Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Blake Griffin’

Who’s Hot & Who’s Not

Posted by Tommy on December 3, 2008

The early stages of college basketball have been a blast. Some teams/players have impressed early on, and some have been disappointing so far. Here’s my rundown of “Who’s Hot and Who’s Not” so far this season.

Who’s Hot:

Gonzaga Bulldogs: Mark Few and the Bulldogs have shown that they deserve to be at the top along with the BCS conference powerhouses. The Zags have all the pieces to make a run to the Final Four- a great senior point guard in Jeremy Pargo, strong big men in Josh Heyvelt, Ira Brown and Robert Sacre, and a couple great scorers in Micah Downs and Austin Daye. Stephen Gray is a solid role player and is lights out from beyond the arc when locked in. Heytvelt has looked like the projected lottery pick of old and Daye is emerging as one of the most versatile players in the country. The Zags took down Oklahoma State, blew out Maryland and beat a great Tennessee team to win the Old Spice Classic.

Blake Griffin: Griffin is rapidly becoming the poster child of college basketball and deservedly so. His numbers are off the charts. 25.7 PPG is impressive, but what really jumps out is the fact that he’s shooting 69.2% from the field. His rebounding skills are already well-documented with three 21-rebound performances. His combination of size, athleticism and basketball skills are unlike any I have witnessed in my short time as a college basketball fan.

Tobacco Road Rivals: The best rivalry in all of sports is carrying heavy national implications once again this year. UNC is the favorite to win the title and Duke has shown they are among the best in the land. Even though Duke was in the Top 10 in the preseason polls, there were some questions about their front court going into the season. After the first few weeks, the Dukies have changed any doubters minds with four wins by over twenty points, a 2K Sports Classic crown and a win over #10 Purdue in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge. Singler, Smith, Thomas and Zoubek all look much improved from last season.  Scheyer is also playing a huge role in Duke’s early success and Henderson, although he can do better, has been good thus far. On the other side, UNC has been running like a well-oiled machine. Lawson has proven that he is one of the best point guards in the land and Hansbrough looks like he’s in midseason form despite the injury that held him out of the Heels’ first couple of games. February 11th and March 8. Mark your calendars, folks, because these two games between storied rivals are going to be incredible.

Stephen & Seth Curry: Stephen Curry has proven that he is the best scorer in college basketball. He’s still leading the country in scoring after being held scoreless against a constant double-team from Loyola (MD). Going into the season, a lot of people, myself included, were questioning whether or not the transition to the point and the burden of running the offense would hinder his ability to score, but Curry has shown he can score as well as involve his other teammates. He’s averaging 7 APG and has a assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.8. Curry is also contributing on the defensive end with 3 steals per game. Curry has evolved from a pure shooter into a college basketball star and perhaps the best player in the land. His younger brother Seth has shown that he’s learned a thing or two from his father and older brother. He’s averaging 22 PPG as a freshman at Liberty and had a 26 point performance against Virginia and 22 points against George Mason.

Kyle McAlarney: We all knew this guy could shoot. But the way he’s shooting right now is nothing short of insane. He’s shooting 51.3% from beyond the arc and in his last three performances went 10-18, 9-17 and 7-13 from deep. He isn’t only doing this against weak opponents. He went 5-9 against Texas and his 10-18 performance came against UNC, a game in which he had 39 of the Irish’s 87 points. If he keeps on shooting like this, it’ll be tough for even the best of teams to guard the inside-outside combination of McAlarney and Harangody.

Honorable Mention: James Harden, Middle of the Big East, 76 Classic’s Final Four (Wake, Baylor, UTEP, AZ State)

Who’s Not:

Mullens & DeRozan: This years class of diaper dandies pales in comparison to the classes of the two previous seasons. The big names like Mullens and DeRozan have vastly underperformed their expectations coming out of high school. DeRozan is averaging less than 10 PPG and under 5 RPG against weak competition. Against USC toughest opponents so far, Seton Hall and Missouri, he averaged 5.5 points and 4.5 rebounds. BJ Mullens was supposed to be one of the best big men in the country but has been nothing short of disappointing early. He’s averaging 5.5 PPG annd 4 RPG and has two blocks in his first four games. He’s seen no more than 20 minutes in a game so perhaps Thad is working his freshman in little by little, but a supposed stud like Mullens should see all the playing time he can get, so there must be something wrong.

Siena: For a team that returns all five starters that made it to the second round of the last year’s NCAA tournament, Siena has not looked very impressive in the early going. Granted they did play in the toughest non-conference tournament, but they played two teams they should have beat and lost both games. Siena blew a 12 point lead midway through the second half against Wichita State and never led in the Oklahoma State game. Siena has a good starting five, but their lack of depth has been a thorn in Fran McCaffrey’s backside.

Hurricanes discipline: Miami’s sophomore point guard Eddie Rios was suspended indefinitely on Tuesday for a violation of team rules. This suspension was handed down shortly before the tip of their ACC/Big 10 Challenge matchup against #21 Ohio State. Rios had been filling in at the point for Lance Hurdle, who has been recovering from injury. As if Rios’ suspension wasn’t bad enough, star guard Jack McClinton was ejected with 10 minutes left in the first half after he slapped Ohio State’s Anthony Crater in the face right after McClinton passed the ball. McClinton got the ball back after he slapped Crater and sunk his fourth 3-pointer in the first ten minutes of the game. McClinton hadn’t missed from beyond the arc that game and the Canes were rolling against Ohio State. Ohio State chipped away at Miami’s 14-point halftime lead to secure a 73-68 win. Although the slap didn’t appear to be too violent, McClinton has to keep his cool as the leader of the Hurricanes.

Patrick: C’mon Pat, you jumped out to a pretty nice lead in our daily selections, and now you’re under .500…

Honorable Mention: USC, Charlotte, A.J. Price

Anything else you can think of? Just leave a comment.

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Storylines After Two Weeks

Posted by Zach on November 24, 2008

Puerto Rico Xavier Memphis Basketball

What have we learned so far after two weeks of college basketball? That Samardo Samuels looks to be a force. That Wisconsin and Washington State keep on playing great defense. That Wesley Matthews finally wants to be the best player on Marquette. That Arizona doesn’t know that fouling in a tie game is a poor idea. That ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon was a roaring success. That Jimmy Baron is the best outside shooter in the nation other than Stephen Curry. That Duke loves dominating in November. That scheduling Mercer is a bad idea. That NJIT needs to rethink the whole Division I thing. That DeJuan Blair can be totally unstoppable. That it’s going to be a long year for Barack Obama’s brother-in-law.

Okay, those are pretty important. But what are the single most looming and captivating stories that we should take away from the first two weeks of college hoops? Here’s a few:

1. James Harden, Stephen Curry and Blake Griffin are the best players in the nation.
Okay, we’ll give Tyler Hansbrough an opportunity to reclaim his crown when he’s finally healthy, but these three superstars and eventual lottery picks have certainly filled up the box score while facing “weaker” opponents (should point out that Oklahoma did play Davidson). Harden is averaging 25 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5 assists per game, including a line Sunday against Pepperdine where he made 11 of 13 two-point shots. Curry hasn’t let anyone down looking for an encore performance, averaging 34 points and shooting 43% from deep. Almost as important for Davidson? 8.8 APG and 2.8 TO/PG, meaning he’s made a smooth transition over to point guard. How about 26 PPG and 19.8 RPG for Blake Griffin? Sounds like Wilt Chamberlain to me. He’s played incredible this season, and even though it’s incredibly early to be ranking Player of the Year contenders, I’m going to do it anyway: Griffin is #1. Of course, these are all small sample sizes (three or so games). But there’s no denying these three are producing up to expectation and much more.

2. This freshman class is nowhere near last year’s crop.
Watching most of the top-ranked players in this years recruiting class struggle mightily in their transition to the college game, it’s hard to not think back and appreciate the likes of Michael Beasley, Kevin Love and Derrick Rose dominating from day one on their respective teams. Beasley was putting up record numbers instantly, Love was clearly the best player on a Final Four squad right away, and Derrick Rose might have been the best point guard in the nation a year ago. Someone like DeMar DeRozan is a prime example. I expected him to dominate right away for the Trojans, and while I still think he’s a phenomenal player, the transition has been a difficult one initially. DeRozan has yet to top 14 points in five games and disappeared in two key USC losses vs. Seton Hall and Missouri.  Tyreke Evans has made 2 of 16 threes and went 4/16 in their battle with Xavier Sunday for the Puerto Rico championship. Jrue Holiday seems like more of a two or three-year college player. It’s been the Big East froshies looking the most comfortable: Samuels, Walker and Monroe.

3. Xavier is once again one of the top non-BCS schools in the nation. I hesitate to call them a mid-major at this point. They’ve undoubtedly graduated from that label, so I’ll go with non-BCS. Memphis should take some notes after freshman Terrell “Icewater” Holloway (I made up that nickname, just go with it and make me happy) sunk free throw after free throw to capture the Puerto Rico championship Sunday. B.J. Raymond is an excellent three-point shooter, Derrick Brown is a powerful scoring forward and Kenny Frease will continue to develop inside. Sean Miller also has solid players like C.J. Anderson, Jason Love, Dante Jackson and Jamel McClean at his disposal. Not many programs can rebound this quickly after losing players as important as Josh Duncan, Drew Lavender and Stanley Burrell. Credit Sean Miller for re-tooling this quickly and building a Sweet 16-caliber squad.

4. The Big 12 looks stronger than ever. Some laughed when I said the Big 12 is deeper and more loaded than ever when I wrote their preview last month. It’s real early, but this conference could challenge the ACC for #2 in the rankings. We expected Texas and Oklahoma to come out firing. Contenders Kansas and Baylor are also playing well early (should get a nice gauge of KU after the CBE Classic). But it’s the bottom half of the conference playing exceptional basketball that’s the real story. Missouri played well over the weekend against stiff competition, almost beating Xavier in the first game of the tournament. Texas Tech and Oklahoma State are scoring like crazy. Even Kansas State and Iowa State are dominating weak competition and avoiding the upset bug like some other high majors (Alabama, Auburn, Kentucky, etc.) Combined, the Big 12 is 39-2 as a conference. That’s a good record.

5. It could be a down year for Los Angeles basketball.
Stress the word “could.” Southern Cal has been the #1 disappointment in two weeks of play- DeRozan hasn’t played like himself, Hackett is a turnover machine, they’ve shot 26% from deep and 64% from the line. The reason I used “could” instead of “will” is because I have faith DeRozan will explode sooner than later, and Tim Floyd the type of coach who can turn the ship around. UCLA should also improve as the season goes on as Holiday, Morgan, Lee and the other young players get more acquainted with the college game. They desperately need the passive and often uninterested Josh Shipp to bring his game to another level because Alfred Aboya isn’t going to score 20 points on most nights. Early on, the Bruins look more like a Sweet 16-caliber team than a Final Four contender we’re used to seeing in Westwood, while USC could be bubble-bound.

Any that I missed?

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Weekend Roundup (11/22-23)

Posted by Tommy on November 24, 2008

Saturday, 11/22: After such an exciting week in college basketball, Saturday’s slate was pretty pedestrian, taking a back seat to the late-season action of college football. The Paradise Jam played its consolation semis, the Las Vegas Invitational featured Kentucky vs. Delaware State and Pitt vs. Indiana (PA), while Texas Tech and Eastern Kentucky squared off in the Legends Classic. Although there weren’t any noteworthy games on Saturday, there were plenty of close ones.

The Mercer Bears, apparently unafraid of challenging major conference opponents, took Georgia Tech to overtime Saturday afternoon. After a 16-0 Bears run, Mercer extended their lead all the way to 18 with 12 minutes in the second half. The Yellow Jackets trailed the entire game until Zach Peacock’s pair of free throws tied the game at 69 with 32 seconds left. Gani Lawal, who had a team-high 27 points, blocked James Florence’s bid at a game winner to send it into overtime, where the Jackets never looked back. Florence gave the Bears 26 points and E.J Kusneyer contributed 22. Keep an eye on these Bears come March.

