Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The State of Tennessee - Memphis, UT, and Vandy

Call me crazy, but I think that the Memphis Tigers loss on Saturday night to the Tennessee Volunteers might have been the best thing that could have happened to them. Ok, that's a little much, but it is definitely a blessing in disguise.

Hear me out. Barring a collapse down the stretch, Memphis is still just about guaranteed a No. 1 seed come March, because a loss to fellow No. 1 seed is not going to hurt your seeding. But what the loss to the Volunteers does is shed Memphis of the burden of being undefeated this late in the year. Not only is the pressure of a perfect record gone, but it is a wake up call to these kids. They can be beat. Now, instead of worrying about having their perfect season ended against a team like Tulsa, Memphis can focus on the undefeated record that matters, 6-0 in the tournament. There is never a "good loss", but things could be much worse for Memphis right now.

They could be in Tennessee's position. The Volunteers won on Saturday and earned their first ever #1 ranking in either national poll. But after just one day off, they had to travel to Nashville to play SEC rival Vanderbilt, where they lost tonight to a Vanderbilt team that was in foul trouble all night - AJ Ogilvy, who averages 18 and 9, played 12 minutes and starting PG Alex Gordon sat for eight minutes after picking up his fourth and fouled out with two minutes left. This game was much more important than the Memphis game, because with the loss Tennessee drops to just one game up (in the loss column) on Kentucky and Mississippi State in the SEC standings. It doesn't get any easier for the Volunteers, who get those very same Wildcats (the last team to beat the Vols before Vandy) at home and Florida on the road in the next six days.

The bigger issue here is that Tennessee just came out flat tonight. They were down by as much as 14 in the first half and could never get any flow offensively (they shot 33% for the game). With the exception of the first four minutes of the second half, Tennessee got nothing out of its press. Chris Lofton was the only player who get could anything going, and even though he shot 6-15 from three, the majority of those were forced, fade-aways with a hand in his face. But what bothered me the most was the lack on composure the Vols showed (ironically, Bruce Pearl was quoted after the Memphis game as saying that he was most impressed with his team's composure). JaJuan Smith and Bruce Pearl both got T'ed up (although Pearl's was probably a tactic to give his team some energy in the first half). Duke Crews came flying off the bench when JaJuan Smith and a Vandy player got into a scuffle. Down the stretch they took terrible shots (the two that come to mind are Ramar Smith's floater that got swatted and the deep, fadeaway three JaJuan Smith took from the corner on a 1-on-2 break) and missed 5 of their last six free throws. Given all of that, the Vols were still lost by three. If they can turn it around against Kentucky, you can chalk this one up to a good team having a bad night.

You have to give some credit to Vanderbilt, however. They played stifling defense, had role players hit big shots, and made their free throws at the end. Shan Foster may have won himself SEC player of the year with this performance. He had 32 points on 9-13 shooting, including 6-9 from three. After hitting four early, Tennessee started clamping down on his jumper, but he was able to blow by whoever was guarding him, and even posted up a few times, showing off a nice jump hook. Jermaine Beal also had a fantastic game, scoring 17 points while hitting big shots and big free throws in the second half. And all of this was essentially without Ogilvy. This Commodore team had a rough start to the SEC season, but these guys are for real. You do not want to see this team in your bracket. Continue reading...

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Stanley Robinson put back dunk on Villanova

Continue reading...

Michael Beasley is the Best Player in America

Everytime I watch Kansas State freshman Michael Beasley play I am more and more impressed. He has such an array of skills. He can shoot threes. He can finish in the paint with either hand, no matter how tough or off-balance the shot is. He can run the floor as well as any big man. He is an unreal rebounder - he gets boards that he has no business getting. His catches everything that is thrown to him. He has made 41 of his last 44 free throwns and is shooting 76% from the line on the season. He doesn't get a ton of assists, but he can pass out of a double team and makes very good decisions with the ball.

But the reason I am so impressed by him is that he has yet to develop a real post game yet. He gets most of his baskets one of two ways - he out works someone for an offensive rebound and putback or someone drives and dumps it off to him for a dunk. Sometimes he will back a defender down, or square him up and go by him, but you rarely see Beasley make a move with his back to the basket. Granted, he plays on a team with a bunch of guards and wingman that love to control the ball (Bill Walker, Jacob Pullen) and he is averaging 26 and 12, so coaches are setting their game plans around keeping the ball out of his hands. But he has a tendency to get the ball, take one or two dribbles, and try to muscle his was to the rim. Yes, he does get fouled alot, but he also takes some bad shots, even for him, and he won't out muscle NBA big men. Imagine how good he could be if he develops a baby hook, or an up-and-under, or a turn-around. I can see him being similar to a Derrick Coleman or a Rasheed Wallace, only better because he is a work horse on the boards.

One issue I see with him is that he doesn't give effort the entire game. Connor Atchley had three huge baskets down the stretch (two on putbacks after missed box outs and one on a drive from the top of the key) when Beasley was guarding him. Don't get me wrong, Atchley is a good player, but he shouldn't be blowing by Beasley or beating him to the glass. He also has a tendency to stand in one place on the block with his hand up, instead of working for better position as the ball is rotated. Those are two relatively minor flaws, however, given everything else he can do. Continue reading...

Terrence Williams on Donte Greene of Syracuse

How does announcer Bill Raftery completely ignore the tremendous play Williams' made?

