Player of the WeekMoe Harkless
Moe looks to be turning a corner after going for 30 and 13 in a loss to Duke.
Harkless has the potential to be really, really good. He’s got power forward size and small forward length, athleticism and mobility. Moe’s becoming more comfortable operating on the perimeter, showing impressive footwork and body control attacking the rim.
He made West Virginia look like a bunch of silly old men, lighting them up for 23, 13 and 3 blocked shots in a 16 point beatdown at the Garden. With promising shooting mechanics we can only expect steady improvement from the 18 year old combo-forward.
Harkless clearly has top five pick potential, and could maximize his stock by staying for college year number two.
Gorgui Dieng C, Louisville
This kid needs some love. Pitino doubled his playing time and Dieng has doubled his production, averaging 10 points, 9.7 rebounds and a league leading 3.4 blocks a game.
Dieng is moving well on the interior, and does a nice job of anticipating and reacting off the ball. During Louisville’s three game winning steak he’s averaging 12 points, 13.6 boards and 4 blocks a game, which is becoming an every night line for the 6’11 center from Senegal.
Like Syracuse’s Fab Melo, Dieng is the rim protector and anchor of the Louisville interior, only he doesn’t have the surrounding weapons of the Orange defense and attack. Without Dieng, the Cardinals would not be the threat that they present to other talented and more skilled offensive teams.
Herb Pope PF, Seton Hall
Pope has officially hit a wall, having failed to score 20 once in his last 11 games, and averaging just 9 and 9 over his last six. It’s no coincidence that Seton Hall has lost its last four games, who really can’t afford for Pope to poop out moving forward (officially got Pope and poop in the same sentence- Great Success).
He shot 2 for 16 against Notre Dame and 4 for 13 against Louisville.
Top Five Backcourts
From a talent perspective, forget about it. The Lamb-Napier-Boatright tandem could be one of the deadliest in the country, with a combination of all the desirable qualities one can ask for in a backcourt.
The first punch is a go-to scorer with the length and skill-set to play on and off the ball. Lamb has established himself as one of the most prolific offensive players in the country- when he wants to be. The second punch is a combo guard who can create, run the break or knock down shots in the half court. Defensively, Napier also has the ability to make opposing point guards uncomfortable on the perimeter. The third punch is a lightning rod off the bench, whose quickness, energy and playmaking abilities provide a jolt that few programs can offer at the point guard position.
While the Huskies have struggled, they remain one of my favorites to make a late season run similar to last year’s.
While neither of them average more than 13 a game, it’s the intangibles that make these guys such an effective trio. Jardine’s experience and toughness, along with Triche’s intensity and maturity, matched with Waiters’ scoring ability and spark combine to form a tornado that strikes from all angles. The Orange lead the country in steals thanks to the relentless trapping, swiping and passing lane coverage of the three Syracuse guards. In transition they’re efficient and aggressive. And you can bet that if one’s not on, the other two will be.
3. Marquette ( Darius Johnson-Odom, Vander Blue, Todd Mayo, Junior Cadougan]
Outside of Kevin Jones, there hasn’t been a more consistent scorer in the conference other than Darius Johnson-Odom. His leadership and reliability are a big reason for why teams should fear Marquette during tournament-style play. Junior Cadougan is the team’s distributor, dishing out 5 assists a game while Vander Blue provides a little bit of everything. Todd Mayo has been a pleasant surprise, contributing 9 points in 21 minutes a night off the bench. The toughness of the this group helps diminish the fact that two of them are 6’1, Mayo is 6’3 and Blue is 6’4.
4. Cincinnati (Sean Kilpatrick, Dion Dixon, Cashmere Wright, Jaquon Parker)
Love the experience, toughness and shooting ability of this group. Kilpatrick is becoming one of the better 2-guards in the conference, averaging 15 a game on 39% from downtown. And while he was primarily used as a spot-up threat as a freshman, he’s doing a better job of diversifying his game by getting to the rim and defending the ball. Cash Wright’s stroke has really come a long way, rising from 25%, to 35% to 40% over the past three years. Against Syracuse he showed off his expanded range knocking down 3s from out to 27 feet with comfort. And while Dixon has always been a steady source of scoring, the reliability and security he brings as a ball-handler should not be under-valued (1.8 turnovers in 33 minutes). With Parker producing off the bench, the Cat’s deep guard rotation could be one to watch as March rolls around.
Nova gets a spot based primarily off Wayns prowess as a scorer and lead guard. We can critique and undermine his abilities as an NBA point guard all we want, but there’s no questioning his ability as a basketball player. He’s 6’1 and can take over a game, while being the likely focus of opposing chalk boards looking to prepare for Nova’s attack. His running mate, Dominic Cheek, has been spotty as a junior, but possesses good size and athleticism for an off-ball guard. James Bell has come on as of late, scoring in double figures over the past four games. Though Nova has struggled, Wayns and Cheek lead the team in scoring. It’s a team that lacks depth, perimeter defenders and consistent outside shooting.
5a. Pittsburgh ( Ashton Gibbs, Travon Woodall)
It would be unfair to leave off the Gibbs-Woodall duo considering Tray’s injury problems. The Pittsburgh backcourt just wasn’t the same with Cameron Wright or Isaiah Epps filling in. Woodall has racked up 9 assists in six of his eleven games played, which has allowed Gibbs to settle in at his natural position off the ball. In fact, over the past three games in which Tray has returned, Gibbs is 10 for 24 from downtown (41%), his best shooting stretch of the season. Though their backcourt lacks depth and size, the two of them provide a sound mix of scoring and playmaking.
– Though not an NBA prospect, Scoop Jardine has been awesome for Syracuse. 42 assists and 8 turnovers over the last six games.
– St. Johns’ athleticism really exposed West Virginia. That game made me question my position on the Mountaineers.
– Georgetown’s offense continues to struggle. Had them out of my top five last week for a reason. Bad loss at Pittsburgh this week.
– The NCAA reinstating Ryan Boatright is huge for UConn. He could be the difference maker to jumpstart this underachieving group.