Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

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

Archive for October 23rd, 2008

Big East Preview: #6 Georgetown

Posted by Zach on October 23, 2008

6. Georgetown Hoyas– Coach: John Thompson III (5th season)

PG- Chris Wright (SO): Replacing floor leader and pinpoint three-point shooter Jonathan Wallace is no cakewalk, but the Hoyas have a former McDonalds All-American lined up to take the reigns. Chris Wright played in only 16 games last year due to a severely sprained ankle that hindered what Wright does best: out-quick the opponent (definitely not a word). Wright enters this season 100% healthy and a prime candidate for most improved player in the Big East. Wright is a perfect fit for the Hoyas transition offense and proves above average defensively. Wallace was a tremendous shooter for the Hoyas, yet this team could score more points with Wright’s quickness at the helm.

SG- Jessie Sapp (SR): Sapp is another underrated piece of the puzzle. He not only drained 41% from behind the arc last year, but also led the team in assists over Wallace. Sapp is the total package who rarely makes mistakes; Thompson views his senior guard as the most dependable player returning for this season. As the lone senior in the starting five, the challenge for Sapp will be keeping the mood positive on and off the court if Georgetown hits a rough patch this season. He improved his three-point stroke last year and could be the focus of the defense during crunch time minutes.

SG/SF- Austin Freeman (SO)
: Austin Freeman was sensational as a freshman and may take the next step towards being recognized nationally in 07-08. Freeman averaged just under 10 PPG including accuracy from all over the court: 51% from the floor overall, 40% from three and 82% from the charity stripe. He starred in the winner-takes-the-Big East duel with Louisville last March, notching 15 points. Look for plenty of those efforts from Freeman. His versatility is also helpful for Thompson, as he can freely slide Freeman over to the 2-spot if he wants to go big with both Macklin and Monroe.

PF- DaJuan Summers (JR): Even with all of the talent Freeman and Monroe possess, it may be Summers that college basketball fans are talking about as the breakout player for the Hoyas this season. Underachieving a bit as a sophomore with high expectations, Summers returns to DC this year in phenomenal shape and the goal to play the role of Jeff Green on this Sweet 16-caliber Georgetown team. He’ll seemingly benefit from the more fast-paced system Thompson will employ with Wright running the point. His ability to run the floor and create matchup problems is key. Summers finished second to Hibbert in both PPG and RPG in 07-08. Don’t be surprised if he leads Georgetown in both categories in 08-09.

PF/C- Greg Monroe (FR)
: Thompson will rightfully hesitate to forward a majority of the scoring load from the frontcourt onto the plate of the youngster Monroe. He may not have a choice by the end of the year. Much like Michael Beasley and O.J. Mayo from a year ago, Monroe already has a Big East-caliber body, and has bulked himself up to a reported 250 pounds this offseason. The 6’11 two-time Louisiana Mr. Basketball has plenty of high expectations and the skill to back them up. He’s a strong offensive and defensive rebounding presence that can score posting up or facing the basket. He’s also an outstanding shot blocker. Don’t expect Monroe to dominate the Big East initially, but watch out if this kid continues to gain more and more confidence as the year progresses.

Bench:
The Hoyas lost Jeremiah Rivers, who opted to transfer to Indiana, so it’s slim pickings in terms of guard depth. Sophomore Omar Wattad is still maturing into his big frame; he can surprise you with an accurate three-point shot. Freshman Jason Clark is a 6’2 guard from Arlington will be extremely valuable for Thompson and see minutes because he shows 100% hustle on every possession and plays strong defense. Florida State transfer Julian Vaughn will be eligible immediately for Thompson. Vaughn could take over for Monroe if he should struggle and the Hoyas wouldn’t lose that much in terms of bulk and aggressiveness on the boards, but their scoring could dip. Freshman Henry Sims will surely see action. Sims is a 6’10 lanky forward who specializes in shot blocking and defense, and it could take him a while to score effectively at the college level.