Gardner-Webb, another team that isn’t scared to play with the big boys, gave the Sooners a run for their money on Saturday. Oklahoma seemed to be running away with the game after they rallied to an 11 point lead with 5 minutes in the second half, but Gardner-Webb cut the deficit to five at the half. If it wasn’t for Blake Griffin’s career highs with 35 points, 21 rebounds and five assists, the Sooners probably would have fallen to the Bulldogs, who had a five point lead with six minutes left in the game. Griffin is certainly looking like the National Player of the Year right now after his huge performance last night. He’s averaging 26.0 PPG and 19.8 RPG.

Other Saturday notes:

  • Saint Louis held Tyrese Rice to 2-14 from the field in their 53-50 upset over the Eagles
  • UAB (4-0) looks like they can contend in the C-USA after their 77-62 rout at Old Dominion. Robert Vaden had 28 points.
  • Clemson got a hard fought win over Charlotte after Demontez Stitt’s free throws made it a four point game with 16 seconds.
  • Navy outlasted WIlliam & Mary in a 102-99 3OT win.

Top 25 in Action:

  • #3 Louisville’s balanced attack helped them prevail over Morehead State 79-41.
  • #6 Pittsburgh was led by DeJuan Blair’s 27 point, 18 rebound performance vs. Indiana (PA)
  • #10 Purdue held Coppin State to 46 points in their 20 point victory. Hummel had 20 points and 10 rebounds.
  • #14 Oklahoma relied on Blake Griffin’s 35 pt, 21 reb performance to rise above Gardner-Webb 80-76.
  • #17 Marquette struggled with their crosstown rivals Milwaukee in the 1st half, but ended up winning 100-80.
  • #18 Georgetown got 20 points from Greg Monroe in their 81-53 win over Drexel.

NW Wins Horse Trailer Player of the Day: Blake Griffin, Oklahoma

Sunday, 11/23: Sunday’s matchups were much better than Saturday’s, to say the least. #17 Miami and #2 UConn squared off in the first of the Paradise Jam semis. Jim Calhoun and the Huskies proved that they should still be considered one of the best teams in the country despite playing down to weaker competition such as La Salle. Thabeet led the way for the Huskies with 19 points, 14 boards and seven blocks. A.J Price seemed to get back on track with 13 points and 11 rebounds of his own. McClinton gave the ‘Canes 27 points and was 5-8 from beyond the arc. UConn had its way in the paint, outscoring Miami 48-30.

Wisconsin faced San Diego in the second semi of the Paradise Jam. San Diego was a sexy upset pick but Bo Ryan and the Badgers were having none of that. They put on a clinic on the defensive end of the floor, holding the Torreros to just 49 points. Trevon Hughes led the charge for the victorious Badgers with 22 of Wisconsin’s 64 points. Wisconsin will go on to face the Huskies in the finals of the Paradise Jam.

How about the job Sean Miller has done at Xavier? The loss of Josh Duncan and Drew Lavender had people questioning whether the Musketeers could make it back to the dance. Sunday’s win over #12 Memphis will squash whatever doubts there were regarding Xavier while raising some doubts about the Tigers. Derrick Brown, C.J. Anderson and B.J Raymond are three versatile forwards that are good on both ends of the floor. Xavier held Memphis to 32% from the field, but the Tigers didn’t help themselves with their continual woes at the stripe. Calipari can point directly at his team’s free throw percentage of 50% last night as the reason the Tigers didn’t win the game. Xavier completed their dramatic road to the Puerto Rico Tip-off finals with a nice resume win.

Missouri pulled off a big win against #19 USC in the consolation half of the Puerto RIco bracket. Demarre Carroll had 29 points off of 11-17 FG and 11 rebounds. The Tigers nearly shot 50% from the field but allowed the Trojans to shoot 46%. Missouri did a great job of neutralizing DeMar Derozan who was just 2-9 from the field with 8 points. Daniel Hackett had 11 points but committed eight turnovers. USC has not looked impressive in the least bit so far this season.

Seton Hall handed Virginia Tech their second loss of the season after beating the Hokies 77-73. The Hall outscored VIrginia Tech by 10 in the second half. Jeremy Hazell, who has looked great to start off the season, had 23 points to lead the Pirates. Robert Mitchell’s 15 and Paul Gause’s 14 also made up for an off night from team leader Eugene Harvey. A.D. Vassallo and Malcolm Delaney combined for 47 points in their losing effort.

Top 25 in Action:

  • #2 UConn blew past the Hurricanes 76-63 to advance to the Paradise Jam finals.
  • #3 Louisville demolished South Alabama 81-54 in the Billy Minardi Classic.
  • #5 Duke took care of Montana by a score of 78-58 despite the loss of Greg Paulus.
  • #12 Memphis’ woes at the stripe cost them again in their loss to Xavier.
  • #15 Arizona State was led by James Harden’s 33 points and 12 boards in their 61-40 W over Pepperdine.
  • #20 USC fell victim to the upset bug in their 72-83 loss to Mizzou.
  • #22 Wisconsin thwarted San Diego 64-49. Bo Ryan is still working his magic.

NW Wins Horse-Trailer Player of the Day: James Harden, Arizona State

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November 19: The Day After

Posted by Zach on November 19, 2008

Davidson Oklahoma Basketball

Some thoughts on the top games from ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon that concluded last night:

UAB-Arizona: Can it possibly get any more chaotic for this Arizona program? After weeks of frustration from players (like star forward Chase Budinger, who even mentioned the word “depressed” in an interview) and Wildcat fans following the abrupt resignation of longtime coach Lute Olson, the team finally had a chance to bring smiles to the faces of their loyals. You’ve probably heard/watched what happened- a tremendous comeback tied the game at 71 with under ten seconds to play when Arizona’s Kyle Fogg inexplicably fouled UAB’s Aaron Johnson, thinking the game was tied even though there’s a gigantic scoreboard in the middle of the arena. Luckily for Fogg, Johnson missed the front end, but Arizona’s Nic Wise misfired on a game-winning jumper on the Cats last possession. Overtime, right? Instead, Jamelle Horne unbelievably decides to intentionally foul UAB’s Paul Delaney heaving a desperation halfcourt attempt, thinking the game was tied. That’s right, they made the same exact mistake again. This time it cost Arizona the hard fought contest and a trip to Madison Square Garden for two next weekend. I didn’t realize the coaching inexperience would rear its ugly head that early. Sure, the onus is ultimately on the players that committed the bone-headed fouls. But if Lute Olson is on that bench, do you think this happens? Methinks it doesn’t.

