Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

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Archive for November 3rd, 2008

Big East Preview Roundup

Posted by Zach on November 3, 2008

Here are all of my previews: 1. Connecticut, 2. Louisville, 3. Notre Dame, 4. Pittsburgh, 5. Marquette, 6. Georgetown, 7. Syracuse, 8. Villanova, 9. West Virginia and 10. Providence, 11. Cincinnati and 12. DePaul, #13-16

First Team
G- A.J. Price, Connecticut
G- Scottie Reynolds, Villanova
F- Sam Young, Pittsburgh
F- Luke Harangody, Notre Dame
C- Hasheem Thabeet, Connecticut

Second Team
G- Jonny Flynn, Syracuse
G- Jerel McNeal, Marquette
F- Terrence Williams, Louisville
F- Jeff Adrien, Connecticut
F- Earl Clark, Louisville

Third Team
G- Kyle McAlarney, Notre Dame
G- Deonta Vaughn, Cincinnati
G- Austin Freeman, Georgetown
F- Lazar Hayward, Marquette
C- DeJuan Blair, Pittsburgh

Player of the Year:
1) Luke Harangody, Notre Dame
2) A.J. Price, Connecticut
3) Sam Young, Pittsburgh

Defensive Player of the Year
: Hasheem Thabeet, Connecticut
Breakthrough Player: Austin Freeman, Georgetown
Freshman of the Year: Samardo Samuels, Louisville
Coach of the Year: Jim Calhoun, Connecticut
Dark Horse Player: Dar Tucker, DePaul
Dark Horse Team: Georgetown
NCAA Teams: 10
NIT Teams: 2
CBI Teams: 1

Top Five Games

1) Connecticut at Louisville (February 2)
2) Notre Dame at Pittsburgh (January 31)
3) Connecticut at Notre Dame (January 24)
4) Louisville at Notre Dame (February 12)
5) Louisville at Georgetown (February 23)

Big 12 preview up Wednesday and Bracketology on Thursday, while Tommy should have his ACC preview done by next Monday. Not sure if Pat feels like contributing to the site at any point with his Pac-10 preview.

Posted in Big East Report, Conference Previews | Tagged: , , , , | 27 Comments »

Big East Preview: #1 Connecticut Huskies

Posted by Zach on November 3, 2008

1. Connecticut Huskies– Coach: Jim Calhoun (23rd season)

PG- A.J. Price (SR):
Whether Price is fully recovered from the torn ACL he suffered in the first half of the shocking loss to San Diego in the first round of the NCAA Tournament is the biggest question mark for this Connecticut team. Price is their sparkplug point guard who also happens to be their most dynamic scorer. He shines in big games, averaging 20 PPG in the seven games Connecticut played against ranked teams last season. He runs a spectacular point guard for Jim Calhoun, leading the Huskies in assists last year. When Price went down and the backcourt turned into a Wiggins-Austrie duo, the drop-off was painfully clear. By all accounts Price is 100% healthy and possibly in the best shape of his life. Price is a preseason All-Big East selection after leading Connecticut in scoring 13 times in 07-08. Price is the one player in the nation I see making the biggest leap forward this season, and the main factor for why I believe Connecticut is the team to beat in this loaded conference.

SG- Kemba Walker (FR):
Originally many pegged fellow freshman Nate Miles to start and give coach Calhoun more rebounding and size in his starting five, but with Miles’ dismissal I suspect Calhoun will opt to go small originally. Walker is a rough-and-tough Bronx point guard at heart who can handle the Big East from day one. A trio of Walker, Dyson and Price in the backcourt will be hard to match in all of college basketball, especially if Walker replicates some of his performances in the U18 FIBA games, where he took home MVP honors. Calhoun calls his prized freshman “cat-like quick”, a dynamic scoring guard who will look to push the tempo and add a new dimension for this team. Outside shooting is a bit of a question mark for Walker early in his college career (I don’t suspect he’s a one-and-done, but who knows), so he’ll look to feed shooters Price and Dyson on the wings and rack up the assists.

SG- Jerome Dyson (JR):
The emergence of Walker could spell Dyson to the bench once Robinson returns, but for now the junior will be pegged as the third guard for coach Calhoun. Dyson’s scoring average (12.5) actually dropped from his breakthrough freshman campaign (13.8) and many viewed his season as something of a disappointment. His three-point shooting (33%) needs to improve slightly, but Dyson does so many valuable things for this team. He’s an aggressive wing who attacks the basket with ferocity, drawing fouls and making free throws consistently (81%). He’s outstanding defensively, racking up nine steals in one game vs. St. John’s last season. I see Dyson thriving in a complimentary role to stars like Price, Adrien and Thabeet, making positive contributions in an offense where he can play fourth or fifth scorer.

