Posted on: April 19, 2011 2:28 pm
Edited on: April 24, 2011 2:26 pm

Murphy to enroll at Duke in 2011

Posted by Jeff Borzello

Duke might be losing its top three players for next season, but the Blue Devils aren’t expected to fall very far.

That sentiment was cemented Tuesday, when 2012 Duke commit Alex Murphy told Jeff Goodman of FOXSports.com he would be enrolling in Durham this fall.

Murphy, a 6-foot-8 small forward from St. Mark's (Mass.), confirmed the news to CBSSports.com in a text message.

He joins Austin Rivers, Quinn Cook, Michael Gbinije and Marshall Plumlee in the Blue Devils’ class of 2011. 

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: April 6, 2011 5:06 pm

Making the Leap: Kyrie Irving bids farewell

Posted by Jeff Borzello

It was only 11 games, but it certainly was an enjoyable 11 games.

Duke freshman Kyrie Irving announced on Wednesday that he would hire an agent and enter the NBA Draft. He is likely a top-five pick and could go as high as No. 1 in June’s draft.

“Our whole program is overjoyed with having Kyrie here for one year,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We are totally supportive of Kyrie, his family and his decision.”

Irving, a 6-foot-2 point guard, played in just 11 games this season because of a injured toe on his right foot. He missed 26 games before returning in the NCAA tournament, where Duke lost to Arizona in the Sweet 16.

Irving averaged 17.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game this season, cementing himself as one of the top players in the country.

While it comes as no surprise that Irving entered the draft, the loss still clearly hurts Duke. Throw in the fact All-American Nolan Smith and forward Kyle Singler are also gone, and the Blue Devils could take a step back.

NBA Draft

Leading the returnees will be guards Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins, two high-volume shooters that had their moments during the course of Duke’s season. Miles Plumlee and Ryan Kelly return in the frontcourt, but the key will be Mason Plumlee. One of the most talented big men in the country, the middle Plumlee has yet to string together consistent outings down low.

The incoming freshmen class will also be important. Austin Rivers, the best pure scorer in the high school ranks, will make an immediate impact in the backcourt. Quinn Cook was another McDonald’s All-American; he can run an offense and makes teammates better. Michael Gbinije is a wing scorer that is deadly with his mid-range jumper.

Irving would have obviously formed one of the best backcourts in the country with Rivers, but it is impossible to blame the New Jersey native for his decision. His stock is simply too high.

Photo: US Presswire

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 25, 2011 11:20 am

Wisky's tourney play as disappointing as Duke's

Posted by Matt Norlander

There is no easier, lazier, misguided writing assignment today than to proclaim Duke lost because it inserted Kyrie Irving into its lineup, screwing up the chemistry of the Blue Devils' crew.

This is a waste of your and my time. Duke struggles in the Sweet 16 on the regular. More to the point, it lost because Arizona had an aberration of a performance (stun-worthy!), one that had little to do with the fact Kyrie Irving was on the floor. In fact, the numbers suggest it's even more embarrassing for Mike Krzyzewski if his NBA-bound point guard isn't a part of the demolition. No college basketball team was beating Arizona last night, and that's the biggest thing to take away from Arizona 93, Duke 77.

So let's instead talk about another polarizing, all-encompassing, always-intriguing topic: Wisconsin basketball. Wait! Wait! Don't go. I can tie this in with Duke, you see? Is that enough to keep you around for a few more paragraphs? Because Wisconsin is almost as — if not more so; actually, probably more so — disappointing than Duke in March. This is especially true when you remember — anybody home? — that Duke kind of, sort of won a national title last season. Wisconsin does not come close to winning titles, nor is it expected to, despite consistently ranking high in a number of important tempo-free categories.

When we talk about PASE, we talk about teams who played beyond what they're expected to do; that's what PASE stands for: Performance Above Seed Expectation. How far do you go in the tournament, and are you beating teams you shouldn't be by doing so? Certain teams, like Butler, for instance (how appropriate it was the one to beat the Badgers last night) have incredible PASE. Michigan State's another one.

