Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

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Archive for October 16th, 2008

Big East Preview: #12-#11

Posted by Zach on October 16, 2008

12. DePaul Blue Demons– Coach: Jerry Wainwright (4th season)

Backcourt: Sophomore Dar Tucker is already being pegged as a potential breakout candidate this season. The athletic guard/forward combo player scored nearly 14 PPG coming off the bench last year. Tucker needs to improve on his defensive game, but certainly shows explosiveness on the other end of the court with highlight reel dunks and a constant penchant for attacking the rim. The evolving of Tucker from showing flashes of brilliance to a steady team leader will be a huge question for the Blue Demons. Will Walker made strides to be the most improved DePaul player last season and must take over as full-time point guard for coach Wainwright. Jabari Currie is the teams designated three-point popper, finishing at 47.1% from long range last year. The emergence of Tucker and improved point guard play from Walker should open up great looks. Incoming freshman Jeremiah Kelly should also provide aid for Walker backing him up at point. Grade: B-

Frontcourt: Super sophomore Mac Koshwal is the main focus of the frontcourt. Koshwal is a future NBA prospect due to his rebounding abilities (finished fifth in the Big East as a freshman), size (6’10, 240) and advanced footwork in the paint, allowing himself more simple looks at the basket resulting in easy baskets. Koshwal could find himself averaging nearly a double-double this season. Joining Koshwal up front is the second member of the Chicago twin towers in 6’10 senior Matija Poscic. After a disappointing campaign last year in which Poscic weltered dealing with the pure physicality of the Big East, coach Wainwright hopes a season of adjustment will be followed up by a more steady, efficient approach from Poscic, along with an improvement over the 2.1 PPG he finished with in 07-08. 6’11 freshman Krys Faber could turn out to be more of a compliment to Koshwal by the end of the season. Two wing players will also add depth to the frontcourt, including the super-athletic freshman Devin Hill and long distance shooter Mario Stula. Grade: C+

Bottom Line:
DePaul has the potential to really take off this season. The rough-and-tumble Big East doesn’t help their cause, though. Ever since Wilson Chandler departed early, this team has been dismal on the offensive and defensive boards, along with lacking any ounce of consistency on defense. The rebounding starts with Koshwal and the defense starts with Tucker. These two sophomores are Big East-caliber talents, but they must complete their game for the Blue Demons to threaten for an NCAA berth.

Starting Lineup:

G- Dar Tucker (SO)
G- Will Walker (JR)
G- Jabari Currie (SR)
F- Mac Koshwal (SO)
C- Matija Poscic (SR)

Key Non-Conference Games: 12/3 @ California, 12/6 @ Northwestern, 12/13 @ UCLA, 12/22 @ Saint Louis
Key Conference Games: 1/17 vs. Cincinnati, 1/31 @ Rutgers, 2/3 vs. Marquette, 2/25 vs. Villanova
Most Valuable Player: Dar Tucker
Projected Postseason Tournament: NIT

11. Cincinnati Bearcats
– Coach: Mick Cronin (3rd season)

Backcourt: The breakout player in the entire conference last year may have been guard Deonta Vaughn. The sophomore put up outstanding totals: fourth in 3PT%, eighth in FT%, ninth in APG and finished with 17.3 PPG to boot (all conference ranks). Coach Mick Cronin is hoping Vaughn makes the leap from not only a superstar scorer but also floor captain for an offense with a few more pieces than a season ago. It’ll be nice having Williams when defenses key on Vaughn this season. Cronin also likes the addition of speedy freshman Cashmere Wright as a chance-of-pace off the bench, along with the ability to break down defenses and penetrate for easy buckets. Incoming freshman Dion Dixon is a three-point specialist and will help spread the floor for Cincy. Fellow guard/forward Rashard Bishop started 20 games as a freshman and proved to be a consistent glue guy on the court for Cronin. Grade: B