PF- Jeff Adrien (SR): The Brookline, MA native is a Jim Calhoun favorite and for good reason. Adrien is a monster rebounding presence who routinely shoots over 50% from the floor on the season. He’s seemingly always in the right place in the paint to snatch a key offensive rebound for the Huskies. Could Adrien average a double-double in his senior campaign after tallying 31 total in his last two seasons? It’s definitely possible, considering Adrien finished last season at 14.8 PPG and 9.2 RPG. There are some clear weaknesses in Adrien’s game, most notably an absence of any threatening mid-range jump shot and porous free throw efforts. Still, the value far outweighs the negatives for this power forward. He’s not a superstar, but, much like Dyson and Thabeet, Adrien provides the Huskies with phenomenal contributions in certain areas (in his case, rebounding). Factor all of these players together and you have the most complete team in the nation.

C- Hasheem Thabeet (JR): The progress of one Hasheem Thabeet has been remarkable. Just two years removed from picking up a basketball for the first time, Thabeet was incredibly raw his freshman year, possessing no offensive qualities and proving sluggish and uncoordinated on the floor at times. Heading into his junior season, Thabeet is shooting 60% from the floor, adding an array of mini-hooks and short jumpers to a growing offensive repertoire. The blocked shots and rebounds are a given for the 7’3 Thabeet. This future lottery pick averaged a stunning 4.5 BPG last season to go along with 7.9 RPG and defensive player of the year honors. His free throws also improved from 51% as a freshman to 70% as a sophomore. What Thabeet provides on defense cannot be measured simply in statistics. Opposing guards are ultra-hesitant to test the post when Thabeet is manning the middle ready to swat your floater into the tenth row, and his size is nearly unmatched in college basketball. Only foul trouble will keep Thabeet from making a tremendous impact for Connecticut all season long.

There’s no trade deadline in college basketball, but Connecticut should acquire freshman Ater Majok and junior Stanley Robinson right around midseason to add more depth and height. Many feel the Australian Majok is a future NBA talent with his 7’4 wingspan and 6’10, 225 pound frame. He’s very raw on the offensive end, but should provide excellent rebounding and defense right away. Majok may be eligible by late December. Robinson’s academic and personal issues means he won’t find the floor until the second semester, just in time for the depths of the conference season. Unless Robinson screws up again, Calhoun has yet another returning double-digit scorer, athletic rebounder and shot-blocker extraordinaire at his disposal. Craig Austrie is a valuable piece off the pine for Calhoun. He led the Big East in free throw shooting, can run the point without turning the ball over, and plays strong defense. Look for his playing time to drop with Walker on board, though. Freshman Scottie Haralson will be called on as the three-point marksman late in games, an area where Connecticut has struggled the last two years. Forward Gavin Edwards appeared in 30 games last year and hit 55% of his shots.

Backcourt: A
Frontcourt: A
Bench: A+
Coaching: A

Bottom Line:
I mentioned that Louisville was loaded in their preview. Believe it or not, Connecticut is even more loaded, even with the loss of Nate Miles. They have the ingredients for a Big East banner: senior point guard who can score and dish, the best defensive big man in the nation, excellent complimentary pieces, a deep bench, outstanding rebounders and shot blockers, and one of the best coaches in the nation. Whether Robinson rejoins the team and Majok can contribute immediately are two glaring question marks. This Connecticut team won’t fall victim to another early round upset, instead playing deep into March and contending for the national championship.

Key Non-Conference Games: Paradise Jam, 12/20 vs. Gonzaga (Seattle), 12/29 vs. Georgetown, 2/7 vs. Michigan
Key Conference Games: 1/24 @ Notre Dame, 2/2 @ Louisville, 2/25 @ Marquette, 3/7 @ Pittsburgh
Most Valuable Player: A.J. Price
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA (National Champion)

Posted in Big East Report, Conference Previews | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Pac 10 Preview (#10-#7)

Posted by Patrick on November 3, 2008

The Pac-10 was arguably the best conference in college basketball last season. However, the talent level is way down in 2008-09. The top of the conference should still have teams that can contend for a Final Four, but the conference is not particularly well-rounded. These are the bottom four teams of the conference: some are teams that have never really been to the top, and some are teams that will be getting their first taste of the basement in a long time. It will still be a very interesting season out West, but I don’t see these teams doing much.

10. Oregon State Beavers– Coach: Craig Robinson (1st Year)

Backcourt: Josh Tarver and Ricky Claitt led a backcourt that can’t hold their own even against mid major teams. While Tarver does get the basket somewhat well, he has a terrible knack for turning the ball over. His 62 turnovers in 31 games (only averaging 24.4 minutes per game) is pretty bad, and he led the Beavers in that category- 20 ahead of the second place man. Claitt should never shoot threes- as he was 3-29 last season from behind the arc- and I can’t imagine how poor he could be this year now that the line has been moved back.

