Who deserves to take the last shot? North edition
The clear-out is one of my favorite sequences in college basketball. It doesn’t happen too often in college, at least when being compared to the NBA.
But when it does, it’s usually in a close game with the clock winding down.
The situation is simple: The offense is going to make sure its best scorer (not necessarily its best all-around player) touches the ball. Everyone else clears out. Defense, let’s see if you can stop it.
(Aside: I’ve been known the call the occasional clear-out in Journal-World pick-up games, especially when I see guys like Dugan Arnett, Matt Tait or Jesse Newell guarding me. Because I’m simply not that good, results have been known to vary.)
I’m not a coach, but here’s who I’d want with the basketball in their hands, taking the last shot in a close game. Starting with Big 12 North teams (a separate South edition will run Friday):
Kansas (19-1, 5-0 Big 12): Sherron Collins
All Nick Krug/Journal-World Photos unless otherwise stated
Why? Easy. Collins is not only KU’s senior leader, but he has the ability to hurt the defense in a variety of ways. He can spot up for the three, where he’s shooting close to 40 percent. He can bury the mid-range jumper and he has more speed than just about anyone I’ve seen in the Big 12 this season in getting to the basket. What makes Collins even more dangerous is that if he gets fouled, he’s an 87.3 percent shooter from the charity stripe.
Collins has struggled in his last two games (3-of-10, 2-of-11), but here's guessing he heats up again soon.
The Jayhawks haven’t played in many close battles this year (they lead the country with a 23.5-point average margin of victory), but when they do (see games against Baylor, Cornell), Collins is the guy taking the big shot.
Kansas State (17-3, 4-2): Jacob Pullen
Why? Just ask Baylor. Pullen can get on a roll, and it’s scary when he does. The junior struggled early in Big 12 play, but on Monday, he torched the Bears for 25 points and hit six three-pointers in K-State’s 76-74 victory in Waco, Texas.
With the game on the line, K-State coach Frank Martin put the ball in Pullen's hands at the top of the key in a clear-out. Pullen made a move like he was going toward the basket, stopped on a dime in stride and drilled a straightaway three-pointer with 1:04 remaining. Pullen later hit two free throws to seal it.
Backcourt mate Denis Clemente is another option here, but after what I saw Monday, my choice would be Pullen.
Missouri (15-5, 3-2): Kim English
Why? Because the Tigers have no better option.
The Tigers play relentless defense (first in the country with 12.1 steals per game), and they protect the basketball (second in country in turnover margin at 7.3).
However, MU doesn’t have a go-to scorer. Last year, that guy was DeMarre Carroll. This year, it seems like it could be a different guy each game. English, a sophomore, has proven to be MU’s best scorer at 14.6 ppg, so he gets the nod for now.
Iowa State (12-8, 1-4): Craig Brackins
Brackins’ 16 ppg scoring average is down from last year’s 20.2, mostly because of the increased presence of a second scoring option in junior college transfer Marquis Gilstrap (15.1 ppg). There’s little doubt, though, that if Iowa State has a chance to win, Brackins is getting the ball.
Colorado (11-9, 2-4): Cory Higgins
A case could be made here for freshman Alec Burks, who’s had more impact than most could have imagined in his first year. But I’m going with the experience of Higgins, a junior who’s fourth in the Big 12 with 18.2 ppg.
Nebraska (12-8, 0-5): Ryan Anderson
Kind of a stretch with Anderson (10.8 ppg), but who else would it be? Nebraska lacks a dominant scorer and probably won’t be calling too many clear-outs this season.