Fast Break: Hurricanes turning up the heat

Let’s look back to Nov. 13, 2012. It was a weird day. There was a total solar eclipse, and Miami lost to Florida Gulf Coast University by 12 points. It was probably just a coincidence.

Still, this was a night in which Florida Gulf Coast made one 3-pointer. Florida Gulf Coast (the Eagles) had a 23-2 run in that game and outscored the Hurricanes 40-14 in the paint. It outrebounded Miami by six.

Florida Gulf Coast was just plain better.

“It’s not a wake-up call,” Hurricanes coach Jim Larranaga said at the time. “It’s more a deficiency. We’re slow.”

Three months later, we check in on our two combatants and find that Florida Gulf Coast is 18-8 and 10-3 in the Atlantic Sun Conference. So it’s actually not that bad of a loss, considering Miami was missing guards Durand Scott and Garrius Adams that day, but it’s still pretty obvious that if you lost to Florida Gulf Coast you are not going . . . wait, Miami is 10-0 in ACC play?

It has beaten Duke and North Carolina by an average of 26.5 points? People are saying Miami should be No. 1?

Hmm.

Certainly playing without Scott, who was serving an NCAA suspension, was problematic. He’s Miami’s leading scorer (14 points per game) and hardly ever comes off the floor. Adams has been injured and hasn’t played this season.

So you wonder what happened?

Miami toughened up. In ACC play, the Hurricanes lead the league in field goal shooting and field goal shooting defense. They’re also first in blocked shots and second in rebounding margin.

And, of course, they’ve been outscored in the paint just twice in ACC play.

The Hurricanes are now ranked higher than they’ve ever been, but they don’t have to look back too far to remember what the lows feel like.

“We do not get too full of ourselves,” Larranaga told the Miami Herald, “just because somebody else has decided we’re good.”

Is Bill Self losing his team?

It has been some time since anyone earnestly questioned Bill Self’s coaching. With a national championship and eight consecutive league titles at Kansas, Self benefits from any and all doubt.

But it appears he made a mistake with this team in the way he has talked about it publicly.

Self correctly diagnosed his team’s lack of toughness and shoddy guard play, but his bedside manner only made it worse.

It all began after KU lost to Oklahoma State. That’s not a bad loss, except that it was in Allen Fieldhouse, where Kansas wins close to 100 percent of the time. After that, Self said he wished he could play without guards. Whether or not those words were intended to motivate senior guard Elijah Johnson and his backup Naadir Tharpe, they both played miserably in KU’s next game, a humiliating loss at TCU, which is in contention for worst team ever to play in the Big 12.

“It was the worst team Kansas has ever put on the floor since Dr. Naismith was here,” Self said. “I think he had some bad teams and lost to the YMCA the first couple years.”

Then on Saturday Kansas lost to Oklahoma, making the first time in eight seasons KU has lost three games in a row.

It needs to be said that Self did not deliver those words with hostility. He was being sarcastic and, whether or not that makes any difference to his players, it needs to be said because sarcasm does not translate well from speech to print.

Having covered Self for seven years, I can say with a high level of certainty that he has always known what he says in those press conferences gets back to his players one way or another, and has often successfully used his public forum to turn up the heat on his players.

But it appears this time he has misread his players. The last two games they have looked lifeless and unconfident. They do not appear to be responding to the sarcasm.

Self has had a mostly masterful 10-year run at Kansas, and if the Jayhawks — who were recently ranked No. 1 in a major poll — don’t turn it around this will go down as his biggest coaching error at KU.
 
Does that Michigan loss really count?

I mean, yeah, of course Wisconsin’s win over Michigan on Saturday counts in the standings and all that. But if beating Michigan on your own floor requires hitting a half-court buzzer beater to send the game into overtime, then I’ll have a pretty easy time forgiving the Wolverines for taking a loss there.

That all said, the Wolverines have two little flaws I keep noticing:

1)  End-of-clock situations. Michigan is one of those teams that decides to throw all the principles of good basketball out the window if there are less than 20 seconds left on the clock. Instead of running a play, or an offense or even moving just a little bit, Trey Burke stands there with the ball until there are about six seconds left and then he tries a step-back jumper.

2)  Michigan doesn’t play through its big guys. Now, nobody is confusing Michigan’s big guys for Juwan Howard and Chris Webber, but you gotta throw it in there.

Telling stats

12 – Combined turnovers, in 45 minutes, by Michigan (seven) and Wisconsin (five) on Saturday.

2-0 – TCU coach Trent Johnson’s career record against Kansas. Before beating the Jayhawks in Fort Worth last week, he beat Kansas as coach at Nevada in 2003.

20 – Years it had been since Indiana had gone on the road to beat a Big Ten team ranked in the top 10 before the Hoosiers took down Ohio State on Saturday.

They said it

“I told them, ‘Sorry, it’s sold out.’ But then we said, ‘We think we can fit you in.’ For our recruiting purposes, it gives us a lot of credibility when we tell them we’re a hot ticket in town and our program is headed in the right direction,” – Miami coach Jim Larranaga, on finding a way to accommodate ticket requests from Lebron James and Dwyane Wade.

“People were putting hats on me. I was like, ‘Where did this come from? Pretty cool hat, too.” – Wisconsin guard Ben Brust, who hit the half-courter to send the game into overtime against Michigan, on the postgame celebration.

Player of the year watch

Victor Oladipo of Indiana can no longer be ignored. You want to call Oladipo a swingman, because it’s the most generic positional definition we have in basketball, but even that is too specific to describe what Oladipo is. He’s just that guy on the other team that wrecks your day. One way or another, he just kicks over your Lego tower and pours water in your sand castle.

The trouble with his POY candidacy is that he is only his team’s second-leading scorer and third-leading rebounder (14.3 points, 5.8 rebounds per game), but he shoots 65 percent from the field and 54 percent from the 3-point line and he is probably the best defensive player in college basketball.

Being the best defensive player in college basketball is not as valuable as being the best offensive player in college basketball, but if you combine his defense with his offensive efficiency, there might not be a more important player in the country this year.

Ups and downs

Up: Kansas State

The Wildcats are No. 10 and leading the Big 12 after a four-game winning streak.

Down: Kansas

Obviously.

Up: Miami

Obviously.

Down: UNLV

Now flirting hard with the bubble.

Up: Kentucky

Welcome back to the Top 25, Wildcats. You’ve been missed.

Down: Ole Miss

The Marshall Henderson Experiment, like the Hippie Movement, seemed dumb at first, then sort of started to seem legit, and then just became sad and ridiculous.

Up: Colorado State

The Rams have not lost to an unranked team since Dec. 8.

Down: Oregon

It took lowly Utah to stop the losing streak from hitting four.

Crystal ball

Tuesday, Tom Izzo convinces his players that not one single soul believes they can beat Michigan, the Spartans have one player called for a flagrant foul and Michigan State beats Michigan 57-55.

Tuesday, Playing with the most confidence it has showed all year, Kentucky beats Florida 81-74.

Thursday, St. Mary’s defeats Gonzaga, which stops receiving its (ridiculous) two No. 1 votes in the AP poll.