Category Archives: College Basketball

WATCH: Auburn Fans Go Wild on Campus Celebrating Upset Over UNC

Auburn Tigers basketball wrapped up a statement victory on Friday night by upsetting No. 1 seed North Carolina in dominant fashion during the Sweet 16 of the 2019 NCAA Tournament. The Tar Heels, who were a popular championship pick (after the Duke Blue Devils), were stunned and sent packing in a double-digit loss to Bruce Pearl’s squad.Not surprisingly, after the huge win, Auburn fans had plenty to celebrate, and they did just that on campus. As Sara Palczewski of the Opelika-Auburn News revealed, fans were wreaking havoc over their team’s Elite Eight trip.

This is what happens when you knock off a No. 1 seed in Auburn. 😳 pic.twitter.com/lVBD6MrS3B
— Sara Palczewski (@SaraPalczewski) March 30, 2019
Auburn’s Dominant Win Over UNCThe Tigers were up just two points at halftime but outscored the Tar Heels by 15 in the second half while pouring in 56 points over the final 20 minutes to win 97-80. They were led by a superb performance by Chuma Okeke, who scored 20 points with 11 rebounds, two assists and two steals. Unfortunately, he left the game with an apparent knee injury and there hasn’t been an update yet on his status.Along with Okeke’s impressive showing, Malik Dunbar scored 13 points while Bryce Brown added 12 points and four rebounds. Jared Harper did a bit of everything by scoring nine points with 11 assists.Auburn was simply on fire in this game, shooting 54.5 percent from the field and knocking down 17-of-37 from beyond the arc (45.9 percent). Along with the four aforementioned players, the Tigers got production across the board, including 40 bench points. Danjel Purifoy led the bench scoring with 14 points while J’Von McCormick tacked on 10 points.What’s Ahead for Auburn BasketballThe trip to the Elite Eight is a huge accomplishment, and the Tigers will now face the winner of Kentucky vs. Houston, which was the late game on Friday night. Whoever they face, that game will be played on Sunday, but the time has yet to be determined.As for the team specifically, attention will shift to Okeke, whose knee injury left obvious cause for concern as he needed to be helped off the floor. It was a tough scene to watch and came on a non-contact play, as seen below courtesy of CBS Sports.

Amazing sportsmanship from UNC’s players to greet Chuma Okeke as he made his way off the court pic.twitter.com/cAMeBjZsAK
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 30, 2019
We’ll certainly monitor the situation, but it’s unlikely any major update on the forward’s injury will come until some point on Saturday. After the game, Pearl was asked about Okeke and couldn’t hold back his tears while attempting to talk about the injury.

“We’re going to rally. I’ll go hug on him.”
Bruce Pearl gets emotional discussing Chuma Okeke after @AuburnMBB’s win over North Carolina. 🙏#MarchMadness | #Sweet16 pic.twitter.com/sOaD9dtrEz
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 30, 2019
READ NEXT: Tacko Fall NBA Draft: Latest Mocks & Projections for UCF Center