Backcourt: B+
Frontcourt: A-
Bench: B
Coaching: A-

Bottom Line:
Losing Roy Hibbert and Jonathan Wallace stings. Expecting to contend for the Big East crown after losing those two players may also be a stretch. But never underestimate the coaching ability of John Thompson. This team rarely makes mistakes and will match up with any team in the nation on defense. They have plenty of players who could make the leap: Summers, Monroe, Wright, Freeman. Look for this group to play solid basketball all season long but fall behind teams who have more talent overall. Georgetown will be right in the mix as they always are under JTIII.

Key Non-Conference Games: Old Spice Classic (Tennessee in the semis most likely), 12/13 vs. Memphis, 1/17 @ Duke
Key Conference Games: 1/3 vs. Pittsburgh, 1/31 @ Marquette, 2/14 @ Syracuse, 2/23 vs. Louisville
Most Valuable Player: Austin Freeman
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA (Round of 32)

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

Report: Lute Olson Steps Down

Posted by Zach on October 23, 2008

The coaching turmoil continues down in Tuscon.

Just months after interim coach Kevin O’Neill took off and weeks after longtime coach Lute Olson remarked that he was “excited to get on the court,” reports from ESPN.com and a source close to Dick Vitale have told him Olson has stepped down and will not coach the Arizona Wildcats this season. This seems to be confirmed by a report in the Arizona Daily Star that the fathers of two prized class of 2009 Arizona recruits, Abdul Gaddy and Solomon Hill, have received the news of Olson stepping down. Hill’s father says blatantly that he was told it’s “official” and “Lute is out.”

On the other hand, Arizona spokesperson Tom Duddleston said Thursday morning he has not been informed of the Olson resignation and he was even told “no way” by other working at the school regarding the report. Reporters contend they felt Olson was completely in good spirits coaching the team Monday, but fell ill on Wednesday and was forced to miss practice. Those close to the program insist he was “just sick” and it was nothing to be overly concerned about.

If the report is true, Arizona assistant coach Mike Dunlap would take over the head coaching duties on an interim basis. Obviously, it’s much too early to speculate on the status of both Gaddy and Hill, whom the Arizona program are likely reaching out to at this point in hopes of keeping them on board. Olson, 74, took a leave of absence last season and was expected to return to the bench this year in full strength for the entire season.

This entire operation has been botched. How do two fathers of Arizona recruits know the news, ESPN gets a gift-wrapped scoop on the news….yet prominent players like Jordan Hill and some administration have no idea where this story is coming from. It would have been wise to hold a team meeting this morning to alert the Wildcats and let the entire staff know before this leaked out (I know, easier said than done) rather than have members of the team “not knowing a damn thing” and spending the entire day thinking Lute Olson was their coach when I heard the news around 11:30 AM central time.

If Olson has officially retired, his finished resume is quite impressive: 1997 National Title, 781-280 record, 5 Final Fours, 23 consecutive NCAA appearances, 11 Pac-10 titles. Not to mention turning around an Arizona program that was a complete afterthought before he arrived in the mid-80s. He’s recruited and coached such household names as Mike Bibby, Damon Stoudamire, Gilbert Arenas, Richard Jefferson and Steve Kerr. Even at his old age, he was able to lure Brandon Jennings to Arizona, whom many believed was the best guard in the class of 2008.

UPDATE: Scavening around the series of tubes for more Olson news and reactions. The most interesting summation came from Rush the Court, who showed that Olson, well, may be a tad overrated, at least in terms of NCAA Tournament accomplishments. In fact, most of the time he underachieved.

