Archive - Blog entry
February 14th, 2011
Player of the Week
With 13:21 left in Saturday’s big game, Wisconsin was down 15 points at home to top team in the country. The Badgers had scored 32 points in close to 27 minutes, and defensively had no answer for Jared Sullinger. Jordan Taylor then led a run left no doubt about the caliber of player he has become and the potential of the 2011 Wisconsin team. Over the next ten minutes, the Badgers outscored Ohio State 32-12. During that time, Taylor had 18 points on 6-6 shooting with 3 assists that led to another 8 points. His only missed shot during that time was a free throw, and in true Jordan Taylor form was turnover free over the span. Ever since Big Ten play started, Taylor has played at an All-American level. In conference play, he is now averaging 20.8 PPG (2nd in the league), 4.9 APG (5th in the league), and 4.5 RPG with incredible efficiency statistics. He is shooting 46 percent from the floor, 43 percent from 3, and 84 percent from the line to give him a true field goal percentage of 62.5 percent and an efficiency field goal percentage of 55.2 percent. Taylor led the Big Ten in assist-to-turnover ratio last season with a 2.8:1 mark, and this year is at an unbelievable 4.2:1 ratio.
While the loss takes perfection off the table for Ohio State, it does not alter their position as the top team in the Big Ten and clear #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. They are also still the favorites to win it, because they still have the most dominant big man in the country with shooters all around him. They simply got out-starred on Saturday when Taylor went on that run. The win for Wisconsin, however, highlights the point made in last week’s blog about his development being the catalyst behind this Badger team being capable of going deep in March. Taylor’s extremely productive and efficient scoring and playmaking has Wisconsin at the top of several impressive categories. The team is currently ranked as the most efficient offensive team in the country with Ken Pomeroy recording that on average they score 123.2 points per 100 possessions. Connected to that statistic is that there is also no team that is turning the ball over on fewer possessions than Wisconsin’s 13.6 percent. It cannot be understated how valuable a point guard is who can be so involved in the offense and simply not make mistakes. In many ways, the only thing separating the play of Jordan Taylor and Jimmer Fredette is the pace at which their teams play. The pace of play does matter to perception, because Fredette is now a national sensation (and frankly deservedly so) but Taylor did not even get named as a finalist for the Cousy Award. If nothing else, the win over Ohio State was a nationally televised announcement of how great he and Wisconsin can be.
Player of the Week
Jordan Hamilton, Texas
Hamilton's formula for success is rather simple: He plays the games and hits the shots and grabs the rebounds. When he arrived on campus last season, the sophomore came with baggage that included not having played his final season of high school. He took some time to adjust and most deferred, never really looking comfortable or well adjusted last season. Now, he's the frontrunner for Big 12 Conference player of the year.
Hamilton wins player of the week by default, to a degree. He's the best player on the best team, and it's tough to pick between Kansas' Morris twins or to give the award to LaceDarius Dunn, who scored 50 points in two games this week but went 11-of-26 from the field in a loss to Texas.
No one is playing better than Texas right now, largely because of unbelievable team and individual defensive efforts. But it's Hamilton carrying the load on offense, and without him, his shooting and his rebounding, this team would be far from a national championship contender.
Team of the Week
The 24-1 Jayhawks seem poised to rise to No. 1 this week in the polls, and while Texas has a legitimate gripe after beating Kansas in Lawrence, Kan., on Jan. 22, it's tough to argue with what the Jayhawks have done in February.
This month, their closest game has been a 17-point win against an excellent Missouri team, and they've gained "revenge" with blowouts against Iowa State and Nebraska, two teams that played Kansas closer than expected earlier this season.
The last three wins have been without Josh Selby, who has thrown the Jayhawks out of rhythm at times even prior to his injury. Marcus Morris has 38 points and 19 rebounds this week, while his brother, Markieff Morris, has posted 30 and 18, along with 10 assists.
Player of the Week
Hardy’s coming off back to back 30 point games, one of which helped the Johnnies knock off their fourth top 13 team this year. Hardy poured in a career high 33 in a rout over Connecticut, knocking down five three pointers and hitting all 8 of his free throw attempts. He’s averaging 26.5 points in his last four games, and with wins over Duke and Connecticut, he’s helped make St. John’s relevant in what looked to be a throwaway year with ten seniors on the roster.
Ben Hansbrough, G, Notre Dame – No doubt Hansbrough’s feelin it. Kid’s averaging 24 a game over his last five, including back to back 25 point games this week in wins over Rutgers and Louisville.
