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Wrapping up the College Basketball Season and the Championship Game
Just a lot of random thoughts about the last weekend of the college basketball season....
Okafor- If he is not the first pick then someone is really trying to hard to show they see something in someone else. He has been the best player in the country all season long and in my opinion should have been the player of the year over Kaminsky. He played in a much tougher conference, is WAY more skilled, faced more double teams, and had so many other great players around him that he couldn't do as much offensively. Look at Wisconsin and you have Dekker who only averaged 13 a game and came on at the end so actually averaged less for most of the year, and Nigel Hayes who is a nice player but thats really it. He also didn't get doubled as much and spent a lot of time on the perimeter where he gets more touches and more chances to make plays. There were teams that Okafor was doubled every time he touched it for the entire game because they know that he is the best player that Duke has. And that opened up everything for his teammates because when you get that step where a defender has to close out on you or you get that extra space to get a shot off it makes the game that much easier. Did Kaminsky have a better game in the championship game? Yes, he did. But as I said he is more involved because of the style of their offense and Okafor was in foul trouble the entire game part of which is because Kaminsky flopped early to get and keep Okafor in foul trouble the whole game. I know there are so many factors that go into having a great NBA career like what team drafts you, the system your in, how much you care, how the money affects you etc., but I see Okafor as being one of the great big men. I see him as a perennial all star and a Hall of Fame player. I know a big prediction for a freshman in college but he has some of the best footwork since Hakeem, he finishes strong and has a really soft touch. I have been comparing him to Duncan since the first game of the year and he even showed the 15 foot wing bank that Duncan is known for. I know he is shooting a low percentage from the line but like the other great bigs I think that will improve and I see nothing to tell me he won't take the league by storm.
Grayson Allen- Obviously had a great game in the final and played very well Saturday in the national semifinal as well. I watched Duke a lot this season and I could see signs of it throughout the season in glimpses, but I also saw a guy who looked scared during the season, like the stage was just too big at that moment in his basketball career just playing in the ACC. And it seemed like in the semi and more in the final game he gained that confidence and was able to play more free. The guy is a knockdown shooter and we never saw it throughout the season because he never felt comfortable and its like it just clicked. And in the Wisconsin game there was a stretch where he looked at Wisconsin and said there is no one on this team that can guard me and he went to work. Even the elbow pull up that he missed you could just see that he was playing his game and was oozing confidence. The only thing I didn't like was it looked like he was trying to get fouled sometimes, jumping into guys and flailing and hoping to draw a call. And then after the game at the press conference he actually said it and admitted to doing that and I don't like that type of play and I hope he grows out of it.
Justice Winslow- Obviously he emerged late in the season and became that third guy as Quinn Cook seemed to fade a little after being nails all year. He didn't score a ton but he rebounded and defended well and was able to get by his man to open lanes. He did get in foul trouble a lot but that is something he will learn to do better with at the next level. I think he really helped his draft stock as I can definitely see him in the top 10 and possibly the top 5. Some people have him up there very high but I think with Okafor and Towns and Cauley-Stein and Russell and probably other guys I can't think of I don't know where he fits. I do see a lot of James Harden in him and actually on Saturday he did the Harden move where he drove with his arms low and threw them through the defender to draw a foul.
Frank Kaminsky- Really good college player, it will be interesting to see how his game translates in the NBA. He has some ok moves but he isn't really big or strong and he definitely isn't athletic. A lot of the stuff he does he won't be able to get away with at the NBA level. For instance that spin move he does where he starts at the 3 point line and drives middle and spins back to his right hand for the scoop lay-up where I think he got fouled every time he did it during the tournament...that move will not work in the NBA. He will get blocked and laughed at. Can he be a stretch 4 or a small 5 at the next level? Maybe, but I think he needs to get much stronger and work on his athleticism. He did have a great year and he carried Wisconsin all year and was their best and most consistent player throughout the season and tournament.