Here’s the article:

As stated above, Arizona has gone to five Final Fours under Lute Olson.  Here are the NCAA Tournament seeds for those years – #5, #1, #2, #4, #2 (avg. = 2.8).  Arizona also received five #1 seeds during Olson’s tenure.  Here’s the result for those five Tourneys – F4, S16, E8, R32, E8 (avg. = 2.6 games won).  When Lute was expected to go to the F4, he went once; when he was not expected to go, he went four other times.  This quick examination of the numbers confirms what we wrote last year when we surveyed the top overachieving and underachieving programs of the 64/65-team era of the NCAA Tournament.  From 1985-2007, Arizona averaged a #4.1 seed in the NCAAs.  The historical model suggests that Arizona should have won 44.1 NCAA contests over this period – the Cats won 39, which means they ‘underachieved’ by nearly five Ws, and therefore puts UA in terms of performance in the bottom third of schools with greater than eight appearances over the era.  The most obvious examples of this phenomenon were first-round upsets in 1992 (#3 UA loses to #14 ETSU), 1993 (#2 UA loses to #15 Santa Clara), and 1999 (#4 UA loses to #13 Oklahoma).  Even Olson’s most talented and decorated team, the 1998 #1 Wildcats led by Mike Bibby and Jason Terry, had a major letdown in the E8 against #3 Utah, getting run out of the gym by 25 points.

Posted in Coaching | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

ACC Preview #9-#12

Posted by Tommy on October 23, 2008

The ACC has been the heart of East Coast basketball for as long as any of us can remember. Until recently, that is. The ACC has taken a slight back seat in terms of overall strength to the new and improved Big East after its expansion in 2005. It still has college basketball’s best team as well as the sports best rivalry and is probably the deepest conference in the land. Most of the teams like to play a fast-paced, explosive style and have the athletes to do so.

There are three or four teams that have separated themselves from the pack, but below them is a group of teams with pretty even talent levels. Just like Zach is doing for the Big East and Pat will do for the Pac-10, I’ll do an in-depth preview of each team, starting with the bottom and eventually ending with the best team in the conference. Here are the bottom four teams of the ACC:

12. Virginia Cavaliers– Coach: Dave Leitao (4th season)

Backcourt: The Cavs have been driven by their backcourt play over the past couple of years with players like J.R. Reynolds and Sean Singletary. Now that they’re gone, Leitao is going to have to find production from other guards. The primary threats from this year’s backcourt are versatile G/F Mamadi Diane and athletic junior guard Calvin Baker. Diane has several tools to beat defenders but needs to become more consistent if he truly wants to be the leader of this squad. Baker really came on towards the end of last season as a two guard but will probably end up running the point this season. Even though the loss of Singletary was a big blow to the backcourt, they’re probably going to have to provide most of the scoring again this season. Grade: C-

Frontcourt: As I said before, the backcourt is going to have to make up for the lack of productivity from the frontcourt. Well that was an understatement. The leading returning scorer for the frontcourt is 6-9 forward Jamil Tucker who averaged 5.2 PPG last season. After him the next leading scorer is 6-9 F/C Jerome Meyinesse with 1.9 PPG last year. Other than these two, nobody from last year’s frontcourt averaged more than 1 PPG. 6-11 freshman John Brandenburg (#16 Center according to Scout.com) is going to have to step in right away and contribute, perhaps even start for Leitao. Overall, there is minimal game experience in this frontcourt but Brandenburg is a promising freshman. Grade: D-

Bottom Line: UVA has been in the basement of the ACC the past couple of seasons and things aren’t looking too bright in Charlottesville in 08-09. Diane is the only senior with major game experience on the roster and is going to have to shoulder the load the entire year. It’s a shame for Leitao, the winner of the 2007 ACC Coach of the Year, to keep going downhill. He certainly has some rebuilding to do to bring the Cavaliers back to the top of the ACC.

