The Rauf Report details the biggest college basketball takeaways from the weekend, including a look Juwan Howard, the ACC and more.
There are plenty of normal college basketball takeaways from an action-packed weekend that will be overlooked today.
Auburn lost for the second time in four games. Gonzaga was pushed by Santa Clara. Arizona nearly lost to Oregon. Kentucky beat Alabama without TyTy Washington and Sahvir Wheeler (which is huge for the Wildcats). Texas Tech fans invaded Austin and the Red Raiders beat Texas.
There were enough on-court outcomes to adequately fill this column, dominate water cooler talk and drive conversation on the Internet. It was a normal, fun, wacky college basketball weekend in February.
Then this happened.
You saw what happened. Heck, you’ve probably watched the video of what happened countless times already before clicking into this article.
Juwan Howard was angry with Greg Gard for calling a timeout with 15 seconds remaining in a blowout. Gard wanted to reset the 10-second backcourt violation clock since his backups/walk-ons were struggling with Michigan’s full-court man pressure. It’s something silly to be upset about in the grand scheme of things — considering Howard’s pressure caused it — and then Gard got angry because Howard was angry, and off we went.
I do think it’s important that we take a measured look at what the fallout from the Michigan-Wisconsin fight should be instead of embracing the Internet outrage.
Naturally, that’s where we’ll start this Rauf Report.
Reasonable look at the Juwan Howard situation
This is bad for Juwan Howard. Really bad.
It’s not lose-your-job bad, as many have already insinuated and likely will continue to do so, but it’s certainly not a good look.
As the head coach of a college basketball team, you are not only an esteemed representative of the university you work for, but also a leader of young men that you’re supposed to set an example for. Howard’s actions — swinging at Wisconsin assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft — are inexcusable and deserve extremely harsh punishment.
Suspending Howard for the remainder of the regular season should be a start, though it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s out for the rest of the year, postseason and all. Howard will likely be fined, too.
I think that’s a stiff enough punishment as long as there’s some sort of acknowledgment that something like this can’t happen again. Howard has been involved in several sideline incidents over the last 12 months, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some mandatory training of some kind he has to attend.
But Howard should not be the only person disciplined for this.
I fully expect Gard to receive a suspension as well. He stopped Howard in the handshake line to berate him for being angry, allowing everything to be set in motion.
Krabbenhoft will likely receive one as well, as he came running in and got in Howard’s face before the punch.
Both actions escalated the situation before Howard took it to another level.
Then there are the players. Michigan’s Moussa Diabate and Terrance Williams both threw multiple punches in the melee. More players may receive punishment, but those two appeared to be the most aggressive and egregious offenders. Both should receive multiple game suspensions.
This simply cannot happen, and the Big Ten knows that. I fully expect the conference to make a statement with its punishment. Howard is going to receive the worst of it, and he should — but the fallout is going to go well past him, too.
Selection committee LOVES the Big 12
Remember the NCAA Tournament selection committee’s top 16 Bracket Preview on Saturday? That was supposed to be the highlight of the weekend!
HeatCheckCBB bracketologist Lukas Harkins did a phenomenal breakdown of the Bracket Preview results and what it means moving forward, but the biggest thing I took away is how the committee is treating the Big 12.
The conference landed four teams inside the top 16 overall seeds, all of whom were higher than the general consensus. Kansas and Baylor getting a 1-seed and the top 2-seed, respectively, was a huge signal in this regard. Putting Texas Tech in the top 10 and then including Texas as well hammered the point home.
I don’t have a problem with this, though. The Big 12 has been the best conference in the country all season and all 10 teams proved themselves during the nonconference portion of their schedules.
Looking past the four teams that made the top 16, though, I’d take this as a great sign if I was a bubble team from the Big 12.
Harkins considers every tournament-eligible team outside that top four to be squarely on the bubble, so expect those teams — Iowa State, Oklahoma and TCU, in particular — to get the benefit of the doubt on Selection Sunday.
Alondes Williams deserves ACC Player of the Year
For all the criticism the ACC has rightfully received this year, there are still a handful of truly great players in the league.
Yet no one has had the overall impact on their respective team and on the conference as a whole as Alondes Williams.
The Oklahoma transfer has taken a Wake Forest team that was picked to finish 13th in the conference to a 21-7 mark — the most wins the program has had in a season since 2008-09 — and a likely NCAA Tournament berth.
Other players have stepped up, too, but it’s clear Williams is the dominant force that makes everything go. Here’s how he stacks up against the rest of the conference statistically:
- 1st in scoring (19.9 points per game on 52.4 percent shooting)
- 1st in assists (5.1 per game)
- 1st in assist rate (31.9)
- 2nd in usage (32.3)
Williams is on pace to be the first player since the turn of the century — and potentially much longer — to lead the ACC in both points and assists. The fact he’s doing that while carrying Wake Forest to a surprisingly great season should make him the easy choice for ACC Player of the Year.
A reason for Duke’s inconsistent play
One of Duke’s biggest question marks coming into the season was point guard play. Early on, it was actually an advantage for the Blue Devils thanks to the play of Wendell Moore.
The junior moved to handle primary ballhandling and playmaking duties and it worked. Through the season’s first month, Moore was one of the nation’s leaders in assist rate, turnover rate and effective field goal percentage. I wrote at the time that he was the player most important to Duke’s success.
I still think that’s true, but his play has dipped since the start of ACC play, which has led to some of Duke’s inconsistencies and head-scratching performances.
Moore has still been a very productive player and is still playing out of position. He is not the biggest reason Duke struggles at times — that would be rebounding, lack of shooting options and hot-and-cold play of Trevor Keels — but his insane level of play helped mask those issues that aren’t necessarily fixable.
But Moore still shows flashes of absurdity. He scored 16 points with seven assists, six steals and five rebounds in Saturday’s victory over Florida State. He can still do that.
The problem is Duke needs him to be at that level all the time if it’s going to win a title, and I don’t know if that is attainable. That’s a lot to ask of anyone, let alone someone who is playing out of position.
Mike Rhoades and VCU deserve more national attention
Davidson has been the story of the Atlantic 10 this season with its 22-4 record and now-snapped 15-game win streak. We can also talk about St. Bonaventure being relatively disappointing despite preseason top 25 expectations.
That said, what head coach Mike Rhoades and the VCU Rams have done this season deserves more recognition.
VCU lost both Jamir Watkins and Jarren McAllister for the season back in October when each suffered a torn ACL in preseason practices. This came after star Ace Baldwin ruptured his Achilles in June. As such, many — including myself — wrote this team off after a 3-4 start.
It wasn’t anyone’s fault — extremely poor injury luck just made it seem like this would be a lost season for the Rams.
Well, Baldwin returned in a Dec. 8 win over Jacksonville State and, since then, the Rams are 14-3 to put themselves squarely in the NCAA Tournament conversation.
His recovery and play despite not being 100 percent have been incredible, as has Rhoades’ ability to adjust and get production out of players on his roster who unexpectedly had to step into larger roles.
The fact VCU is even in this position is a testament to Baldwin, Rhoades and the entire Rams roster and coaching staff, though the Rams are not done yet. They’re only a game out of first place in the A-10 and close the regular season with two statement games (St. Bonaventure, Saint Louis).
Rhoades should be a shoo-in for the conference’s Coach of the Year award.