Davidson-Oklahoma: The game of the night and the most entertaining college hoops game of the year, all things considered. Raucous environment, star players, top-25 squads, Fran Fraschilla and a trip to New York on the line. Stephen Curry will end up winning National Player of the Year. All in all, Oklahoma’s Tony Crocker, Austin Johnson and Willie Warren didn’t do a terrible job guarding the screen-searching Curry, and Stephen didn’t even have a vintage shooting night and spent the second part of the first half in foul trouble. Remarkably, he still managed to score a career high 44 points on 12/29 shooting, 6/15 from deep and 14/14 from the stripe. And that’s not even vintage Curry. Led by Curry and key threes from Brendan McKillop and Will Archambault, Davidson battled back after falling behind 61-40 following a Cade Davis three from the corner. After a Curry triple, Davidson was down just three with 56 seconds left before key free throws from Davis and a clutch offensive board from Blake Griffin iced the contest and sent the Sooners to New York next weekend. Griffin was sensational in three areas- defending Andrew Lovedale, rebounding on both ends of the floor (21 rebounds) and bringing constant energy and production for Oklahoma (24 points). The lone achilles heel for Griffin is free throws. He responded by hitting 11 of 12 and icing the game for OU. Worth noting freshman Willie Warren is a sensational player. He has tremendous shooting range and athleticism; he just needs to work on keeping his head on straight at all times and avoiding stupid fouls, ultimately costing him what should have been a 30-point performance.

Kentucky-North Carolina: This was supposed to be the marquee matchup of the early part of the season, with College Gameday in the house and the two winningest programs in NCAA history doing battle. There’s no need to overanalyze this one- Carolina dominated thoroughly from the tip jumping out to a 17-4 lead and never really looked back. Deon Thompson has stepped in beautifully for Hansbrough, scoring 20 on 10/14 shooting and grabbing 9 rebounds last night. He’d probably be considered one of the top forwards in college basketball if he played for a program where he’d receive more touches in the paint. They’ll need Thompson to continue his production with freshman Tyler Zeller likely out for the season with a broken left wrist. Ty Lawson really struggled shooting the basketball, but he exploited Kentucky’s main weakness: the point guard position. And you wonder why Patrick Patterson isn’t touching the rock more? DeAndre Liggins and Michael Porter are decent players and they’ll surely develop as the season stretches into SEC play, but to throw them into this environment against a speedy Lawson and improved (looks that way early) UNC defense is plenty to ask. Billy Gillispie could certainly use Derrick Jasper right now. And a few sleeping pills.

Richmond-Syracuse: Eric Devendorf looked uncomfortable in a shaky first half for Syracuse, committing unusual traveling violations and turning the ball over with frequency while it appeared the Orange might once again falter early to an Atlantic-10 opponent at home. In the second half, the Spiders cooled down from the outside and Devendorf looked like his old self- draining clutch threes, penetrating for acrobatic layups and teaming with Jonny Flynn to provide all of Cuse’s offense. Flynn ended up with 27 points, 5 assists, 3 turnovers on 8/15 shooting and Devendorf 22 on 8/12 shooting. Even if they’d been upset, Syracuse is going to Kansas City for the CBE Classic next week.

St. John’s-Boston College: The Johnnies did a nice job keeping this game close, frequently getting inside on the soft BC interior defense for easy buckets. Tyrese Rice and Vermont transfer Joe Trapani ultimately stepped up late for the Eagles, who will face Purdue next weekend in the Preseason NIT semifinals. Rice is a special talent- pure outside shot, quickness to the rim, outstanding vision setting up teammates for layups, clearly the emotional leader- and willed his team to victory. St. John’s showed that they’re a very weak outside shooting team. Big East teams will likely utilize that soft man-to-man that Massachusetts employed on Memphis in their game, daring the Red Storm to take mid-range jumpers and turn around to collect the clank. I don’t see them finishing last in the conference, though.

Arizona State-San Diego State: The Aztecs jumped out to a 15-2 lead after a Kyle Spain three early in the first half, but the Sun Devils chipped away and played their usual fierce defense to hold San Diego State to just 52 points on the road in an impressive road victory. ASU tied the game at 44 with a Rihards Kuksiks three with 6:04 to go and Harden, who played with a stomach virus, provided them with the lead with a trey on the next possession. Arizona State only took 13 shots in the second half and made nine of them, including five from deep. That’s efficiency, folks. With the news that Alex Stepheson’s waiver was denied by the NCAA today, the Devils look like the clear second best team in the Pac-10 behind UCLA (as of now).

Bobby Knight: I only caught a few minutes of his performance on College Gameday last night and it wasn’t pretty. First of all Bob, don’t look like you’re being tortured. Try smiling once in a while, try looking at your fellow analysts when they’re talking, and don’t fuss around with a pen by your nose the entire telecast. It’s already a joke that you spend your entire coaching tenure bashing the media and then you decide to join the fray after an abrupt retirement, but at least try to not look miserable. How much are they paying you, Bob? You seem like an absolutely insufferable human being that likes spending his entire time lecturing others. I really wish ESPN would just let you disappear. I really do. I don’t care if he has 900 wins and knows basketball. The Rece-Hubert-Jay-Digger four man crew was just fine with me.

