Things Wonk learned last night
1. The Big Ten really is better than in years past.2. Being "better" isn't good enough to win the ACC-Big Ten Challenge when Penn State, Purdue, Northwestern and (a severely depleted) Minnesota lose double-digit decisions--and so the ACC won this thing 6-5.3. Marco Killingsworth is a first-team All-American. Just 24 short hours ago that last statement would have been a provocative utterance. Today it's a painfully obvious banality, thanks to 34 points and 10 boards dropped on the number 1 team in the country by Killingsworth. And there was sweet justice for Mike Davis that this display took place on the same court where the in-state recruit that got away, Josh McRoberts, was struggling in a Duke uniform.Now for the obligatory qualifying statements: it's true Duke did a lot of things to help this Killingsworth mania along. Mike Krzyzewski obviously made a conscious defensive decision to let Killingsworth do his damage down low in exchange for sticking with the Hoosiers' perimeter shooters. (Backfill: before hitting the "publish" button, I note that in postgame remarks Coach K said this is precisely what he intended.) And the decision paid off: the Blue Devils won a 75-67 decision in a relatively fast-paced game (73 possessions) by holding IU under 70 points on 2-of-10 shooting from outside the arc. (Coming into the game the Hoosiers were averaging 1.28 points per possession. Last night Duke gave IU just 0.91 PPP.)It's also true that Killingsworth got his points against a team that, while ranked number 1 in the land, has zero frontcourt depth. And it's true that Killingsworth got his points against a team that, oddly, wasn't making the big guy work at all on his own defensive end of the floor for much of the game. Big Ten opponents--the most formidable ones, anyway--won't be so kind in any of the above areas.But, make no mistake, Killingsworth is a force of nature. Last night he showed more than just post moves. He drove baseline, sank 15-footers from the wing, ran the floor on the break, and, yes, even made that one three. Killingsworth also, granted, turned the ball over seven times--and many of them were of the unforced-error variety. Plus he didn't hit his free throws (3-of-9) and appeared to wear down late in the game. Ask ten other Big Ten coaches if they'd take this guy on their team anyway. I don't know what Killingsworth's been eating since March 2004, when he left the SEC as a very good but still human player subject to the same laws of Newton as the rest of us. But whatever it is, Mike Davis will want to feed it to his entire frontcourt.Unstoppable scoring machine Marco Killingsworth, Wonk salutes you! Your one-year visit to our fair conference heralds an overall resurgence in Big Ten hoops.BONUS cheer-and-jeer for our visiting ACC readers! Say what you will about him--and I have--J.J. Redick earned his 29 points. The guy sinks tough shots (one of which we didn't see because ESPN was cramming too many replays--it's true!--into too little time). That being said, this Duke team is not the best team in the country--at least I hope it's not. Because if this Blue Devil team really is the best we got this year, the quality of college basketball overall has dipped dramatically in just one season. Last year's Arizona team, to pick a fairly random example, would devour this too-thin and too-young Blue Devil squad inside of 20 minutes.NOTE to the punditry! Cease and desist on this whole Shelden Williams being national defensive POY thing. Post defense against a monster like Killingsworth requires a team. Last night Coach K instead decided to leave Williams on an island and just give the shots to Killingsworth. I haven't seen such a deliberate non-double-team since Bo Ryan decided to leave a then-young Mike Wilkinson on an island guarding Marquis Estill in Wisconsin's 2003 Sweet 16 game against Kentucky.Links. Gregg Doyel one-ups me at cbs.sportsline this morning and says: forget first-team All-American, Killingsworth "just might be" the best player in the country, period. Meanwhile over at espn.com, Pat Forde salutes the play of J.J. Redick. (He's not just for threes anymore!) Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz says last night Indiana "officially returned to the ranks of the elite, or at least the near-elite." IU fans were reported to be surprisingly docile with respect to in-state product Josh McRoberts. High school baller Darrell Arthur, a 6-9 power forward out of Dallas, attended the game as part of his official visit to Indiana. (Box score.)
In today's less Wonk-ish venues....
Coach Majerus didn't have much occasion to say "oh-fense"While rotund ratiocinator and former Utah coach Rick Majerus did his customarily superb commentary for ESPN2, Iowa beat NC State 45-42 last night in Iowa City. How can two top-25 teams combine for just 87 points, you ask? Don't blame the tempo. Clocking in at a relatively robust 69 possessions, last night's contest was only a couple trips slower than an average ACC game last year. No, the problem here was that there were a ton of turnovers: 19 for the Hawkeyes, 24 for the Wolfpack. Oh, and the shooting was Edvard Munch-level horrific on both sides: 107 shots were launched from the field in Carver-Hawkeye last night and 73 of them clanged. In spite of missing all four of his threes, Adam Haluska led Iowa with 18 points--fully 40 percent of his team's scoring. (Box score.)Has Erek Hansen actually become (gulp) useful? He led Iowa with eight boards in just 23 minutes. (And I nearly spit out my late-night snack in shock when I saw Hansen--Erek Hansen!--hit a sweet turnaround off the glass late in the game.) Keep an eye on this. Reason to fret! Iowa is now shooting 26.5 percent on their threes for the year. Reason to shout! Iowa now has the best resume of any Big Ten team, having defeated Kentucky and NC State, while losing narrowly only to Texas.Links. Noting correctly that what we had here was "a slugfest by both teams that couldn't make a shot," Steve Alford nevertheless termed the outcome "a great win" for his Hawkeyes. His dad apparently had an ever better sum-up: NC State was three points uglier than Iowa. FLASH! Actual fans spotted in Carver-Hawkeye. And they cheered and made noise and stuff! Get your bewildered happiness here.Someone forgot to tell Georgia Tech it wasn't supposed to be this closeMichigan State beat Georgia Tech 88-86 last night in East Lansing. The young Yellow Jackets buried five threes in the final 90 seconds to keep this one uncomfortably tight for the Spartan faithful. ("They did hit some shots at the end," Paul Davis noted afterward. Master of understatement Paul Davis, Wonk salutes you!) And I do mean tight: Zam Fredrick (who notched the rare points-assists double-double with 11 and 10) missed a 30-footer at the buzzer that would have given Tech the win. Overall, State allowed the visiting team to hit 10-of-21 threes. Needless to say, Tom Izzo no likey, though he was at least able to work up some cutting sarcasm: "There's getting to be a little bit of a concern that we don't want to guard anybody. We want to outscore everybody, and that's gonna change." Lansing State Journal columnist Todd Schulz says Izzo is right to worry about this year's team and its defense. Davis said Georgia Tech "got a lot of easy points off offensive rebounds." On the bright side, Davis and Shannon Brown each had 22 points for MSU. And Drew Neitzel said he felt he had one of his "best games as a Spartan." He's right: 17 points, 3-of-3 on threes, seven assists, three turnovers. (Box score.)One coach lost it completely and was ejected--and it wasn't Gary Williams!Maryland beat Minnesota 83-66 last night in College Park. The Gophers played this game without Vincent Grier (out for a month with an injured hand), without Moe Hargrow (limited to nine minutes with a gimpy leg), and, for most of the second half, without Dan Monson, who was ejected by officials after the eerily Jeff Bezos-like coach staged a jacket-throwing foot-stomping daycare-level hissy. And yet Minnesota actually led the Terps by 15 early and by six at halftime. But, playing only seven players, the fatigued Gophers were outscored in the second half 47-24. (Box score.)Notable. The already-praised-here tasmanian devil known as J'son Stamper had 12 boards in just 25 minutes. The never-before-praised here former walk-on Jamal Abu-Shamala had nine boards in just 28 minutes. Links. Start with the outstanding recap of the game over at the relatively new but already essential Gopher Hoops blog--keep the good stuff coming, Grant and Grant! As for MSM goodies....Adam Boone said his team lost control in the second half: "It got away from us awfully quick. When we had only one true ball handler out there, that made it really tough."...Monson sounded a contrite note after the game with regard to his ejection: "I apologized to the three officials after the game and to my team. I was trying to protect them...But getting thrown [out] was not part of the plan."Not looking good for the Wildcats, is it?
Virginia beat Northwestern 72-57 last night in Charlottesville. Bill Carmody's squad is trending toward becoming a perimeter-oriented team (22 of their 47 shots were threes) with no perimeter threat besides Vedran Vukusic. The Cavaliers' Sean Singletary alone made more threes (four) than the entire Northwestern team (three). NU missed its first 15 three-pointers. (Ye gods.) Virginia played this game with Minnesota-like thinness in the ranks (just seven recruited scholarship players on hand) but surmounted early foul trouble for the win. See the spanking good recap at NUhoops.com for more, including the daily where-is-Mike Thompson? answer. (Box score.)In today's less Challenge-ish venues....Wisconsin forward Alando Tucker did not suffer a broken nose in Tuesday's game against Wake Forest. He did, however, suffer a "nasal injury" that will require a protective mask.Michigan guard Daniel Horton has benefited from some pro bono coaching donated by Detroit Pistons guard Chauncey Billups.Oracular Illini observer Mark Tupper sings the praises of Illinois wing Brian Randle this morning....So how did Bruce Weber break his ankle? Detailed blow-by-blow here. ("I yelled at my wife, 'You have to help me.'")
BONUS kinda-hefty edition of Wonk back!