Frontcourt:
Mike Williams is finally healthy. The Texas transfer has been on the Cincinnati campus for three years now- he had to sit out a year after transferring in 06-07 then suffered a season-ending injury in practice in 07-08- and the former McDonalds All-American is finally prepared to contribute. His leadership, experience, scoring and rebounding should be invaluable for a still relatively young Bearcat squad, and Williams could be the second double-digit scorer alongside Vaughn this season. Not a bad one-two punch for Cronin to work with.  Freshman sensation Yancy Gates is a player to watch. He already possesses a strong post presence with surprising athleticism for a man of his stature. Anthony McClain is a 7-foot statue in the paint that can be a force in the Big East if he improves his assertiveness and aggressiveness on both ends of the floor. Western Carolina transfer Nick Aldridge should be the first off the bench and add another scoring option. Grade: B-

Bottom Line: Even with the disappointing first round CBI exit, the Bearcats came a long way last season, finishing with marquee Big East wins and turning around what looked like an unraveling program in November. This team finished just 2-14 in the conference after the departure of Andy Kennedy, and with the breakout of Vaughn along with key additions such as Mike Williams, Cronin has this team in the right direction. They may even find themselves firmly on the bubble if the Bearcats can score at a more steady basis and Gates adds that third weapon on offense. Also worth noting Cincy plays one non-conference road game the entire months of November and December.

Starting Lineup:

G- Deonta Vaughn (JR)
G- Rashad Bishop (JR)
F- Mike Williams (JR)
F- Yancy Gates (FR)
C- Anthony McClain (SO)

Key Non-Conference Games: 11/28 vs. Florida State, 12/6 vs. UAB, 12/13 vs. Xavier, 12/29 @ Memphis
Key Conference Games: 1/7 vs. Providence, 1/17 @ DePaul, 1/28 vs. Georgetown, 2/26 vs. West Virginia
Most Valuable Player: Deonta Vaughn
Projected Postseason Tournament: NIT

#10 Providence and #9 West Virginia for tomorrow.

Posted in Big East Report, Conference Previews | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Big Ten Preview

Posted by Tommy on October 16, 2008

The Big Ten, which has been in somewhat of a down period the past couple of seasons, looks to be on the rise and boasts some of the best coaches the country has to offer. Names like Tom Izzo, Bo Ryan, John Beilein, Tubby Smith, Thad Matta, Bruce Weber, Todd Lickliter and Matt Painter are at the helm of their respective teams once again and Indiana brings in former Marquette coach Tom Crean to lead them out of the dark times in the wake of the Sampson scandals in Bloomington. The Big Ten is known for its hard-nosed defensive basketball as well as its slower paced style of play. I’ll run down the conference from top to bottom with predicted conference records and give projected starters for each team and I’ll highlight the marquee games. I’ll also give the First and Second Team All-Big Ten as well as Coach of the Year, Player of the Year, Newcomer of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year.

1. Purdue Boilermakers (15-3): Matt Painter has done a tremendous job coaching his Baby Boilermakers over the past two seasons. They’ve exceeded expectations with their young squad, but now that they’re weathered veterans, expectations are high in West Lafayette. Last year’s Defensive POY, Chris Kramer, returns along with Robbie Hummel, E’Twaun Moore and Keaton Grant in hopes of bringing home their first regular season Big-10 Title since 1996. The only apparent weakness in this team is their lack of size, which they have made up for in the past couple of years with team speed.

Projected Starters

G- Chris Kramer
G- E’Twaun Moore
G – Keaton Grant
F – Robbie Hummel
F/C – JaJuan Johnson

Marquee Games: Duke (12/2), Wisconsin (1/11), @ Wisco (1/27), @ Ohio State (2/3), Michigan State (2/17), Ohio State (2/28), @ Michigan State (3/7)

2. Michigan State Spartans (14-4): Sparty is going to have the most explosive team in the Big Ten this season. Sophomore Kalin Lucas burst onto the scene last season at the point, establishing himself as a premier guard in the conference. He’ll play alongside senior Travis Walton who is also capable of running the point, giving Tom Izzo a very versatile and talented backcourt. The frontcourt, made up of Goran Suton and Marquise Gray, is very tough in the paint but won’t dominate anybody with their offensive skills. The key to this year’s team in East Lansing is versatile forward Raymar Morgan. In the past he took a back seat in the offense to Drew Neitzel, but now that Neitzel is gone, Morgan is going to be the primary scoring threat. Stud freshman forward Delvon Roe is going to be an X-factor for Izzo this year. He possesses a better skill set on offense than either Suton or Gray, but will the microfracture surgery on his knee affect his play?

Projected Starters

G – Kalin Lucas
G – Travis Walton
F – Raymar Morgan
F – Delvon Roe
C – Goran Suton

Marquee Games: Old Spice Classic: (probable opponents: Gonzaga (11/28), Georgetown (11/30)), North Carolina (12/3), Texas (12/20), Ohio State (1/6), Kansas (1/10), @ Ohio State (1/25), @ Purdue (2/17), Wisconsin (2/22), Purdue (3/7)

3. Wisconsin Badgers(12-6): The Badgers suffered a couple of key losses in lockdown defender Michael Flowers and big man Brian Butch, but return enough key components from last year’s Big Ten Regular Season Champs to stay near the top of the Big Ten. Point guard Trevon Hughes returns with a full year of experience under his belt starting at point guard along with Mr. Do-it-All Joe Krabbenhoft and scrappy post player Marcus Landry. The Big Ten’s 2007-08 Sixth Man of the Year Jason Bohannon is going to see a lot more shooting opportunities this season. Incoming freshman center Jared Berggren could find his 6’10” 235 lb frame starting come conference play. The Badgers will have a couple of good guards along with a tough and undersized frontcourt, but no matter how low the expectations have been for Bo Ryan, he always seems to have the Badgers in the hunt for a Big Ten title. A pretty favorable Big Ten schedule will certainly help them as well since they only play Ohio State and Michigan State once.

Projected Starters

G – Trevon Hughes
G – Jason Bohannon
F – Jon Leuer
F – Joe Krabbenhoft
F – Marcus Landry

Marquee Games: @ Marquette (12/6), Texas (12/23), @ Purdue (1/11), Purdue (1/27), Ohio State (2/14), @ Michigan State (2/22)

4. Ohio State Buckeyes (12-6): Thad Matta brings in a couple of superstar freshmen in B.J. Mullens and William Buford. The Buckeyes are going to be pretty young this year with six incoming freshman, three of whom could very well start. Mullens is going to have to get at least a touch on every possession for the Buckeyes; he’s so talented he deserves to get the ball every time down the court. The big question for Ohio State is their backcourt. Will Jon Diebler become the three-point threat everybody thought he was going to be? Also, Matta will probably have a freshman at the point, which is never a good sign. I believe that this team will have a few rough spots in the first couple of months, but once these freshmen establish a chemistry, Ohio State is talented enough to take down anybody in the Big Ten.

Projected Starters

G – Anthony Crater
G – William Buford
F – David Lighty
F – Evan Turner
C – BJ Mullens

Marquee Games: @ Miami (12/2), @ Notre Dame (12/6), West Virginia (12/27), @ Michigan State (1/6), Michigan State (1/25), Purdue (2/3), @ Wisconsin (2/14), @ Purdue (2/28)

5. Minnesota Golden Gophers (10-8) The Gophers shocked Indiana in the Big Ten tourney last year with a last second, weak-handed shot from Blake Hoffarber. This year the Gophers will feature a strong backcourt made up by Al Nolen, Hoffarber and Lawrence Westbrook as well as incoming freshman Devoe Joseph. It’s evident that Tubby is starting to bring a basketball culture to the Barn with some pretty big recruits in Joseph, Ralph Sampson III and Colton Iverson. Sampson and Iverson are going to have to step in and contribute right away after the losses of Spencer Tollackson and Dan Coleman. This team has a lot of young talent, but can Tubby harness it and become successful in the Big Ten? I don’t think they’ll be overly successful quite yet but look for this team to make some noise in the coming seasons if everybody sticks around.

Projected Starters

G – Al Nolen
G – Blake Hoffarber
G – Lawrence Westbrook
F – Jamal Abu-Shamala
C – Ralph Sampson III

Marquee Games: Louisville (in Glendale, AZ on 12/20), Michigan State (12/21), Ohio State (1/3), @ Wisconsin (1/15), Purdue (1/22), @ Michigan State (2/4), Ohio State (2/7), @ Michigan (2/19)

6. Michigan Wolverines (9-9) Much like Tubby Smith, Jon Beilein is trying to start up a basketball culture in Ann Arbor, and has brought in some pretty nice recruits to do so. This team will be driven by guard Manny Harris, who I think will become a household name, forwards Anthony Wright and DeShawn Sims. This team will go through its share of growing pains, but the natural talent is there for the Wolverines.

