Player of the Week
Willie Cauley-Stein – Kentucky
In his first game filling in for the injured Nerlens Noel, Cauley-Stein looked like anything but a 1st round pick. He looked out of place at times, got into foul trouble and just never seemed to get into the flow of the game. He finished that game against Tennessee with more fouls than he did points and rebounds combined. But against Vanderbilt and Missouri he looked like a completely different player. After scoring 20 points on 8-10 shooting in a win at home against the Commodores, Cauley-Stein put on his best Noel impersonation by swatting a career high seven shots against the Tigers. He also tied a career high with 12 rebounds in the overtime win. Even though he’s looked a lot like Noel over the past two games, Cauley-Stein only needs to worry about being Cauley-Stein. His performance against the Vols was probably due to the pressure of trying to fill Noel’s shoes. At this point, the Wildcats need to concentrate on playing basketball and stop worrying about what last year’s squad did or trying to live up to expectations. Getting back to playing the game the way they know how is the best thing for this young group and doing that should pay dividends as we get into March.
After losing to Georgia back in early February, the Vols looked like they were sleepwalking through conference play on their way to an NIT berth. Since that game, Tennessee has reeled off 5 straight wins, including an absolute drubbing of Kentucky just over a week ago. Jarnell Stokes has played a key role in the Vols success in recent weeks with 9 double-doubles in his last 11 games but last week it was the backcourt that came alive and led this team down the stretch. Jordan McRae and Trae Golden combined to score 54 and 55 points against LSU and Texas A&M last week with each player going for a career high in one of the two games. While McRae was pivotal in the game against the Tigers going 13-18 from the field, it was Golden who led the team in their four overtime game against the Aggies on Saturday. It was a struggle earlier in the season on offense as the team was trying to figure out what worked but now that the team has finally found that offensive balance that they were so desperately missing, this team has taken off. They have a big game on Tuesday at home against Florida. If they can find a way to win that one, they might just jump onto Joe Lunardi’s "first four in" line for the NCAA’s.
It was barely two weeks ago that the Bulldogs were on a tear in the SEC. The team has lost 3 of 4 following a 5 game winning streak and needed overtime to beat SEC doormat South Carolina on Saturday. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has continued to play well but as was the case early in the season, he is the only one playing with any type of resolve or intensity for this Bulldog’s squad. Mark Fox’s seat in Athens is beginning to get a little toasty as he hasn’t been able to duplicate the success at Georgia that he had at Nevada. With KCP likely leaving for the NBA after this season and with very little talent on the roster or coming in to replace him, Georgia fans shouldn’t expect much next season.
Top 5 Second Round Sleepers
1. Patrick Young – Young was a top level prospect coming out of high school, but he has never really lived up to his potential and seems to be getting close to his ceiling as a basketball player. He has an NBA ready body and has for the last three years but he is limited offensively and most of his points come off of dunks and put backs. Still, he is an above average post defender and is a very good rebounder. He likely wouldn’t improve his draft stock by coming back another year and in a weak draft he could potentially sneak into the first round if he had great workouts.
2. Alex Oriakhi – Oriahki is a player with good size and decent athleticism but doesn’t have the prototypical height for a true center. He has a better back to the basket game than the aforementioned Young but not by much. He has improved his game immensely at Missouri this season under Frank Haith and has shown enough to warrant a second round selection. Must work on his touch around the basket and develop a mid-range jumper.
3. Jarnell Stokes – There are no guarantees that Stokes comes out after this season and would benefit immensely from another year in college. This should technically be his freshman season as he enrolled early last season and played in the second half of the season. He is learning to use his wide frame to his advantage on smaller defenders but still hasn’t developed that killer instinct yet. If he were two inches taller, he’d be a lottery selection but as it stands, he is no more than a second rounder. Could jump into the first round with a strong showing next season.
4. Lawrence Bowers – What some call versatility, NBA scouts call "tweener". That’s exactly what Bowers is at this point. He doesn’t have the size or strength to bang with the big boys down low but doesn’t have a consistent jump shot, namely from distance, to play on the perimeter. He lost a year due to an injury and will be 23 by the time of the draft. That makes for an old rookie and since he has hit his ceiling as a player, he just doesn’t warrant a first round selection.
5. Murphy Holloway – Holloway likely won’t get drafted at all but if a team late in the second round is looking for a tireless rebounder with no fear of contact then he is worth a long look. He is short for his position (6’7 Power Forward) and doesn’t have elite athleticism but late in the second round, he presents very little risk for teams drafting. Mike Scott found his way on a roster this season after a second round selection last season and there is no reason Holloway can’t do the same. He and Scott are both undersized PF’s with average athleticism.
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