Monday, November 24, 2008

College Basketball Week in Review: Will Anyone Be Able to Stop Steph Curry or Blake Griffin This Year?

Xavier 63, Virginia Tech 62
This one was pretty easy to pick. Virginia tech led by as many as 12 in the second half and went up 7 with 5:14 left on a Malcolm Delaney three, but the Hokies would not score for the remainder of regulation. Xavier battled back to tie the game up on two Kenny Frease free throws to force OT. In that OT, there were six lead changes as the two teams went back and forth. Tied at 60 with time running out, Dorenzo Hudson missed a pull-up jumper but Jeff Allen was in the right place as he tipped in a weak side rebound to give Tech the lead. Out of timeouts, Jason Love took the ball out of bounds and quickly found Dante Jackson, who took one dribble and fired from just beyond half court. He banked in the prayer, and the Xavier players stormed the court. Derrick Brown led Xavier with 16 and 6 boards while CJ Anderson added 13. Jeff Allen led everyone with 22 and 11, but AD Vassallo was held to 4 points on 2-13 shooting (he did have 10 boards and 8 assists).

Stephen Curry, Davidson and Blake Griffin, Oklahoma
In three games this week, Curry averaged 35.7 ppg, 8.3 apg, and 3.0 spg while shooting 53% from the floor, 15-33 from three, and 24-25 from the line. He led Davidson to a 2-1 week. Their only loss was to Blake Griffin and the Oklahoma Sooners, where Curry scored 44 points on what most considered to be an off-night. Griffin has been equally as impressive in the early season. In three games this week, Griffin averaged 26.7 ppg and 20.3 rpg while shooting 72% from the floor. For the season, Griffin has yet to score under 20 points and grab fewer than 18 rebounds.

While both players were pre-season first-team all-americans, no one could have expected the performances that these kids have had four games in. Blake Griffin's athleticism is on a whole different level from the rest of college basketball. The kid is a freak of nature. With his size, mobility, and leaping ability, he is drawing comparisons to Amare Stoudamire. Curry has been just as impressive. He has silenced anyone who doubted his ability to run the point. He is not the play maker that Jason Richards was, meaning he isn't going to be breaking people down off the dribble to create for his teammates. But Curry has proven he is very good at findings people spotting up in transition and that he is able to get the ball up the floor and get Davidson into their offense without turning the ball over. Davidson will not be as good as they were last year, but with Curry on the floor, the Wildcats will never be out of a game.

If Mercer had held on to their 18 point lead against Georgia tech at home, they would have been back-to-back winners of the TOTW award. But they lost, which opens up the door for the Xavier Musketeers. X won three straight games against good opponents as they won the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Sunday night. They beat Missouri 75-71 on Thursday, Virginia Tech on the buzzer beater on Friday, and held on against Memphis on Sunday night for the title. I've been really impressed with Xavier in the early going. I thought that they were going to be down after losing three seniors in Stanley Burrell, Josh Duncan, and most importantly Drew Lavender. But former Indiana recruit Terrell Holloway and looked better than advertised in five games this season. He hasn't put up spectacular numbers (7.8 ppg, 6 assists vs. 10 turnovers), but he had protected the ball, he has gotten the ball up the court against two teams with a very good press (Missouri, Memphis) and he has stepped to the line an knocked down big free throws (27-28). Fellow freshman Kenny Frease has looked promising as well, but he still has a way to go to learn the college game. As usual, X is getting a balanced effort as they have eight guys averaging between 6.0 and 10.6 ppg and more than 15.8 mpg.

For the best games this week, check-in daily for Lay-up Lines as all of the marquee match-ups take place in the tournaments.

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