Continue reading...

Monday, February 25, 2008

College Basketball 2/25 - No More Undefeateds

Hokies for Huskies
On Saturday, when Georgia Tech visited Virginia Tech, the Hokie fans all donned black and red in support of Northern Illinois University, where a deranged shooter opened fire in a classroom, something the Blacksburg campus dealt with last year. Great to see fans and students putting trivialities aside and supporting each other.

Tennessee 66, Memphis 62 - Tennessee ended Memphis' bid to become the first undeafeted team in 32 years by beating Memphis on the road, and earning a #1 ranking in the process. Tyler Smith, who was the best player on the floor for Tennessee finishing with 16 points and 6 rebounds, hit a tough turnaround jumper in the lane with 30 seconds left to give Tennessee a one point lead and the win. The most impressive part about this victory for the Volunteers was how they won - they didn't play the run-and-gun style that has brought them so much success this year. Instead, they gave out muscled Memphis in the paint (46-31 rebound advantage) and played off them on the perimeter and forced the Tigers to beat them with jump shots instead of penetration. The Volunteers weathered Memphis's hot shooting to start (started 7-11 from three, but missed 15 of their last 16) and pulled out a gritty victory that solidified their ranking and all but guaranteed them a #1 seed the in tourney.

Michael Beasley, Kansas State - Despite the Wildcats 0-2 week, Beasley averaged 30.5 points and 11.5 rebounds, including a dominating 44 point, 13 rebound performance against Baylor. It was Beasley's third 40 point game of the season, and second in the last three. He has emerged as the favorite for national Player of the Year, looking to become the second straight freshman from the Big XII to win the award. And to think - Beasley and Kevin Durant played on the same CYO team growing up outside DC. K-State has a huge week next week, with games against Texas and at Kansas.

Miami - The Hurricanes went 2-0 this week, beating both Duke and Maryland to thrust themselves back into the bubble conversation. The ACC is looking more and more like a four-bid league, and with Maryland's loss to Virginia Tech and Wake's loss at North Carolina, Miami is looking like they could be that fourth team with a 6-6 record in league play. With four games left, their only tough one will be at Clemson, which means that Clemson could pretty easily get to 9 or 10 league wins, which should be more than enough to get them an at-large bid.

2/25 Texas @ Kansas State - Texas has positioned themselves nicely to earn a #1 seed in the Tournament, but will have their hands full with the Wildcats and Michael Beasley.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Bill Walker, Kansas State and Damion James, Texas - Everyone knows about All-Americans DJ Augustin and Michael Beasley, but these two athletic forwards are quietly having huge seasons.

2/25 San Diego @ St. Mary's - Gonzaga and St. Mary's are the two schools everyone knows from the WCC, but San Diego is sitting one game behind those two in the conference standings with one game left against both teams. San Diego won the first match-up 63-55.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Patrick Mills, St. Mary's and Brandon Johnson, San Diego - St. Mary's is 11-0 when Patrick Mills scores 15 or more, and Johnson, who is having a great year averaging 16.4 ppg, 3.5 apg and 3.7 rpg, will have the task of slowing him down.

2/25 Marquette @ Villanova - Villanova's 2-0 week put them back into the bubble discussion at 7-7 in the Big East, while Marquette is playing to earn that all-important first round bye in the Big East tournament.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Scottie Reynolds, Villanova and Dominic James, Marquette - Possibly the two best point guards in the Big East.

2/26 Tennessee @ Vanderbilt - After knocking off then #1 Memphis, the Volunteers are looking to crown themselves kings of Tennessee with a win at Vandy. Tennessee won the first matchup 80-60.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: AJ Ogilvy, Vanderbilt and Tyler Smith, Tennessee - Ogilvy is a tough assignment inside against anyone, especially an undersized Tennessee team. Tyler Smith has been playing great the last few weeks, and look for that to continue.

2/26 BYU @ New Mexico - New Mexico is in third place in the MWC, but just a game and a half out of first (BYU). If they win out (UNLV, Colorado State), the Lobos can all but assure an at-large bid. BYU won the first matchup 83-66.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Trent Plaisted, BYU and JR Giddens, New Mexico - Giddens, a transfer from Kansas, has been nothing short of superb for Steve Alford, while Plaisted will create huge matchup problems for the Lobos.

2/28 Wright State @ Butler - Wright State has won the last three games against Butler, including a 43-42 dogfight in December. After losing to Illinois State, Wright State needs this game and a trip to the conference finals for any hopes of an at-large birth.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Scottie Wilson, Wright State and Matt Howard, Butler - Everyone knows about the outstanding guard play for both of these teams, but these two big men have range and perimeter skills, which is part of the reason both teams are able to run effective spread offenses.

2/28 Michigan State @ Wisconsin - While the Spartans have struggled of late, Wisconsin has won four in a row and seven of eight to take a 1/2 game lead in the Big Ten.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Trevon Hughes, Wisconsin and Raymarr Morgan, Michigan State - Raymarr Morgan is one of the most complete players in the Big Ten, while Hughes has been a pleasent surprise at point guard for the Badgers.

2/28 Notre Dame @ Louisville - After UConn's loss to Villanova, these are two of the three teams tied for the Big East lead. Very interesting matchup of pure shooting and raw athletcism.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Terrence Williams, Louisville and Tory Jackson, Notre Dame - Williams is a great all-around player that can help a team in a multitude of ways. He will be a tough matchup for anyone on ND. Tory Jackson will need to be steady running the point against the aggressive Cardinal defense.