Other Top 25 Action:

  • #8 Texas dominated Tulane 76-51 behind a balanced scoring attack; Damion James with 16 and 8
  • #10 Purdue had no trouble with Loyola (IL), playing their usual dominant defense in a 78-46 triumph
  • #11 Gonzaga cruised 80-46 over Idaho with Austin Daye (16/7) providing another solid effort
  • #20 USC rode Taj Gibson (22 and 10 on 9/20) to a 73-60 win over a pesky New Mexico State squad
  • #22 Wisconsin took care of SIU-Edwardsville 88-58 behind 19 points from sophomore Jon Leuer
  • #24 Kansas unveiled their championship banner then cremated FL Gulf Coast 85-45; Collins with 25

NW Wins Horse Trailer Player of the Day- Blake Griffin, Oklahoma: 25 points, 21 rebounds, 7/11 FG, 11/12 FT, 3 assists

On The Tube Tonight

  • Niagara @ Villanova- 7pm (ESPNU)
  • Nebraska @ TCU- 8pm (CBS College Sports)
  • Emporia State @ Kansas State- 8pm (ESPN FC)
  • Northern Iowa @ UIC- 8pm (ESPN FC)
  • Florida A&M @ Alabama- 9pm (ESPN FC)

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2008-09 Big 12 Preview

Posted by Zach on November 8, 2008

The Big 12 is becoming more deep, more talented and more balanced every single season. They boast the national champion Kansas Jayhawks, up-and-comers like Baylor and Oklahoma, mainstays atop the standings such as Texas, and perennial dangerous teams Texas Tech, Kansas State, Missouri, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. It wouldn’t be wise to underestimate Colorado, Iowa State or Nebraska, either. With Kansas losing basically their entire championship roster, it’s time for a new team to emerge. Will it be Texas and A.J. Abrams? Oklahoma and Blake Griffin? Baylor and Curtis Jerrells? Here are my predictions for the 2008-09 season:

1. Oklahoma Sooners: While most preseason prognosticators have the Longhorns notched to the top spot, I’m picking Oklahoma based on three assumptions: 1) I feel like their backcourt of Johnson and Crocker will stay healthy and overachieve, 2) Willie Warren is going to have a major impact, and 3) Blake Griffin could be the best player in the country (hey, he is my preseason player of the year over Hansbrough). None of these expectations are out of the realm of possibility, and I may even argue they all have a high probability of happening.

Backcourt:
Point guard Austin Johnson isn’t the type of player to wow anyone with his pure skills, but he’s a solid point guard and court anchor for coach Jeff Capel. He finished with near a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio last season, can drain a clutch three-pointer, and also led the team in minutes played per game. The drop in FT% from 93% to 73% is concerning, yet I feel that is more fluke than reality. Fellow backcourt mate Tony Crocker is a double digit scorer with one of the deadliest shots from behind the arc. Crocker shot 42% overall from three last year, but in Sooner wins he shot a stunning 52%. If he can improve on reducing the turnovers and become more of a complete guard, it’ll be awfully difficult to defend Tony Crocker this season. Completing Jeff Capel’s three guard lineup is freshman sensation Willie Warren, a dynamic scorer who may be Oklahoma’s top recruit in the program’s history. Warren has an outstanding mid-range jumper and exceptional athleticism, but Warren must learn to transition from the high school game where he dominated every night scoring-wise to more of a team-oriented passer and rebounder for the Sooners. Coach Capel believes he can, and Warren even predicted he’d average eight assists per game this season.

Frontcourt:
The Griffin brothers. More famous than the Jonas Brothers? Probably not, but they play a decent game of basketball. Most would imagine Taylor Griffin may become slightly jealous of his younger brother, but the modest Taylor remains Blake’s biggest fan. He embraces his role as the team’s prototypical glue player, a guy never afraid to dive on the floor for a loose ball or snag the key offensive rebound. With the loss of Longar Longar, Griffin’s 4.9 RPG must improve for Oklahoma. Capel wants Taylor to play with “reckless abandon” this season in the paint. The more touted of the siblings is All-American brother Blake Griffin, the player that truly transformed the atmosphere around Oklahoma basketball. As a freshman, Blake showed the skills to average nearly 15 PPG and just over 9 RPG including a 57% mark from the field. Those stats don’t tell the entire story; Griffin really improved during Big 12 play and against the best forwards in the nation. If he can improve defensively, he’ll be the best player in college basketball and likely the #1 pick in the NBA Draft. Blake’s in the best shape of his life and ready to win a national title first.

Bottom Line: The Sooners have an experienced and tested backcourt with a little Willie Warren mixed in. They also have a duo in the frontcourt that does everything to win. Their bench is useful with JC transfer Juan Pattillo and senior Omar Leary. Coach Jeff Capel has done a tremendous job with this Oklahoma program, but with Warren a possible one-and-done and Griffin surely entering the draft, this may be his one year to shine in the near future. Look for him to take advantage.

2. Texas Longhorns:
When I rank Oklahoma number one, don’t think that’s a slap in the face to the most underrated coach in the nation, Rick Barnes, and this Texas Longhorns squad. I just think very highly of the Sooners upside. Texas and Oklahoma will be neck-and-neck all through January and February battling for that conference banner much like Texas and Kansas did last season.

Backcourt: A.J. Abrams was told by NBA scouts after testing the draft waters that they viewed the 5’11 dynamo as more of a point guard than a shooting guard. Well, it appears like Rick Barnes agrees, and Abrams will be playing mostly the 1-spot this season. Abrams led the Big 12 in three-pointers made en route to a 16.5 PPG average in a season in which he made second team all-Big 12. Why does Barnes believe Abrams can play the point guard with flourishing success? How about only 31 turnovers total last year. The biggest knock on Texas heading into the season is whether they can find a dependable floor leader, but A.J. Abrams certainly fits that bill and he should have Texas competing for a #2 seed. Also in the mix will be Turkish guard Dogus Balbay, who played for the U20 Turkey club and led the team in assists per game over the summer. Justin Mason is Texas’s glue guy- a defensive mastermind who flies around the court and plays like the ultimate competitor he is. Mason only boasts average all-around offensive skills, but makes up for his weaknesses with effort and athleticism.



