Duke’s offensive deficiencies showed up again against Virginia. They are fully dependent on the play of Tre Jones and Vernon Carey Jr. for their offensive productivity. A third player must emerge for Duke whether that will be Cassius Stanley, Matthew Hurt or Wendell Moore. They must be able to take offense from their defense in transition. That would be started o the perimeter of Duke’s defense applying major pressure and creating turnovers. Also, an additional 3-point shooter will be needed for Duke to advance in the NCAA tournament with Alex O’Connell and Joey Baker. If Mike Krzyzewski doesn’t get Duke over their struggles they will be a quick out in the NCAA tournament.
It’s now March and Tom Izzo has this Michigan State team playing well at the right time after getting a massive win over Maryland. The dynamic duo of Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman has been terrific on the offensive end in ball screens. Rocket Watts has been very good at providing additional scoring and ball-handling next to Cassius Winston. Also, Aaron Henry is as versatile as a player for Michigan State and his perimeter defense has given them a major boost, along with his ability to make timely shots offensively. The emergence of Malik Hall has been key as he gives Michigan State as another scorer and an interior rebounder. Michigan State has always been prepared for March and with Cassius Winston leading the way they are set for another quality run.
The success that Tony Bennett has built at Virginia is tremendous. Their defensive prowess has been the staple of his program and that has been the case this year holding opponents to 52.7 points a game. Furthermore, his consistency and approach with his players and culture define Bennett’s overall success. Also, his ability to get the most out of Kihei Clark as a defensive point guard who is initiating the offense very well with his speed and control with the basketball. Next, he has gotten to play two bigs together very well in Mamadi Diakite and Jay Huff. The limited shooting that Virginia has as well makes it very impressive with their overall success at 21-7. In a rebuilding year for Virginia, they are still only a game out of the ACC title and Tony Bennett has his team reaching their potential.
John Calipari has this team playing their best basketball of the season at this point. When it comes down to the NCAA tournament teams need guards to win and Kentucky has the best backcourt in the country. In addition, the emergence of Immanuel Quickley as a knockdown scorer has elevated this team to another level. Also, the defensive ability of Ashton Hagans and Tyrese Maxey continues to cause problems for the opposing perimeters. The inside presence for Kentucky on both ends with Nick Richards has been exceptional and has been playing at an elite level. If they can get E.J. Montgomery to continue to play well, this team will be in prime position for a Final 4 appearance. Lastly, on Selection Sunday, Kentucky could very well end up on the 1 seed line.
Chris Holtmann is starting to figure things out with his guard-heavy lineup. The steadiness of CJ Walker is vital to their success with his feel and ability to create getting in the lane. Also, the shooting ability of Duane Washington is really key for Ohio State. When he’s at his best, so is Ohio State. Luther Muhammad is a very solid overall defender and has the capabilities to make shots as well. The Wesson brothers are playing at a high level with Kaleb’s ability to dominate inside and stretch the defense with his improved shooting. As for Andre, he has versatility on both ends to create matchup problems for other opponents. If Kyle Young can get healthy this team will have a small rotation that fits as a unit. Ohio State if they can keep continuity has an opportunity to get to the second weekend.
Images Courtesy of, CBS Sports, Lexington Herald-Leader, USA Today
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