Tag:Kemba Walker
Posted on: March 23, 2011 8:15 pm
Edited on: March 23, 2011 8:41 pm
 

SDSU takes on Kemba. Been there, done that?

If this guy can't guard Kemba, what chance do the rest of us have?

Posted by Eric Angevine

Anaheim -- On Thursday, March 24 the San Diego State Aztecs will face a Player of the Year candidate in a huge game. This single player can score at will, and makes his team a threat to beat anyone, any time by his mere presence on the floor. Kemba Walker is the man they'll have to stop to have any chance of making the Elite Eight.

For most teams, this would be a daunting experience. For the Aztecs, this is the fourth time this season they've had to prepare for something like this.

That's because the Aztecs play in the Mountain West conference, where Jimmer Fredette plies his trade. SDSU was swept by The Jimmer in two regular-season meetings, but gained a measure of revenge on the third try, beating their arch-nemesis to win the MVC tournament crown.

Asked to compare Walker and Fredette, San Diego State's underrated point guard D.J. Gay pointed out that the two players differ quite a bit when one goes past the surface comparison of volume scoring.

"I think the difference is that Jimmer is more of a 3-point threat," Gay said. "As for Kemba, he gets to the basket at will and his mid-range game is close to perfect. Both are very hard guards to play against, both very good scorers, but one, you're picking up at the half-court line and the other one you constantly need help within that 3-point range."

That actually makes it sound easier for the Aztecs, right? If there's one area they dominate, it's inside. If Kemba wants to test out his drives and mid-range jumpers against San Diego State in Anaheim, that's good, right?

Not so fast, says Aztecs head coach Steve Fisher.

"You can't foul him," Fisher said. "He's a deadly free-throw shooter and I believe he's gotten 76 free throws in his last seven games. You've got to keep him off the line. He knows how to draw fouls. He's lightning quick with the ball."

Oh. So, there is a plan, right?

"Well, he scores 35, 40% of their points and takes about that many of their shots, so we better have a plan in terms of what we want to try to do," said the veteran head coach. "We've got to keep him on the outside, challenge his perimeter shot, minimize the number of free throws and layups he gets. It's easy to say, hard to do. He's not scoring 26, 28 points a game for nothing."

It's worth noting that San Diego State got off the schneid against Brigham Young only after Brandon Davies was suspended, suggesting that there may be more to all this than just watching out for one superstar player. In the UConn frontcourt, Alex Oriakhi plays something close to the Brandon Davies role. He obviously won't be suspended like Davies was, but the SDSU big men might find it easier to limit Oriakhi if their assessment of Walker's three-point effectiveness is accurate.

Now that we have some idea what the game plan will be, it will be very interesting to see if the Aztecs can implement it tomorrow. If they finally succeed in shutting down Walker, they'll have done something nobody else has done this postseason.

Maybe that early dose of Jimmer was just what the Aztecs needed to prepare for the Sweet 16.

Photo: US Presswire

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Posted on: March 11, 2011 11:13 pm
Edited on: March 11, 2011 11:25 pm
 

Walker's Big East legacy now cemented, iconic

Posted by Matt Norlander

NEW YORK — The championship game’s still to come, but why wait another 24 hours to state what’s true now? Kemba Walker is a Big East tournament legend. Icon. Bar-raiser. He’s approaching the title of mythical figure as the hours pass, it seems. These terms are relative to UConn fans, of course, who hold Walker as close to their heart as any player in program history.

That’s because he’s so vital to UConn continuing to play basketball late into March. To chasing a Final Four, which was a laughable notion at the start of this season. But the statistics alone prove Walker’s Big East tournament legacy — forget about his Connecticut one; that was etched months ago — secured. Most points in a Big East tournament, now that honor belongs to Walker, who’s put up 111 points in four games.

He demolished the standing record: Eric Devendorf’s 84 in 2009. Walker’s 111 is so efficient that it’s precedent-setting. His triple-ones aren’t just best in Big East history — they blow by any single-tournament scoring record in every conference’s record book. (Yeah, have to note this: Jimmer Fredette seems determined to challenge Walker, as he lit up New Mexico for 52 in BYU’s Mountain West semifinal.)

“The most valuable player in America, bar none, not even close,” Huskies coach Jim Calhoun said. “Tell me the other guys who are getting 12 rebounds, six steals, assists, etc. It’s one of the great performances, certainly a player of mine, but I’ve never seen a guard dominate a game, inside and out.”

Since the five-games-in-five-days format is still a new one in the Big East tournament (and doesn't exist anywhere else), tomorrow’s numbers could be tagged with an asterisk, if you really wanted to be litigious.

Makes no difference. Walker’s lugged this team to a top-four seed, maybe better (definitely better if he and the Huskies win a Big East title), in the NCAAs and put himself amongst the names of the all-time Big East regular-season and tournament greats.

Big East basketball in Madison Square Garden in March is memorable in 2011 because of Kemba Walker. That's the basis here.

The last time a player had a run like this was Gerry McNamara, who fueled and fire and fought Syracuse to a Big East championship in 2006. He’s as revered at Syracuse as Walker will be five, 10, 15 years from now.

Friday night, in UConn’s 76-71 overtime win against Syracuse, Walker didn’t make any game-winning shots, but he did go for 33 points, 12 rebounds, 6 steals and 5 assists in the Big East semifinal. And as nice as those stats look, hitting a game-winning shot against the top-seeded team (Pitt), then beating your greatest rival a night later, and in overtime, exorcising extra-session demons in the process, that’s the big stuff. Remember (how could you forget?) that this win was some redemption for Connecticut, which slogged through six overtimes two years ago, only to come up short, falling 127-117.

“I don’t want to go into another six overtimes — know that,” Walker said. “I was mad when it went into the first overtime.”

There’s been a lot of talk about how UConn playing four games in four days, and now five games in five, can be a detriment to the team. Jim Boeheim predicted Walker wouldn't slow one bit after Syracuse won against St. John's Thursday night. He was right.

Calhoun has no choice but to accept this format. And he doesn't let his team even approach the issue publicly. Play as well as they can as a team, but let Kemba get his biggest collegiate moment in his hometown. (Walker is from the Bronx.)

“No one’s bitching and moaning by the fact this is tough. We knew we needed it,” Calhoun said.

The added game is a bit overblown, anyway. The players would've been worked in weigh rooms or practice facilities anyway. And, again, Walker's got an ever-life battery in that chest. That the players can get tired, or this back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-bac
k run could have affects in the NCAA tournament ... Calhoun refuses to buy into that, though he did give up this nugget:

“He actually looked tired at the start of the game, not the end of the game, because that was winning time,” the Hall of Fame coach said about Walker.

As the game wore on, Walker grew thicker, deeper treads on his tires. Connecticut blew a six-point lead in the final minute, but this time, you couldn’t find an iota of a reason to put that on Walker. And in the extra five minutes, Walker was as vital to his team as ever, especially after Huskies forward Alex Oriakhi fouled out.

“I’d give them a day off tomorrow, but otherwise, we’d be practicing,” Calhoun said. “And they’d rather do a game. And so would I, to be honest.”

They get that game and one more chance to finish off an unpredictable, drama-filled season. Walker's so good, he makes you forget about all the trouble his coach and program have gotten into with the NCAA.

Walker’s a legend to Calhoun and his teammates because he turned his grades around and never let his head inflate.

“He never talks about the NBA. He only talks about us and his family,” Calhoun said.

Afterward, when the media horde had mostly died down and moved on to watch Louisville-Notre Dame or start filing their UConn-Syracuse stories, Walker slumped against the pale-white painted walls in the bowel of Madison Square Garden. He was eager for an ice bath and then a hotel bed. Before sauntering away, the most coveted man in Madison Square Garden cracked a joke.

“This is the most exhausting thing,” Walker said of the interview process. The horde is the one opponent he can't shake so easily. That's his own fault.

Photo: AP

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Posted on: March 11, 2011 12:33 am
Edited on: March 11, 2011 1:25 am
 

Wrapping up a crazy Thursday of action

Posted by Matt Jones

Today was one of the busiest days of the year in college basketball, with all six major tournaments having at least three games each and crazy action all over the nation. It was the type of day that deserves a neat summary in conclusion:

Game of the Day:  UCONN vs Pitt

This was the rare instance where the best game of the day on paper, ended up being the best game of the day in practice. Both teams played with a ton of energy and the game was actually executed on a very high level at both ends. Pittsburgh showcased the exception defense that makes them a Final Four contender, but the Panthers had no answer for the one-on-one play from UCONN in the second half. Kemba Walker was once again a revelation and his shakedown of Gary Mcghee at the end of the game is one of those plays that you will see over and over in the years to come. A lasting image in a quarterfinal tournament game?  That is easily the game of the day.


Biggest Win: Colorado over Kansas State

Colorado came into its Big 12 quarterfinal against Kansas State with one clear objective.  A win over one of the hottest teams in the country would not only vault the Buffaloes to the conference semifinals in its final year in the league, but would also put Colorado on the right side of the NCAA bubble.  The ensuing 87-75 performance was one of the best of the year we have seen in college basketball when it mattered the most. Whatever happens for the rest of the tournament, Colorado will hear its name called on Selection Sunday and when that happens, they can look back at this win as the main reason why.

 

Most Impressive Performance: Texas A&M over Missouri

There are many reasons to wonder what has happened to Missouri over the past few weeks. Mike Anderson's team has looked poor on a number of occasions down the stretch, but never has the team seemed to have less life than during today's 86-71 smackdown at the hands of the Aggies. For those around the Texas A&M program, there is some quiet optimism that this team may be clicking at the right time to make some surprising March noise. If the game on Thursday in Kansas City is any indication, it may not be that surprising for long.

 

Worst Loss: UCLA 

I have given up trying to figure out the Pac 10. I can forgive the occasional poor road performance by one of the three top powers, but UCLA's 76-59 loss to Oregon on Thursday was just plain pathetic. You are playing in your home city, with a chance to get a better seed and re-establish dominance in a conference that has somewhat forgotten your existence in the last two years. Instead, you show up and go through the motions of caring, while putting one of the worst teams in the conference through to the semifinals. An embarrassing loss for a program that has clearly slipped in the past three years.

 

Performance of the Day: Michael Thompson

The Big 10 tournament hasn't been around as long as some of its fellow Championship Week events, but it still deserves attention when one of its records is broken. Michael Thompson of Northwestern went out and scored a smooth 35 points in a 75-65 victory by his Wildcats over Minnesota. While Northwestern is not likely to break its NCAA tournament drought this year, Thompson's performance gives the school a rare record that is not based upon futility. And for that, it is worth a mention.


Setup for Biggest Game Tomorrow: Georgia vs Alabama

Only one game tomorrow is a play-in game for the NCAA Tournament and it occurs in Atlanta, Georgia. Thanks to the Bulldogs victory over Auburn, Georgia and Alabama play at 1 pm, with the winner likely into the NCAA Tournament and the loser on the bubble on Selection Sunday. Both teams played to end the regular season and Alabama's win gave the Tide a fighting chance for the Big Dance. Now with this the only game of the weekend in which two bubble teams play each other, you can expect a large reward to the winner.


Worst Day of Basketball:  SEC in Atlanta

This was a terrible day to be stationed as I was, in Atlanta for the SEC tournament. All four games were dreadful. Three were decided by double digits and the four losers represented some of the worst teams in major conference college basketball. Every game saw more Kentucky fans waiting for their team to play on Friday than fans of the teams actually on the court and the gym resembled a morgue during Friday night's finale between LSU and Vanderbilt. The schedule is a bit meatier on Friday, but for Day One at least, the SEC has been a dud.

 

MVP of the Day:  Kemba Walker

One of the most impressive crossovers you will ever to see to get an open final look. Kemba's shot fit in well with all of his heroics this year and reminded everyone that the Huskies are still a force to be reckoned with this March. We will see if they can get four games in four days against Syracuse tomorrow, but that shot and the move that made him open, will be remembered for a long time to come.


Posted on: March 10, 2011 4:58 pm
Edited on: March 10, 2011 6:44 pm
 

Kemba Walker elevates Big East tourney drama

Posted by Matt Norlander

NEW YORK — Kemba. That needs to be the first word of this post. Clearly.

It’d be a fool’s errand to make my primary blog post for UConn-Pitt off anything but the final play and Kemba Walker.

And, at the same time, what can there be said? This isn’t new. This isn’t hair-tugging, unexpected drama. This is old hat. Walker’s done this all season long. He’s hit clutch, game-winning shots. That’s him. His legacy is secured; the possibility of becoming legendary hangs in the unknown of the next few days of the Big East tournament and the following weeks of the NCAAs.

“The play before I missed a shot and my teammates told me, ‘Stay aggressive,’” Walker said. “And anybody in the world knew that ball was coming to me.”

Walker clearly took the atmosphere, attention and drama of the Big East tournament to another level. This is hardly surprising, but it's exciting all the same.

But here's something to remember: Walker admitted his confidence was a little down, as he told me in our one-on-one video interview. Huskies fans know the counter to all this just as well: Walker’s missed nearly as many big shots as he’s hit. He’s taken a lion’s share of bad jumpers. Turnovers, ugly looking ones in the lane, those have popped up all too frequently as well. The man who has climbed up the all-time rankings in UConn lore remains as exciting as ever, and in the final seconds of a game, the great dichotomy exists.

Yeah, Kemba’s going to be the one that gets and shoots the ball, but what’s going to happen before that? The great unknown. He’s not Mr. Reliable. Has never claimed to be. But more often than not, Walker’s saved UConn this season and turned them into the top-four seed they’ll be come Selection Sunday.

Thursday afternoon in Madison Square Garden, it was another clip for the ever-looping highlight reel. A poor, helpless Gary McGhee suddenly found himself on an island with the nation’s quickest point guard.

Gulp.

Walker could’ve easily blown by the 6-10 Panthers center, but instead chose to yo-yo him before snapping his ankles in front of 19,375 people. Then ball beautifully fell through the hoop, and Madison Square Garden exploded.

“I was going to go to the basket on him,” Walker said. “I was going to penetrate and get a layup or get a foul for a teammate but he fell so I was able to get a clean, clean look at the rim. So I took my shot.”

And everything prior to that is forgotten. The fact UConn embarrassed Pittsburgh on the glass, the fact the Panthers blew a big first-half lead — none of it matters. Underneath the subplots playing out in the final minutes was Walker willing himself toward his ultimate moment.

I can’t remember a player who more embodies the notion of shoot-no-matter-the-circumstance than Walker. He’s more likely to win a game for the Huskies than he is to lose it, but the uncertainty that hangs in the air is what makes UConn — and Walker — so mesmerizing.

“Like I said, I think he’s the most important guy for a single team in college basketball,” Huskies coach Jim Calhoun said.

Can’t disagree with that. Not when it seems pretty clear UConn wouldn’t be an NCAA tournament team without its star junior guard. Now, primetime and the weekend awaits.

“As we go into play beyond this, and I was telling the kids, we have not experienced it recently, but Friday night in Madison Square Garden, semifinal, it’s a pretty special building to walk into,” Calhoun said. “And they’ll have an opportunity to do that tomorrow night.”

Photo: AP


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Posted on: March 10, 2011 3:23 pm
 

Video: One-on-one with - who else? - Kemba

Posted by Matt Norlander

When you don't have a television camera, you wait at the back of the line. So here's Kemba Walker after about 40 minutes worth of interviews. It's a quick one. Enjoy!

Posted on: March 5, 2011 5:08 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2011 5:09 pm
 

Hansbrough and co. overshadow Walker's effort

Posted by Jeff Borzello

The difference in Saturday’s game between wasn’t Ben Hansbrough or Kemba Walker, despite fantastic, Big East Player of the Year-worthy performances from both.

What separates the two teams was clearly demonstrated in the final three minutes, with the last possession providing a perfect example.

With Hansbrough on the bench with five fouls, Notre Dame ended the game on a 10-2 run to take a 70-67 lead with eight seconds left.

On the ensuing possession, Walker couldn’t find a good look, instead passing off to a wide-open Donnell Beverly in the corner. Beverly proceeded to drop the pass, then fumbled it away as the Huskies never even got a shot off.

Simply put, what makes Notre Dame a Final Four threat and Connecticut a first-round upset candidate is the supporting cast. The Fighting Irish have plenty of secondary options, led by Tim Abromaitis, also capable of 30-point games when shots are falling. On the other hand, Connecticut has an inexperienced and inconsistent group of role players. In fact, Walker outscored the rest of the Huskies, 34-33.

When Hansbrough fouled out with 8:24 left, Notre Dame was up 60-52. Connecticut, led by 11 points from Walker, responded with a 13-0 run. The Fighting Irish showed why they can win without Hansbrough, though, getting baskets from Tyrone Nash, Scott Martin and Abromaitis over the next three minutes to take the lead and pull out the win down the stretch. Meanwhile, UConn completely faltered once Walker cooled down.

When Hansbrough is on the court, the Fighting Irish are a national title candidate.

Notre Dame creates as many match-up problems as anyone in the country. Tyrone Nash, a 6-foot-8 center, can handle the ball and initiate the offense, allowing Abromaitis and Hansbrough to run off screens and get open looks. He’s also a very good passer for a player his size. Martin and Carleton Scott are inside-outside forwards who can score in variety of ways, while also hitting the glass effectively.  Then there’s Abromaitis, a lights-out shooter with 11 efforts of at least 20 points this season.

They still aren’t getting the attention they deserve, but the Fighting Irish are a force for the NCAA Tournament.

As for the Big East Player of the Year race, Walker seemed to grab the lead with an unbelievable second-half stretch, when he scored 17 points in 10 minutes. If Connecticut had pulled out the victory, he would have been the man to beat for the award.

Hansbrough was excellent for the first 30 minutes of the game, going 8-for-9 from the field en route to 21 points. He nailed five 3-pointers and also posted four rebounds and five assists. His fifth foul with 8:24 left, when he lowered his shoulder into Shabazz Napier, nearly erased his effort, though.

Walker was poised to grasp the award.

When he passed up a chance to tie the game in the final seconds, however, he was also passed in the POY race by Hansbrough.

Photo: US Presswire

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Posted on: February 18, 2011 10:00 am
Edited on: February 18, 2011 10:07 am
 

Is Pitt's Ashton Gibbs underrated?

Posted by Eric Angevine

Sports fans love to engage in debate, and we're no different here at CBS blog central. Player of the Year arguments, along with bracket discussions, are always the best barroom (or national podcast) fodder for college hoops fans. I touched on one yesterday when I considered Ben Hansbrough vs. Kemba Walker in the Big East. That post touched off a bit of a Twitter debate (which can be hard to follow as the posts whiz by) about a couple of other candidates, most notably Pitt's Ashton Gibbs (right).

We learned last night that Gibbs will be back from a short injury time out in time for Saturday's trip to Madison Square Garden, where the Panthers will face a St. John's team that is on the rise. It seems as good a time as any to see how he stacks up against his fellow Big East stars.

Here are a couple of tweets, from @bracks7, that encapsulate the frustration some fans feel when Gibbs is overlooked in the media.

@stfhoops Is it the fact #Pitt has more options that #Gibbs is really left of BE POY? #Hansbrough really better than him?

@stfhoops I mean I saw a guy on SNY leave him off 1st team All BE. I almost threw something @ the TV!!
Then, New Jersey-based hoops writer Mike Vorkunov, without having seen my post, threw out his own list of BE POY candidates. He listed Hansbrough, Walker, Georgetown's Austin Freeman and Marshon Brooks of Providence as his top four. It got me wondering if bracks7 was right: is Gibbs criminally underrated by us Typing Heads because his team as a whole is so good?

Is Ashton Gibbs overlooked in the Big East?Let's go to the numbers. I'll use Vorkunov's list, plus Gibbs, to get a feel for where each player stands.

Player MPG PPG RPG APG A/TO SPG FG% 3P% FT%
Hansbrough 34.7 17.3 3.8 4.1 1.8/1 1.2 46.7 41.4 81.1
Walker 36.9 23.2 5.3 4.7 2.5/1 1.9 43.1 35.6 77.4
Freeman 33.3 18.2 3.4 2.6 1.5/1 0.7 51.7 41.8 85.1
Brooks 35.7 24.3 7.5 2.0 2.0/3 1.7 48.5 32.7 78.1
Gibbs 31.7 16.3 2.3 3.1 1.7/1 0.4 43.6 46.3 89.7

Based on traditional metrics alone, I have to disqualify Brooks. He's an amazing scorer, but he's doing it with volume because he has to. He's his team's runaway MVP, and an exciting player to watch, but he's no league POY. Freeman's fantastic shooting percentages across the board prove his worth to the Hoyas beyond a shadow of a doubt, and make him a solid candidate.

So, Gibbs. I'm trying to avoid confirmation bias here, but I think bracks7 has basically answered his own question. Yes, Gibbs is an extremely valuable part of an elite team. He has scored 18.93 percent of the Panthers' points when he's on the floor, but his teammates Brad Wanamaker, Gilbert Brown and Nasir Robinson are all above ten percent in the team impact metric as well. This is a good thing.

Unfortunately for Gibbs' case, Pitt chugged right along without him while he was out. Sophomore Travon Woodall certainly didn't replace Gibbs' production, but he kept the machine humming just fine. Again, this is a good thing.

Leaving Gibbs off the All-Big East first team seems like a mistake, but I don't know who the unnamed SNY pundit chose in his place, so I can't really judge that. As a potential Big East POY, however, I don't think Gibbs has enough of a case. He's a great player on a great team, and yes, he may be underrated by the media and even fans. But when it comes to what really counts, bracks7 sounds the right note of conciliation in his final tweet on the matter:

I guess the last laugh will be Gibbs will be the only 1 playing in the Final 4
If he's right about that, I'm pretty sure Gibbs will enjoy a trip to Houston a great deal more than any old league trophy.
Posted on: February 17, 2011 10:10 am
 

Hansbrough vs. Walker for Big East POY

Ben Hansbrough a POY candidate? It's not as crazy as it sounds.

Posted by Eric Angevine

When I heard one basketball analyst tout Notre Dame’s Ben Hansbrough for Big East Player of the Year this week, I was able to dismiss it as one man’s opinion.

Last night, during Cincinnati’s takedown of Louisville, I heard it again, this time from Fran Fraschilla. The former coach knows his business very well, and I always give extra weight to his opinions, because I think he considers his words carefully and backs them with a lifetime’s experience in the game.

So, it’s officially a trend. Let’s look at Ben Hansbrough’s bona fides, because they will have to be pretty good to overcome Kemba Walker’s push to be national POY, let alone lord of the Big East. Here are the traditional metrics by which such things are measured.

Player MPG PPG RPG APG A/TO SPG FG% 3P% FT%
Hansbrough 34.7 17.3 3.8 4.1 1.8/1 1.2 46.7 41.4 81.1
Walker 36.9 23.2 5.3 4.7 2.5/1 1.9 43.1 35.6 77.4

Looking at these numbers, Walker pretty clearly comes out ahead, which should come as a surprise to nobody who's watched him dominate games. Where some possible cracks start to show is in those last three percentage-based numbers, which belong to Hansbrough. They point to a possible lack of efficiency (in everything but passing) that could come from Walker's sheer volume of minutes played with a less experienced supporting cast than what Hansbrough has to draw on.

So, let's go tempo-free, courtesy of Basketball State, and see how these two warriors match up in efficiency-based metrics. We're looking at points per 40 minutes (P/40), points per weighted shot (PPWS), effective field goal percentage (eFG), usage rate (URt), efficiency per possession (Eff/Pos), and what percentage of his team's points each player scores (Impact). Explanations of these stats can be found in BBState's stats primer

Player P/40 PPWS eFG URt RebRt AstRt StlRt Eff/Pos Impact
Hansbrough 20.0 1.24 56.8 43.3 7.0 55.4 2.1 0.292 22.90
Walker 25.1 1.08 48.9 57.6 8.5 69.3 3.0 0.334 31.18

For me, this is kind of like the use of instant replay in the NFL. I came in here with Kemba Walker ahead by virtue of the eyeball test, and I see nothing here to overturn the verdict of my peepers. I will, however, have to admit that it's not a runaway performance by Walker, and that Hansbrough's numbers hold up pretty well. It's not ridiculous to include him in the discussion at all, especially since Notre Dame (10-3) is winning league games more consistently than UConn (8-5). When the two played head-to-head in South Bend on January 4, Walker scored 19 and Hansbrough had 21 in a close win for the Irish. It's worth mentioning that Walker shot 23 times and only made 8 with Hansbrough hounding him on defense in that early conference matchup.

For now, my vote's still with Kemba in the Big East. Ben Hansbrough still has a couple of weeks left -- including a huge season-ending trip to Connecticut on March 5 -- to change my mind.
 
 
 
 
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