all three are deserving of recognition. But Anderson added 15 rebounds, three assists and four blocks to his 21 points. The last two Pac-12 players to reach those totals were Curtis Borchardt (2002) and Ike Diogu (2004).

Stat Sheet Stuffer – Javon McCrea, Buffalo
The most impressive statistical performance of the night came in a losing effort. McCrea had 32 points, 15 rebounds and eight blocks in an overtime loss to Kent State. The only player to reach those totals in the past 15 seasons was a future lottery pick: Fresno State’s Melvin Ely in 2002.

Numbers to Know: Wednesday recap

February, 14, 2013
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Player of the Night -- James Ennis, Long Beach State
Ennis had 26 points, 15 rebounds and four steals in Long Beach State’s win over Cal State Fullerton. Ennis is the first Division I player this season with at least 26 points, 15 rebounds and four steals in a game. He’s the first Big West player to do so since Fullerton’s Pape Sow, who had 26 points, 18 rebounds and four steals against Cal Poly in February 2004.

Scorer of the Night -- Elston Turner, Texas A&M
Turner scored 37 points on 13-for-20 shooting, including 7-for-10 on 3-point attempts, in Texas A&M’s win over Ole Miss. Turner didn’t fill the stat sheet in many ways other than scoring, as he had just two rebounds, one assist, one steal, no blocks, no fouls and no turnovers. Only one player has scored more points in a game this season without any fouls or turnovers. That player is also Turner, when he scored 40 against Kentucky on January 12. His 40-point performance was the most by a Division I player without a foul or turnover in more than six years.

Shooter of the Night -- Markel Brown, Oklahoma State
Brown, who is usually known for dunks like this, showed off his outside shooting skills in Oklahoma State’s win at Texas Tech. Brown scored 25 points on 8-for-11 shooting, including 7-for-8 on 3-point attempts. He also made both of his free-throw attempts. No player in Big 12 history has made more 3-pointers while only missing only one attempt than Brown. Five other Big 12 players have also shot 7-for-8 from beyond the arc: Oklahoma’s Nate Erdmann (1997), Kansas’s Kirk Hinrich (2003), Texas A&M’s Antoine Wright (2005), Baylor’s LaceDarius Dunn (2008) and Iowa State’s Jamie Vanderbeken (2011).

Stat Sheet Stuffer -- Joe Jackson, Memphis
Jackson had 21 points, 10 assists, four rebounds and three steals in Memphis’s win over UCF. Jackson is only the second Division I player to reach those plateaus in a game this season. The other was Western Carolina’s Trey Sumler, who had 25 points, 12 assists, four rebounds and four steals against Chattanooga on January 19. Jackson is the first Memphis player with a stat line like that since Antonio Burks, who had 27 points, 10 assists, four rebounds and four steals against UAB in February 2003.

Debut of the Night -- Myck Kabongo, Texas
Kabongo might have been the only player with his season debut last night, but he still deserves the award. Kabongo had 13 points, seven assists and four rebounds in the Longhorns’ double-overtime win over Iowa State. Perhaps Texas is a different team now that Kabongo has returned from his 23-game suspension. According to BPI, Iowa State is the best opponent Texas has defeated this season.

Observations from Saturday afternoon

February, 9, 2013
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Kansas coach Bill Self was in the postgame handshake line after his team’s 72-66 loss to Oklahoma when he looked up and saw hundreds of students rushing the Lloyd Noble Center court.

His lips didn’t move, but as he tilted back his head and rolled his eyes, it was obvious what Self must’ve been thinking.

“Are you serious?”

A victory over Kansas hardly seems like a big deal these days -- or at least not monumental enough for a court-storming. Saturday’s setback against the Sooners marked the third consecutive loss for the Jayhawks. And it came just three days after a defeat against last-place TCU that some are calling one of the biggest upsets in decades.

