Category Archives: Full Court Press Q&A’s

Full-Court Press: All About North Carolina

The Heels are 19-3, but far from perfect. What do you view as this team’s biggest weakness?

Danny Nowell (@dmnowell): I hate the notion of intangibles, but the answer to this point is clearly discipline. Previous Tar Heels champs have learned how to execute relentlessly, and this team hasn’t shown that. I’m hopeful that the current stretch of excellent games shows the team figuring it out.

Adrian Atkinson (@FreeportKid): Although it hasn’t been problematic yet, back-up point guard play and/or Kendall Marshall wearing down is an area of concern with the loss of Dexter Strickland. Also, the Heels have not responded well to super-physical play and can be pushed around some by beefy, veteran teams.

Josh Parcell (@JoshParcell): Focus. This team is good enough to win games when they play hard for only 30 minutes and coast the other 10. The 2005 and 2009 teams had the same problem, though. Roy Williams somehow always gets his team to peak at the end of the season.

Ian Levy (@HickoryHigh): Free-throw shooting. Marshall, McAdoo, and Henson all shoot below 70% from the line, Henson by a huge margin at 46.2%. For all the fouls he draws, Barnes shoots a meh, 71.8%, leaving plenty of points on the board. At some point their ability to cash in those freebies will either win or lose them a tournament game.

Josh Riddell (@TheMikanDrill): The lack of an outside shooter. The Heels shoot only 35% from the outside (116th out of 345 D-1 teams), which hurts their bigs posting up, as the defense can sag off the perimeter players and help on the post offense. This also puts them in a big hole if they start slow, and it’s a much bigger hill to climb if you cannot shoot three pointers consistently.

Which big man has more to prove this March, Tyler Zeller or John Henson?

AA: Zeller proved plenty last March, averaging 26 points and 9 rebounds in Carolina’s four NCAA Tournament games. His play has been ACC POY-caliber over the past few games. Henson, who fouled out of UNC’s Elite 8 loss to Kentucky with only 4 points, will be hoping to redeem that performance this March.

JP: Henson has quietly transformed himself from a defensive specialist into an all-around post threat. He’s a tremendous passer with his back to the basket and his leaps as a scorer are easy to see. Once Carolina faces comparable frontcourts to its own (likely not until the Elite Eight), Henson’s progression will truly be put to the test.

IL: I’m not sure either has much to prove. Both are known quantities as far as the NBA Draft is concerned. If we’re talking about Carolina legacies, Barnes has more riding on this team than anyone. Henson and Zeller just need to show up and do their jobs, not put the team on their back.

JR: Henson. I think we know what Zeller is at this point – an athletic big man who can run the floor, has some above average post moves, and is a capable defender. Henson has shown us he is a strong shot blocker but he needs to prove he can play physical on both ends of the court. If he does that in March, he will shoot up many teams’ draft boards.

DN: I think I’ll say Henson. Zeller has shown that he can carry the load for key stretches, and his production almost never dips below a certain point. Henson, however, is much more mercurial; when he’s enjoying himself and getting good shots with aggression, the Heels are extremely tough to beat.

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Full-Court Press: All About Kentucky

The play of freshman point guard Marcus Teague will be essential for a Kentucky title run this spring.

True or False: Kentucky’s current roster is the most talented group of John Calipari’s career

Dave Ryan (@DRyanBBall): True. Any given night there are six players who can step up and be the guy who dominates. We know there’s always going to be a ridiculous amount of talent in Lexington, but it truly feels more dispersed than in past years.

Josh Riddell (@TheMikanDrill): False. In terms of pure talent, I prefer the 09-10 UK team led by Wall, Patterson, Cousins, and Bledsoe. Whichever big man Terrence Jones drew, Cousins or Patterson, would have had a field day. Wall is also much better than Marcus Teague. I think if you matched them up, the 09-10 team would win at least six out of ten times.

Collin Murphy (Caltech guard): False. While this group is good I still think the 09-10 team was better. It had five first-round picks (even if counting Orton is kind of cheating). Plus, the combination of Wall and Cousins is a better top-end than the current group.

James Liu (@liuj1128): True. Calipari has had some amazingly talented teams, but I think this is the best. Although they may not have as much star power as previous versions, the 11-12 Wildcats have Anthony Davis and he alone impacts games more than anyone Calipari has ever coached.

Joey Whelan (@JoeyWhelan): I’d have to say true. We’re talking possibly four first round draft picks on this roster, three lottery players in this June’s draft and arguably the best defensive presence at the college level since Patrick Ewing.

Offensively, what do you view as the Wildcats’ biggest strength?

JR: I think its their ability to offensive rebound, as they currently rebound 38.3% of their misses, 21st in the nation. With Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, and Davis all able to crash the offensive glass and power over defenders, they can create plenty of second and third opportunities.

CM: Kentucky’s greatest strength is within a couple feet from the basket. Whether it is Davis going to work down low or one of the guards attacking off the dribble, this team ravishes teams in the paint.

JL: Balance. The Wildcats have six players averaging double figures in points so far this season. Everybody seems to get involved on the offensive end, and no one is overlooked. Doron Lamb is the consistent force on the perimeter, while Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist hold it down inside.

JW: Their sheer wealth of weapons. Lamb and Miller spotting up, Kidd-Gilchrist’s swiss army knife repertoire, Teague running the pick-and-roll, while Jones and Davis dominate around the rim. It’s almost unfair.

DR: The bigs. The three-headed monster of Davis, Jones, and Kidd-Gilchrist in the post is pure insanity. And with how vastly different each guy is offensively, seriously, how the heck are defenses going to keep tabs on all three? It hardly seems possible. Continue reading

Full-Court Press: All About Syracuse

The class of the Big East, Syracuse has its eyes on a trip to New Orleans this spring

Jim Boeheim’s kids are sitting pretty at 22-1. What do you view as this team’s biggest strength?

Joey Whelan (@JoeyWhelan): It’s underrated because they don’t play that fast, but the Orange have one of the best transition games in the nation. ‘Cuse averages better than 1.2 points per possession on the break on 61 percent shooting. No team with over 300 transition possessions comes close.

Josh Parcell (@JoshParcell): Its balanced scoring attack. The Orange are fifth in the country in offensive efficiency and first in the Big East in scoring. They have seven players who average between seven and 14 points per game. While it’s nice to have a premier scorer, having a group of players to pick up the slack if one struggles is comforting.

Zach Zimmerman (@Zach_Zimmerman): The ball movement this season has been phenomenal. ‘Cuse has the second best assist-to-turnover ratio in the nation at 1.54. Dishing the rock is essential on a team without a true 1-on-1 threat, and the Orange are among the best in the nation at fighting through its shortcomings.

Fred Katz (@FredKatz): Depth. There isn’t another sixth man in the country better than Dion Waiters. Meanwhile, C.J. Fair and James Southerland, who both come off the bench, would be well-above average starters at other schools.

Dave Ryan (@DRyanBBall): Confidence. Syracuse is easily the most balanced team in the country, and every player on the roster knows, and accepts his role in the rotation. These kids know what they’re capable of. They’ve seen it. Everyone has their eyes on a title, and right now, they look and act the part.

Most glaring weakness?

JP: Post depth. With Fab Melo out, the Orange is good, but definitely not great. If Syracuse makes it to the Final Four, it will need a healthy Melo to stay out of foul trouble against frontcourt-oriented teams like North Carolina, Kentucky or Ohio State if it hopes to win it all.

ZZ: Rebounding. The loss of Fab Melo has really exposed the team’s weakness on the glass. Even with the sophomore center Syracuse is No. 234 in the nation in defensive rebounds per game. The tournament is rarely kind to teams that can’t clean up the garbage.

FK: Free throw shooting from the guards. If Syracuse is leading a close game, its biggest problem is that the guy Jim Boeheim wants handling the ball isn’t the one he wants shooting the free throw. Scoop Jardine (51.1%) and Dion Waiters (69.7%) have both struggled from the line this year.

DR: Consistent long-range shooting. Syracuse has five guys who make at least one triple per game, but aside from Brandon Triche’s 40.2%, we’re talking about a quartet of sub-35% shooters from the perimeter. If the Orange are down big, will it be able to count on the three-ball?

JW: Rebounding, rebounding, rebounding. Syracuse has one of the worst rebound margins in the Big East and a whopping 10 percent of their opponents shots this year have come from the offensive glass – this is well above average. Continue reading

Full-Court Press: Who’s No. 2?

Head coach Archie Miller's Dayton Flyers are 4-1 and leading the Atlantic 10. But are they for real?

Kentucky is a near-unanimous No. 1 this week. Who is your No. 2 team in the country?

Josh Parcell (@JoshParcell): Syracuse, without a doubt. The Notre Dame fiasco is the Orange’s only blemish, and it came without Fab Melo. It’s a small caveat, but a caveat nonetheless. The Orange’s body of work to this point keeps them narrowly ahead of Ohio State, Missouri and Baylor.

