Well day 1 of the sweet 16 brought some surprises. Apparently Missouri has a good basketball team. And Duke seemed to forget that the round, orange thing is supposed to go into the round metal thing placed 10-feet above the floor with a net hanging from it. But let’s talk about tonight.
Game 1: Arizona vs. Louisville
Louisville hasn’t exactly walked through their first two games, similar to Pitt. However, their defense causes just enough chaos to get by, and I’m sure that will be the case tonight. While Arizona has a future lottery pick in Jordan Hill, the ride for the 12-seeded Wildcats is over. They weren’t supposed to get past the first round (or make the tourney, for that matter), so kudos to them on wearing this year’s glass slipper. The only thing that could get in the way of Louisville’s advancing is their free-throw shooting. Their best player, Terrence Williams, shoots an embarrassing 57% from the charity stripe.
Prediction: Louisville 68, Arizona 59
Game 2: Oklahoma vs. Syracuse
This is tonight’s best game in my opinion. We get to see player of the year Blake Griffin take on a very tough team in Syracuse. I will be cheering for Oklahoma as I really like how Griffin plays the game, but I don’t think they can handle Jonny Flynn and the Orange. The Big East has been impressive thus far, and Syracuse is as good as their conference peers. Something to keep in mind, however, is that Griffin is averaging 30.5 ppg so far in the tourney, and Syracuse won’t have an answer if he starts taking over.
Prediction: Syracuse 76, Oklahoma 72
Game 3: Kansas vs. Michigan St.
It will be fun to watch Sherron Collins vs. Kalin Lucas. Both are very quick point guards, although Collins could easily pound Lucas in a fight. Michigan St. won the teams’ first meeting on Jan 10 by a convincing 13-points, but I think that will change tonight. Cole Aldrich has turned into a serious beast in the paint (remember him handling Hansbrough last year?), and he will be the difference after he posts a solid 20 & 12 tonight.
Prediction: Kansas 63, Michigan St. 56
Game 4: Gonzaga vs. North Carolina
Can Gonzaga take advantage of UNC’s achilles heel? Or, in this case, Ty Lawson’s toe? While Psycho-T gets a lot of attention, it’s clear that Lawson is the one that makes this team tick. I’m cheering for the Zags, but the Tar Heels will advance.
Prediction: UNC 81, Gonzaga 68
In future Division I basketball news, the Hopkins boys team won their semi-final game last night despite their opponent, undefeated St. Cloud Tech, employing a complete stall of the game (no shot clock in MN). Hopkins led at halftime 16-15. They went on to win by about 20.
Latest – and third – addition of my season long All-American Watch. 12/7/08
Stephen Curry - Davidson, 6’2″ Jr. Guard – 31 ppg and 6.4 apg
What did Curry do after a game where he was “held” scoreless? He score 44 points in front of LeBron James to lead Davidson over North Carolina State.
Blake Griffin - Oklahoma, 6’10″ So. Forward – 25.6 ppg and 17.3 rpg
With Curry, he is at the top of the list for Player of the Year. He is a beast and I have not seen anyone who can match-up against Griffin one-on-one. Imagine if he had a consistent fifteen foot jumper. Nasty.
Manny Harris - Michigan, 6’5″ So. Guard – 20.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg and 3.9 apg
Against UCLA and Duke, Harris is averaging 19 ppg, 4 rpg, 3 apg and shooting 48% from the floor and 88% from the foul line. What I am not so subtly hinting at, Harris is capable of elevating his game to another in major games. Let’s hope he can maintain.
James Harden - Arizona State, 6’4″ So. Guard – 26.3 ppg, 7 rpg and 4 apg
To be honest, I think I have seen Harden play about 10 minutes of basketball this season. But everything I see is evidence that he is the most complete offensive player in the country.
Luke Harangody - Notre Dame, 6’8″ Jr. Forward – 23 ppg and 12 rpg
After sitting out two games, Harangody came back to for the for the game against Ohio State. He scored 25 and had 16 rebounds in a tough lose.