3/1 Kansas State @ Kansas - Back in the early season, Michael Beasley said that the Wildcats will beat Kansas at home and on the road. They did the first, with an 84-75 victory in January. The Jayhawks have been underwhelming the last month, losing three of their last seven.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Michael Beasley, Kansas State and Brandon Rush, Kansas - If anyone can slow down Beasley, it is the Jayhawks front line. Rush needs to step up as their best player and leader - the Jayhawks biggest problem of late has been a lack of a go-to scorer down the stretch.

3/1 Washington State @ Stanford - Wazzu has been somewhat disappointing at 9-6 in conference, while Stanford keeps the pressure on UCLA, now only one game back. Stanford won the last one in OT, 67-65.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Brook Lopez, Stanford - Lopez has played his way into a possible All-American and probable lottery pick.

3/1 Georgetown @ Marquette - Two teams with very contrasting styles of play. The Hoyas head to Marquette, where it has been very difficult to win this year (the Eagles are 14-1 at home).
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Jonathon Wallace, Georgetown and Jerel McNeal, Marquette - Both have been playing great as of late. Wallace will need to continue that trend against a loaded backcourt. McNeal's stat line on Satuday vs. Rutgers - 14pts, 7 rebs, 7 asts, 5 stls, and 3 blks.

3/1 St. Mary's @ Gonzaga - A rematch of what was the game of the year out West, when St. Mary's pulled off an 89-85 OT win at home. If St. Mary's gets by San Diego, this game will be for the WCC conference championship.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Jeremy Pargo, Gonzaga and Patty Mills, St. Mary's - They had 27 and 23, respectively, the last time these two teams squared off.

3/2 Indiana @ Michigan State - Indiana's first real test without Kelvin Sampson at the helm. The Hoosiers won 80-61 just two weeks ago.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Eric Gordon, Indiana and Drew Neitzel, Michigan State - There may not be anyone in the country that can get as hot as quick as these two. Continue reading...

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Russell Westbrook on LeKendric Longmire of Oregon

Continue reading...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Kelvin Sampson and Indiana's Prospects Without Him

With the Hoosiers victories the last two games, a blow out win over MSU and a solid win over Big Ten leader Purdue tonight, Indiana seems to be reacting to the latest Kelvin Sampson rules violations surprisingly well. In Eric Gordon and DJ White, Indiana has two all-americans and maybe the two best players in the Big Ten, so their solid play comes as no surprise.

What surprises me is that Kelvin Sampson, one of the best coachs in college basketball with 498 career wins, committed the same recruiting violations that got him fired from Oklahoma, especially at a school with a squeaky clean reputation of playing it by the book like Indiana.

With the Sooners from 2000-2004, Sampson made at least 577 illegal phone calls to prospects early in the recruiting process. Some of you might say it is ridiculous to fire someone over too many phone calls, but take a look at what the NCAA's Committee on Infractions said in their 2006 report on Sampson's Sooners:

"The committee has consistently heard that the key to successful recruiting is being able to develop relationships with prospects and their families. The obvious purpose of these violations was to be the first institution to make recruiting contact with prospects and then to build on the relationship by having multiple impermissible contacts with the prospects in the very important early stages of their recruitment. These calculated violations created a significant recruiting advantage over institutions abiding by the telephone contact limitations."

So what does Sampson do when he gets to Indiana? He goes out and repeats the exact some recruiting violations, while on probation, and then lies about the severity of them to Indiana and the NCAA. This is the part that boggles my mind. Sampson is a great coach and he is the coach of a school with as illustrious a basketball history as any school in the country in a state that is obsessed with the sport. Does he really need to cheat while recruiting in order to get kids to come to go to school there? Apparently, yes.....

Anyway, by all accounts is seems that Sampson's suspension-for-future-termination will be handed down on either Thursday or Friday, meaning that these last two wins were probably his last as a Hoosier coach. It may be he last two games coaching ever. How could a school trust him enough to hire him in the future?

Indiana's future is brighter. They have won three of their last four, with the loss coming at Wisconson on a banked in three, and are playing as well as they have all season. Eric Gordon is still a scoring machine, DJ White's knee seems to be a non-issue based on the 19 pts and 15 boards he had last night, and their role players (Armon Bassett, JaMarcus Ellis, Jordan Crawford) have all been playing superb ball. Keep an eye on this team come March. Continue reading...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

More Highlights

-James Gist, Maryland - Tip dunk on Tyler Hansbrough

-James Gist, Maryland - Dunking all over UCLA

-Paul Harris, Syracuse - One-handed facial on Dante Cunningham of Villanova

-Jermaine Taylor, Central Florida - Alley-oop. Great angle of the video.

-Senario Hillman, Alabama - He seriously looks like he is flying

-Senario Hillman, Alabama - Wow. Bonus clip of a sick Jamont Gordon pass.

-Rob Diggs, George Washington - Off the glass dunk on a break.

-Landon Milbourne, Maryland - Why I never tried to take a charge...

Continue reading...

