Tuesday Night Hoopla: 1/21/09

North Carolina State vs. No. 2 DukeGerald Henderson

The low point was a two-point performance against Purdue in the ACC/Big-Ten challenge.  In Duke’s blow out win in West Lafayette, Gerald Henderson shot 1-for-8 from the field, o-for-0 from the foul and 0-for-3 from the behind the arc.

Then it started.  11 points in the first game, then 14, then two games of 19.  In his last ten games, Henderson has averaged 17.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.5 steals a game.  His has come through for Coach K when other Duke players have been struggling.

In Tuesday night’s game with North Carolina State, Henderson continued the recent trend and took the game over when No. 2 Duke stumbled past the Wolfpack 73-56 at Cameroon Indoor Stadium.

Henderson also has the Statline of the Night: 21 points on 10-for-16 shooting, seven rebounds (three offensive), four assists, five steals and one block.

Henderson has always been an elite athlete, and in this middle portion of his junior season, Henderson’s basketball skills seem to have caught-up with his physical gifts.  And if Duke is to be a serious contender and not have a another late-season collapses, Henderson will need maintain his level of play.

Kyle Singler had a slow start but came up big in the second half scoring 14 of his 17 points.

Big-Ten Run Down

Ohio State vs. No. 24 Illinois

Illinois was not a very nice host to the Ohio State Buckeyes on Tuesday night.  The Fighting Illini let the Buckeyes play around for about five minutes and then OSU was never within eight points the rest of the game as the Illini beat OSU 67-49 in the first game as a ranked team.

Bruce Weber’s team has played well of late, the still are looking for the leader to handle a game in a tough situation.  Demetri McCamey might be that person, but his play can be so up-and-down that I am not sure he can carry the team.  But against the Buckeyes, McCamey the had a solid game despite a below par shooting night.  He did finish with 13 points, seven assists, three rebounds, and two steals.

The Fighting Illini had four players in double figures with 7’1″ Mike Tisdale scoring 15 – but only getting one rebound,guard Chester Frazier had 10, Dominique Keller had 12 points and six rebounds off the bench, and then McCamey with 13.

Ohio State looks like the most offensively inept team in the Big-Ten when they are not hitting from three the struggle to find buckets.  Some credit should given to Illini defense, but we have seen this Ohio State before.

Penn State vs. MichiganJamelle Cornley

Now I have long said that the Big-Ten is a deeper and a more talented conference than many were giving credit, but I never would have picked Penn State to beat Michigan.  But Penn State has a veteran team that returned all starters from last season and they worked over the ice cold Wolverine team.

6’5″ 240-pound beast, Jamelle Cornley, muscled his way to 17 points and 11 rebounds, beating up the Michigan post players.  But he was matched by Michigan’s DeShawn Sims as be scored 21 points and also grabbed 11 rebounds.  But Sims was the only player for Jon Bieliens team to reach double figures in either category.

The Big-Ten’s leading scorer, Penn State’s 5’11″ point guard Talor Battle finished with 15 points and xis assists, but did have four turnovers.

Manny Harris, the Big-Ten’s second leading scorer, was held to 1-for-9 shooting including 0-for-5 from deep.  Michigan as a team shot only 38 percent from the floor and 17 percent from three and was out-rebounded by nine.

Tennessee vs. Vanderbilt

Tyler Smith called a player only team meeting and it might just have worked as Tennessee went to Vanderbilt to revenge last seasons lose when Vandy the Volunteers in their first game ever with a No. 1 ranking.

Bruce Pearl started 6’10″ Brian Williams in place of Wayne Chism and they both played well in their new roles – even if for just one game.

Williams started the game with three rebounds and a great outlet pass to Smith for a breakaway dunk.  When Chism checked in the game, he hit two straight shots from deep and he took over in the first half.  Chism scored 16 of his 10 points and looked like he was locked into the game – something he lacks unless challenged.

The only bright spot for Vandy was George Drake.  The reserve guard played 26 minutes and scored 16 points, grabbed six rebounds and two steals.

Quick Hits

  • Homer Shoutout: North Dakota State destroyed Summit League opponent Utah Valley 98-71 with Ben Woodside scoring 28 points in 22 minutes.
  • In the battle for 0-2 Big 12 teams, Texas Tech beat Colorado 63-55.  Someone had to win.
  • Maryland won over ACC bottom feeder Virginia, 84-78.  Four of Maryland starters scored 10 or more while Virgina was lead by reserve Jamil Tucker’s 21 points.
  • DePaul was handed another lose in Big East play.  South Florida scored 35 in each half to beat the Blue Demons 70-61.
  • Creighton used a strong first half to get past Evansville 79-57.  Evansville strong shooting 38 percent from the field and 8 percent from deep.

The All-Do Everything Team: Forwards

Every team needs them.  Every team wants them.  These players typically do not average a ton of points, but can score when they are needed and step up when his team needs a boost.

They dive on the floor, grab the important rebound or make the defensive play to save the game.  Their teams win or loose depending on how these players play.

There are many players who are in the double-double category, but I will highlight some players who do little bit of everything with less name recognition.  The players can be hard to label – i.e. small forward, power forward, shooting guard, etc. – but no matter what you call them, they get the job done.

The All-Do Everything Team

Tyler Smith, Tennessee

Smith is the heart and soul of Bruce Pearl’s struggling Volunteer team, but times would be even more difficult without the Iowa transfer.  Smith is the team’s leading scorer averaging 17.8 ppg and is one of only three players who gets more than four rebounds a game with 6.1 rpg.

In the last four game against; Kansas, Gonzaga, Georgia and Kentucky, Smith averaged 35 minutes a game.  Pearl turns to the 6’7″ junior late in games when the team needs a basketball, which is the only time the coach calls set plays.

Smith recorded the only triple-double – 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists – this season against everyone’s favorite punching bag UNC Ashville.

Danny GreenDanny Green, North Carolina

The Tarheels lose at Wake Forrest could have been much worse if not for Green.  But the senior guard was making plays all over the court and finished with 22 points, six rebounds and five steals.

The 6’6″ defensive hound has a solid stat-line this season; 13.2 points, 4.5 rebound, 3 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.4 blocks a game.  Plus he is shooting 47 percent from the three point line and is a career 83 percent shooter from the foul line.

Unlike Smith, Green rarely gets an offense plays run for him, but he always around the ball.  Green always knows how and where to find open spaces on the floor and he has a quick trigger from deep.

Evan Turner, Ohio State

After playing a supporting role last season, sophomore Turner is now the leader on this young Buckeye team and he has stepped-up his game to fill the role.

In a nationally televised game against then ranked No. 7 Notre Dame, Turner broke out with 28 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and played all 40 minutes.

Turner has always been a solid defensive player, but his offensive numbers have improved with more shots.  Turner increased his scoring from 8.5 points a game last season to 15.7 this season.   He has gotten better defensively, the 6’7″ long-armed winger is averaging 2.3 take-aways a game, up one steal from last season.

Robbie Hummel, Purdue

At 6’8″ Hummel is the leading rebounder in the Big-Ten.  Enough said.  Well, almost enough.

Hummel also leads the Boilermakers in scoring with 14 points a game.  But like everyone on this list, he helps out in every way possible.  Hummel averages 2.4 assists and 1.1 steals a game while shooting 40 percent from distance.

Hummel is not just a “scorer”, he is an extremely efficient shooter.  He shoots 87 percent from the foul line and 48 percent from the floor.  Of his conference leading 7.9 rebounds a game, two a game are on the offensive end.

Terrence Williams, LouisvilleTerrance Williams

The super athletic Williams, is the leader of the Louisville Cardinal team that seems to have righted the ship.  Williams is the Cardinal leader with 9.3 rebounds and five assist per game – that is two more assists a game than any other Louisville player.

Williams is more of a scorer than a shooter, he does not shoot a high percentage.  Williams is one of the best finishers in the country and he gets a lot of his buckets using a combo of strength and  jumping  ability.  He is able to shot over shorter defenders and going around bigger opponents.

Williams leads the Cardinals in rebounding, assists, steals, and turnover to assists ratio (2.4:1)  and is third in points.  Even though Williams is a thief on the court, he has not fouled out of a game all season and has only committed four fouls once.

Kyle Singler, Duke

Singler is the busiest player wearing a Blue Devils uniform.  Coach K asks him to be everywhere at every moment.  From setting screens to offensive rebounding, from shooting three’s to guarding post players.

Singler is does not have the efficiency of others on this list, but like of these players, he finds ways to contribute.

Singler leads Duke in points, rebounds, assists and steals per game but he has been struggling this season from the perimeter.

Sam YoungSam Young, Pittsburgh

I have not seen Young much this season, but I do know that he is playing at a high level after having a slow start.  While he currently is not in the top five in any major statistical category, Young does lead the Panthers in scoring with 18.4 ppg.

Young is a difficult match-up for most team because he is such a strong player, who never looks rushed.  He uses his athleticism to create and make difficult shots, and is a career 49 percent shooter from the field.

Chase Budinger, Arizona

Budinger is one of my favorite players in college basketball.  Why, you ask.  He rarely looks uncomfortable on the court and is very capable of finding shots is the nature flow of the Wildcat offense.

Like many of the players on this list, Budinger is a tremendous leaper, but his all around game is more refined.  He shoots 44 percent from distance, 48 percent from the floor and 83 percent from the foul line.

Budinger was considered a lottery pick out of high school and while his draft status may have dropped, he should prove to be an asset to an NBA team.

Da’Juan Summers, Georgetown

At 6’8″ and 236 pounds, Summers is a major physical presence and ever since his arrival at Georgetown, his production has increased.

His freshmen year, Summers averaged 9.5 points a game, shot 42 percent from the floor and 33 percent from distance.  so far this season, he is scoring 15.5 points a fame, shooting 54 percent from the floor and 44 from distance.

Summers is the leader of a balanced Hoyas team and sets the tone for this young squad.  While not as athletic as Young or Williams, he is an over powering player and a tough defender.

Good News and Bobby Knight

Dr. RolleMryon Rolle

Finally some good news out of the Florida State Seminole football program.  Safety Myron Rolle is putting the NFL on hold and hearding to Oxford work on his master in medical anthropology as a Rhode Scholar.  “How do you like them apples?”

Rolle is projected to be a 2ndor3rd round pick this season.  And he realizes that waiting until next years draft would more than likely drop his status.  But Rolle is unfazed about his decision to head back to the classroom. 

Here is a quote from the espn.com article;

I want to be a neurosurgeon,” Rolle told ESPN’s Joe Schad in November. “And I want to help impoverished nations build up their vaccination programs. I think in many poor countries, vaccination programs and mental health programs are wrongly pushed aside.”

Knight Watch

Bobby KnightThe last couple of evenings Sportcenter has featured a new segment called “Knight Watch”.  Former coach Bobby Knight “breaks down” some of the best in college basketball.  He took a look at Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin and Davidson’s Steph Curry.  Tonight will be the Duke Blue Devils after their game against Georgia Tech.

I watched the bits on Griffin and Curry, and this segment is crap.  Plan and simple.  I understand trying to use Coach Knight more and showcase his “expertise”.  But it is unreal.

Knight highlighted some interesting film clips, showed Griffin’s athleticism and then made the “expert” analysis that the Sooner stud is “the best sophomore in the country”. 

Are you kidding me?

The next evening, Knight declares Curry the best passer in the nation.  WHAT?  Now, I will say Curry is a better passer than many give me credit, but that is what the legendary coach comes up with.

Griffin is the most physically dominate player in the country right now, period.  Regardless of class.

Curry is an all-around great player and is second in many POTY races.  But I am not sure I would call him the best passer in the country.

I have not seen the Duke segment, but I suppose tonight Knight will call Duke’s offense “good” and their defense “defensive”.  And that the Duke away uniforms are intimidating.  Or some random crap. 

I have long thought Knight was passed his prime and is not relevant in college basketball and ESPN has unintentionally exposed that truth.

Gerald HendersonGerlad Henderson

On January 10th the Duke Blue Devils beat  the Florida State Seminoles 66-58.  Nothing too exciting there.

What was exciting?  Gerald Henderson scored a career high 25 points, grabbed five rebounds and had three steals.  My hope is that this is the start of something beautiful.  My fear is that this was a fluke.

Henderson has bever been a great shooter, but he was 9-for-14 from the floor, 3-for-4 from distance and 4-for-6 from the foul line.

Keep it going Gerald.  UNC and WF are coming soon.

 The Golden Gophers

Al NolenThe Minnesota Golden Gophers are ranked 17th in the country and are in a tied for 2nd in the Big-Ten.  They have beat Louisville, Ohio State andgave a boost to the Big-Ten in this years challenge with the ACC.

Tubby Smith has turned this program around faster than anyone – including myself – thought possible.

The Gophers are balanced on offense and in your face on defense.  A good deal of the sucess has to be attributed to the progression of point guard Al Nolen.  The 6’1″ sophomore is steady with the ball in is hands and harasses the ball defense.  His stats are a microcosm of what make this team go.

8 pionts, 4 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 steals per game. 

According to Bigtennetwork.com, The Golden Gophers hold their opponents to 59 points a game, 38 percent shooting from the floor and 33 percent from distance.  The Gophers score 72 points a game, shoot 47 percent from the floor and 37 percent from distance.

The Gophers also grab the 2nd most offensive rebounds in the conference with 14.8 a game and are third in total rebounds with 40.5.

The Gophers have a tough match-up at Wisconsin tomorrow evening (1/15).

Tuesday Night Hoopla

Indiana vs. Ohio State

Thad Matta might not be the best coach in the Big-Ten, but he is an amazing recruiter.  Rivals.com ranked this season’s recruiting class as the fifth best in the country and in Matta’s last three classes, he brought in highly ranked big men, including Mr. Greg OdenJon Diebler.

The last two seasons Matta also brought in guards Jon Diebler and William Buford, both came to Ohio State and unfortunately were over-shadowed.

Diebler averaged 40 points and 13 rebounds a game his senior year of high school to became Ohio’s all-time leading scorer.  He also won Ohio’s Mr. Basketball.  Last season he was recruited by Thad Matta and was quickly over-looked for seven-footer Kosta Koufos.

Buford averaged 23 points and 11 rebounds a game his senior year of high school.  He also won Ohio’s Mr. Basketball.  This season he was recruited by Matta and was quickly over-looked for seven-footer B.J. Mullens.

Last nights 77-53 win against Indiana, Diebler started strong shooting 3 for 3 from distance and then finished the game with 17 points, five assists, three rebounds, two blocks and one steal. 

Buford lead the Buckeyes in scoring with 19 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.  Between the two starting guards, they shot 9 for 16 from behind the arc and only committed one turnover.  For this team to be successful, Diebler and Buford have to continue to play at this recent level production. 

The Buckeyes will also need Mullens to live up to the hype, even coming off the bench.  His play has improve as of late and he conributed 14 points and eight rebounds in the win againist Indiana.  Mullens has scored in double figures four out fo the last seven games, but most of his points have come once the game was decided.  He has yet to have a double digit rebound game.

The game was never close.  It looked Ohio State had tipped-off  against a JV squad as Ohio State was able to get easy shots and the Hoosiers had to work for everything.  And while Indiana continues to improve, they will have to be content with moral victories and this season there will be plenty. 

But the rest of the Big-Ten better get their shots in now because Tom Creen has the third best recruiting class coming next season, according to Rivals.com.

Kentucky vs. Tennessee

Jodie MeeksStat Line of the Night: 54 points, 15 for 22 from the field, 10 for 22 from three, 14 for 14 from the charity stripe, eight rebounds, four assists, and one steal.

Jodie Meeks broke Dan Issel’s 39 year-old single game scoring record by scoring 54 points and lead the Kentucky Wildcats into Knoxville and beat N0. 24 Tennessee Volunteers 90-72.

I am not sure what is more distributing; the ease at which Meeks scored, the fact that no other Wildcat was in double figures, or the way Tennessee has completely fallen apart.

The typical Tennessee intensity was not present as the Volunteers were just as excited to watch Meeks break the record, opting not to play defense.

Meeks did put on an amazing show, shouting from everywhere but he did not force shots.  He hit all his free throws and hit shots far behind the three point line with defenders in his face. 

But it was too easy for Meeks and there was nothing Bruce Pearl and the Volunteers could have done.  But that could have at least tired a little harder.  Heads-up to Coach Pearl, Meeks wears #23 for the blue team.  Just thought you should know.

Tyler Smith and Wayne Chism did their best, scoring 19 and 18 respectively and did make the game interesting about midway through the second half before Meeks decided to remove all doubt and finish the game and record off.

Tulsa vs. Memphis

Tulsa turned in a solid performance and had the Tigers in a a cage until Antonio Anderson hit a driving lay-up as time expired to give Memphis the win on the road 55-54.

Memphis had lead the majority of the game until Tulsa made a comeback in the second half  behind juniors Jerome Jordan and Ben Uzoh and the game was at 39 points apiece with 12 minutes left in the second half.

The 6’3″ Uzoh had a strong game with 16 points, eight rebounds, two steals, and two blocks and hit two clutch free throws with 4.5 seconds to give Tulsa their last lead.

Tulsa’s Jordan is playing just his fourth year of organized basketball.  Jordan gave the Tigers trouble in the post and finished with 20 points, 13 rebounds, three assists and four blocks on Tuesday night.  The seven foot junior has come on strong this season, scoring in double figures in 13 of Tulsa’s last 15 games.

For Memphis, the freshmen Evans finally looked comfortable.  He was quick, decisive with the ball and shot well from the floor.  Evans got to the foul line eight times, was 2-2 from deep, but did have four turnovers.

Anderon might have carried the ball on the last play, but we won’t talk about that.

Quick Hits

  • Dunk of the Night: Florida State freshmen Chris Singleton had a clear path down the lane.  He went to the hole to grab a rebound on a missed shot that bounced straight at him.  Singleton stretched way back in mid air, grabbed the ball and threw it down hard.  It doesn’t sound as impressive as it was to watch it.  But it was ridiculous.  FSU won the game, beating North Carolina State 78-65.
  • The Kansas Jayhawks beat their instate rivals from Manhattan, Kansas 87-71 behind 24 points of Sherron Collins.  This “rivalry” was really good for one season.  This season, not so much.
  • After recently having the nation’s longest home winning streak snapped, the BYU Cougars defeated the TCU Horned Frogs 73-61 to stretch their new home winning streak to two games in a row.  Only 51 more to match the last one.
  • Homer Shout Out: The North Dakota Fighting Sioux needed over time to beat the University of Mary 84-78.  UND’s Daniel Harkins lead all scorers with 25 points.

An Apology to Wake Forrest’s Jeff Teague

Through out life, we should learn from our mistakes.  And I have done a good deal of learning in my time on earth.  I am also a man of honor – stop laughing -  and I admit when I am wrong.  Trust me, I was wrong.  So here it goes.

I am sorry Jeff.

I spent days and maybe even weeks breaking down the ACC.  I highlighted every team and most players on those teams.  I predicted that Wake Forrest would finish fifth behind Clemson – which is still possible.  And in that same article, I talked about James Johnson and how talented I thought he was – he still is.  I highlighted Johnson as the “most important player on your team”.  I wrote about the freshmen phenom Al-Froug Aminu and the rest of the first year wonders.

jt2You were the second player I highlighted, but all I said about you was; Jeff Teague is a scorer and who got better in conference play.  He is the only double figure scorer from last season and he and Smith  should compliment each other very well.”

I am sorry I did not write more about you and did not highlight you as the most important player on your team, because you are.

I am also sorry that I did not put you on any of my All-ACC Team’s.  I am even more sorry I did not even put you on the “honorable mention” list.

I am sorry.  Right now, you are the best player in the ACC and are a sure first team All-American candidate.

You lead your team over UNC and scored a career high 34 points on UNC’s Ty Lawson and then held him to only nine points and forced him into 4 turnovers.  I am sorry I listed Lawson on my All-ACC first team and that you made Lawson look silly.  You were the best player on the floor.  No question.

You have stepped up for your team when they needed you and your play as matured.  You are the leader on the No. 2 ranked team in the country – or No. 3, depending on the poll.  You have improved in every major statistical category.

You are raised your scoring from 13.9 to 20.6 ppg.  You average four rebounds, four assists, and four steals a game and you are shooting 54 percent from the floor and 85 percent from the free throw line.

I am sorry.  Right now, you are the best player in the ACC and are a sure first team All-American candidate.  You lead your team over UNC and scored a career high 34 points on UNC’s Ty Lawson and then held him to only nine points and forced him into 4 turnovers.  And I listed him on my All-ACC first team.

So, in closing, I am sorry Jeff for underestimating you and I will never do it again.

Good luck the rest of the season, take it easy on Duke.

Daniel Damico

Recap of the Weekend

What a weekend of games.  UNC and Wake put on a show, Michigan State seems to have hit their stride and looks like a tough team to beat, Louisville held on to get a victory they deserpately needed, and UCLA managed to hold off and talented USC team. 

Looking back, I went 6-0 in my team prediction’s and was close on most games on the predicted spread – I was off a total of 25 points for all six games.  Some of the individual match-ups did not affect the result like I thought they would.

Saturday

Kansas 62  Cole Aldrich

No. 12 Michigan State 75

Match-ups to watch:

  • PG Kansas’ Sherron Collins vs. MSU’s Kalin Lucas – Collins had 25 points, eight assists, three rebounds and two steals. 
  • C Kansas’ Cole Aldrich vs. MSU’s Goran Suton – Cole Aldrich had a monster game with 25 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks.  

Winner: MSU by 5 – Off by 8 points.

No. 22 West Virginia 53

No. 15 Marquette 75

Match-ups to watch:

  • G WV’s Alex Rouff vs. Marguette’s Jerel McNeal - McNeal was the difference maker with 26 points, seven rebounds, three steals and one assists
  • F WV’s De’Sean Butler vs.  Marguette’s Wesley Matthews  – Butler had a good game, but Matthews was a little better statistically.  He had 13 points, five rebounds and two assists.

Winner: Marquette by 11 – Off by 1 point.

No. 21 Louisville 61Scottie Reynolds

No. 17 Villanova 60

Match-ups to watch:

  • PG Lousville’s Edgar Sosa vs. ‘Nova’s Scottie Reynolds  – Reynolds follows-up his 40 point  scoring spree with a poor game, but still outplayed Sosa.  Reynolds finished 11 points, three assists and two rebounds.  
  • F Louisville’s Samardo Samuels vs. ‘Nova’s Dante Cunningham  – Cunningham has been one of the biggest surprises in the Big East and he played strong for ‘Nova with 21 points, five rebounds, two steals and one block.

Winner: Louisville by 4 – Off by 3 points. 

 

Sunday

No. 3 UNC 89 Jeff Teague

No. 4 Wake Forrest 92

Match-ups to watch:

  • G/F UNC’s Danny Green vs. WF’s James Johnson or Al-Farouq Aminu – Green was everywhere and he kept UNC in the game with his 22 points, six rebounds, and five steals.
  • G UNC’s Ty Lawson vs. WF’s Jeff Teague - Teague was the player on the floor.  He easily outplayed Lawson with 34 points, six rebounds, and four assists. 

Winner: Wake by 2 -Off by 1 point.

No. 7 UCLA 64

USC 60

Match-ups to watch:

  • G UCLA’s Daren Collison vs. USC’s Daniel Hackett – Collison had a another solid game for UCLA.  He scored 18 points, dished out 6 assists and pulled down three rebounds.
  • G UCLA’s Josh Shippvs. USC’s Dwight Lewis – Neither had a great game, but Shipp did have 10 points and two rebounds to Lewis’ four points - way under his season average of 16.4 – and 3 assists.

Winner: UCLA by 13 – Off by 9 points.

Wisconsin 52Robbie Hummel

No. 14 Purdue 65

Match-ups to watch:

  • F Wisconsin’s Marcus Landry vs. Purdue’s Robbie Hummel  – Hummel came off the bench and scored 16 points and grabbed five rebounds.
  • G Wisconsin’s John Bohannon vs. Purdue’s E’Twaun Moore  – Even.

Winner: Purdue by 10 -Off by 3 points.

Games to Watch

Heading into the weekend there are some great match-ups.   Here is a highlight of some the highly ranked teams playing.  There are many others playing this weekend.

The headliner is UNC visiting Wake in a 3 vs. 4 match-up.  Wake presents an interesting problem for UNC; athletic big men o’ plenty.  The match-ups will be interesting, but Wake is just bigger at every position.  UNC is more skilled in the backcourt, with only Wake’s Jeff Teague capable of play at UNC’s level. Jeff Teague

Saturday

Kansas at No. 12 Michigan State

Match-ups to watch:

  • PG Kansas’ Sherron Collins vs. MSU’s Kalin Lucas
  • C Kansas’ Cole Aldrich vs. MSU’s Goran Suton

Winner: MSU by 5 – MSU has too much speed.

No. 22 West Virginia at No. 15 Marquette

Match-ups to watch:

  • G WV’s Alex Rouff vs. Marguette’s Jerel McNeal
  • F WV’s De’Sean Butler vs.  Marguette’s Wesley Matthews

Winner: Marquette by 11 – It is very tough to beat Marquette at home.

No. 21 Louisville at No. 17 Villanova

Match-ups to watch:

  • PG Lousville’s Edgar Sosa vs. ‘Nova’s Scottie Reynolds
  • F Louisville’s Samardo Samuels vs. ‘Nova’s Dante Cunningham

Winner: Louisville by 4 – I don’t have a lot of faith in the Cardinals, but they need a statement win to prove they are still a relevant team in the Big East.

Sunday

No. 3 UNC at No. 4 Wake Forrest

Match-ups to watch:

  • G/F UNC’s Danny Green vs. WF’s James Johnson or Al-Farouq Aminu
  • G UNC’s Ty Lawson vs. WF’s Jeff Teague

Winner: Wake by 2 -This game will be won in the paint and WF has too much depth and atheltism in their post players.

No. 7 UCLA at USC

Match-ups to watch:

  • G UCLA’s Daren Collison vs. USC’s Daniel Hackett
  • G UCLA’s Josh Shipp vs. USC’s Dwight Lewis

Winner: UCLA by 13 – USC’s turnover prone.  Should UCLA with plenty of easy layups

Wisconsin at No. 14 Purdue

Match-ups to watch:

  • F Wisconsin’s Marcus Landry vs. Purdue’s Robbie Hummel
  • G Wisconsin’s John Bohannon vs. Purdue’s E’Twaun Moore

Winner: Purdue by 10 – Unless Wisconsin can control the temp and make this a ugly/physical game, Purdue wins by double figures – Depends on the status of Hummel

Tuesday Night Hoopla

Arkansas – Are You Serious?Michael Washington

I wonder what this seasons goals were for the Arkansas Razorbacks.  Having lost their five top scorers from a team that made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season, I would bet probably not too lofty. 

  • Finish over .500 in conference
  • Be competitive enough to be more than a “bubble team”
  • Get at least one “statement” win to help previous goal.  After last night, they have two.

Just days after defeating then No. 4 ranked Oklahoma Sooners, the Arkansas Razorbacks come back with another win over a top ten ranked team defeating .

John Pelphrey’s young team thrived off the excitement of a packed house and a national audeince and went blow for blow with a veteran Longhorn team.  Led by junior forward Michael Washington’s 22 points and 9 rebounds, the Razorback were confident and not afraid of the Longhorns.

Arkansas guard Stefan Welsh drew the assignment of guarding Texas star A.J. Abrams and Welsh held the sharpshooter to seven points.  Abrams was 3 for 16 from the floor, hit one three point shot, and did not get to the foul line.  Welsh did a good job of riding Abram’s hip and making him into a dribbler and not allowing to be the shooter he is known for.  

Texas did not have an answer for Washington and his length and activity around the rim and that lead to Washington’s “and one” dunk with 30 seconds left over Texas’ Damian James to solidfy the win for the Razorbacks.

This game was not pretty, and should not have been as close as it was.  Arkansas was on 14-21 from the foul line and was out rebounded 32-45 with the Longhorns grabbing 18 offensive rebounds.

Big Ten ClashRaymar Morgan

Michigan State hosted Ohio State in what I call the first “measuring stick” game for the Big Ten.  Both teams have played the Minnesota Golden Gophers with MSU beating the Gophers 70-58, while OSU lost 68-59.  This also plays to my theory that the Big Ten will be a dog fight for the top five spots.

The game was tied 20-20 with under seven to go in the first half and then MSU went on a 16-4 scoring run to close the half.  Durning the run, Michigan State looked like a top-5 team.  The Spartans ran, moved the ball quickly and shoot well from deep.

Even with the win, my biggest concern for Tom Izzo and the Spartans is Raymar Morgan.

The junior forward was mentioned as a Big-Ten player of the year candidate and last night, he was not the best player on his own team.  That was sophomore guard Kalin Lucas.  Morgan is talented, no question, but he can become completely ineffective at times.

Morgan went 5-14 and finished with 13 points and ten rebounds matching up against OSU’s star Evan Turner and Dallas Lauderdale.  If Morgan is able to raise his game, and be consistent, the Spartans will have a strong chance of reaching the Final Four in Detroit. 

As far as the “measuring stick” aspect.  Purdue and MSU have the most talented players in the Big-Ten, but teams like  Minnesota, Illinois, OSU and Michigan are looking like better teams.  Penn State is tough, experienced team (see below).  This conference will be tight until the end. 

OSU is missing athletic forward David Lighty.  The last remaining player from the Buckeyes trip to the national championship game, is out for 6-12 weeks with a broken foot.

Quick Hits

Purdue lost to Penn State 67-64 with forward Robbie Hummel out with back issues and Chris Kramer out with a sprained left foot.  Penn State did take advantage of Hummel’s absence, out rebounding the Boilermakers 37-22.

Stat Line of the Night:  Clemson’s K.C Rivers had 12 points, nine rebounds - six offensive, three assists and four steals in the Tigers victory over Alabama. 

West Virginia had a chance to flip the Big East up side down with a victory over UConn.  But the starting front court for the Huskies of Jeff Adrien, Stanley Robinson and Hasheem Thabeet came up big finishing with 37 points and 35 rebounds, with 13 of Adrien’s 17 coming in the second half.

Villanova needed overtime and 40 points from Scottie Reybnolds to beat Seton Hall 89-85.  Dante Cunningham continues to imporive adding 21 points, 15 rebounds and 2 blocks.

Homer Shout Out.  North Dakota State’s Ben Woodside is currently second in the nation in assists per game with 7.5.  He also recently became the Bison’s all-time leader scoring and is averaging 24 ppg and shooting 43 percent from deep.

College Basketball Status Report – The Bad News

The pageantry of the non-conference schedule was come to an end and conference play is blooming like a brand new flower.  And that small flower has already rocked the national scene. 

In a two parts, I will look at major college basketball and highlight all that is good and all that is bad.  First to the teams that have been disappointing but with room to improve

When looking at the what has already taken place, everything must be taken with a “grain of salt”.  Strengths can only prove so much against lesser competition, but the weaknesses can show wholes in a prevouslt thought solid team.

Conference play is the great equalizer, everyone knows it.  So UNC lose to Boston College should not be too surprised- I am most surprised it happen on UNC’s home court.  But what the “pre-conference season” does for the fans is give us an idea of how well your favorite team match-ups against cupcakes and the occasional meeting of powerhouses in the tournaments and challenges.

Or if you are Gonzaga you stuff your non-conference with tough games because there are only two teams that SHOULD give you problems in conference play.  But they are have their own troubles losing four out of their last five game.

And now, the most disappointing teams of the 2008-09 College basketball season thus far.

Louisville CardinalsEarl Clark

I really don’t know what to say.  No team has underperformed like the Louisville Cardinals.  Was this season’s team and talent over-hyped?  Or was David Padgent under-appreciated?  The Cardinals are 9-3 and a 30 foot last second shot to beat Kentucky away from 8-4.

Louisville have dominated in their nine wins, only Kentucky and Mississippi lost by less than ten.  In the three games they lost however, the Cardinals shot 32 percent from the field and 28 percent from behind the arc.  Nowhere near their 43 percent and 35 percent averages.

The Big East is tough and this team was expected to compete for the conference title.  They still could, but not in the current form.

Solution: Steady point guard play.  Maybe after his game winning shot Sunday, Edgar Sosa has earned Rick Pitino’s trust and can start dishing out assists.  Two other players, both forwards, average more assists per game than Sosa; Terrance Williams with 4.7 and Earl Clark with 3 per game.

Gonzaga Bull Dogs

Jeremy Pargo

After years of being the tournament Cinderella, the glass slipper has been smashed to pieces this season as the Bulldogs were a Final Four pick by many of the experts.  But 8-4 is not the start that shows you are now “a team to beat”.

