Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Morning News: Bo Ryan Retires, Naz Long Done, Amile Jefferson Out Indefinitely, And More

Bo Ryan Retires This maybe wasn't completely out of left field, as Ryan had said he was going to retire at the end of the season. But it's still tough to hear that one of the great coaches (and great overall human beings) in the sport is gone. The obvious reasoning here is that Ryan wants to give "his guy", assistant coach Greg Gard, the chance to prove that he can coach the team. If the rest of the season does not go well, one would have to expect that Tony Bennett will be Wisconsin's top target.

One thing that Greg Gard or whoever the next coach is will have is what should be a loaded roster for next season. It seems doubtful that Nigel Hayes will go pro, which means that every scholarship player will return, as well as Andy Van Vliet (ruled ineligible this season), and with two more scholarships available to hand out. Can't ask for much of a better situation than that.

Naz Long Done For The Season Naz Long will try to get a medical redshirt to come back next season, but this is a significant problem for this season. Long had started every game he had played in this season, averaging 12.0 points per game. In terms of the starting lineup, I don't think there will be a huge drop-off, as Hallice Cooke (who stands to likely gain the most minutes) is arguably a better player than Long is. The severe problem is depth, as Iowa State had played a seven-man rotation all season long. They have Deonte Burton becoming eligible after a transfer, but that will still leave Iowa State with just a seven man rotation for the rest of the season. They will continue to be vulnerable to foul trouble.

Amile Jefferson Out Indefinitely At this point, the extent of the Amile Jefferson injury is not known, but it doesn't sound like he'll be back anytime soon. And this is a significant injury, as Jefferson was arguably the most important player on the roster. He had started every game and led the team in rebounds (10.3 per game) while also scoring 11.4 points per game and being a key defensive player. This leaves Duke with only one real big man (Marshall Plumlee) averaging double-digit minutes per game. Brandon Ingram is 6'9", but he weighs approximately 73 pounds, and Coach K likes to play him at the top of the key defensively.

The player who will see his role increase the most is Chase Jeter, the true freshman. The depth of Coach K's recruiting allows him to just have another 5-star recruit on the bench ready to go. But that still leaves Duke with only a seven man rotation. If Coach K needs an 8th man, the two options would be Sean Obi or Antonio Vrankovic, though he has shown zero inclination to play either big man outside of garbage time thus far.

Kennedy Meeks Hurt It sounds as though this injury will cost Meeks somewhere between two and four weeks. Meeks had started every game this season and was averaging 12.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. The good news for North Carolina is that their ACC schedule is backloaded. Meeks will miss the UCLA game next week, but the next game the Tar Heels will play that is not at home against a Pomeroy 60+ opponent will not be until January 4th, when Meeks be back for the road game at Florida State. None of their games against Duke, Virginia, Louisville, or Miami will happen before February.

Monmouth Tops Georgetown As much as I love the Monmouth bench celebrations, it's in a way taking away from how good this team has played on the court. They have beaten Notre Dame, Georgetown, UCLA, and USC, with none of those wins coming at home. At the same time, they only had one "bad" loss, and even that loss wasn't terrible (on the road at Canisius). They are currently 54th in Pomeroy and 42nd in the Sagarin PREDICTOR. Realistically, earning an at-large bid out of the MAAC is nearly impossible, and at some point their 3P% and FT% defense luck will probably regress (they're Top 40 in the nation in the both), but Monmouth is the type of team that could win multiple games in the NCAA Tournament with the right draw. Monmouth bench guys, how do you feel about that?
So what happened in this game? Monmouth's hot three-point shooting was a major factor (10-for-20 on threes compared to 7-for-29 for Georgetown), but not the only reason. Georgetown shot much better on two-point jumpers (overall they had a 39.3 eFG% on jumpers while Monmouth was at 57.1%). Monmouth actually had an 18-16 advantage in paint scoring. This game was also disjointed, with 49 fouls leading to 70 free throw attempts. Both teams hit more free throws than field goals. Monmouth was a sharp 84% there (up to 82.0% on the season).

Georgetown has had two weirdly mediocre performances in a row. Is it cause for alarm? Not yet. They still have wins over Syracuse and Wisconsin, and they played very close games into the final minute away from home against both Duke and Maryland. They get a chance to get in rhythm now, as they won't play another likely RPI Top 50 opponent for a full month. Their Big East schedule is very backloaded, as DePaul, St. John's, Marquette, and Creighton make up all of their first five games.

AJ West Leaves Nevada What chances Nevada had at contending in the Mountain West appear dashed with the loss of AJ West. West led the team in points, rebounds, and blocks last season, but "personal issues" had led his playing time to be slowly reduced this season, and he is now gone from the team for good.

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