College Basketball 2/18 - Barely Hanging On

Memphis 79, UAB 78
Memphis remained undefeated after hanging on against a scrappy UAB team on the road. Down seven with just over a minute left after missing nine consecutive shots, Antonio Anderson (27 points) and Chris Douglas-Roberts (32 points) both hit three's to cut the lead to one. After Robert Vaden hit one of two free throws, CDR hit a spinning lay-up and drew a foul putting Memphis up one. UAB hit a shot at the other end, but it came after the final buzzer. Memphis played essentially 2-5, with Anderson and CDR accounting for 59 point and 22 of the 28 field goals the Tigers hit.

Jerryd Bayless, Arizona
The freshman Bayless is one of the only reasons Arizona is still in the discussion as a possible NCAA tournament team. Despite the 1-2 week for the Wildcats, Bayless averaged 34.3 ppg, 4 apg, 2 spg while shooting 12-23 from deep. In a 59-54 loss to ASU, Bayless single-handedly kept 'Zona close scoring 39 of their 54 points and making 12 of their 15 field goals. As one of five teams sitting at 6 wins in the Pac-10, Arizona is going to need many more performances like this from Bayless if they have any hope of reaching the NCAA's.

Wake Forest
Kudos to Texas for their wins over Baylor and Kansas, but the Demon Deacons sweep this week of Florida State and Duke not only pushed their record to 6-5 within the league, but gave them a marquee win to put on their tournament resume and propelled them back onto the bubble. Not only was the win against Duke impressive, it was how Wake Forest pulled it out. Duke seemed to take control of the game early in the first half, out scoring Wake 18-8 to take a five point lead. But over the next six minutes, Wake held Duke without a field goal during a 17-2 run to put them up 72-62 with five minutes left. Freshman Jeff Teague (26 pts) and James Johnson (24 pts, 16 rebs) played well beyond their years. The Demon Deacons next two games are at Carolina and home for Maryland, and if they sweep those two they can move into third place in the ACC.

2/18 Xavier @ Rhode Island - The Rams have lost two of their last three to fall to 6-4 in A-10 play. A win will go a long way towards an at-large bid.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Will Daniels, Rhode Island and Derrick Brown, Xavier - Both of these guys are big, strong, athletic wings (both about 6'8" 230). Daniels has emerged as one of the top players in the A-10 at 18.4ppg and 7rpg, and he will ned a big game against Brown.

2/18 Texas A&M @ Texas - Both teams have top 10 talent. A&M has proven themselves to be consistently inconsistent (last week's loss at OSU), whereas Texas' sweep of Baylor and Kansas has put them back in the Final Four discussion.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: DJ Augustin, Texas - Augustin has struggled mightly with his jumper since the Longhorns last matchup with the Aggies, a 80-63 drubbing in College Station. In his last six (Texas 5-1), he has averaged only 13ppg shooting 25% from the field and 7-33 from deep.

2/19 Purdue @ Indiana - Indiana maybe shorthanded depending on DJ White's health, but a loss to Purdue would put them two games back of the Boilermakers in the loss column with just five games left.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Robbie Hummel, Purdue and Mike White/DeAndre Thomas, Indiana - Hummel has been one of the least talked about freshman in the nation, but he can play (think Kyle Singler). If DJ White can't go, Thomas and Mike White are going to have to pick up the slack in the paint.

2/21 Pittsburgh @ Notre Dame: With Levance Fields finally getting healthy, Pitt is looking for a late season surge, starting with a win in South Bend, where the streaking Irish haven't lost 34 games.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: DeJuan Blair, Pitt and Luke Harangody, Notre Dame - Maybe the two strongest guys in all of college basketball square off in what should be a great matchup to watch.

2/22 Drake @ Butler: Two of the best mid-major teams get together in the feature Bracket Busters game. If you like three point shooting, watch this game as both of these teams love to jack.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Josh Young, Drake and Mike Green, Butler - Two very good guards that don't get the exposure they deserve because of where they play.

2/22 Tennessee @ Memphis: Biggest game of the year - No. 1 Memphis vs. No. 2 Tennessee. 'Nuff said.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Chris Lofton, Tennessee and Chris Douglas-Roberts, Memphis - Two all-american candidates should be coming to play. Look for them to put up some lofty numbers, as both of these teams like to run.

2/24 Xavier @ Dayton - One of the last chances for Dayton to get a big win. The Flyers have been decimated by injury and a major disappointment in league play.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Brian Roberts, Dayton - One of the best pure scoring guards in the country, Roberts will have to carry this team against the much deeper and more experienced Xavier squad. Continue reading...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Duke Blue Devils are for real

After Duke beat both of their biggest rivals, Maryland and North Carolina, pretty handily in the last week and a half, the Blue Devils have proven themselves as one of the best teams in the country and put themselves on the short list of contenders for a 1 seed in the tournament. They are the last undefeated team in the ACC (and have not won a game by less than 9 in league play), and if it weren't for a last second, step-back three by Levance Fields of Pitt, the Blue Devils would be undefeated.

The most impressive part of Duke's team is that they have been doing all of this winning without a true big man - 6'8" Kyle Singler is a natural three, 6'9" Taylor King is a three point specialist, 6'8" Lance Thomas is all of 216 lbs and plays like it, and 7'1" Brian Zoubek is the next in line of Duke's big stiffs. The reason they have been able to survive is that they play stifling D on the wings. DeMarcus Nelson, Gerald Henderson, and Nolan Smith are all phenomonal on the ball defenders, and Jon Scheyer and Greg Paulus can more than hold their own. The perfect example of this in the UNC game. Duke let Hansbrough go one on one in the post when he got it, just trying to avoid fouling him, and allowed the All-American to go off to the tune of 28 points and 18 rebounds. But they held Wayne Ellington and Danny Green to 4-24 from the floor, and forced PG Quentin Thomas (starting in place of injured Ty Lawson) into 6 turnovers.

