Does Florida State pass the eye test?

Yes.  Florida State’s basketball team is really good.  The Seminoles are a perfect example of why the eye test is important.  There could be a moment when you are watching this Florida State team dominating a half during the elite 8 and ask yourself, “why didn’t I know about these guys?”  The Seminoles have three pros.  Jonathan Isaac and Dwyane Bacon are locks.  I would argue Xavier Rathan-Mayes will make an NBA roster.  And that trio epitomizes why this Florida State team is special.  Generally, like Virginia and Wisconsin, coach Leonard Hamilton’s Florida State teams are known for their defense, but an inevitable scoring drought would kill them in the tournament.  Not this team.  Rathan-Mayes stormed into the SEC in his freshman year, scoring at will.  Now, as a junior, his game has evolved into a traditional point guard, something that this talented Seminoles squad needs.  Senior center Michael Ojo (like Villanova champion Daniel Ochefu) is the typical under-appreciated utility center  who does his job.  If Bacon or Isaac play offense like the first round picks they’re projected to be, this is a very dangerous team.

Does Gonzaga pass the eye test?

Yes.

With Gonzaga, everything begins with big man Przemek Karnowski.  The 7-1 center is generously listed at 300 pounds.  As one commentator put it, he doesn’t protect the rim as much as he clogs the driving lane on defense.  Karnowski is surrounded by the most talented crop of transfers we can remember in recent years.  Jonathan Williams III is a power forward who does everything.  Nigel Williams-Goss gives coach Mark Few another point guard in addition to last year’s holdover Josh Perkins.  The bulldogs can score in an up-tempo game but also a grind-it-out ballgame.   The main critique that can be made is that Gonzaga really doesn’t have a traditional small forward in the rotation.  Jordan Matthews is another awesome transfer joining Gonzaga, but he is a traditional shooting guard.  Losing to BYU in late February may have been the best thing to happen to this bunch — it guarantees not going into the big dance undefeated.  As the Wichita State experience taught us in 2014, that undefeated mark may not be an asset for the tournament.

 

Brent Musburger’s new job in Vegas

An empty stage covered by a black curtain awaits a broadcasting legend at a Las Vegas mega casino.  After 77-year-old Brent Musburger calls his last game for ESPN Tuesday, January 31st, he will launch a new sports gambling network from the South Point Casino.  Staff at the hotel were tight lipped this week about what this new stage will become.  However, as Musburger called his final game of Kentucky versus Georgia, sources inside the South Point Casino started disclosing more details about the Vegas Stats and Information Network (VSiN).  During his Super Bowl Sunday launch, Musburger is expected to be joined by guest host and fellow broadcasting icon, Al Michaels.

Earlier this week, Musburger’s nephew Brian Musburger divulged new details about the network through a news release.  He indicated that more veteran broadcasters and producers would be allocated to the new venture, which is said to bring sports gambling out from the shadows.

The South Point Hotel and Casino is a 25-story hotel tower with a state-of-the-art sports book and convention center.  Its 60 acres sit roughly 5 miles from what’s considered the main Las Vegas Strip.

Does UNC pass the eye test?

Yes.   We don’t know what the hell that late January loss down in Miami was.  Nonetheless, this Tar Heel team keeps creeping around the 10th overall AP-ranking.  But this team is not much different from the squad that was one shot short of winning the 2016 national title.  Yes, they lost Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson from last season.  However, Paige was gone to injury for long stretches of last season, and Nate Britt and Joel Berry stepped up to carry the load.  We think the true UNC team is the one that beat up on a surging Florida State team in mid-January.  The increased playing time of former McDonald’s All-American, Isaiah Hicks, gives UNC a different dynamic down load with some lane-stuffers (he, Maye and Meeks).   Theo Pinson, now a junior, adds a punch off the bench with a full court style that thrives in the freedom of movement era.

Does Xavier pass the eye test?

The Crosstown Shoutout was a perfect example of the type of season the Musketeers are having.  Trevon Bluiett was red hot, making 10 of his first 10 shots.  Bluiett finished with 40 points, but Xavier still lost by 8 to Cincinnati.  Although Xavier has scoring punch in Bluiett, it misses the steady point guard play of Myles Davis, who left the program following a suspension.  To add insult to injury, Edmond Summer is out for the season with a torn ACL.  Xavier also obviously misses the intense play of Jalen Reynolds (now playing in Italy) on the inside.  Xavier just does not appear to have the versatility and balance that it had enjoyed over the past 5 or so years.  For that reason, we are flagging Xavier as a candidate for an upset round 1 of the NCAA Tournament.

