Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Lee Cummard’

Mountain West Conference Preview

Posted by Tommy on October 8, 2008

Ahhh, college basketball is right around the corner, which means it’s time to preview the conferences for the upcoming season. We’re starting a three week period during which we’ll do conference previews for the Mountain West, Colonial, A-10, Missouri Valley, WCC, Big 12, Big 10 and SEC as well as in-depth looks at the ACC, Pac 10 and Big East. I’m kicking it off with the preview of the Mountain West, one of the most under-appreciated conferences in all of college basketball. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get the publicity it deserves from the major sports networks like ESPN and FSN and is often seen on networks like CSTV and Versus. This lack of media coverage permits the high quality teams in the MWC to fly under the national radar even if they do deserve to be nationally recognized. I’ll start off with a rundown of each team in the conference from best to worst and then preview the First Team All-Conference players.

1. UNLV Rebels: Coach Lon Kruger and the Rebels have found themselves atop of the MWC the past couple of years and look to make it three straight seasons in the field of 65. One fact that I found astounding is that UNLV’s program has a winning percentage of .716, third in the country behind Kentucky and North Carolina. Kruger is one of the best coaches in the country and will have another great team for the 08-09 campaign. Explosive guard Wink Adams, the favorite to win conference POY, returns to Vegas to provide plenty of scoring as well as strong senior leadership. Fellow senior Rene Rougeau does all the dirty work for the Rebels. He may not put up the biggest numbers, but he has a nose for the ball on defense as well as when he crashes the boards. UNLV will be a team to watch come March because coach Kruger always seems to have his players ready for the big games.

2. Utah Utes: One of the traditional MWC powerhouses looks to return to the top of the league after going 7-9 within the conference last season. The Utes will have to give big man Luke Neville (15.2 PPG, 6.7 RPG in 07-08, which was down from his 06-07 production) plenty of touches in the paint if the Utes are to succeed. Jim Boylen returns all five starters, which is always a plus, but outside of Neville none of those starters have made too big of contributions in the past. Johnnie Bryant was the second leading scorer behind Neville with 14.2 PPG off the bench, but his departure leaves a pretty big hole to fill in the scoring column. Despite the loss of Bryant, the Utes will be much improved from last season and will use their experience and depth to out-play opponents. The Utes could sneak up on UNLV to contend for the MWC crown and possibly get a NCAA tournament bid if everything goes well.

3. San Diego State Aztecs: The Aztecs are going to be a team to look out for in the MWC this season. They return their top eight scorers from last year, they have six seniors on the roster, and boast plenty of athleticism. The scoring was spread around pretty nicely over the course of last season with 4 players in double-digits and their 8th leading scorer averaged almost 6 points per game. After taking his name out of the draft, Louisville transfer Lorrenzo Wade is going to be the Aztecs’ go to guy and Kyle Spain along with Ryan Amoroso will provide plenty of support in the scoring column. SDSU looks like a legitimate contender for the MWC title on paper, but they always seem to under-perform expectations. They could finish anywhere from second (first is a slight stretch) to fifth in the conference, and that’s saying a lot with the weak bottom half of the MWC.

4. BYU Cougars: Unlike Utah and SDSU, the Cougars lost several key contributors from last year’s squad, which was arguably the best team from last year’s version of the MWC. BYU is going to have a tough time making up for the losses of big man Trent Plaisted and guards Ben Murdock and Sam Burgess who combined for 28.2 PPG, 13.6 RPG and 7 APG last year. The Cougars do return leading scorer Lee Cummard as well as Jonathon Taverneri who contributed 13.1 PPG, but the big question is whether these guys can make up for the losses of their big man and point guard, two key components to any good basketball team. Cummard is a great player, but him and Taverneri will have to create a lot of offense on their own, and the Cougars seem to be a little soft on the defensive side of the ball.

5. New Mexico Lobos: The loss of high-flying J.R Giddens is certainly going to hurt the Lobos, but they have a good amount of talent to bring to the table for the 08-09 campaign in Albuquerque. The team is fairly young with only four upperclassmen, but these four players are big contributors for coach Steve Alford. Tony Danridge, who didn’t play at all last season because of a broken leg, returns this season as a senior and will be a key to success for the Lobos. In addition to Danridge, Chad Toppert and Daniel Faris will provide plenty of scoring, and point guard Dairese Gary returns as a sophomore with a year of experience as the starter. I really like the makeup of this team, they all shoot good percentages from the field and there isn’t a standout star requiring all the attention. One problem is the lack of experience on the roster. There are six true freshman on the roster, including SG Phillip McDonald, who could become a key contributor come mid-season, and PF AJ Hardeman, another frosh that will have to step up his game for the Lobos.

6. Air Force Falcons: The Falcons finished in 5th place in the MWC last year, the first under coach Jeff Reynolds. The Falcons may not always have the most talented teams, but they play terrific defense and do the little things to perfection. The team returns just three starters, but sixth-man Andrew Henke, who will be a senior, was the team’s second leading scorer. Fellow seniors Matt Holland and Anwar Johnson will look to improve on their 7-9 record in the MWC from last season, which may be a reach. It’s always tough to succeed under a first year coach, so I think the Falcons will be a good team despite the loss of their heart and soul in Tim Anderson. The ceiling of this team’s success is 7-9 within the conference.

7. Wyoming Cowboys: Heath Schroyer and the Cowboys fell victim to an upset at the hands of Colorado State (0-16 in conference play) in the first round of last year’s MWC tournament. Brandon Ewing, the MWC’s leading scorer from last year, returns in hopes to improve on their disappointing season last year. Ryan Dermody and 7-footer Mikhail Linskens are returning starters from last year and will have to step up their game if the Cowboys want to make some noise in the MWC. Schroyer has brought in several transfers, three if whom are eligible to play in 08-09. The most notable of these transfers is former Wichita State guard Sean Ogirri. Ogirri will combine with Ewing to make up a very strong backcourt for Wyoming. This team’s season is going to ride mostly on the shoulders of Brandon Ewing, and unless they get big contributions from role players, I don’t see them doing too well in the Mountain West.

8. Colorado State Rams: The Rams move up one spot in the rankings after going 0-16 within the conference last season. Like Wyoming, the Rams are going to have to rely a lot on guard Marcus Walker, who was runner up to Ewing in scoring in the conference. The Rams are returning four of their starters from last season and are entering their second year under coach Tim Miles. Things are looking up for the Rams when compared to their winless season in the MWC last year, but don’t expect anything better than a 6th place finish.

9. TCU Horned Frogs: Leading scorer and rebounder Kevin Langford returns to TCU in 08-09, but will his contributions in the paint be enough to propel TCU up the ranks? I really don’t think so. The Horned Frogs only return two starters from last year’s team, Langford and junior guard Jason Elbi. Coach Jim Christian has started to rebuild the program by bringing in five new players, including three JUCO transfers, but his efforts won’t be enough for his team to succeed this season.

First Team All-Mountain West Conference:

G- Wink Adams, UNLV

G- Brandon Ewing, Wyoming

F- Lee Cummard, BYU

F- Lorrenzo Wade, SDSU

C- Luke Neville, Utah

Posted in Conference Previews, Predictions | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

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.

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