Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

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

Archive for July 24th, 2008

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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