Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘James Harden’

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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Weekend Roundup (11/29-30)

Posted by Zach on December 1, 2008

Tennessee Gonzaga Basketball

Here’s a summary of how an entertaining weekend played out in college hoops…

Five Most Meaningful Outcomes

1. Gonzaga 83, Tennessee 74: Credible experts like Dick Vitale and myself (okay, Dickie V isn’t a credible expert) predicted Gonzaga would make the Final Four this season. Their performance Sunday night in a huge resume building win over Tennessee vaulted them firmly into contention to reach Detroit and established the Zags as a top-five team in the nation. The big differences from a year ago? Jeremy Pargo has listened to NBA scouts advice and molded into a coaches dream for a point guard- one who makes sure his talented teammates are involved before taking over scoring-wise when his team desperately needs a boost. Austin Daye has turned into one of the top shooters in college basketball at 6’10. Josh Heytvelt is clearly the team leader and has advanced post moves and scoring ability some in the NBA don’t even possess. Other players like Goodson, Brown, Bouldin, Downs and Gray (whom I love) all know their roles and stay grounded. Rather than the usual finesse Gonzaga teams of years past, this group is physical, tough and has all the ingredients. They certainly impressed Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl, and these two teams will meet up again next month in Knoxville for a tremendous rematch.

2. Wake Forest 87, Baylor 74: I was extremely impressed with Wake Forest’s performance in a dominating second half over a Baylor team that cleanly beat Arizona State on Friday night. Coach Dino Gaudio allows his athletic team to run the floor and play the fast-paced offense that suits point guard Jeff Teague. Wake grabbed 57 rebounds in the contest led by L.D. Williams, Al Farouq-Aminu, Chas McFarland and James Johnson. Whether Wake can contend with Duke or Carolina in the ACC is still a question mark, but they certainly showed they’re top-4 seed worthy in Anaheim. The question is whether Wake can develop more consistency shooting from the outside as the season wears on (fortunately Baylor shot only 26% from deep in the game).

3. Kentucky 54, West Virginia 43: This one was ugly, but Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie doesn’t care. The Wildcats rebounded from the VMI loss and the UNC thrashing to win the Las Vegas Invitational over the weekend, defeating both Kansas State and NCAA contender West Virginia. Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson are constituting pretty much the entire Wildcat offense, with Meeks once again putting the game away at the free throw line and Patterson chipping in with a double-double. These two will need to lead Kentucky if they hope to make the NCAA Tournament and save their coaches job. Kentucky overcame a 26-16 deficit at halftime in this game.

4. Pittsburgh 57, Washington State 43: Two defensive-minded teams met in the final of the Legends Classic in New Jersey as you can tell by the score. Sam Young (15) and Levance Fields (14) forced enough Washington State turnovers (15) and turned them into points for the victory. After a hotly contested first half, Pitt really stiffened their defense in the second stanza. With a weaker Pac-10, the Cougars could find themselves in the NCAA Tournament as a third place finisher, so it’s a nice resume win for Pittsburgh.

5. Georgetown 75, Maryland 48: These crosstown foes finally meet (why they don’t play is a mystery) in the third place game of the Old Spice Classic with Georgetown winning in an impressive rout. It’s fairly clear that John Thompson is simply recruiting on a higher level than Gary Williams in the talent-heavy DC area at this point, with the Hoyas reeling in talent like Austin Freeman, Chris Wright, DaJuan Summers and Jason Clark while the Terrapins settle for second-tier talent such as Eric Hayes, Adrian Bowie, Sean Mosley and Braxton Dupree. And it clearly showed on the basketball court with this game not even being competitive. Still, Maryland showed they’re capable in their shocking victory over Michigan State and Georgetown could be pointing to this convincing win in March.

Top Five Player Performances

1. James Harden– He doesn’t wow you with his leaping ability or blazing speed or strong frame. Heck, he even looks kind of dorky with the long tee-shirt he wears under his Arizona State uniform. But James Harden can definitely play basketball, and if Blake Griffin, Tyler Hansbrough and Stephen Curry didn’t exist, Harden would be Player of the Year. He dropped 32 points on Baylor in a loss and followed it up with 40 in a blowout win over NCAA caliber UTEP, hitting six threes.