Marshon Brooks , G, Providence – We’re getting to the point where he’s becoming unguardable in the college game, scoring 43 points on 17-28 shooting at Georgetown. Brooks has great length, ideal size and the polished offensive skillset that allow him to score 43 points in 40 minutes. He’s taken over as the conference’s leading scorer, and is quietly creeping up draft boards as a first round no brainer in my opinion.
Kyle Kuric, G, Louisville – Kuric is shooting the lights out this season, most recently going for 28 points on 9-14 in an overtime loss to the Irish. If you haven’t seen his dunk in this game, check it out… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfz_2HCGybQ . For those of you who watched and are unfamiliar with Kuric, your computer screen wasn’t malfunctioning… he really is white.
Jonathan Mitchell, F, Rutgers – Mitchell is averaging over 23 a game over his last three. Oh yeah, and he converted a 4 point play as time practically expired to beat Nova’ by 1. No big deal.
Player of the Week
Much has been said about Nolan Smith during this season. Ever since Kyrie Irving's injury, Smith has been the primary ball handler for the Duke Blue Devils, and in doing so, he's dispelled any concerns about his ability to play the point guard position at the college level. In fact he’s even put himself in contention for the National Player of the Year award. He's leading the ACC in both points per game (21.5) and assists per game (5.5), a feat that has never been done before in the ACC. This past week, Nolan Smith also showed that he can get it done when it counts. Against their arch-rivals, the North Carolina Tar Heels, Smith helped Duke rally back from a 14 point halftime deficit to win the game 79-73. Smith scored a career-high 34 points (22 in the second half) on 13-23 shooting. Duke needed this kind of performance from him, as teammate Kyle Singler was struggling from the field (only 10 points on 3/17 shooting). This shows the kind of leadership ability that Nolan Smith has. His knack for stepping up in big games will serve Duke well in March, and his well-rounded skill-set will certainly place him in 1st round discussions as we approach the draft season.
Jeff Allen continues his strong play. Outside of Malcolm Delaney he is the most important player on the Virginia Tech roster. He's a strong low-post scoring presence (13.2 PPG), an active and aggressive rebounder (10.0 RPG) and a solid defender (1.3 SPG, 1.0 BPG). In fact, Allen is the active ACC leader in career steals, rebounds and double-doubles. In his last four games, Allen has averaged an impressive 19.0 points on 53.4% shooting and 13.0 rebounds. That includes a 25 point, 19 rebound outburst in a loss against Boston College last week. The fact that the Hokies lost the game, despite Allen's performance actually showcases a lot of their weaknesses. They don't have much of a bench (0 points off the bench), they depend too much on Allen, Delaney and Erick Green and their lack of outside shooting (Delaney was the only player who made a three). These issues, coupled with injuries might end up keeping Jeff Allen and his team from reaching the NCAA tournament yet again.
Player of the Week
Chandler Parsons, Florida
Parsons' play prior to the New Year was marked by inconsistency and passivity. Frustrating Gator fans and basketball purists alike, he attempted double-digit field goal attempts only twice and hit double figures in rebounds just once. He's flipped the switch on the aggression meter in recent weeks, playing like a man possessed and leading his team to the apex of the loaded SEC East at 7-2. Parsons has recorded four consecutive 10+ rebound games (15, 12, 11, 10) and eyed the rim 46 times during that stretch. In Florida's two nail biting victories over conference stalwarts Vanderbilt and Kentucky this week, he clicked in at 17.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists, shooting 52% from the floor (12 makes) and 50% from downtown (3 makes). At 6'10 220, Parsons is eating up the glass like a man born to bang on the interior (which he's not). He's moved up quite a few spots on the big board from the tail end of the draft to #45.
Reginald Buckner, Mississippi
While most associate highlight reel plays with offensive ingenuity, Mr. Buckner is doing his best to alter that perception. His jaw-dropping rejections are starting to make the social media rounds, and they are bountiful. He's currently 6th in the NCAA in shot blocks, swatting away 3.3 attempts per contest in just 23 minutes of action. Mississippi engineered a 360-degree bounce back performance this week, and Buckner's dynamite play was the preeminent reason for the Rebels resuscitation. In an essential home victory over Kentucky he posted 12 points (6-9), 5 rebounds, 5 blocks and 3 steals. He was far from done, however, putting up 11 points (5-5), 12 rebounds and 8 blocks in a win at Arkansas. The 6'8 sophomore is still an extremely raw product, but his length and athletic prowess make him a force to be reckoned with. He's blocked 5 or more shots eight times this season in 22 games.
