Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

An ode to Verne Lundquist’s calls and everything college basketball

Archive for July, 2008

Tuesday News and Notes

Posted by Zach on July 29, 2008

– Arizona is making news around the recruiting trail, both favorable to Lute Olson and potentially damaging. The good: Zona received a commitment from Solomon Hill, a 6’6, 195 pound California wing ranked in the top 100 by Scout.com. Hill is an excellent ball-handler with versatility and the ability to play multiple positions. For Hill to become a top-flight player for Arizona, though, his shooting needs to improve. The bad: the #33 player in the nation Greg Smith, a 6’8 power forward from Fresno, de-committed to the Wildcats and instead joined the Bulldogs. Nope, not Georgia or Gonzaga- his hometown Fresno State Bulldogs. Smith marks the best recruit Fresno State has ever reeled in. Smith told Fresno’s Scout.com page that “it was a soft verbal (to Arizona)” and his “heart was with Fresno State.” Arizona is in the running for the second ranked point guard in the nation, Abdul Gaddy, and could be leading, neck-and-neck with Memphis at this point at the top.

– The first round contests for the Old Spice Classic were announced this morning, and Maryland fans have to be feeling very slighted. The Terrapins will have to play Michigan State in the first round, the Spartans being a potential top-10 team and Big Ten title contender. On the same side of the bracket, Gonzaga takes on Oklahoma State, setting up a possible Michigan State-Gonzaga game in the semifinals. On the other side, Georgetown plays Wichita State and Tennessee gets dangerous Siena. The Spartans will most likely have to beat Maryland, Gonzaga and Tennessee to win the tournament title in what should prepare them sufficiently (and more) for the conference slate.

– Richmond lost its best player for the season on Monday. 6’8 forward Dan Geriot, who could have been one of the top players in the A-10 this campaign, tore his ACL in a summer league game in Philadelphia and will miss the entire season. Geriot averaged 14.3 PPG and 5.5 RPG for the low-scoring Spiders as a sophomore last season.

– Indiana extended Tom Crean two more seasons on top of his current deal. The program admires the fashion in which Crean took a devastating situation and is beginning to turn it around. At the recent NCAA committee hearing, Indiana was handed another violation that could result in penalties: a “failure to monitor” charge to the extensive Kelvin Sampson troubles list. The Hoosiers return just one player from last season’s disappointing campaign.

– West Virginia junior guard Joe Mazzulla, who experienced a breakout last few games for the Mountaineers in the NCAA Tournament, was arrested Monday night, along with teammate Cameron Throughman, with aggravated assault, underage drinking and hindering apprehension at a Pirates-Rockies game in Pittsburgh. The players argued with police when asked for an ID, and when resisting, Mazzulla accidentally punched a police officer. While they should face more disciplinary action from the team, if you know anything about Bob Huggins, I wouldn’t expect much.

– Finally, just wanted to point out this good article from Andy Katz regarding the Wake Forest situation. This team has a lot to look forward to. Jeff Teague and James Johnson are outstanding sophomores and the recruiting class new coach Dino Gaudio was able to reel in is phenomenal. Expect a great season in Winston-Salem in honor of fallen coach Skip Prosser.

Also: Ra’Sean Dickey has left to play in Europe and Texas A&M-CC committed nine NCAA violations.

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Summer Big East Report, Part II

Posted by Zach on July 25, 2008

Here’s Part II of the summer edition of the Big East Report:

Marquette
– The same core of Dominic James, Wesley Matthews and Jerel McNeal have starred together for three years now for Marquette, but have yet to reach a regional in the NCAA tournament, a goal new coach Buzz Williams believes is undoubtedly within range this upcoming season. McNeal emerged as the true stud of the group late last season in the Big East Tournament and in his compelling performance vs. Stanford in the second round of the NCAA. Joining McNeal is James, an erratic and still-developing point guard who shows flashes of brilliance but struggles with the jumper, and Wes Matthews, a powerful wing player who can slash and score but disappears all too often. Lazar Hayward is an under-the-radar candidate for all Big East honors this year, while David Cubillian and Maurice Acker help spread the floor with their three-point threats. Marquette will play in the Chicago Invitational and have non-conference games at Tennessee in Nashville and vs. Wisconsin, with multiple conference games against Georgetown, DePaul and Villanova.

Pittsburgh
Ranked #2 in my preseason Top 25, Jamie Dixon returns a squad with the ultimate goal of an NCAA title. The talent Pitt returns both inside and outside is sensational, starting with senior leader Levance Fields at the point guard position, a true outside shooting threat and constant floor presence. Joining Fields is the total package in Sam Young- scoring, rebounding, defense, passing. Also, don’t discount the work of DeJuan Blair in the post, who starred in more than one Big East game as a freshman with his low post scoring ability. The Panthers only lost Ronald Ramon to graduation and may get Mike Cook back for a sixth year depending on an NCAA decision. Pitt will play in the Legends Classic in New Jersey and while also playing at Florida State and still searching for an opponent at their second home, Madison Square Garden, in December. Pitt faces Connecticut in two exciting matchups, while also drawing West Virginia and DePaul twice.

Cincinnati
– The Bearcats and coach Mick Cronin boast one of the best players in the conference and in the nation: 6’1 guard Deonta Vaughn out of Indianapolis. Vaughn showed future stardom as a freshman by scoring at 14.3 per game, but bolted that total up to 17.3 PPG last season and finish with 30 points against the stellar Pitt defense. He could win Big East Player of the Year honors if Cincy can receive any contributions from their role players, specifically Adam Hrycaniuk from Poland and forward Rashard Bishop. Cincy was one of the most erratic teams in the nation last year, losing games vs. Bowling Green and Belmont, but also beating Louisville, Syracuse, Villanova and Pittsburgh, then losing six in a row to end the year. The Bearcats play in a Las Vegas tournament with Cal, UNLV and Florida State and play Memphis, Xavier and Florida State in non-conference. Cincy fortunately drew Georgetown, Providence and Saint John’s twice.

Connecticut
– Once Jim Calhoun recovers from a scary bout with skin cancer, the Huskies can take the floor touting one of the best teams in the nation collectively. Connecticut certainly has the athleticism to match any team in the nation, starting with 7’3 center Hasheem Thabeet, a future lottery pick who is clearly the best shot blocker in the nation, but needs his offensive game to develop leaps and bounds. If A.J. Price can recover fully from his ACL tear, Connecticut has one of the best guards in the conference. One of the most complete players is always efficient Jeff Adrien, a daily double-double candidate who shoots 50% from the floor. Jerome Dyson is an excellent compliment to Price in the backcourt. The Huskies did lose Curtis Kelly and Doug Wiggins to transfer and the status of Stanley Robinson is unknown, although he could return in the second semester. The Huskies will face Notre Dame, Seton Hall and Pittsburgh twice in conference while participating in the Paradise Jam and Gonzaga in Seattle during the non-conference slate.