Duke, which has lost eight of the past 10 years in the tournament to an inferior seed, is put at a "disadvantage" by that misleading stat, as it's often a one or a two. So, in a way, Duke's sort of set up to fail. If it loses before the Final Four, then it's PASE is hindered. Wisconsin's different. Wisconsin isn't consistently holding down bracket from the very top or bottom.

Unfortunately, that focused, clock-burning swing offense comes back to haunt Wisconsin in the Big Bracket, despite so many experts telling us you must play the half-court game in March to win. Yet few teams execute more fastidiously in the half-court than the Badgers. Here they are again, though, executed at the hands of a lower number. It's about matchups, of course, but you can't deny the pattern that's now arced over Bo Ryan's career.

Awesome, awesome coach. Just isn't capable winning with his style once the snow melts.

Last night was the fourth loss in five years for UW in which it was felled by an inferior seed. No. 12 Cornell chopped down Wisconsin's tree last season. Before that, 2008, when Steph Curry captured America's imagination. And five years ago, Wisconsin was a two seed and got clipped by No. 7 UNLV. It's a shame Bo Ryan's teams do this to themselves. Rubbing salt in the wound, bad free-throw shooting last night cost the Badgers the all-time, single-season record for free-throw efficiency.

Wisconsin's loss gets overshadowed by Butler reaching back-to-back Elite Eights and the Duke conversation going full throttle until tonight's second batch of Sweet 16 games start. In a way, Ryan and the Badgers are lucky; if you're going to underwhelm in March, make sure you do it when one of the bluebloods crashes and burns at the same time. Doesn't change the fact the Badgers have been too good for too long to continue to do come up short like this.

Photo: AP

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Category: NCAAB
Tags: Duke, Wisconsin
Posted on: March 24, 2011 6:48 pm

Video: Kyle Singler's family talks Sweet 16

Posted by Eric Angevine

There's nothing like having family to back you up on a big day like today. Kyle Singler's grandfather and cousins talked to me about what it means to be able to come to Anaheim and cheer for family in the Sweet 16.

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Posted on: March 22, 2011 11:05 pm
Edited on: March 22, 2011 11:18 pm

ACC teams win when it counts

Posted by Eric Angevine

We've read all about how the Big East flamed out in this year's tournament. 9 out of 11 teams out before the Sweet 16. This from a conference that supposedly had one of the best regular seasons in college hoops history.

The Atlantic Coast Conference, on the other hand, was supposedly in a down year. It's a defensible position. The fourth-best team in the conference was Clemson, a team that might not have made the dance last season when it was a 65-team affair. The bottom of the league was absolutely miserable, with former contenders like Miami, Wake Forest, Virginia, Georgia Tech and Maryland falling below .500 in league play.

No doubt, that's bad news. The ACC is a blast to watch when several teams are in contention throughout the season.  But can we call it a down year when the league's top three teams have been so good in the postseason? North Carolina, Duke and Florida State finished 1,2,3 in the ACC standings, and all three have made it to the Sweet 16. Each made it to this point by employing a different strategy.

North Carolina, typically known for running opponents out of the gym, has become more comfortable in the half-court set with Kendall Marshall dispatching pinpoint entry passes to Tyler Zeller and John Henson. When things get a little tight on the interior, Harrison Barnes can light it up from outside, and Leslie McDonald sees spot duty as a shooter as well. Dexter Strickland can score, but functions best as a defensive stopper.

Duke, on the other hand, is guard central. No other team in the nation can match the rotation of Nolan Smith, Seth Curry, Kyrie Irving and Andre Dawson. Kyle Singler is once again scoring, rebounding and passing at a high level. If the Blue Devils have a weakness, it's the minimal production down low. As we saw last season, a dominant big man is not necessary for Coach K to win the big one.

Florida State may be the most surprising team to appear in this position. Head coach Leonard Hamilton is hardly a household name, in spite of his 25-year career, which includes two Big East coach of the year citations from his time with Miami, and one from the ACC in 2009. This is his second Sweet 16 appearance. FSU has been largely underrated this season because it wins games with defense in spite of offensive lapses, and because star player Chris Singleton missed the final six games of the ACC season. With Singleton back, the Seminoles upset Texas A&M and absolutely drilled Notre Dame, winning 71-57. It was by far the biggest win put up by any of the league's three Sweet 16 participants.