The Devils have also turned into one of the best shooting teams in the country. For the season, they are shooting 39% from deep and hit just under 10 3's per game. With the exception of Thomas and Zoubek, everyone player on this team can step out and knock down a three, which opens up the floor for penetration. In the last month or so, Duke has been very effective at getting into the paint and drawing defenders. When they kick the ball back out, it creates open jump shots and close-out situations, and with the number of guys they have with perimeter skills, especially their bigs in Singler and King, this is exactly the style Duke needs to play to be effective.

A big part of Duke's recent success's has been the emergence of Gerald Henderson and Greg Paulus. Paulus, the much-maligned point guard, has played great, especially the last six games (16ppg, 4apg, 2.5spg, 23-44 3's). He has done everything that the Blue Devils have needed out of him - knock down open shots, get in the lane and create looks, and cut down on his turnovers. Henderson has been all over the court for Duke. He is an outstanding athlete and can make plays both offensively and defensively. His versatility also allows him to defend four positions, which is important for a team like Duke that relies on mismatchs offensively.

In the last six or seven years, Duke has earned a reputation for being a great regular season team, but struggling in the NCAA tournament, partly because they were not balanced enough and were not tough enough. This team has 5 players averaging double figures, and is as tough a team as Duke has put on the floor since the '99 team that had Elton Brand and Shane Battier. Don't be surprised if they make a run this year. Continue reading...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Midseason All-Americas

Tonight I was discussing who, thus far into the season, would be first team All-Americans. So here are my three teams, and those who were close.

1st Team:
G - Eric Gordon, Indiana - 21.3 ppg, 2.5 apg, 3.0 rpg, 1.4 spg
G - DJ Augustin, Texas - 19.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 5.8 apg, 1.5 spg
F - Michael Beasley, Kansas State - 25.2 ppg, 12.3 rpg, 1.5 spg, 1.7 bpg
F - Tyler Hansbrough, UNC - 22.8 ppg, 10.8 rpg
C - Kevin Love, UCLA - 17.5 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 1.8 apg, 61% FG

2nd Team:
G - Derrick Rose, Memphis - 14.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 4.3 apg
G - OJ Mayo, USC - 20.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.0 apg, 1.4 spg
F - DJ White, Indiana - 17.6 ppg, 10.7 rpg, 1.8 bpg
F - Luke Harangody, Notre Dame - 20.3 ppg, 10.2 rpg
C - Brook Lopez, Stanford - 18.1 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 2.1 bpg

3rd Team:
G - Brian Roberts, Dayton - 18.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 3.6 apg, 43% 3PT
G - Jamont Gordon, Mississippi State - 18.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 4.7 apg
G - James Harden, Arizona State - 18.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.5 apg, 1.8 spg
F - Raymarr Morgan, Michigan State - 15.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 56% FG
F - Ryan Anderson, California - 21.9 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 46% 3PT

Honorable Mention - Jeff Adrien, UConn; Darrell Arthur, Kansas; Jerryd Bayless, Arizona; Patrick Beverly, Arkansas; Chase Budinger, Arizona; Brian Butch, Wisconsin; Pat Calathes, St. Joseph's; Mario Chalmers, Kansas; Chris Douglas-Roberts, Memphis; Wayne Ellington, UNC; Gary Forbes, UMass; Shan Foster, Vanderbilt; Jonny Flynn, Syracuse; Mike Green, Butler; Donte Greene, Syracuse; Blake Griffin, Oklahoma; Stefon Jackson, UTEP; Damion James, Texas; Brian Laing, Seton Hall; Chris Lofton, Tennessee; Robert McKiver, Houston; DeMarcus Nelson, Duke; AJ Ogilvy, Vanderbilt; Patrick Patterson, Kentucky; Jeremy Pargo, Gonzaga; AJ Price, UConn; Kyle Singler, Duke; Sean Singletary, Virginia; Deonta Vaughn, Cincinnati; Greivis Vazquez, Maryland; Kyle Weaver, Washington State; Terrence Williams, Louisville; Josh Young, Drake; Sam Young, Pittsburgh. Continue reading...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

College Basketball 2/11 - Buzzer Beaters

Xavier 70, Saint Louis 68
Pitt 55, West Virginia 54
Indiana 83, Illinois 79 2OT

Three outstanding games on Thursday with great finishes. Xavier almost blew a 16 point second half lead against Saint Louis only to be saved by by a tip-in from Derrick Brown with 0.1 seconds left. Brown's heroics overshadowed an incredible performance by Kevin Lisch in the last minute of the game - he scored 12 of his 25 in the final minute, including three 3's and a three-point play with 11.6 seconds left to tie the game.

Alex Ruoff of West Virginia missed one of two free throws with 9 seconds left that would have given West Virginia a three-point lead, but instead Ronald Ramon hit a three as time expired off of a drive and kick from Keith Benjamin. Sam Young and Benjamin led Pitt with 10 apiece, while Darris Nichols scored 16 for the Mountaineers.

Eric Gordon made a triumphant return to Illinois, the school he originally committed to, scoring all but 1 of his 19 points after halftime, including banking in a three with 20 seconds left to send the game into overtime. Armon Bassett was the real hero for the Hoosiers, however, scoring 11 points in the decisive 2nd OT, including eight straight free throws in the last 1:52 to seal the win. Illinois had plenty of chances to win. Shaun Pruitt, the Illini's center, missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 8 seconds left in regulation and two free throws with 2 seconds left in the first overtime that would have won the game.

Jeff Adrien and Hasheem Thabeet, UConn
Yes, I know Tyler Hansbrough averaged 33ppg and 16rpg this week, but it wasn't as dominating of a performance as the two stars of the UConn frontline had in wins on the road against Syracuse and at home against Georgia Tech. For the week, Thabeet averaged 15 ppg, 11 rpg, and 6.5 bpg while Adrien averaged 21 ppg and 11.5 rpg. But more than their numbers was the fact that they dominated the inside in both games. With their lack of perimeter scoring, especially with Jerome Dyson out, UConn has relied heavily on their offensive rebounding for points. On defense, they play swarming perimeter defense, funneling people into the paint where they lead the nation in shot blocking for the sixth year in a row. With the emergence of AJ Price recently, if the Huskies can get this kind of effort from Thabeet and Adrien on a nightly basis, they can go a long way.

With a 2-0 week, the Boilermakers moved into first place in the Big Ten. The Baby Boilers have now won nine in a row, and host Michigan State Tuesday, giving a chance to avenge their only conference of the season. Purdue was led by freshman Robbie Hummel this week, who scored 17 is a win over Penn State and then had 21 in the upset win over Wisconsin, giving the Boilermakers a sweep over the Badgers this year. Purdue is looking for its first Big Ten title since 1996.

2/11 Kansas @ Texas - The two preseason favorites in the Big XII go head-to-head in a very important game for Texas if they want to keep their regular season conference title hopes intact.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Connor Atchley, Texas and Mario Chalmers, Kansas - Chalmers draws the unenviable assignment of guarding Big XII Player of the Year candidate DJ Augustin, while Atchley, Texas lone "true" big man, has to deal with the huge front line of Kansas.

2/12 Michigan State @ Purdue - One of the last tests for the Boilermakers in the regular season, a Michigan State heads to Purdue with a chance to move even in the loss column in the Big Ten standings.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: E'Twaun Moore, Purdue and Drew Neitzel, Michigan State - Moore, one of the best freshman in the Big Ten, has been playing great in conference play (13 ppg), while preseason All-America Drew Neitzel has been playing better of late.

2/12 Kentucky @ Vanderbilt - Both teams desperately need a win - Kentucky needs all the wins they can get following their atrocious start, and Vanderbilt has been stumbling in league play after a fantastic start.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Patrick Patterson, Kentucky and AJ Ogilvy, Vanderbilt - The two best freshman in the SEC may also double as the two best big men.

2/13 Maryland @ Duke - Now 6-3 in league play, Maryland is looking to emerge as the third horse in the ACC race behind Duke and UNC.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Grevais Vazquez, Maryland and Greg Paulus, Duke - Never thought I'd say this, but Paulus has been a catalyst for the Blue Devils offense the last two weeks, while Vazquez has played well all year for the Terps.

2/13 Wisconsin @ Indiana - Indiana looks to avenge a loss at Wisconsin in January.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: DJ White, Indiana and Brian Butch, Wisconsin - The two best big men in the conference square off. Butch will have his work cut out for him, however, against the much stronger White.

Notre Dame @ UConn - The two biggest surprises in the Big East face off. Notre Dame beat UConn at home earlier in the year after nearly blowing a 21 point lead.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Luke Harangody, Notre Dame and AJ Price, UConn - Both have been superb in conference play - probably the two frontrunners for conference player of the year.

2/15 Pittsburgh @ Marquette - Two early season favorites in the Big East have both been struggling a bit in a tough Big East, and both need a win to stay in front of the middle of the pack.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Sam Young, Pitt and Dominic James, Marquette - James was thought of as a potential first round pick at the end of last season, but has not lived up to the hype this year whereas Young has turned himself from an athletic big man, to a combo forward with one of the best jumpshots in the Big East.

2/16 Michigan State @ Indiana - The Spartans head to Assembly Hall to take on the Hoosiers in the last of three huge games atop the Big Ten.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Raymarr Morgan, MSU and Jamarcus Ellis, Indiana - Morgan has emerged as a star during his sophomore season, while Ellis has a reputation as one of the better defenders in the Big Ten. Continue reading...

Monday, February 4, 2008

Final Four Favorites


Kansas - The best all-around team as well as the deepest team in the country. On any given night they have five or six guys that can carry them, which is so important come tournament time. Darrell Arthur, Darnell Jackson and Sasha Kaun form one of the biggest and strongest front lines in the country. Mario Chalmers is a good of a playmaker as there is. Russell Robinson can lock down any PG, Sherron Collins can put up points in a hurry, and when Brandon Rush wants to he can take over a game.

Memphis - So tough defensively, so many athletes, and two big time scorers (Derrick Rose and CDR). Calipari always gets his guys ready for tournament time, and this is the best team he's had at Memphis. What worries me is their poor shooting - both from the free throw line and from three - and their reliance on perimeter scorers. As good as Joey Dorsey is, all his buckets come from offensive rebounds, dump offs, and lobs.

