Monday, December 29, 2008

College Basketball Week in Review: Where Have All The Freshman Gone?

What We Learned This Week: Even D1 hoopers get a Christmas break. A pretty slow week for college basketball as Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday saw a grand total on one game.

We also learned that this year, unlike the past two, freshman are, in fact, freshman again. It has been a recurring theme this season, but Saturday really reinforced it to me. Did anyone happen to see the West Virginia-Ohio State game? BJ Mullens was coming off his best game as a collegian, going for 19, 8 boards, and 3 blocks while playing over 20 minutes for the first time in his career.

Well, Saturday was a much different story. Mullens missed a dunk on the first play of the game, and it was all downhill from there. He was just 1-5 from the floor, finishing with 4 points, 3 boards, and 4 fouls. Mullens showed flashes of what he could become. On one possession it was sealing Wellington Smith for a lob entry pass and finishing on the other side of the rim with a one handed dunk. On the other end he blocked a couple shots and changed a couple more. But overall, Mullens was largely irrelevant in a game that featured one other player taller than 6'8".

Isn't this what freshman are supposed to be? Role players that fill in holes, with the idea that in a year or two they could become a star? I'm going to take a deeper look at this later in the week.

Texas 74, Wisconsin 69
Texas hung on against a scrappy Wisconsin team to avoid losing to their second straight Big Ten foe. Neither team could pull away in the second half (the biggest lead came when Wisconsin was up 60-56 with 9:07 left), which set up an exciting ending. Jason Bohannon hit a three that put Wisconsin up 67-66 with three minutes left. Wisconsin then forced a Damion James turnover, but on the ensuing possession, Dogus Balbay made a steal and got a lay-up out of it, and James followed that up with a short jumper in the lane. Marcus Landry scored to cut the lead back to one with 1:23 left, but James grabbed an offensive rebound on an Abram's miss. The Longhorns ran the clock down, and Gary Johnson banked in a 20-footer to give Texas a three-point lead with 23.5 seconds left. James blocked a Trevon Hughes lay-up and was fouled, hitting both free throws to seal the win.

This is a huge loss for Wisconsin, as they now head into conference play without a signature win. Sure, the Big Ten is better than in recent years, meaning the Badgers will have plenty of chances to knock off big name opponents. But they are going to have their work cut out for them. Right now, they are probably the sixth or seventh best team in a league that should not get more than five, maybe six bids. That said, I will never bet against a Bo Ryan team, no matter how down they look.

Jeremiah Dominguez, Portland State
The diminutive (5'6") point guard caught fire as he led the Vikings to a 77-70 victory at Gonzaga. Dominguez finished with 25 points, 6 boards, and 5 assists, also hitting on 7-10 three's. It was a performance all the more impressive considering the problems Portland State had getting to the game. Due to a snowstorm in the Northwest, the Vikings bussed to Seattle, stayed over night there, then bussed to Spokane the morning of the game, getting there too late to hold a shoot-around.

This was a huge victory for an improving Portland State team. Not only is it their first win over a ranked team since they reinstated the basketball team in 1996, the win came against a Gonzaga team that people in Washington follow very closely. Combine that with their one point loss to Washington earlier in the year, and the Vikings might have a bit of an easier time recruiting in Washington and the rest of the Northwest (an area proving to be one of the more fertile for high school basketball).

West Virginia
The Mountaineers really made a statement in their win against Ohio State. Yes, the Buckeyes were missing David Lighty, arguably their most valuable player, but the Mountaineers still dominated a good basketball team. What impressed me the most was that they did it without dominating the offensive glass. West Virginia isn't a great offensive team by any stretch of the imagination, even with Joe Mazzulla in the line-up. What they rely on is forcing turnovers and getting easy baskets, or crashing the offensive glass and getting easy baskets. They didn't really do either against the Buckeyes. Instead, it was just tough, solid defense, forcing OSU to miss shots on the defensive end and great ball movement against a zone on offense, especially in the second half when they made their run.

The amazing part about this performance by West Virginia is that they didn't play all that great. Alex Ruoff was just 6-15 from the field, Da'Sean Butler scored 14 in the first half, but sat out for 10 minutes in the second half with four fouls. Mazzulla missed the game and may be out for the year. And despite all that, West Virginia shot 47.7% from the field and only turned the ball over seven times. I'm really starting to take a liking to back up PG Truck Bryant. Bryant reminds me a lot of Levance Fields as a freshman - a strong, thick, tough NYC point guard that can power his way into the lane and finish amongst the trees.

The Mountaineers also blew out Radford this week, 89-54, on the strength of 38 points from Alex Ruoff.

12/29 - Georgetown @ UConn: UConn struggled dealing with Gonzaga's bigs on the perimeter. How will they handles DaJuan Summers and Greg Monroe.

12/30 - Illinois @ Purdue: Are the Illini for real this year? A win at Purdue, and that 12-1 record looks a little more legitimate.

12/31 - Michigan State @ Minnesota: One of the best games on the year in the Big Ten.

12/31 - UNLV @ Louisville: After stomping on UAB, the Cardinals look to keep their momentum going as they host the Runnin' Rebels.

1/1 - Villanova @ Marquette: You think any of these guys want their Big East opener to happen on New Years Day?

1/2 - Arizona State @ Stanford: Stanford lost Team Lopez and coach Trent Edwards Johnson (Ed. Note: Troy Machir, ladies and gentlemen), but they still have started off the year undefeated.

1/3 - Pitt @ Georgetown: Georgetown starts off conference season with UConn, Pitt, Notre Dame, Providence, and Syracuse. Yup, that's the Big East.

1/3 - Ohio State @ Minnesota: Did anyone think that this match-up would be between two of the favorites for the Big Ten title?

1/3 - Tennessee @ Kansas: If Tennessee loses this game, then in all likelihood there will not be any SEC teams ranked in the top 25. The SEC in basketball is the opposite of the league in football.

1/4 - Kentucky @ Louisville: How do you define rivalry?


Troy said...

yo idiot, Stanford's former coach is Trent Johnson.
Trent Edwards is the so-so quarterback for the Bills.

How im still not listed as a site contributor after all the corrections I make is beyond me

Troy said...

but now that I think about it, I think Trent Edwards went to Stanford, so I can see how the mistak was made.kinda.