Nickeil Alexander-Walker NBA Draft: Latest Mocks & Projections

Virginia Tech Hokies guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker has impressed throughout the 2018-19 college basketball season. He’s played a huge role in the team’s success and helping the Hokie land a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament. The sophomore guard’s play has also resulted in his 2019 NBA Draft stock increasing quite a bit as well, and he’s currently a first-round pick in the eyes of many analysts.After a freshman season in which Alexander-Walker averaged 10.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists, he’s improved across the board. The 6-foot-5 guard has posted marks of 16.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists while shooting 47.8 percent from the field. He’s also showcased his ability to step out and knock down shots beyond the arc, shooting 38.6 percent over his first 66 collegiate games.We’re going to breakdown the latest mock drafts and projections for the Virginia Tech guard as the draft draws closer.Nickeil Alexander-Walker NBA Draft Projections & MocksThere are a number of interesting current mock drafts, but one specifically gives a decent amount of love to Alexander-Walker. The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie has him off the board at No. 16 to thee Detroit Pistons, ahead of a few big names in UNC’s Nassir Little (No. 17), Kentucky’s PJ Washington (19) and fellow guard in Duke’s Tre Jones (24).Sports Illustrated’s Jeremy Woo has Walker-Alexander coming off the board at No. 20 to the Oklahoma City Thunder. He details the belief that the Virginia Tech guard would play well alongside Thunders tar Russell Westbrook.Most have come to realize that Alexander-Walker profiles best as a two who can play off of a downhill-oriented playmaking ballhandler. With that in mind, he’d be a nice fit playing off of Russell Westbrook, which would create opportunities for him to attack defenses off ball rotation and remove the pressure to anchor possessions.A first-round outlook is realistic, and make a lot of sense based on his ability to do a bit of everything. Beyond that, Alexander-Walker’s size should transition well to the NBA level.Nickeil Alexander-Walker’s NBA Draft Big Board OutlookWith Alexander-Walker flirting with the potential to become a lottery pick, ESPN’s “best available” pegs him slightly lower than the above mock drafts. While they have the Hokies standout as one of the top-25 prospects, he comes in at No. 22. ESPN has him pegged behind Gonzaga’s Rui Hachimura (No. 18), Kentucky’s Tyler Herro (20) and UNC’s Cameron Johnson (21), among other interesting names.On the opposite end of the spectrum, NBADraft.net offers one of the most up-to-date big boards and has given Alexander-Walker an impressive outlook. They currently have the guard pushing for a spot in the top-10 and currently sitting at No. 12 while trending upwards.READ NEXT: Tacko Fall NBA Draft: Latest Mocks & Projections for UCF Center


Corey Davis Jr. NBA Draft Profile: Mocks & Projections for Houston Guard

The Houston Cougars have rolled through the 2019 college basketball season and it’s been thanks to a mixture of exceptional guard play and great defense. One name who’s stood out is senior guard Corey Davis Jr., who’s been red-hot through the latter part of the season. In turn, he’s put his name in the mix as someone to watch in the build-up to the 2019 NBA Draft.While Davis averaged 17.1 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game, each of those numbers are an increase from last season. The 6-foot-1 guard is a tough player to gauge, as he’s actually attempted far more 3-pointers (8.0 per game) than shots inside the paint (4.9). In turn, this drives his overall shooting percentage down, but when looking at the two numbers on their own, neither is bad.From inside the arc this season, Davis has shot 49.4 percent while he’s knocked down 38.1 percent from deep. He’s showcased his ability to work inside the 3-point line as of late, which could be big for his draft outlook.Corey Davis Jr. NBA Draft Projections & MocksDavis comes in as the always fun/confusing player who simply wasn’t getting much attention on the NBA front prior to the 2019 NCAA Tournament. In turn, most big boards and mock drafts have left the Houston star off their list currently. Obviously, there’s a good chance that could change after the tournament wraps up, especially considering he’s been elite.Through the first two tournament games, Davis scored 47 combined points with 13 rebounds, eight assists and four steals. He’s knocked down 10-of-26 shots from beyond the arc while making seven in the opener against Georgia State.Davis is the type of player who could use the pre-draft process as a way to bolster his stock even more. Beyond that, there are a few areas of his game which need improvement, but many of them aren’t things that can’t be tweaked at the NBA level.Corey Davis Jr. NBA Draft ProfileThere’s no denying that when the Cougars guard gets hot, he can change games quickly. He’s an excellent shooter from outside, has shown the ability to finish around the room with decent consistency. Davis has the “it” factor teams look for, and only averages 1.4 turnovers per game through the first 36 games of the 2018-19 season.Davis has also improved as a free throw shooter and began getting to the line more in the current season. After making 80.8 percent from the charity stripe in the 2017-18 season, that number jumped to 87.3 percent this year.The concerns about Davis’ game may stem from the fact that he’s not necessarily a prototypical NBA point guard. He’s averaged 2.4 and 2.8 assists per game in the two years at Houston so his ability as a passer could become a question. As far as how his defensive skills will transition to the next level, that’s going to be a talking point. He weighs 190 pounds and plays strong, but would likely face guards who have a size advantage on him in the NBA.Overall, Davis has a realistic chance to push into the second round, especially for a guard-needy team or someone who wants to let him grow on their G League roster. He possesses plenty of upside and should be a “riser” throughout the pre-draft process.READ NEXT: Tacko Fall NBA Draft: Latest Mocks & Projections for UCF Center


