Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

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

Archive for August 4th, 2008

NCAA Position Rankings: Top 10 PF

Posted by Tommy on August 4, 2008

Power forwards are the tough guys on the court. They bang bodies down low, battle for rebounds and jump on loose balls. This year’s class of power forwards is very top-heavy with three potential Naismith candidates and other players that will see increased offensive roles. The players on this list not only do the little things for their respective teams, they can fill the stat columns as well.

1. Tyler Hansbrough: No surprises here. The reigning Naismith Award winner returns to the Tar Heels for his senior season and looks to lead them to a National Title. He not only fills the stat sheet with 22.6 PPG and 10.2 RPG last season, but he brings hustle and intensity to the floor and believes that every loose ball belongs to him. Barring injury, Hansbrough should put up similar numbers this year and is the front-runner for the Naismith again this year. What he really wants is a national championship.

2. Luke Harangody: Harangody exploded onto the scene last season and won a much-deserved Big East Player of the Year as a sophomore. The big man used his great combination of power and touch around the rim and averaged 20.4 PPG and 10.6 RPG in only 29 min./game. The Irish have a lot of the same faces around for the upcoming season, so defenses can’t give Harangody too much attention. I think Harangody can improve on last year’s numbers and perhaps even make a push with Hansbrough for National Player of the Year.

3. Blake Griffin: Like Harangody, Griffin has the potential to throw himself into Naismith Award conversation. He had a good freshman season with 14.7 PPG and 9.1 RPG and showed us he has the potential to become a superstar. He shot a 56.8% from the field last season, showing that he is very tough to stop down low. One chink in Griffin’s armor is his free throw shooting. He shot 58.9% from the line last season, which is one reason he doesn’t have a higher PPG average. If he improves his free throw shooting ability and takes more shots from the floor, Griffin’s point numbers will sky-rocket during his sophomore season and will probably end up being next year’s number one pick in the NBA Draft.

4. Jon Brockman: After testing the NBA waters, Brockman returns to Washington to improve his draft stock. His numbers were very impressive last year with 17.8 PPG and 11.6 RPG while shooting 53.6% from the field. He plays tough down low and has a very good variety of post moves. With the departure of the Lopez twins and Kevin Love, the Pac-10 is pretty small this year, so look for Brockman to really beat up on his opponents and put up big numbers throughout the season.

5. Jeff Adrien: UConn’s leading scorer is back for his senior season and looks to improve on last year’s 14.8 PPG and 9.1 RPG. What I like most about Adrien is his toughness and strength; finesse is not a word in his vocabulary. He brings energy to the game every second he’s on the court and doesn’t mind doing the dirty work down low. Since he plays in a conference with the a lot of the best frontcourts in the nation, it’s tough for Adrien to put up huge numbers, but he plays his role well and knows what he’s capable of.

6. Raymar Morgan: Morgan hasn’t really seen a big scoring role for Tom Izzo in his first two years as a Spartan. With the departure of their main offensive threat Drew Neitzel, Morgan is going to play a much bigger offensive role this season. He averaged 14 PPG and 6.1 RPG last season which isn’t too impressive, but he shot 55.8% from the field. If Morgan polishes his jumper and improves on his scoring ability down low a little bit, Morgan could average around 20 PPG in a conference that isn’t exactly known for it’s scoring.

7. Jeff Pendergraph: Much like Brockman, Pendergraph will benefit from the lack of size in the Pac-10. He shot nearly 60% from the field last season but only averaged 12.4 PPG. There were plenty of games in which Pendergraph only took 3 to 5 shots. Another interesting thing is that his rebounding dropped 3 RPG from his sophomore season. He has shown he has the ability to take over a game, but he just needs to be involved in the offense every time he steps onto the court. If he scores and rebounds like he is capable of doing, he is a First Team Pac-10 player.

8. Dior Lowhorn: Lowhorn saw his scoring increase from 7.2 PPG for Texas Tech during the 05-06 season to 20.5 PPG last year after he transferred to San Francisco. Lowhorn’s consistency is remarkable, scoring no less than 10 points in every game and he can score against anybody. Last year, he had a 26 point performance against Blake Griffin and Oklahoma, scored 20 points against Luke Harangody and Notre Dame and dropped 29 against Oregon. Lowhorn is a force to be reckoned with in the WCC and can put up big numbers versus larger non-conference opponents as well.

9. Greg Monroe: As a lengthy 6’10” freshman, Monroe is going to be a great talent for the Hoyas. He’s a great rebounder and shot blocker and has a good mid-range game for a player his size. If he develops his scoring ability from the block and gets tougher down low, Monroe can be an instant contributor for John Thompson III. If he decides to stay at Georgetown for a couple of years in order to improve his game, he could be a top 3 NBA draft pick.