Duke - Similar to Memphis in that they are a tough defensive team that plays an uptempo game without a post scorer. Not as athletic but a much better shooting team. The difference between this year's Duke squad and past year's is that they are a tough group, loaded with guys that rebound and defend bigger than they are. They play with a swagger Duke teams haven't had in a while. Demarcus Nelson and Gerald Henderson provide athleticism on the wing, and Kyle Singler's perimeter game creates huge matchup problems. Worried about a team with Greg Paulus as their starting point guard, but he has played much better of late. Jon Scheyer may be the most important player on this team. He's their smartest player, a solid scorer and shooter, and he is definently a Coach K guy.

UNC - I love Tyler Hansbrough - he's one of the best college players in the last twenty years and plays all out every second he is on the court. Wayne Ellington has emerged as a legitimate #2 scoring option. Marcus Guinyard and Danny Green are great role players, and the Heels have some good bigs coming off the bench. They have two major problems. They have a tendency to lose focus on the defensive end, which is why teams like Georgia Tech and Maryland could hang with them. The other problem is that Ty Lawson can't stay healthy (he hurt his ankle pretty bad on Sunday and will miss the first Duke game), and they are a completely different team without him pushing the ball in transition.

UCLA - If the Bruins ever get healthy they are as talented as any team. But they haven't been healthy all year, with Darren Collison, Luc Mbah a Moute, and Lorenzo Mate all missing game time. Their two consecutive Final Fours speak for themselves, but a team that can play lock down defense like UCLA will always be in any game.

Tennessee - The Volunteers can put up points with anyone. They play fast and shoot a lot of three's, and with Chris Lofton starting to play like Chris Lofton this team is looking dangerous. Ramar Smith is a spark plug and makes this team go offensively and defensively, and the addition of JP Prince midway through the year has paid huge dividends. But they rely too much on their perimeter game, and if they have an off night they could be in trouble. They also have trouble closing out games (see the Ohio State game in last year's tourney) because they don't really have anyone that can create their own shot.

Georgetown - This team just keeps on winning. They never blow anybody out, but they are able to grind out victories, which is more of an indication of their style of play (Princeton offense) than anything. The best part of this team is that they are so balanced - any one of their top eight can take and make a big shot - and that they are so versatile. 7'2" Roy Hibbert can step out and hit a three (see the UConn game), or throw a back door bounce pass. DaJuan Summers and Patrick Ewing Jr. are both 6'10" athletes with big bodies and can play and defend any position 2-5.

Michigan State - One rule of thumb when filling out your brackets - never bet against a Tom Izzo Spartan team in the tournament, especially when they are this good. Drew Neitzel was on everyone's preseason All-America team, and while his numbers have not been as good as last year, that been more a result of the emergence of Raymarr Morgan as a star, and freshman Kalin Lucas. Lucas, who Izzo has called the fastest kid he ever coached, has taken over point guard duties from Neitzel allowing him to focus on being a scorer and a leader.

Indiana - Eric Gordon is the bes scoring guard in the country and DJ White is a dominant big man offensively, defensively, and on the glass - and those aren't a dime a dozen. Other than DJ White, they are pretty thin up front, but have a lot of good wings. Jordan Crawford is a very good creator and can score in a variety of ways, JaMarcus Ellis is a versatile and long swing man, and there aren't many pure shooters are good as Armon Bassett. Regardless of the supporting cast, any team with an Eric Gordon AND a DJ White should be considered dangerous.


Washington State - A poor man's Georgetown, except they lack the playmakers They have some good shooters led by Derrick Low, a solid big man in Aron Baynes, and Kyle Weaver is a good all-around player. But point guard Taylor Rochestie has trouble getting into the paint and making plays. They will be a tough out in the tourney, but they don't have the horses to make a long tournament run.

Texas - The Longhorns have some very talented players - DJ Augustin, AJ Abrams, Connor Atchley, and Damion James. But that is it, Texas only goes six, maybe seven deep, but each of their starters play over 30 minutes, and that is bound to catch up to them. In the tourney they will be playing two games in three days, and a thin bench means tired legs.

Wisconsin - An impressive record playing in a weak Big Ten. They were blown out at Duke, and their best win (Texas) is a fellow pretender. They are an experienced group, and Brian Butch headlines a big front line, but they're only scorer from the perimeter is 6'1" PG Trevon Hughes, who despite being a much improved player, is not a great playmaker. As a result the Badgers struggle to score at times.


UConn - The Huskies have looked very good the last two weeks. AJ Price has turned into one of the best point guards in the country. Down the stretch in the last 5 games, the Huskies have put the ball in Price's hands and he has delivered with big bucket after big bucket. Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrien form an athletic duo up front, and combined with Stanley Robinson's athleticism UConn once again leads the country in blocks per game and is way up there in fg% defense. If Craig Austrie, Doug Wiggins, and Jerome Dyson (upon his return) can provide perimeter defense, energy, and knock some jump shots, this UConn squad can be very scary.

Butler - At this point they shouldn't really be considered a sleeper. Mike Green is a very underated player, averaging 15ppg, 6rpg, and 5 apg, Pete Campbell is a sharpshooter, and although teams seem to have figured out AJ Graves this year (36.8% fg, 35.4% 3pt), the three still form one of the best backcourts in the country. Although he is a bit undersized for a 4 (6'7"), freshman Matt Howard is a beast. As a team, the Bulldogs shoot 39% from deep, but when you live by the three you die by the three - is their two losses they averaged 47ppg and shot a combined 13-44 from three.

Xavier - Again, with their past tournament success, they should not really be considered a sleeper pick. This is a very experienced team that is incredibly balanced. They have seven guys that have started at least 9 of the 22 games, and six of those players average between 10 and 12 ppg (the one that doesn't averages 6 boards and leads the team in blocks). And if that's not enough, they actually have a guy on their team named Charles Bronson.

Drake - One of the last five teams with one loss or less, they are steam rolling through a tough MVC at 12-0, four games ahead of second place Illinois State. A very similar squad to fellow sleeper Butler, they have very good guards in Leonard Houston and Josh Young that take (and make) alot of threes. 6'8" center Jonathon Cox can rebound and hit three's, and with a point guard like Adam Emmenecker that can get in the lane with ease, nothing is better than surrounding him with shooters.

Kansas State - Everyone knows about all-world freshmen Michael Beasley and Bill Walker, but the Wildcats also have a talented, but inconsistent, supporting cast. If Jacob Pullen and Clint Stewart can play the way they did in the upset of Kansas, by not turning the ball over and providing another scoring option to Beasley and Walker, then K-State can go a long way. Continue reading...

Sunday, February 3, 2008

College Basketball 2/4 - And Then There was One

Kansas State 84, Kansas 75
Kansas State outplayed Kansas in every aspect enroute to beating the Jayhawks in Manhattan for the first time in 24 years. To put that into perspective, noone on the Kansas State roster was alive the last time the Wildcats won at home against Kansas. After being held to just eight first half points, Beasley led K-State with 17 in the second half, a half in which the Wildcats never trailed. The key to this game was the stellar play of K-State's guards Clint Stewart (11 pts and 5 rbs) and Jacob Pullen (20 pts, 4 asts). Kansas guards Mario Chalmers and Russell Robinson came in averaging over six steals a game combined, but Stewart and Pullen were consistently able to break their pressure, and only turned the ball over three times.

AJ Price, UConn
AJ Price averaged 20.5pts, 6.5rpg, and 4.5apg in a 2-0 week for the streaking Huskies. With the suspensions of Doug Wiggins and Jerome Dyson, Price has emerged as the go-to player for UConn, and possibly the best guard in the Big East. Down the stretch of both games, Jim Calhoun isolated Price at the top of the key countless times, and Price delivered with a bevy of runners, floaters, and acrobatic lay-ups. UConn has always had a dominant scoring guard that can take over a game (Ray Allen, Rip Hamilton, Ben Gordon), and Price has taken that crown

After sweeping their Washington and Washington State this week, Stanford has moved into second place in the Pac 10, 2 games up on three teams in third and 1 game behind UCLA. Led by Brook Lopez, who averged 24.5ppg, 10rpg, and 4bpg while holding Aron Baynes and Jon Brockman in check, Stanford has emerged as the biggest challenger to UCLA's hold on the Pac 10.

2/4 Gonzaga @ St. Mary's - The two best teams in a two-bid WCC face off to determine the team to beat.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Patrick Mills, St. Mary's and Matt Bouldin, Gonzaga - Two of the best young guards in the country square off.

2/5 Florida @ Tennessee - After a blow out loss to Arkansas, Florida looks to bounce back and get a signature win against a very good Tennessee team.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Marreese Speights, Florida - With the lack of a powerful inside game, Tennessee will need to slow down the powerful Speights to win.

2/5 Drake @ Illinois State - Drake, one of four one loss teams left in the country, has taken a three game lead in the MVC, with Illinois State in second place despite losing 3 of their last 5.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Osiris Eldridge, Illinois State and Josh Young, Drake - Young will have the task of slowing down Eldridge, the only true perimeter threat the Redbirds have.

2/6 Duke @ North Carolina - Duke - UNC. #2 and #3. Enough said.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Kyle Singler, Duke - That should really read the entire Duke front line. With no real post presence, Duke's big men are going to have their hands full with Tyler Hansbrough.

2/6 UCLA @ Washington State - Washington State desperately needs a win to turn around their fortunes after losing three of their last four games.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Kyle Weaver, Washington State and Josh Shipp, UCLA - Both seniors, these seniors are two of the best all-around guards in the nation.

2/9 Marquette @ Notre Dame - Notre Dame is currently by themselves in second place in a rugged Big East, and Marquette needs a road win badly. Winning in South Bend, where Notre Dame currently has a 32 game win streak, is about impressive as roads W's get.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Luke Harangody, Notre Dame - He averages 20 and 10 in the Big East, and Marquette has pourous interior defense. Look for a big game from 'Gody.

2/9 Mississippi @ Arkansas - Arkansas looks to finally be playing up to their potential (5-2 in SEC, last three wins by double digits), while Ole Miss needs to get on a role.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Sonny Weems, Arkansas - The senior has been playing great for the Rebels since the start of conference play.

2/10 St. Joseph's @ Xavier - After winning six in a row, St. Joseph's has tied Xavier for the A-10 lead. Barring a collapse, Xavier looks to have an auto bid locked up while St. Joe's really needs a big win for their resume.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Pat Calathes, St. Joe's - The 6'10" senior swingman (and brother of stud Florida freshman Nick Calathes) is averaging 18ppg and 8rpg, and creates real match-up problems with his perimeter ability. Continue reading...