Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thoughts on the '07-'08 Season

So I've now been able to watch just about every legitimate team out there, and have seen pretty much every star-in-the-making play. Some thoughts thus far:

- Duke and Michigan State are both loaded again. And with both teams getting very significant contributions from freshman, they can only get better. MSU is back to there old ways - tough defense, rebound, and push. They have two quick-as-lighting PG's (Travis Walton and Kalin Lucas) that have allowed Drew Neitzel to play off the ball, where he is more effective. Goran Suton leads a front line that is as big, strong, and aggressive as any that Tom Izzo has had. And Raymarr Morgan is turning into a star - he reminds me alot of Caron Butler.
Coach K has Duke running a lot more than last year after coaching with the Suns Mike D'Antoni over the summer. They also are changing up defenses more often - pressing and even running a 2-3 zone at times. They have so many weapons - Kyle Singler, Demarcus Nelson, Gerald Henderson, Jon Scheyer can all carry the Devils on a given night. Once they figure out that Nolan Smith is so much better than Greg Paulus, watch out.

- This crop of freshman is as deep as any that I can remember. Everyone knows the big names - OJ Mayo, Derrick Rose, Eric Gordon, Kevin Love, Michael Beasley, Kosta Koufos, Singler - but some guys have slid in under the radar and are playing great.
JJ Hickson - NC State: Although he has been coming off the bench, Hickson leads the Wolfpack in scoring and rebounding at 19 and 9 per. Also averages 2.5 bpg while shooting 73% from the floor. Saw him play against MSU last night, and he's long, quick and athletic. Think Hakim Warrick.
Jonny Flynn and Donte Greene - Syracuse: Flynn (12.5ppg, 6.5apg, 41% 3pt, 3:1 a/to) and Greene (20.5ppg, 8.2rpg, 2.5bpg) have put up gaudy numbers so far, but are both playing a ton of minutes for a thin Syracuse team, which could hurt them tournament time.
DeAndre Jordan - Texas A&M: Averaging 9ppg and 7.5rpg (in only 20 minutes per) aren't incredible numbers, but shooting 86% from the field through seven games is. Gives this very balanced team an option inside when teams collapse on Joseph Jones. Athletic 7-footer with long arms, but not a shot blocker yet.

-Everyone knows Gonzaga, Davidson, Butler, and Southern Illinois at the point. But who other mid-majors to watch out for?
Xavier 5-1: Very balanced squad with top 6 all averaging double figures. Very experienced with four seniors starting (three of whom were on the 2004 team that went to the elite 8). Beat good Indiana team by 15 on a neutral court.
Miami-(Ohio) 5-2: Gave Xavier their only loss, but has been beaten by Dayton and USC (by a combined 5 points). Led my Michael Bramos (24ppg, 46% 3pt) and Tim Kolvitz (17ppg, 7rpg, 4apg), get a big test against Louisville Saturday.
George Mason 5-1: Knocked off Kansas State and South Carolina, and almost beat Villanova in the Old Spice classic. Another senior laden squad led by forward Will Thomas (17 and 11 per). Playing in a tough CAA will help come tournament time.

-Baylor is finally relevant again after starting the season 5-0, which included winning in the 2007 Paradise Jam with victories over Witchita State, Notre Dame, and Winthrop. Baylor is a very balanced team this year (seven players averaging between 7 and 13 ppg, nine players between 17 and 29 mpg this year). Alot of very solid juniors and seniors, and a star-in-the-making freshman LaceDarius Dunn (12ppg and 5 rpg in 20 mpg, but only 3 assists all year), Baylor should make some noise in the Big 12 this season. First real test comes against Washington State on Friday. Great to see the program back up and running after the tragedy of Patrick Dennehy's murder, and former coach Dave Bliss' indescretions.

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