Honorable Mention: Jeremy Price, Georgia- 16.5 points, 13 FT makes, 10.5 rebounds, 2 blocks.
Pac-10 “Co-Players of the Week”
Joevan Catron led the Oregon Ducks to an impressive home sweep of the Washington schools. Catron also led the Ducks in scoring and rebounding in each contest and finished the week averaging, 18.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.0 steals per game. He also shot 15 of 26 (57.7%) from the floor and 2 of 5 (40.0%) from the three point line. Catron appears to be healthy again after missing two and a half games with injury. Catron has recorded two double-doubles this season and he’s scored 20 or more points in seven games. His play as a senior has him at the top of the list for Pac-10 “Most Improved Player” honors.
Lamont Jones stepped up and hit big shot after big shot for the Wildcats in their three overtime thriller against Cal. When the dust settled Saturday night Arizona walked away with a 107-105 victory over the Bears thanks in large part to a career night by Jones. Jones tied the game with 16 seconds left in regulation with a three and did the same thing with five seconds on the clock in the second overtime. He finally put the game away with a go-ahead bucket in the third overtime with 1:03 left to play. Jones finished the week averaging, 21 points, one assist and a steal and a half per game, while shooting 13 of 25 from the floor and 14 of 16 from the free throw line.
What’s “Hot” in the Pac-10?
The Cal Bears are trending upward. Winners of four of their last five, the Bears have found their offensive rhythm and appear more confident as a team with each passing day. The Bears began the season as a young inexperienced team and suffered through inconsistent play primarily on the offensive end of the court. However, through Cal’s last five games the Bears are averaging 82.2 points per contest and are receiving consistent double digit scoring performance from Harper Kamp (18.6), Jorge Gutierrez (16.0), Allen Crabbe (15.8) and Markhuri Sanders-Frison (13.2). Cal will be tested again this week with a daunting road-trip to the Pacific Northwest to face Washington and Washington State.
Player of the Week: Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor
Wisconsin had what appeared to be a challenging week on their hands with two games against Purdue and Michigan State, but exited it looking like a team ready to give Ohio State its toughest battle when the Buckeyes bring their undefeated record into the Kohl Center next Saturday. The one-two punch of Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor has the defensively focused Badgers capable of putting up big numbers on offense as well. The duo has scored an incredible 58 percent of Wisconsin’s points in Big Ten play, but that only is half the story. The two are playing at incredibly efficient rate for rate at which they are used offensively. Leuer has a true shooting percentage of 57.3 percent and Taylor is trumping him with a 3:1 assist-to-turnover rate to go with a true shooting percentage of 63.2 percent. In addition to being second in the Big Ten in scoring, Taylor is sixth in assists. This past week, the Badger leading men had to labor more than usual against Purdue. Leuer scored a game-high 24 points on 8-18 shooting and grabbed 13 rebounds. Taylor had 15 points and 5 assists but was 4-13 shooting. They made up for it against Michigan State where they were tremendous. Taylor finished with 30 points on 9-13 shooting and added 6 assists. Leuer was 7-14 from the field and had 20 points and 6 rebounds.
Before the season, most basketball followers were well aware of the kind of player the Badgers had in Leuer, but Jordan Taylor was a bit of a question mark. He had a solid but unspectacular sophomore season and had to step into a bigger role to replace Trevon Hughes. Former Badger and Nets starting point guard Devin Harris suggested in an interview with the Wisconsin State journal last summer that Taylor would emerge as a point guard in the same way he did in his junior season, "He'll be able to do more things, when I was a sophomore and playing with Kirk (Penney) I couldn't do everything I wanted to do. By the time my junior year came around, it was my team and I relished the freedom." With the kind of season Taylor has put up, there is little doubt that he has made the same leap as a college point guard. His development has allowed this Badger team, which did not come into the year with especially high expectations on a national level, to be a real threat to go deep into March. If that happens, NBA scouts will have themselves a good extended look at a strong, skilled, and intelligent point guard who has flown completely under the radar despite playing at as high a level as any point guard since the calendar turned.
Player of the Week
The pre-season consensus top overall NBA prospect in college basketball is finally producing, and he's doing it in a big way. We've already seen his clutch heroics propel North Carolina to the upper echelon of the ACC standings over the last few weeks. He made the late triple that put the Tar Heels in the lead against the Clemson Tigers, scored 8 points in the final few minutes in a victory against Virginia Tech and then hit the game-winning three against Miami with 6.6 seconds left. That's a handful of ACC magic. This week, there has been no need for his sweaty late-game touch, as he's putting the Tar Heels in the lead by comfortable margins. The Black Falcon (sick nickname, by the way) is averaging 25.5 points (61%) in only 26 minutes in his last two games, with 6 rebounds per, just to add to good measure. He's been utilizing skill (step-back jumpers and catch-and-shoot opportunities) with hustle (put-backs and fast-break points) to produce like many of us expected him to before the season started. His court demeanor is rock-solid, and he hasn't had to resort to selfishness to put points on the board. On top of all this, his defense has been superb. He shows great intensity and good fundamentals. He makes mistakes on this end of the floor, but the effort he puts into closing out and crashing the boards give him a lot of potential in this area. Confidence is obviously a factor for Barnes, and you could tell by seeing the huge smile on his face for the duration of last Saturday's game against North Carolina State. If he can keep his confidence up, then he turns into one of the most potent weapons in the ACC and North Carolina becomes a much better team.
The Other North Carolina Tar Heels
The Black Falcon has been putting in work, but he isn't the only one. After all, it takes a team effort to beat the North Carolina State Wolfpack and the Boston College Eagles by a combined 52 points. Let's start by looking at Kendall Marshall, who recently replaced the struggling Larry Drew II (Drew left the program on Friday, possibly due to playing time concerns) in the starting lineup. Marshall is second in the ACC in assist/turnover ratio at 2.4. UNC is undefeated since Marshall has been starting, and even though his statistics don't jump out at you, Marshall is a very talented playmaker who fits in well with the Tar Heel’s starting lineup. Then in the frontcourt, is Super Noodle Boy John Henson. Henson had a career game against North Carolina State with 16 points, 16 rebounds and 7 blocked shots. Henson's ridiculous length, agility and bounce help make him the top shot blocker in the ACC (3.0). He teams up with 7'0" center Tyler Zeller to make the Tar Heels the best rebounding team in the conference. The two are slight-of-frame but mobile enough to beat opposing frontcourts in transition and long enough to challenge shots around the rim. North Carolina's roster matches up well against the rest of the ACC, but this week they will be tested. They face Florida State at home on Sunday and then play at Duke on Wednesday. These two games should be very telling. Don't miss 'em.
Player of the Week
In what was generally a straight beatdown Sunday afternoon at the Garden, senior guard Dwight Hardy lead the Johnnies to a 93-78 win over Duke, scoring 26 points on 9-13 shooting from the floor. Hardy helped Steve Lavin earn his first true signature win at St. Johns, who hadn’t beaten Duke in their last seven meetings leading up to Sunday’s matinee. Hardy followed his 26 point performance with a 15 point game in a win over Rutgers on Wednesday.
Player of the Week
Dee Bost, Mississippi State
Prior to Bost's return on January 8th, the Bulldogs were thoroughly non-competitive. Controversy was their only path to headline news, and team chemistry was a distant memory. By no means is this MSU club suddenly tournament caliber, but as they proved this week, with their leader back in the fold they are now a dangerous foe. In a tough seven-point defeat vs. Vanderbilt (led by four at half) Bost scored 18 points, albeit on 5-16 FG and 3-10 from downtown, with 6 assists 5 rebounds, 5-5 FT and just two turnovers. He followed up that effort by guiding the way to a 71-64 upset win over red hot Florida, scoring 24 points on 8-14 FG, 4-8 treys and 4-5 FT, dishing out 5 assists against one turnover and grabbing 3 boards. Bost has quickly regained sophomore season form, and has nearly single-handedly transformed Mississippi State into a .500 team in the SEC.
The Razorbacks shot 57% from the field in a stunning 89-78 road victory at Vanderbilt (13-point underdogs). Rotnei Clarke, who had been producing reserved efforts for the better part of a month, finally put forth one of his trademark explosions. Clarke scored 36 points in 33 minutes, knocking down 12-16 field goals, 6-8 trifectas and 6-7 from the charity stripe. Given the quality of competition, this performance likely supersedes his 51-point outburst (15-21 FG, 13-17 3PT) to open the 2009-2010 season vs. Alcorn State. However, his teammate Michael Sanchez didn’t allow him to steal the show entirely. After missing well over a full season with chronic foot problems, Sanchez's 9th game back in the rotation was a momentous one. He scored a career-high 20 points on 8-12 shooting, adding 3 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal. His 33 minutes of action doubled his previous season-high court time of 14. Despite a 14-6 overall mark and 4-3 in conference play, Arkansas remains in a precarious position with an 82