Questions for Duke, race for No. 1 overall seed and more (cont.)
Please help me attempt to restore sanity to this country. I have had the opportunity to watch four BYU games this season and I have yet to see Jimmer Fredette play anything that resembles defense. Why don't the in-game announcers or any media members bring up this fact? I think the national media has been brainwashed by his offensive numbers and has chosen to ignore the fact that outside of his shooting ability he is extremely limited as a basketball player. I'm not trying to tear the kid apart, but I always thought you had to be the best player in the country to win National Player of the Year, not just a guy who only plays offense and takes a majority of his team's shots.
-- Dave, Dallas
I'm just going to go there and ask: How much of the "perception" of Jimmer Fredette is based on the fact that he is white? Would he still be considered a national player of the year candidate if he weren't? Would he still be looked on as a cult figure? And on the flip side, would people so consistently question his defense? (Contrary to Dave's belief, a lot of people question Jimmer's defense.)
I believe the answer is yes on all three fronts. Fredette is a cult figure because he's a huge scorer who plays off the beaten path. It adds to his mystique. Stephen Curry was popular for the same reason. Curry was also not known for his defensive prowess, but I don't believe that was remarked upon as often as it is in the case of Fredette.
I will allow that Fredette will never be known as a defensive stopper, but I strongly reject the argument that he is just a shooter. Fredette is a great scorer as well as a shooter; his best asset is his ability to get to the foul line. He has never been "just" a scorer, either. Fredette has averaged over four assists per game during each of the last three seasons, and this year he is ranked third in the Mountain West with 4.3 per game. As for his D, he is averaging 3.4 rebounds and 1.4 steals, which ain't too shabby.
Most of all, Fredette is a terrific leader who has carried his team to the cusp of a No. 1 seed. People can make all the arguments they want, but to me, this national player of the year award is over. The winner is The Jimmer.
Villanova has really fallen apart over past few weeks, and Jay Wright seems to have given up coaching. If the 'Cats lose their first game in the Big East tournament, do they even deserve an NCAA bid? I think that they have already had their final victory of the season.
-- Mike McLaughlin, Houston
That seemed like a ridiculous assertion to me until I checked Villanova's schedule and saw that they only have one regular-season game remaining, and that's at Pittsburgh. Still, I doubt very much that they're going to lose their first game in the conference tournament and their first-round game in the NCAAs. Things at Villanova are bad, but they're not that bad.
Yes, the Wildcats have lost five of their last seven games, but four of those losses were to ranked teams. The fifth was the freakish loss at Rutgers on a late four-point play. Also keep in mind that Villanova had to play three games this month without Corey Stokes. (They lost to Pitt by three points at home without him but won at Seton Hall and DePaul.) However, that 21-point spanking at Notre Dame Monday night was genuinely alarming. It's one thing to lose to a good team on the road. It's another to fail to compete. That's not Villanova basketball.
I can assure you, Mike, that Jay Wright has not given up on coaching, nor have his guys given up on playing. I just think this team needs to get back to basics. The guards need to attack the rim again and do a better job feeding their bigs. And the whole team needs to renew its commitment to defense. This roster has too many good pieces to be playing the way it did Monday night in South Bend. I don't share Mike's belief that Villanova has won its last game, but the Wildcats do not strike me as a team that's ready to do some serious damage in the NCAA tournament.
Has the NCAA considered revisiting the definition of blocking versus charging? These calls seem to be the most controversial, subjective and most difficult to call. I really despise the inconsistency of these calls and wish the definition of each could be more clear cut.
-- Jerry Davis, Pittsburgh
It doesn't make sense to say that on the one hand, the block-charge is the most difficult call to make (which it is), yet on the other hand you don't like the inconsistency. I think the rules-committee folks have done a good job defining the difference between a block and charge, though there remain a lot of misconceptions from the public. For example, a lot of people think a defender cannot be moving at all and draw a charge, but that is not true. As long as the defender has established position in the space between the dribbler and the basket, then he is granted some leeway as far as his movement.
The one adjustment that I do expect to be made in the near future -- perhaps as soon as next year -- is the addition of the arc under the basket. Two years ago, the Division I rules committee made a change stipulating that if a player attempted to take a charge under the basket, the official must whistle him for a blocking call. Before then, the situation was often ruled a no-call. The rules committee was hesitant to add the arc to the floor off the bat, but earlier this season the arc was used in a few experimental games, and it was a huge hit.
Please don't tell me some lucky bank shot ended the tourney hopes for Michigan. Will the committee take into account our close losses against top teams, or is it more of a black and white picture?
-- Harry Hillman, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Alas, it is indeed quite possible that the difference between Michigan playing in the NCAA tournament and the NIT is that banked-in three-pointer hoisted by Wisconsin freshman Josh Gasser. The Wolverines have had their share of close shaves against marquee opponents. They took Kansas to overtime at home before losing, and they lost to Syracuse and Illinois by a total of five points.
The committee is not supposed to take into account margins of victory, but I have to believe the individual members notice these things. Then again, Michigan plays in a lot of close games because John Beilein does such a good job of slowing the tempo. That's why this is such a slippery slope.
Besides, if Harry is going to ask committee members to take into account close losses, would he also argue they penalize the Wolverines for close wins? After all, Michigan needed overtime to win at Iowa, it beat Indiana at home by four points and it won at Michigan State and Penn State by a total of seven points. The bottom line for Michigan is: Just win, baby. Saturday's home game against Michigan State will not guarantee the Wolverines a bid, but it would really, really help.
Is it déjà vu all over again for us Pitt fans? The Panthers have a fantastic year in the Big East, figure to go deep into the tournament, yet I feel like if they meet a BYU or even St. John's again in the tournament, they are going to get beat by their up-tempo game. Does Pitt legitimately have the scoring necessary to get to the Final Four? And if they don't do it this time, then when?
-- Joe, San Antonio
I asked Jamie Dixon virtually the same question in December. Not surprisingly, he disagreed with the premise. "I think we have this perception about us that is inaccurate," Dixon said. "Two years ago when we had DeJuan Blair and those guys, we ended up second in the country in offensive efficiency behind North Carolina. We might be in the middle of the pack offensively in our league, but there's only a few points difference between us and the top team. Maybe it comes with being from Pittsburgh. No matter what we do, we're going to be known as a physical, defensive team."
This year's numbers back Dixon -- sort of. In Big East games, Pitt is ranked fifth in the league in scoring at 70.1. Marquette is first at 74.1. Not a huge difference. Pitt ranks second in the league in field-goal percentage and second in three-point percentage, but it is 12th in made threes at 5.6 per game. Nationally, Pitt is ranked sixth in offensive efficiency and fourth in assists per made field goals. Yet, it is 298th in tempo and 260th in percentage of points from threes. Most concerning of all is Pitt's free-throw shooting, where the Panthers rank 270th in the country at 66 percent.
I think it's fair to say that Pitt has a few concerns heading into the NCAA tournament. I also think it's fair to say that a lot of coaches would love to have Jamie Dixon's concerns heading into the NCAA tournament.
Click here to send your questions to Seth Davis for his upcoming Mailbag column.