2. Kyle McAlarney– Remember his shooting display in Maui against North Carolina? He decided to perform an encore in front of the home fans on Sunday, collecting 32 points on nine threes in the win over Furman. In his last two games, McAlarney has shot 35 threes and made over 50% of them. They’ll need McAlarney to keep shooting the lights out with Luke Harangody sidelined with pneumonia.

3. A.J. Slaughter– In the absolute #1 shocker of the month of November, Western Kentucky flat out dominated #3 Louisville on a neutral floor. This isn’t last years Sweet 16 Hilltopper team, either. Most of the top scorers from that team have departed. A.J. Slaughter played more of a secondary role last year, but certainly looked like a star in the victory, compiling 25 points and 9 rebounds on 8/15 shooting.

4. Sam Young– Mentioned him before in the Legends recap, but Young is the early frontrunner for Big East Player of the Year. He dropped 33 on Belmont, followed it up with 24 in a win over Texas Tech, and then led the way with 15 and 8 against tough Washington State. With Levance Fields also playing well and looking healthy, Pittsburgh is to be feared.

5. Jodie Meeks– Meeks has been flat out unstoppable early for Kentucky. He’s averaging 25.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG, shooting 38% from three and 88% from the line. And he’s been to the line often, hitting 23/25 from the charity stripe in Las Vegas over the weekend, most in high-leverage situations. Meeks turned the ball over nine times against Kansas State, but totaled 37 points, 6 rebounds and 4 steals for the Horse Trailer. Meeks personally told me he is honored.

Five Upset Specials

1. Western Kentucky 68, Louisville 54: If somebody told you he/she saw this coming, they are a liar. In just the third game of the season for the Cardinals and coach Rick Pitino, they were the victims of the most shocking upset of the year to date. Western Kentucky effectively double-teamed Samardo Samuels and caused all kinds of havoc for Louisville guards Edgar Sosa and Andre McGee, who combined to go 0/13 from the floor, 0/9 from three, score 2 points while dishing out 2 assists with 4 turnovers. Yikes. Louisville got three-happy like they often do, shooting 30 from deep and making 6. Earl Clark is showing no signs he wants to be one of the premiere players in college hoops. A reprehensible loss for Louisville.

2. Dayton 89, Marquette 75: Another Big East contender to fall on Saturday was Marquette, losing to upstart Dayton in Chicago in a game where they were thoroughly outplayed. The Flyers used their quickness and a career performance from reserve guard Rob Lowery (21 points) to stun the Golden Eagles and improve to 6-0. Once again, Marquette played no defense, an obvious concern for Buzz Williams. They allowed an Atlantic 10 team to shoot 53% and shoot 39 free throws, while Dominic James continues to regress jump shooting wise.

3. Drake 68, New Mexico 62: The Lobos were supposed to be taking over right about now under coach Steve Alford. Instead he fell in both games at Cancun over the weekend to VCU and Drake, the latter being the more shocking and disappointing. New Mexico even held Drake’s main scorer, Josh Young, to 10 points on 2/10 from the floor and still lost the game, falling behind by as much as 16 in the second half. They’ll need to win the Mountain West now for a tournament bid at 3-4.

4. Cal State Fullerton 92, Charlotte 84: This one isn’t a huge upset (CSF was only a 3-point dog), but Charlotte and coach Bobby Lutz are currently on a major down spiral, finishing last in the Anaheim Classic with this loss and dropping to 1-6 on the season. They looked like at least an NIT contender nearly downing Clemson earlier in the week before losing heartbreakers to Providence and Cal State Fullerton and receiveing a walloping from Arizona State. Can they possibly recover from this?

5. Green Bay 84, Massachusetts 67: Speaking of bad A-10 teams, how about Massachusetts? They have talented players like Chris Lowe, Anthony Gurley and Ricky Harris, but it clearly isn’t materializing at this point for new coach Derrek Kellogg. Most of all they can’t play defense, letting Green Bay have six players in double figures in a performance that dropped the Minutemen to 1-4 on the season.

