Grading Every Top 25 College Basketball Team's Offense in 2013-14
There are plenty of ways to put points on the board in college basketball—from pounding the ball to a great post scorer to raining three-pointers—and the best offenses include them all. Of course, not every Top 25 program has an offense that’s as impressive as its lofty ranking.
Kansas, for example, has big-time star power with Andrew Wiggins and Perry Ellis at the forward spots, and stopping the Jayhawks at the rim has been as tough as advertised. However, a lack of depth or effective long-range shooting has kept KU from being as dominant an offensive force as it appeared to be on paper.
Herein, a closer look at Bill Self’s team and the rest of the AP Top 25, with an eye to assessing the strengths and weaknesses they’ve displayed on the offensive end. Depth of scoring and heights of individual production both factor in here, along with how efficient a team is in terms of passing and of making the shots it puts up.
25. San Diego State
Xavier Thames has been the only good thing about the San Diego State offense, and even he hasn’t been an unadulterated success.
The senior is still nominally the Aztecs point guard, but you wouldn’t know it from his 2.3 assists per game (though he is scoring 17.4 points a night).
Thames and reserve Matt Shrigley are the only competent perimeter shooters, but neither is taking all that many shots from long range. Meanwhile, athletic Winston Shepard—the roster's second-leading scorer—is shooting a wretched .384 from the field.
High-scoring Jordan Clarkson is far from a natural as a point guard, but he’s done a solid job in his Tigers debut. The Tulsa transfer leads a prolific starting five in both scoring (20.2 points per game) and assists (3.8 a night).
Jabari Brown (the team’s top sniper) and Earnest Ross are both doing plenty of scoring in support of Clarkson, but neither is giving him much help as a distributor.
The other cause for concern is a severe lack of low-post offense, with freshman Johnathan Williams III pacing the big men at just 7.0 points per contest.
Remarkably, despite an unimpressive showing from starting point guard Mike Gesell, Iowa stands ninth in the country in assists because everyone is sharing the ball.
That statement definitely includes scoring leader Roy Devyn Marble, who’s at the top of the Hawkeyes’ assist charts from his shooting guard spot.
Inside, the Hawkeyes rely on veteran big men Aaron White and Jarrod Uthoff, with the latter also posing a respectable long-range threat.
Gesell and Zach McCabe are the best three-point options on this high-scoring roster, though the one who takes the most shots (Marble) has a miserable .286 percentage.
With all five starters scoring in double figures, the Minutemen certainly can’t be accused of lacking balance in their attack. Even so, there’s no question that the leader on this team (and this offense) is senior point guard Chaz Williams.
There isn’t a better 5’9” player in the country than Williams, who tops UMass’ charts in scoring, assists (where he’s second nationally) and three-point shooting.
His interior counterpart is junior center Cady Lalanne, who’s nearly doubling last year’s scoring average of 8.4 points per game while also providing one of the nation’s top offensive rebounding presences.
The development of center Josh Scott as an offensive weapon has been a huge boost to what could have been a collection of perimeter-only scorers.
Scott’s much-improved shooting inside has helped open up the floor for Spencer Dinwiddie, the team’s scoring leader for the second year in a row.
Dinwiddie has looked more comfortable running the point than he did last season, though he won’t be mistaken for Chauncey Billups anytime soon.
Unfortunately for the Buffs, Askia Booker (the only meaningful help Scott and Dinwiddie get in the scoring column) has continued last year’s scattershot performance from beyond the arc.
Gonzaga has two great offensive elements that are normally mutually exclusive: a high-level perimeter game and the nation’s top field-goal percentage.
Although big Sam Dower has dominated inside, it’s been high-accuracy efforts from scoring leader Kevin Pangos and fellow sniper Gary Bell Jr. that have made this offense special.
Pangos is also getting backcourt help from new starting point guard David Stockton, whose passing performance has shot up to match last year’s superb defense.
Opponents are even out of luck trying to foul the Bulldogs, whose top three scorers all shoot over 80 percent from the stripe.
If these grades were curved for bad luck, Florida would get an enormous amount of credit for winning despite a combined nine games missed by its top two point guards.
However, in absolute terms, the frequent absence of Scottie Wilbekin and Kasey Hill has taken its toll on a shaky offense.
Scoring leader Casey Prather is a dunk-only type who does the bulk of his damage in transition, and Michael Frazier II—brilliant though he’s been—has carried a very heavy load while fellow three-point threat Wilbekin has been out.
Neither Dorian Finney-Smith nor Patric Young is anything special in the post, and the former exacerbates the interior problems by shooting all of .360 from the floor.
18. North Carolina
If P.J. Hairston ever returns from suspension, North Carolina is going to have a scary offense.
A second perimeter threat is about all the Tar Heels are missing right now, thanks to the emergence of point guard Marcus Paige as a top-flight scorer at 18.8 points per game.
Inside, James Michael McAdoo and super-sub Brice Johnson have both provided effective scoring, and Paige has been effective as a creator in addition to his jump-shooting prowess.
One other worry is that the forwards (especially J.P. Tokoto) have been horrific from the foul line, leaving the team at an anemic .618 in spite of Paige’s brilliance in that department.
17. Iowa State
Although Iowa State’s defense is much improved over last year’s version, the Cyclones are still a team built to run up as many points as possible.
This time around, they even have an inside game, thanks to a sensational showing from Melvin Ejim and strong ones from Georges Niang and Dustin Hogue.
Outside, DeAndre Kane has been a magnificent all-around point guard, with freshman Monte Morris adding plenty of help off the bench.
Coach Fred Hoiberg’s beloved three-point assault is a bit quieter this year, but Matt Thomas and (especially) Naz Long are still providing substantial long-range productivity.
Even in a blowout loss at Oklahoma State, Memphis put up 80 points. Now, with their frontcourt getting on track, the Tigers have very few weaknesses on the offensive end of the floor.
Joe Jackson and Geron Johnson have both done a fine job as playmakers, with Jackson also leading the team in scoring.
Shaq Goodwin and Austin Nichols take care of business in the middle, but three-point shooting is getting to be a concern, with only Michael Dixon Jr. in a groove right now for the deep backcourt.
Point guard Johnathan Loyd has picked up his scoring, and the microscopic senior stands third in the country in assists thanks to the five teammates who join him as double-figure scorers.
Foremost among them is Joseph Young, the Houston transfer who’s been scorching the nets to the tune of 20.1 points per game.
The Ducks aren’t quite as deep in scorers inside, but another transfer, ex-UNLV power forward Mike Moser, is leading the low-post offense admirably.
Still, it’s the perimeter game that defines this team, especially its remarkable three-point percentage of .438 on 144 combined attempts.
Baylor is reasonably efficient about getting its points—the Bears just don’t get that many of them.
New point guard Kenny Chery doesn’t score (or shoot) like Pierre Jackson, though he’s done a solid job running the offense. Then, too, three-point bombers Brady Heslip and Gary Franklin help offset his struggles from long range.
Inside, though, scoring leader Cory Jefferson is only putting up 13.4 points per game, and Isaiah Austin has barely been able to stay in double figures.
With no guard averaging more than Heslip’s 11.7 points a night, and no forward who’s been reliable at creating his own looks, the Bears just don’t have much in the way of go-to options.
After a hot start, Kansas’ attack slumped badly at the Battle 4 Atlantis.
No player took more of a hit than Andrew Wiggins, whose formerly outstanding scoring is down to a more pedestrian team high of 15.3 points a night (entering Thursday's showdown with Florida).
He and Perry Ellis make a fine inside-outside tandem, but they’re the only two Jayhawks in double figures.
Even with Naadir Tharpe doing a fine job as a playmaker, three-point shooting has been a particular weakness, with Tharpe’s own total of eight treys standing as the team high.
12. Wichita State
The Shockers’ Final Four run last March featured a healthy dose of clutch three-point shooting, so it’s little surprise to see them excelling on the perimeter again.
Scoring leader Ron Baker, postseason hero Cleanthony Early and point guard Fred VanVleet are all doing damage from beyond the arc.
VanVleet has also done an impressive job running the offense in place of graduated Malcolm Armstead. There’s no interior scoring at all after combo forward Early, but he’s more than enough for Missouri Valley opposition.
For all their much-publicized perimeter-shooting woes, the Wildcats aren’t that bad on the outside. Aaron Harrison and James Young are both very good scorers and tolerable three-point shooters, with point guard Andrew Harrison also making an impact in both categories.
Julius Randle is one of the top interior weapons in the country, but he has little help inside.
In addition, Harrison the point guard has been competent but far from star-caliber as a playmaker, which hasn’t helped the production of some of the raw offensive talents down low.
They don’t have much name-recognition value, but JayVaughn Pinkston and James Bell are one of the best one-two scoring punches in the nation at 35.4 combined points per game.
Weirdly, Bell (the long-range gunner) is actually out-rebounding Pinkston (the post threat).
Jay Wright has gotten outstanding results from a point guard committee of Darrun Hilliard, Ryan Arcidiacono and Tony Chennault, even if none has great individual numbers.
The bad news, aside from Pinkston’s lack of any help inside, is that Hilliard is the only accurate option among several high-volume three-point shooters.
UConn has a good case for boasting the two best point guards in the AAC, thanks to the playmaking tandem of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright.
That duo has keyed a terrific three-point shooting performance that features four Huskies with at least 10 treys and percentages north of .400.
The post is a much weaker area for this four-guard team, with willowy DeAndre Daniels (one of the aforementioned marksmen) providing the closest thing to a significant weapon in the paint.
Indeed, only three Huskies are scoring in double figures at all, and even Napier’s 15.3 points per game is a none-too-remarkable team high.
Any offense that starts with Jabari Parker’s 22.1 points per game is going to come out looking pretty imposing.
His inside-outside scoring has been complemented by two terrific wing options in Rodney Hood and point guard Quinn Cook (33.9 points per game between them).
That’s pretty much the extent of the scoring weapons here, although little-used Andre Dawkins adds another potent three-point threat.
Cook’s passing has been impeccable, too, as highlighted by the team’s daunting .519 field-goal percentage (seventh nationally).
7. Oklahoma State
Wooden Award favorite Marcus Smart is just the beginning of the wealth of backcourt weapons on the Cowboys roster. Smart’s 19.7 points and 3.8 assists per game keep things flowing, but OSU has three more guards pouring in 12.9 points a night or better.
Inside, Brian Williams is a poor excuse for a primary option, but he’s hardly needed once Markel Brown and company have done their share.
In addition to some sizzling long-range numbers, the Cowboys also boast the best free-throw shooter in the country: Phil Forte, whose .968 accuracy would be second in NCAA history if he can keep it up for enough attempts to qualify.
The insertion of Montrezl Harrell into the starting lineup has given Louisville the inside threat it missed so acutely last season.
In the backcourt, Russ Smith is the same speed demon he’s always been (though still without a three-point shot), while Wayne Blackshear and newcomer Chris Jones provide the deep threats.
What JUCO transfer Jones hasn’t done is impress as a playmaker, leaving Smith to play the distributor’s role—not a terrible fit, but not his specialty, either.
Harrell has also gotten zero help inside from Chane Behanan and the rest of a scoring-challenged crew.
5. Michigan State
The obvious potential of last year’s Spartans backcourt has come to fruition, with Gary Harris and Keith Appling both off to searing starts.
Unexpectedly, it’s Appling who’s been the more accurate three-point threat, though both have done damage from long range.
So too has Adreian Payne, who’s adding 15.9 points per game as the third scorer and top post presence.
The scoring talent drops off fast after that, but Tom Izzo’s squad is exceptionally deep in skilled passers, including reserves Denzel Valentine and Travis Trice.
There might not be a more unlikely team leader in the country than top Badgers scorer Frank Kaminsky. The gangly 7-footer had 196 points in two benchwarming seasons before 2013-14, and now he has 146 points in 10 games to lead the roster.
Kaminsky is doing most of his damage (in classic Bo Ryan fashion) as a three-point bomber, a trait shared by all five starters.
That quintet is scoring in double figures (with appreciable help from Traevon Jackson’s improved passing), but the lack of any true interior presence may well become an issue in Big Ten play.
3. Ohio State
Like Wisconsin, Ohio State has risen this far in the rankings on the strength of its defense more than its scoring punch. Lenzelle Smith Jr. leads the squad with a paltry 12.1 points per game, though at least he’s finally found his three-point stroke as a senior.
Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott make a solid pair of creators, but neither can score much for himself. Amir Williams, meanwhile, is the best of a bad lot of low-post weapons, and it’s taken a vast improvement to get him up as high as 10.5 points a night.
Freshman point guard Tyler Ennis can earn anywhere from an A to an F for shooting on a given night, but he’s averaged out as a very good distributor and decent scorer who can drain the trey on occasion.
Even better in the latter department is red-hot Trevor Cooney, who has more than half of the team’s three-point makes rolled up in his 15.3 points per game.
Cooney’s perimeter game, in turn, takes a backseat to C.J. Fair, the senior power forward with the 17.8 points per game and soft shooting touch.
Fair and Jerami Grant are the offensive contributors in Jim Boeheim’s deep frontcourt, and while they do a lot of scoring, the Orange have just the four above-named players who contribute more than 5.8 points a night.
For all the (deserved) press the Wildcats frontcourt has received, the team’s scoring leader, by far, has been shooting guard Nick Johnson.
The athletic junior is one of two quality three-point shooters on the roster, though his accuracy is merely good at .356.
Inside, Brandon Ashley and Aaron Gordon are the main offensive threats, but neither is putting up monster numbers in terms of scoring.
Even worse in that department is T.J. McConnell, but the Duquesne transfer earns his starting job as one of the top assist men in the nation.