Projected Starters

G – Manny Harris
G – Kelvin Grady
F – Anthony Wright
F – DeShawn Sims
F/C – Zack Gibson

7. Illinois Fighting Illini (8-10) The 2007-08 campaign was a struggle for Bruce Weber and the Illini going 5-13 in conference play. This year’s team will rely on its backcourt for its production. Guards Trent Meachem and sophomore Demetri McCamey are going to be the primary threats for Weber. Kentucky transfer Alex Legion is a huge boost to a team that needs all the help they can get when he becomes eligible in December. The Illini’s strong backcourt will keep them in games but their frontcourt could be their Achilles’ heel the entire season.

Projected Starters

G – Trent Meachem
G – Demetri McCamey
G – Calvin Brock
F – Mike Davis
C – Mike Tisdale

8. Northwestern Wildcats (6-12) Kevin Coble and Michael Thompson are two of the better players in the Big Ten at their respective positions. Thompson averaged 4.3 APG last season at the point and Coble contributed 13.4 PPG as a forward. Much of their supporting cast is returning next year, including Craig Moore and Sterling Williams. Their incoming freshman class is extraordinarily big with two players over 6’11” and two more over 6’8″. A couple of these freshmen like Luka Mirkovic and Kyle Rowley are going to have to step in right away and contribute.

Projected Starters

G – Michael Thompson
G – Craig Moore
F – Sterling Williams
F – Kevin Coble
C – Kyle Rowley

9. Penn State Nittany Lions (5-13) When I look at this Penn State team, there are two questions I ask myself. Will they decide to play defense this season? And who will support Jamelle Cornley and Talor Battle? If they do decide to play defense, this team could leap in front of Northwestern. As for the support of Cornley and Battle, most of it will be coming from 3-point specialist Danny Morrissey and forward Stanley Pringle. After these four players there won’t be much production, so depth is going to be a big detriment for the Lions.

Projected Starters

G – Talor Battle
G – Danny Morrissey
F – Jamelle Cornley
F – Stabley Pringle
F – Andrew Jones III

10. Iowa Hawkeyes (3-15) The Hawkeyes lost several key components from last year’s team who went 6-12 in the Big Ten. Community College transfer Devan Bawinkle is going to have to shoulder some of the load right away along with forward Cyrus Tate, especially with Jarryd Cole’s reeling ACL injury. Iowa’s frontcourt is a huge question mark for Todd Lickliter after the losses of Kurt Looby and Seth Gorney. Overall, the Hawkeyes are going to struggle filling the holes of the departures from both their backcourt and frontcourt but their great defense may keep them in some games they’re not supposed to be in.

Prjected Starters

G – Jeff Peterson
G – Jake Kelly
G – Devan Bawinkle
F – Cyrus Tate
F – Jarryd Cole

11. Indiana Hoosiers (0-18) The struggles of the usually great Indiana basketball program are well known. Tom Crean inherits a team with one scholarship player returning, but does bring in a nice amount of notable recruits. Freshmen Matt Roth, Verdell Jones III, Nick Williams and Malik Storey could all very well all start for Crean. Transfers Tijan Jobe and Devon Dumes are the only players on the roster with significant game experience in college. Needless to say, Crean needs a couple of seasons to get Indiana back on its feet. Jeremiah Rivers, who will be eligible to play in Bloomington next season, will help.

Projected Starters

G – Verdell Jones III
G – Matt Roth
G – Nick Williams
F – Kyle Taber
C – Tijan Jobe

First Team All-Big Ten                                    Second Team All-Big 10

G – Kalin Lucas                                                            G – Trevon Hughes
G – Manny Harris                                                         G – Chris Kramer
F – Joe Krabbenhoft                                                      G – Al Nolen
F – Raymar Morgan                                                       F – Kevin Coble
C – BJ Mullens                                                              F – Robbie Hummel

Coach of the Year: Bo Ryan
Player of the Year: Raymar Morgan
Newcomer of the Year: BJ Mullens
Defensive Player of the Year: Chris Kramer

Posted in Conference Previews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »