Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Nevada Wolfpack’

Top 15 Freshmen; Friday News And Notes

Posted by Zach on October 31, 2008

One of the best parts of opening a new college basketball season is seeing the fresh crop of freshmen in action for the first time. Two years ago, Kevin Durant surpassed any expectation and became the best player in the country. Last year, the likes of Michael Beasley, O.J. Mayo and Kevin Love highlighted the deepest and most talented freshman class ever assembled. What’s in store for this year? Most prognosticators suggest this class is much weaker and supremely less talented. I respectfully disagree. This year’s freshman crop has athletes, scorers, dominating big men and all-around superstars who will shine for prominent national programs. Here’s my top 15 from the list:

1. DeMar DeRozan, USC:
I have high expectations for the young DeRozan out of Compton, a player whose highlight-reel athleticism and scoring ability is unmatched among his peers. If DeRozan plays to his potential, I feel he can match the production of O.J. Mayo last season and team up with Taj Gibson and Daniel Hackett in bringing USC back to the top of the Pac-10.

2. Jrue Holiday, UCLA: Holiday is a 6’3 combo guard with an exceptional all-around game who does nothing but win. He’s the perfect Ben Howland player in that he’s smart on the floor and is advanced defensively for an incoming freshman. He could start immediately for the Bruins and headlines their impressive recruiting class.

3. B.J. Mullens, Ohio State:
Mullens is a versatile 7-footer (yes, it’s possible) who can face the basket or mix it up inside with his steady frame. He could be an impact double-double man right away for Thad Matta, and his upside is so high some have him pegged as the #1 pick in the next NBA Draft.

4. Samardo Samuels, Louisville: Samuels is a gem for Rick Pitino in a conference where you need a scoring big man. He’s an aggressive forward with great instincts and a knack for the rim. Samuels is extremely powerful for a freshman and will challenge players like Luke Harangody immediately.

5. Tyreke Evans, Memphis: Evans has to be Memphis’ best player from day one if John Calipari wants to return to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Thing is, he very well could be. The dynamic Evans is a confident scorer with excellent range and finishing ability.

6. Greg Monroe, Georgetown: Monroe has dropped on some recruiting charts, but I still feel he’s a perfect player for Georgetown and will shine. He’s blessed with a wide frame and tremendous rebounding skills under the rim. It might take Monroe a year to mold into a feared scorer in the Big East.

7. Willie Warren, Oklahoma:
Warren is a huge reason why I feel Oklahoma can be a top ten team right away. This versatile guard simply has a knack for scoring and should be that second impact players Jeff Capel needs beside Blake Griffin. Warren does need to improve his defense, though.

8. Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest:
I love what Aminu brings to the table for a rising Wake Forest team. He’s an excellent perimeter scorer who can face up mid-range and hit shots. Also, not many can match his athleticism and drive on the court. You don’t find scoring 6’8 small forwards every day.

9. Kemba Walker, Connecticut:
Walker is such an advanced point guard at his age, it’s silly. He reminds of Derrick Rose with his court vision, toughness and leadership. He’s also stout defensively and should see extensive minutes right away for a loaded Connecticut team.

10. Scotty Hopson, Tennessee:
Hopson is an extremely talented prospect who originally signed with Mississippi State. He rebounds well for a guard and can also score consistently. The talent is certainly there, and he’ll provide a steady duo with Tyler Smith in Knoxville this season.

11. Luke Babbitt, 12. Iman Shumpert, 13. Devin Ebanks, 14. Delvin Roe, 15. JaMychal Green

Some quick news and notes on this Friday:

– Roy Williams is planning a news conference today to give us more information regarding the Tyler Hansbrough injury. My guess: Williams estimates they’ll be without Hansbrough for the entire month of November and set a best-case scenario for December 3 vs. Michigan State in Detroit. What the Tar Heels cannot afford to do is rush the ultra-competitive Hansbrough back to action too quickly, because then the stress “reaction” can turn into a Marcus Ginyard stress “fracture.” Then, you’re talking about being without Hansbrough for the entire season, and the entire goal is to have him 100% for March.

– The NCAA has passed legislation disallowing those early practices that Kentucky and Illinois enjoyed as a way to kick off their season because it gives them a recruiting advantage. Maybe so, but, as Gary Parrish so accurately describes, doesn’t the NCAA have more important things to take care of? Like, coaches hiring AAU coaches of their top recruits as an advantage a la John Wall? Taking care of that loophole instead of eliminating early practices for next October seems to make sense.

– Arizona lost their top incoming freshman for this season, Jeff Withey. As I’ve stated before, Arizona could have a mini-Indiana on their hands next season if Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill enter the NBA Draft. They have zero recruits for 2009 because their Pac-10 rivals are stealing them all. Withey, a 6’11 center, was ranked as the #35 overall player by Scout.com. He joins Brandon Jennings and Emmanuel Negedu as 2008 recruits that have jettisoned from Tuscon.

– Some surprising news out of Tennessee as J.P. Prince will miss 3-5 weeks with a shoulder injury he suffered in practice. If Prince cannot return in time for the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Siena’s chances of pulling an upset just went up a few notches. And if you don’t think it can happen….it can happen. Siena returns everyone from that thrashing of Vanderbilt.

– Prep star Kenny Boynton made his decision yesterday and will attend the University of Florida. Billy Donovan is assembling an impressive recruiting class for 2009, rebuilding quite successfully after losing that national championship core. He chose Florida over USC, Duke and Texas. Boynton might be the quickest and purest scorer in the entire class, ranked as the #2 SG by Scout.com. He’s an absolute gem in what should be a tremendous backcourt for the 2009-10 Gators.

Andy Katz has a piece on new California coach Mike Montgomery. I thought that was a great hire by Cal. It’ll stir up the Stanford rivalry again and Montgomery is a proven college coach with a track record. His failures at Golden State are irrelevant to whether he can get the job done at Berkeley.

– Nevada all-WAC guard Brandon Fields petty larceny charge has been dropped, but he remains suspended by coach Mark Fox. Don’t expect Fields to miss any significant action. Nevada should be the WAC favorite with Fields, Luke Babbitt and Armon Johnson.

– What to expect from this site the next week or so: Big East #1, Pac-10 Preview, Big-12 Preview, ACC #5-1, Preseason Bracketology, Awards, Top 25, Games to Watch and possibly some more as we gear up for the start of college basketball.

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Friday News And Notes

Posted by Zach on September 26, 2008

An edition of Friday’s News and Notes to catch up on this past weeks biggest college basketball headlines:

– Connecticut freshman Nate Miles is supposed to be a key cog for the Huskies ascent to the top of the college hoops rankings this season. The talented wing will be a sparkplug off the bench for Jim Calhoun…if he can stay out of trouble. Miles violated his restraining order 16 minutes after receiving it in Hartford yesterday, posting a $2,500 bond and is scheduled to go to court later this month. Miles came with a reputation out of the many high schools he attended for being a nuisance without much supervision. Calhoun hopes this is just a minor transgression for the budding freshman.

– One of the top coaches in the nation, Pittsburgh’s Jamie Dixon, received a three-year extension on his already lengthy contract on Wednesday. The deal extends through the 2015-16 season and he will receive a raise from the $1.3 million he made last season. The Panthers have averaged nearly 27 wins per season under Dixon’s watch even if they’re not exactly a recruiting powerhouse. Dixon should be rewarded. Not many coaches could have rallied his team without stars like Levance Fields and Mike Cook to win the Big East tournament and receive a 4-seed in the NCAA Tournament.

– Sticking with the Big East theme, good news for Syracuse fans came out early this week. Talented guard Eric Devendorf has received another year of athletic eligibility after being granted a hardship waiver due to last season’s devastating knee injury. For this upcoming season, Devendorf will be a junior athletic-wise. He forms a great backcourt with Johnny Flynn and returnee Andy Rautins for the Orange, who are looking to contend in the loaded conference.

– Kyle Whelliston chimes in with another gem. This time the topic is the newly-formed Great West conference that will form before the 2009-10 season. The name doesn’t tell the entire story- NJIT will be a member and New Jersey isn’t exactly considered a Western state. Whelliston points out the hardships these teams often have to go through scheduling games and flying coast-to-coast to get walloped by top-ranked teams looking for cupcakes. He also brings up the question of whether this conference will be rewarded with an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, something the committee probably wants to avoid.  Texas Pan-American, NJIT, South Dakota, North Dakota, Houston Baptist and Utah Valley make up the current conference slate.

– This is only Insider, but Andy Katz’s blog catches up with three possible tournament teams this fall: Ohio State, Wake Forest and Nevada. Some gems: Matta thinks B.J. Mullens is more of a Greg Oden than a Kosta Koufos, meaning he’ll be someone planted firmly in the paint this season; the team hasn’t cleared its point guard situation, a big reason why I think they’ll finish behind Wisconsin who boast Trevon Hughes; Wake Forest has installed a Dick Bennett-style defense and their freshmen look great in workouts; Ishmael Smith should be ready for the season for Wake; Nevada coach Mark Fox managed to get North Carolina to come to Reno this season in a 2-for-1 deal.

– Luke Winn has a worthwhile article attempting to predict the breakout players for this season using possessions used and efficiency ratings. The article circles Dar Tucker of DePaul, LaceDarius Dunn of Baylor and Austin Daye of Gonzaga as potential breakout candidates. Tucker is a definite possibility, but will anyone notice on DePaul?  We’ll have our own list of breakout candidates when the season draws nearer.

Hope everyone has a great weekend and thanks for reading. More and more articles will be on the way as we head towards November.

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Gameday, Sleepers and Other News

Posted by Zach on August 28, 2008

Not much news in or around college basketball during late August. I could update you on the Derrick Caracter situation, but he’s not worth anyone’s time. The recruiting rampage has died down with the elite camps concluding and coaches returning for the start of school. While some injury or late transfer may take place in the next few days, don’t expect much big news as the summer ends and fall begins. Don’t fear though, college basketball is closer than you may think. To conjure up excitement, here’s a look at the recently released College Gameday sites for the 2008-09 season:

Jan. 17- Chapel Hill, N.C. (Miami at North Carolina)
Jan. 24- South Bend, Ind. (Connecticut at Notre Dame)
Jan. 31- Knoxville, Tenn. (Florida at Tennessee)
Feb. 7- Spokane, Wash. (Memphis at Gonzaga)
Feb. 14- Madison, Wis. (Ohio State at Wisconsin)
Feb. 21- Austin, Texas (Oklahoma at Texas)
Feb. 28- Berkeley, Calif. (UCLA at California)
Mar. 7- Morgantown, W.V. (Louisville at West Virginia)

Fairly pedestrian, right? The two best games are Connecticut-Notre Dame, which should have major Big East title implications, and Oklahoma-Texas, which should do the same for the Big 12 later in the season. California must feel fortunate considering they’re in full-fledged rebuilding and the UCLA pairing will probably result in a blowout. Memphis-Gonzaga could be interesting, but the Zags never lose at home. That March 7 game could prove to be the reason Louisville loses out on a Big East title in the last weekend of the season. Keep that date circled. Not an easy place to play.

Anyway, on to the main point of this post: my top five sleeper/surprise teams of this upcoming season:

UNLV
– Lon Kruger is one of the smartest coaches in the business, taking his team on a two week summer trek around Australia to prepare for the season against top-notch Australian teams. The Rebels are perennially a contender in the Mountain West and reached the Sweet 16 just two years ago in Saint Louis; this year, they’re the clear favorite to win the regular season crown in the MWC. Still, because of the MWC TV package with CSTV and the lack of national exposure, most don’t give the credit to UNLV and Kruger that is deserved.

The Rebels are led by super-talented guard Wink Adams, a true playmaker in every sense of the word that scored 25 against Kansas in their second round matchup last March. He’ll need to improve drastically on his 14 total points scored against rival BYU in two games for the Rebels to win the conference. UNLV will be boosted by Memphis transfer guard Tre’Von Willis and strong, elite forwards Joe Darger and Rene Rougeau. They’ll be in the Top 25 at some point this year.

Kentucky
– Billy Gillespie showed his coaching mettle last season by overcoming strong pressure and adversity following a disastrous non-conference performance by finishing valiantly in the SEC and in their close loss to Marquette in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Two freshmen battling for the point guard spot on an SEC contender is never a good thing due to the inexperience, but DeAndre Liggins and Kevin Galloway are prime talents and are fully cleared by the NCAA. Someone will emerge.

The stud is recently healed Patrick Patterson, a forceful and menacing forward who uses his physicality to put up double-doubles on any given night. He’s my pick for preseason SEC player of the year. Jodie Meeks is also healthy and Perry Stevenson is a quality role player for any team. Kentucky could be boom or bust this season due to the amount of freshmen they’re relying on; my inclination says boom, but it could easily go the other way.

Baylor
– The Bears are becoming a sexy sleeper pick for this season, and the direction of the program is clearly heading in the right track after indirectly and unofficially landing one of the top players in the 2009 class, John Wall (wink wink). The Bears will surely improve on a school record nine conference wins from a season ago and have NCAA Tournament expectations. Their guard play is terrific, even with their loss of team leader Aaron Bruce. Curtis Jerrells averaged over 15 PPG last season and may turn out to be a contender for Big 12 POY this season if his outside shooting improves.

The team returns eight of their top nine scorers from a year ago, including emerging sophomore guard LaceDarius Dunn. The Monroe, LA native averaged 13.6 PPG and shot 42% from three in his freshman campaign. Scott Drew also added Michigan transfer Ekpe Udoh to the program, who started 31 games for Michigan the last couple years. Drew has this program on the rise. They could finish third in the Big 12 this year.

Southern Cal
– Most would consider the Trojans exempt from any sleeper list, but the national media may sleep on a team that lost both top-five pick O.J. Mayo and draft defect Davon Jefferson. For the folks in Southern California, here’s two words that should heal any post-Mayo wounds: DeMar DeRozan. Believe me, this kid is going to be something special. Another one-and-done recruit for Tim Floyd, DeRozan has athleticism unmatched in his freshman class, a complete package in terms of scoring and rebounding, and the ability to penetrate and finish in any situation.

Joining DeRozan will be UNC transfer Alex Stepheson, a true post presence who will take more and more pressure off of Taj Gibson to recover following a disappointing 2007-08 season and Leonard Washington to contribute immediately. Daniel Hackett and Dwight Lewis are also extremely valuable role players for Tim Floyd. The Pac-10 isn’t as loaded as in past campaigns, so look for USC to finish third behind UCLA and Arizona State.

Providence
– Most folks scoff when I mention the possibility of the Big East actually getting ten teams into the NCAA Tournament this season. The likelihood of one of the contenders fading and/or the conference beating up on each other too much for this to occur is very high, but even the consideration shows the bulk of top-heavy talent in this conference. That tenth team I’m throwing out there is Providence, led by former Drake coach Keno Davis.

The Friars have two main questions that need to be addressed: 1) is Sharaud Curry healthy enough to lead this team, and 2) who will handle point guard duties in a conference where, frankly, you need a competent point guard. The Friars have some interesting pieces, most notably guard Weyinmi Efejuku, a double-digit per game scorer, and former Manhattan transfer Jeff Xavier, another player who can handle much of the scoring load for Providence. They’ll be tested immediately with the Anaheim Classic and were fortunate in getting a favorable Big East slate with Cincinnati and Rutgers twice.

Some other quick news and notes:

– Marquette sophomore forward Trevor Mbakwe gave every indication he was going to return to the program even with the departure of Tom Crean this off-season, but he has changed his mind and has left Marquette for other ventures. We’ll see which small school scoops him up. He’s a project but a worthwhile one.

– Memphis is heading towards another package deal, a growing and disturbing trend in college basketball. They lured in the brother of one of the top players in the 2009 class, Xavier Henry’s brother C.J, to enroll full-time at their school. Slick move by John Calipari to help in the recruiting of Xavier, so they’ve seemingly moved ahead in the race.

– Villanova landed another top recruit in Mouph Yarou, a 6’9 African big man from a military academy in Virginia, ranked #28 overall in the county by Scout.

– Freshman guard Mark McLaughlin will not play for Nevada this season, a top-100 recruit in the nation. This is a big loss for the Wolfpack as he was expected to team up with Luke Babbitt and contribute mightily this season.

For excellent mid-major season previews, just go to ESPN.com for their ShootAround segment. For the big conferences, we’ve previewed all six on this site, so snoop around.

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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.

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