Hoop Thoughts (Cont.)
We now have irrefutable evidence that Fab Melo is more important to Syracuse than anybody once realized. When I spoke with Jim Boeheim last week, he emphasized that while the team missed Melo's defensive presence during his three-game absence, the Orange's offense suffered even more because so many of their points come off Melo's defense. You'll notice that Syracuse scored 95 points in his return against St. John's. That's not a coincidence.
UConn associate head coach George Blaney, no doubt acting under Jim Calhoun's direction, finally did the right thing and started Ryan Boatright, Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier together for the Huskies' game against Seton Hall. The reason that move hadn't been made beforehand was that Calhoun was concerned that by playing such a small lineup, he would hurt the Huskies' defense. But the Huskies' perimeter defense was pretty lame anyway, and they were having a terrible time scoring points. This lineup won't help UConn stop people, but it will give them a better chance to outscore them.
Here's another downside to conference expansion: When the ACC adds Syracuse and Pittsburgh, its teams will play 18 regular season games. That means fewer opportunities for programs to schedule nonconference matchups, and less incentive to play good teams when they do. (Deep sigh.)
I'm a little surprised freshman forward LaQuinton Ross has been getting so little playing time since joining Ohio State at the start of second semester. Ross is averaging just four minutes per game and didn't play in four of the Buckeyes' last six contests. I didn't expect him to come in and dominate, but I figured he'd play at least a little bit.
Two questions for Kansas regarding its loss at Missouri: How does Thomas Robinson not even touch the ball on those last three possessions? And what in the world happened to Jeff Withey? He wanted no part of that game.
When Harrison Barnes came out of high school, I thought his passing would be one of his best assets. So I'm pretty stunned to see that he has a grand total of 22 assists this season. He's too good to be this one-dimensional.
If I had to fill out an All-America ballot today, Murray State guard Isaiah Canaan would be on my first team. There are not many guards in the country who can change a game so quickly with his scoring.
I'm officially withdrawing my insistence that Florida run its offense through Patric Young. When coach Billy Donovan has to publicly talk about all the things he does to get Young to play with energy, something is seriously wrong. I understand Young has had an issue with his ankle, but the real problem is he doesn't have a motor commensurate with his muscle. The Gators managed to beat Vanderbilt even with Young limited to two points in 14 minutes because of foul trouble.
Is there anything better than watching a game you've recorded but don't know the outcome to? I don't think I need to watch a live sporting event for the rest of my life.
There's no shame in Creighton's loss at Northern Iowa, but one thing that did get exposed was the Bluejays' suspect defense. Creighton forced UNI to commit just two turnovers, and the Panthers went 11-of-21 from three-point range. Creighton is not going to beat many good teams with its D, but it sure can put points on the board.
I know it just lost by two points at Wyoming, but just so you know: I'm a big UNLV guy.
That was a very important comeback win over Xavier by Memphis on Saturday, maybe the most important win for any team over the weekend. If the Tigers beat the teams they should the rest of the way, they will be in the NCAA tournament. That would be pretty remarkable considering they lost two starters to season-ending injuries. Keep that in mind next time you want to rip Josh Pastner.
Don't you just love college hoops? Notre Dame freshman guard Pat Connaughton hadn't scored in double-figures once in his last 14 games, but hung 23 points on Marquette in a 17-point win on Saturday. Bet that wasn't in Buzz Williams' scouting report.
We all know Florida State plays great defense, but the reason for the Seminoles' surge over the last month is the improvement of 6-foot-5 senior point guard Luke Loucks. When I saw this team in person playing in the Battle 4 Atlantis, I thought Loucks would be a liability, but he has been running the offense with confidence and precision of late.
I had the great pleasure of watching Harvard play in person again 10 days ago, when the Crimson beat Yale by 30 points. This team plays really, really good defense. You know who they remind me of? Butler. They may by Ivy Leaguers, but the Crimson is sneaky tough.
Louisville freshman forward Chane Behanan played by far the best game of his young career during Saturday's win over Rutgers. He made his first 10 field goals en route to a 23-point, 11-rebound performance. Behanan won't do that every game, obviously, but it goes without saying that the Cardinals would greatly benefit if he could give them more consistent production.
I hope you all read about how Big 12 referee Darron George was trampled during the court storm at Iowa State following the Cyclones' win over Kansas. George cut his hand badly and chipped a bone. It's only a matter of time before something truly unfortunate (like a fight) or even tragic happens in one of these situations. Please, enough is enough.
And didn't you love how Missouri senior guards Kim English and Marcus Denmon ordered their own fans NOT to rush the court after they beat Kansas? Their explanation: We're home. We're supposed to win. That's how winners think, people.
I can't imagine how frustrating it is to be an Illinois fan these days. How do you beat Michigan State and lose to Northwestern in the same week? Most inconsistent team I've seen in years.
So let me get this straight. Arizona loses Kevin Parrom for the year and then goes to the Bay Area and sweeps Cal and Stanford? Yup. Got it. That's the Pac-12 for ya.
Talk about a fine line. Think how different Indiana's season would feel right now if the Hoosiers had lost to Kentucky and Ohio State. Those were great wins, but very close shaves. The bottom line is, Indiana is still a young team, and its deficiencies at point guard have been revealed in the last few weeks. Tom Crean has a very good point guard coming next year in Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell -- I've seen him play; he's a jet -- but he'll still be a 5-11 freshman point guard. I'm afraid IU fans should expect more growing pains next season.
Middle Tennessee State lost its first Sun Belt game over the weekend, falling on the road to a very good Denver team by 15 points. Since those teams play in different divisions, it was their only meeting of the regular season, but if they play each other in the Sun Belt tournament final, it will be appointment viewing. And believe me, you do not want your favorite team meeting the winner in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
On the day I visited Duke last week, the coaches tried to light a fire under the players by calling a 5 a.m. team meeting. The meeting lasted for three hours, and I'm told Coach K delivered quite the harsh critique. Later that day Coach K put the players through a rigorous practice. When I interviewed Austin Rivers afterward, his knees were bright red from floor burns. ("Loose ball drills," he said cheerfully.) So it's surprising, to say the least, that the Blue Devils came out on Sunday for a league game at home and weren't ready to play. That does not bode well for their game at North Carolina on Wednesday night.
I generally think that lack of depth is an overrated concern. A short bench can be problematic with injuries or foul trouble, but kids don't get as tired as we think. Still, when you look at the SEC stats and see that three of the top five leaders in minutes play for Mississippi State, you have to wonder if it will catch up with them at some point.
San Diego State is 13 for 60 (21.7 percent) from three-point range over its last three games. The Aztecs are going to have to do better than that if they're going to win at UNLV on Saturday.
When I hear a player who isn't vocal described as a "leader by example," I interpret that as saying that he's "not a leader." If you don't talk, you're not leading.
I'm similarly not impressed when I hear a guy is really good and really competitive at video games. Ditto for the guys who brag about how many DVDs they have. I'm waiting to read about the player who brags about how many books he has read.