Odds are, at least one of the three will make it to a regional final. It helps that no ACC teams had to play one another, but that'll happen when you get a measly four teams in. Then again, three out of four in the Sweet 16 makes quality over quantity sound like a pretty good deal.

Photo: US Presswire

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Posted on: March 22, 2011 10:17 pm
Edited on: March 22, 2011 10:19 pm

16 stories to watch in the Sweet 16

Posted by Matt Jones

1. Ohio State’s quest for dominance
:  College basketball has been decidedly mediocre as a whole this season, with no real difference between most of the teams in the top 25. But all year, Ohio State has seemed to be on a different plane. Its two losses during the regular season were both on the road, against ranked teams in the Top 15. And now in the tournament, as Kansas, Duke, North Carolina, etc have struggled at times in their games, the Buckeyes have rolled and looked absolutely dominant. Now however they are rewarded only with the two winningest programs in college basketball history, Kentucky and North Carolina. Win those two in a convincing manner and they will be cutting the nets down in Houston.

2.  The era of Jorts in full effect:  The most improved player in college basketball is the lone senior on a program known for its freshman, who played 35 total minutes last season. Josh Harrellson is a fan favorite in Lexington, Kentucky, in part because of his Cinderella story and in part because of his unique personality. In addition to becoming a force on the glass down low, Harrellson has embraced the nickname “Jorts,” given to him because he famously wore jean shorts on his campus recruiting visit. The denim legend has a chance to enter UK lore if he can somehow slow down Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and make Kentucky so filled with jean shorts, that it looks like Gainesville on a Saturday college football afternoon.

3.  Buzz Williams’s final audition:  Coach Buzz Williams is absolutely focused on taking Marquette to another Final Four, and to do so, he will have to beat two of the North Carolina, Ohio State, Kentucky trio. But Williams will also be a hot commodity when the season ends, as he is likely to be pursued by all of the job openings left in college basketball. Marquette is not the most attractive BCS-level job and Williams will have the opportunity to jump ship if he so chooses. Either way, a number of college Athletic Directors will be watching his Golden Eagles play, waiting for a loss and a chance to call his cell phone for a quick inquiry.

4.  Harrison Barnes lives up to the hype:  Thanks in large part to the success of freshman John Wall last season, many in the national media felt the need to crown North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes national preseason player of the year before he had even played a game in Chapel Hill. Early in the year, Barnes did not live up the hype, causing some painful growth and verbal reprimands to the press by coach Roy Williams. But as the year has gone on, Barnes has hit his stride and looks an awful lot like the number one player in America he was coming out of high school. A run to the Final Four and the Harrison Barnes redemption story will be told far and wide, likely followed up with a top 5 pick this spring in the NBA Draft.

5. Duke goes for the repeat:  Only two teams have gone back to back in the NCAA tournament in the last 35 years and both were considered some of the best in the history of college basketball. This year's Duke team has the chance to replicate the accomplishment, but do so in a different manner than the two prior winners. Both the 1992 Duke and 2007 Florida teams were dominant from start to finish, but this year's Duke team has been a notch below Ohio State and Kansas all season. They escaped against Michigan on Sunday and now are four games away from college basketball immortality...even if many of us aren't sure that they are all that good.

6. Arizona announces it is back:  It hasn't been that long since Arizona was the dominant college basketball power on the west coast. But then came the rise of UCLA, the decline of the Lute Olson era, Kevin O'Neill and all of a sudden, Arizona basketball became somewhat of an afterthought. Well regardless of what happens in the Sweet 16 versus Duke, the Wildcats' program under Sean Miller has proven that it is once again a power. Derrick Williams has made some of the most athletic plays of the tournament and Arizona has won two hard-fought battles over Memphis and Texas. With a strong recruiting class coming next season, Arizona basketball is back regardless of if they beat Duke. but if they sneak up and knock out the Blue Devils, well Arizona will announce that it is a top ten program once again, this time to stay.

