Archive - Nov 2011 - Blog entry
Player of the Week
Virginia's super-senior Mike Scott isn't a high-level NBA prospect, but he's very much the difference between a bad Cavalier team and a good Cavalier team. The double-double machiene has returned from his red-shirt senior season with a vengence, and is averaging 15.3 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. He claims to have lost about 20 pounds over the summer by cutting junk-food out of his diet and this is evident when you watch him move on the court. He is just as tough and strong as he ever was, but is significantly more agile and explosive. As the team's centerpiece, Scott has led Virginia to an excellent 6-1 start to the season, including a vicory over #15 Michigan on Tuesday. Not a lot of people had the Cavaliers as significant players in the ACC this season, but they've proven to be a strong defensive squad with great size and several different offensive options. With the slimmed-down Scott performing like one of the top players in the ACC, Virginia could be a very competitive team come conference play.
If you followed the Hokies last season, you know that they were struggling to win games until Erick Green took control of the point guard position. Once he became a starter, Virginia Tech went on a tear and won nine out of their following ten games. This season, Seth Greenburg did not waste any time and made Green the starting point guard as soon as he could. Unsurprisingly, this has worked out in favor of both Green and the team's record so far. Scoring in double-figures in every game he's played in this season, Green is averaging 14.8 points on an efficient 52.2% shooting from the floor. Perhaps most impressive is the improvement the junior guard has made from the perimeter; shooting 61.1% on 2.2 made threes per game, up from 24.8% on 0.8 makes a year ago. The Hokies will be counting on the much-improved Green to lead them to that oh-so elusive NCAA Tournament bid, but it's way too early to be considering such things.
Ehhh... Somebody from UNC was bound to inherit the "Cold" distinction following the former top-ranked team in the nation's shocking loss to UNLV. It wouldn't be very fair to blame Zeller for the loss, but the skilled 7-footer was really unable to contribute anything that may have altered the embarrasing final outcome. Zeller finished the game with a line of 5 points on 1/6 shooting, 7 rebounds and 4 fouls. But what the game on Saturday exposed really didn't have anything to do with Zeller; rather it highlighted the questionable depth of UNC's frontcourt. John Henson and James McAdoo each had 4 fouls of their own, and without their star bigs, the Tar Heels (one of the best rebounding teams in the country last season) were outrebounded 46-37 to an unranked team. Zeller will surely bounce back from his poor performance quickly, but if UNC wants to make it to the Final Four, they're going to have to keep their post players out of foul trouble.
Top 5 Starting Point Guards
Player of the Week
Maalik Wayns PG, Villanova
Man does he look quick. Wayns has been impossible to keep out of the paint, using that quick first step off the dribble and rock solid strength at the rim. It's amazing to think that a 6'1 guard can score 29 points on only 1 three point make, but that's what Wayns did in a loss to St. Louis (thanks to his team's inability to defend the 3). His ability to change direction on the dime with speed in the open floor will allow him to succeed as a change of pace guard at the next level. If he raises his percentage from downtown and increases his range, Wayns would be a threat to crack the lottery.
He's averaging 22 points, 5 assists and 4.5 rebounds as a junior, and should be considered a viable candidate for Big East Player of the Year.
Jason Clark, G, Georgetown
26 and 28 points back to back. 10 for his last 14 from downtown. The rim must look like a hula hoop to Clark.
Gerard Coleman SG, Providence
He scored 20 in consecutive games. I'd say that's noteworthy considering he's coming off the bench. He also attempted 18 free throws against Southern U. Pretty impressive.
Herb Pope PF Seton Hall
Pope's been on a tear this year, going for 32 and 9, (2-2 from 3), and 17 and 10 this week. He looks lighter on his feet around the rim, and has shown he's capable of scoring outside the paint. He's averaging 21 points and 11 rebounds, all-star numbers for the big fella.
Kevin Jones PF West Virginia
29 and 13, followed by 23 and 10. Again, when those 3s and midrange jumpers are falling, Jones looks the part of an NBA player. The rebounding numbers are even more promising.
The sophomore duo has been lighting it up. 24 and 23 points respectively this week for Young, 25 and 20 for Melvin. If he keeps putting up numbers, Melvin could generate some buzz based off his ideal length and athleticism for a 3.
Player of the Week
Thomas Robinson, Kansas
The Kansas big man is continuing his breakout junior season. He has not notched his fifth double-double after amassing 16 points and 15 rebounds against the Duke Blue Devils, in a loss. He is proving to be a more dominant big man than the Jayhawks have had in quite some time. Plain and simply, he is playing like a man on a mission this year, and NBA scouts are definitely taking notice. On the season, he is now averaging 16.0 points, 12.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.0 blocks per game. He will almost surely head into conference play as the choice for Big 12 Player of the Year.
The Missouri Tigers
So far this season, the Missouri Tigers are 5-0. That statistic isn't so special, but what is special is just how the Tigers have won those five games. They have been absolutely destroying their opponents. They have beaten Southeast Missouri State by 15 points, Mercer by 18 points, Niagara by 31 points, Notre Dame by 29 points, and California by a whopping 39 points. The victory over the nationally ranked Golden Bears was Missouri's largest over a ranked opponent since at least 1949. They are doing it with terrific balance, with at least four players having double-figure scoring efforts in every game this season. As of right now, they are looking like the team that could snap KU's string of consecutive Big 12 Championships.
Quincy Miller, Baylor- 17 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 assists in a 75-65 win over Texas-Arlington
Elijah Johnson, Kansas- Has scored 33 points in the past two games for the Jayhawks, against UCLA and Duke. Looks like he may be starting to play up to his tremendous abilities.
Marcus Denmon, Missouri- 18 points, 6 assists, and 4 steals in the Tigers 39 point thrashing of California.
Tyshawn Taylor, Kansas
Though his scoring and assist numbers would suggest otherwise, the enigmatic Taylor is in a cold spell right now. He is turning the ball over at an alarming rate for the Jayhawks. In a win against UCLA, he had 4 turnovers, while in their crushing defeat to Duke, he turned the ball over an amazing 11 times! What is even worse about this is that one of them came in the final minute of the game. For Kansas to be as good as they can possibly be this season, he needs to get this problem under control. On a more positive note, in the Duke game in Maui he became the 54th player in Jayhawk history to reach the 1,000 point plateau.
Player of the Week:
Mike Moser, UNLV, PF, Sophomore, 6-8 195 lbs.
UNLV is off to a great start this season with a 5-0 record and two wins this past week against Cal Poly (75-52) and Morgan State (92-55). Moser has been the Rebels’ standout player early on this season, averaging 16.0 PPG, 13.0 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.2 BPG and shooting 51.6 percent from the field. Against Cal Poly he contributed 14 points and 8 rebounds with four steals, and against Morgan State he had one of the best all-around performances of any player this year with 23 points, 17 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 steals and shot 52.6 percent from the field. Moser will get an opportunity to showcase his skills against USC tonight and again on November 30 when UNLV squares off against an undefeated UC Santa Barbara team. Moser sat out the 2010-11 season after deciding to transfer from UCLA where he was recruited by UCLA coach, Ben Howland.
Doug McDermott, Creighton, SF, Sophomore, 6-7 210 lbs.
The young sophomore has played at an elite level in each of Creighton’s four wins this season. Creighton (4-0) won three games this past week: Iowa (82-59), UAB (70-60), and Chicago State (95-61). McDermott scored above 20 points in each of those games, including a standout performance against UAB where he scored 27 points (11-18 shooting) and collected 7 rebounds. Against Iowa, McDermott chipped in 25 points (10-15 shooting), 9 rebounds and 1 assist. For the season, McDermott has filled up the stat sheet, averaging 21.5 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 1.0 APG, 64.3 FG%, 58.3 3P% and 87.5 FT%. His shooting percentages are scorching.
Wesley Witherspoon, Memphis, SF, 6-9 210 lbs.
After opening the season with a 22-point performance against Belmont, Witherspoon brought the ice cooler to the Maui Invitational and played well below his potential. In three games during the Maui Invitational Tournament, Witherspoon averaged 6.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 1.0 SPG and shot 33.3 percent from the field. He struggled to gain any sort of rhythm on offense and did not contribute very much on defense, aside from his 8 rebounds against Georgetown in Memphis’ last game of the tournament. He wears possibly the longest shorts of any player in the country and it may be hindering his movement, who knows. For Memphis to compete against upper level competition, Witherspoon has to play better and be a factor on the court.
Player of the week
Tim Hardaway Jr, Michigan
The sophomore guard helped his NBA stock tremendously this week in front of a packed crowd at the Lahaina Civic Center that included NBA scouts, GMs, coaches and players who had the free time to take in one of the best Maui Invitationals ever. Hardaway led No. 15 Michigan to a 2-1 tournament, starting with his 21 points, five assists and seven rebounds Monday in a 73-61 win against No. 8 Memphis. He averaged 20 points in the three-game tournament as the Wolverines nearly came back from a 16-point deficit in an 82-75 loss against eventual champion and No. 6 Duke on Tuesday, then dismantled UCLA 79-63 Wednesday in the third-place game.
There’s been some questions raised about the versatility of Hardaway — nearly half of his field goals last season came from behind the 3-point line — but he’s nearly put that to rest in the Wolverines’ first five games. Just nine of his 36 field goals this season are threes, and he’s shooting 61.3 percent from inside the arc. His new-found explosiveness was on display in the second half of the UCLA game, when he came off a screen at the top of the key, caught a pass, then needed just one dribble to get the rim for a jam that put Michigan ahead by double digits.
Player of the Week
John Henson is one of those draft prospects that everybody seems to be divided on. Some analysts believe he could be a top-5 pick; others think he's more of a bubble first-rounder. How he translates to the NBA is still very much in question, but it's becoming harder and harder to doubt his impact at the college level. The super-athlete in the lanky 6'10" frame has been dominating for the North Carolina Tar Heels thus far in the season. With his unreal length and quick leaping ability, Henson leads all ACC players in blocks per game (4.0) and is second in the conference in rebounds (10.8). That was expected; his offensive improvement was not. Henson's shooting ability is looking better with each passing game. He's developed a nice baseline jumper from 10-14 feet away from the basket, which surprisingly has been consistent so far in the season. On top of that, his free-throw shooting percentage is up to a less-abysmal 61.5%. All of his improvements offensively have accumulated to an average of 16.5 points per game (on 63% shooting). His scoring output is very likely to come down once North Carolina starts playing tougher competition and stops scoring 100+ points per game (as they have in both of their games this week), but he's clearly put some work in over the summer and an extra option offensively will come in handy for Coach Roy Williams.
Sophomore Travis McKie was poised for a breakout season after most of the other quality scoring options for Wake Forest either transferred or were dismissed from the team. Two weeks into the season, and he's already showing signs of being one of the top forwards in the conference. McKie is averaging 22.3 points per game, which is good for first among all ACC players. Like last season, McKie is scoring a lot of points using his size and athleticism to slash to the hoop or finish in transition, but unlike last season, he's also looking good as a shooter. He's 6/9 from behind the arc on the season (3 games) and shooting 59.5% from the field altogether. Along with teammate, CJ Harris, Travis McKie has led Wake Forest to a 3-0 record. This isn't special (especially considering the competition) but it is very promising for a team that was, quite frankly, a joke last season. If McKie continues his hot play, maybe Wake Forest won't be the bottom-dweller many of us predicted.
Durand Scott hasn't been horrible so far this season, but he's definitely been cold lately. In the past week, the 6'4" guard shot a combined 3/18 (16.7%) from the field in Miami's two wins over North Florida and Florida Gulf Coast. While the Hurricanes have been able to win so far this season without any consistent contributions from Scott, this trend does not figure to continue. Miami has already lost Julian Gamble and DeQuan Jones for the season, as well as Reggie Johnson for the next few months, so they're going to need all the help they can get. Scott has the potential to be a dynamic scorer, and he could be the x-factor that determines whether Miami gets a tournament bid or not.
Player of the Week
Tony Mitchell , Alabama
The hyperathletic forward spearheaded the Crimson Tide's charge to a decisive title in Puerto Rico, earning most outstanding player honors for the tournament. During the three-game run (wins over Maryland, Wichita State and Purdue)he averaged 19 points on 56% shooting, drained 6 threes, collected 29 rebounds (9.7) and swatted 5 shots. The length, strength and athleticism of Alabama is frightening to the point of outright intimidation. If opponents attempt to match wits with them in a 94-foot battle, they face a losing proposition. Mitchell is beginning to creep up draft boards (#41, 2013) despite being a definite tweener at the next level. His perimeter game is on the incline, but most of his playmaking is still a result of defensive disruption and transition throwdowns.
The Bulldogs were victorious in the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer, taking down ranked teams in Texas A&M and Arizona on back to back nights. They were far and away the most visually impressive team in the field, holding a +11 rebound margin and limiting the opposition to 40% field goals. Significant contributions were made by all eight members of the team's regular rotation, including a breakout performance by 5'11 freshman Deville Smith (7.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2 APG). Forward Arnett Moultrie took down tournament MOP honors, scoring 19 points (8/9 FG) and grabbing 10 boards in the championship game. Can the Bulldogs maintain this high level of execution and effort for the duration of the season? If so, they have the pieces to be a major factor in the SEC and have the look of a dangerous postseason unit.
Remember last week when I praised SC for 51% shooting in their opener? Well, that praise will be short-lived. The Gamecocks had a crippling week, suffering a home loss to Tennessee State and a road defeat at Elon. In the two losses they shot a combined 35% from the floor and a staggering 19% (10/51) from distance. Freshman Damien Leonard and Sophomore Brian Richardson were the main culprits. Leonard connected on 3/22 FG's and 2/16 three's, while Richardson shot 2/17 from the field and 0/11 from deep. Quite simply, no one on South Carolina's roster can create easy shots and heaving treys is the result. It's going to be a long year.
The Rebels have size and athletes, but it's hard to be less fundamentally sound than they are. They were extremely fortunate to escape their opener in the Virgin Islands Paradise Jam against Drake, in which they shot 37% FG, 18/38 FT and turned the ball over 20 times. That level of play was harshly in exposed in a 30-point drubbing at the hands of Marquette. They shot 32% from the field, 3/23 (13%) from the three-point line and turned it over 19 times. Lack of a true point guard continues to haunt their half court offense. Dundrecous Nelson took 28 shots (made 7) and 15 threes (made 2) in the two games, while assisting on only 3 buckets. Ugly.
Player of the Week
Cheek is averaging 22 and 6 to start the year, and though the sample size is small, he's seemed to establish himself as the team's primary scoring option. Cheek's skill-set ranges from shooter to slasher, illustrating qualities that make him an effective scoring off-ball guard. He's playing almost 35 minutes a game as compared to last year's 20, thanks to a shallow rotation lacking shotmakers. He's seen his shot attempts double, and should continue getting open looks alongside Wayns and Yarou. He's a good bet to take home the Big East most improved player award.
Wayns looks sharp, knocking down three pointers we didn't see fall in past seasons. He's scoring 19 a game, grabbing 5 boards and dishing out 4.7 assists, and will continue to be the engine that fuels the Wildcat offense.
Think about this: Yarou scored at least 17 points only twice last season. This season he's averaging that through three games, along with almost 10 boards per game. Yarou has NBA potential based off his physical attributes alone. If he could figure out how to use them, he'll be hearing his name mispronounced on national television more frequently.
Darius Johnson Odom
DJO should drop 20 a game this year, with the green light that allows him to dominate the ball. As he should. Guards who can score off the dribble with the ability to convert at the rim, midrange and downtown are always a threat to light up the scoreboard. He's currently scoring 20 a game, shooting 47% from 3.
Have to say I didn't see this one coming. Woodall looks like a completely different guy, exuding confidence that has translated to into positive production. Tra has been spraying the box scores, averaging 19 points, 19 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds and a remarkable 57% clip from downtown. While his shooting percentages are likely to drop, his minutes won't.
Southerland has played himself into the rotation, giving the Orange the deep threat they were missing from their near perfectly balanced roster. He could be the smoothest shooter in the conference, sporting an effortless stroke in catch and release situations. Hes currently 8-11 from behind the arch this year (72%), and remains the conference's leading candidate to win "oldest looking player" award.
Waiters could probably start on any team in the conference, but thanks to the deepest rotation known to man, he's relegated to providing a punch off the bench. He's a natural scoring guard with great instincts, flashing quickness, point guard ball-handling skills and comfortable shooting range. He's averaging over 13 points and 4 assists in only 20 minutes through 4 games.
Player of the Week
CJ Wilcox, Washington Huskies
The Huskies are off to an impressive 3-0 start, although they haven't been truly tested against a top team yet (that will come December 6th and 10th when they play back to back games vs top 25 programs Marquette and Duke). There is plenty of praise to spread around about their players at this point, but the player who has stood out above the rest has been sophomore wing man CJ Wilcox. Wilcox leads the team at 19.3 ppg, as well as 5 rpg and just under 3 steals per as well. But it is his shooting that truly stands out. I stated in my Conference preview that Wilcox was the Pac 12's top 3 point shooter and so far, he's making me look good. He has hit 11-18 threes (61%) and his misses are off by centimeters. With all the great ball handlers on Washington, Wilcox represents easy offense with catch and shoot instincts after the likes of Gaddy, Wroten and Ross break opponents down off the dribble.
Jared Cunningham, Oregon State Beavers
Consider Cunningham as player of the week 1b. He is off to a great start with 22ppg and is continuing to make a run at Oregon State's all time steals record, he is currently at 2.7 per game. And all while leading the Beavers back into relevancy at 3-0 so far. Cunningham is a high flyer who plays above the rim, and is as good an athlete as there is in the Pac 12. He can take his man iso off the dribble and he really benefits from the team's defensive philosophy of trapping and attacking the opposing ball handlers to create turnovers using sound basic defensive fundamentals which allows him to get into passing lanes and play in transition.
Lazeric Jones, UCLA Bruins
It was well known that the preseason top 25 ranked Bruins were mediocre on the perimeter. But after 2 games, mediocrity would be an improvement. Lazeric Jones is a senior who started every game last year and was solid. But to start this season he is 3-20 from the field (1-7 from three) and is making as many turnovers as assists. And considering he is averaging 33 minutes a game and is leaned on to create halfcourt offense when the bigs get doubled, it's no surprise the Bruins are struggling. Jones starting backcourt mate sophomore Tyler Lamb has not been much better shooting 5/18 from the floor and has yet to hit a three while playing 28 minutes per.
Top 5 breakout candidates
Brock Motum, Washington State- Motum is averaging 20ppg and 8 rpg and shooting a blistering 67% from the field. He is a skilled big man who can step out to three point land and does a good job of making himself available and finishes well in traffic catching passes from his penetrating teammates.
Jesse Perry, Arizona- Perry has recorded 4 double doubles in 5 games for the 4-1 Wildcats. He is the inside enforcer for a small, perimeter oriented Arizona squad. He fits in well because he is also able to get out and run, play on the perimeter and guard multiple positions during switches which allows him to stay on the court with his fast paced teammates.
Aaron Bright, Stanford- At 4-0 somebody from Stanford deserves a shout out. Bright is a sophomore who wasn't expected to be the Cardinal's leading scorer, which he has been thus far as well as the teams leading assist man. He is shooting lights out, playing very efficient ball: 49% from 2, 52% from 3 and 80% from the foul line.
Aziz NDiaye, Washington- With all the perimeter talent for Washington, it's N'Diaye who will have as big an impact as any of them determining how far they go. The 7 foot center must protect the paint and establish some sort of inside presence. So far he has stepped up to the challenge averaging 9 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks per contest.
Josh Watkins, Utah- The numbers might be somewhat bittersweet as the Utes have not looked competitive yet, but don't take anything away from Watkins. He is shooting over 50% from the floor and averaging 21 ppg while also dishing out 5 assists. He can only do so much for his team though and will need some support if they want to win games.