KU certainly played better Saturday than it did against the Horned Frogs, but this is still a team that looks mentally frazzled and out of sorts, which is almost unthinkable for a Self-coached team. Point guard Elijah Johnson missed a pair of easy layups in the waning minutes, and small forward Travis Releford shot a 3-pointer that barely nicked the front of the rim.

Even worse was that a KU squad known for its defense allowed a good-but-not-great Oklahoma team to shoot 45 percent from the field. Because of it the Jayhawks -- who have won eight straight Big 12 titles -- are now toting three losses in a row for the first time since 2005.

[+] EnlargeGeron Johnson
Chuck Cook/USA TODAY SportsGeron Johnson's 25 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists led Memphis to its 14th win in a row.
Things won’t get any easier for Kansas on Monday, when No. 13 Kansas State visits Allen Fieldhouse. The Jayhawks defeated the Wildcats 59-55 in Manhattan on Jan. 22, but the two programs have gone in opposite directions since then.

Here are a few other observations from Saturday’s afternoon games:

1. It might be time to consider putting Memphis back in the top 25. Josh Pastner’s squad picked up a huge victory Saturday by defeating Southern Miss on the road 89-76. The Golden Eagles are considered the second-best team in Conference USA behind Memphis, which hasn’t lost since falling to Louisville on Dec. 15.

The Tigers are 20-3 overall and 9-0 in Conference USA. I realize Memphis doesn’t have a ton of quality wins. But Pastner can’t control what league his team is in -- and at least the Tigers haven’t lost games they’re not supposed to lose, like seemingly every other team in the country. There’s something to be said for avoiding upsets, especially when everyone is gunning for you as the top team in your conference. Memphis’ only three losses are to Minnesota, VCU and Louisville. The Tigers host the conference’s other top team (UCF) on Wednesday.

2. The teams that pulled the two biggest upsets in the country this week didn’t exactly capitalize on the momentum. Arkansas, which whipped No. 2 Florida 80-69 on Tuesday, got embarrassed at Vanderbilt, 67-49. Three days after toppling Kansas, TCU was back to its old ways in a 63-50 home loss to West Virginia.

3. Georgetown coach John Thompson III doesn’t get nearly enough credit. The Hoyas’ 69-63 victory over Rutgers marked their seventh win in their past eight games. Included in that stretch are wins against Notre Dame and Louisville and two victories over a red-hot St. John’s squad.

Each year, Georgetown seems to lose stars to the NBA draft or seasoned veterans to graduation. But Thompson always responds. He always has guys ready to step in. Heck, this Georgetown team lost its second-leading scorer and rebounder (Greg Whittington) to academics midway through the season -- and the Hoyas got better. The man is an excellent coach, plain and simple.

4. Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan needs to send Ben Brust a thank-you card -- or, at the very least, he could ease up on him during the next round of conditioning drills.

Brust’s desperation 3-pointer from just past half court forced overtime against No. 3 Michigan on Saturday, and the Badgers capitalized with a 65-62 win. Brust also saved Ryan from what would’ve been a slew of criticism for not fouling on the previous possession with the score tied. Michigan guard Tim Hardaway Jr. made the Badgers pay with a 3-pointer that made it 60-57 with less than three ticks remaining. Wisconsin had fouls to give. If the Badgers would’ve lost that game, Ryan would’ve been crucified.

But Brust saved his coach moments later with the heave that gave his team new life. Wisconsin has now won four of its past five games. Its past two victories have come in overtime. Another great stat: Wisconsin has won six of its past seven home games against top-five opponents. Amazing.

5. Texas point guard Myck Kabongo will take the court for the first time Wednesday after a 23-game suspension for illicit dealings with an agent. At this point I’m not sure Kabongo will make much of a difference for a Longhorns squad mired in its worst season in recent memory.

Rick Barnes’ team shot just 39 percent from the field in its 72-59 home loss to Oklahoma State and missed 17 of its 18 attempts from beyond the arc. Texas also went 12 of 21 from the foul stripe. Barnes has been questioning the Longhorns’ effort all season, and it will likely take more than the return of Kabongo -- who was mediocre as a freshman -- to get things right.

At 10-13 overall and 2-8 in the Big 12, Texas is almost certain to miss the NCAA tournament for the first time in Barnes’ 15 seasons.

6. Less than 48 hours after losing at Texas A&M, Missouri turned in its best performance of the season in a 98-79 victory over Ole Miss.

My initial reaction is, so what?

The Tigers have been winning home games all season. But they’ve looked like a completely different team on the road, where their lack of toughness and poor decision-making (particularly by point guard Phil Pressey) have been alarming. Losses at LSU and Texas A&M are flat out inexcusable considering the talent gap between Missouri and those two teams.

Still, I saw things Saturday that made me think the Tigers’ victory over Ole Miss was more than just another home win. Three players (Pressey, Alex Oriakhi and Keion Bell) scored 20 or more points, and Oriakhi had 18 rebounds against a Rebels squad that spanked Missouri less than a month ago in Oxford. Missouri had only nine turnovers and shot 47 percent from the field.

If Bell becomes a bigger contributor and if Pressey (only one turnover Saturday) turns the corner, we may look back on Saturday’s Ole Miss win as a pivotal moment in Missouri’s season. Frank Haith’s squad should be high on confidence after this one.

7. During his time at Kansas and North Carolina, Roy Williams has rarely had teams that built their reputation on defense. But the 2012-13 Tar Heels have been particularly bad on that end of the floor.

Miami shot 54.4 percent from the field in Saturday’s 87-61 victory and went 15 of 26 from 3-point range.

North Carolina has allowed an average of 79.6 points per game in its seven losses. In five of those games, the opponent scored more than 80 points. The Tar Heels need to get tougher.

Olynyk made Wooden case in January

January, 31, 2013
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Kelly Olynyk has been among the nation’s best players in January. On Thursday, he’ll close out the month as the Gonzaga Bulldogs travel to Los Angeles to take on the Loyola Marymount Lions (ESPN2, 11 p.m. ET).

Olynyk started the season shuttling between the bench and the starting lineup. Since he became a full-time starter Dec. 28, he has averaged 21.8 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. During that span, he is shooting 64.8 from the field and has made 4-of-8 attempts from behind the arc.

So far in January, he is in the top 10 in the nation in scoring, at 22.0 ppg, and field-goal percentage, at 64.3 percent.

Olynyk is averaging 18.2 points per game this season while averaging only 25.4 minutes on the court. Among Division I players, only Creighton’s Doug McDermott averages more points per 40 minutes.

For the season, Olynyk is shooting 65.8 percent from the floor. The only Wooden Award winners to make more than 65 percent of their shots were Blake Griffin in 2009 and Larry Johnson in 1991.

The last player to average 28 points per 40 minutes while shooting at least 62.5 percent from the field was Arkansas' Corliss Williamson during the 1993-94 season. He lost out on the Wooden Award to Glenn Robinson of Purdue, but no player is having a Big Dog-caliber season in 2013.

Olynyk is fifth in the nation in effective field goal percentage. The last two Wooden finalists with a higher eFG were Johnson in 1991 and Hakeem Olajuwon in 1984.

When you factor in free-throw shooting, it’s even more impressive. Olynyk moves up to third in the nation at 71.7 percent, trailing only Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Belmont’s Ian Clark.

The last Wooden finalist with a true shooting percentage over 70? That would be Johnson.

Olynyk is part of a wave of Canadian talent playing collegiately in the United States. Consider the following squad of Canadian players:
  • Center Jordan Bachynski (Arizona State): tied for third in Division I with 4.3 blocks per game.
  • Forward Olynyk (Gonzaga): third in Division I with 71.7 true shooting percentage.
  • Forward Anthony Bennett (UNLV): second among freshmen with 18.1 points per game.
  • Guard Nik Stauskas (Michigan): top 10 in nation with 49.5 3-point field goal percentage.
  • Guard Myck Kabongo (Texas): preseason All-Big 12 (currently ineligible).
  • Sixth man Kyle Wiltjer (Kentucky): The dual Canadian-American citizen scored a career-high 26 points off bench Tuesday.

3-point shot: Tigers must wait on Haith

January, 22, 2013
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1. Missouri coach Frank Haith has long believed he is innocent and won't face any charges stemming from the investigation into potential violations, unethical conduct or a failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance as CBS Sports reported. If the Miami report does come out in the next week and Haith is named then he will likely receive his due process from the NCAA and Missouri. It could take nearly a year for the entire process to unfold from appeals to committee hearings to decisions rendered. Of course, Missouri could always self-impose any sanctions on him if there are charges. Haith has said from the time Yahoo! Sports broke the Miami story that he and the university have cooperated. That's key. Regardless of any charges, he must be open to any questioning. Missouri can't afford anything to drag on but the school must provide due process in the case. A rush to judgment won't fly and would not be prudent. This is a time-consuming process and one that must not be taken lightly. There is too much at stake for any final decisions without going through the process.

2. The Monday Big East results are yet another reminder that the league may actually be the most competitive from top to bottom in recent memory. That may not bode well for a high number of bids but there are few givens anymore. If you gave up on Georgetown then hold on because the Hoyas suddenly have life. If you were so inclined to jump on Notre Dame after a win over Kentucky you may want to wait after losses to St. John's, UConn and now the Hoyas. Cincinnati seemingly plays every game down to the final possession like Marquette. Don't even try to figure out Pitt at this juncture. I don't think you have to worry about Louisville and/or Syracuse much at all, but the rest of the conference is as wacky and unpredictable as ever.

3. Texas lost Jonathan Holmes with 6:58 remaining against Oklahoma Monday to what was later determined as a broken bone in his right hand. He's out indefinitely. The Longhorns are now 0-5 in the Big 12. I'm not sure Myck Kabongo would have fixed all of the problems, but clearly the NCAA did more than just harm Kabongo with the original season-long suspension that was reduced to 23 games. This ultimately damaged the Texas team, even though this was strictly an individual amateurism violation. The Longhorns haven't been right all season and won't be, making the NCAA penalty more about Texas than just Kabongo.
1. Florida is that good.

Yes, Missouri was missing leading scorer Laurence Bowers, and yes, the game was in Gainesville. Even so, what Florida did to Missouri on Saturday -- an 83-52 stomping that began in the first minute and never relented -- was an explosive statement of purpose from a team that should be regarded as one of the best in the country.

It's not just the demolition of Mizzou, though that was a nice data point to add to the rest. It's how Florida has played all season. Entering Saturday, the Gators ranked No. 1 overall in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted efficiency rankings, with the No. 2 offense and the No. 2 defense.

After four games, the Gators are outscoring their SEC opponents to the tune of 0.42 points per trip. The 2012 Kentucky Wildcats, which went 16-0 in SEC regular-season play, finished the season with a 0.26 efficiency margin, the most dominant performance any conference champion posted in any league last season. Playing this well in a down SEC, it's not ridiculous to think UF could do the same.

2. Michael Carter-Williams is a quick study.

Carter-Williams arrived at Syracuse last season as a highly touted shooting guard -- a lanky 6-foot-6 wing player who would, as soon as he was able to break into a loaded backcourt, add to SU's heavily stocked arsenal of scorers. But Jim Boeheim needed a point guard, so that's what Carter-Williams has been -- one of the best point guards in the country.

On Saturday, MCW had to learn on the job again. Against a relentless Louisville defense, one that forces the second-most turnovers per possession of any defense in the country, Carter-Williams initially struggled. Russ Smith and Peyton Siva forced him into turnover after turnover, and at several points, particularly early in the second half, it appeared as if the Cardinals were going to force enough giveaways to pull away from a more-than-game Syracuse opposition.

But Carter-Williams, who woke up Saturday with the nation's third-highest assist rate, quickly tidied things up. Per ESPN Stats & Information, Carter-Williams had eight turnovers in the first 32:30, but none in the final 7:30. He also accounted for Syracuse's final 13 points, scoring 11 of them and assisting on the other two.

In the closing moments, MCW's most underrated ability -- forcing steals -- got him a run-out, which he finished with a fast-break dunk that, but for a wild series of late possessions, gave the No. 6 Orange the slim but decisive edge they needed to topple No. 1 Louisville on the road. It was an impressive performance by Boeheim's team in many regards, but no one was more impressive in the biggest moments of the game than Syracuse's infinitely adept sophomore.

3. Wichita State can really guard.

The Creighton Bluejays are one of the nation's best offensive basketball teams. This season they've averaged 1.20 points per possession on offense, fourth-best in the country. They entered Saturday with the nation's highest 2-point (56.9 percent) and 3-point (45.4) field goal marks. They have a host of efficient role players who can beat you inside and out, and in Doug McDermott, they feature not only college basketball's most dynamic scorer but also one of its most efficient and versatile.

And on Saturday, the Shockers made them look utterly average.

Granted, a road trip to a good Wichita State was always a tall order for Creighton; one doubts Greg McDermott and his staff will come away from this hard-fought loss -- wherein 46 percent 3-point specialist Ethan Wragge missed two good looks to tie the game on the final two possessions -- all that angry or upset. In some regard, Creighton deserves credit for hanging in and nearly forcing overtime in a brutal road environment. But it was impossible to watch Gregg Marshall's team guard for 40 minutes and not be thoroughly impressed. The Shockers fought through every screen, bumped every cutter, pressured McDermott early without giving up too many open looks to his cohorts and grabbed 70 percent of the available defensive rebounds. Creighton, usually so ruthlessly clinical, never really found its rhythm.

[+] EnlargeArsalan Kazemi
AP Photo/Reed SaxonArsalan Kazemi was again in the thick of it for Oregon, here pulling down one of his 11 boards.
4. Oregon is Arizona's true Pac-12 challenger.

Since last spring, when UCLA coach Ben Howland locked down the nation's best recruiting class, the 2013 Pac-12 was prospectively seen as a duel between the conference's great old powers, Arizona and UCLA. Though the Bruins stumbled early in the season, they have played much better since. Led by the intuitive offensive brilliance of hyper-hyped guard Shabazz Muhammad, they entered Saturday having won 10 in a row. In other words, don't get me wrong: UCLA is not to be taken lightly.

It's just that, well, it's now officially time to anoint Arizona's true competition for the 2013 Pac-12. That team is the Oregon Ducks.

Oregon's win at Pauley Pavilion on Saturday afternoon was made all the more impressive by how well UCLA has been scoring lately. This is a team that had averaged 1.14 points per possession in its 10-game winning streak. The Ducks shut that whole thing down, holding UCLA to just 0.93 points per trip and cinching the defense ever tighter as the minutes counted off in the second half.

It's hard to say too much about the job Dana Altman has done in just his third season in Eugene, and it's impossible to say enough about what Rice transfer Arsalan Kazemi gives Oregon on the defensive end. Before Saturday, Kazemi ranked second in the country in defensive rebounding rate (31.2 percent) and 17th in steals percentage (5.1), the only player in college basketball remotely so adept at rebounding and forcing steals. The Iranian national's insertion into a tough, veteran UO lineup has made all the difference, and now the Ducks -- already a winner over Arizona -- are chasing a Pac-12 title.

5. Arizona State is not there yet.

Over the past few weeks, a soft but steady murmur has broken out among the college-hoops cognoscenti: Watch out for Arizona State. And rightfully so. After the disaster that was 2011-12 -- when ASU finished 10-21 and No. 223 in the KenPom rankings -- through Friday the Sun Devils were 14-3, No. 83 in the efficiency rankings and, at the risk of being obvious, just way way way better at basketball in every possible regard. It was a reality we all slowly woke up to, the idea that Arizona State, so bad a season ago, was not only improved but might actually find its way into the NCAA tournament. All it really needed was a quality win, and what better opportunity than in-state rival and basketball big brother Arizona -- in Tempe, no less?

Not so much. The Sun Devils fought valiantly for much of the game before Arizona recognized a weakness -- point guard Jahii Carson, the real engineer of the ASU turnaround, was playing with three fouls. Arizona started penetrating at Carson constantly, forcing the talented redshirt freshman into matador defense. When he picked up his fourth, the Sun Devils fell flat. As Wildcats senior Solomon Hill told the AP: "He's the heart of the team. They've only got six or seven guys, and it's a big drop-off when Jahii's out of the game."

It's a disappointing result for the Sun Devils fans, many of whom are just coming in from the (totally figurative) cold and getting excited about the program again. But it was a reminder of how important Carson is to Arizona State and how, if this team plans to get to the postseason, it needs to keep him on the floor at all costs.

Extras:
  • I'm having a difficult time wrapping my head around Temple. The Owls beat Syracuse in Madison Square Garden and pushed Kansas to the limit in Lawrence. They also lost at home to Canisius and, today, fell in Philly to St. Bonaventure 81-78. According to ESPN Stats & Info, that was the Bonnies' first-ever victory at Temple. They were 0-30 all-time in the Owls' building, and the last time they beat them anywhere was Jan. 16, 2002. I admit it: The Owls flummoxes me. I am flummoxed.
  • Ole Miss improved to 4-0 in the SEC with a 76-64 win over Arkansas on Saturday. Here's a crazy stat for you: This is Rebels' best SEC start since -- get this -- 1937.
  • How bad is West Virginia? That was a promising team on preseason paper, but the Mountaineers struggled out of the gate and haven't improved since. On Saturday, they fell to 8-9 overall with a 79-52 loss at Purdue, where they had as many turnovers (17) as made field goals. Yikes.
  • Kansas State handled a really solid Oklahoma team at home to stay unbeaten in Big 12 play. There is absolutely nothing remotely flashy about the Wildcats or the Sooners, but K-State might be the second-best team in the conference and Oklahoma looks like a top-half Big 12 outfit.
  • Georgetown's offensive woes -- the Hoyas are one of the better defensive teams in the country but just … can't … score -- continued today. They lost 61-58 at South Florida.
  • Speaking of offensive woes, Texas might be getting better on the offensive end -- Sheldon McClellan has developed into a real threat even without suspended point guard Myck Kabongo -- but the Longhorns are still very much a work in offensive progress. That said, they really guard people. It is natural to assume that a team that is 8-9 overall and 0-4 in the Big 12 is going to be an easy win for most of the league. Not at all. Kansas had to battle late to get out of Austin with a win, and plenty of Big 12 teams won't be so lucky.
  • If someone wants to start a Kickstarter to buy me a second or third television, feel free. If college basketball insists on having great games simultaneously every Saturday, this may be the only way. What an afternoon, huh?

Conference Power Rankings: Big 12

January, 4, 2013
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As conference play begins this week, it has become pretty obvious that Kansas is best team in the Big 12. Again.

But who comes next?

Baylor, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Iowa State all have solid squads with somewhat similar resumes. Ranking those four schools -- and the rest of the league -- isn’t easy, but here’s how I see things as we near the season’s midway point.

1. Kansas. While most other schools open Big 12 play this week, the Jayhawks will host a Temple squad on Sunday that defeated previously unbeaten Syracuse last month. Point guards Elijah Johnson and Naadir Tharpe combine to average 8.1 assists.

2. Oklahoma State. The Cowboys appeared to have Gonzaga beaten on New Year’s Eve in Stillwater before the Zags battled back for a 69-68 victory. Still, the Cowboys -- who got 23 points from Marcus Smart -- should be encouraged by their gutsy performance.