Providence- The Friars hired Keno Davis away from Drake in a program-changing move after former coach Tim Welsh failed to get Providence over the hump. Jeff Xavier is back for Providence to boost the backcourt. The former Manhattan standout led the Friars in scoring last season at 12.4 PPG and will be joined by Weyinmi Efejuku, another double-digit per game scorer who teamed up with Xavier in a quality win vs. Connecticut in March of last season. Brian McKenzie is back as a junior and contributed with big performances early in the season before fading in Big East play. Lost is Dwain Williams to Oregon State, a stellar presence in the backcourt who shoots 90% from the line. With Providence returning seemingly everyone  from last season, look for Keno Davis to send Providence to the tournament as the Big East’s tenth team. Providence plays at Boston College and in the Anaheim Classic with Arizona State, Wake Forest and Baylor. The Friars will play Cincinnati, Rutgers and Villanova twice in a good draw.

Syracuse– Head coach Jim Boeheim will tell you he feels like the Syracuse basketball team has underachieved greatly the last few seasons, and to avoid any retirement pressure from critics and fans alike, the Cuse needs to excel this upcoming campaign and make the NCAA Tournament. Returning is speedy point guard Johnny Flynn, a true floor leader and dynamic scorer simultaneously who can distribute the basketball with outstanding precision and is a future NBA PG. Syracuse hopes to get contribution from Andy Rautins, a three-point specialist who tore his ACL early last season and is finally recovered. Eric Devendorf scored 17 PPG for the Orange last season in a widely underrated season, also improving his FG% from 41% to 47% along the way. Donte Greene departed too early for the NBA, so players like Scoop Jardine and Arinze Onuaku, along with budding star Paul Harris, will have to step up their games down low. Cuse plays in the CBE Classic with Kansas, Florida and Washington while also hosting Virginia and playing at Memphis. Georgetown, Villanova and Rutgers show up twice on the conference slate.

DePaul
– Superstar Draelon Burns is gone, so freshman standout Dar Tucker has to take the reigns and lead this DePaul squad if they want to make any sort of national splash. Tucker displayed his raw ability by dropping 22 on Louisville, 28 on Notre Dame and 23 on Pitt during conference season, so coach Jerry Wainwright may have a star on his hands. Tucker does need to develop more of a complete floor game, averaging just 1.0 APG in 07-08 and shooting 32% from long range. DePaul also returns big man Mac Koshwal as a double-double candidate straight from DePaul’s backyard in Chicago. They receive former Ohio State guard Eric Wallace as a transfer, as well. The Blue Demons play in the Las Vegas Invitational, at California and against UCLA in the Wooden Classic. Marquette, South Florida and Pittsburgh will be showing up twice on their conference schedule.

South Florida
– Stan Heath lost quite a few players this summer- Aaron Holmes, Solomon Bozeman, Orane Chin and Amu Saaka- but did manage to lure in Augustus Gilchrist from Maryland. The most devastating loss will be of big man Kentrell Gransberry, one of the best scorers (16 PPG) and rebounders (10.8 RPG)  in the conference last season. Dominique Jones was a godsend for USF last year as a 6’4 freshman, averaging 17.1 PPG while shooting 46% and putting up stellar performances all around: 30 in consecutive games in December, 31 vs. Seton Hall and 29 vs. Syracuse and Villanova. They’ll play in the San Juan Shootout with Wright State, Murray State and Oral Roberts, while also facing Virginia, UAB and Vanderbilt all on the road. The Bulls will play Louisville, West Virginia and DePaul twice.

I was going to do player and team rankings but have to gather more and more about each team before finishing a definitive list. Check back later for this.

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NCAA Position Rankings: Top 10 SF

Posted by Tommy on July 24, 2008

Small Forwards, also referred to as “wings,” are often the most versatile players on the floor. They possess the perimeter abilities of a guard, but have more size and usually more ability to create offense on their own. Their combination of length and athleticism usually makes them tough defenders as well. So to be a great small forward, you need to be able to do a little bit of everything on the court. Oh, and being an athletic freak might help a little bit too. This year’s class of small forwards was tough to rank, partially because all of these players have different playing styles, but mostly because there isn’t a Michael Beasley or a Kevin Durant to be a clear-cut number one.

1. Robert Vaden: In one of the most stunning single half performances of the year (second only to Tyrese Rice’s 34 point half vs. UNC), Vaden put up 28 points in the second half for the Blazers in their non-conference victory against Kentucky. Vaden took the C-USA by storm last year by increasing his PPG to 21.1, up almost 8 points from his 13.5 PPG the year before. One thing that really stands out about Vaden is that he isn’t afraid to shoot the ball. He had 10 or more field goal attempts in every game he played in except for one last season, in which he shot eight. He shoots 40 percent from beyond the arc, which is good, but what I’d like to see him improve on his his overall field goal percentage. He shot 40.8% from the field last year, meaning he wasn’t much more effective inside the arc than he was from outside. If he improves his slashing ability, he could very likely be C-USA’s leading scorer next season, as well as a nationally known star.

2. Sam Young: Last year, Young took on a much bigger roll for Jamie Dixon and the Panthers and performed very well throughout the season. He won Big East’s Most Improved Player, and returns to lead Pitt in what looks to be a very promising season. Young averaged 18.1 PPG last season, 11 more PPG than the previous season, and his only single digit scoring game came against Georgetown when he scored nine points. Young is a very smart, hard working player that has great fundamentals. Also, he can post up or drive and shoot, making him very tough to guard. Since he doesn’t possess blazing speed, he uses his high basketball IQ, strength, and his plethora of tools to beat his opponents.

3. Chase Budinger: Budinger has tested the NBA waters after each season of his college basketball career, but has decided to come back to Arizona each time. To me, this is the right decision because Budinger has some things to work on in his offensive game. His combination of height and athleticism makes him a dangerous wing player, but he’s a streaky shooter and needs to work on his dribble penetration ability. He’ll get plenty of chances to showcase his ability next season as the Wildcats’ main offensive threat. If he becomes a more consistent shooter and a better penetrator, Budinger can be a late lottery to early second round pick next year.

4. Tyler Smith: After garnering First Team All-SEC and Honorable Mention All American, Smith returns to the Vols as a leader for the 08-09 season. Last season, Smith led the Vols in rebounding (6.7 RPG), assists (3.4 APG) and in field goal percentage (53.6% from the field) and was third on the team in scoring with 13.6 ppg. He will see a much bigger offensive role for Bruce Pearl with the departure of leading scorer Chris Lofton. Look for Smith to continue filling up the stat sheet, to keep his high field goal percentage and to keep up his great defense next season.

5. Al-Farouq Aminu: Dino Gaudio landed one of the most versatile freshman of the 2008 class in Aminu. At 6’8″, he has great size for a small forward and he possesses the ability to effectively face up on the perimeter. He has a good shot, can penetrate pretty well, and could potentially post up his smaller opposition at the small forward. If he develops his inside and mid-range games, he will be able to score in a number of ways for the Demon Deacons.

6. Nick Calathes: Calathes was forced into a leadership role for Billy Donovan’s baby Gators last season because there was next to no experience around him. He can do everything on the floor: he averaged 15.3 ppg, 6.1 assists/game and 5.2 rebounds/game last year as a freshman but he’s a bit inconsistent. He’ll have to improve on his scoring ability as well as his consistency if he and the Gators are to be successful. I think Calathes will step up to the challenge as the leader of the Gators.