Frontcourt: Josh’s twin brother Seth is probably the Beavers best player, although he only averages around 10 PPG. Roeland Schaftenaar is the center, yet last year he wasn’t even in the top four on Oregon State for total rebounds. The frontcourt is certainly better than the backcourt, but after these two players there isn’t much else to offer.

Bottom Line: This program is struggling and will have a lot of trouble winning a game in the Pac-10. For Last season, Oregon State managed to lose their opening game to Colorado State, a team that went winless in the Mountain West. This season, the Beavers look worse. While the coaching change was needed, I don’t know if getting an Ivy League coach was the right move. OSU should pray that maybe a top mid-major coach wants to move on to the Pac-10 and try to rebuild this program, but until then don’t expect anything from these guys.

Starting Lineup:

PG-Josh Tarver (Jr.)

SG- Rickey Claitt (Sr.)

SF- Seth Tarver (Jr.)

PF-Omari Johnson (So.)

C- Roeland Schaftenaar (Jr.)

9. Oregon Ducks– Coach: Ernie Kent (11th Year)

Backcourt– Tajuan Porter leads a young team and can be a big scoring threat. However, he loves to shoot even when he is having an off night. Joevan Catron is the next best option in the Ducks backcourt. He can also stroke it at times, but most of the problem in this backcourt is shot selection and turning the ball over. If they can take better shots and hang onto the ball it could make a huge difference in the standings. The Ducks have a freshman phenom in Teondre Williams, but I am hesitant to say he will play a huge role quite yet.

Frontcourt– This is where Oregon falls behind most of their Pac-10 competition. They have freshman Michael Dunigan who can be a force down low, but if other teams are concentrating on him and can box him out, the Ducks offense will be crippled. The fact that Oregon’s best option in the paint is a freshman shows the inexperience of Oregon. As a result, it’s tough to project them much higher that second to last.

Bottom Line: This team needs to start playing defense or they will get run off the court in this conference. Obviously they won’t be able to compete with UCLA or Arizona State, but if they want to finish in the top half of the conference they will need to stop teams from putting up ridiculous numbers on offense. The guards also need to stop chucking up three pointers when they’re down. Having a viable option in the paint with Dunigan will help them in close games, but I still don’t see many wins from the Ducks in 2008-09.

Starting Lineup:

PG- Tajuan Porter (So.)

SG- Teondre Williams (Fr.)

G/F- Joevan Catron (So.)

F- Frantz Dorsainvil (Jr.)

C- MIchael Dunigan (Fr.)

8. Stanford Cardinal– Coach: Johnny Dawkins (1st year)

Backcourt– The Cardinal return most of their backcourt players in Mitch Johnson and Anthony Goods. Johnson will be running point and Goods will most likely be getting the start at shooting guard if the Cardinal run a three guard offense.  Jeremy Green is one of the best freshman guards in the nation and he will take on a strong role for Stanford. He has a great outside shot and could help this team down the stretch.

Frontcourt– Obviously Stanford lost an awful lot in the frontcourt after Brooke and Robin Lopez declared for the NBA Draft after their sophomore seasons. Lawrence Hill is the only experienced big man, and Josh Owens is a sophomore that got very limited playing time last season but showed that with some work he can be a good player. Jarrett Mann, another freshman, should also see plenty of playing time while this group tries to pick up the slack left by the Lopez twins.

Bottom LIne: Its difficult to put such a talented program that plays great defense this low in the conference, but with virtually no big men and a new coach Stanford will go through some major pains.  If Mitch Johnson can take leadership of this team it’s possible that they can finish much higher than 8th, but that’s a big if.

Starting Lineup:

PG- MItch Johnson (Sr.)

SG- Anthony Goods (Sr.)

G- Jeremy Green (Fr.)

G/F- Jarrett Mann (Fr.)

F- Lawrence Hill (Jr.)

7. California Bears- Coach: Mike Montgomery (1st year)

Backcourt: Believe it or not, Cal has one of the best backcourts in the conference. Patrick Christopher and Jerome Randle have both proved that they can score and are experienced players. Of course, the departure of Ryan Anderson hurts this team tremendously. However, DJ Seeley (a freshman) is going to fit in nicely at point right away.

Frontcourt: The frontcourt is definitely a  weakness for Cal and where they fall behind other teams in the conference. Harper Kamp and Jamal Boykin are their best bets down low. They’re both undersized and are barely Pac-10 caliber frontcourt players.

Bottom Line: Cal will be a great team in 2009-10 but not this season, unless Christopher and Randle can put up Ryan Anderson like numbers. Cal also needs to play defense if they want a shot at an NCAA bid they’ve been striving for over the last couple seasons.

Starting LIneup:

PG- DJ Seeley (Fr.)

SG- Patrick Christopher (Jr.)

G- Jerome Randle (Jr.)

F- Jamal Boykin (Jr.)

F- Harper Kamp (So.)

Posted in Conference Previews | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

ACC Preview #5 Virginia Tech

Posted by Tommy on November 3, 2008

Coach- Seth Greenberg (6th season)

PG- Malcolm Delaney (SO): Last year the Hokies really missed the play of an experienced point guard. Delaney split the duty of running the offense with fellow freshman Hank Thorns. Now that both of these players are acclimated to college basketball, Greenberg will rely heavily on them to run the team. The reason I give the nod to Delaney over Thorns is his scoring ability. Delaney has a better shot and more size than the 5-9 Thorns and found his stroke during the ACC Tournament and NIT. Delaney does have a tendency to turn the ball over a bit more but Greenberg will live with that as long as Delaney keeps up his scoring numbers. Nevertheless, Delaney is a budding star in the ACC and could be poised for a bust-out sophomore season at the helm of the Hokies.

SG- A.D. Vassallo (SR): The young Hokies are really going to look to Vassallo to provide leadership. He doesn’t have a game with a lot of flare but he’ll do just about anything to help out his team. Vassallo gets it done on both ends of the floor. He can score in a number of ways, is a good rebounder and a tough defender and plays with his head as well as his heart. His size and versatility will allow him to play the two and the three this season. Vassallo is in a nice situation in which he’ll be relied on to take plenty of the shots, but can’t acquire too much of the opposition’s attention because he has quality young players around him. Vassallo could flirt with 20 PPG this season.

SF- J.T. Thompson (SO): Thompson, who played the four spot for the most part last season, has slimmed down over the offseason. His slimmer frame has improved his athleticism and will enable him to play the wing. Thompson has shown that he isn’t a threat from outside after only shooting one three-pointer last season, but he’s strong and athletic and will get to the rim. The departure of Deron Washington leaves some pretty big shoes to fill for Thompson at the wing, but as he gets more and more playing time, I think he’ll really come on strong for the Hokies. He may not have the greatest of offensive games, but he’ll provide hustle, defense and a strong rebounding presence for Greenberg.

PF- Jeff Allen (SO): The third starting sophomore for the Hokies is without question their best. Allen opened a lot of ACC fans’ eyes with his play down low. He’s one of those guys that fills most every column in the stat sheet. He’ll put up around 13 PPG, grab 8 RPG, and will cause about five or six turnovers each game through blocked shots and steals. Allen has a nice set of soft hands and good touch around the rim. Like Thompson, Allen has lost a significant amount of weight, meaning he’ll give the Hokies more athleticism and will be able to stay in the game longer, block more shots and run the floor better. Like the other two sophomores in the starting lineup, Allen is blossoming and I think can establish himself as one of the best big men in the ACC.

PF- Lewis Witcher (JR): Although Witcher is an undersized post player, he makes up for it with hustle and toughness down low. He won’t impress anybody with his athleticism or his skill set on offense, but Witcher is willing to put his body on the line for the sake of his team. Greenberg will look for him to provide the club with good defense and make the shots he’s given, knowing he shouldn’t expect any more or less out of the junior. Witcher reached double digits in the scoring column only twice last season, and any improvement on his 2.7 PPG would be a nice bonus for Greenberg and the Hokies.

Bench: Greenberg has a lot of interchangeable parts for this year’s roster. Senior Chuck Diakite will come off the bench and provide an energetic game similar to that of Witcher. As I said before Thorns will get some time at the point, but he has to improve on his 34 percent from the field from last season if he wants to get a chance at significant minutes. Sophomore guards Dorenzo Hudson and Terrell Bell give the Hokies some flexibility and athleticism in their backcourt. There has been a lot of talk in Blacksburg about 6-8 245 lb incoming freshman Victor Davila. His size and athleticism will bolster the frontcourt that will probably need some help because of their lack of size.

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

Bottom Line: I would imagine Seth and the Hokies would be pretty motivated going into this season after having their bubble burst at the 11th hour last year. With three sophomore starters and three more playing significant roles off the bench, this “Sophomore Six-Pack” will have to mature over the course of the season. There is plenty of talent in that class, but if the Hokies want to solidify a spot in the dance, guys like Delaney and Allen will have to play a big part in taking them there. Nobody on Virginia Tech will blow opponents away with their natural talent, but they all play great defense and run an efficient offense.

Key Non-Conference Games: O’Reilly Auto Parts Puerto Rico Tip-off 11/20-11/23, 12/1 vs. Wisconsin
Key Conference Games: 1/17 vs. Boston College, 1/25 @ Miami, 1/29 vs. Clemson, 2/28 vs. Duke
Most Valuable Player: A.D. Vassallo
Postseason Tournament: NCAA (one and done)

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