Frontcourt:
Damion James is more of a perimeter-oriented forward that finished second in the conference in RPG last season with 10.3 per game. How is that possible? Watch James play on a consistent basis and you’ll find out: it seems like this athletic forward is about 15 different places on the court at one time. He’s truly a complete player, someone that can step back and drain a clutch three-pointer (41%) or lock down the other team’s top scoring wing on the other end of the floor. Seemingly his only true weakness is at the free throw line. Gary Johnson is the player that can turn Texas into an elite team. The 6’6 sophomore has finally recovered fully from a scary heart condition and the athletic forward should finally be able to see the floor on a consistent basis for Rick Barnes. When Texas is playing on all cylinders, center Connor Atchley is leading the charge. The breakout player from last year, a season in which he averaged nearly 10 PPG, shot 54% overall and blocked 80 shots,  Atchley is looking to become one of the most feared postmen in the Big 12. Dexter Pittman is another wild card. He’s lost over 75 pounds since coming to Austin and still weighs around 315 pounds. When he’s able to play prolonged minutes, Pittman is a ferocious rebounder and a capable post scorer.

Bottom Line:
Much like Oklahoma, Texas has plenty of question marks. Can Abrams run the point? Can Dexter Pittman contribute? Is Gary Johnson finally healthy? If most of these questions play to Rick Barnes’ favor, they should win another Big 12 title. They preach stout defense and can shoot from outside- a recipe for another successful year in Austin.

3. Baylor Bears: The rebuilding project of all rebuilding projects is finally crystallizing into something special for the Baylor Bears and head coach Scott Drew. Last season, Baylor was the last team admitted to the NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday after winning 21 games and 9 conference contests. But that doesn’t tell the whole story: nine of the team’s 11 losses were by 10 points or less. That means Baylor won 21 games and was still unlucky last season. That bodes well for 2008-09 and the four returning starters.

Backcourt: The leading scorer in the history of United States high school basketball- Tweety Carter- will start at point guard for Baylor in his junior season. Carter isn’t a polished point guard by any means, but the quick tempo that coach Drew instills means half-court sets are a rarity, and Carter can do what he does best: score the basketball. He shot 43% from the floor last season, a good number for a 5’11 combo guard. Curtin Jerrells is the backcourt star, a 13.6 PPG scorer who should explode in his senior season. Someone with his pure talent could have bolted after Baylor was littered with punishments (including a year of zero non-conference games) but Jerrells stayed loyal and that decision is bearing fruit. He led the Bears in scoring- he’s led Baylor in scoring all three years- assists, minutes, field goals and free throws, finished second in three-pointers and earned a spot on the all-Big 12 squad. Sophomore LaceDarius Dunn may come off the bench like he did much of last season and provide coach Drew with an excellent shooter from outside and the free throw stripe. If Dunn can mold into a more fundamentally sound player on defense, he’ll be a national star by his junior season. Henry Dugat is yet another double-digit scorer who’s also Baylor’s top returning defender and is the opposite of Dunn- a complete and consistent player who simply contributes where he can.

Frontcourt: Kevin Rogers is the post anchor for Baylor. His numbers- 12.3 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 50% FG, 77% FT- are all extremely solid. It’s a luxury for Drew to have a consistent player like Rogers to depend on if the Bears need a basket inside. He notched 18 boards last year vs. tournament team Texas A&M and is an outside contender to average a double-double this season. The center position is much more of a question mark, meaning it’s entirely possible Drew goes with four guards and Rogers for the majority of the time. The 7 foot Josh Lomers started 24 games last year and shot 61% from the floor, using his size and strength to dominate for easy baskets in the post. Anthony Jones is a 6’10 freshman that should see major minutes. The lanky forward was ranked in the top-50 nationally in most recruiting magazines and should provide Drew with advanced defense and another scoring option. Quincy Acy is another freshman who may make an impact. Credit Drew with assembling recruits where he was clearly short-manned this season.



Bottom Line:
The job this program has done through epic trials and tribulations to make the NCAA Tournament last season and hopefully contend for the Big 12 title this year is truly remarkable. They’ll be a national favorite and deservedly so. The talent assembled could reach unimagined heights four years ago with Dunn, Jerrells, Rogers and Dugat leading the charge. Watch out for the rejuvenated Bears.

4. Kansas Jayhawks:
As the national championship banner rose to the rafters a couple Friday’s ago in Lawrence, only two contributors from that squad actually remained: Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich. Gone is hero Mario Chalmers, Darnell Jackson, Brandon Rush, Russell Robinson, Darrell Arthur and Sasha Kaun. Luckily for coach Bill Self, who finally tore that postseason monkey off his back, he’s recruited a top-flight class to keep Kansas in contention.

Backcourt: Sherron Collins needs to develop into one of the top point guards in the nation for Kansas to compete for a conference championship. Whether Collins is fully motivated and can get his weight and conditioning under control are two question marks that Bill Self hopes to answer in the affirmative. With the youth assembled on this Kansas team, Self needs Collins to be a leader more than anything, because we know the talented Chicago guard can score and distribute. Whether Collins can answer that call and become the face of the Kansas program is undetermined. Freshman Tyshawn Taylor, a former Crean recruit at Marquette, looks to be the second starting guard, but who really knows at this point. Taylor led St. Anthony’s to a 32-0 record and can really play the point guard position for someone his age, much like Kemba Walker at Connecticut. Mario Little could be Kansas’s top player by the end of the campaign. The top JUCO player in the nation shot 55% from the floor and 40% from three as a wing player. Freshman Travis Releford is an excellent defender and should play the role of knocking down a clutch three-pointer.

Frontcourt:
The Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff, are the gems of the incoming recruiting class. Marcus is a versatile forward who can handle the rock both inside and outside.  He’s made outstanding improvements both defensively and rebounding the basketball in his last year, two areas where Self needs Marcus to contribute this season. Twin brother Markieff is much like Marcus in that he’s a versatile post player who can step outside and drive to the hoop. He’ll likely start off on the bench and give Self another defender and rebounding option. The most improved player in the nation this year could be center Cole Aldrich. He wasn’t able to see many minutes due to the frontcourt logjam for Kansas last year. Now he’s the starting center and ready to shine. Aldrich is a shot-blocker who could also led the Jayhawks in scoring and rebounding in his sophomore campaign. We saw glimpses of his potential against North Carolina in the national semifinal when he contributed with eight points and four blocks.