7. Kemba Walker's time:  There isn't much left for Kemba Walker to accomplish at Connecticut. He has had an amazing season and his run in the Big East tournament ensures that he will be remembered forever around the Huskies' program. But he is two wins away from taking his UCONN team to a Final Four, completing a postseason that will have few equals in recent history. His ability to score and will wins at the end of games is unbelievable to watch and Walker now must do it as an underdog two more times to reach his ultimate goal. In a year where the stars have come out, Kemba still has the chance to be the biggest one yet, with two games in Anaheim to tell the tale.

8. Steve Fisher's redemption:  Everyone thinks Steve Fisher is a bad coach. Regardless of his amazing tournament run to the title in 1989 and his time spent overseeing the Fab Five, the reality is that media and most college basketball fans think Fisher is synonymous with "good recruiter/bad coach." But San Diego State has had a tremendous season in a tough conference and now has a chance to prove its mettle versus arguably one of the two best players in the game (Kemba Walker) and the defending national champions (Duke) over the next five days. Win both of those games and Fisher may not quiet the critics, but they will have much less ammunition than they would prefer.

9. Learn about the Morris twins:  Coming out of high school, most figured the Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff, to be super talented, but likely headed for a substantial amount of trouble during their time at Kansas. That opinion was bolstered by a stupid moment from Markieff, as he shot a BB gun out of a dorm window and ended up arrested on a battery charge. But since then, the Morris twins have gotten better on and off the basketball court and are the leaders of a Kansas team with a legitimate chance to win a title. Both players are forces on the glass and can score, making them not only a great brother tandem, but a matchup nightmare. In a relatively open bracket, it should be easy pickings for the brothers Morris.

10. Richmond tries to keep going:  Every year a team comes from out of the first weekend as a big underdog, heads into the second weekend with lots of press and excitement, only to fall in their Sweet 16 game to a stronger opponent. Last year that team was Cornell from the Ivy League and this year it is the familiar NCAA tournament success story, the Richmond Spiders. Unlike past heroes of the little guy, Richmond is from a near-major conference (Atlantic 10) and counts some good athletes and one great player, Kevin Anderson. Richmond plays great defense and has the ability to beat anyone in the tournament...except perhaps Kansas, who creates matchup nightmares for the Spiders. This is the spot where teams like Richmond exit stage left. We shall see if the Spiders will follow the script.

11. Could VCU be great?:  No team had a better first weekend than VCU. Who would have ever imagined that the Colonial team would put absolute smackdowns on USC, Georgetown and Purdue, all three in games that were never really all that close. VCU coach Shaka Smart has become the hottest name in the coaching community and our CBSSports.com writer Gregg Doyel suggested that they might be the most impressive team so far in the tournament. VCU plays a straightforward offensive style, in which every player can score and all on the court have a variety of skills. It makes them tough to prepare for in a given game and nearly impossible to defend when clicking. It is tough to see VCU coming out of this bracket and beating Kansas, but making the Elite Eight and giving the Jayhawks a good game? I would call it likely.

12. Florida State goes for respect:  Every year there is one team like Florida State that makes the Sweet 16. Usually they are from a power conference, were average all year, often underachieving, and then they get the perfect draw and make a run to the tournament's second weekend. The Seminoles were blessed by getting to play the decidedly unathletic and overseeded, Notre Dame Fighting Irish and are now onto play America's new fascination, VCU. When healthy, Chris Singleton is the type of player that can lead FSU over anyone and there will be no team they will see that they can't match up with athletically. But FSU has always been a team that skeptics dismiss and Leonard Hamilton is a coach that usually brings out the eye rolls from those in the college basketball community. This weekend could change that.

13. Brad Stevens tries to do it again:  Butler's move to the championship game last year was remarkable and a testament to the ability of Brad Stevens and a great group of Butler players, led by Gordon Hayward. But this Butler team's set of last-second wins last weekend may have even been more impressive. While Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack are both playing well, there was a time this year that Butler was completely in turmoil, losing to lower level Horizon League teams and looking like a fragment of the team that was a half court shot from cutting down the nets. But Stevens never gave up, the team got better and now two one point wins have put the Bulldogs two victories from the Final Four. The Southeast bracket is wide open and there is no reason that Stevens cannot make magic again.

14. Jordan Taylor will impress:  Jordan Taylor is a phenomenon to watch. While he plays on a painfully boring team that at times can suck the life out of any room it is in, he is an explosive scorer that also has the ability to get his teammates involved and control a game. Taylor will get overshadowed this weekend by Jimmer, Kemba and the rest, but he is as good a player as they are and at the top of his game, potentially a better NBA prospect. Wisconsin is prime to sneak in under the radar and make a trip to the Final Four, because they play great defense and are a style contrast for most teams. Bo Ryan can get it done with this group, but it will be Jordan Taylor who makes it happen.

15. Jimmer: He is the biggest star in college basketball and has become a sports figure so well known, that he can be called only by his first name. Jimmer Fredette draws the highest ratings of the NCAA tournament and is everyone's second favorite player in the nation. But what he doesn't have is a Final Four, an accomplishment that will make him an all-timer in the sport. Florida is a team that BYU beat last year and the Cougars might be favored against either Wisconsin or Butler. Jimmer can do it and if he does, he will become the Tim Tebow of college basketball.  All it takes is two more wins.

16. The under-appreciated Gators: Florida is playing its best basketball of the season and is one of only a few teams left in the tournament that has a scoring threat at every position. This Florida team has generally been overlooked all season and was thought by most to be way overseeded in the No. 2 spot in the Southeast region. But the Gators played two great games in Tampa and come to New Orleans with the most open bracket in the field and are the odds-on favorite to advance. Billy Donovan is extremely overlooked as a coach...three national title games in 11 years and a chance to go to a fourth Final Four this year. Get that done and he has to be considered one of the five best coaches in the game, a group he is rarely placed into.

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Posted on: March 20, 2011 10:51 pm

West Regional preview

Posted by Eric Angevine

The Anaheim Regional is the chalk champion this year. The 1, 2 and 3 seeds made it through, and No. 5 Arizona over No. 4 Texas wasn't much of an upset by seed. So, what we have here is nothing but the game's best active coach (Coach K at Duke), A Player of the Year candidate (Kemba Walker at UConn), A likely top-5 NBA draft pick (Derrick Williams at Arizona), and a first-time program with arguably the nation's most potent frontcourt (San Diego State). Meh. Chalk. How boring.

Three storylines dominating Anaheim

1. Coach K goes for 902 wins and yet another Final Four trip. 
2. Derrick Williams is coming home to L.A. 
3. Kemba Walker attempts to keep his postseason win streak intact.

How They Get to Houston

No. 1 Duke: The key word for the Blue Devils is 'maintain'. The backcourt rotation has become truly formidable with the return of Kyrie Irving. When he plays alongside Nolan Smith and Seth Curry, Duke has so many ways to destroy a team. Kyle Singler will continue to overwork opposing defenses with his ability to drive inside or step back and drill a jumper. Duke's inside players simply need to play their roles as they have all season. Two wins, and Duke fans get to celebrate a Final Four and Coach K becoming tied with Bob Knight as the winningest coach in D-I.

No. 2 San Diego State: Get the ball inside. The Aztecs entered the season with one of the nation's top frontcourts, and nothing has changed on that score. Kawhi Leonard, Billy White and Malcolm Thomas are good for roughly 48 percent of the team's points scored this season. Chase Tapley is the jump shooter any big lineup needs to keep defenders honest, and D.J. Gay is the distributor who feeds the machine. If those five players do their jobs, and Steve Fisher doesn't have to go to the bench too terribly often, the Aztecs can get to the Lone Star state.