7. Devin Ebanks: Ebanks joins a free-flowing Mountaineer offense in which he should flourish. He has a great ability to create offense on his own, meaning he has a pretty good perimeter shot, has good penetration skills and can score around the rim. His size at 6’8″ will help see the rim over his opponents and his length makes him deceptive when he drives the basketball. Huggins brought in a freshman with plenty of raw talent and scoring ability, and I think Ebanks will turn into a great scorer in the Big East.

8. K.C. Rivers: Rivers does a lot of different things for Oliver Purnell. He plays the wing, as well as some guard, and can score, rebound and is one of the best defenders in the ACC. He averaged 14.7 ppg last year, 6.8 rebounds/game, which is very impressive for a 6’6″ wing, and 1.9 steals/game. Rivers is a good 3-point shooter at 40.2% from the beyond the arc, and plays bigger than his size might indicate. Rivers will be the leader for the Tigers next season and will be the source of a lot of their offense, whether it be from beyond the arc or in the paint.

9. Austin Daye: As a huge recruit, everybody expected Daye to come into Spokane and perform right away for the Zags. The 6’10” freshman only averaged 18.5 minutes/game last year, in which he scored 10.5 PPG and grabbed 4.7 rebounds/game. This year, Daye may see almost double the minutes he did last season, meaning theoretically, he should double his statistics. He was a raw talent as a freshman, but after an off-season with Mark Few and company, I think Daye will vastly improve his game and see more time on the court during the season.

10. Earl Clark: Clark is a very athletic forward for Rick Pitino and has a very strong game in the paint. He averaged 11.1 PPG and 8.1 rebounds/game in 28.5 minutes/game. He is a great player off the dribble and uses his strength to finish round the rim. If Clark can add a mid-range and perimeter game, he is a lock for an NBA lottery pick because of his athleticism. He can defend well and can block shots (1.7 blk/game), but turns the ball over too much. Clark will see more time next season as an upperclassman and I think will attract a lot of NBA scouts with his scoring ability.

Also Considered: Wes Matthews, Josh Shipp, Terrence Williams, Danny Green, Delvon Roe, Robbie Hummel.

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Summer Big East Report, Part I

Posted by Zach on July 24, 2008

Throughout the college basketball season, I’m planning on writing a weekly Big East Basketball Report to get our loyal following updated on the comings and goings of the best conference in the nation. I’ll update on the latest news, predict the upcoming week’s games, delve into some player and team rankings, and give reports from what I see live out of the Big East teams visiting the Bradley Center this season to play Marquette. Since the college hoops world is silent save those few privileged individuals at the recruiting showcase in Las Vegas, I decided an offseason edition wouldn’t hurt anyone. Here goes (and I had to split it up into two days because the conference is so damn big):

Georgetown-
The Hoyas and coach John Thompson III were blessed with the commitment of the top high school player in the nation Greg Monroe (although I’d argue DeRozan). Thompson hopes Monroe can fill some of the scoring void left by Roy Hibbert, Jonathan Wallace and Pat Ewing Jr. Speedy guard Chris Wright takes the reigns at the point guard slot, and with the departures of Vernon Macklin and Jeremiah Rivers, more shot opportunities for junior DaJuan Summers (11.1 PPG) and sophomore Austin Freeman will be available. The Hoyas play in the loaded Old Spice Classic in Orlando along with a home game vs. Memphis and a trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium to face Duke. Georgetown faces Marquette, Syracuse and Cincinnati twice.

Louisville-
Ranked #2 in Tommy’s preseason Top 25, Louisville returns a loaded roster in 08-09. Edgar Sosa is the wild card; if he can mature into an elite point guard, look out for the Cardinals. Returning is double-double threat Terrence Williams, sharp shooter Jerry Smith and future lottery pick Earl Clark to head the roster. Louisville also adds a very capable replacement for David Padgett in top-five overall high school player Samardo Samuels in the post. The Cardinals will face off with Minnesota in Las Vegas on December 20, face Kentucky at Freedom Hall on January 4, and also play Mississippi, Western Kentucky and UNLV in their non-conference slate. The home-and-homes are highlighted by Notre Dame in two outstanding contests, with Louisville also facing West Virginia and South Florida twice.

Notre Dame-
The Irish are ranked #3 in Pat’s preseason Top 25, and for good reason. They return the best inside-outside combo in the nation in reigning Big East Player of the Year Luke Harangody and three-point specialist Kyle McAlarney. The most underrated cog for the Irish is playmaking point guard Tory Jackson. They also added talented transfers Ben Hansbrough and Scott Martin to play in 2009-10, so Mike Brey is certainly not looking to miss a beast in the next couple campaigns. Key role players Zach Hillesland, Ryan Ayers and Luke Zeller also return. Notre Dame could face off with North Carolina in the Maui Invitational Final and will travel to UCLA in the middle of conference season.  Notre Dame couldn’t conjure the luck of the Irish for their home-and-homes: Connecticut and Louisville, along with Saint John’s.

West Virginia-
The Mountaineers lost some key parts to their Sweet 16 team of last year: first round pick Joe Alexander and departing senior Darris Nichols were arguably Bob Huggins’ two best players. Luckily for Morgantown, West Virginia reloaded with Indiana defect and super prospect Devin Ebanks, along with stellar top-50 player Kevin Jones out of the recruiting waters. Also, junior Da’Sean Butler and tournament breakout player Joe Mazzulla return, along with shooter Alex Ruoff, who shot 41% from three last season. The Mountaineers play in the Las Vegas Invitational from November 28-29 against Iowa and either Kansas State or Kentucky, along with games at Ohio State and home against Mississippi. West Virginia faces potential top-5 teams Louisville and Pittsburgh twice, along with South Florida.

Seton Hall-
The Pirates lost one of the most underrated players in the conference last season: senior forward Brian Laing, who scored 18.6 PPG and grabbed 6.9 RPG for head coach Bobby Gonzalez. They did manage to reel in talented guard Jordan Theodore to go along with Eugene Harvey and Jeremy Hazell in a high-upside backcourt. For the Pirates to have any success in 2008-09, they need Harvey to return to playing like he did as a freshman sensation. Gonzalez received good news on the transfer of Keon Lawrence to the program from Missouri, but lost Larry Davis to Loyola Marymount. The Pirates will play in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off with Memphis, USC, Missouri and Virginia Tech, along with home-and-homes with rivals St. John’s, Rutgers and Connecticut.

Rutgers-
The Scarlet Knights of Piscataway may sneak up on some Big East foes this season. Fred Hill’s team returns their top four scorers from last season’s disastrous 11-20 campaign, including senior J.R. Inman (12.2 PPG) and sophomore guard Corey Chandler (11.9 PPG). Shooter Anthony Farmer also returns to give Rutgers range from the outside, a 40% three point specialist. Rutgers also return defensive stud Hamady N’Diaye down low. Hill managed to receive a commitment from guard Mike Rosario, the ninth best shooting guard in the class according to Scout.com. Rutgers also got Anthony Mitchell from Florida as a transfer for next season. The Scarlet Knights face off against Seton Hall, Providence and Syracuse twice in the conference slate.