Bottom Line:
It’s going to be a rebuilding year in Lawrence, and it’s probably a good sign that a rebuilding year means a likely winning record in conference and an NCAA Tournament selection nonetheless. The freshman talent is certainly assembled, they’ve lured two outstanding JUCO players, and Aldrich and Collins are two players who could really make the leap. Kansas will be right in the mix as always.

5. Texas A&M Aggies: Coach Mark Turgeon should have another competitive team in College Station. Three-point shooter extraordinaire Josh Carter returns, a 6’7 swingman who shot 50% from three as a sophomore to lead the nation and “fell off” to 38% last season. Donald Sloan went through rough times replacing Acie Law at point guard, but improved mightily in the second half of the year cutting down on turnovers and turning into a team leader. His jump shot still needs improvement. Forward Bryan Davis also improved as the season wore on for the Aggies, averaging 9.2 PPG and 5.2 RPG during conference play. He’s also A&M’s strongest post defender and shot blocker. Junior Derrick Roland should see minutes as a role player. Two freshmen will contribute immediately: Dashan Harris and David Loubeau. Harris is a 6’0 scoring point guard who’s ranked #70 by Scout.com nationally, and Loubeau, who averaged a stunning 29 and 17 as a senior, chose Texas A&M over UCLA and Pittsburgh.



6. Oklahoma State Cowboys:
New coach Travis Ford leads a backcourt-oriented Cowboys team into battle. Byron Eaton averaged 20.6 PPG during the Cowboys’ late winning streak in February and March, and with his weight under wraps, Ford expects Eaton to become a top point guard in the nation this season. He should bloom under Ford’s freer offense rather than the strict Sutton rules. I’m more excited about sophomore James Anderson and his potential. A future NBA talent, Anderson led Oklahoma State in three-pointers last season as a freshman and averaged 13.3 PPG. His numbers dipped mightily in conference play, though. Anderson will need to play a full season of top-notch basketball for the Cowboys to contend. Terrel Harris is another double-digit scoring returnee in the backcourt. Harris will need to improve on his dismal 27% from behind the arc. He’s a better shooter than that number indicates. Junior Obi Muonelo will need to step up in a thin frontcourt and provide OSU with more rebounding and toughness than he did last year. 6’11 sophomore Ibrahima Thomas and senior Anthony Brown need to play more in the post or Oklahoma State will be out-rebounded on a nightly basis.

7. Missouri Tigers:
Coach Mike Anderson would love to play more of a fast-paced offense, but his two best players are both over 6’8: DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons. Carroll, a former Vandy transfer, emerged as the do-everything forward for Missouri, leading the team in rebounding, points, free throws made, steals and blocked shots. His two weaknesses are committing stupid fouls and struggles at the free throw line. Lyons really emerged in the second half of Missouri’s season, culminating in 27 points and 18 rebounds against Oklahoma State in February. Lyons can certainly score and rebound, and he may even prove to be an all-Big 12 type player if his defense continues to improve. 6’9 JUCO transfer Keith Ramsey will also contribute in the frontcourt. The loss of Keon Lawrence to Seton Hall could be crushing blow in what would have been a stellar backcourt that’s now just average. 6’7 senior Matt Lawrence is an outstanding jump shooter and 6’3 junior J.T. Tiller is a dependable point guard and defensive stopper. 6’2 freshman Marcus Denmon will also see plenty of minutes.

8. Kansas State Wildcats:
Losing Michael Beasley and Bill Walker certainly stings. The only returning starter is Jacob Pullen, who finished third in scoring behind the dynamic freshman duo last season. He’s a smart ball-handler with shooting skills and made a mark with his 20 points in the epic win over Kansas. Sophomore Fred Brown should start at the other guard. He shot the three well at 37%, but has plenty of development to do before he’s a reliable contributor. Ron Anderson and Dominique Sutton should anchor the frontcourt. Anderson is a ferocious rebounder who shot 55% from the field a year ago in limited time. Sutton is also a strong rebounder who needs to become more of a scoring presence. Miami transfer Denis Clemente will help right away as a scoring combo guard. While this is a rebuilding year in Manhattan, coach Frank Martin has a great freshman class in line for next season.

9. Texas Tech Red Raiders
10. Nebraska Cornhuskers
11. Iowa State Cyclones
12. Colorado Buffaloes

Big 12 First Team
G- Sherron Collins, Kansas
G- A.J. Abrams, Texas
G- Curtis Jerrells, Baylor
F- Damion James, Texas
F- Blake Griffin, Oklahoma

Freshman of the Year:
Willie Warren, Oklahoma
Newcomer of the Year: Mario Little, Kansas
Coach of the Year:
Jeff Capel, Oklahoma and Scott Drew, Baylor
Player of the Year: Blake Griffin, Oklahoma

Posted in Big 12 Report, Conference Previews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Patrick’s Official Season Predictions

Posted by Patrick on November 8, 2008

https://i0.wp.com/i.a.cnn.net/si/2008/writers/seth_davis/02/19/stock.report/thabeet.jpg

Here are my official season predictions, and they are a lot different than Zach’s.