10. Ahmad Nivins: Nivins shot an incredible 64.7% from the field last season, and has never shot worse than 60% as a Hawk. Despite Nivins’ shooting percentage, his numbers dropped from 16.2 PPG and 7.4 RPG his sophomore season to 14.4 PPG and 5.8 RPG last year, and he saw one less min./game. Why this is I don’t know, but I do know that his numbers will be higher than they ever were for his senior season. St. Joe’s lost their leading scorer in Pat Calathes, so more of the scoring load will fall on Nivins’ shoulders. I think Nivins has the ability to fill the shoes of Calathes and could very well be the A-10 Player of the Year.

Also Considered: Kyle Singler, Damion James, Samardo Samuels, Mike Cook, Marcus Landry, Arinze Onuaku.

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Title Participants Eye New Season

Posted by Zach on August 4, 2008

April 7, 2008. Kansas vs. Memphis. The national title on the line.

All year we heard about Memphis’ free throw shooting woes. Few denied the Tigers possessed the talent to cut down the nets in San Antonio, but the majority picked UCLA or North Carolina or Kansas to finish on top for one distinct reason: Memphis was completely unreliable from the charity stripe, and this giant Achilles heel would rear its ugly head at the worst possible time. The Tigers shot 61% from the line on the season, with Rose at just 71%, Anderson at 57%, Dozier at 68% and Dorsey at 38%. They sprinted past Texas in the regional final, edged UCLA in the national semifinal, and saw their national title hopes within reach when a miracle fall-away Derrick Rose three somehow found the bottom of the net. The free throws? Never a problem.

I lived through the agonizing pain that followed as someone who would have benefited greatly money-wise had Memphis won the national title. While most in my pool opted for UCLA and North Carolina, I figured the only way to keep myself alive in case of a devastating first two rounds would be to take a more unpopular team, risking blowing my entire bracket for the small shot at glory. I picked all four #1 seeds to make the Final Four and it happened. I picked a Memphis-Kansas final and it happened. Yet with Memphis holding a close lead in the final minutes, the free throws began rimming out. And another. And another. Soon enough, a Chalmers three sent the game to overtime and instead of enjoying an all-time college basketball classic, I sat with my head in my hands completely stunned.

John Calipari, one of the more intense and spirited coaches in all of college hoops, probably needed a few weeks of alone time after that epic contest. Calipari reached high grounds with Massachusetts in the 90s and flirted with national titles in previous years with Memphis, but for someone as devoted as Calipari, the sting of losing the 2008 title wouldn’t go away quickly. Receiving a commitment from the top point guard in the nation Tyreke Evans healed some wounds. Losing team leaders Chris Douglas-Roberts, Derrick Rose and Joey Dorsey to the NBA won’t be easy. How Calipari handles the Year After will be the most stern test of his coaching career.

On the other end of the spectrum, Kansas, one of the most historic and celebrated programs in all of college basketball, will play this season as defending national champions. Bill Self got the monkey off of his back by squeaking out a win over Davidson, topping favorite North Carolina with a thrilling start and finish, and orchestrated the unbelievable comeback vs. Memphis. He watched his top players- Darrell Arthur, Mario Chalmers, Darnell Jackson, Sasha Kaun, Brandon Rush- all depart for the NBA or Europe. They restocked with a solid recruiting class and hopefully Self will enjoy the small grace period at Kansas before the pressure cooker heats up again in Lawrence.

Both Memphis and Kansas will enter the 2008-09 campaign with fresh faces and a new look. No longer will Derrick Rose be the sparkplug in the Tigers backcourt, and no longer will Mario Chalmers and Russell Robinson be solid and reliable presences in the Jayhawks backcourt. Chicago native Sherron Collins will shoulder much of the load, a near double-digit scorer from last season with a strong inside-outside game and good instincts who will likely lead Kansas in scoring. Freshmen and Marquette defection Tyshawn Taylor and all-around athlete Travis Releford will aid Collins. The Memphis show will be run by freshman Tyreke Evans, a special scorer and excellent finisher who can be Derrick Rose Lite with a better jump shot but worse court vision. Antonio Anderson’s three point range and contributions from Willie Kemp will take some pressure off Evans to be The Man at all times.

The frontcourt for Bill Self will be a question mark and depends primarily on the development of 6’11 big man Cole Aldrich, a strong finisher and rebounding presence who showed signs of breaking out against North Carolina in the national semifinal. Self loaded up in the recruiting class with bulk up front, reeling in three 4-star players at the small and power forward positions. Memphis will find its strength up front: lanky Robert Dozier returns, junior Shawn Taggart is back and could help scoring-wise in a big way, and Calipari loaded the frontcourt with freshmen Angel Garcia, Wesley Witherspoon and Matt Simpkins.

Both Memphis and Kansas, teams with storied programs and high expectations, hope to return to the Final Four again this season. While more realistic expectations see Memphis as a top-20 team who will storm through Conference USA and receive a high seed in the tournament while Kansas is experiencing a rebuilding/reloading season, both of these teams will be back at the top soon enough, with Memphis looking for revenge and Kansas looking for a return to glory.

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