Player of the Week
Otto Porter, Georgetown
Porter is well deserving of the abundant national veneration heading his way. The sophomore literally carried the Hoyas to a victory at the Carrier Dome, scoring 33 of his team’s 57 points, hitting 12 of their 19 field goals and 5 of their 7 three-pointers (and 5 steals). Porter followed up that stunning effort by playing 49 minutes in a double OT triumph at Connecticut and connecting on the game winning driving layup with 9.5 seconds remaining. He finished with 22 points on 7/12 field goals, 3 more three-point makes, 5 rebounds and 4 assists. Keep in mind that he produced these two efforts after suffering a knee injury (bumping knees) against DePaul on February 20th. Despite an unaesthetic shooting stroke, the 6’8 Porter has made at least one trey in 12 straight. He’s clearly emerged as the favorite for Big East POY, and the Wooden Award is now in his sights.
Davante Gardner, Marquette
The Golden Eagles were in desperate need of a special performance to extend their 23-game win streak in Milwaukee—and they got it. Gardner converted on all 7 of his field goal attempts and 12 of his 13 free throw attempts en route to a career best 26-point outing, which included 18 points after intermission. The big man displayed high activity level to find openings in the zone, blending a soft touch on short jumpers and aggressive play on the baseline. He’s shooting a miraculous 57% from the floor and 86% from the charity stripe on the year, but 30+ minute outings have been few and far between due to his lack of conditioning. If he could stay on the court he’d be an absolute beast with his size and skill level.
Shabazz Napier, Connecticut
When the playmaking burden on one player reaches such massive proportions, it is inevitable that high turnover figures will accompany those responsibilities. That is exactly what’s transpired with Napier, as he’s piled up 28 TO’s over his last six games (4.7 per). However, that’s where his shortcomings end. In games at DePaul and versus Georgetown this week, the junior floor leader averaged 22 points, 4.5 three-point makes, 6 rebounds and 5 assists. Napier is a lock for first-team All-Conference and is currently projected in the mid-2nd round of our 2014 mock.
Brandon Young, DePaul
While I admit a favorable bias towards Young, the 6’4 combo guard is extremely underrated. He’s constantly in attack mode off the dribble, gets to the free throw line 6 times per game and creates for teammates (4.6 AST). His jump shot is rough on the eyes, but 17 & 5 is a mainstay night’s work for Young on the undisciplined, underachieving Blue Demons.
After beginning the season 12-0, Mick Cronin’s Bearcats are suddenly freefalling down the bracket. To be quite blunt—they don’t have a playmaker worth his salt on the roster, and as a result, high percentage looks are relatively non-existent. Cashmere Wright has been entirely detrimental since returning from a sprained knee, Sean Kilpatrick can’t create offense and their frontcourt is saturated with “hustle guys” limited to garbage buckets and second chance points. The numbers don’t lie: during Cincinnati’s current 3-game losing streak they’ve shot a composite 60/171 (35%), 11/58 from three (19%) and have 24 assists against 28 turnovers. With an RPI of 50 and a conference record below .500, are they safe? A home tilt with Connecticut on Saturday is must-win.
Talib Zanna, Pittsburgh
During the non-conference schedule it appeared that Zanna finally turned the corner into a legit interior threat. Unfortunately, those productive efforts have long since been forgotten. The 6’9 junior has not attempted double-digit field goals since December 19th, has scored in double figures just once (11) since January 12th, and has ONE shot block over an ongoing eight-game span. Much like Cincinnati mentioned above, Pittsburgh really struggles to score against sturdy man-to-man defenses.
DAngelo Harrison, St. John’s
Harrison has been suspended for the remainder of 2013. While no definitive reason was given for the suspension, one can always surmise that his putrid on-court attitude and flighty concentration were among the culprits. Harrison, otherwise known as “lead feet”, had struggled mightily to find the bucket in recent weeks to the tune of 19/76 (25%).
Top 5: Shot Swatters
1. Chris Obekpa, St. Johns-The 6’9 freshman ranks 2nd in the nation at 4.1 blocks per game. His length, quick leaping ability and timing are rare gifts. Opponents have learned better than to enter his territory with weak stuff.
2. Gorgui Dieng, Louisville- Disciplined swatter blocked 3.2 shots as a sophomore and 2.6 this season, not to mention the countless attempts he alters.
3. Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse- Christmas averages 2 blocks per contest as the protector in the Orange zone. He possesses a 7’3 wingspan and explosive leaping ability.
4. Steven Adams, Pittsburgh- The 7’0 freshman has 11 games of 3+ blocks. His awesome agility allows him to cover more ground in help side defense.
5. Cheikh Mbodj and David Nyarsuk, Cincinnati- The former averages 2.5 blocks in just over 20 minutes of action, and the latter (despite sparse minutes of late) blocks 1 shot in 11 minutes. Keep a close eye on the JC transfer Nyarsuk in 2014.
· Connecticut sophomore DeAndre Daniels has been prone to explosive efforts, and he showed out again versus Georgetown: 25 points, 8/15 field goals, 3/4 threes, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks. Daniels is not far removed from the Top 5 list above.
· I mentioned the imminent breakout of Kadeem Jack in last week’s blog; he responded with 15 & 10 in 29 minutes versus Providence. He’s likely to find the sledding at Georgetown a tad more challenging, however.
·Just as quickly as he burst onto the scene for Syracuse, freshman Jerami Grant has disappeared from sight. He’s scored 16 points in six games since James Southerland’s return, with his minutes dipping significantly and shot attempts all but eliminated.
·Pittsburgh fifth-year senior PG Tray Woodall connected on 12/19 shots and 6/10 three’s in wins over St. John’s and South Florida.
·Marquette freshman Steve Taylor continues to take full advantage of his limited minutes. He grabbed 6 offensive rebounds in twelve minutes at Villanova, and swiped 3 steals in sixteen minutes versus Syracuse. The future is bright.
·Seton Hall is in dire need of a point guard going forward. Freshman southpaw Tom Mayaan really struggles from the perimeter, and he’s committed 10 turnovers against 2 assists in his last pair.
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