 

 

 

Sons of NBA Players in College Basketball 2016 – 2017

Sons of NBA Players in the 2017 NCAA Tournament:

Son Team Father NBA Team of Note
Sam Cassell Jr. Iona Sam Cassell Houston Rockets
Isaiah Wilkins Virginia Domnique Wilkins Atlanta Hawks
Jalen Brunson Villanova Rick Brunson New York Knicks
Canyon Barry Florida Rick Barry Golden State Warriors
Bryce Alford UCLA Steve Alford Dallas Mavericks

More sons of NBA players in the college basketball: 

Son Team Father NBA Team of Note
Trey Mourning Georgetown Alonzo Mourning Miami Heat
Spencer Rivers UC Irvine Doc Rivers LA Clippers
Wyatt Lohaus Northern Iowa Brad Lohaus Milwaukee Bucks
RJ White Wofford Randy White Dallas Mavericks
Aubrey Dawkins UCF Johnny Dawkins Philadelphia 76ers
Tim Kempton Jr. Lehigh Tim Kempton Sr. Phoenix Suns
Kameron Rooks California Sean Rooks L.A. Clippers
Brandan Stith Old Dominion Bryant Stith Denver Nuggets
Lamond Murray Jr. Pepperdine Lamond Murray L.A. Clippers

Feast Week Debrief and more

Hopefully by now you are all waking up from that deep turkey coma.

A lot of college basketball has been played.

If you are one of those people who only tunes in for March Madness, but stumbles across this article, here are your cliff notes of team reports:

Duke
Your first thought about Duke is “how healthy are those freshman?”

And that’s not the trademark thought of a Final 4-worthy team.

For now, Duke has earned impressive early season wins, including a win over #21 Rhode Island on a neutral court much closer (Connecticut) to the Rams than the Blue Devils home turf.  They lost a thriller to Kansas.

Luke Kennard and Grayson Allen have shared the workload in terms of scoring output.  And Chase Jeter is a much improved post-player.  Last year, despite injuries down low, coach Krzyzewski was reluctant to play Jeter.  Yet, this year, he is logging valuable minutes.

Gonzaga
Not sure how coach Few does it, but he does it again.

Off all places, college transfers are supplying Gonzaga with two players who are making a true difference right now for the bulldogs.

In particular, Nigel Williams-Goss looks extremely comfortable at point guard.  The junior transfer from Washington averaged 13 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists early in the season.  Gonzaga beat an underrated Iowa State team in holiday tournament play, which is noteworthy because they too have one of the nation’s best point guards (Monte Morris).

Indiana 
OG Anunubi has been getting, and will continue to receive, all of the accolades in line with observers who salivate over a player’s NBA prospects.  Yet, for this Hoosiers ball club, James Blackmon Jr. and Thomas Bryant have been carrying the Hoosiers in the first eighth of the season.

The Hoosiers suffered a horrible loss at IFPUW, but this team’s versaility makes it a threat.  Despite losing Yogi Ferrell to graduation, Josh Newkirk, a Pittsburgh transfer, has been filling in nicely.

Maryland
Talented point guard holdover Melo Trimble does not have a ton of talent surrounding him, compared to what was in place with last season’s roster.  His penetration and runner late against Richmond escaped what would have been a really bad loss Thanksgiving week.  That was followed up shortly thereafter by a crushing at home while hosting Pittsburgh.  Maryland might not be a tournament team this season.

Michigan State
Miles Bridges is the next Vince Carter.

However, this Spartans team lacks size.  That hurts.

Coach Tom Izzo has been visibly (and minute-allowance-wise) disappointed with senior guard Erron Harris.  This Michigan State team, unlike several teams from the last 20 years, will run the ball in the open court.  Tum Tum Nairn will be the straw that stirs the drink for this Spartans squad.  If he can orchestrate a team that gets out, runs the floor, and guts a defense from all areas of the floor, Michigan State could be dangerous with its athletes.  We can never count out coach Tom Izzo, but this team, in particular, will be a challenge this season to foster growth.

 

Michigan Embarrasses Athletic SMU

BY MATT DE SARLE 

Well, Duke vs. Kansas wasn’t worth writing about.  Between the lack of Duke’s talented freshmen and the underwhelming performances of the other Blue Devil stars, at first it seemed unclear what to make of this first glut of tournament games.

Then the Wolverines sank their teeth into tournament play.

Michigan has some holdovers from its last viable March Madness roster–Zach Irvin, Derrick Walton and Duncan Robinson.  And, at Madison Square Garden, a new influx of rotation players shined.  D.J. Wilson, a thin junior with a wide wingspan, put on an offensive clinic that began with a backdoor cut that finished with a two-handed and-one dunk.  Moments later his 6-10 frame flew on a one-man fast break.

