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College Basketball Tuesday: Kansas freshman center Embiid worth watching

| Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, 10:47 p.m.
Kansas center Joel Embiid, middle, rebounds between Toledo guard Jonathan Williams, left, and Toledo center Nathan Boothe, right, during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lawrence, Kan., Monday, Dec. 30, 2013. Kansas won 93-83.
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Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski directs his team against the Eastern Michigan Eagles during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on December 28, 2013 in Durham, North Carolina.

Dave Heeren, a retired sports writer and historian who has been rating basketball players for five decades, is to basketball what Bill James' Sabermetrics is to baseball.

Heeren's Tendex system, which was the precursor for APBRmetrics (Association for Professional Basketball Research), rates Kansas center Joel Embiid as the top freshman college basketball player in the country.

Tendex ranks Duke forward Jabari Parker No. 2 overall among freshmen, and Kentucky forward Julius Randle No. 3.

Surprisingly, Tendex rates Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins — the preseason favorite among newcomers and a player who has been compared to LeBron James — No. 4 among freshmen.

“There has been discussion about NBA teams tanking to get Wiggins, but I doubt that kind of talk will last much longer,” Heeren said. “It is clear Wiggins is not even the best prospect on the Kansas team — Embiid is. Kansas has had other good big men of late, but none in the class of Embiid, a great athlete with athleticism and potential close to (Naismith Hall of Famer) Hakeem Olajuwon.

“Maybe not quite that good, but a likely Anthony Davis (the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft out of Kentucky).”

Tendex consists of 20 formulas for rating college and NBA players and teams. It also has individual applications in about a dozen statistical categories. Strength-of-schedule is added for college rankings.

Why does Tendex rate the 7-foot Embiid, who only started playing organized basketball three years ago, No. 1 among freshmen? He shoots 66.2 percent from the field and averages 10.8 points despite taking fewer than six shots per game.

Embiid leads Kansas in rebounding (7.3) and blocks (2.5). He also averages eight fewer minutes per game than Parker and Randle, who lead their respective teams in scoring and rebounding.

Wiggins averages the most minutes among the four freshmen (31.5). He leads Kansas in minutes played and scoring (15.8), but his field-goal percentage (45.2) is lowest among the group.

“I'd say Embiid should be taken No. 1, Parker No. 2, Randle No. 3, Wiggins maybe a low first rounder,” Heeren said. “Jabari Parker has oodles of talent and versatility, like Embiid, only Parker is a power forward instead of a center.

Randle also plays power forward, but it's hard to tell at this point if he will be a star in the NBA. It looks as if Parker and Embiid will be stars for sure and that Wiggins, at this point, is overrated and probably could use another year in college.”

iu's crean praises michigan state

After Michigan State displayed its shooting prowess against his team, Indiana coach Tom Crean weighed in.

Crean watched the visiting Spartans overpower his Hoosiers, 73-56, and came away impressed — and perhaps a tad bit overwhelmed.

“I think they have all the makings of what a national championship team would look like,” Crean said. “There's no way to prepare to play against Michigan State and say that you can leave this guy here, you can leave that guy there. They're too good.”

Michigan State guard Gary Harris scored a game-high 26 points, equaling the output of four Indiana starters. The Spartans, who shot 47.5 percent while limiting the Hoosiers to 39.6 percent shooting, totaled more rebounds (34-32) and assists (14-8) and won handily despite being outscored by six points at the free-throw line.

“They just have too many guys right now; they have too many guys that understand each other at a really high level,” Crean said. “Their maturity, their experience, their understanding of each other, that was a big, big difference in the game — the biggest difference in the game.”

coach k in a class by himself

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski has won four NCAA championships and guided his teams to 11 Final Fours. He has won 12 ACC regular-season titles and 13 ACC tournament championships. He also coached the United States to gold medals at the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics.

As the winningest coach in Division I history, Krzyzewski operates by his own set of rules. That includes his decision to bench star freshman Jabari Parker during a recent 79-77 loss at Notre Dame.

Some coaches would be hesitant to possibly alienate a talented young player who may play just one season in college before going to the NBA. Not Coach K.

Against Notre Dame, Parker shot 2 for 10 while failing to score 20 points for only the fourth time in his first 14 college games.

Next year, Krzyzewski plans to welcome Jahlil Okafor, the nation's No. 1 overall prospect, along with Tyrus Jones, the top overall point guard recruit.

In other words, the show will go on at Duke — with or without Parker.

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