Mid Major Blog

Player of the Week

Will Barton & Wesley WitherspoonWill Barton & Wesley WitherspoonWill Barton, Memphis, SG, Sophomore, 6-6 175 lbs.

Memphis opened its season at home against Belmont on November 15 and won convincingly, 97-81. Barton was the best player on the court during the game, finishing with 23 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 block on 58.3 percent shooting from the field. His speed, athleticism, and length proved to be a major challenge for Belmont defenders attempting to contain him. Expect those traits to make him a tough matchup for defenders throughout the season. Memphis faces #17 Michigan on November 21 in what should be one of the better games in the country next week. If Barton consistently performs at this level, he should see a significant spike in his draft stock.

Who’s Hot?

Chaz Williams, UMASS, PG, Sophomore, 5-9 175

The sophomore guard from Brooklyn, NY has been on a hot streak during UMASS’ first three games of the 2011-12 season, averaging 17.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 9.0 APG and 2.0 SPG with 50.0 FG%, 42.9 3P% and 91.7 FT%. He posted a double-double effort against Northeastern on November 14 with 20 points and 10 assists. The Minutemen have not played the most impressive schedule to this point, but they are 3-0 and have a tough matchup with Boston College coming next Monday (November 21). Watch for Williams to be the focal point of UMASS’ offense throughout the season and to separate himself in the Atlantic 10 as one of the best guards in the conference.

Who’s Cold?

Chris Johnson, Dayton, SG, Senior, 6-5 194 lbs.

The 2012 NBA Draft hopeful has performed below expectations early on for Dayton in 2011-12. Johnson is considered a second round draft prospect, but his draft stock will slip if his offensive production does not improve. In Dayton’s (1-1) first two games, Johnson averaged 7.0 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.0 APG, 2.0 SPG and 43.8 FG% with 25.0 3P%. Johnson has played well on defense and that will likely be his niche in the NBA; however, the development of his offensive skills could be the deciding factor of whether he turns out to be a defensive specialist with scoring ability like Arron Afflalo, or whether he becomes a defensive specialist who regularly disappears on offense like DeShawn Stevenson.

Top 25 Teams

10. Memphis (1-0)

Beat Belmont, 97-81, at the FedEx Forum on November 15 while shooting 58.6 percent from the field and 50 percent from 3-point land. As team, Memphis had 20 assists which led to 97 points. Memphis used their athleticism and speed to wear down Belmont and had three players score over 20 points (Will Barton, Wesley Witherspoon, Joe Jackson). The Tigers will face #17 Michigan on November 21, which should provide a great matchup between Will Barton and Tim Hardaway Jr.

13. Xavier (2-0)

The Musketeers had decisive victories in first two games of the season, beating Morgan State, 74-63, and IPFW, 86-63. Through two games, Xavier is shooting 52.6 percent from the field, and Preseason All-American guard, Tu Holloway, is averaging 24.0 PPG and 6.0 APG. Senior guard, Mark Lyons, has played very well, picking up 21.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 5.5 APG and 2.0 SPG.

23. Gonzaga (2-0)

The Bulldogs look like a very solid squad. They opened up the season with an 8-point win over Eastern Washington and followed that victory with an 89-81 win over Washington State. Freshman guard, Kevin Pangos, is averaging 22.0 PPG after two games and senior, Robert Sacre (center), is averaging 18.5 PPG and 10.0 RPG.

On the Rise

Long Beach State (2-0)

No mid-major team trumped Long Beach State’s 86-76 win on the road against #9 Pittsburgh this past week. Senior guard and 2010-11 Big West Player of the Year, Casper Ware, scored 24 points and added 5 assists, while the rest of the team shot “lights out” – 59.3 FG% and 38.9 3P% – en route to beating Ashton Gibbs and Pitt’s talented team. This win probably will not put the 49ers in the Top 25, but it puts them in good position to be recognized nationally as a legitimate mid-major.