Villanova-
Jay Wright returns an intriguing bunch into the fray for next season in Philly. The Wildcats have been led by Scottie Reynolds ever since his first game as a freshman, as the 15.9 PPG scorer from last season once again returns as an All-Big East candidate. Improving his overall floor game as a point guard will be key for Reynolds future. Feeding perimeter players Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes, who really emerged at the end of last season, for open shots will help Villanova greatly. Villanova played with zero seniors last year, so continuity, along with other returnees like Dante Cunningham and Casiem Drummond in the post, are crucial factors for a successful campaign. Villanova will play in the Philly Hoops Classic at the Palestra and face Marquette, Syracuse and Providence twice in the conference schedule.

St. John’s
– Anthony Mason Jr. is the one true star on the roster; he averaged 14 PPG and 4.4 RPG in Big East play last season. Also returning is last year’s freshman breakout player Justin Burrell, who averaged 10.8 PPG and 5.9 RPG as a definite scoring and rebounding threat. Dele Coker is a 6’10 project who improved mightily over the course of last season in the paint. Replacing team leader Eugene Lawrence at the point guard spot is no easy task, and the Red Storm also lost arguably their best outside shooter to Oakland in Larry Wright. It could be another difficult year at the Garden for St. John’s and head coach Norm Roberts, who is already on the hot seat. The Johnnies play in the Preseason NIT in Boston College’s pod, along with difficult games vs. Duke and Miami in MSG. They’ll face Seton Hall, Notre Dame and Cincinnati twice during their Big East campaign.

Tomorrow: Marquette, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Providence, Syracuse, DePaul, South Florida. Along with Top 25 Big East Player Rankings and Preseason Team Power Rankings.

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NCAA Position Rankings: Top 10 SG

Posted by Tommy on July 20, 2008

I’m not a big fan of the term “shooting guard” because it makes it seem like the only job of these players is to shoot. I prefer two guard or off-guard because these days, guards are becoming much more explosive and versatile and are learning to score in many different ways. The two guard is the predominant scorer from the backcourt, and is often the best athlete on the team. This year, there are plenty of guards in all shapes and sizes that can score points in bunches with different styles of play.

1. James Harden: Exploding onto the scene last year, Harden showed college basketball fans what he is capable of. He’s a big, athletic guard that can do a lot of different things on the court. He averaged 17.8 ppg last year, which is good but not overly impressive. What does impress me is how he shot nearly 53 percent from the field last season, and over 40 percent from beyond the arc. He also averaged 2.1 steals/game last season, meaning he doesn’t slack off on the defensive end like a lot of these superstar scorers like to do. If Harden improves his consistency, which I think he will as he matures next season, he could make a surprise run for the Naismith.

2. Demar DeRozan: As a freshman, DeRozan will be a raw talent for Tim Floyd and the Trojans, but this year’s McDonald’s All-American dunk contest winner is a superstar athlete. He’s listed at 6’6″ and can jump out of the gym, making him a tough match-up for any guard/wing. He has tremendous upside, especially if he develops his outside shot, but this kid can make a living within 15 feet of the basket at any level of play. Look for DeRozan to put up plenty of shots, draw plenty of fouls, and put up big point numbers throughout the season.

3. Jack McClinton: Last season McClinton was a very deadly shooter from beyond the arc, shooting 42.7 percent from deep, and was a very good dribble penetrater. His 38 points versus St. Mary’s in the first round of last year’s tournament showed basketball fans his versatility. He was 12-19 from the field in that game, including 3-6 from deep, showing that he can shoot the three with efficiency, but doesn’t have to rely on the three ball for his scoring. McClinton has such great range on his jumper that the moving back of the three-point line won’t affect his shooting percentage from deep too much. McClinton’s supporting cast at Miami will be much improved for the 08-09 campaign, which will enable him to take better shots and put up big numbers.

4. Lester Hudson: Many basketball fans have never heard of Lester Hudson and are wondering why  he’s one of the Top 5 two guards in the nation. Well, to put it simply, Hudson was the 4th highest scorer in the country last season with 25.7 ppg, and is the highest scorer returning to the NCAA for this season. Yes, he does play for Tennessee-Martin in the OVC, but he would be a prolific scorer in any conference. Don’t believe me? Well, last year he scored 27 at Mississippi State, 26 at UNLV, and dropped 36 points at Vandy. Hudson isn’t just an offensive threat, he averaged 2.8 steals/game, which was also fourth best in the country last year. Hudson’s huge numbers, even agaisnt opponents from top tier conferences, are extremely impressive and he’s my pick for this year’s leading scorer.

5. Jrue Holiday: UCLA lands its second consecutive Gatorade National High School POY in Holiday after Kevin Love won it in 2007. This kid has great upside because he’s a very smart, coachable freshman and has good athleticism: a combination that will make the transition into college ball much easier for Holiday. I can’t wait to see him develop under Ben Howland, one of the best coaches in the country, and play in a back court with seniors Darren Collison and Josh Shipp. At only 180 pounds, it would be nice to see Holiday add some muscle mass to really fill his 6’3″ frame and improve his ability in the paint; but other than that Holiday is a well-rounded player with plenty of talent.

6. Lee Cummard: Cummard tested the NBA waters this season, but ultimately decided to come back to BYU for the 08-09 season. Cummard averaged 15.8 ppg last season, which doesn’t jump off the page in the least bit, but his consistency is remarkable. He scored in double digits in every game except for three last year, and made a three pointer in every game but three. He sank a deadly 47.2 percent of his three pointers last season and was especially lights out in the second half of the year from beyond the arc. His size at 6’7″ and shooting ability make him a very tough match-up for any opponent.

7. Marcus Thornton: Last year was a forgettable year for the LSU Tigers as a whole, but it was also a coming out party for Thornton. In his first season with LSU, the Kilgore College transfer averaged 19.6 ppg, which was second in the SEC last season. His shooting percentage numbers aren’t great at 43.6 percent from the floor and 37.7 percent from three, but those numbers are pretty impressive considering the lack of talent around him. If Thornton keeps his numbers up, he could be the leading scorer in the SEC, and maybe he could even lead LSU like Sundiata Gaines led Georgia to an improbable NCAA Tournament bid.

8. Wayne Ellington: Ellington’s offensive game is one of the most well-rounded in the country. He doesn’t have the height of a Cummard, the athleticism of a DeRozan, or even the shooting ability of a McAlarney, but he can score in a number of ways. He averaged 16.6 ppg and scored in double digits in all but five games for the Heels last season, and shot 40 percent from beyond the arc. Ellington is a very smart player that plays within his limits; he doesn’t chuck up threes with 28 seconds left on the shot clock, he doesn’t try to make passes through 3 defenders, he just seems to make the correct decisions and he lets the game come to him.

9. AJ Abrams: Last season, Abrams’ 3-point shooting percentage was the lowest of his Longhorn career at 38.2 percent. When I watched him play, it seemed like he would often force up shots he wasn’t capable of making. I can’t explain why he did this, but if he just let the shots come to him, as apposed to forcing the issue, I think we would see his numbers jump way up. He’s the main offensive threat of this Longhorn squad, so Barnes will get him plenty of shots, Abrams just has to take the right ones. He showed us his incredible range as a sophomore, and I think he will improve on last year’s numbers, making him one of the biggest scoring threats in the Big XII.

10. Josh Akognon: In the first round of the NCAA tournament last year, Cal State Fullerton drew one of the best defenses in country in the Wisconsin Badgers, but this didn’t intimidate Akognon in the least bit. He put up 31 points in that game, more points than any other player did vs. Wisconsin that season, and awed everybody who watched that game. At only 5’11”, Akognon isn’t the biggest of guards, but his unbelievable quickness allows him much-needed separation. Akognon has shown he can put up big numbers with the best of them, so look out for him and the Titans in next year’s NCAA Tournament.

Also Considered: Kyle McAlarney, Ricky Harris, Eric Devendorf, Jerel McNeal, Gerald Henderson, Alex Ruoff, Patrick Beverly.

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2008 Top 15 Mid-Majors

Posted by Patrick on July 19, 2008

(I will not include Gonzaga, C-USA, WAC, or MWC. I will be including A-10, and MVC.)

1.

The Toreros graduated no players in 2007, and they are ready to make another run at a WCC title. Last year’s win against UConn was certainly no fluke and this team is locked and loaded for next season. Led by seniors Brandon Johnson and Gyno Pomar and Coach Bill Grier, don’t expect anything less than an NCAA tourney run from San Diego in ’08.

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG- Trumaine Johnson ( 5.7 PPG, 2.7 APG) So.

SG- Brandon Johnson (16.9 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 3.5 APG) Sr.

G- De’Jon Jackson (7.6 PPG) Jr.

PF- Rob Jones (9 PPG, 5.8 RPG) So.

C- Gyno Pomare (14.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.3 BPG) Sr.

2.

The reason Davidson isn’t my choice for the number one mid major team is because they lost their point guard in Jason Richards. Of course, they still have Stephen Curry who will be making the transition to point guard this season and probably for the rest of his life as he will pursue an NBA career. This team will rest on Curry, and while that can be a good thing, it can also cause major problems. We’ll see if they are able to build on last year’s success and make another deep tournament run under a very good coach in Bob McKillop.

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG- Stephen Curry (25.9 PPG) Jr.

SG- William Archambault (5 PPG) Jr.

SF- Max Paulhaus-Gosselin (3.5 PPG, 3.6 RPG) Sr.

PF- Stephen Rossiter (3 PPG, 3.3 RPG) Jr.

C- Andrew Lovedale (6.8 PPG, 5.4 RPG) Sr.

3.

Dayton certainly exceeded expectations last year, but as soon as they were looked at as a tournament team their performance began to drop whether it was due to injury or that the A-10 was very underrated last season. They had a great NIT run but this season they should be the favorites in the A-10 and look to get to the NCAA tournament. The loss of Brian Roberts will take its toll on this team, but  have a great coach, so as the season progresses it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG- London Warren (4.3 PPG, 1.9 APG) Jr.

SG- Marcus Johnson (10.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG) Jr.

G- Paul Williams (24 PPG at Renaissance High School in Detroit) Fr.

PF- Chris Wright (10.4 PPG, 5.7 RPG) So.

C- Kurt Huelsman (5.9 PPG, 4 RPG) Jr.

4.

Siena had a great start to last season when they beat Stanford, and then they also had a great end to the season when they destroyed Vanderbilt in the first round of the tournament. This team reminds me of Bucknell the year after they beat Kansas. Siena returns all five starters led by Edwin Ubiles and will look to have an even better season and maybe a Sweet 16 appearance.

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG- Ronald Moore (8.6 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 5.3 APG) Jr.

SG- Kenny Hasbrouck (16.1 PPG, 3.3 RPG) Sr.

SF- Edwin Ubiles (17 PPG, 4.4 RPG) Jr.

PF- Alex Franklin (15.1 PPG, 7.8 RPG) Jr.

C- Josh Duell (5.5 PPG, 3.3 RPG) Sr.

5.

Saint Mary’s didn’t have a great end to the season when they lost two straight games, but they did make the NCAA tournament and they return a lot for next season. Led by Diamon Simpson, and Aussie phenom Patrick Mills, the Gaels look as if they will have another NCAA tournament run.

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG- Patrick Mills (14.8 PPG, 3.5 APG) So.

SG- Carlin Hughes (5.9 PPG, 2.4 APG) Sr.

SF- Ian O’Leary (7.6 PPG, 4.8 RPG) Sr.

PF- Diamon Simpson (13.4 PPG, 9.6 RPG) Sr.

C- Omar Samhan (10.5 PPG, 7.3 RPG) Jr.

6.

Cleveland State took a huge step in the right direction last year when they made the NIT, but this year they are looking for an NCAA tournament birth. Being the favorite in the Horizon League isn’t something CSU fans are used to saying about their team, but in 2008, led by J’Nathan Bullock and Cedric Jackson, there is no reason that the Vikings shouldn’t be Horizon League champions in March.

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG- Cedric Jackson (13.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 4.9 APG) Sr.

SG- Joe Davis (8.4 PPG) Jr.

SF- George Tandy (4.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG) Sr.

PF- J’Nathan Bullock (14.8 PPG, 6.6 RPG) Sr.

C- Chris Moore (4.9 PPG, 2.7 RPG) Sr.

7.

Creighton certainly put up a good fight in the Valley last season, and had some games come down to the wire that they couldn’t quite pull out. They had a very rough outing with Florida in the NIT, but when a young team (graduating just 3 seniors) comes off of a 22 win season usually big things are expected next season, In a down year for the MVC, the Blue Jays look like the favorite.

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG- Cavell Witter (9.1 PPG, 2.6 APG) Sr.

SG- P’Allen Stinett (12.6 PPG) So.

G- Booker Woodfox (9.6 PPG) Sr.

PF- Chad Millard (4.1 PPG, 3.2 RPG) Jr.

C- Kenny Lawson Jr. (5.9 PPG, 4.2 APG) So.

8.

VCU definitely didn’t live up to its high expectations last season, but Eric Maynor should send them back in the driver’s seat in the CAA for the 2008-09 season. The only question is if Maynor’s supporting cast can be any good. If they are, VCU has a chance to surprise some teams next season. However, if the rest of the players play like last season VCU may have trouble even winning the CAA.

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG- Eric Maynor (17.9 PPG, 5.5 APG) Sr.

SG- Joey Rodriguez (5.1 PPG) Jr.

SF- Lance Kearse (3.9 PPG) Jr.

PF- Larry Sanders (4.9 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 3 BPG) Jr.

F- T.J. Gwynn (3.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG) Sr.

9.

Some people might be asking why I have the Titans so high, but the play of Josh Akognon last season speaks for itself. He had an amazing game against Wisconsin in the first round scoring 31 points, and averaged over 20 points per game over the course of the season. This kid is probably the most underrated player in the country, and I think he is rivaling Stephen Curry for the best Mid-Major player. This team will ride Akognon to the tournament and maybe even make a good run, but it will be hard as they lost 7 seniors last season and don’t return a lot of good players other than Akognon. They have some solid JUCO prospects that I think will make the transition and play well for CSF.