Michigan is tall, balanced, plays defense, and we know is well coached.  SMU is slightly smaller, but just as athletic, if not more.  That all didn’t matter Friday night as Michigan officially jumped onto the AP Top 25 radar in deserving fashion.

Check out this sweet photo by Michael Reaves of Getty, and give him a follow.  

 

Armed Forces Classic Reconnaissance

BY MATT DE SARLE

college-basketball-eye-test-reconaissance

Here are my major takeaways from the four major battles to begin the season.

Arizona defeats Michigan State

This game looked like a JV scrimmage.  Michigan State is suddenly small, with Gavin Schilling injured, Deyonta Davis departed and 6-6 Kenny Goins going into the starting lineup at center.

In watching the game, it would seem that coach Tom Izzo was trying to send some type of message to Eron Harris, as the senior sat for stretches mid-way through the game.  Clearly, continuity was missing for both teams.   Michigan State started the game dominant, then faded, Arizona showed their athleticism, and then it was the Spartans turn to perform again.  It just looked like a preseason game.

The main takeaway had to be the coming-out party for Miles Bridges.  The freshman from Flint, Michigan was putting on a personal slam dunk contest.  With its smaller profile, Michigan State looked to push the ball throughout this game.  That included after made baskets.  Bridges capitalized on one of those outlet passes by jump-faking a three and taking it strong with a wrap-around jam from under the hoop.  By the time he had attacked the basket, the dunk itself was uncontested.

Arizona, on the other hand, is ever more of a mystery.  K

Kadeem Allen carried the Wildcats to victory.  Yet, Arizona had only 8 dressed scholarship athletes.  Allonzo Trier remains the top mystery, not even flying to Hawaii with the team.  The sophomore guard was one of the most hyped young prospects from the West Coast in the modern era.  Check YouTube.

Arizona is a far cry from the 2013-15 NBA scout teams that they put out there in recent years.

Indiana defeats Kansas

Let’s pump the breaks on OG Anunoby.  That’s first of all.

ESPN analysts want to promote him to the next Victor Olidipo already.   To coach Tom Creen’s credit, Olidipo became an NBA lottery pick by improving greatly over his collegiate career, equally because of his defense.  The athleticism of Anunoby, and size, could both be superior to Olidopo’s by the time OG leaves IU.  But the sophomore’s track record still only shows an average of five points from last season.  And that’s with opportunities at the small forward position, especially given the love-hate relationship coach had with Troy Williams.

In the broadcast of this KU – IU ball game, there were mentions that OG could even improve to a national player of the year candidate.  Yet, he finished with just 13 points despite the game going into overtime and playing a total of 36 minutes.

What did stand out was the variety of ways Indiana went after KU.  Phase 1 included a barrage of three pointers to begin the game.  The Hoosiers made their first four field goals, all for three.  Then there’s the bully down low, Thomas Bryant, who also ran the floor like a defensive end intent on a sack.  Finally, Phase 3 was James Blackmon Jr’s silky smooth jumper.  It’s back.  Blackmon missed majority of last season with a major knee injury.  He finished with 29 points in this game, including a clutch three pointer in overtime that showed the ice in his veins.

If OG becomes the next coming of Tracie McGrady that some predict, this team will be Final 4 material.  I just don’t see that materializing in this young season.

Separate note, point guard Josh Newkirk, a junior transfer from Pittsburgh, is a serviceable replacement for Yogi Ferrell.  Yogi is a once-in-a-decade, dare I say once-in-a-generation, point guard talent.  You could do a lot worse than Newkirk filling those shoes.  The former Panther put the ball in a variety of Hoosiers hands in the right spots.  Indiana looked like it enjoyed playing together.

KU, on the other hand, could have another early tournament exit in its future.  Sorry to cut to the chase so early, it’s only November, but it’s the same formula for the Jayhawks as it’s been in the past five years.  All the hype surrounds a freshman (or two).  This year it’s Josh Jackson.  Three years ago Andrew Wiggins came into Kansas with a similar expectation and similar position with the team.  Wiggins, you could easily argue, was surrounded by a lot more talent.  While Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham may be the best backcourt in the Big 12, there isn’t a ton down low that really scares opposing teams.  Kansas was out-rebounded 50-39 against Indiana in this one.

Top 10 Moments of March Madness 2016

Leading up to the Sweet 16, there were too many moments to count.  But let’s count down a top 10 anyway!