Kent State (1-0)

On the road against West Virginia of the Big East Conference did not intimidate Kent State as the Flashes went on to win, 70-60, while shooting 47.5 percent from the field and holding West Virginia to 36.8 field goal percentage. Carlton Guyton (guard, senior) led Kent State with 17 points and 4 assists and 2010-11 MAC Player of the Year, Justin Greene, added 12 points and 8 rebounds in the contest. Kent State should win their next four games without too much of a problem. A matchup with UAB on December 3 will be their next true challenge.

Akron (2-0)

The Zips surprised Mississippi State on November 9, winning 68-58 as Mississippi State was held to shooting 34.5 percent from the field and forced into 19 turnovers. Akron big man, Zeke Marshall, finished the game with 10 points, 6 rebounds and 5 blocks and fouled out of the game. Akron followed up the win against Mississippi State with a victory over Hiram, 95-65.

Davidson (2-0)

One of the “Cinderella’s” in the 2008 NCAA Tournament has started out the season on the right foot by winning big in its first two games of the 2011-12 season: Guilford, 111-64, and Richmond, 74-61. The November 18 matchup against Duke will show if Davidson is ready for the big stage.

Getting Back On-Track

Belmont (0-2)

The Bruins entered the season with high expectations and those expectations can still become a reality, but Belmont must get back on-track after losing to Duke (77-76) and Memphis (97-81) to start the season. Memphis clearly had more athleticism and speed than Belmont, which isn’t too surprising since Memphis is one of the most athletic teams in the country, and Duke just made more “big plays” late in the game. Belmont has a talented team and they should not run into any trouble with any of their opponents over the next few weeks.

Preseason Top NBA Draft Prospects Update

Adonis Thomas, Memphis, SG/SF, Freshman, 6-6 220 lbs.
The talented freshman had a solid performance in Memphis’ season opening victory against Belmont (97-81). He showed his length and versatility on his way to finishing with 12 points, 3 rebounds, 1 block and 55.6 FG%. He will be a great asset to Memphis with his offensive game and opportunistic defensive ability.

Alex Young, IUPUI, SG, Senior, 6-6 212 lbs.
IUPUI is 1-1 with a win against Anderson, 101-68, and a loss against Arkansas State, 75-70. Young played well in both games scoring 20 against Anderson and 19 against Arkansas State. Through two games, he’s averaging 19.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG and 3.0 APG. He’s still a great late first round draft prospect that could elevate his draft stock with more performances similar to his first two games.

Tony Mitchell , North Texas, SF, Freshman, 6-8 220 lbs.
Mitchell’s college basketball debut will come on December 18. Until then, the anticipation will continue to mount for this impact freshman.

Chris Johnson, Dayton, SG, Senior, 6-6 194 lbs.
As mentioned in the “Who’s Cold?” section, Johnson has struggled offensively during his first two games and must improve his offensive production if he hopes to stick around as a second round draft prospect. Upcoming games against UNC-Wilmington and Wake Forest over the next week will give him that chance. He’s still a very good defender.

Zeke Marshall, Akron, C, Junior, 7-0 235 lbs.
Marshall is averaging 7.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG and 3.0 BPG through the first two games of the season. He fouled out against Mississippi State after contributing 10 points, 6 rebounds and five blocks, and played limited minutes (17) against Akron’s thumping of Hiram, ending with 5 points, 5 rebounds and 1 block. Marshall will get a great chance to showcase his skills in upcoming games against a tough Detroit team and West Virginia.

Will Barton, Memphis, SG, Sophomore, 6-6 175 lbs.
Barton is our Mid-Major Player of the Week after posting 23 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 block with 58.3 FG% in 36 minutes of play during Memphis’ 97-81 win over Belmont. Throughout the game, he proved that Belmont did not have an answer for stopping him. He used his athleticism and length to get to the basket and to earn opportunities at the free throw line. He didn’t seem to force shots and he showed good effort on defense.

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