Starting Lineup:
G- Calvin Baker (JR)
G- Mamadi Diane (SR)
F- Mike Scott (SO)
F- Jamil Tucker (JR)
C- John Brandenburg (FR)

Key Non-Conference Games: 11/28 @ Syracuse, 12/2 @ Minnesota, 1/3 vs. Xavier
Key Conference Games: 1/10 @ Va. Tech, @ Maryland 1/20, 2/18 Va. Tech, 2/26 Miami
Most Valuable Player: Mamadi Diane
Projected Postseason Tournament: none

11. Florida State Seminoles– Coach: Leonard Hamilton (7th season)

Backcourt: Guard Toney Douglas is one of the most dangerous guards in the conference. He averaged 15.4 PPG and 2.6 SPG last season, showing that he not only has the ability to score but takes pride in his defense and knows how to put his hands on the ball. Douglas is going to be a one-man show in the backcourt considering the other five guards on the roster consist of four underclassmen and a rarely used senior. JUCO transfer Derwin Kitchen is the likely candidate to start alongside Douglas but until somebody proves themselves capable of playing a large part of the game there will probably be somewhat of a rotation at the two guard. Grade: C

Frontcourt: Although young, this frontcourt is going to be quite explosive. 6-11 F/C Xavier Gibson and 6-9 F Chris Singleton, both incoming freshmen, are going to get big chunks of playing time whether they’re starting or coming off the bench. They’ll experience some growing pains when going up against the stronger frontcourts of teams like North Carolina and Wake Forest, but once these two get experience in ACC play they’ll be one of the better frontcourt tandems in the ACC over the next couple of years. Last year’s leading rebounder (7.3 RPG) Uche Echefu along with junior Ryan Reid, who shot 53.1% from the field last year, will be the experienced leaders of this frontcourt. Grade: C+

Bottom Line: Hamilton and the Seminoles are in a period of rebuilding and have some nice freshmen to do so. As for this year, seniors Douglas and Echefu are the only returning double-digit scorers from 07-08 and are going to have to carry Florida State until these freshmen acclimate themselves. This team will be explosive with their abundance of athleticism, making them an upset threat in the ACC, but they lost a lot of talent from a team that went 7-9 in the ACC last year.

Starting Lineup:
G- Toney Douglas (SR)
G- Derwin Kitchen (SO)
F- Ryan Reid (JR)
F- Uche Echefu (SR)
F/C- Xavier Gibson (FR)

Key Non-Conference Games: 12/7 vs. Florida, 12/21 vs. Pittsburgh
Key Conference Games: 1/10 vs. Duke, 1/21 @ Miami, 2/28 vs. Clemson
Most Valuable Player: Tony Douglas
Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI

10. North Carolina State Wolfpack- Coach: Sidney Lowe (3rd Season)

Backcourt: In December of last season, point guard Farnold Degand went down with an injury and the whole Wolfpack team seemed to go down with him, losing their last nine games. Degand will be back running the point this season as a junior and will likely get some help from sophomore Javier Gonzalez, who was sparatic during his time at the point as a frosh. There is plenty of hype on campus around the incoming freshmen for Sidney Lowe. Although they’re not overly heralded, guard Julius Mays, who could potentially run the point, and forward C.J. Williams look to get significant minutes. G/F Courtney Fells will be playing either in the two or three spot for Lowe. No matter where he is, this team is going to look for him to provide much of the offense. Grade: C-

Frontcourt: Last season there was an interesting dynamic amongst the big men of NC State. Brandon Costner looked like he was going to be one of the ACC’s premier big men after his phenomenal freshman campaign. However, the arrival of stud freshman J.J. Hickson not only hurt Costner’s numbers, but it seemed as though he just wasn’t emotionally in the game on every possession. Now that Hickson is gone, it’s going to be interesting to see how Costner plays. If he improves on the numbers he put up freshman year, which I think he will, he could be the explosive ACC forward most thought he was going to be. As for the other big men, Ben McCauley has always been a tough but undersized post player. He put up decent numbers last season, but will have to improve on those numbers to solidify this frontcourt. The tallest players on the roster are 6-9 and none of them have much shot-blocking ability at all. This lack of a big presence in the paint will definitely hurt them on the defensive end, but both McCauley and Costner can step out and hit the jumper, making them pretty tough to guard. Grade: C+

Bottom Line: If the Wolfpack gets good play from their point guard and if Costner improves on his numbers from his freshman season, they’ll probably be better than a tenth place team. With that said, the Wolfpack’s lack of size, depth and a proven point guard are going to hinder them all season. It’s going to take a couple of years for Lowe and the Wolfpack to become a quality ACC team.

