Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Curry’

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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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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November 18: The Day After

Posted by Tommy on November 18, 2008

ESPN Tip-off Marathon

The inaugural College Hoops Tip-off Marathon kicked off last night on ESPN after Monday Night Football. For myself, it was the first opportunity to watch college hoops in HD since the National Championship. I must say, there is nothing better than Hi-Def college basketball. The opening matchup pitted two coaches and programs with plenty of ties in Memphis and UMass. John Calipari, the former coach at UMass, coached against his former team captain and disciple in Derek Kellogg.  The game itself started off like a playground match with plenty of cherry-picking and more turnovers than field goals. Once the nerves settled it was all Memphis. After the 8-minute media timeout, the Tigers never looked back. Neither team broke 40% from the field and Memphis was just 2-19 from deep, but the Tigers forced UMass into 23 turnovers. After watching last night’s game, it looks like Calipari needs to slow his kids down a bit. They don’t have a point guard the caliber of Derrick Rose to reign free in the open court. Taggart and Dozier are great defenders and rebounders, but can’t score on the break like Dorsey could last season. I know Calipari has his coaching identity, but I think the Tigers would benefit from slowing their pace, especially with a pretty short bench.

The next game, a 2 AM tip for those on the east coast, was Saint Mary’s and Fresno State. Pat Mills put on a 27 point, 6 steal and 5 assist display against the Bulldogs. One blemish in Mills’ game last night was his four turnovers. Omar Samhan added 18 points and snatched 13 rebounds for the Gaels. Diamon Simpson also had a double double with 10 points and 10 boards. He also negated 3 shots. In their second game of the season, Saint Mary’s already seems to be living up to their expectations as a contender in the WCC. Saint Mary’s was efficient, shooting 44.6% from the field and 40.9% from deep. They out-rebounded the Bulldogs by 9 and were +9 in the turnover column.

The third game of the marathon tipped at 4 AM this morning. For you insomniacs/unbelievably die-hard basketball fans who did watch this game, you caught a dandy. Idaho State traveled down to Hawaii to square off against the Rainbow Warriors. The largest lead of the game for either team was seven and it fittingly went into overtime. Hawaii held on 67-64 as Bill Amis intercepted the inbound after Adhar Mayen hit the second free throw with less than a second left.

Stars are Shining: Stephen Curry is playing like, well, Stephen Curry. Curry contributed 33 points, 9 assists and 4 steals in Davidson’s rout of James Madison. He was 14-19 from the field and 4-6 from beyond the arc. He seems to be settling into the point pretty quickly, but we’ll really get a gauge of what Curry is like at the point tonight against Oklahoma.

Blake Griffin looked to be in peak form with 20 points and 19 rebounds. He also contributed 6 steals in the Sooners’ rout of Mississippi Valley State. It’ll really be something to see Griffin and Curry square off tonight on ESPN2.

Top-25 Action:

  • #2 UConn blew Hartford out of the water late 99-56 despite the absence of AJ Price
  • #6 Pitt outscored Miami (OH) 47-23 in the 2nd half on their way to a 82-53 victory
  • #10 Purdue used great defense to break down Eastern Michigan in a 87-58 “W”. Hummel led the way with 18.
  • #12 Memphis opened the game sloppily, but pulled away and won 80-58 win.
  • # 14 Oklahoma dismantled the Sun Devils, Griffin was a rebound away from a 20-20 game.
  • # 17 Marquette rolled at home behind a 26 point performance from Wes Matthews.
  • #18 Georgetown held on against Jacksonville 71-62, despite being out-scored in the second half.
  • #21 Davidson dominated James Madison, Curry was an assist away from a double-double.
  • #23 Villanova’s Dante Cunningham scored 31, leading the Cats to a 107-68 victory over Fordham.

NW Wins Horse Trailer Player of the Day: Stephen Curry, Davidson.

Tuesday on the Tube:

  • Liberty @ UNC-Asheville, 2 ET (ESPN)
  • Centenary @ Baylor, 4 ET (ESPN)
  • Richmond @ Syracuse, 6 ET (ESPN)
  • Loyola (IL) @ #10 Purdure, 7 ET (ESPNU)
  • Tennesee-Martin @ #13 Tennessee, 7 ET (ESPN FC)
  • St. John’s @ Boston College, 7:30 ET (ESPN2)
  • Tulane @ #8 Texas, 8 ET
  • Kentucky @ #1 North Carolina, 9 ET (ESPN)
  • Florida Gulf Coast @ #24 Kansas, 9 ET (ESPNU)
  • #21 Davidson @ #14 Oklahoma, 9:30 ET (ESPN2)
  • Nevada @ San Diego, 10 ET (ESPN FC)
  • UAB @ Arizona, 11:30 ET (ESPN2)

Zach: Couple other notes from last night:

  1. How about Virginia Tech struggling again at home? Mount St. Mary’s led most of the game in Blacksburg before the Hokies used a late run to win 62-57. Three VT players scored in double figures, led by Malcolm Delaney at 17 points. Virginia Tech isn’t known as a high-scoring team, but only 62 points against MSM has to be troubling. Look for coach Greenberg to push these guys into shape sooner than later.
  2. Could be a very long year in Eugene. After dodging the upset bullet in their first game, Oregon lost at home to Oakland 82-79 in overtime last night. That extension giving you some nice security, Ernie? Johnathon Jones stole the show for Oakland with 32 points on 13/23 FG, including 10 in overtime. The Ducks had a 16-game non conference home winning streak snapped.
  3. Also upset last night was Georgia, losing at home to Loyola (IL) of the Horizon League. The same Loyola that lost to Division II Rockhurst last week. And the game wasn’t particularly competitive either, with the final scoring being 74-53 in favor of the Ramblers. J.R. Blount led the way with 16 points. They’ll advance to play Purdue while Georgia faces Eastern Michigan. You have to be thinking Dennis Felton may be on the way out soon.
  4. Marquette gave up 87 points to Chicago State at home. This has to be of concern to coach Buzz Williams. The Golden Eagles must step up the defense if they expect to finish in the top five of a loaded Big East this year. Luckily for Williams, Marquette scored the most points in a game since 1980 and won 106-87 with Wes Matthews having another huge night. Domnic James: 2-9 FT.

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November 15: The Day After

Posted by Zach on November 15, 2008

VMI Kentucky Basketball

Headliner: You wouldn’t believe it, but the Kentucky Wildcats have done it again.

In 2007, it was unknown Gardner Webb marching into Rupp Arena and pulling off the shocking upset. In 2008, it’s the VMI Cadets doing the honors. Lexington, Kentucky is officially upset city.

Why Billy Gillespie and the Wildcats would schedule VMI, for their first game no less, is beyond belief. This is a team that scored 91.3 PPG last season to lead the nation. Their frantic style of no-limits press, quick possessions and three-point shooting is well known around college basketball, with the Keydets games frequently reaching high-scoring NBA contests. And yet, Billy Gillespie passes on the usual cupcake and schedules one of the most dangerous teams in all of mid-major land for a young Kentucky’s first game. Think about it: If you beat VMI, can you really evaluate/judge your players based on the radical opponent? Does that really tell you anything? If I’m coaching a high profile school, I go nowhere near a team like this in November at home. Nowhere near.

Of course this is all in hindsight. If Kentucky goes out and wins by 30 points, nobody is saying a peep, instead discussing if this Kentucky team has the ammo to stick with the Tar Heels next Tuesday. Now, Billy Gillespie is rolling around in his bed, his job security having taken a real hit, and the Wildcat faithful are hoping this season will turn around like it did following the Gardner Webb collapse of a year ago.

VMI scored 111 points altogether and had six players in double figures, led by the Holmes brothers combining for 46. Not since 1989 against North Carolina had a Kentucky team given up so many points. They received an outstanding performance from Jodie Meeks, who totaled 39 points on 13/27 FG. The real story was how VMI, even with the clear height disadvantage, kept all-SEC forward Patrick Patterson in check. He took just four shots and scored 8 points to go along with 7 rebounds. Kentucky was down 90-73 midway through the second half before a ferocious comeback reclaimed the lead, and most UK fans breathed a sigh of relief thinking they had dodged a huge bullet. After going ahead 104-103, VMI scored the next nine points to seal the deal.

Top 25 Action

  • #2 Connecticut toppled Western Carolina 81-55 with Thabeet going for 23 points and 17 rebounds
  • #6 Pittsburgh handled Farleigh Dickinson 86-63 behind 17 points and 13 rebounds for DeJuan Blair
  • #8 Texas befuddled Stetson in a 68-38 win in Austin with A.J. Abrams scoring 21 points
  • #10 Purdue led a balanced attack to a 82-50 win over Detroit, with E’Twaun Moore scoring 18
  • #14 Oklahoma dominated potential NCAA team American. Blake Griffin: 24, 18, 9/11 FG, 5/14 FT
  • #15 Arizona State beat Mississippi Valley State 80-64. James Harden with 24 points and 10 boards
  • #18 Marquette won easily behind Wesley Matthews 27 points, 8 assists, 5 steals and 5 boards
  • #19 Florida defeated Toledo with 19 from Dan Werner and 16 from gambling hound Nick Calathes
  • #20 Davidson beat a D3 team led by- guess who- Stephen Curry: 29 points, 9 steals, 10 assists, 9/20
  • #24 Wake Forest beat NC Central 94-48 behind 21 and 10 from stud frosh Al-Farouq Aminu
  • #25 Villanova defeated Albany 78-60 with a balanced scoring attack. Reynolds with 13 and 6 dimes

News and Notes

Villanova senior guard Dwayne Anderson is out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his left foot. This is a big loss for Nova in terms of defense and leadership. Anderson’s a projected starter that averaged 6.5 PPG last year, really emerging as a capable role player later in the campaign. Fellow Wildcat Shane Clark is already out for another few weeks after having surgery on his right knee.

– The injury bug is hitting North Carolina early this season (better than late, I guess) as Bobby Frasor suffered a sprained ankle in practice Monday. Frasor hasn’t practiced since then and may not play in Saturday’s opener vs. Pennsylvania. The Tar Heels don’t need Hansbrough or Frasor or Ginyard to beat Penn, or Kentucky for that matter, but they could be vulnerable in Maui if Hansbrough and Frasor are under 50% or even out.

Boston College star guard Tyrese Rice was suspended for Friday’s win over Central Connecticut State due to a violation of team rules. We’ve seen this before in Chestnut Hill. It doesn’t look to be anything serious, but it’s not a good sign when your lone senior is making these kinds of off-court bonehead decisions. He should be back for the preseason NIT contests.

Also Of Note– Lester Hudson with 27/7/7/8 steals for Tennessee-Martin; Dionte Christmas with 26/11 for Temple, Lawrence Hill with 22/11 for Stanford, Maryland crushed Bucknell; Clemson crushed Hofstra; Howard defeats Oregon State; Loyola (IL) loses to D2 Rockhurst; Byron Eaton with 27 for Oklahoma State; Arkansas escapes SE Louisiana in OT.

NW Wins Horse Trailer of the Day– Hasheem Thabeet, Connecticut: 23 points, 17 rebounds, 7/11 FG, 5 blocks in 33 minutes (if there’s an anti-horse trailer, it’s his teammate A.J. Price with 0 points and 5 turnovers in 25 minutes before being ejected for punching a Western Carolina player)

Saturday On The Tube

  • Pennsylvania @ #1 North Carolina- 4pm (FSN South)
  • San Diego @ UNLV- 530pm (MTN)
  • Northwestern State @ Indiana- 7pm (BTN)
  • MSU-Billings @ Gonzaga- 7pm (FSN Northwest)
  • Charleston Classic Semifinals- 8pm (CSS)

Tommy: Another game of note last night was in Blacksburg, VA where Gardner-Webb was on the upset prowl again this season. Virginia Tech was up for a large majority of the game, but the Runnin’ Bulldogs came storming back and cut it down to 1 with 24 seconds to go thanks to a pair of Aaron Linn free throws. Gardner-Webb out-scored the Hokies 36-25 in the second half with a 9-0 run with about 5 minutes remaining in the contest. Tech did hold on for the 65-62 win, but I thought Tech’s strong defense and good coaching would keep them off upset alert. Jeff Allen and A.D. Vassallo each contributed 19 points, a good sign for the Hokies.

Posted in The Day After | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »

Final Pre-Season Mid Major Top 15

Posted by Patrick on November 12, 2008

Here’s the link to my first Mid-Major Top 15.

(I will not include: Gonzaga, Xavier, C-USA, WAC, or MWC)

The teams are the same but just some rearranging:

1. Davidson- Curry has obviously made a smooth transition to point guard, as expected, scoring 41 in the Wildcats exhibition game. If Curry plays anything like this during the regular season, those supporting players should be enough to keep Davidson rolling.

2. San Diego- I’m still a strong believer that San Diego is one of the better Non-BCS teams out there. They have a senior heavy lineup led by Gyno Pomare and Brandon Johnson, plus sophomores Trumaine Johnson and Rob Jones are studs that can play with anyone in the nation.

3. Siena- Brings back all five starters from the team that made fools out of Vanderbilt in last year’s tournament. They shouldn’t have too much trouble winning the MAAC, but it will be interesting to see how they stack up against the powerhouses in the Old Spice Classic.

4. Saint Mary’s- Patrick Mills, Omar Samhan, Diamon Simpson, and Ian O’Leary will lead a Gaels team that looks to be back in the NCAA tournament.

5. Saint Joseph’s- This team probably has the best chance to upset Xavier and win the A-10. Ahmad Nivins is the best center in the conference and can give any team a headache thats trying to stop him.

6. Virginia Commonwealth- Eric Maynor is certainly up there with the best point guards in the nation, but will this team choke once again when the conference tournament rolls around.

7. Cleveland State- This team is one of the more athletic teams in the mid-west and should be the favorites to win the Horizon League. Athletic big man J’Nathan Bullock (above) and stellar point guard Cedric Jackson look to lead the Vikings to the NCAA tournament just two years after posting a terrible conference record.

8. Cal State Fullerton- Keep your eye on Josh Akognon (below) all season, he’s a tremendous player that goes unnoticed for playing in a small conference. As for the rest of the team, they bring back a lot of experience from the squad that made the NCAA tournament last season.

9. Creighton- In my opinion, the Blue Jays are the favorites to win the MVC. A team that just lost three seniors a year ago should be poised to make the NCAA tournament after being routed by Florida in the NIT.

10. Dayton- Also a team that can surprise; London Warren and Chris Wright are two very underrated players that should make some noise in the A-10.

11. Wright State- Vaughn Duggins and Todd Brown will try to bring the Raiders back to the NCAA tournament for the 2nd time in 3 seasons. However, it won’t be easy with Cleveland State in their way.

12. Tennessee Martin- Lester Hudson and Marquis Weddle should easily take control of the Ohio Valley Conference from the get go, as long as these two are on the court they will be a tough game for any team.

13. Belmont- Until they prove me wrong, I have to give the Bruins some love for what they almost did to Duke last season. Plus, they have built a dynasty in the Atlantic Sun and I don’t expect any underdog teams to steal their throne.

14. Oral Roberts- Do these guys ever go away? Not when you have players like Robert Jarvis. I don’t see anyone that can contend in the Summit League.

15. Drake- This will be a very tough season for the Bulldogs. With Josh Young running the offense they should still experience success, but certainly not at the magnitude of last season’s.

Also Considered: Santa Clara, Butler, Vermont, Northeastern, Southern Illinois, UMass

Posted in Predictions, Team Rankings | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

NCAA Position Rankings: Top 10 PG

Posted by Tommy on July 17, 2008

The ability of a point guard to run an offense and distribute the ball is very key for a college basketball team’s success. Great point guards are tough to come by, and extremely tough to keep around because there is such a high demand for point guards in the NBA. I am going to run down the top 10 point guards in the country for the upcoming 2008-2009 season.

1.  Ty Lawson: Lawson is one of the few exceptions of highly skilled point guards that stick around for all four seasons. The “Roadrunner” is the fastest player with the ball in the NCAA, helping him run the potent UNC fastbreak. He can get the ball into the right hands, but Lawson is also a great scorer around the rim. With all the running UNC does, Lawson doesn’t get too many chances to show what he can do in a half-court offense, but he would be my first choice to run a fast-break. He spent the second half of last year bothered by an ankle injury so he’ll be back at 100 percent for the first time in a while.

2. Jeremy Pargo: As a freshman, Pargo was a guard with plenty of raw, unpolished talent. There was no question he could get to the bucket, but there wasn’t much else he could do with much effectiveness at the college level. Pargo has come leaps and bounds from where he was as a freshman, and now he is the leader of the Zags. He not only developed his decision making, but improved his shot as well, making him a big scoring threat from the point guard position.

3. Tyrese Rice: Rice was one of the few bright spots for BC last season. He can fill the hole with anybody in the country, just look at the UNC game last season. The only problem for Rice is that there was so little offensive talent around him last year that he had to do a lot of the scoring on his own as well as force the ball into tight holes. As a result, he averaged 3.4 turnovers/game and had a 1.45 assist-to-turnover ratio. It would be awesome to see a talent like Rice in Lawson’s place at UNC, but he isn’t, so that’s why he is my #3.

4. Scottie Reynolds: Unlike Pargo, Reynolds came to Villanova and performed as a point guard right away: he scored 40 points versus UConn as a frosh and was named 2006-07 Big East Rookie of the Year. Last year, Reynolds had a good year, averaging 15.9 ppg and 3.2 apg, but didn’t really live up to his high expectations. Villanova returns many of the same players so I think they’ll build more chemistry as a unit, and this is a big draft stock year for Reynolds as well so look for him to really try to improve his game.

5. Greg Paulus: Paulus has improved over the past couple of years more than anybody in the nation. He really struggled at times running the point for Coach K as a freshman, averaging 3.3 turnovers/game and only 6.7 ppg. Over the course of his junior season he cut his mistakes down to 1.6 turnovers/game and improved his scoring to 11.4 ppg. Although his stats show improvement, you have to watch him to see how much he has improved. You can see how his confidence has increased, not only as a point guard, but as a scorer as well. He stopped forcing passes and took better shots, not to mention he became deadly from behind the arc last season. If Paulus can continue improving, look for him to be a great true point guard.

6. Darren Collison: Collison has one of the most well-rounded skill sets as a point guard in the country. Nothing about his game really stands out on the offensive end when you watch him, but he does everything well. He is a good decision maker, can get to the rim pretty well, has a pretty good shot from beyond the arc and is a good floor general. What makes him different from most point guards in the nation is that he takes pride on the defensive end of the floor and is a lock-down defender. His well-rounded skills, coupled with his defensive ability make him a top tier point guard.

7. Stephen Curry: With Curry being a two-guard his entire college career, this is kind of based on speculation. He played point guard in high school so he knows what it takes, but the college game is a huge step up for point guards. Scoring-wise, we all know what Curry can do with the ball in his hand. The only question is whether he can make good decisions as a point guard. I wouldn’t be surprised if Davidson ran an NBA style pick-and-roll offense to give Curry chances to create. I think he’ll be a great point guard, but he’s at #7 only because his skills aren’t proven.

8. Levance Fields: Heart. It’s the first word that comes to my mind when I think about Levance Fields. He was expected to miss the whole second half of the season due to a broken left foot, but Levance made it back in the middle of the Big East regular season for the Panthers. He makes up for his diminutive stature (listed at a generous 5’10”) with his heart, and is the leader of the Panthers. His assist-to-turnover ratio was close to 3:1 last season, meaning he is a great decision maker and who could forget about his shot to beat Duke?

9. AJ Price: Price is one of the more talented guards in the country, and his improvement since his freshman year makes for a promising junior year for Price. Price suffered a near-fatal brain hemorrhage before his freshman season, resulting in an extra year of eligibility. His comeback from the hemorrhage has been remarkable, and I think he’ll continue to grow as a point guard. Last season he averaged a huge 5.8 apg, but he had 2.4 turnovers/game. If he cuts down on the turnovers he is a top tier point guard with plenty of scoring ability.

10. Devan Downey: One of the most underrated guards in college basketball looks to improve on his 18.4 ppg from last season for the Gamecocks. He transferred from Cincy to South Carolina after his freshman year and will be coupled with Zam Fredrick in the Gamecocks’ backcourt. Downey is a very explosive athlete and can get to the rim with the best of them. He also added 5.4 apg last year as a sophmore, but like AJ Price, committed too many turnovers with 2.7 TO/game. Look for Downey to surprise a lot of people this year with his explosive talent.

Also Considered: Jonny Flynn, Kyle McAlarney, Dominic James, Grievis Vasquez, Eric Maynor, Ish Smith, Chris Warren, Trevon Hughes, Kalin Lucas.

Posted in Player Rankings | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments »

Stephen Curry Is Switching Positions

Posted by Patrick on July 10, 2008

Davidson fans know that losing Jason Richards, a top point guard in last year’s tournament, could have a devastating effect on the Wildcats success in the 2008-09 season. Without a great player to get Stephen Curry the ball Davidson could run into a lot of problems when playing the likes of: North Carolina, Duke, and any other NCAA tournament team. Bob McKillop has made the decision that Curry will play point guard next season; not only will he have his best player with the ball in his hands every possession, but who better to get Stephen Curry the ball than Curry himself?

There is also a possibility that this could increase his draft stock as he is probably too small to play shooting guard on an NBA team so having the experience playing point is what GMs will want to see. Now, Curry isn’t totally foreign to the position (he played point guard at his high school) and probably won’t see too many transition problems. He has also been honing his point guard skills at all of the elite basketball camps around the country i.e.: LeBron James’, Chris Paul’s, and Steve Nash’s camps. It will certainly be a fun year for Davidson fans watching Curry bring the ball down the court.

Other News:

Doneal Mack is still deciding on whether he will stay at New Orleans or attempt to transfer back to Memphis.

Derrick Caracter is still looking to transfer from Louisville, but he has to finish up some summer courses to get his grades up. Caracter cannot transfer to another Big East school.

The NCAA has a new chairman of the Division 1 Men’s Basketball Committee, UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero. He will take over for Mike Slive (who is also commissioner of the SEC).

Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers lands another kid in college as son Austin has now signed with Florida for the 2011 season. His other son Jeremiah will be a member of the Indiana Hoosiers, but will have to sit out next year due to transfer rules.

Georgia freshman Jeremy Jacob, a four star recruit, who spent most of last season injured will transfer. He averaged 5.2 PPG last season, he will also still have 4 years of eligibility wherever he ends up.

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