Chase Budinger - Arizona, Jr. Forward – 20.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 3.6 apg and 63% 3PT
Jonny Flynn – Syracuse, 6’0″ So. Guard – 19.8 ppg and 5.4 apg
DeJuan Blair - PITT, 6’7″ So. Forward – 14.9 ppg and 13.4 rpg
Jeff Teague - Wake Forrest, 6’2″ So. Guard – 20.6 ppg, 4.9 apg, 4 rpg and 57% 3PT
Tyler Smith – Tenn., 6’7″ Jr. Forward - 17.4 ppg, 6 rpg and 5 apg
Hasheem Thabeet – UConn, 7’3″ Jr. Center – 14.5 ppg, 12.5 rpg and 4 bpg
Kyle McCalarney – Notre Dame, 6’0″ Sr. Guard – 18.9 ppg, 3.8 apg, 2.4 apg and 48% 3PT
Tyler Hansbrough – UNC, 6’9″ Sr. Forward – 22 ppg and 6.8 rpg
Ty Lawson – UNC, 5’11″ Jr. Guard – 16.1 ppg, 6.9 apg, 2.4 prg, 3 steals and 55% 3PT
Kyle Singler - Duke, 6’8″ So. Forward – 16.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg and 3.3 apg
Patrick Patterson – Kentucky, 6’8″ So. Forward – 17.9 ppg, 9.1 rpg and 3 apg
A.J. Abrams – Texas, 5’11″ Sr. Guard – 18 ppg, 2.7 rpg and 44% 3PT
Curtis Jerrells - Baylor, 6’1″ Sr. Guard – 16.3 ppg, 5.5 apg, 3.6 apg and 1.8 steals per game.
Evan Turner – Ohio State, 6’7″ So. Guard – 16.6 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 3.4 apg and 3 spg
Now that some teams have played 4 or 5 games, I feel that is time to update the All-American Watch. These rankings are based off of how they have played thus far.
Stephen Curry - Davidson, 6’2″ Jr. Guard – 35 ppg and 7.8 apg
Blake Griffin - Oklahoma, 6’10″ So. Forward – 26 ppg and 19.8 rpg
Luke Harangody – Notre Dame, 6’8″ Jr. Forward – 29 ppg and 16 rpg
Manny Harris – Michigan, 6’5″ So. Guard – 24 ppg and 5 apg
James Harden - Arizona State, 6’4″ So. Guard – 25 ppg, 7 rpg and 5 apg
Chase Budinger- Arizona, 6’7″ Jr. Forward – 24 ppg, 5 rpg, 3 apg and 59% 3PT
Johnny Flynn – Syracuse, 6’0″ So. Guard – 20 ppg, 6 apg and 44% 3PT
Hasheem Thabeet – UConn, 7’3″ Jr. Center – 14 ppg, 11 rpg and 4 blocks pg
DeJuan Blair – PITT, 6’7″ So. Forward – 18 ppg and 13 rpg
A.J. Abrams – Texas, 5’11″ Sr. Guard – 18 ppg, 2 apg and 50% 3PT
Robert Vaden - UAB, 6’5″ Sr. Forward – 19 ppg, 6, apg and 44% 3PT
Ty Lawson - UNC, 5’11″ Jr. Guard – 15 ppg and 6 apg
Jon Brockman - Washington, 6’7″ Jr. Forward – 17 ppg and 13 rpg
Kyle Singler - Duke, 6’7″ So. Forward – 17 ppg, 7 rpg and 3 apg
Raymar Morgan - Michigan State, 6’8″ Jr. Forward – 21 ppg and 4 rpg
Samardo Samuels - Louisville, 6’8″ Fr. Forward – 21 ppg, 5 rpg and 2 bpg
Robbie Hummel - Purdue, 6’8″ So. Forward – 16 ppg, 6 rpg and 3 apg
E’Twaun Moore - Purdue, 6’4″ So. Guard – 15 ppg, 6 rpg amd 3 apg
Jerome Dyson - UConn, 6’4″ Jr. Guard – 18 ppg, 2 rpg and 3 apg
Tyler Hansbrough, UNC – He drops ONLY because of his injury and he has played just one game.
Sam Young, PITT – Most of the light has been shinning on teammate Blair.
B.J. Mullens, OSU – Not sure if Thad Matta is saving him for big games or if he is not ready.
Patrick Patterson, Kentucky – He will be back soon, looks like he is picking it up.
What do you look for when trying to put together a preseason All-American team? Is it just name recognition and the uniform they wear? Is it the players who will be the best pro prospects, or the players who will have the best college season?
I feel it is a combo of all those points, plus a look at their production from last season and changes to the team that will affect the roles these players assume and ultimately their productivity.
There are two or three players that are guaranteed first team All-Americans. After those players, it really is up to personal preference. Each player is talented, skilled, and is a winner—and each will have a large influence on the 2008-09 college basketball landscape.
All-American First Team
Tyler Hansbrough – North Carolina 6-9 Sr. Forward 22.6 ppg, 10.2 rpg
After UNC fell short of the National Championship there was no doubt Hansbrough would come back for his senior season because his trophy case is missing the most important one.
His work ethic and team first mentality gives him a chance at being the first four-time first-team All-American. He could also break J.J. Reddick’s ACC scoring record – and the rebounding record as well.
I have never seen a player with the ability like Hansbrough to make so many tough shots after the contact.
Stephan Curry – Davidson 6-2 Jr. Guard 25.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg
There is very little the Stephan Curry has to do to make this list. After leading Davidson to an incredible run to the Sweet Sixteen last season, the expectations will be very high and teams will key on Curry.
He will be tested early as Davidson will face another tough non-conference schedule and he will take over at point guard. Having the ball in his hands more this season could mean his scoring takes a slight dip.
Curry plays for a small school in North Carolina, but any big school in the state would gladly add him to their starting line-up.
Unlike Hansbrough, many were surprised to see Blake Griffin announce he would come back to wear the Sooner jersey. Griffin would have been a top five pick in the last NBA draft, and minus a complete disaster, should be top two next June.
After missing the first six games of last season, Collison was able to pick right back up and provide the steady play as the Bruins ran to the Final Four. With the departure of Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook to the NBA, Collison will have the opportunity to demonstrate the whole of his talent.
Luke Harangody – Notre Dame 6-8 Jr. Forward 20.4 ppg, 10.6 rpg
Imagine having a front court with Luke Harangody and Hansbrough. No loose ball will go “unhustled” for. Like Hansbrough, Harangody is more skilled than people give him credit. As an athletic monster, you do not expect him to make the basketball plays he does. Opposing teams will plan to stop him, but that does not mean they will.
Chase Budinger – Arizona 6-7 Jr. Forward 17.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg
After a year of uncertainty, this team will finally be Chase Budinger’s team. With his shooting ability and insane vertical, the Wildcat offense will revolve around Budinger and his numbers will go up – and he could come back next year.
James Harden – Arizona State 6-4 So. Guard 17.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg
ASU has a lottery pick coming back for a second season. He slashes through defenses and has the complete offense package. Harden is a hard worker and is extremely skilled. He will lead the highly ranked Sun Devils againist a very top heavy PAC-10.
Patrick Patterson – Kentucky 6-8 So. Forward 16.4 ppg, 7.7 rpg
Everything about Patrick Pattersons game is solid. After he fell to injury for the last five games of the season, I would expect him to come out with drive to prove that he is worth the hype. There is no reason he should not average a double-double and will lead the Wildcats into March Madness.
Hasheem Thabeet – Connecticut 7-3 Jr. 10.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 4.5 blk
UConn has not had a defensive anchor of this quality since Emeka Okafor in 2004. He is not the most athletic player you will see this season, but his defensive influence on each game just proves what a standout player he could be. Since he has only been playing basketball for a few years, he will only get better.
A.J. Abrams – Texas 5-11 Sr. Guard 16.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg
Like Curry, A.J. Abrams lost a talented point guard and will have to take over the role until others prove worthy. But I would not expect him to be shy about taking his shots. The Longhorns are talented but inexperienced in the backcourt so they will rely on Abrams to do what he does best, score.
Sam Young – Pittsburgh 6-6 Sr. Forward 18.1 ppg, 6.3 rpg
Ty Lawson – North Carolina 5-11 Jr. Guard 12.7 ppg, 5.2 apg
Tyler Smith – Tennessee 6-7 Jr. Forward 13.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg
BJ Mullens – Ohio State 7-0 Fr. Center 27.4 ppg, 15.1 rpg (Senior Season in High School)
Robert Vaden – UAB 6-5 Sr. Guard 21.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg