Observations: Kentucky’s Skal Labissiere showing tangible progress

Good is not the enemy of great and that’s what 7-foot Kentucky freshman Skal Labissiere needs to remember.

Labissiere came to Lexington with the hopes of being the next Anthony Davis or Karl-Anthony Towns and thus far he’s been a big disappointment.

But Thursday night against Arkansas the bouncy center looked nimble and active while tallying 11 points, three rebounds, and three blocks in 20 productive minutes off the bench.

The Wildcats are unlikely to see Labissiere’s full potential this season, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t be a capable reserve on a team that has a chance to go deep in the NCAA Tournament.

If Labissiere just does moving forward what he did in Kentucky’s 14-point win at Arkansas then the Wildcats are going to be a tough team to play in March.

Good is not the enemy of great?

Words to live by for Labissiere.

Peter Jok’s emergence has helped elevate Iowa

The 6-foot-6 swingman had moments of promise during the first two years of his college career, but now Jok has officially arrived as a junior.

Operating with the poise and confidence of a veteran, Jok torched Rutgers for 29 points on Thursday night in Piscataway and has made a combined 12 3-point shots in his last three games.

The Des Moines native is now averaging 14.8 points this season after averaging 7.0 points a year ago.

Several Big Ten coaches have told CBS Sports that Jok’s ability to open the floor has been a major reason for the Hawkeyes’ 15-3 start. His ability to stretch the defense has opened up driving lanes for both Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons all while providing more space for Jarrod Uthoff to operate in isolation situations.

Jok is shooting 41.8 percent from 3-point range this season.

Point guard play will determine Purdue’s ceiling

The Boilermakers are 17-3 overall and off to their best start since the 1993-94 season when they reached the Elite Eight with Glenn Robinson Sr.

What is the long term prognosis for this team?

It all depends on point guard play.

Purdue has ample size with A.J. Hammons, Isaac Haas, and Caleb Swanigan to go with capable wings in Vince Edwards an Rapheal Davis, but this team needs its two-headed monster of Johnny Hill and P.J. Thompson to be stellar at the most important position on the floor.

The Boilermakers’ found lightning in a bottle last season when Colorado State transfer Jon Octeus (9.4 points, 4.9 rebounds) gave them legitimate size and athleticism at point guard, but things are much different at that spot this year.

The combination of Hill and Thompson is cut from a different cloth than Octeus and is more of a stabilizing force rather than one that is going to jump off the page.

Nevertheless Purdue finally got separation in Thursday’s win over Ohio State when Thompson drilled a huge three-point shot during the second half to push the Boilermakers’ lead from three to six.

Matt Painter is going to need continued pop from this duo if this team wants to compete for a Big Ten regular season title and have a chance to advance deep into the NCAA Tournament.

This just in

  • George Washington’s Joe McDonald (eye) will play Friday against Rhode Island, Mike Lonergan told CBS Sports. Game time has been moved to 3 p.m. ET.
  • Ole Miss guard Stefan Moody (hamstring) is a game-day decision for Saturday’s tilt against Mississippi State, Andy Kennedy told CBS Sports.

Skal Labissiere Kentucky NCAA basketball. (USATSI)
Kentucky reserve Skal Labissiere provided a boost vs. Arkansas. (USATSI)

This and That

  • Duke’s matchup with NC State on Saturday (2 p.m. ET, CBS) is going to bring the Blue Devils all sorts of problems up front. The Wolfpack boast three capable big men in Abdul-Malik Abu, Beejay Anya, and Lennard Freeman who possess all the requisites to pound Duke on the glass. NC State out rebounded Pitt 46-30 in a win earlier this week.
  • The most amazing part of Texas’ win at West Virginia on Wednesday? The Longhorns controlled the game from tip to finish and didn’t get a single made field goal from Isaiah Taylor — that’s unbelievable. Shaka Smart’s squad is now 12-6 overall and next visits Kansas on Saturday.
  • Louisville’s Chinanu Onuaku has now posted a double-double in every ACC game this season. The 6-10 big man is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 rebounds and is having one heck of a sophomore year. Rick Pitino’s squad is 15-3 overall and 4-1 in league play.
  • For those Michigan State fans who want to jump off a bridge today: the Spartans were 15-8 and 6-4 in Big Ten play last season on Feb. 7th and wound up finishing the year in the Final Four. If anyone can fix a 3-4 start in conference play it’s Tom Izzo.
  • What separates Temple from other teams in the American? The Owls have more opportunities to help themselves with key victories down the stretch. Fran Dunphy’s squad is just 10-7 overall, but hosts undefeated SMU on Sunday and will also host Villanova in February. That’s two massive chances for Temple to move the needle in terms of its potential NCAA hopes.
  • How has Buzz Williams made Virginia Tech relevant in the ACC in just his second season? Transfers. The Hokies two top scorers — Seth Allen and Zach LeDay– both started their careers at Maryland and South Florida respectfully. If you don’t get one-and-done type talent, you better be old and experienced.
  • VCU is averaging 83.8 points in six Atlantic 10 games and is now in sole possession in first place in the conference. Will Wade’s squad has won nine consecutive games and is 14-5 overall. The Rams will next host St. Bonaventure on Sunday.
  • UNLV’s Derrick Jones is averaging 21.5 points over his last two games and is shooting 19-of-30 from the field during that span. The Runnin Rebels have won three straight since Todd Simon took over as interim head coach. It will be interesting to see if this team continues to jell as things progress in the Mountain West.
  • The Pac-12’s balance has made West Coast hoops a must watch for this East Coast hoops junkie. The only problem with staying up to watch these games every night? The temptation for a fourth meal. My head says to order an egg white omelet. My heart says to order a small pizza. Go figure.
  • Not many mid-major head coaches are doing a better job than St. Peter’s John Dunne. The Peacocks are 6-1 in MAAC play and 8-8 overall heading into tonight’s game at Iona. The guy does more with less.

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