No. 3 Connecticut: Kemba. Kemba, Kemba Kemba Kemba. Kemba? Kemba. OK, seriously. Kemba Walker continuing to play like he's got JRR Tolkien-style Elf blood in his veins is the key to everything UConn has done and hopes to do this season. Alex Oriakhi is the key rebounder, and Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier are the helpful apprentice scorers. There is no longer room for doubt: Kemba Walker can do anything he wants to do on the basketball court.

No. 5 Arizona: The Wildcats are really an unusual team to see at this stage. Sophomore Derrick Williams scores a full 25 percent of his team's points. One quarter! Momo Jones is the only other Arizona player who even comes close to double figures in scoring, and he averages 9.8 per game. The youth movement worked against Texas, and could be a harbinger of things to come. Freshman Jordin Mayes and sophomore Solomon Hill each played well to get the 'Cats to the Sweet 16. The key is to have a one possession game and let Williams take over. It's worked thus far.

Anaheim's five best players

1. Nolan Smith: Duke's leader can stroke a jumper or drive the lane with ease. He averages 20.9 points and 5.3 assists per game.
2. Kemba Walker: Quite simply college basketball's Superman this season. 23.6 ppg and 4.5 apg.
3. Derrick Williams: A sophomore who almost single-handedly put his team in the Sweet 16. 19.2 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. Shoots 61% from deep.
4. Kawhi Leonard: If you needed a rebound to save your life, and Kenneth Faried wasn't available (well, he isn't), you'd want Leonard to be your guy. 15.6 ppg, 10.6 rpg.
5. Kyrie Irving: With so many other choices, it's tough to go here, but Irving is the piece that makes a good Duke team great.

The Duke Blue Devils will cut down the nets, because college basketball is a guard's game, and the Devils are hoarding at least four good to exceptional ones. Kyle Singler is an NBA talent in the frontcourt, and the trio of big men can, together, play the role that Brian Zoubek played for the defending national champs last season. They're not quite as complete as Ohio State, but that's a concern for another day.

Photo: US Presswire

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Posted on: March 20, 2011 5:32 pm
Edited on: March 20, 2011 5:46 pm

Michigan could return to its glory days

Posted by Jeff Borzello

If Darius Morris’ runner in the lane against Duke wasn’t his final shot in a Michigan uniform, expect the Wolverines to be back – and better – next season.

After Michigan’s great comeback against Duke, in which the Wolverines went on a 15-4 run in the final six minutes to give themselves a chance to win, the last thing on its mind is next season. However, against the Blue Devils, Michigan showed why it will be such a highly-touted team to begin next season.

To start, the Wolverines play a 1-3-1 zone defense that makes them difficult to beat on a consistent basis. John Beilein has players that are willing to defend and execute the zone to perfection.

What should have Michigan fans excited for next season is the fact that there is not a single senior on the roster. This season, Morris developed into one of the nation’s best point guards, showing tremendous passing ability and the potential to be a go-to scorer. Tim Hardaway Jr. is a bonafide second scorer, while Jordan Morgan was a pleasant surprise down low. Morgan runs the floor and is only getting better. Zach Novak, Stu Douglass and Matt Vogrich are good perimeter shooters.

Beilein is also bringing into two more perimeter players next season, led by undersized scorer Carlton Brundidge. Brundidge has unlimited range and the ability to create his own shot. Trey Burke is another player who can score, but he is also capable of running the offensive and finding players.

The key to next season could be Evan Smotrycz. He averaged only six points per game this season, but he showed flashes of his potential at various points this season. Smotrycz went for 13 points against Duke and scored in double-figures in eight other games. He is an inside-outside player who creates match-up problems with his skill set.

The primary weaknesses for Michigan this season were inside depth and lack of players who can create their own shots. Players like Jon Horford, who had an impressive finish-and-foul against Duke, need to step up down low, while the additions of Brundidge and Burke will help the lack of creativity offensively.

Next year’s team will have guards who attack, shooters who can spread the floor, frontcourt production and a consistent defense. It’s the perfect recipe for a successful John Beilein team.

If Morris returns to build off a tremendous sophomore season, don’t be surprised to see Michigan go a couple of rounds further in next year’s NCAA tournament.

Photo: US Presswire

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Category: NCAAB
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com