Are The UNC Tar Heels Poised For Their Third Straight Trip to The Final Four? 5 Observations From Their #ACCTourney Quarterfinal Win Over MiamiRead Now
5 Observations From Marvin Bagley’s Play in Duke’s #ACCTourney Quarterfinal Win Over Notre Dame (Video)Read Now
The Duke Blue Devils will take on the North Carolina Tar Heels tonight at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in the second semifinal. Much of the Tar Heels’ and the nation’s focus will be on Duke standout freshman Marvin Bagley III. The Freshman showed out in the quarterfinals on Thursday night against Notre Dame. He finished with 33 points and 17 rebounds on 15-23 from the field. He was the best player on the floor and it wasn’t close.
Bagley is a consensus lottery pick, but projecting his game at the next level is a bit of a challenge. The 6-11 forward does a lot of his work in the low and mid-post. In case you’ve been under a rock, the NBA game is slightly different than college. A power forward needs to be able to stretch the floor and while Bagley was 2-3 from deep Thursday night, his sample size isn’t big. A center in today’s NBA needs to be an elite rim protector, Bagley average one block per game and had none last night in 38 minutes of action.
He will certainly be a pro next year and has the tools to be special, but he will have to become elite in a few aspects of his game. Here are my 5 observations from his play Thursday night:
Smooth and fluid game out to the elbow
Bagley is often the tallest and most athletic guy on the floor. He has the advantage in both areas over every defender he faces in college. That won’t be the case in the NBA. Thursday night he showed his entire repertoire. He is fluid and can shoot it well in this area of the floor.
On this play, he receives an entry pass and immediately turns to face the 6-10 Notre Dame defender, Martinas Geben. Bagley could use his athleticism to go by the slower-footed Geben, but instead creates a little space and shoots the jumper.
Subpar rim and paint protector
To be fair, Duke plays zone negating some of Bagley’s size when it comes to rim and paint protection. His length helps when he’s out on the perimeter though, which he’ll have to do at the next level. During Thursday’s win against Notre Dame, there were a few instances where the Irish got penetration and Bagley was not a deterrent at the rim. Something to keep an eye on as you project him to the next level.
Dominant in the low post
Notre Dame senior Bonzie Colson is 6-6 and 224 pounds. Bagley has the height and athletic advantage, he also outweighs Colson by 10, but Colson is pretty strong. Bagley gets position here and seals Colson on his hip and makes a quick jump hook and score. Again, it won’t be this easy at the next level. Still, he can really score with his back to the basket. The majority of his 33 were scored around the rim.
Decent handle but not always strong with the ball
Bagley has handle for his size, but he’s not Giannis or KD. If he’s going to play on the perimeter at the next level it needs to improve. If he is going to put the ball on the floor in the low post, it has to be quick and decisive like in the previous play above.
Upside and REALLY good at a lot of things
Watching him play against Notre Dame you could see what has people at the next level excited about what he could be. He is very good at a lot of aspects of the game. But for the next level, he isn’t quite elite at any one thing. He could become elite at a particular facet of his game and then you can begin talking about how he could be a game changer.
Predicting this stuff is never easy. A lot will depend on Bagley and the situation he is drafted into. He could end up in Sacramento or some other dumpster fire of a franchise and well, who knows. He could get so elite as a low post scorer that the league has to adapt to him. Don’t like doing NBA player comps, but if he becomes Chris Bosh that’s really good. Before you freak out, Bosh was an 11x all star, All NBA selection, 2x NBA champ and Olympic gold medalist. That’s a really good career.
Time will tell. For now, top two or three is a bit of a risk. At picks four through six, you have to take him if he’s available.
Off The Strength of Back to Back #B1GTourney Championships Four Reasons Michigan Could Make a Final Four RunRead Now
The Michigan Wolverines won their second consecutive Big Ten conference tournament on Sunday. They defeated the Purdue Boilermakers 75-66 at Madison Square Garden in NYC. Playing their fourth game in four nights, including an overtime win against Iowa, and an emotional semifinal win against rival Michigan State, the Wolverines look like a team that is ready for March and a deep NCAA tournament run. Michigan avenged their two close regular season losses to Purdue to earn their ninth straight victory.
Success in the NCAA tournament is predicated on good play and some fortunate bounces of the ball. Michigan head coach John Beilein has his team peaking at just the right time, here are the four reasons they could be cutting down the nets and making a trip to the Alamodome:
John Beilein is hanging his 5th banner in the last 7 seasons at Michigan. Two for Big Ten titles, one for the 2013 Final Four and now two as Big Ten tournament champions. He is a very good tactician and teacher and understands the peaks and valleys of a college season and how to get his team prepared at the right time. Following the win over Purdue senior Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, who finished with 15 points, had this to say about his team and coach:
We believe in each other and that’s all you need. That’s just John Beilein’s teams. They always come together at the end of the season because he teaches a lot and we grow a lot. We’re starting to come together at the right time.
Abdur-Rahkman and junior Moritz Wagner, who finished with 17 points and was named the tournament’s MOP, earned spots on the all-tournament team. These are guys that have been there, had their share of failures and understand the importance of the moment. When the stakes are at their highest during the game and moments intensify, these two will help the Wolverines remain locked in and focused. Wagner talked connectivity in the postgame presser, saying:
Connectivity. Everyone’s buying into the whole goal so much and we’re all so committed. There are no personal agendas, no egos. Well, we have egos, but we know how to set them (aside) for success. I’m very grateful to be a part of this.
Almost tempted to call it ignorance but you get the point. Young guys (freshman/sophomore) who don’t “know any better.” They are not faced with the fear or thought that this could be their last chance, as many upperclassmen are. Teams that generally find success have a balance of vets and young guys. Michigan’s young guns include Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske, who scored 10 and 14 respectively in the win over Purdue.
This team is confident and have an edge to them. You see it on their faces, especially Wagner. He likes to mix it up and talk that shit when things are rolling. That’s a good thing. Michigan answered every run Purdue through at them and didn’t back down. Early in the game Purdue big man, Isaac Haas was punishing Wagner in the post. Undaunted, Wagner lured Haas away from the basket and challenged him to guard on the perimeter. He couldn’t do it. With every three he drained, he let the crowd and Haas know about it. Simpson summed it up best saying:
We can make a lot of noise. I’m ready to get back to the drawing board, enjoy this win, enjoy being champs and get back to it with my teammates. It feels good.
Quarterfinal Run at #B1GTourney Shows Rutgers Can Play With Elite Conference Teams And Freshman Geo Baker is Ready For Primetime (Video)Read Now
The Big 10 Tournament is a wrap and the Michigan Wolverines are your back to back conference tournament champions. More on that in another article. This event began under a cloud of negative criticism, mainly around the condensed schedule and the venue being Madison Square Garden in NYC. To be fair a lot of that criticism was correct and warranted. Take away the closest member school to Madison Square Garden (Rutgers is in Piscataway, NJ is only 31 miles away), and the next closest is Penn State which is 201 miles away. The distance to travel was ludicrous and having conference games start in December and forcing certain teams to play several games in a week was criminal. They are students after all, right? We know this was about money and commissioner Jim Delany all but admitted as much without actually saying it. But, that doesn’t mean the tournament wasn’t a success and a school like Rutgers has a chance to really build something off the strength of this past week.
Since joining the Big 10 in 2014 the Rutgers Scarlet Knights have been bottom feeders in the league. The program hasn’t reached the NCAA tournament in 27 years and hasn’t posted a winning record in 12. But there was something different about this year’s team and it’s quarterfinal run during the conference tournament in NYC. Second-year head coach Steve Pikiell’s team was competitive during regular season conference play, despite only posting 3 league wins. The Scarlet Knights defeated in-state rival Seton Hall for the first time in 5 years. A Seton Hall team that was ranked in the top 25. Then there was the spirited play in NYC at Madison Square Garden, that included a win against Minnesota, a 16-point comeback in an upset of Indiana, and a tough hard fought 7-point loss to championship runner-up Purdue.
Pikiell is building something on the Banks of Piscataway, NJ. It will take some time but Rutgers’ run showed he is developing the foundation for a solid program poised for long-term success in the future. Earlier last week in the leadup to the tournament he was asked about what he’s building at Rutgers, saying:
I’m very confident in what I’m doing. I’m very confident in the build that we have. I know everyone wants 20, 25 wins — that’s (not) how it works. I’d like that, too. But you gotta go through these tough times and we’ve gone through them but we’ve been in every game pretty much and these guys keep fighting. And we’re growing the program.
This is all true and while it may seem like “coachspeak” Pikiell really believes this. Following the aforementioned quarterfinal loss to Purdue, where his team fought particularly hard, there wasn’t a whole lot he could complain about. Purdue was and is a better basketball team, but Rutgers was right there. In the postgame presser he said:
I mean, you guys have seen a lot of basketball. That’s a very good basketball team. They space you out. They have inside. They have outside. They have veteran guys. They have versatility…But I thought we did a great job, I really did. I thought we just hung around there. And they made some tough shots, too. They hit a banked 3 at one point in time. Again it’s hard.
A big part of the team’s success in NYC was the backcourt duo of Corey Sanders and freshman Geo Baker. They combined for 48 points on 21-40 from the field. They were efficient, confident and even defiant in many moments of a back and forth contest. There was no fear in their eyes. You expect that from Sanders, a junior college transfer and upperclassman. That was likely his last game as a Scarlet Knight as he’ll look for professional opportunities.
For Baker, this could be the beginning of a big-time career at Rutgers and in the Big 10. The freshman was often the most fearless player on the floor in the quarterfinal game against Purdue. He hit a variety of step back jumpers at the end of the shot clock in the face of tough defense. More importantly, he showed the kind of maturity in high leverage situations that bodes well for his future. Following the game Baker reflected on his play on the big MSG stage and future within the context of the loss, saying:
It feels really good. I’ve got great teammates and a great coach, always telling me to stay confident and ready. I was really just playing for the seniors, to be honest with you. I really didn’t want to go home because I know when we go home it’s their last game ever in this program. But in terms for me, it felt really good going forward.
Next season will be a big year for Pikiell, Baker and the Rutgers program. With Sanders likely leaving, and the departure of seniors, the incoming class and Baker’s leadership and improvement will be critical. A strong showing like this past week in NYC will go a long way in helping Pikiell achieve the desired success for the program.