Gonzaga are infamous for playing a difficult non-conference schedule.  This season they match-up with Tennessee twice, Arizona, UConn, Washington State, and Maryland.

At moments, The ‘Zags look unstoppable.  Other times, they look like a bunch a kids waiting for the teacher to tell them what to do.  Mark Few needs to give direction to this offensive juggernaut and tell Austin Daye he does need to shoot EVERY TIME HE TOUCHES THE BALL.  Just grab some more rebounds and block more shots.  His draft status is fine.

Solution: Three point shooting.  Six players have each taken over 20 three point shots totaling 227 and they have made only 77 for 34 percent.  Best is center/forward Josh Heytvelt at 47 percent and worst is point guard Jeremy Pargo at 26 percent.

Tennessee VolunteersTyler Smith

I like Tyler Smith.  His game reminds me of former Wake Forrest star Josh Howard, without the America bashing.  But Smith cannot do it alone.  This team needs a consistent second scorer.  Wayne Chism, I am talking to you.

In a game against Marquette, Chism had one of the best performances of the season.  He scored 21 points in the second half and finished with 26 points and 11 boards and was un-guardable.  But against a much lesser team, Belmont, Chism only puts up six points and 12 rebounds in a Volunteer two point victory.  Wayne, you are too good.

There are six players who average nine points are more.  Smith leads with 17.3 and next is Chism at 12.3.   Maybe Scottie Hopson can become that person, but he needs to find shots in the offense.  This team can score, but it ends of games is seems that no one wants to take the shot.

Solution: Wayne Chism with a little bit more from the freshmen.

Memphis TigersTyreke Evans

So long Derrick Rose.  Take care of yourself Chris Douglas-Roberts.  Call us soon Joey Dorsey.  The Tigers lost too much.  The teams best playmaker, best offensive player and best banger.

Like Tennessee, Memphis cannot replace with dynamic talents that made them an extremely successful last season.  While Tyreke Evans is a good player – he may end up a great player – he is not yet playing at the level people were expecting. 

Evans is leading the Tigers in scoring with 16.9, but at times he forces the play when the offense becomes stale.  Rose was able to get to the rim against any player.  Evans struggles to get much more than jumpers and he is only shooting 28 percent from distance.

As a team, they are shooting 29 percent from three point range.  With only two players – forward Robert Dozier and guard Roburt Sallie – shooting anywhere near 40 percent.  And for a team whose offense is pretty much a glorified drive and kick, The Tigers need to shoot better.

Solution: Three point-shooting mixed with a little more toughness.  They miss Joey Dorsey.

*Disclaimer – Memphis lost three games.  But they to quality teams; Xavier, Gonzaga – yes I still consider them quality, and Syracuse.

USC TrojansDaniel Hackett

I had high hopes for the Trojans.  I thought they would say goodbye to O.J. Mayo and move on.  But with loses to Oregon State, Seton Hall and Missouri, I think my faith is gone.

Statistical they look good.  Dwight Lewis leads the team in scoring with 16.1 ppg and Taj Gibson is averaging a double-double.  They also have Daniel Hackett and DeMar DeRozan in double figure scoring as well.

But here is a stat that might tell the story.  As a team, their assist to turnover ratio is 1:1.2.  Hackett alone dishes out 6 assits per game and then loses the ball 4.1 times a game.  USC gives the ball over 16 times a game which is most in the PAC-1o.

DeRozan is also shooting zero percent from three.  He has taken 14 shots, just missed them all.  As a team the Trojans shoot 33 percent from behind the arc.  With the many missed threes and amount of turnovers, there are a lot of empty possessions.

Solution: Ball handling.  There are a lot of weapons on this team, but there are useless if you can’t give them the ball.

Dishonorable Mention

Michigan State – you give them the lose to UNC.  But not to Maryland, not by 18.

UAB – have five losses against four good teams, but will still compete in C-USA.

The Gophers Main Man

There are many stats that would contradict my claim that Al Nolen is the most important player wearing a Golden Gophers uniform, but I think one says it all.  Nolen’s assist to turnover ratio is 3.9:1.  For every turnover he has, he comes back with almost four assists.  Al Nolen

Yet that rest of his stat line does help my case.  8.5 ppg, 6,3 apg, 4 rpg, and 2.2 steals per game.

In the Gophers biggest win this season over then No. 9 Louisville, Nolen penetrated the Cardinal defense with ease and finished with 18 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and only one turnover.  He was the Gopher that sealed the win from the foul line going 13 for 17 making eight foul shoots in the last 4:09 of the second half.

Nolen is a the perfect guard for Tubby Smith’s system.  He is a pass first point guard who finds the open shot for other players in the flow of the offense and he also puts a ton of pressure on the other team’s ball handler.  Nolen is a capable scorer when he is called on and can get to the rim going left or right.

I am not ready to call me the best point guard in the Big Ten, but Nolen must be in the conversation.