Thoughts from Last Night
A quiet night in college hoops, minus one big story – Nebraska’s convincing win over USC. Many touted USC as an upper-level PAC-12 team, but this team is just not ready to compete. It’s a mish-mash of playing styles, and there is no semblance of anything close to an offense. I will be very surprised if this group even finishes in the Top 8 of an improving PAC-12.
Jimmy V Classic
Georgetown is coming off a brutal win against Tennessee, but will look to get its offense back on track against a young Texas team. The frontcourt of Otto Porter, Greg Whittington, and Mikael Hopkins should have their way against the inexperienced, though talented, Cameron Ridley. Porter will draw the Texas’ defense’s attention with his ability to hit the mid and long-range jumper, as well as hit the offensive glass, or score in the post. Markel Starks has been having a better-than-expected year, not only controlling the Georgetown tempo, but finding ways to score.
With Myck Kabongo still out due to NCAA eligibility issues, freshman Javan Felix has filled in admirably, while showing a lot of the same traits as Kabongo. Felix has his own control issues, and needs to work on not forcing the ball before an opening develops. Sophomores Sheldon McClellan and Julien Lewis fill the Jordan Hamilton-gunner spot in the Texas offense, though McClellan has done a better job being aggressive attacking the basket and looking to draw contact.
North Carolina State’s season has been off to a disappointing start, with early losses to Michigan and Oklahoma State, and very close call against UNC-Asheville. Defense has been a major issue, with the Wolfpack having trouble getting stops when they need them. Richard Howell has been a bright spot, averaging 14 points and 8 rebounds a game, and shooting over 70% from the field. Granted, those shots are all around the basket, but converting is key. He is getting open looks because of the good job Lorenzo Brown has done getting into opposing defenses and drawing help. CJ Leslie is still and athletic freak, but he needs to be able to find other ways to score other than going right to the basket. Defenses have been sagging off and leading him into trap situations. The freshmen Rodney Purvis and TJ Warren have both shown that they can be volume scorers, but their defensive shortcomings make it tough to count on them in close games. Scott Wood is a good long-range sharpshooter, but doesn’t offer much else.
Connecticut will look to be aggressive attacking the lax Wolfpack defense and looking to find easy baskets. Not many can compete with the speed of both Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright, and Napier especially is taking on a strong leadership position. Defensively, they are both capable of pressuring the ball full-court and will look to get quick scores off of turnovers. Freshman Omar Calhoun is the third primary scorer, and he does a good job using his larger frame to attack the basket and finish. Setting the defensive tone will be UConn’s chance to stay in this game against NC State’s multiple weapons, and though it will be a battle, they have done it before.
Other Games to Watch
Louisville at Charleston
Louisville is travelling to play a Charleston squad that has already knocked off Baylor. Gorgui Dieng is out, but the backcourt duo of Peyton Siva and Russ Smith will look to create havoc early and often. The duo is far from efficient on the offensive end, but they make up for it with a special brand of defensive intensity. With Dieng out, the Cardinals need to get more production out of sophomores Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshear. Behanan especially should be able to get some solid touches in the post, and not many use their body as well as he does around the basket.
Charleston is going to look to move the ball around the perimeter and rely on the shooting of Andrew Lawrence, Anthony Stitt and Nori Johnson. Look for Louisville to extend their defense out further on the perimeter, and counting on Charleston to try and force the ball to Trent Wiedeman in the lane. Charleston can be prone to turnovers, so the Cardinals will look to convert at every opportunity.
Western Michigan at Michigan
Michigan has impressed with a balanced offensive attack, and a fluid defense which adjusts well. Trey Burke has solidified his place among the top point guards in college ball, showing great patience and getting his teammates the ball where they can score quickly, as well as being a strong scorer in his own right, especially from 17 feet in. Freshmen Glenn Robinson III and Nik Stauskas have made the most of the opportunities, shooting a combined 60-105 (57%) from the field. Stauskas is lethal from 3-point range when he gets his feet set, and Robinson is able to use his size to score in a variety of ways. Tim Hardaway Jr. has also done a great job finding better shots this season, though he has been much better when he decides to get into the defense, and not hang around the perimeter. Western Michigan will look to pressure the ball at all opportunities, so the Wolverines will need to be patient and wait for the openings to come.
South Dakota State at Minnesota
Minnesota has been one of the pleasant surprises early in this college basketball season, jumping out to an 8-1 record with wins against Memphis and Stanford. Rodney Williams continues to show the promise from early in his career, and his patience on the offensive end is paying off. Also, Williams I playing some of the best defense of his career, using his length well to disrupt the perimeter. The backcourt trio of Andre Hollins, Austin Hollins, and Joe Coleman have also been good when attacking the basket and waiting for openings to appear. Trevor Mbakwe is still working his way back from last year’s knee injury, but in limited minutes he has shown some of the toughness and athletic ability which made him a solid post presence.
The Minnesota backcourt will have the task of finding ways to stop one of the best all-around players in the country, Nate Wolters. There is nothing flashy to Wolters’ game. He just goes out and finds ways to score all over the floor, while controlling the Jackrabbits’ offense. He is joined by a solid inside-out presence in Jordan Dykstra. The Jackrabbits are not a great defensive team, so they will need to limit their mistakes on the offensive end.
Players to Watch
- Anthony Bennett, UNLV vs. Portland – The freshman has done a good job using his strength to dominate around the basket. As teams start to focus on him, it will be interesting to see how he deals with frustration.
- Pierre Jackson, Baylor vs. Northwestern – Jackson has done a good job keeping his control issues at bay early on this season, but what Northwestern lacks in scoring ability, they make up for in defensive intensity. If Northwestern is successful forcing Jackson into some bad spots early, it will be worth noting how Jackson responds. If Jackson can set Baylor’s pace early, this can be a career night for him.
- Nerlens Noel, Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress, Kentucky vs. Samford – Last week was rough for Kentucky, and a home game against Samford should be the thing to get them back on track. I am most interested in seeing if John Calipari actually uses this opportunity well and looks to have the Wildcats work on running their offense efficiently instead of just trying to outrun an outmanned Samford squad.
- BJ Young, Arkansas vs. Oklahoma – Young is at his best in the open court, and a young Sooners’ backcourt may be forced to play at a pace they don’t like. Veteran sooners such as Steven Pledger and Andrew Fitzgerald will need to help control the pace and the frontcourt of Romero Osby and Amath M’Baye should be able to get some easy scores against a weak Razorbacks’ frontcourt.