Zion Williamson NBA Draft Projections: Chances Knicks Land Duke Star

There’s little argument about the fact that Duke Blue Devils forward Zion Williamson is the favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. The big question becomes who he’ll play for at the next level, and that will, of course, be decided by the NBA draft lottery. In turn, the door is open for a number of teams to have a chance at him, but the New York Knicks remain a top option to monitor.Although nothing has been openly stated about the Knicks’ draft plans, the chatter will begin to pick up in a big way after the lottery. But as things stand, there’s a silver lining in the team’s tough 2018-19 season, which is that they’re among the favorites to wind up with the first overall selection.We’re going to take a dive into the current NBA draft outlook and the latest chances for the Knicks to wind up with Zion on their roster heading into the 2019-20 season.Knicks’ Chances at No. 1 NBA Draft Pick, Zion WilliamsonThe lottery features a structure which will give the teams with the three worst records equal chances to land the No. 1 pick and also to wind up with a top-four selection. At the time this is being written, the Knicks hold the worst record in the NBA at 14-61, a mark which is 2.5 games worse than the next-closest team.As Tankathon shows in their latest NBA draft lottery breakdown, New York is incredibly close to being a lock for the bottom three. This means they would hold a 14.0 percent chance at the No. 1 pick and a 52.1 percent chance to wind up with a pick between one-to-four.Here’s a look at the standings for the 10 teams who have the best chance at a top choice, how many games back they are and their chances at the No. 1 pick.
No. 1 New York Knicks, 0.0 games back: 14.0 percent chance
No. 2 Phoenix Suns, 2.5 games back: 14.0 percent chance
No. 3 Cleveland Cavaliers, 4.5 games back: 14.0 percent chance
No. 4 Chicago Bulls, 6.5 games back: 12.5 percent chance
No. 5 Atlanta Hawks, 13 games back: 10.5 percent chance
No. 6 Atlanta Hawks from DAL, 15 games back: 9.0 percent chance
No. 7 Memphis Grizzlies, 16 games back: 7.5 percent chance
No. 8 Washington Wizards, 16.5 games back: 6.0 percent chance
No. 9 New Orleans Pelicans, 17 games back: 4.5 percent chance
No. 10 Los Angeles Lakers, 19 games back: 3.0 percent chance
Knicks’ Current Outlook for NBA DraftThe positive news following this NBA season is that the Knicks are primed with their best possible chance to land Williamson. Unfortunately, two other teams, likely the Suns and Cavaliers, are going to have the exact same chances, even though Cleveland has won five more games than the Knicks.Beyond that, the Bulls and Hawks holding chances justs lightly lower at 12.5 and 10.5 percent will make things even more interesting. Obviously, it’s just a matter of New York getting a bit lucky and having the ping pong balls fall the right way. Of every team listed above, it’s hard to envision any except a major point guard-needy team like the Phoenix Suns taking Ja Morant over Zion.If by some chance the Suns are sold on drafting the Murray State star and wind up with the top pick, the Knicks could make a play by attempting to trade into that No. 1 spot.READ NEXT: Ja Morant Over Zion Williamson NBA Draft Argument Goes Beyond Stats


Zion Williamson’s Parents: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Zion Williamson’s parents, Sharonda Sampson and Lateef Anderson, along with Zion’s stepfather, Lee Anderson, have been with the Duke superstar since the start. Zion comes from an athletic family as his mother, Sharonda, ran track and his father, Lateef, played college football. Zion’s stepfather, Lee, also played basketball and worked with Zion to develop his game. After announcing his commitment to Duke, Zion detailed what Blue Devils head coach Mike Krzyzewski told his family that convinced him to go to Durham. “When Coach K came to my house and spoke to me and my family, it wasn’t just about basketball and what he could do for me in one year,” Zion noted to Go Upstate. “It was how he can build Zion as a brand on and off the court for like the next 20 years or the rest of my life.”When Zion is not on the basketball court, he enjoys watching cartoons with his mother. “He’s a mama’s boy and when we get time alone he’ll come over and we’ll watch the cartoon called Naruto,” Sampson said, per Deadspin. “I don’t know what that is, but we’ll sit around and we’ll watch that. So, yeah, you don’t know that about him.”Learn more about Zion’s parents. 1. Zion Admitted to Crying in His Mother’s Arms After Injuring His Knee Against North CarolinaZion’s mother is his rock and provided encouragement to her son when he could not go back into the game against North Carolina. The initial Duke-UNC game was billed as one of the biggest college basketball games in years with celebrities in attendance like former President Barack Obama and Spike Lee. After Duke won the ACC tournament, Zion detailed how much he wanted to go back in the game. “I was sitting there, on the training table,” Zion explained to North State Journal. “The game was on. My mom walks in, and I broke down. I’d been thinking about that game for so long. … I just cried in her arms. She told me that everything happens for a reason. She told me I’d be back.”2. Zion’s Stepfather Played Basketball at ClemsonPrior to Zion’s commitment to Duke, Clemson was a heavy favorite to land the big man. According to 247 Sports, their prediction gave Clemson an 85 percent chance to sign Zion. The school had family ties with Zion’s stepfather playing at Clemson. “They did everything right,” Lee told Tiger Net. “It’s nothing against the coaches. Nothing against them at all. I told Clemson when they came in the other night, ‘Somewhere along the way, you all had a mile and a half lead on the situation. I don’t know what happened along the way but you all had a big distance.’ The next thing I know I hear Zion saying South Carolina and North Carolina and Duke is inching closer. I was like, ‘Woah.’ I don’t think it was anything they did that was wrong. They recruited him hard. They recruited him fair. They were selling Clemson and I thought they did a great job. I think it was a serious point for them to recruit the way they did and they showed Zion they were serious about wanting his services.”According to Sports Reference, Lee played for the Tigers from 1975 to 1978 but averaged just 1.6 minutes per game. 3. Zion’s Mom Ran Track at Livingstone CollegeZion’s mother is also an athlete and ran track at Livingstone College. According to the Charlotte Observer, Sharonda is a middle school teacher. Zion’s rise to fame surprised even his parents. “Sometimes it doesn’t dawn on you as parents,” Sharonda explained to the Charlotte Observer. “But all the time, when he was growing up playing, he stood out among his peers. When you have elderly people come to watch and they don’t know who you are, and they’re saying this boy will be special and we’ll see him on TV, you start to think there may be something to this.”4. Zion Has a Younger Brother, Noah, Who Once Fell Asleep in His Stepfather’s Arms While He Was Coaching an AAU Game

Zion Williamson’s AAU coach on the sidelines with his son asleep AF in his arms. Loudest gym in America this kid is LIGHTS OUT pic.twitter.com/oo6xraQ2Zv
— Podfathers Podcast (@PodfathersShow) July 27, 2017
Zion has a younger brother, Noah, who the Duke star is close with. Back in 2017, Noah fell asleep in Zion’s stepfather’s arms as he coached an AAU game. USA Today detailed the moment that went viral. Noah is Zion Williamson’s 3-year-old half-brother. Noah managed to sleep through all the hoopla in the arms of dad Lee Anderson, who was coaching SC Supreme at the time.
Noah’s ability to snooze despite the noise and overflow crowd did not go unnoticed on social media.5. Yahoo Sports Reported Adidas Rep Merl Code Asked Kansas For Housing for Zion’s Family During His RecruitmentYahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel reported that there is an audio recording between Adidas rep Merl Code and Kansas assistant Kurtis Townsend discussing the recruitment of Zion. The tape was not allowed into evidence during the trial involving former agent Christian Dawkins along with Adidas executives so there is “limited context to it,” per Yahoo Sports. Yahoo Sports provided an overview of the recorded conversation where the Adidas rep was essentially asking for benefits for Zion’s family. In a taped conversation that was not allowed into evidence today, Adidas’ Merl Code and Kansas asst Kurtis Townsend discuss the recruitment of Zion Williamson, who wound up at Duke. In arguing for admission, a transcript was read by Code defense atty Mark Moore.
Code: “Hey, but between me and you, he asked about some stuff … I know what he’s asking for. He’s asking for opportunities from an occupational perspective, he’s asking for cash in the pocket and he’s asking for housing for him and his family.”
Kurtis Townsend: “I’ve got to just try to work and figure out a way because if that’s what it takes to get him here for 10 months, we’re going to have to do it some way.”
Because it was denied into evidence, there is limited context to it.


Bruce Pearl Salary: How Much Does the Auburn Coach Make?

While Bruce Pearl has helped two SEC programs turn become relevant in the South and nationally. As head coach at Tennessee from 2005-11, his final record was 145-61 in Knoxville, with his best year coming in 2007-08 season. During that stretch, the Volunteers went 31-5 and lost in the Sweet 16 of the tournament to the Louisville Cardinals.
Back in March of 2011, his tenure with the school came to a conclusion, as the higher-ups decided to part ways due to NCAA violations. As ESPN previously revealed, Tennessee fired Pearl, even though they had hoped to keep him through the off-court issues hanging over the program’s head.
Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton said in a statement released late Monday that school officials decided to dismiss Pearl, who has been charged by the NCAA with unethical conduct, after learning of additional violations committed on Sept. 14, 2010, and in March 2011.
Since taking over for Auburn in 2014, he has turned around the Tigers’ fortunes. He guided them to the NCAA Tournament last year, and got to the program’s first Sweet 16 since 2003. Auburn is currently playing North Carolina in the Midwest Regional in Kansas City.
Despite the violations, the on-court results speak for themself. What kind of money is he making at Auburn?
According to USA Today Sports, he earns $2.6 million a year with his current contract. It ranks No. 38 out of all coaches in the country, just behind Kansas State’s Bruce Weber and Providence’s Ed Cooley. The Wildcats bowed out last weekend in the Round of 64, while Providence missed the dance altogether.
Compared to his SEC peers, Pearl is right in the middle of earners. He trails Kentucky’s John Calipari ($9.7 million), Tennessee’s Rick Barnes ($3.25 million), Georgia’s Tom Crean ($3.2 million), Alabama’s Avery Johnson ($3.06 million), South Carolina’s Frank Martin ($2.95 million), Missouri’s Cuonzo Martin ($2.8 million) and White ($2.61 million).
Crean, Johnson and both Martins failed to make the tournament this season.
The highest-paid coach is Calipari, followed by Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski at over $7 million. Michigan State’s Tom Izzo is third at $4.157 million.
 


March Madness Has Weaponized The Zone

With 10:39 left in a second-round game Sunday, Mike Krzyzewski did something you don’t think of Mike Krzyzewski doing against a No. 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament. No. 1 Duke was more talented and more established than Central Florida. The Blue Devils started four top-15 freshmen, all future pros, led by the star of this college basketball season, Zion Williamson. And yet, locked in a 54-54 tie far earlier in this tournament than anticipated — FiveThirtyEight’s model gave Duke a 91 percent chance of winning before the game — Krzyzewski needed a spark. He called for the Blue Devils to play some zone defense.
It started on a baseline out-of-bounds play for UCF. “Duke is in a zone — no, a matchup, a matchup zone,” Grant Hill called out on the CBS telecast. “They did this one trip against Virginia Tech,” Bill Raftery recalled. Guards Tre Jones and Jordan Goldwire made up the front line of the 2-3 zone. Williamson stood in the paint. Out of that baseline play, UCF drilled a go-ahead 3-pointer. But the zone was enough for Duke to hold off Johnny Dawkins’ team for a while, even if it took a last-minute Duke put-back and a last-second missed UCF tip-in to seal the win.

In all, Duke deployed the zone for 11 possessions, more than in all but three of its games this season. The key second-half stretch lasted eight possessions, of which UCF scored on only three. Mostly, the zone stunted UCF’s rhythm, forcing five 3-point attempts and often pushing the Knights to the end of the shot clock.
The fact that Duke needed a late defensive adjustment at all was a surprise. But a team in its position going to zone was not — it has become a popular strategy in the NCAA men’s tournament, where even brief momentum swings can change games and seasons. Coaches tend to be more apt to use their full playbook to gain an edge. And opponents sometimes have less than 48 hours to prepare for new defensive looks. In other words, the zone can function like an off-speed pitch for opposing offenses who didn’t expect to see it coming.
This season, 12 tournament teams played zone on more than 15 percent of defensive possessions entering the Big Dance, according to Synergy Sports. But 19 teams have played zone on more than 15 percent of their defensive possessions in the tournament2.

Teams are going zone in the big dance
Among the final 32 teams in the men’s NCAA tournament, the rate of zone used in the regular season vs. the tournament in rounds 1 and 2.

Regular Season
Tournament

Team
Zone Plays
% Zone
Zone Plays
% Zone
Diff.

Iowa
671
32.2%
81
60.0%
+27.8

Maryland
30
1.5
34
23.6
+22.1

Oregon
887
48.6
98
69.5
+20.9

UC Irvine
188
8.7
35
27.1
+18.4

Florida
169
8.5
24
18.0
+9.5

Duke
105
4.8
17
13.0
+8.2

Oklahoma
180
8.6
20
15.3
+6.7

Auburn
160
7.7
16
11.9
+4.2

UCF
315
15.8
24
17.9
+2.1

Murray State
87
4.4
9
6.2
+1.8

Virginia Tech
25
1.3
3
2.3
+1.0

Kansas
58
2.7
4
3.2
+0.5

Ohio State
81
4.0
5
4.1
+0.1

Liberty
15
0.8
1
0.8
+0.0

Houston
3
0.1
0
0.0
-0.1

Buffalo
5
0.2
0
0.0
-0.2

Michigan State
5
0.2
0
0.0
-0.2

Purdue
3
0.2
0
0.0
-0.2

Michigan
9
0.4
0
0.0
-0.4

Virginia
11
0.6
0
0.0
-0.6

Villanova
170
8.9
10
8.1
-0.8

Kentucky
22
1.1
0
0.0
-1.1

Minnesota
48
2.3
1
0.8
-1.5

Wofford
65
3.3
1
0.8
-2.5

North Carolina
81
3.6
1
0.8
-2.8

Gonzaga
80
3.6
1
0.7
-2.9

LSU
67
3.1
0
0.0
-3.1

Texas Tech
175
8.6
7
5.4
-3.2

Washington
2018
95.4
133
91.7
-3.7

Florida State
119
6.0
1
0.8
-5.2

Tennessee
195
9.1
2
1.5
-7.6

Baylor
846
41.0
29
22.1
-18.9

Source: Synergy Sports

There was a time when the thought of a Krzyzewski team using a zone was unthinkable. From the 2009-2010 season until 2013-14, Duke played zone on 1.62 percent of defensive possessions. Known as an unusual defense used to compensate for a gap in talent, the zone was often unnecessary for the most athletic teams in the country (read: Duke)
But Krzyzewski has changed over time, employing zone on 14.3 percent of possessions in 2014-15, then 23.5 percent the next year. Last season, Duke played zone on about half of its possessions, including 92.2 percent from Feb. 11 on, throwing off basketball fans everywhere.
This year, with a new batch of freshmen in tow, the Blue Devils have shifted way back to 4.91 percent. But they still break out the zone in a pinch — a 2-3 half-court set or a full-court zone press — which is more than they could say five years ago. A Washington Post story earlier this month described how Krzyzewski learned parts of the 2-3 zone from the master of it, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, when Krzyzewski became the head coach of the U.S. men’s national team. Boeheim told The Post he sees hints of Syracuse’s zone in Duke’s defenses today. “I don’t think Coach K should be allowed to play zone,” Boeheim joked to reporters last season.
Zone defense appealed to teams big and small in the tournament’s first weekend. Some were double-digit seeds like Iona, Colgate and Gardner-Webb who needed the zone to try to level the playing field against more athletic teams. But there was also Maryland, which played as many possessions of zone Sunday against LSU (34) as it had all season until that point.
Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon has not used much zone during his eight seasons in College Park — only on 2.7 percent of possessions. But after his technical foul put the Terrapins behind 46-31 with 16 minutes left, he called for a 3-2 zone that baffled LSU the rest of the way. Maryland averaged .95 points allowed on 38 man-to-man possessions and .59 points allowed on 34 zone possessions, erasing the 15-point deficit before losing on a go-ahead layup with less than two seconds left.

Turgeon’s strategy tweak was stat-driven. He knew LSU was one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the tournament at around 32 percent. “That’s low,” Turgeon told reporters after the loss. “So everything told us to guard that way. We weren’t going to guard Belmont that way, obviously. And so we told the guys yesterday morning when they woke up, we’re going to zone, don’t know when, but we’re going to zone.”
Added LSU interim coach Tony Benford: “We knew they were going to run the 3-2, and we had worked on it. But when you don’t have but one day to prepare, it’s tough.”
In the first round on Friday, UC Irvine turned to its zone defense to fluster Kansas State and earn the tournament’s biggest upset by seed. “We knew they’d play zone, and I was just hoping, I told them to attack with confidence, not to act like we’ve never been there, because we’ve played against a bunch of people, bunch of zones,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said after the game. “But obviously we just didn’t get enough.”
The worst 3-point shooting team left in the tournament is Duke at 30.7 percent, a troublesome mark because a good zone defense could force the team to take threes. UCF stayed in Sunday’s game by mixing in a zone at times. That might hint at a blueprint for a team to take down the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed — that is, if that team can figure out Duke’s zone first.


The NCAA Tournament Has Turned Into A Dunk Contest

In one of the most intoxicating games of this year’s NCAA Tournament, the UCF Knights went toe-to-toe with the top-seeded Duke Blue Devils. Leading up to and throughout the game, considerable bandwidth was spent debating whether the soon-to-be top pick in this year’s NBA draft, Zion Williamson, would add another body to his posterized graveyard. UCF center Tacko Fall, the would-be victim, chipped in 15 points on seven made shots, each of which came in eerily similar fashion. They were all dunks. At 7-foot-6, Fall is genetically predisposed to excel above the rim, as evidenced by his ability to jam it, flat-footed.
Nobody this season dunked on Mike Krzyzewski’s squad more than Fall and the Knights. But the Blue Devils, which ultimately moved on with a win, are even more dunk crazy. And they aren’t the only team still playing in this tournament with eyes trained on the rim.
This season’s Sweet 16 features a number of teams that relish slamming the ball through the cylinder. The teams have combined to produce 1,866 dunks this season. Three of the four dunk-happiest teams this season — Florida State, Duke, and LSU — are still in the field. Another contender, Gonzaga, ranks in the top 10 while Auburn, Virginia, Tennessee and Michigan rank in the top 30 by this measure. In all, six of this year’s Sweet 16 entries have a dunk share6 exceeding 10 percent. Four years ago, only one did.

The dunkers are thriving
Division I men’s college basketball teams for whom at least 10 percent of their 2-point field-goal attempts in 2018-19 were dunk attempts

Team
Share of offense from Dunks
Made Tournament?
Made Sweet 16?

Florida St.
16.0

Stanford
14.9

Duke
14.4

LSU
14.2

UCF
14.0

Murray St.
13.8

UCLA
13.5

Auburn
13.4

Xavier
13.2

Texas
12.8

Villanova
12.8

Eastern Michigan
12.6

Arkansas
12.5

Mississippi St.
12.3

Dayton
12.2

Arizona St.
12.0

Gonzaga
11.4

Nevada
11.3

Georgia
10.9

Maryland
10.7

Virginia
10.7

Little Rock
10.6

Alabama
10.6

Texas Southern
10.5

William & Mary
10.4

Northeastern
10.4

Creighton
10.3

Washington
10.3

Vanderbilt
10.3

Texas A&M
10.2

Marshall
10.1

Source: Barttovik.com

This is less about a few dunk-crazed teams and more a reflection of the nationwide trend in college basketball. As of Tuesday, there had been 19,550 dunks this season, the highest total of any season since at least 2010. Five years ago, for comparison, there were 17,687. Individually, the 2010 season featured 23 players who had at least 45 dunks. This season there are 36, seven of whom remain in the tournament. “We’re seeing more dunks,” Jay Bilas told The New York Times, “because there are more spectacular athletes out there.”

To be sure, some of this is intuitive. Advances in science and technology make comparing today’s college athlete to those of yesteryear a comical examination. Perhaps more than ever, basketball rewards height — and, increasingly, arm length — and athleticism. Nowadays, warm-up lines seem to be as much for the fans as for the players. Tennessee is credited for starting a choreographed dunk during warm-ups that involves the entire team. It spread around the country and even reached the NBA.
The digital market is saturated with looped clips of diminutive high-flyers, players leapfrogging multiple humans and guards audaciously double-pumping in transition. The NCAA’s official website ran a listicle of players it wants to see in a dunk contest.7 Because of his dunking prowess, Williamson eclipsed 1 million Instagram followers before he even got to college.
As the number of dunk attempts has spiked, so too has their importance. Dunks accounted for 5.4 percent of all 2-point field goal attempts this season, the highest portion since 2014-15, and the fourth consecutive season that the national dunk share has risen.
In fact, according to Bart Torvik’s website, three8 of the 12 teams with the most single-season dunks since 2010 can be found in this weekend’s regional semifinals.

Of course, there are outliers. Most noticeably, Loyola-Chicago made a surprise run into and past the Sweet 16 a season ago. The Ramblers had just 15 dunks, accumulating a 1.6 percent dunk share. Duke squares off with Virginia Tech on Friday and has a clear edge on dunking; the Hokies (62 dunks) have fewer than a third as many dunks as the Blue Devils (188). But far more often, it seems that the high-flyers are moving on.
Dunks have held a special place in the NCAA Tournament for decades. It’s how many came to know the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels. It’s where Florida Gulf Coast, a plucky No. 15-seed in 2013, became known Dunk City. They have been everywhere this season and will continue to be, particularly with the regional semifinals featuring Florida State, Duke and LSU, three teams that have already skied for at least 177 dunks. The play has elevated the entertainment of the sport by a considerable measure.
While the rise of the 3-pointer has justifiably garnered much attention, the dunk is the sport’s most marketable shot. The feat of athleticism is frequent fodder for highlight reels and commercials. And, since nearly 90 percent of all dunk attempts since 2010 have been converted into points, it’s likely the most efficient shot in basketball. What was once banned is now propelling the sport forward. So keep your eye on the rim this weekend as the Sweet 16 takes flight.