Bubblicious Wins

  • Texas Tech over Mississippi State at the Legends Classic was a big win for coach Pat Knight and one to possibly place on the resume come March if the Red Raiders are sitting on the bubble
  • Texas A&M taking down MAC contender Kent State on a neutral floor was a nice win for Mark Turgeon and Co. after losing to Tulsa
  • Don’t look now, but Nebraska is still undefeated! They beat MVC favorite Creighton in a hotly contested game over the weekend.
  • Illinois is still undefeated, too. They topped Tulsa who beat A&M the day before.
  • Florida State with two very impressive wins over California and Cincinnati in Las Vegas. The opposite for UNLV, who lost to both of those teams and are now looking weak for an at-large, even with the win at UTEP earlier in the week. Wink Adams went 5/26 with three assists in the two losses.
  • Saint Mary’s looked overwhelmed in their loss to UTEP on Thursday but rebounded with a couple quality victories over Providence and Cal State Fullerton
  • Nevada lost to Portland and is off to a horrific start to the season. Brandon Fields is still trying to get himself into the flow of the offense.

Enjoy the ACC/Big Ten Challenge everyone!

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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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Patrick’s Official Season Predictions

Posted by Patrick on November 8, 2008

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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

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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)

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NCAA Position Rankings: Top 10 SG

Posted by Tommy on July 20, 2008

I’m not a big fan of the term “shooting guard” because it makes it seem like the only job of these players is to shoot. I prefer two guard or off-guard because these days, guards are becoming much more explosive and versatile and are learning to score in many different ways. The two guard is the predominant scorer from the backcourt, and is often the best athlete on the team. This year, there are plenty of guards in all shapes and sizes that can score points in bunches with different styles of play.

1. James Harden: Exploding onto the scene last year, Harden showed college basketball fans what he is capable of. He’s a big, athletic guard that can do a lot of different things on the court. He averaged 17.8 ppg last year, which is good but not overly impressive. What does impress me is how he shot nearly 53 percent from the field last season, and over 40 percent from beyond the arc. He also averaged 2.1 steals/game last season, meaning he doesn’t slack off on the defensive end like a lot of these superstar scorers like to do. If Harden improves his consistency, which I think he will as he matures next season, he could make a surprise run for the Naismith.

2. Demar DeRozan: As a freshman, DeRozan will be a raw talent for Tim Floyd and the Trojans, but this year’s McDonald’s All-American dunk contest winner is a superstar athlete. He’s listed at 6’6″ and can jump out of the gym, making him a tough match-up for any guard/wing. He has tremendous upside, especially if he develops his outside shot, but this kid can make a living within 15 feet of the basket at any level of play. Look for DeRozan to put up plenty of shots, draw plenty of fouls, and put up big point numbers throughout the season.

3. Jack McClinton: Last season McClinton was a very deadly shooter from beyond the arc, shooting 42.7 percent from deep, and was a very good dribble penetrater. His 38 points versus St. Mary’s in the first round of last year’s tournament showed basketball fans his versatility. He was 12-19 from the field in that game, including 3-6 from deep, showing that he can shoot the three with efficiency, but doesn’t have to rely on the three ball for his scoring. McClinton has such great range on his jumper that the moving back of the three-point line won’t affect his shooting percentage from deep too much. McClinton’s supporting cast at Miami will be much improved for the 08-09 campaign, which will enable him to take better shots and put up big numbers.

4. Lester Hudson: Many basketball fans have never heard of Lester Hudson and are wondering why  he’s one of the Top 5 two guards in the nation. Well, to put it simply, Hudson was the 4th highest scorer in the country last season with 25.7 ppg, and is the highest scorer returning to the NCAA for this season. Yes, he does play for Tennessee-Martin in the OVC, but he would be a prolific scorer in any conference. Don’t believe me? Well, last year he scored 27 at Mississippi State, 26 at UNLV, and dropped 36 points at Vandy. Hudson isn’t just an offensive threat, he averaged 2.8 steals/game, which was also fourth best in the country last year. Hudson’s huge numbers, even agaisnt opponents from top tier conferences, are extremely impressive and he’s my pick for this year’s leading scorer.

5. Jrue Holiday: UCLA lands its second consecutive Gatorade National High School POY in Holiday after Kevin Love won it in 2007. This kid has great upside because he’s a very smart, coachable freshman and has good athleticism: a combination that will make the transition into college ball much easier for Holiday. I can’t wait to see him develop under Ben Howland, one of the best coaches in the country, and play in a back court with seniors Darren Collison and Josh Shipp. At only 180 pounds, it would be nice to see Holiday add some muscle mass to really fill his 6’3″ frame and improve his ability in the paint; but other than that Holiday is a well-rounded player with plenty of talent.

6. Lee Cummard: Cummard tested the NBA waters this season, but ultimately decided to come back to BYU for the 08-09 season. Cummard averaged 15.8 ppg last season, which doesn’t jump off the page in the least bit, but his consistency is remarkable. He scored in double digits in every game except for three last year, and made a three pointer in every game but three. He sank a deadly 47.2 percent of his three pointers last season and was especially lights out in the second half of the year from beyond the arc. His size at 6’7″ and shooting ability make him a very tough match-up for any opponent.

7. Marcus Thornton: Last year was a forgettable year for the LSU Tigers as a whole, but it was also a coming out party for Thornton. In his first season with LSU, the Kilgore College transfer averaged 19.6 ppg, which was second in the SEC last season. His shooting percentage numbers aren’t great at 43.6 percent from the floor and 37.7 percent from three, but those numbers are pretty impressive considering the lack of talent around him. If Thornton keeps his numbers up, he could be the leading scorer in the SEC, and maybe he could even lead LSU like Sundiata Gaines led Georgia to an improbable NCAA Tournament bid.

8. Wayne Ellington: Ellington’s offensive game is one of the most well-rounded in the country. He doesn’t have the height of a Cummard, the athleticism of a DeRozan, or even the shooting ability of a McAlarney, but he can score in a number of ways. He averaged 16.6 ppg and scored in double digits in all but five games for the Heels last season, and shot 40 percent from beyond the arc. Ellington is a very smart player that plays within his limits; he doesn’t chuck up threes with 28 seconds left on the shot clock, he doesn’t try to make passes through 3 defenders, he just seems to make the correct decisions and he lets the game come to him.

9. AJ Abrams: Last season, Abrams’ 3-point shooting percentage was the lowest of his Longhorn career at 38.2 percent. When I watched him play, it seemed like he would often force up shots he wasn’t capable of making. I can’t explain why he did this, but if he just let the shots come to him, as apposed to forcing the issue, I think we would see his numbers jump way up. He’s the main offensive threat of this Longhorn squad, so Barnes will get him plenty of shots, Abrams just has to take the right ones. He showed us his incredible range as a sophomore, and I think he will improve on last year’s numbers, making him one of the biggest scoring threats in the Big XII.

10. Josh Akognon: In the first round of the NCAA tournament last year, Cal State Fullerton drew one of the best defenses in country in the Wisconsin Badgers, but this didn’t intimidate Akognon in the least bit. He put up 31 points in that game, more points than any other player did vs. Wisconsin that season, and awed everybody who watched that game. At only 5’11”, Akognon isn’t the biggest of guards, but his unbelievable quickness allows him much-needed separation. Akognon has shown he can put up big numbers with the best of them, so look out for him and the Titans in next year’s NCAA Tournament.

Also Considered: Kyle McAlarney, Ricky Harris, Eric Devendorf, Jerel McNeal, Gerald Henderson, Alex Ruoff, Patrick Beverly.

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Top Ten 2009 Prospects

Posted by Zach on June 28, 2008

Demar Derozan/ Nike Hoop Summit

The 2008 NBA Draft ended late Thursday night, and while it seems that the 2009 Draft won’t feature as many star-studded, one-and-done freshman like Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley and O.J. Mayo, the top prospects for next June are immensely talented and feature their own unique skill sets. More experienced college players like Darren Collison, Earl Clark, Ty Lawson and Stephen Curry will be featured, along with still a fair amount of freshman like Tyreke Evans, B.J. Mullens and Brandon Jennings.