Starting Lineup:
G- Farnold Degand (JR)
G- Courtney Fells (SR)
G- Tracy Smith (SO)
F- Brandon Costner (JR)
F- Ben McCauley (SR)

Key Non-Conference Games: 12/6 @ Davidson, 12/22 vs. Marquette, 1/3 @ Florida
Key Conference Games: 1/17 vs. Ga. Tech, 1/24 @ Boston College, 1/8 @ Va. Tech
Most Valuable Player: Courtney Fells
Projected Postseason: CBI

9. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets- Coach: Paul Hewitt (9th season)

Backcourt: I really like the structure of the Ramblin’ Wreck’s backcourt this season. They have three guards who all specialize in different facets of the the game. D’Andre Bell is the epitome of a lock-down defender and is arguably the best perimeter defender in the country. Lewis Clinch has a well-rounded offensive game and can score in many different ways. Maurice Miller is a solid young point guard and will improve on his run of the mill numbers from his freshman year at the point. Then there’s the emotional spark from Matt Causey off of the bench. Causey has a knack for the big shots and is scrappy guard who isn’t afraid of anybody. He’ll provide a change of pace at the point from the quiet Mo Miller. If Miller doesn’t hold up at the point, look for Causey to take control of Hewitt’s offense. In addition to these returning players, incoming freshman Iman Shumpert gives this backcourt plenty of depth. Grade: B

Frontcourt: The losses of Jeremis Smith and Ra’Sean Dickey from a team that already struggles rebounding is really going to hurt Georgia Tech’s frontline. However, the Yellow Jackets still have plenty of solid big men. Sophomore Gani Lawal is an athletic specimen with a huge wingspan and enormous leaping ability who should get increased playing time, increasing his numbers. He just needs to add some muscle and get tougher down low in order to become a better rebounder, and if he realizes his potential he can be a First Team All-ACC player. Another key player on Hewitt’s frontline is Zack Peacock. Although somewhat less talented than Lawal, Peacock will do all of the little things correctly and has a versatile offensive game. If either of these two get into foul trouble, which is a very likely scenario, Alade Aminu is a very capable post player off of the bench. Sophomore 7-footer Brad Sheehan provides a big presence in the paint for this frontline. No matter who is in there, this unit needs to rebound better and block some more shots than they did last season. Grade: B-

Bottom Line: The Yellow Jackets always seem to have a great squad on paper but underperform their expectations. This roster has plenty of talent in their starters and first couple of reserves, but after that there isn’t much. It’ll be interesting to see how Hewitt’s squad does this season. They have the potential to reach as high as fifth or sixth place, but if this team gets in a hole early in the season, they’re not likely to climb themselves out. Also, they have to learn how to win on the road. The Yellow Jackets are a dangerous team on their homecourt, but until they learn to play on the road it’ll be tough to succeed in the ACC.

Starting Lineup:
G- Maurice Miller (SO)
G- D’Andre Bell (SR)
G- Lewis Clinch (SR)
F- Zach Peacock (JR)
F/C- Gani Lawal (SO)

Key Non-Conference Games: 12/6 vs. Vanderbilt, 12/22 @ USC, 1/3 @ Alabama
Key Conference Games: 1/10 @ Maryland, 1/20 vs. Boston College, 2/22 vs. Clemson, 3/4 vs. Miami
Most Valuable Player: D’Andre Bell
Projected Postseason: NIT (2nd or 3rd round)

Numbers 7 and 8 should be up on Saturday afternoon.

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