Jigsaw Man completes the puzzle for 12 tournament hopefuls
Several top teams are just one player away from making a big tournament run
Georgetown could use Michigan State's Draymond Green to replace Greg Monroe
UNC's shaky point guard situation would be cleared up with Xavier's Tu Holloway
Cold weather got you down? Or are you just feeling an uncomfortable chill because you know your favorite team doesn't quite have the pieces it needs to mount a run in the NCAA tournament?
Don't despair, Hoopheads. The Jigsaw Man is back. He's going to fix your problems and warm your souls.
Regular visitors to this space know all about The Jigsaw Man. For the last few months he has been pouring over stats and spreadsheets. He has studied video. He has pondered and pontificated. And he has scavenged the nation to find the exact right piece that will instantly transform your team from a wannabe into a gonna be.
As you know, The Jigsaw Man likes to challenge himself. He knows that any team would get better if it could plug in Jared, Kemba or Jimmer. He prefers to look for players who are a little less well-known, a little less obvious. Now he's ready to present his findings. What follows below are the 12 puzzles on which The Jigsaw Man has been hard at work. If your favorite team is among the lucky dozen, there is no need to thank him. The Jigsaw Man is not out for glory. He just wants you to enjoy the completed pictures.
Biggest weakness: The Gators are a favorite Jigsaw Man target because they always seem to be just one player away from becoming a great team. That player is usually a guard, which is why he gave them Maryland's Greivis Vasquez last year. Well, Vasquez is in the NBA, but Florida has the same old problems. The Gators are sixth in the SEC in three-point percentage and they're eighth in threes made. That wouldn't be such a big problem if they utilized the foul line, yet they're ranked 245th nationally in free-throw rate and 270th in free-throw percentage. What this team needs is a tough guard who can nail outside shots and do some damage at the stripe. It would also be nice to find someone who can hold onto the ball, since the Gators have committed just two fewer total turnovers than their opponents this season.
Missing piece: Jordan Taylor, 6-foot-1 junior guard, Wisconsin. Taylor is 195 pounds of brute strength. He would immediately give Florida some badly-needed toughness at both ends. Even though Wisconsin is ranked 345th nationally in tempo, Taylor has attempted 100 free throws this season, which would lead the team if he were on Florida's roster. Taylor converts 88 percent from the line, and he is also currently ranked third in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.95-to-1). Throw in his 17.6 points and 4.6 assists a game, and you can see why The Jigsaw Man believes he would dramatically improve the Gators the moment he suits up.
Biggest weakness: The Seminoles are ranked third overall in defensive efficiency, but they're 146th in offensive efficiency. So they need someone who can knock down outside shots. Since Florida State also commits 16.4 turnovers per game, this person needs to take real good care of the rock. Still, if you're going to play for Leonard Hamilton, you'd better know how to guard. The Jigsaw Man understands that he can't just stick any standstill shooter on this squad. So he searched for someone who would fit into this team's defensive mindset while demonstrating he understands how to play with good players.
Missing piece: Jackson Emery, 6-3 senior guard, BYU. What, you didn't realize someone else played for BYU besides The Jimmer? Emery has been the perfect complement to Fredette's uncanny scoring ability, but he'll really give Florida State a boost by stretching opposing defenses. Emery doesn't get a ton of shots right now, but he's still averaging 13 points per game while shooting 45.7 percent from the floor and 40.6 percent from three-point range. Best of all, Emery just passed Danny Ainge to become BYU's career leader in steals. He also boasts a ridonkulous 3.19 assist-to-turnover ratio. The Jigsaw Man loves him, and he knows Hamilton will, too.
Biggest weakness: You might think The Jigsaw Man would want to deliver the Hoyas a true point guard, which would allow Chris Wright to play off the ball where he belongs. But in this Princeton-style offense, the Hoyas don't need a pure point guard as much as they need more good passers. Yes, they miss Greg Monroe's scoring and rebounding in the post, but what they miss the most are his 3.8 assists per game. So The Jigsaw Man is prepared to leave Wright at the point and instead install someone in the frontcourt who can make JT3's offense run a little more smoothly.
Missing piece: Draymond Green, 6-7 junior, Michigan State. If Green can average four assists per game at Michigan State, imagine what he can do in an offense specifically designed for his skill set. Green is a much-improved post defender, and his three-point shooting has skyrocketed. (He made just two treys all of last season, but he currently has 22 makes this season while converting 43.1 percent.) However, the best thing about Green is his leadership. He has been a commanding presence in the Spartans' locker room ever since his freshman season. That's something that Georgetown could really use.
Biggest weakness: Immovable post scorer and rebounder? Check. (Trey Thompkins.) Jumps-out-of-the-gym athlete? Check. (Travis Leslie.) Backcourt scorer and playmaker? Check. (Gerald Robinson.) Deadeye three-point shooter? Uh ... can we get back to you on that one? The Jigsaw Man can. He wants the Dawgs to do a better job exploiting the three-point line. Robinson is the team's only consistent long-range shooter, but it would help immeasurably if he had another dagger thrower to fill the opposite wing. Georgia is fifth in the SEC in three-point percentage (34.1), but it's 11th in threes made per game (4.7). Imagine how much harder it would be for opponents to handle Thompkins inside if they didn't have the luxury of sagging off Georgia's outside shooters.
Missing piece: Jordan Hulls, 6-foot sophomore guard, Indiana. Hulls is a specialist, but he's really good at what he does. Heading into last weekend he ranked sixth in the country in three-point percentage at 51.4. He doesn't take a ton of free throws (as you might imagine), but when he gets there he knocks them down (as you also might imagine). This will make him a valuable utility guy if Mark Fox wants to do some offense-defense substitutions at the end of games. It also helps that Hulls has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.14-to-1.
Biggest weakness: It's hard to quantify toughness. On paper Illinois is a pretty good defensive team. The Illini are ranked second in the Big Ten in field-goal percentage defense and first in three-point defense. They're also third in blocks. Yet, they seem to missing that certain je ne sais quois that prevents them from winning a big game like last Saturday's home tilt against Ohio State. The Illini could use some help on the boards, especially on nights when those three-pointers aren't falling. (They're ninth in the league in rebound margin.) But they need more than just another big man. They need a man with a big heart.
Missing piece: Kenneth Faried, 6-8 senior forward, Morehead State. The Jigsaw Man experienced his eureka moment while reading Luke Winn's elegant story on Faried in last week's issue of Sports Illustrated. Yes, Faried will grab a ton of missed shots for the Illini. He is currently averaging a nation's-best 13.7 rebounds per game. The more salient fact about Faried is that at 6-8, 225 pounds, there is no logical reason why he should be able to rebound this well. As Billy Donovan said, he is a modern-day Dennis Rodman. He simply wants the ball more than the other guy. Illinois has plenty of can-do. Faried will give this team some badly-needed want-to.