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG- Marcus Crenshaw (8.6 PPG) Sr.

SG- Josh Akognon (20.2 PPG) Sr.

G- Marcio Lassiter (3.3 PPG) Sr.

SF- Gerard Anderson (DNP last season) Sr.

C- Eddie Lima (1.5 PPG) Sr.

10.

Wright State came very close to another upset over Butler for the Horizon league title, but their play at the beginning of the season was pretty lousy. This year they will be back and trying to pull an upset over Cleveland State by winning the HL. The core of their lineup returns but the main concern will be picking up the rebounding slack left by seniors Scottie Wilson and Jordan Pleiman.

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG- Will Graham (5.9 PPG, 3.5 APG) Sr.

SG- Vaughn Duggins (13.8 PPG) Jr.

G- Todd Brown (12.7 PPG) Jr.

G- Troy Tabler (5 PPG) So.

PF- Cooper Land (3.2 PG) So.

11.

Tennessee-Martin has one heck of a player in Lester Hudson, and will have a good chance to pull some upsets and win the Ohio Valley Conference this season. If they want to have any chance of winning a tournament game they have to play good defense, and that was something that the 07-08 Skyhawks struggled with. That team came within a point of making the OVC finals last year, and are easily the favorites coming into this next season.

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG- Marquis Weddle (17.1 PPG) So.

SG- Lester Hudson (25.7 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 4.5 APG) Sr.

G- Benzor Simmons (5 PPG) So.

PF- Olajide Hay (4.5 PPG, 4.6 RPG) Sr

C- Djero Riedewald (5.3 PPG, 4.4 RPG) Sr.

12.

Drake had an amazing season last year. They were picked 10th in the preseason MVC poll and ended up winning the league and garnering a 5 seed in the tournament only to lose a heartbreak game to Western Kentucky. The Bulldogs lost a lot including their coach Keno Davis, but they do return stellar guard Josh Young who is primed to make another run at the conference title and probably MVC player of the year.

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG- Josh Young (15.9 PPG) Sr.

SG- Jacob Baryenbruch (2.2 PPG) Sr.

SF- Alex White (3.7 PPG, 2.9 RPG) Sr.

PF- Brent Heemskerk (4.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG) Sr.

C- Sean Jones Fr.

13.

Oral Roberts has been a pretty successful basketball program in the last few seasons, and it looks like next year they should make the tournament once again as Summit League favorites. They lost some key seniors but will most likely bounce back on the play from Robert Jarvis. This team has pretty good defense and they won’t run into much trouble in the Summit.

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG- Kelvin Sango (3.8 PPG, 1.3 APG) Sr.

SG- Robert Jarvis (16.1 PPG) Sr.

SF- Marchello Vealy (4.6 PPG, 4.8 RPG) Sr.

PF- Marcus Lewis (8.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG) Sr.

F- Andre Hardy (4.1 PPG, 3.6 RPG) So.

14.

This team is pretty much a lock for winning the Atlantic Sun every season, and last year they almost took it a step further when they played in one of the most thrilling games in the tournament, losing to Duke 71-70. This team will most likely rely on Shane Dansby for the most of the scoring, but usually Belmont is prided on playing great defense and if they continue to play great defense maybe it won’t be long before we see them pulling an upset in the tournament.

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG- Andy Wicke (9.3 PPG, 3 APG) Sr.

SG- Shane Dansby (13.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG) Sr.

SF- Jordan Campbell (7.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG) So.

PF- Matthew Dotson (11.4 PPG, 3.6 RPG) Sr.

C- Will Peeples (4.1 PPG, 3 RPG) Sr.

15.

The reason I don’t have Saint Joseph’s higher is because I think the loss of Pat Calathes will really hurt them. The return of Ahmad Nivins will be key, but this team is really a toss up. They looked as if they weren’t going to make the tournament because they were in that mess that was the middle of the A-10. Then with a high RPI, they got what some people thought was a terrible snub of other teams like Arizona State, and Syracuse. They had a very up and down season and it will be interesting to see if this year’s senior class steps up to the plate and takes on a good leadership role.

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG- Tasheed Carr (10.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 5.6 APG) Sr.

SG- Garrett Williamson (5.3 PPG, 2.7 RPG) Jr.

G- Darrin Govens (9.8 PPG) Jr.

PF- Bryant Irwin Fr.

C- Ahmad Nivins (14.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG)

Also Considered: Butler, Robert Morris, William & Mary, South Alabama, Valparaiso, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Temple

Posted in Team Rankings | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Daye Does Not Tear ACL; Will Miss Only 3 Weeks

Posted by Zach on July 18, 2008

UPDATE 7/18: So that report Austin Daye partially tore his ACL?

Not true. Pat, you can breathe a sigh of relief.

According to Andy Katz, Daye does not have a torn ACL, will not require surgery, and will miss only three weeks with a bone bruise and a minor, low-grade tear. Daye will now strengthen his leg with rest the next few weeks before returning to practice and will be able to play in all of Gonzaga’s regular season contests.

—————————————————————

At first, we thought he just pulled a hamstring at LeBron James Skills Camp last week. Turns out the injury is much more serious for sophomore star Austin Daye of Gonzaga- partially torn ACL. A precautionary MRI taken showed Daye’s injury to be much more concerning than just an injured hamstring tendon. Gonzaga fans can at least be thankful the ACL wasn’t completely torn, resulting in a lost season for Daye and his draft stock essentially falling through the roof. A timetable for his return is unknown at this point, but a rough estimate calls for Daye to be at full strength by conference season. Unfortunately for the Zags, often their non-conference slate is more important for their tournament seeding, and this year it features UConn, Memphis, Tennessee and Arizona, now without Daye at the four.

Recruiting update: Pittsburgh just received a committment from power forward Dante Taylor out of National Christian High in Maryland. Taylor is ranked as the sixth best PF in the class of 2009 by Scout.com and received a five-star rank. Taylor could be Pitt’s third high school All-American in their team’s history. Taylor chose Pitt over Syracuse, Kansas, Memphis and West Virginia. Great coup for Jamie Dixon.

Posted in Quick Posts | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

Dissecting The Fearless

Posted by Zach on July 18, 2008

This week, SI college basketball writer Luke Winn wrote an article claiming 25 fearless predictions for the upcoming season. While at first I planned to write my own piece with 25 new predictions, I figured I could throw out baseless thoughts and nobody would hold my feet to the fire anyway. Like on Baseball Tonight when John Kruk predicted Randy Johnson would win 30 games in 2006 and, when he came up miles short, nobody mentioned it again. Instead, I’ll hold Winn’s feet to the fire and decide whether his fearless predictions will be fact or fiction.

Quick disclaimer: None of these predictions are fearless.

1. We’ll be talking about two freshmen in contention for the #1 pick in the 2009 NBA Draft: USC guard DeMar DeRozan and Ohio State center B.J. Mullens

Fiction: The top two picks in the draft will be DeRozan and Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin. Griffin will emerge as a Tyler Hansbrough clone with more projection for the NBA, featuring advanced post moves and a knack for scoring/passing. DeRozan is an athletic freak who can jump out of the building and has a complete game. Mullens, on the other hand, will prove too inconsistent to be a #1 or #2 overall pick.

2. The Big East will send nine teams to the NCAA Tournament

Fact: Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Louisville, Marquette and Connecticut are locks. Joining those five will be Georgetown, Syracuse, Villanova, West Virginia, and Providence as the tenth team in the dance.

3. Marquette coach Buzz Williams will win more games than any other newly named head coach

Fact: And it won’t even be close. Johnny Dawkins needs to rebuild at Stanford, Trent Johnson is approaching at LSU, and I have faith in Keno Davis at Providence. But none of these teams can match the talent returning for Buzz Williams.

4. Davidson will not be a top 20 team
Fact: Jason Richards is a very underrated loss for this team. They rode a magical carpet ride to the Elite 8, but carrying that success to the next season is very difficult. They’ll march through the Southern like Sherman in Atlanta and figure to be competitive in their hard non-conference slate, peeking into the top-25 a few times during the year.

5. This year’s George Mason will not exist.
Fact: Davidson came close. We won’t see a mid major reach the Final Four for many, many years.

6. The final verdict on Detroit as a Final Four city will be bad.

Fiction: Detroit has always been a quality basketball town. For us bloggers who don’t get to complain about the location from the location, this is completely irrelevant. Give us classic games, please.

7. Purdue will win its first of three straight Big Ten titles.

Fiction: Purdue won’t even take home the crown this season- look for Tom Izzo and Michigan State to be holding the trophy in early March. The Boilermakers finish a close second, though.

8. Illinois and Bruce Weber will beat Indiana twice this year.

Fact: The Illini went through a rebuilding year after losing out on Eric Gordon last season, but expect them to beat up on punching bag Indiana this season, who have completely redefined rebuilding. Demetri McCamey is my breakout candidate for the Big 10.

9. DeMar DeRozan will average more points than O.J. Mayo did his freshman year

Fact: Mayo averaged 20.7 points per game last year at USC. While it’s lofty to predict DeRozan to average any more than that, I’ve been hyping this kid up for long enough and I’m not going to stop now. DeRozan will average 22 PPG for a USC team that doesn’t have an exciting supporting cast, especially if Taj Gibson is as unreliable as he was last campaign.

10. USC won’t get into any trouble for the Mayo scandal

Fact: What happened to the Reggie Bush scandal, too? Did that magically disappear?

11. Watch out for Texas A&M’s Bryan Davis as a breakout post presence

Fact: Davis has the talent and potential to emerge for A&M, and should see more and more shot opportunities with DeAndre Jordan regretfully parting ways and Joseph Jones out of the picture. I need to stop agreeing with Luke Winn.

12. There isn’t going to be a debate: Tyler Hansbrough will be the clear Player of the Year.

Fiction: If Curry averages 28 PPG, even for a small school, his name will be mentioned frequently. Hansbrough is the likely victor, but candidates like James Harden, Tyrese Rice, DeMar DeRozan, Robert Vaden, Luke Harangody and Curry could definitely emerge.

13. VCU’s Eric Maynor will be the second best mid major point guard behind Curry

Fact: Look out for Lester Hudson at Tennessee-Martin, but for higher mid majors, this is obviously true. How are these fearless predictions again?

14. James Harden of Arizona State will turn into a household name

Fact: Harden is a truly remarkable talent with the best slashing and pure scoring ability near the basket of any forward in the nation, someone who can simply take over any game late. Again, fearless? Really, Luke?

15. DeJuan Blair of Pittsburgh will turn into a household name

Fiction: Blair doesn’t have the complete offensive repertoire to take America by storm. This is unless Pitt reaches deep in the NCAA Tournament and Blair turns into a sensation while we watch him smile 85 times per game and hear Jay Bilas gush about how much he’s a “tremendous individual.” We can all look forward to that.

16. Underrated NBA Draft dropout: Lee Cummard of BYU.

Fact: Ignore the fact that Lee Cummard is the perfect name for someone at BYU, and you’ll find a player who can easily repeat as Mountain West Player of the Year. Cummard scores in double figures in all but three games last year and shot 47% from deep.

17. Chase Budinger will help his draft stock by returning, but won’t have a very enjoyable season.

Fact: Losing Brandon Jennings was crippling for Lute Olson. I don’t see Chase Budinger carrying Arizona to any lofty goals this season, and while Jordan Hill is an exciting player, this core isn’t enough to lead the Wildcats anywhere past the second round.

18. Unsung hero for Michigan State this year: Goran Suton.

Fiction: Suton is one of the biggest enigmas in college basketball; he has the size and abilities to take over games in the post, but is often passive and fades every year in conference play. The real reason Michigan State should be feared is explosive point guard Kalin Lucas.

19. No one in the SEC West will challenge Tennessee.

Fact: Wait, these are supposed to be fearless predictions?

20. Australia’s next big contribution will be Ater Majok from Connecticut

Fact: Majok has quite an impressive trial to Storrs: born in Sudan, moved to Egypt and finally made his way to Australia. Like Thabeet was his freshman year, Majok will be very raw and unpolished. I’ll say fact based on Majok staying a few years when he can truly contribute.

21. Duke will miss the Final Four

Fact: It’s the same old story for the Blue Devils- the lack of any dominating inside presence will turn Duke into a shooting team when they can’t afford to be.  Unless Lance Thomas or Brian Zoubek decide to change their game this summer, Duke will once again be a Sweet 16 team.

22. Bucks assistant Kelvin Sampson will be booed in the Bucks road game at Indiana

Fact: Does anyone really care?

23. Tyreke Evans will be a far more selfish player than Derrick Rose

Fact: Absolutely positively factual. Evans is a true talent who can run the floor, create his own shot and score in bunches. Rose was a pass-first special point guard, the type of player winning teams always have. At points this year John Calipari will find Mr. Evans very frustrating to deal with.

24. Wisconsin will be ranked again this season

Fact: The defensive system they have in Madison is unmatched and Bo Ryan’s team returns just enough to flirt with the Top 25 at various times this season.

Finally (drum roll please) the most FEARLESS prediction of them all:

25. North Carolina will win the national title.

There you go, folks. Fearless predictions from SI’s own Luke Winn.

Posted in Predictions | 2 Comments »

NCAA Position Rankings: Top 10 PG

Posted by Tommy on July 17, 2008

The ability of a point guard to run an offense and distribute the ball is very key for a college basketball team’s success. Great point guards are tough to come by, and extremely tough to keep around because there is such a high demand for point guards in the NBA. I am going to run down the top 10 point guards in the country for the upcoming 2008-2009 season.

1.  Ty Lawson: Lawson is one of the few exceptions of highly skilled point guards that stick around for all four seasons. The “Roadrunner” is the fastest player with the ball in the NCAA, helping him run the potent UNC fastbreak. He can get the ball into the right hands, but Lawson is also a great scorer around the rim. With all the running UNC does, Lawson doesn’t get too many chances to show what he can do in a half-court offense, but he would be my first choice to run a fast-break. He spent the second half of last year bothered by an ankle injury so he’ll be back at 100 percent for the first time in a while.