Sam Dekker- So I have contradicting thoughts on Sam. First the sorta negative part...He was invisible in the final game. And whats worse, he wasn't invisible, he was noticeably bad. Two air-balls and was just bad the whole game. Now for basketball geeks like myself I sort of saw this coming. Only because he shot 31% from the line all season and then all of sudden for a couple games not only was he making every shot, but he was making big clutch shots and making shots over guys that were impossible. So the casual fan who turns on the tournament goes wow this guy is unreal but I felt it was more of an aberration that had to come back at some point. And unfortunately for him, it happened versus Duke. Having said that, he has great upside especially at the next level. Because of his size and his athleticism he can be a multi-dimensional player in the NBA. He obviously has shown the ability to make tough shots over long defenders. He is excellent at taking the ball to the hoop, and in a match-up driven league, he can post guys his size and definitely smaller. So as his game matures he will be able to score in many different ways. I see him as a taller Matt Harpring, who had a nice long career and was one of those guys that nobody wanted to guard because of his strength, toughness, and ability to beat you several ways.
Bo Ryan- I love the guy and all his faces and how intense he is and how he came from Division III and all that. I think he is a really good coach and he had the team that everyone was rooting for. I know it is tough to keep your cool minutes after blowing a big lead and losing the national championship but I think he was a little out of line. First of all talking about not getting charge calls. I bet one of his players tried to take a charge, or flopped, every third or fourth possession. On both ends of the floor. I don't know if he coaches that or not but I didn't like it and I think it takes away from the purity of the game. And it makes his team look soft.
Coach K- I think he is the greatest coach in college basketball history. And I don't think this weekend changed anything. I think he already was no matter the outcome. I wasn't around during the John Wooden era but we can all agree it was much easier to win it all back then than it is now. From what I hear, there were times when there were only 16 teams in the whole tournament and you played two regional games and boom your in the final four. So there is that. And there is the fact that scouting had to be almost non-existent. That means that all your plays work because the team doesn't know them by heart, and your players moves work because the other team can't know what they do best in order to stop it. Now with way more teams, more coaches, more scouting, more recruiting, more everything it is so much harder to win and Coach K has done it the most. And he has won with Team USA and he has evolved with the times. How many other lifelong coaches are still around? Boeheim and Coach K are about it now that Calhoun retired and Boeheim is about out the door, he is the last coach that has spent a long time at one school.
Finally, the state of college basketball...I think they need to stop changing the rules and changing the game and whatever else they seem to want to do. In the 4 games of the Elite 8 there were 165 minutes played and there were 134 fouls called in those games. They told us a couple years ago that we couldn't touch players with our hands and arms or it was a foul. So what did every coach do? Start over and teach players to play physical without there hands. But basketball is a physical sport which is why it is so great. And the refs call 134 fouls for the purpose of increasing scoring? That just isn't what they got. What they got was more dead balls, more free throws, more offensive players trying to manipulate the system in order to draw fouls, and less flow to the game. The game was great and the game is great. As a college basketball coach I am scared as to what they might do next. Pretty soon we will see a game of horse full court where everyone runs down, no one gets near him, he shoots and then we run down to the other end and do the same thing. It is ridiculous. People wonder why scoring is down and say the players aren't as good as they used to be. That is 100% completely and utterly unequivocally dead WRONG. The players are bigger, faster, stronger, smarter, more experienced, and on and on. They are better in absolutely every way. So then why is scoring down you ask. Because the coaching has gotten infinitely better as well. Your opponent knows every single play you have run the entire season. They know every one of your strengths and every one of your weaknesses and their defense is geared around getting you to take shots from your weakest position on the floor. And that information and that scouting is always evolving and getting better and better so that their edge is better and better. That is why you don't see as many players average huge amounts of points as they used to. Because the scouting is infinitely better and they will take away the thing you do best in order to make it harder for you to score.
Wisconsin/Kentucky- The refereeing was terrible in this game and almost cost Wisconsin a game they deserved to win as they led almost the whole way. The non-flagrant foul call on the elbow was ridiculous as I have seen much less be called a flagrant in the past. Then the two charge calls which I think were both blocks were almost killers. Especially the one that was kicked out for a 3 which was of course called off as well. Oh ya and Michigan State didn't deserve to be there. I believe I had that.
The NCAA is thinking about shortening the shot clock to increase scoring. All this will do is make for sloppier play and more bad shots. It will not increase scoring enough to offset the negative effect it will have. Even the NBA wants to make dumb rule changes. People want Gregg Popovich to not be allowed to sit players for rest. So now your going to tell Pop how to coach. So what will he do. He will start the guys he wants to sit. 5 seconds in they will commit an intentional foul and they will all come out and not go in the rest of the game. Leave the game alone. Please.