Patrick

ACC Champ: North Carolina Tar Heels, Player of the Year: Tyler Hansbrough

Big Ten Champ: Purdue Boilermakers, Player of the Year: BJ Mullens

Big East Champ: Connecticut Huskies, Player of the Year: Luke Harangody

Big 12 Champ: Texas Longhorns, Player of the Year: Blake Griffin

SEC East Champ: Tennessee Volunteers

SEC West Champ: Mississippi State Bulldogs, Player of the Year: Patrick Patterson

Pac-10 Champ: UCLA Bruins, Player of the Year: James Harden

First Team All America: Tyler Hansbrough, BJ Mullens, James Harden, Blake Griffin, Stephen Curry

Player of the Year: James Harden

Coach of the Year: Mark Few

Defensive Player of the Year: Hasheem Thabeet

Breakout Player: Marcus Landry

Sleeper NCAA Tournament Team: San Diego

Sleeper Final Four Team: Pittsburgh

Top Non-BCS Team: Gonzaga

Top Mid Major (not Gonzaga or Memphis or UNLV): Davidson

Top Freshman: BJ Mullens

Final Four: North Carolina, Gonzaga, Arizona State, Connecticut

National Champion: North Carolina

Posted in Predictions | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Zach’s Official Season Predictions

Posted by Zach on November 6, 2008

With the college basketball season kicking off on Monday, we’d be remiss not posting our official season predictions for teams, players and championships. This is more for us than you; so we can look back in March and make fun of eachother like when I slotted NC State third in the ACC last season. Also, my Big 12 Preview won’t be up until Friday night, while Pat and Tommy continue to finish their Pac-10 and ACC previews, respectively.

Zach

ACC- 1) North Carolina, 2) Duke, 3) Wake Forest, 4) Miami, 5) Virginia Tech, Player of the Year: Tyler Hansbrough

Big Ten- 1) Michigan State, 2) Purdue, 3) Wisconsin, 4) Ohio State, 5) Minnesota, Player of the Year: Keaton Grant

Big East- 1) Connecticut, 2) Louisville, 3) Notre Dame, 4) Pittsburgh, 5) Marquette, Player of the Year: Luke Harangody

Big 12- 1) Oklahoma, 2) Texas, 3) Baylor, 4) Kansas, 5) Texas A&M, Player of the Year: Blake Griffin

SEC- East Champion: Tennessee, West Champion: LSU, Player of the Year: Patrick Patterson

Pac 10- 1) UCLA, 2) Southern Cal, 3) Arizona State, 4) Washington, 5) Arizona, Player of the Year: DeMar DeRozan

First Team All-America– Tyler Hansbrough, Luke Harangody, Blake Griffin, Stephen Curry, A.J. Price

Player of the Year- Blake Griffin

Coach of the Year- Jim Calhoun

Defensive Player of the Year- Hasheem Thabeet

Breakout Player- Kalin Lucas

Sleeper NCAA Tournament Team- Cincinnati

Sleeper Final Four Team- Oklahoma

Top Non-BCS Team- Gonzaga

Top Mid-Major (not Gonzaga or Memphis or UNLV)– Siena

Top Freshman- DeMar DeRozan

Final Four- North Carolina, Connecticut, Michigan State, Louisville

National Champion- Connecticut

Posted in Predictions | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

My Top 30 Favorites (Thus Far)

Posted by Zach on October 14, 2008

(Before I get to this post, I have to show this because it’s freaking hilarious.)

Rush The Court (thanks for linking us again…love the top design) is properly ripping off the Reasons Why I Love the NBA promos. You know, the ones where it says Where Game Winners Happen and it shows Ray Allen nailing a three at the buzzer. Anyway, I have a few favorites from their list and thought I’d post them here. That’s right, I’m in a posting mood.

Wayne Ellington silencing the Clemson crowd in one of the best games of the year:

My favorite freshman, DeMar DeRozan, showing why he’s my favorite freshman:

Expect plenty of this from Blake Griffin this season. Especially if the offseason training stories are true:

Posted in Multimedia, Quick Posts | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

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.

Posted in Player Rankings | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Saturday News and Notes

Posted by Zach on August 2, 2008

Ready for another addition of News and Notes? We’re all excited.

Loved this article from Gary Parrish on prized Nevada recruit Luke Babbitt. Apparently this kid is such a workout/basketball junkie, Wolfpack coach Mark Fox banned Babbitt from the gym for ten days this summer. That’s right, Babbitt was banned from touching a basketball or lifting weights or even walking into the gym for ten days, so the kid is going down to Florida with his family. Refreshing to see 1) a coach who is not hawking over his players to spend their lives in the gym and 2) a player with the work ethic as strong as Babbitt. Nevada is a contender in the WAC and Babbitt is the reason why.

– Baylor coach Scott Drew pulled a move many coaches are resorting to recently, hiring John Wall’s AAU coach to a director of player development position. Dwon Clifton coaches John Wall, who is ranked as the number one point guard in the nation for the class of 2009 by most publications, and with this new gig landed in Waco, it appears Baylor has the inside track to land their best recruit ever. Wall is a 6’4 speedster from Raleigh, NC and is officially considering other schools like Kentucky, Oklahoma State and NC State. Baylor already landed a commitment from the #13 center in the nation, Cory Jefferson, for the class of 2009. What Baylor and Scott Drew have done to re-energize a program that hasn’t won a NCAA tournament game in 58 years is remarkable.

– Andy Katz blogged about Blake Griffin and his offseason workout regimen in efforts to establish himself as the true #1 pick in the 2009 draft. Griffin is going through a Marine-like experience this summer to get into peak shape for the upcoming Oklahoma campaign. Blake stayed not only for a Big 12 title, and they’ll have a chance with Willie Warren, Tony Crocker and Austin Johnson returning, but to vault his draft stock even higher. Putting up a Tyler Hansbrough stat line wouldn’t hurt. That’s the goal for Griffin this season.

– The WCC officially moved their ESPN broadcast to a Thursday-Saturday slate rather than their usual midnight ET Big Monday slot for this season. The WCC is stronger than ever this season with top-ten team Gonzaga, top mid-major San Diego and contender Saint Mary’s leading the pack. Rather than just featuring the Zags in most of their games, ESPN is attempting to showcase more of the WCC teams, including the San Diego-Saint Mary’s duel on January 22.

– Recruiting news: Michigan landed the best recruit of the Beilein era thus far by snatching Darius Miles, a top-100 player and top-10 point guard, for their 2009 class. Miles hails from Los Angeles. Villanova received a commitment for 2010 when James Bell, a 6’4 Orlando shooting guard, decided to join Jay Wright’s squad. The Wildcats boast an impressive ’09 class and look to be building for ’10. Finally, Michael Dixon, the 17th ranked PG, committed to play for Mike Anderson and Missouri in 2009.

Posted in News And Notes | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »