Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

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

Archive for November 5th, 2008

Pac-10 Preview: #2 Arizona State

Posted by Patrick on November 5, 2008

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#2 Arizona State Sun Devils- Coach: Herb Sendek (2nd Year)

PG-Derek Glasser (Jr.)- Glasser was probably the Sun Devils most improved player last season, averaging almost one more assist per game, nearly doubling his assist/turnover ratio, and making a drastic change for the better in his free throw shooting. There is no saying what he can do this year if he improves even half as much as he did last season. Besides being a hard worker, Glasser is a guy that can hide in this offense and defenders will stop paying attention to him when Harden and Pendergraph are at their best, and if you leave Glasser open he has the ability to knock down the outside shot.

SG-Ty Abbott (So.)- Abbott was a bit flaky at times last season, but that is expected when you call on a freshman to play such a big role in your offense (if his name isn’t James Harden). This year I think that Abbott will make a huge improvement and gain the ability to shoot threes consistently. Abbott could be a very important part of this Sun Devils team, and if they want to advance far in the tournament like many know they can, Abbott will need to play some of his best basketball.

G/F-James Harden (So.)- James Harden showed that not only is he one of the best players in college basketball, but his desire to win is up there with the best. Harden exhibited that he is a great competitor that doesn’t want to move onto the next level until he has done his job where he is at right now. He could have easily been a top 15 pick in the NBA Draft and be on the road toward millions, but the chance to win a national championship was more important to him. Oh yeah, and he averaged 17 PPG and shot 40% from three as a freshman.

G/F-Rihards Kuksiks (So.)- Straight out of Latvia, Rihards Kuksiks saw a very expanded role in the offense late last season and provided a bit of a spark for this team down the stretch. Kuksiks is a solid shooter, and if he can keep the momentum from late last season and carry it over to this year, he should play a key role in the offense.

PF-Jeff Pendergraph (Sr.)- Pendergraph will be the glue that holds this team together, not only with his inside presence but with his amazing defense and ability to lead a basketball team. The only problem I see is that from the 2006-07 season to the 2007-08 season his RPG decreased by almost three, which is probably just because he received a more expanded role in the offense. If he can pull down nine rebounds per game this season Arizona State will be in very good shape. Pendergraph is one of the best power forwards in the nation without a doubt, and can lead this team deep into March and maybe even April.

Bench- Eric Boateng, a Duke transfer from London, should see a lot of time at center, and is a great player to have off the bench if ASU needs to guard a big man. Jerren Shipp will be a solid replacement at guard, and when he is on can be deadly from behind the arc. Arizona state also has two solid freshman in guard Johnny Coy and big man Taylor Rohde that will help coming off the bench.

Bottom Line- Arizona State has set themselves up to be one of the elite teams in college basketball, and I really don’t see this team losing many games in the Pac-10. The duo of Harden-Pendergraph is as good as any in the country and will lead this team to an NCAA tournament after having just two conference wins two seasons ago. Herb Sendek has done a great job with this program in the short time that he has been there, and this season is when he gets his sweet reward.

Backcourt: A

Frontcourt: B+

Bench: B

Coach: A-

Key Non-Conference Games: Anaheim Classic (11/27-11/30), BYU (12/20)

Key Conference Games: at USC (1/15), at UCLA (1/17), Washington (1/31), UCLA (2/12), USC (2/15), Arizona (2/22)

Projected Post Season Tournament: NCAA (Elite Eight)

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

ACC Preview: #3 Wake Forest

Posted by Tommy on November 5, 2008

Coach- Dino Gaudio (2nd season)

PG- Ishmael Smith (JR): This six foot guard is lightning in a bottle. Everybody raves about Ty Lawson being the fastest player up and down the court with the ball, but I’d pay a lot of money to see a race between Smith and Lawson. Being fast with the ball is nice and all, but I’m sure Dino Gaudio would like to see Ish slow the game down just a notch because he committed almost 3 turnovers per game as a sophomore. Turnovers are a minuscule problem compared to Ish’s woes at the free throw stripe. He shot 29% at the line last season. Yes 29%, it’s not a misprint. It’s mind-boggling because Smith does everything else so well but for whatever reason, it doesn’t seem to click at the line. Smith will provide around 10 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 5 APG, shoot 43% from the field and will probably get his assist-to-turnover ratio up around 2, all pretty good stats for a point guard. With all that upside, Gaudio is forced to take his starting point guard out of the lineup in end-game situations where Wake is getting fouled, which is extremely unfortunate because Smith knocked down two game-winning shots in ACC play last season.

SG- Jeff Teague (SO): Teague was Wake’s second leading scorer last year as a freshman. He and Smith combine to make one of the quickest backcourts in the country. Teague’s athleticism and quickness is similar to Smith’s but Teague has a more polished jumper and a little more size. He’s very good at getting his hands on the ball on defense and is always in the hip pocket of his counterpart. As a freshman, Teague seemed to step up in the big games and played like an experienced leader during ACC play. He scored 26 vs. BYU, 27 vs. Miami, 26 vs. Duke, 18 @ UNC and 25 @ Va. Tech. Now that he has a full year under his belt, Teague is going to have to be one of the leaders of this young Demon Deacon squad. In my opinion, he’s on the verge of a breakout season and will flourish with all of the athleticism round him.

SF- Al-Farouq Aminu (FR): Gaudio landed a Top-five incoming freshman class overall and the best small forward of the 2008 class. He made his high school opponents look like preteens with his size, jumping ability and skills. This kid has nice length for his 6-8 frame and can jump out of the gym. He has a rare ability to create offense on his own whether he pulls up from deep or takes it all the way to the rack, both of which he’s very capable of. He has good size for the three spot so I’d like to see him be post defenders up as well as beat them off the dribble from the perimeter. If Aminu does prove he can score on the block, he would feature a three-pronged offensive game similar to that of former freshman phenom Kevin Durant.

PF- James Johnson (SO): At 6-9, 245, Johnson is built like a power forward but has the skill set to play both the three and four. He was Wake’s leading scorer and rebounder last season with 14.6 PPG and 8.1 RPG and like the rest of this Demon Deacon team has great athletic ability. Johnson reeks havoc on defense with his combination of size, athleticism and length and averaged 1.4 STL per game and 1.3 BLK per game last season. Johnson has tremendous upside and deserves to be thrown into the conversation as one of the best up and coming players in the conference.

C- Ty Walker (FR): As a coach, if you have an incoming class of freshmen in which a player like Tony Woods isn’t the headline guy, you know you’ve got some young talent. One thing about Woods that turns me off is his string bean-like frame at 7′, 215. I’m sure he’ll put on some muscle mass under college strength coaches, but strong post players will be able to use their body on the block to negate Wood’s shot-blocking ability. He’ll provide the Deacs with a great shot blocking presence for when guards penetrate or when another player is being posted up, but adding weight would really help Woods. His size and ability to run the floor will prove a nice addition for Wake.

Bench: Wake is returning their top nine scorers from last season and brings in one of the best recruiting classes in the country which consists of three stud freshmen, two of whom are starting. The only player who averaged more than 30 minutes per game last year was Ish Smith and I expect much of the same liberal substituting this year from Gaudio. The frontcourt will be bolstered by junior Chas McFarland and freshman Tony Woods, two very capable post players. Junior L.D Williams gives Gaudio a guard that is solid at both ends of the floor and has a little more size than Teague and Smith. Senior Harvey Hale is a capable backup guard and will come in for Smith when Wake needs a good free throw shooting lineup. Junior Jamie Skeen will come off the bench and give the Demon Deacons a strong rebounder and defender.

Backcourt: A-
Frontcourt: A-
Bench: A-
Coaching: A-

Bottom Line: Words cannot even begin to describe how much upside Wake Forest has this season. Each starter is very talented and very athletic and for the most part, young. Smith, Teague and Johnson, three of their go-to guys, combined for 7.9 turnovers per game last season, far too many for two guards and a talented player like Johnson. If Wake cuts down on turnovers, their athleticism alone will keep them in games. Wake has the talent to surpass Duke at number two in the ACC, but if they continue to turn the ball over they could fall behind Miami and perhaps Virginia Tech. A pretty favorable ACC schedule in which they only have to play North Carolina and Miami once apiece certainly helps. With that said, all the pieces are in place for Wake to make a run at the ACC title in 2008-09.

Key Non-Conference Games: 11/27-30 2008 76 Classic, 1/03 @ BYU
Key Conference Games: 1/11 vs. North Carolina, 1/28 vs. Duke, 2/4 @ Miami, 2/22 @ Duke
Most Valuable Player: James Johnson
Projected Postseason: NCAA (Sweet 16)

Posted in ACC Report, Conference Previews | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Jai Lucas Leaving Florida

Posted by Zach on November 5, 2008

In a bit of a stunning decision, sophomore guard Jai Lucas will transfer from the University of Florida. The 5’10 playmaker chose Florida in a heated recruiting battle with Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and may look to one of those schools to conclude his college career.

Lucas, the son of former NBA player John Lucas, informed Billy Donovan of the decision Wednesday. If he transfers to another Division I school, he’d have to sit out next season. Lucas resides from Bellaire, Texas. If he wants to return closer to home, get Rick Barnes, Mark Turgeon and Pat Knight on the phone. He’s going to be a big-time coup for some program in the future.

Lucas may have felt his minutes were at risk with the commitment of top-10 recruit Kenny Boynton for next season. The Gators would prefer Lucas slide over to point guard full-time, but Boynton and the emergence of Erving Walker, who impressed in the Florida scrimmage, was deemed a threat. Lucas finished at 8.5 PPG in 36 games (he started all) last season, leading the Gators in three-point shooting accuracy.

“He didn’t get rattled by opposing arenas,” Donovan said. “When you lose a player like that who’s got that level of experience, it always hurts because you look at a guy like Erving (Walker) in the backcourt, he’s got none. We’ve got to try to figure out some things. We’ve got to get Erving ready.”

“Any time a player leaves your program you always get a little disappointed, but at the same time there was a point where Jai wasn’t totally happy,” Donovan said. “He wanted to try to make it work…I hate to see him go, but my biggest focus for him is I want to see him be happy wherever he can go. We haven’t even talked about schools.”

(Quotes courtesy Orlando Sentinel)

UPDATE: Unrelated to the Lucas story, but ESPN Full Court’s schedule is officially out. This is a national holiday for me. Patrick ordered the package at his crib this year, and needless to say I expect to spend an inordinate amount of time there this winter. Here’s the schedule. First ESPNU game next Monday and first Full Court slate of games next Friday!

Posted in Quick Posts | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

Pac-10 Preview: #3 Washington Huskies

Posted by Patrick on November 5, 2008

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#3 Washington Huskies– Coach: Lorenzo Romar (7th year)

PG- Justin Dentmon: Dentmon is an experienced senior that has been getting major time at point guard ever since his freshman year. He has the ability to score in large amounts, but saw a major decline in his stats last season. His free throw percentage fell almost 10 percent, and he averaged one less assist per game than in his first two seasons as a Huskie. However, he did cut down on his turnovers which, if he continues to play smart basketball, will help tremendously. Dentmon is also a solid defender and has advanced court vision. His primary job will be finding an open Jon Brockman and getting him the basketball.

PG- Venoy Overton: Overton is just a sophomore, but he got plenty of game experience last season even as a freshman. This year, he could receive just as much time running the point, especially if Dentmon is struggling. The problem with Overton is his tendency for turnovers and his outside shot is nothing more than mediocre, but if he knows his role on the team and can play good defense then he should make a solid contribution to the Huskies.

SG-Elston Turner: Turner is one of three incoming freshman that look to make a major impact for Washington this season. He has a big frame at 6’4” and 190 lbs, and has great scoring ability when given the chance. The only problem is that he is an easy player for a good defender to shut down, and he will be seeing a lot of quality defenders in this conference.

SG-Scott Suggs: In my opinion, Suggs is the best of the three incoming freshman guards. He has the ability to take the ball to the basket, and he has a great outside shot. Suggs is also a very athletic player that loves to get the ball in transition, and can kill other teams when he’s on the fast break. Defending isn’t his strong suit but he is still an adequate defender that can shut down some average players. I’d look for Scott Suggs to make a major impact at Washington this season.

SF-Quincy Pondexter: Washington’s frontcourt is anchored by two players: Pondexter and Jon Brockman. While Pondexter is no Brockman, he is still a very solid basketball player that can score points in the paint and grab rebounds down low. His free throw shooting was average last season, but if he improves on that he will be a very tough player to stop in the Pac-10. Pondexter often feeds off of Brockman’s success, so if Brockman is having a great game look for Pondexter to do the same.

PF-Jon Brockman: Brockman could play on any team in the nation in any conference, and still be a first team all-conference caliber player. He is a lot like Luke Harangody of Notre Dame: tremendously strong, athletic, and loves to score. Brockman is also a great defender that pulls down lots of rebounds; he will be the lifeblood of this Huskie team and could lead them to a possible Sweet 16 appearance in March.

Bench: Depending on which point guard is coming off the bench, they will play a major impact for this team. Also big men like senior Artem Wallace and freshman Tyreese Breshers will play big roles in the frontcourt. Washington has a great starting five, but they lose a lot in terms of depth; however, if Romar can find a solid eight man rotation (barring foul trouble with Brockman) they should have no trouble living up to their expectations in the Pac-10 this season.

Backcourt: B

Frontcourt: A

Bench: B-

Coach: B+

Bottom Line: As I said before this team will revolve around Brockman, but this doesn’t mean that they don’t need other players to step up. If Dentmon and Pondexter can do more than will be asked of them it will not only make Brockman’s job easier but it will also help the freshmen settle into their roles on the team. Like many Pac-10 teams, Washington is young and they will have their growing pains. However, having a player as good as Brockman will help come tourney time and in those close conference matchups. I expect nothing less than a tournament appearance and a first round victory.

Key Non-Conference Games: CBE Classic (11/20-11/25), Oklahoma State (12/4)

Key Conference Games: USC (1/22), UCLA (1/24), at Arizona State (1/31), at USC (2/21), Arizona State (2/26)

Projected Postseason Finish: NCAA (Second Round)

Posted in Conference Previews | Tagged: , , | 6 Comments »