I’ve narrowed down the expected class to my Top 10 players for the 2009 draft:

1. Demar DeRozan, SG, Southern Cal

Most experts have Blake Griffin pegged as their #1 prospect, but I’ll opt for DeRozan, an unbelievably athletic shooting guard from Compton projected to make an immediate impact as Southern Cal in his one year. He’s an explosive, quick scorer with NBA size and leaping ability that will make scouts drool, but has more of a complete repertoire than just highlight dunks. His shooting range and skilled rebounding also are very impressive and worth being the number one overall selection.

2. Blake Griffin, PF, Oklahoma

Griffin appears to be a Carlos Boozer clone, someone that will average 20 and 7 at the NBA level. His polished skill set around the rim is more developed than most professional players, and he’s extremely difficult to keep from scoring in the paint. The most impressive facet of Griffin’s game is his rebounding ability, both offensively and defensively. Defense needs to improve, but the toughness is there.

3. B.J. Mullens, C, Ohio State

As you’ll see soon enough at Ohio State, Mullens is an enigma that needs motivation and polish. Nobody possesses as much pure upside and potential to dominate as Mullens, but the seven footer can often lack discipline and motivation. He’s very athletic, the opposite of a usual stiff even given his size. Mullens is a gifted rebounded and finisher with a strong NBA frame. Defense also needs refining.

4. Brandon Jennings, PG, Arizona

The rumors are afloat that Jennings may opt to play in Europe. Regardless, his stock as an NBA stud will not decline with this decision. At Oak Hill Academy this past year, one of the most distinguished programs in the nation, Jennings averaged 35 points and 8 assists per game. He has top notch athleticism and quickness to the rim, an excellent jump shot and court vision similar to a young Chris Paul. If he decides to play in Tucson, Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill will love to play with him.

5. Hasheem Thabeet, C, Connecticut

NBA scouts have been drooling over this kid’s potential for years now. His offensive game needs plenty of molding and development before he can become a threat on both ends of the floor at the next level, and even in the loaded Big East. But this kid is the best pure defender in the nation. His shot-blocking ability is off the charts and explosive leaping ability controls games in the paint.

6. Jrue Holiday, PG, UCLA

Many scouts believe Holiday is a more talented Russell Westbrook, the same Westbrook that just went fourth overall in the 2008 Draft. Holiday is versatile at both guard positions, but excels controlling the offense, both with his passing and court vision, and excellent motor to the basket. He’s also the most developed defender of the class at the guard position- his aggressiveness leads to steals and Holiday is committed equally on the defensive end.

7. James Harden, SG, Arizona State

If you asked a college basketball fan who the Freshman of the Year in the Pac-10 was last season, most would say O.J. Mayo, or Kevin Love, or Jerryd Bayless. They’d all be wrong. James Harden took the crown as a freshman in 2007-08, scoring 17.8 per contest while shooting 53% from the floor. Harden is a flat out scorer with an above average jumper and a knack of getting to the basket. His length and wingspan will undoubtedly impress NBA scouts.

8. Ty Lawson, PG, North Carolina

Lawson is an example of someone who will shoot up draft boards because of his explosiveness and athleticism. He’s a Superman quick point guard who will lead the top team in college basketball, so scouts will know how he does playing with talent. Lawson is a blow-by scorer with plus court vision and strong finishing ability, but he badly needs to lessen the turnovers and strengthen perimeter shooting, or defenders will just play off of him.

9. Nick Calathes, SG, Florida

Calathes really flew under the radar as a freshman last season at Florida, not only for his shooting abilities (37% from 3, and he can even improve on that), but his passing ability (6.1 APG) and rebounding (5.3 RPG). Calathes is a complete player who can play three positions, possesses excellent ball handling and scouts will rave about his basketball IQ. The biggest part of his game is the three-point shooting, which has seemingly unlimited range.

10. Tyreke Evans, SG, Memphis

Evans, much like Jennings, is a super-recruit who excelled at a top high school program in the nation, scoring 33 PPG and grabbing nine boards. Evans is a flat out scorer, someone with a quick first step who nails mid-range jumpers at a consistent basis while also finishing at the rim. He’s a gifted ball handler, someone who will excel in John Calipari’s system. One negative: Evans can be a selfish player.

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