Player of the Week
Marcus Paige, North Carolina
Confidence can do magical things. The sophomore point guard has a creative game that’s free flowing without hesitation right now– he’s performing at a level we rarely saw a season ago, if at all. Paige scored career highs in back to back days at the Hall of Fame Tipoff Tournament, with 26 versus sound Richmond and 32 against #3 Louisville. The southpaw connected on 15/25 field goals, 9/14 treys and 19/20 free throws in the pair of tournament games. Fellow sophomore Brice Johnson similarly affected the results with his skill level, agility and length at 6’9. Johnson is only just beginning to tap into his immense potential. After a home loss to Belmont, the neutral court W over Rick Pitino’s crew was enormous and UNC has quickly surged back up to #16 in the latest AP poll. A challenging road game with underrated UAB is next up on Sunday, followed by a clash of basketball titans at the Breslin Center on December 4th. Read more on Paige in this week’s Stock Watch here.
Jabari Parker, Duke
Parker will likely find himself a viable candidate for top billing most weeks. With Duke lacking a true paint presence on both sides of the floor, the versatile Parker is doing his best to pick up the slack. He dominated an undersized Alabama team, playing like a man possessed in the post and simply overpowering them (9/12 FG). When they sent a double, Parker spun back for a quick fadeaway jumper. He’s eliminated the high quantity of three-point attempts in favor of full-blown attack mode. He’s averaging 9 boards over his past four games, and he blocked 6 shots in a tight win over East Carolina. Parker’s biggest test, at least from a purely athletic standpoint, will come Friday night versus Arizona in the finals of the Preseason NIT.
Even when Ennis was struggling to shoot the rock, his impacts were still vast. The super frosh averaged six assists, four steals and got to the free throw stripe 22 times in Maui. As Jay Bilas mentioned throughout the broadcast, Ennis appears to be unflappable with a heart rate that never escalates. He’s well-schooled on when to attack an unset defense and when to display patience and run the offense. His pacing is phenomenal.
Jerami Grant is a rare specimen athlete. His ability to breakdown 3’s and 4’s off the bounce will earn him a lot of money in short order. Grant can create his own shot and is ahead of the game when it comes to drawing defenders and facilitating. He’s so quick, so long and he jumps through the roof effortlessly. If you don’t body him up, he’s going to win the second jump battle ten times out ten. Additionally, he’s stepping into mid-range J’s with confidence, making him a bona fide nightmare matchup. He abused a talented and sizable Baylor front line with 19 points in all areas of the court.
Rasheed Sulaimon, Duke
Whether he’s starting or coming off the pine, the results have been equally disappointing: Sulaimon has departed the path. With new and more talented personnel occupying his role from a season ago, the sophomore has retreated into a shell. He’s failed to make multiple field goals in a game since November 15th, and he hasn’t connected on a three-pointer or scored in double-figures since November 12th. Sulaimon served as a playmaker against Alabama (5 assists), but he still can’t find the hoop (1 point) and is clearly caught in between. His offensive failures have detrimentally impacted his defensive effort as well. While Arizona’s backcourt will provide a stiff challenge, this is a prime opportunity for Sulaimon to regain confidence under the bright lights of MSG.
NC State vs. NC Central
Despite being badly outplayed over the course of 39+ minutes on their home floor, NC St. miraculously tied the game with three seconds remaining in regulation and was finally going to take charge… or not. Momentum was not enough, as the Wolfpack were outscored by NC Central 19-9 in the extra session. NCC is a serviceable and improving program (lost by 13 at Cincinnati), but this loss can’t fly; young roster or not. They allowed the Eagles to shoot 45 free throws and were beaten on the glass 32-29. TJ Warren – THREE rebounds in 28 minutes.
Top 5: Senior Prospects
1. CJ Fair, Syracuse – Fair possesses an old school repertoire, a mid-range master. He earned MVP honors in the Maui Invitational squashing every Baylor push with a bucket in the closing stages. He’s automatic from his comfort spots.
2. Ian Miller, Florida State – Finally healthy and producing, Miller’s draft stock is on the incline. He put on a lethal shooting display in the first half against Michigan, scoring 16 points on three treys. The question is: can he run the show?
3. Joe Harris, Virginia – Harris has been unable to double up on positive efforts, but he did score 20 vs. Hampton on 7/7 FG and 4/4 from deep. He has a specialized shooting skill, plays well within a team concept and has great size for the two-guard.
4. Lamar Patterson, Pittsburgh – Patterson is intelligent, unselfish and produces in every facet. He’s an average athlete that uses his frame to great effect to create space offensively. He doesn’t take bad shots and knows when to pull up.
5. Travis McKie, Wake Forest – The senior has been scoring and rebounding since day one he stepped on campus. He’s too comfortable hanging out on the perimeter (33% of FG attempts from distance), but his versatile skills can’t be denied. He looks the part of an NBA small forward.
Dez Wells led Maryland to the Paradise Jam title, scoring 14.5 points, grabbing 5.5 boards and dishing out 3.5 assists in victories over Northern Iowa and Providence. Rising sophomore Jake Layman averaged 13 points and 7 rebounds during the tournament.
Notre Dame Freshman point guard Demetrius Jackson has emerged in recent games. The Tory Jackson clone put up 12/6/3 in wins over Santa Clara and Army. Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins are solid, but Jackson brings an explosive element that is lacking.
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That NC State vs NC Central game was the epitome of why these new foul rules need to change. There was no basketball being played. Everyone on the State roster not named Cat Barber was in foul trouble. We had three of our top four scorers on the bench the entire OT period.
It was a hard game to watch beginning to end because of all the foul calls. I would argue that part of Warren's issue with rebounding in that game was his foul trouble. He had three fouls in the first half and played tentative in the second half. He didn't get inside the paint and mix it up for fear of picking up that fourth foul.
I'll give credit where credit is due to Central though. They knocked down free throw after free throw after free throw. They also saw how the game was being called and drive to the basket on almost every possession in the second half.