10.  Iowa

Iowa makes the list despite slumping late in the season to register a seven seed and not showing up for the Villanova game.  But we digress.  Check out this buzzer beater to lift the Hawkeyes above the Owls in a classic first round battle.

 

9.  Providence 

Normally-safe-leads disappearing within a shot clock’s time was the trend of the first weekend.  And, in the Providence USC game, guarding the baseline is the lasting lesson.

 

8.  University of Arkansas Little Rock 

6-11 non-deep threat Lis Soshi’s three pointer will live in Little Rock lore.  Down four points with thirty seconds to go, Soshi got an opportunity to jack one up.  It hit the back rim, popped straight up and dropped.  The undersized team from Little Rock slayed the Big 10 giant.  How apropos!

7.  Wichita State 

Go to your google search.  Start typing “Fred Van Vleet.”  Google will jump ahead to suggest “and Ron Baker.”  The 2016 NCAA Basketball Tournament marked the end of an era.  Guards Van Vleet and Baker began their fantastic run in 2013 as freshmen when they played key roles in a 9-seed run to the Final Four.  The run ended in 2016, but not before thrashing a larger Vanderbilt team and a dismantling of a taller and more experienced (than the Commodores) Arizona bunch.

6.  Saint Joseph’s 

This moment will be lost because neither of these teams advanced to the Sweet 16, which is exactly why we’re sticking this finish smack-dab in the middle of our list.  If Cincinatti coach Mick Cronin moves onto UNLV, or anywhere, can we really blame him?  His team lost consecutive times to finish the 2016 campaign.  Both were on reviewable plays.  Once was in a quadruple overtime loss to UCONN in the American Conference Championship.  The other moment was a play that will redefine how dunks are viewed for the rest of end-game history:

Saint Joseph’s moved on to give the 1-seed Oregon Ducks a real scare.  For a moment, that moment being 4:49 left in the game and a 5 point lead, the Hawks had the Ducks on the ropes.  Saint Joseph’s looked like the Cinderella Final Four candidate.  What could have been…

5.  Wisconsin 

The Badgers went from a team that couldn’t win a home court game against Wisconsin (RPI 173) earlier in the season, to a team that knocked off a near 1-seed.  Xavier was a sexy pick to make at least the Elite 8 after returning the favor against Big East foe Villanova late in the season.  Wisconsin, meanwhile, was a team that had lost its longtime coach, Bo Ryan.  Ryan effectively stepped aside so that his longtime assistant, Greg Gard, could get a season-long on-the-job interview.  After also suffering losses to Western Illinois (RPI 262), Georgetown (RPI 106) and Marquette (RPI 111) earlier this season, Bronsin Koning reminded us that he has game, especially in March.

 

4.  Yale 

For this year’s One Shining Moment montage, an entire stanza should be dedicated to Makai Mason highlights.  Luther Vandross’s velvety voice could play as we see Mason’s sikly smooth jumpshot.  This guy scored a career high 31 points as Yale upset Baylor.  The brains behind this website didn’t see it coming.  Yes, the 12 seed has been a frequently common and notorious predator of the 5 seed.  But this was a sweeter upset given another factor.  Yale was without its senior captain point guard, Jack Montague, who had been excused from the school.  It didn’t matter.  Let it fly, Makai…

3. UNI 

Never have we ever seen such a turn of events for a program.  The University of Northern Iowa registered both the most unbelievable win this tournament, and it’s most unbelievable loss.  And, let’s not forget, UNI got into the Big Dance with a buzzer-beater in the MVC Championship game against Evansville.  But that was a shot within the half court set.

2. Texas A&M 

As we mentioned, UNI suffered the worst loss in this tournament.  We had to juxtapose the two mentions in back-to-back slots on this countdown.  What we can’t do, however, is to replay that meltdown for you.   You will have to find it on YouTube for yourselves.  We don’t want to see it again.  Let’s just say they let an 11 point lead slip away within 58 seconds.  You got to tip your hat to those boys at Texas A&M!

1. Middle Tennessee 

Just when the month of March was rumored to be renamed “Izzo,” madness happened again.  Tom Izzo’s Spartans were the darling of this field, yet again.  Their 2-seeding seemed odd to some, but no one was crying foul.  Denzel Valentine was runner-up as player of the year and “they got this.”

Until Conference USA struck for a second consecutive season (see UAB vs. Iowa State).  It made Vegas underdog wagerers “Giddy” and had them counting new fortunes in their “Potts.”

In all seriousness, this was a display by the Blue Raiders akin to what Florida Gulf Coast did in 2013.  They were a 15 seed that not only won the contest, but dominated wire-to-wire.