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Who takes the last shot? Continued: South edition
It’s fun to toss around the question of who’s best suited to take the last shot with deep college basketball teams.
Just two years ago, I remember hearing that question come up in casual conversation numerous times about Kansas University. With such balance, who would coach Bill Self call upon with the time ticking down in a close game? Memphis found out the hard way that Mario Chalmers was the answer, over guys like Brandon Rush and Darrell Arthur. Sure, Rush and Arthur played pivotal roles and without their services, Kansas wouldn’t have raised a banner. But Chalmers is the guy whose number was called.
That’s been the purpose of this blog for the last two days: To figure out who will be called upon in the clutch from each Big 12 team this season. Game on the line, need a bucket in the worst way ... who will it be?
On Thursday, I took a glance at teams from the North and tried to answer that question.
Today, let’s try to answer that same question for Big 12 South teams.
Texas is the best team in the South this season and boasts a ridiculous amount of depth. Coach Rick Barnes will regularly play 10 guys, as he did on Wednesday against Texas Tech. We can eliminate Dogus Balbay right off the bat because the junior point guard rarely looks to score. UT has a slew of options, but here’s my choice:
Texas: 18-2, 4-1 Big 12: Damion James
Why? I’d feel comfortable with James putting up the last shot to decide the game. Aside from KU’s Sherron Collins, there’s not a player in the Big 12 I’d rather have taking it.
James, a 6-foot-7 senior, is crafty around the rim. His SportsCenter top 10 appearances from flashy dunks have to be up there with the best of them. He’s also graceful in flight. During the UConn game last weekend, for instance, James made a brilliant up-and-under move along the left baseline that looked more like a highlight I’d see from No. 23 on one of those old-school NBA Superstars videos (like at the 1:37 mark).
James (18.2 points per game) can make a living around the rim, but he can also spot up for the three-ball, as evidenced by his near-40 percent average from beyond the arc. He usually has no problem keeping defenses honest.
James gets my nod over freshman Avery Bradley, who’s not gifted enough of a scorer yet. I’ll also take James over fellow senior Dexter Pittman, whose presence in the paint is often dominating, but the big fella obviously doesn’t possess the versatility of James.
Oklahoma State: 16-4, 4-2: James Anderson
Why? This one’s simple. Anderson could be the most underrated scorer in the country. He’s eighth nationally and leads the Big 12 with 22.1 ppg. The junior has scored in double digits in every game this season, including 20 or more in three of his last four contests.
Keiton Page is the Cowboys’ most dangerous three-point threat. In a close game, I could see Anderson dishing Page’s way if he’s open. But in a tie game, the ball would have to find Anderson’s hands and he’d have to draw a double team before Page became an option.
Texas A&M: 14-6, 3-3: Donald Sloan
Why? Another no doubter. Sloan can shoot the three and get to the basket better than any other Aggie.
Sloan made one of the prettier plays I’ve seen in conference play against Oklahoma State on Wednesday. With his back to the basket, positioned along the right sideline, Sloan dribbled like he was heading back toward the top of the key, then abruptly spun back toward the baseline and converted a layup. Definitely an ankle breaker for the Cowboys defender.
Oklahoma: 12-8, 3-3: Willie Warren
Nick Krug/Journal-World File Photo
Why? OK, so Warren’s missed the last two games with an ankle injury. And he’s struggled in his sophomore season, shooting only 28.6 percent from three. The Sooners’ fans have even booed him at times.
But I can’t help but think back to the Kansas-Oklahoma game last season in Norman, Okla. (pictured above). With Blake Griffin injured, Warren was clearly OU’s best scorer. The three-point back-and-forth duel with Sherron Collins made for one of the most fascinating games in the Big 12 last year.
Freshman Tommy Mason-Griffin has stepped up lately (last three games: 21, 26, 38 points), but in a tie game, my call gives the basketball to Warren when he returns from injury.
Baylor: 15-4, 2-3: LaceDarius Dunn
Nick Krug/Journal-World File Photo
Why? Because he’s the most lethal three-point shooter in the Big 12. He leads the conference with 64 three-pointers made.
In fact, Baylor was in a position to take the last shot in a close game on Tuesday against Kansas State. With the Bears down two, Dunn took the ball the length of the floor, but didn't get off a good shot. Obviously, BU coach Scott Drew wants the ball in Dunn's hands with the game on the line.
For Dunn to be one of the conference's best clutch players, however, he could use some improvement with his dribbling and creating. I have no problem naming Dunn the Big 12's best spot-up three-point shooter. But for him to become one of the best players in the conference, he could use a few more moves to create shots for himself instead of being set up all the time.
Texas Tech: 14-6, 2-4: John Roberson
Why? A case could be made here for Mike Singletary, but give me Roberson with the game on the line. The junior point guard is shooting over 40 percent from three and can drive the lane with a purpose. Roberson also is a better protector of the basketball than Singletary.
That should be all for now, friends. As always, discuss.