Don't just mutter ineffectually; email me!The ACC-Big Ten Challenge--in handy gelcap form!Wonk,A few comments I had while flipping through "The Challenge" tonight.1) Did Sean May die and get reincarnated as Marco Killingsworth? Aside from his inability to hit free throws, Killingsworth looked extremely dominant against a good Duke interior. James Augustine, Paul Davis, et. al., are going to have their hands full with him this year. hank goodness for the rest of the league he's only got one year at IU.2) Iowa defeats NC State 45-42 on a last second Kyle Schlicher field goal from the 45 yard line. What's that? This was a basketball game? Oh...3) Outside of Vedran Vukusic, I don't think anyone on Northwestern can shoot the ball. And even he had problems shooting it. Going 3-of-22 from three-point range is worse than horrible. For anyone else who has ESPNU and had the misfortune of watching this game (or parts thereof), I sympathize with you.4) I'm convinced that the Big Ten will win "The Challenge" once the bottom feeders of the Big Ten (read: Penn State, Purdue, Northwestern) step up and beat the bottom feeders of the ACC (read: Florida State, Clemson, Virginia). In the upper echelons of the conferences, the Big Ten has always been competitive in "The Challenge." It seems that the Big Ten always finds the short end of the stick in the match ups of these lower-tier teams.Keep up the great work!Cliff A.Efficiently done, Cliff!Backfill on that missing Purdue recapYesterday I admitted I hadn't seen much of Purdue's reenactment of Little Big Horn against Florida State Tuesday night. Fret not! Where Wonk's readers see a need, they fill it!Wonk,
Kudos to you for not watching the Purdue-FSU game. Boiler fans would have been better off rearranging sock drawers or attempting in-home surgery as opposed to sitting through such a dreadful performance.
In short, Purdue cannot pass the ball well, they cannot shoot the ball well, and they look to be oddly out of condition. It seems that they have not yet caught up to Painter's demands for constant movement on offense--even if they manage to run the motion well enough to get a bucket, they are slow in transition.
Painter was impressive in the loss, however. He never stopped coaching, never stopped teaching. He even channeled Mean Gene and violently threw his coat to the ground. He yelled, cajoled and diagrammed the offense--which he is surely tired of doing repeatedly.
It's going to be a long year as Spates learns the ropes on the fly and Minnoy learns his role. Landry is still not 100 percent. Hopefully once White comes aboard Kiefer can be relegated to the bench for good--he is hopeless.
Matt MayThanks, Matt!Yay old arenas! Boo new ones!More Katrina-level after-effects from my Monday characterization of Value City Arena as "the college hoops equivalent of U.S. Cellular Field." Yesterday alert reader and die-hard Buckeye fan Brian G. lamented the bygone days of good old St. John Arena. "Value City Arena lacks the character and passion that college arenas should have," Brian said. Today a fellow Buckeye fan of Brian's says amen to that:Wonk,I couldn't agree more with Brian G.'s points about Value City Arena vs. St John Arena. I understand the need to get a new facility to bring in recruits and further understand that a new facility won't have the same "band-box" appeal as SJA (one of the great old barns of college hoops). However, after going to OSU and seeing games in both places, VCA has really cost the Bucks a home court advantage. It really has a wine and cheese feel to it. I remember going to a game against Illinois in the Scoonie Penn-Michael Redd days and noticing the club seat crowd sitting down and even mocking attempts to get them to stand. But there is a fix to this--a simple one really. PUT THE STUDENTS CLOSE TO THE FLOOR, either behind the basket or on the side of the court opposite the benches (or even half a side and behind the basket). Sure, you cost yourself sales on some prime seating. But, come on, recruits love to see the rowdy crowd. Don't you think Duke is somewhat aided in recruiting by the Crazies? Or that MSU is helped by the fans in the Breslin Center? Oh, and it might just get some of the corporate crowd out of their seats when the Bucks need that extra noise.Paul L.Thanks, Paul. You might be interested to know, though, that Buckeye fans aren't the only ones who miss their good old long gone barn....Wonk,Pass this on to Brian G….
Penn State built their shiny new arena not quite ten years ago and I'm less than impressed. Old "Rec Hall" was one intimidating place to play. When packed with students who could actually sit courtside, it made for a wonderful atmosphere.
My buddy and I used to arrive early so we could be in the mid-court seats, first row, where we often chatted with the officials during warm-ups before each half. One night we informed the refs that it had just started to snow outside. Later, when they took their positions for the second half warm-ups, we casually informed them that there was an inch or better already on the ground. One ref looked at us and, after we assured him we weren't kidding, informed us that he had a plane to catch. He then told the other official about the snow and commented that they had better make it a quick half or they'd miss their flight. Neither team got in the bonus that half. Amazing.
But now the new arena has all the excitement of a LA Clippers game. For one Saturday noon start, I took the Mrs. for breakfast at our favorite local spot, and went over to the Arena. By the end of the first half she had actually fallen asleep.
Don't get me wrong, I love my alma matter. But I sure do miss those old days in Rec Hall. THAT is the kind of atmosphere that attracted me to college hoops in the first place.
Later, Mark H.Thanks, Mark!For the record, I'm no knee-jerk luddite on this hot-button issue. "New" need not necessarily equate to "suck" where arenas are concerned--the Breslin Center being the obvious example.