Adrian Atkinson (@FreeportKid): I’d reward Missouri for its huge road win over Baylor with a No. 2 spot in the polls. But Frank Haith’s Tigers still trail teams like Syracuse (assuming Fab Melo returns at some point this season) and Ohio State as legitimate title contenders.

Fred Katz (@FredKatz): Missouri. The Tigers still only have one loss (at Kansas State) and are rolling after a one-point win at Baylor, one that might be the most impressive win by any team in the country, thus far.

Dave Ryan (@DRyanBball): Syracuse. This isn’t college football. A team that starts 20-0 doesn’t instantly become the fourth or fifth best team in the country after one loss. Missouri is right there too, but I’d vote ‘Cuse No. 2 this week.

Jacob Jaffe (@Jacob_Jaffe): Missouri. The Tigers earned the spot with one of the most impressive road wins of the season so far when they beat Baylor in Waco, and their overall resume is as strong as any team in the country.

On a scale of 1-100, with 100 being extremely significant, how impactful is Fab Melo’s suspension to Syracuse?

AA: 95. Melo is by far Syracuse’s best interior defender, and the anchor of Boeheim’s 2-3 zone. Among players with at least 50% of their team’s minutes, none has blocked a higher percentage of shots than Melo’s 15.4. He’s also the Orange’s best offensive rebounder.

FK: 75. This is a similar situation to what Syracuse had two years ago when it lost Arinze Onuaku. Syracuse struggled down the stretch, lost its first game of the Big East Tournament and lost in the Sweet 16. That zone needs a rim protector.

DR: 85. Potentially devastating loss here. Melo is a 1st Team All-Big East type-defender who is really starting to blossom. Without him in the rotation going forward, Syracuse’s title hopes should, sadly, diminish significantly.

JJ: If the suspension sticks at two games, I’ll give it a 15. The ‘Cuse should still be at or near the top of the Big East at season’s end and looking at a top-two seed. If he’s out longer, it’s a lot more troubling.

JP: 90. Without Melo, Syracuse might still be the best team in the Big East, but certainly not the country. Notre Dame dominated the glass by a 38-25 margin on Saturday. The Orange is thinnest inside, and Melo’s resurgent season is the biggest reason for the 20-0 start. Continue reading

Full-Court Press: The Talking Head Edition

ESPN tandem Dick Vitale and Dan Shulman are each two of the best in the business

College basketball is ripe with a bevy of talking heads. Who is your favorite analyst/play-by-play man right now?

Josh Riddell (@TheMikanDrill): Doug Gottleib is probably my favorite analyst. He is knowledgeable about the game, comes prepared and doesn’t force excitement or catchphrases but focuses on breaking down the game in front of him. Also, he is great on Twitter, even though his responses can sometimes be hard to decipher. My one criticism of him is that he interrupts his partner too often when he wants to make a point. If he controls that, he would be nearly perfect.

Ian Levy (@HickoryHigh): Dick Vitale, which I know puts me in an exclusive club. He can be painful to listen to at times, but no one is as enthusiastic about college basketball as Dickie V. A guy excited enough to be shouting about the 10th man for St. Bonaventure is a character that should be cherished.

Zach Zimmerman (@Zach_Zimmerman): I’ve always been a huge Rece Davis fan. It’s one thing to have a tremendous knowledge of the game. It’s another to have said knowledge and be able to moderate the discussion between those that don’t. He is just an undeniably likable dude that exudes passion for college ball.

Joey Whelan (@JoeyWhelan): For college hoops play-by-play Dan Shulman is as good as it gets. His professionalism, knowledge, pace and sense of the moment is spectacular. He also happens to be the perfect partner for Dick Vitale – not an easy task.

Dave Ryan (@dryanbball): I thoroughly enjoy listening to games with Jay Bilas on the call. The guy is so tapped-in to the sport, and I often find myself agreeing with Bilas’ take on both in-game and sport-wide issues more often than not. He’s also about as professional as they come.

What one announcer or analyst continuously forces you to reach for the mute button?

IL: I don’t discriminate. If they’re talking about college basketball, I’m happy to listen.

ZZ: I’m all about enthusiasm, but voice modification and random shouting of vegetable names is on another (unnecessary) level. Bill Raftery is a legend, sure, but to me he’s just a poor man’s Chick Hearn with fewer witty catchphrases in his arsenal and far more love for Jerome Lane.

JW: Sorry Hoosier nation, but Bobby Knight, for as knowledgeable as he is about the game, doesn’t translate well on TV. It’s obvious he doesn’t prep much for games and often doesn’t know what players he is talking about.

DR: Hubert Davis. Many of the things he says in studio are straight from cue cards, and yet he still makes more mistakes than most live guys. Not a college hoops media member out there that makes it sound MORE like he’s reading a bunch of canned sentences than Hubert.

JR: Jimmy Dykes is every quality of a bad analyst rolled into one person. He brings one or two talking points which he repeats like a broken record throughout the game, he forces catchphrases (‘that’s not the extra pass, that’s the right pass’) and he fills the game with bad gimmicks (Jimmy’s Jet). If I was as bad at my job as he was at his, I would be kicked to the curb in a heartbeat.

Some knucklehead in Michael Rothstein’s player of the year poll gave a first place vote to Vandy’s John Jenkins. Where is Jenkins on your POY ballot?

ZZ: I’ll stick him at No. 10, but never in my wildest dreams would I consider giving him a first-place vote. It really is a three-man race between Robinson, Sullinger and McDermott, and Jenkins isn’t anywhere close to that group. He’d have a  compelling case had Vandy not stunk it up in the early going.

JW: Given his insane shooting (65.7% TS) and efficiency (1.164 PPP) numbers, I feel comfortable saying Jenkins is between the 10th and 15th best player in the nation. He might not have the kind of upside as other names, but his productivity is tremendous.

DR: Cheap plug time – I have Jenkins at No. 10 in my weekly POY rankings, but anywhere in the 10-20 range seems fair. A lot of guys around the country putting up comparable, yet slightly less impressive numbers in similar roles. But not one can tough his NCAA-leading 3.9 three-pointers per game. That’s elite stuff right there.

JR: 51, but only for the sake of giving a rank as he might be lower than that if I chose to go that far. I know that I could find 50 players more deserving of this honor. In fact, I bet I could find 10 players in the SEC alone more worthy of the POY. He brings points to the table for Vanderbilt (19.8 per game) but what else does he give the team? Not enough in my mind to give him a sniff of the POY ballot.

IL: Robinson, Davis, Sullinger, McDermott, Barnes, Jones, Jones III, Green, Kidd-Gilchrist, Lamb, Denmon, Scott. Jenkins has had an incredible shooting year, but there’s too many other talented players having huge impacts for top teams for him to be in the top ten.

True or False. Virginia’s Mike Scott is the best player in the ACC

JW: False. Among the top five, no question, but there are still a couple of names I would take over Scott at this point in the season.

DR: False. Right now Scott is nearly a 30% possession guy. His numbers have been ridiculous in that UV offense, but the unquestioned best player in the league? Let’s put Harrison Barnes in the same type of role and see how he looks.

JR: False, although he is worthy of the ACC Player of the Year award and national consideration. This doesn’t make him the best player in the ACC, however. He is putting up great stats on a slow Virginia team, but if you put Zeller, McKie, Leslie or Barnes in his position, I think those four players could be just as effective.

IL: True. He’s tops in ORtg, second in eFG%, third in DRB%, 6th in free throw rate, fifteenth in TO% and has led Virginia to a 14-2 start. He may not be the best prospect in the ACC, but he’s definitely been the best player this season.

ZZ: Best? False. Remember, this is a conference littered with lottery picks. Scott is beasting for the second season in a row, but even this master of efficiency and team MVP doesn’t hold a candle to the elite talent in the ACC.

Looking ahead, what is the weekend’s most important conference game involving soon-to-be bubble teams?

DR: Oklahoma at Texas A&M perks my interest. We expected much more out of the Aggies than a 1-4 start, while the Sooners are inexplicably in search of their third straight Big 12 win. A victory for either team here could prove significant.

JR: I am going to cheat and go with Maryland-Temple. Maryland didn’t get any good non-conference wins without Pe’Shon Howard or Alex Len. Now that they have the services of both those players, they look like a different team and one that could challenge for a tournament spot in the ACC. They need this non-conference road win to bolster their resume and a win in this game could put them over the edge for a NCAA tournament berth.

IL: Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. This one is much more important for Mississippi State. They already have quality wins against Alabama and West Virginia, but their resume needs polishing. It’s tough to imagine them beating Florida, Kentucky, or Alabama on the road which means they need this game stay in the at-large hunt.

ZZ: Remember the Pac-12? After Stanford’s loss to Wazzu last night, Cal looks like the only team left in the league with any chance at an at-large bid. If Mike Montgomery’s crew is unable to escape from Pullman with a win, this could be a one-bid conference. Woof.

JW: Certainly Arizona visiting Colorado could one day be viewed as a key game for both teams. Each school already has six losses and both stand at 4-2 in the Pac-12. The winner of this one can get as close as within a half game of first place.