3. Baylor. The Bears have looked much better their past two outings, drubbing BYU at home before falling by seven points against a very strong Gonzaga squad in Spokane, Wash. They can’t afford to lose home games against lesser foes. That includes Texas, which visits Waco on Saturday still without point guard Myck Kabongo.

4. Iowa State. The Cyclones are off until their Big 12 opener at Kansas on Jan. 9. Will Clyburn and Tyrus McGee are averaging a combined 27.5 points. Melvin Ejim leads the team with 9.2 rebounds. It’s not absurd to say that Iowa State could finish as high as second in this league.

5. Kansas State. The Wildcats are playing hard for their new coach, Bruce Weber. But it’s not always pretty. K-State has looked mediocre since it defeated Florida Dec. 22 in Kansas City. Weber’s squad is good defensively while ranking 21st in the country in rebounds per game. But K-State has trouble scoring.

6. Texas. Freshman point guard Javan Felix hasn’t been all that bad in replacement of suspended sophomore Kabongo. Felix averages 6.5 assists. The Longhorns (8-5) have some serious work to do in conference play if they hope to keep their streak of 14 consecutive NCAA appearances alive.

7. Oklahoma. The Sooners are good enough to sneak up and beat anyone in this conference. But to contend for a postseason berth, Oklahoma needs to win some games on the road. It all starts Saturday with a tilt against West Virginia in Morgantown.

8. West Virginia. The Big 12’s most disappointing team can’t afford to lose Saturday’s home game against Oklahoma. Transfers Juwan Staten and Aaric Murray combine to average only 21.8 points.

9. Texas Tech. The Red Raiders will hit the road for the first time this season for Saturday’s game against TCU in Fort Worth. Texas Tech (7-4) is getting 15.2 points per game from Jaye Crockett.

10. TCU. Saturday’s home game against Texas Tech may be the best chance TCU will have at a conference win all season. Sophomore guard Kyan Anderson has been the Horned Frogs’ steadiest player, with 13 points per game.

3-point shot: Realignment winners

January, 1, 2013
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1. Among the biggest winners of this latest round of realignment will be the men's basketball teams for Boise State and possibly San Diego State. The Broncos might have had a better shot of being a top team in the Big West, but it would be a hard sell to the fans in Boise to bring in UC and Cal-State schools. Boise State coach Leon Rice has the Broncos moving in the right direction, and the momentum is in the Mountain West, not the Big West. Rice said the MWC provides a higher ceiling for the Broncos. Meanwhile, the Aztecs would have dominated the Big West and still might if that plan doesn't change. But the fans of Viejas Arena simply aren't going to be as jazzed for the Big West teams as they would for rivalries with UNLV, New Mexico and I'm anticipating Utah State. Obviously, the power ratings advantage in the MWC versus the Big West isn't comparable.

2. Texas coach Rick Barnes said on our ESPNU college basketball podcast that the staff originally thought Myck Kabongo would be available for the Maui Invitational. Then, as the investigation dragged, the anticipation was 10 games. The Texas staff was stunned initially when Kabongo was ruled to be ineligible for a year before he won an appeal to have the punishment reduced to 23 games for giving false information during a university interview into his May draft workout. Barnes is also an advocate now, that if any of his staff have to talk to the NCAA they must have legal representation present.

3. I'm glad to see VCU and Virginia playing a true home-and-home starting next year, as VCU coach Shaka Smart told us Monday on our podcast. VCU has earned the right to be treated as an equal by the more prestigious state school. Smart said that if he were in the ACC, he wouldn't want to come to the Richmond Coliseum, either. But it's not like Virginia can get anyone to come to Charlottesville for a true home-and-home. The Cavaliers have had schools like Stanford come, but scheduling is never easy for the Cavs, and VCU should always be a power-rating plus.

Video: Saunders on Kabongo punishment

December, 23, 2012
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John Saunders is having a hard time figuring out what NCAA hopes to accomplish with the Myck Kabongo suspension.

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