Hoop Thoughts (Cont.)
Why upsets happen: Notre Dame senior guard Scott Martin was shooting eight percent from three-point range coming into last weekend. At one point this season Martin had missed 18 straight threes. He attempted two of them against Syracuse and made them both. He also made five of his eight shot attempts overall. Stuff happens.
All the talk about Missouri focuses on their guards, but my goodness Ricardo Ratliffe is having some kind of season. The Tigers' 6-8 senior forward had 27 points and eight rebounds in the Tigers' win at Baylor on Saturday. He is shooting 77.2 percent on the season, which has him on pace to break the NCAA Division I record of 74.6 set by Oregon State's Steve Johnson in 1991.
As for Baylor, we need to stop talking about the reluctance of the Bears' big men to score in the post and start talking more about their inability to defend in the post. Yes, I mean you, Perry Jones.
Michael Snaer's buzzer-beating, three-pointer to top Duke was truly a shot for the ages. But the more impressive part of the play was the way Luke Loucks aggressively but calmly dribbled up the floor and, instead of firing up an off-balance try of his own, rifled the pass to Snaer in the corner. It was one of the best examples of poise under pressure that I've seen in a long, long time.
It's also worth nothing that Duke was unable to stop Loucks from advancing the ball, and that the Seminoles shot 54 percent from the floor and 50 percent from three-point range. This may be the worst defensive team Coach K has had in more than a decade.
Two guys who don't get talked about much for first team All-America but should: Michigan State's Draymond Green and West Virginia's Kevin Jones. Those dudes can play for me anytime.
So let me see if I've got this straight. Ohio State sophomore guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. scores 28 points against Indiana. It was just the second time all season he scored in double figures. He followed it up by scoring two points in 20 minutes in a blowout win at Nebraska. Yup. Got it.
I'm hearing more and more that NBA scouts consider Weber State guard Damien Lillard, who's leading the nation in scoring at 25.1 points per game, to be the best point guard in the country.
By the way, is anyone paying attention to the season Oakland guard Reggie Hamilton is having? He's right behind Lillard in the scoring rankings. The kid has broken the 30-point mark in three of his last four games.
If nothing else good happens at Texas this season (and it has been that kind of season in Austin), I'm glad to see fifth-year senior Clint Chapman going out with a bang. I sat through a three-hour practice in October and watched Rick Barnes mercilessly (but accurately) ride Chapman for being too soft. Chapman has been stuck on the pine all through his career, but he has been the Longhorns' leading rebounder and second-leading scorer in Big 12 games. I hope he feels good about himself.
I don't know that I've ever seen a more impressive freshman debut than what Jarnell Stokes is doing at Tennessee. In just his third college game, Stokes had 16 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks in the Volunteers' win over UConn. Hard to believe a month ago this kid was still in high school.
Speaking of Tennessee, Cuonzo Martin was really rocking that T-shirt, which he was wearing to promote a charity set up by Pat Summitt. Since UT won, maybe Martin should wear a T-shirt the rest of the season, just like the St. John's coaches are still wearing open collars and sneakers after they did it for a win over Duke last year. I've always said it was silly that basketball coaches wear suits.
I've been praising Vanderbilt to the hilt the last few weeks, but once again the Commodores could not summon their defense when they needed it. Mississippi State came out with a 14-0 burst to start the second half, yet the Commodores were powerless to stop them. And how do you let a team shoot 12 more free throws than you on your own home court? Smh.
One more thing from that game: I heard Jimmy Dykes comment on ESPN that the fans in Memorial Gymnasium got awfully quiet when Mississippi State made that big run. I've always thought the really great crowds are the ones that make more noise, not less, when their team falls behind. Food for thought.
Michigan 6-10 sophomore forward Jon Horford should be cleared to practice soon as he heals from an injured right foot, but coach John Beilein is still deciding whether to redshirt him. It would really sting to put Horford in the lineup, which would burn his season, but the Wolverines have been pretty thin in the frontcourt since he went out last month. Then again, if Jordan Morgan can play as manly as he did against Arkansas (16 points, six rebounds in 25 minutes), Michigan won't miss Horford so much.
Add Dayton's Archie Miller to the list of coaches who did well by taking over a program where the coach was hired away instead of being fired. (Think UNLV's Dave Rice, Missouri's Frank Haith and George Mason's Paul Hewitt.) I'm not surprised that Miller is doing a terrific job, but the Flyers' success (they are now alone in first place atop the Atlantic 10) underscores why I've long believed Dayton is one of the best jobs in the country. The fans love their hoops (witness their support of the NCAA tournament play-in games), the facilities are terrific, and the Flyers play in a league where only half the teams are really competing.
One thing people are missing in the Todd O'Brien saga: The kid might just be a better player than anyone realizes. Mike Davis keeps telling me O'Brien is very skilled for a seven-footer and could really help the Blazers. Maybe Phil Martelli is afraid of being embarrassed that he didn't play O'Brien more while he was at St. Joseph's.
Whenever I hear an announcer use the phrase "over the back," I remember what the great basketball philosopher king Clark Kellogg taught me: It's OK to be over the back. It's not OK to to be on the back.
The general feeling among athletic directors and coaches I talk to is that the $2,000 stipend is going to become a reality at some point. It's just a question of how it gets implemented, not whether. Ironically, one of the objections that the lesser programs have is that when the legislation was originally crafted, it was limited to players who were on full scholarships. A lot of mid-majors and low-majors have players on partial scholarships, and they want to have the option of giving money to those athletes as well. In other words, the little guys are looking for ways to spend more, not less. That's encouraging.
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