2. Jeremy Pargo: As a freshman, Pargo was a guard with plenty of raw, unpolished talent. There was no question he could get to the bucket, but there wasn’t much else he could do with much effectiveness at the college level. Pargo has come leaps and bounds from where he was as a freshman, and now he is the leader of the Zags. He not only developed his decision making, but improved his shot as well, making him a big scoring threat from the point guard position.

3. Tyrese Rice: Rice was one of the few bright spots for BC last season. He can fill the hole with anybody in the country, just look at the UNC game last season. The only problem for Rice is that there was so little offensive talent around him last year that he had to do a lot of the scoring on his own as well as force the ball into tight holes. As a result, he averaged 3.4 turnovers/game and had a 1.45 assist-to-turnover ratio. It would be awesome to see a talent like Rice in Lawson’s place at UNC, but he isn’t, so that’s why he is my #3.

4. Scottie Reynolds: Unlike Pargo, Reynolds came to Villanova and performed as a point guard right away: he scored 40 points versus UConn as a frosh and was named 2006-07 Big East Rookie of the Year. Last year, Reynolds had a good year, averaging 15.9 ppg and 3.2 apg, but didn’t really live up to his high expectations. Villanova returns many of the same players so I think they’ll build more chemistry as a unit, and this is a big draft stock year for Reynolds as well so look for him to really try to improve his game.

5. Greg Paulus: Paulus has improved over the past couple of years more than anybody in the nation. He really struggled at times running the point for Coach K as a freshman, averaging 3.3 turnovers/game and only 6.7 ppg. Over the course of his junior season he cut his mistakes down to 1.6 turnovers/game and improved his scoring to 11.4 ppg. Although his stats show improvement, you have to watch him to see how much he has improved. You can see how his confidence has increased, not only as a point guard, but as a scorer as well. He stopped forcing passes and took better shots, not to mention he became deadly from behind the arc last season. If Paulus can continue improving, look for him to be a great true point guard.

6. Darren Collison: Collison has one of the most well-rounded skill sets as a point guard in the country. Nothing about his game really stands out on the offensive end when you watch him, but he does everything well. He is a good decision maker, can get to the rim pretty well, has a pretty good shot from beyond the arc and is a good floor general. What makes him different from most point guards in the nation is that he takes pride on the defensive end of the floor and is a lock-down defender. His well-rounded skills, coupled with his defensive ability make him a top tier point guard.

7. Stephen Curry: With Curry being a two-guard his entire college career, this is kind of based on speculation. He played point guard in high school so he knows what it takes, but the college game is a huge step up for point guards. Scoring-wise, we all know what Curry can do with the ball in his hand. The only question is whether he can make good decisions as a point guard. I wouldn’t be surprised if Davidson ran an NBA style pick-and-roll offense to give Curry chances to create. I think he’ll be a great point guard, but he’s at #7 only because his skills aren’t proven.

8. Levance Fields: Heart. It’s the first word that comes to my mind when I think about Levance Fields. He was expected to miss the whole second half of the season due to a broken left foot, but Levance made it back in the middle of the Big East regular season for the Panthers. He makes up for his diminutive stature (listed at a generous 5’10”) with his heart, and is the leader of the Panthers. His assist-to-turnover ratio was close to 3:1 last season, meaning he is a great decision maker and who could forget about his shot to beat Duke?

9. AJ Price: Price is one of the more talented guards in the country, and his improvement since his freshman year makes for a promising junior year for Price. Price suffered a near-fatal brain hemorrhage before his freshman season, resulting in an extra year of eligibility. His comeback from the hemorrhage has been remarkable, and I think he’ll continue to grow as a point guard. Last season he averaged a huge 5.8 apg, but he had 2.4 turnovers/game. If he cuts down on the turnovers he is a top tier point guard with plenty of scoring ability.

10. Devan Downey: One of the most underrated guards in college basketball looks to improve on his 18.4 ppg from last season for the Gamecocks. He transferred from Cincy to South Carolina after his freshman year and will be coupled with Zam Fredrick in the Gamecocks’ backcourt. Downey is a very explosive athlete and can get to the rim with the best of them. He also added 5.4 apg last year as a sophmore, but like AJ Price, committed too many turnovers with 2.7 TO/game. Look for Downey to surprise a lot of people this year with his explosive talent.

Also Considered: Jonny Flynn, Kyle McAlarney, Dominic James, Grievis Vasquez, Eric Maynor, Ish Smith, Chris Warren, Trevon Hughes, Kalin Lucas.

Posted in Player Rankings | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments »

ACC/Big 10 Challenge Schedule Announced; Cook and Caracter

Posted by Zach on July 16, 2008

We’ve been able to predict some matchups for awhile now based on last year’s standings, but the official schedule for the ACC/B10 challenge was released today. The solo Monday contest will pit Wisconsin and Virginia Tech, two teams that are likely middle seeds in the NCAA Tournament. Tuesday’s most intriguing matchup is Duke @ Purdue in what promises to be a close-knit thriller featuring two top 15 teams. Wednesday’s UNC-Michigan State game will be played at Ford Field and is the headliner that night. Will this finally be the year the Big Ten wins? I wouldn’t bet on it.

Mon., Dec. 1
Wisconsin at Virginia Tech (ESPN2, 7pm)

Tue., Dec. 2
Ohio State at Miami (ESPN, 7pm)
Iowa at Boston College (ESPNU, 7pm)
Clemson at Illinois (ESPN2, 7:30pm)
Duke at Purdue (ESPN, 9pm)
Virginia at Minnesota (ESPN2, 9:30pm)

Wed., Dec. 3
Indiana at Wake Forest (ESPN, 7:15pm)
Penn State at Georgia Tech (ESPN2, 7:30pm)
Michigan at Maryland (ESPNU, 7:30pm)
North Carolina vs. Michigan State (ESPN, 9:15pm)
Florida State at Northwestern (ESPN2, 9:30pm)

————————————

Also, this from Andy Katz:

Pitt was supposed to hear this week from the NCAA about whether Mike Cook would receive a sixth season of eligibility. But the NCAA asked for more information, and Pitt has still not gotten a decision. Cook tore his ACL against Duke on Dec. 20.

I heard the Cook resolution was taken care of by the NCAA and he’d gained eligibility for this season earlier in the summer, but with the NCAA slow as usual in their decision making, Cook is on the fence. With the Panthers senior defensive leader on the floor, they become a top-5 team, possibly a favorite for number two behind North Carolina. Without Cook, the team is still immensely talented and can contend for the Big East crown, but not quite as balanced and dynamic.

Also in the Big East, can you believe Rick Pitino is giving Derrick Caracter another chance? The guy who has been a complete nuisance and selfish act his entire career, at every level, will get yet another shot to redeem his career as Slick Rick stoops to a new low in order to win. Caracter can rejoin the Cardinals in 2009-10 if he follows a list of rules including: attending all classes, finding a Pitino-approved job and getting into shape. Let me go out on a limb and say Caracter will never suit up for Louisville again.

But we all like comeback stories. So why not?

Posted in Preseason Tourneys | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »