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.
Top Five Freshman Wings
1. Michael Kidd Gilchrist, Kentucky- Ideal frame at 6'7 230. Still a work in progress offensively, but gets by on sheer athleticism and effort. Already a defensive dynamo (1.5 STL, 1.5 BLK) that can guard multiple positions and wreak havoc with his length. Crashes the defensive glass with handle to lead the break.
2. Rodney Hood, Mississippi State- The 6'8 stringbean is going to be an offensive machine. Shooting 48% from the field and 40% from distance in the early going with his effortless lefty stroke. Creates space off the dribble for his money mid-range jumper, displaying great elevation and high release.
3. Levi Randolph, Alabama- Lengthy wing is still searching for his niche within the Tide offense, but he's a smooth operator (7.2 PPG). Extremely well composed and under control for a freshman. He loves to dribble into a pull-up J, and rightfully so. It's a money shot.
4. Ky Madden, Arkansas- The 6'5 G/F provides multiple position versatility. Attacks the bucket with a vengeance, but his jumpshot needs work. Hasn't committed a turnover in either of his last two contests (45 minutes).
5. Rodney Cooper, Alabama- Another long-armed southpaw that has started from the word go in Tuscaloosa. He's averaging 4.6 points and 4.6 rebounds in 21 minutes, and is an impact player defensively.
*Brad Beal and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope did not fall under "wing" classification.
John Jenkins missed Vanderbilt's tilt against Bucknell on Tuesday with a sprained ankle. He returned on Saturday to face NC State and lit up the Wolfpack for 28 points on 10/16 shooting and 4 three's.
Marshawn Powell has reportedly suffered a serious knee injury with rumors of a potential ACL tear. Further examination is expected on Monday. He did not play in Saturday's loss to Houston.