Nov 11, 2013 12:07 AM EST
Georgetown’s New Big Man
At a neutral site military base, when the crowd does not have a rooting interest, it is pretty difficult for a player on the losing team to stand out. But not only did Joshua Smith stand out for Georgetown, when he finally fouled out, he drew a standing ovation.
Joshua (don’t call him Josh) Smith did a little bit of everything in his Hoyas debut. He backed defenders down and finished in the lane. He fouled two Oregon centers out of the game. He showed great vision, passing and hitting cutters for easy baskets. He ate up space, blocking off defenders to give his guards wide-open lanes to the basket. And it became clear that no one watching Georgetown this season is going to be able to talk about anything other Georgetown’s new 350 pound center.
But as NBC’s Rob Dauster was quick to point out on Twitter, Joshua Smith had zero defensive rebounds in the loss. And the Hoya’s defense, not its offense, was the reason Georgetown lost the game. On Saturday, I sat down and watched the full game tape to see if Smith really was such a defensive liability. And the game film confirms that conclusion.
The big problem wasn’t Smith’s court awareness. I only caught two possessions where Smith seemed to be unaware of the ball and out of position. (Most notably this happened on the second possession of the game.) And Smith was mostly able to adjust to take away penetration. He even drew a key charge in the second half.
But the big problem is that Smith’s poor defensive rebounding wasn’t random chance. I counted at least four possessions during the game where the rebound careened into Smith’s zone and he didn’t even make an effort to jump for the ball. All four possessions came while the Hoyas were playing zone defense. I really got the sense that Smith was conserving energy by not jumping. And if you don’t jump, even a 6’10” player can seem small on the court.
Smith looked better as a defender when Georgetown was playing man-to-man defense. That is because when Smith boxes a player out, that player truly has no shot at the rebound. But you cannot win every rebound battle by just boxing out. Smith’s style of play means players like Nate Lubick and Mikael Hopkins have to be beasts on the boards. And neither one of those players had elite defensive rebounding rates last season. This is where Georgetown really misses Greg Whittington’s size and rebounding from a small forward role. But assuming Whittington doesn’t come back, John Thompson will have to work hard to find the right defensive lineup to balance out the Hoya’s new dominant big man.
As fascinated as I was to see Smith, I was just as interested to see Oregon’s transfers in action. Joseph Young was clearly the star. I knew he could knock down wide open threes. But Young looked extremely comfortable knocking down two point jumpers in traffic as well. Most importantly, if there were any concerns that Young was just a spot-up shooter, his hustle on the court was apparent. At one point in the second half, he dove for the ball on the sideline and did a complete flip onto his back on the scorer’s table. That’s the kind of hustle that Dana Altman will love to see this year.
Mike Moser’s debut was a little more disappointing. I thought he settled for far too many jump shots. Certainly Georgetown’s defense had something to do with that, but I’m not a big believer that Ben Carter is going to come back in a month and own the inside. Carter was far too passive last season. And Waverly Austin just isn’t an offensive force. Austin’s numbers last year were poor, and he even had his shot blocked by the 6’5” Jabril Trawick in the second half. As big a win as this was for Oregon, for the Ducks to truly reach their goals, they need Moser to spend less time on the perimeter.
The biggest pleasant surprise was actually the play of transfer Jason Calliste. The former Detroit guard is getting a big chance to prove himself with Dominic Artis suspended, and he looked sharp. His understanding of floor spacing and ability to get to the free throw line really kept Oregon ahead in the game when Georgetown seemed to be taking control.
I Hate Suspensions
Oregon St. lost at home to Coppin St., but the Beavers were playing without two of their three best players in Eric Moreland and Devon Collier. Purdue won by just one point against Northern Kentucky, but the Boilermakers were playing without star center AJ Hammons. Top 10 ranked Florida won by only eight against North Florida. But the Gator roster has been so depleted by eligibility and suspension issues that walk-on Jacob Kurtz played 26 minutes. Finally, Syracuse trailed Cornell by 6 at halftime, but Syracuse’s Jerami Grant did not play.
The most frustrating part of these early season suspensions is that they can wreck a team’s computer numbers. Even if the selection committee may be aware of what happens, Oregon St.’s RPI is going to be permanently damaged by that kind of loss. And that can hurt everyone else in the Pac-12.
Worse yet, we often don’t even know what the suspensions are about. I loved the TV commentary in the Syracuse game. “We spoke to Jim Boeheim about why Jerami Grant isn’t playing. He said ‘Grant isn’t injured, so you figure it out.’”
(Speaking of Syracuse, give credit to Trevor Cooney for making 7 of 8 threes in the opener. Cooney looked like he added a lot of muscle this off-season.)
Harvard Watch Week 1
Harvard may not be in the national title hunt, but the storyline of an Ivy League team on the edge of the Top 25 is too good to pass up. I hope to track Harvard’s progress throughout the season.
Harvard narrowly beat Holy Cross in its opener. I thought Harvard used a small lineup too much, left its best defender Steve Moundou-Missi on the bench far too long, and Holy Cross’s Dave Dudzinski displayed some outstanding outside shooting which made Harvard’s defense looked fairly pedestrian. Meanwhile reserve forward Jonah Travis carried Harvard with a career high 20 points and 10 boards thanks to some beautiful twisting moves around the basket.
But the real interest in game 1 wasn't the outcome, it was the debuts. Brandyn Curry and Kyle Casey missed all of last season due to off-court issues, and I was curious whether they could pick up where they left off. Kyle Casey announced his return emphatically with a dunk on Harvard’s opening possession. But then he was very quiet and eventually fouled out with 6:30 left in the second half.
Curry’s return was more nuanced. Curry was the primary ball-handler for Harvard two years ago, but Siyani Chambers broke out as a dominant PG last season and Wesley Saunders emerged as a capable creator as well. Thus there were real questions about how Curry would fit into the lineup.
For much of the game, I thought Curry looked a little rusty. He struggled to beat his man off the dribble, and Malcom Miller blocked the ball back in his face when he tried to attack the basket in transition. But Curry hit a buzzer-beating three before half-time. And down the stretch in the second half, Harvard’s trio started to build some beautiful rhythm with one another.
On one possession near the 7:30 mark of the second half, Saunders took the ball into the paint, drew the double team and kicked it out to Chambers. Chambers faked the drive and reversed to Curry. Then Curry drove the lane and kicked it back to Chambers for a wide-open three from the top of the key. Chambers missed the shot, but with three creators attacking, Harvard showed how tough this team will be to defend this season.
Classic Bo Ryan
I love watching debuts. Orlando Sanchez has been waiting forever to be eligible at St. John’s and the 24 year old started his career by making his first three. Meanwhile Josh Gasser returned from his season long injury and knocked down his first three as well.
But one play in the second half of Wisconsin’s win over St. John’s pretty much sums up Wisconsin basketball. The play started with combo guard Josh Gasser posting up his guard defender. Then, when the defense collapsed around Gasser, he kicked the ball out to red-shirt forward Duje Dukan who knocked down the three. Guards playing inside and 21-year old redshirts breaking out after years of practice - that pretty much sums up Bo Ryan basketball. Dukan had 15 points in the win.
Connecticut Big Men
A lot of people are picking Connecticut to have a great season because the Huskies bring back 88% of their minutes. Meanwhile Maryland has no scholarship seniors on the roster. Thus it would be easy to write off Connecticut’s close win as a bad sign. If Connecticut isn’t better than Maryland now, will they really be the better team in March?
But that’s the wrong narrative. Even though Connecticut is a veteran team, the Huskies are still a team that is experimenting in the frontcourt. And Connecticut fans saw a couple of sequences that should have them excited. First, rising sophomore Phillip Nolan got the start and he looked explosive early with a couple of key offensive rebounds. Then seven foot freshman center Amida Brimah took over the game defensively with some huge blocks at the end of the first half. While both players picked up far too many fouls, their athleticism was tantalizing. Tyler Olander and DeAndre Daniels made some shots, but if Connecticut is truly going to reach that next level, they have to hope that Nolan or Brimah can develop over the course of the season.
-Maryland fans may be cursing the fact that Dez Wells settled for a tough jumper at the end of regulation in the 1 point loss to Connecticut. But perhaps Maryland fans can take solace in this. Former PG Pe’Shon Howard was 1 of 7 in his debut for USC.
-One of my biggest frustrations with Oklahoma St. has been the fact that LeBryan Nash has spent far too much time floating on the perimeter, trying to showcase that he can play a wing role in the NBA. And while it was only one game, I was extremely pleased to see that Nash grabbed 10 rebounds in 27 minutes of play on Friday. Nash didn’t have double-digits in rebounds in a single game last year.
-Duke’s Marshall Plumlee played just five minutes, so it seems that smaller lineups are a certainty for the Blue Devils this season. Davidson wasn’t really able to expose that, but other teams might. But if Duke’s perimeter oriented big men can play this well, the team may still roll over teams. The Blue Devils 82% eFG% in the opening game (including 13 of 21 threes was just ridiculous.)
-I didn’t think I could have any more respect for Nebraska head coach Tim Miles, but then I heard this. Nebraska held Florida Gulf Cost to zero first half fast-break points in the win.
-Rutgers fans have been waiting a long time for Kadeem Jack to finally play like he did against Florida A&M scoring 30 points and grabbing 12 boards.
-I didn’t expect much from Minnesota’s newest transfer Joey King because he wasn’t even given a scholarship. But he made his first three and scored 20 points in his Gopher debut.
Boston College Needs More Athletes
5’9” UMass PG Chaz Williams is one of the quickest players in the country and an amazing driver and distributor. And when he is shooting well from the outside (as he did on Sunday when he went 5 of 5 from three point range), he is simply un-guardable. Williams led UMass to a win against Boston College on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the speedy 6’1” Bryce Cotton showed tremendous heart, scoring 28 points in Providence’s OT win over Boston College on Friday.
It is clear Boston College is the best 0-2 team in country. They will make some noise in the ACC this season thanks to Olivier Hanlan and Ryan Anderson. But these games do expose the weakness of Steve Donahue’s plan. Donahue isn’t recruiting true athletic players and hopes to rely on execution. But when you cannot keep speedy guards out of the lane and when you cannot compete on the boards because you don’t have the athletes, Boston College’s ceiling is limited.
Were These Upsets?
Kansas St. seemingly couldn’t grab a defensive rebound down the stretch and Northern Colorado pulled off the surprise win. But it is worth noting that Kansas St. has zero Top 100 recruits and zero JUCO Top 100 recruits on its roster right now. Bruce Weber did get his team to play defense (holding Northern Colorado to 89 points per 100 possessions), and that should keep Kansas St. competitive in Big 12 play. But on a roster without any high potential offensive players, this might not be the only ugly game Kansas St. plays this year.
Virginia Tech falling to USC Upstate hardly qualifies as a surprise given how much the Hokies struggled last year.
Finally, given that Miami FL lost 6 of its top 7 players from last year’s squad, and did not put together an elite recruiting class, I think we all knew Miami was going to fall at some point. St. Francis Brooklyn was glad to be the first team to pull off the feat.
Oct 28, 2013 7:18 PM EDT
In case you missed it, last Thursday I presented my upgraded projections model. Then I presented my 13-14 season projections on ESPN Insider. My projections included the median simulation, best case, and worst case for every team. I also did a Q & A session with Eamonn Brennan and another one with John Templon. I have also been answering a few questions on Twitter. You would think after all those words I would have run out of things to say, but here are a few thoughts that did not quite make the cut in those articles:
The Underrated Club
Q: Why does the simulation hate Arizona St.? Jahii Carson is one of the best players in the country.
A: Arizona St. is a team with a lot of two-star players on the roster. In fact, they have the second lowest average star rating in the entire Pac-12, ahead of only Utah. Luckily a few of those players are transfers who played well for other teams. But what this really means is that Arizona St. just doesn’t have the same upside as many of the other schools in the Pac-12. Herb Sendek’s track record on defense is also a huge concern.
Q: Why does the simulation hate Maryland? A lineup of Shaquille Cleare, Evan Smotrycz, Dez Wells, Nick Faust and Roddy Peters sounds like it could hang with anyone. And Seth Allen, Charles Mitchell, and Damonte Dodd all seem like solid reserves. Why is the model so pessimistic?
A: The simulation is concerned that Maryland has only nine scholarship players on the roster. There is real downside risk with such a short bench because if a couple of players struggle or get injured, there are no alternates. Last year N.C. State entered the year with just nine scholarship players and things turned south early. Now, that doesn’t mean Maryland is destined to fail, but depth is a risk with this type of roster.
Q: Why does the simulation hate Denver? They had a great margin-of-victory numbers last year.
A: While I truly believe star ratings are important, the focus on recruiting evaluations really hurts the small conference squads in my projections. Only when a small conference team has virtually no lineup questions will that team be ranked near the top. (This year the two exceptions are North Dakota St. and Harvard. North Dakota St. brings back 95 percent of its minutes and gets a player back who was injured for much of last year. Meanwhile Harvard gets two star players back who were suspended last season.)
In Denver’s case even with several efficient players back, particularly star Chris Udofia, winning seems likely. But Denver has to replace two of the three players that played the most minutes last season. And the likely replacements will only be two-star athletes. That’s not to say that head coach Joe Scott cannot build a winner again. But it is very hard to get a Top 50 margin-of-victory in a small conference. And if Scott does it again, that should be considered a huge accomplishment. It shouldn’t be the expectation. (The real issue for Denver is finding another ball-handler to compliment Udofia. Last year Royce O’Neale and Udofia both were key distributors for the team, but with O’Neale transferring to Baylor, the remaining options are not great.)
Random Thoughts on Some Major Conference Teams
- In my Insider column, I said that the Spartans were the lowest risk team in the nation which sparked some jokes from Michigan St. fans on Twitter. I think this points out how insanely volatile college basketball can be. Even when the Spartans bring back five of their six top rotation players including three clear stars, their fanbase in nervous. Part of that is the fact that Tom Izzo’s teams notoriously struggle in November. But when a team with Top 10 talent brings nearly everyone back and their fans are nervous, you know that anything can happen in college basketball.
- Michigan’s position in 12th in my rankings is a little misleading. I honestly believe that Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson can lead this team a long way. But I am legitimately concerned about the guard rotation. John Beilein was very reluctant to play Jordan Morgan and Mitch McGary together last season because they weren’t outside shooters. So I have to assume Robinson will play most of his minutes at the four-spot again this year. But then how does the guard rotation work? Does the team play Spike Albrecht, Derrick Walton, and Nick Stauskas together? What if Albrecht and Walton aren’t ready? That is why my model has such a low downside for the Wolverines. (And don’t tell me Caris LeVert is the answer. He was a low-ranked recruit and nothing he did last season leads me to believe he should be a key player on a Top 10 team.)
- When I first ran the model, I was a little surprised the downside for Kentucky was not lower. After all, a young Kentucky team lost in the first round of the NIT last season. But this is what happens when you return two efficient high potential players (in Alex Poythress and Will Cauley-Stein), and add five Top 10 recruits. With that many high potential players, even if two or three of them struggle immensely, Kentucky can still win. Kentucky could not afford for Archie Goodwin to struggle and Nerlens Noel to get injured last season. This year if Julius Randle struggles and Will Cauley-Stein gets hurt, the team can just say “Next man in.”
- I love the range for Indiana in my ESPN Insider rankings. The team has 7 top 100 recruits, and an elite season is still possible. But given all the new faces and how little most of the returning sophomores played last year, the downside risk is major.
- If you want to vote any of my model’s Top 34 teams into the Top 25, I can see arguments for all of them. But I stick by my model’s skepticism of Baylor. Pierre Jackson carried the Bears last year and I don’t see how they can be a better team without him. Their margin of victory was 26th last year (thanks to winning the NIT) and I only give them about a 20 percent chance to do better than that.
- If you have ESPN Insider, look at how painfully low Alabama’s downside is this year. After Devonta Pollard was arrested this offseason, the team is down to nine scholarship players who are eligible this year. If someone on Alabama’s squad doesn't play well, there are no alternatives. This is too bad because Anthony Grant is such a talented young coach, but off-court issues keep derailing his teams.
- Iowa St. made a great move adding Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane. But I suspect Fred Hoiberg needed to add a couple more transfers to keep his transfer winning streak going. With 64% of the lineup gone and four of Iowa St.'s six most efficient players departing (Melvin Ejim and George Niang return), expect Iowa St. to take a step back.
- My model is more optimistic about Seton Hall than what you see in some other rankings. Texas transfer Sterling Gibbs will be a huge upgrade over Tom Maayan and his 50% turnover rate. And with fewer injuries, Kevin Willard should have the defense playing better.
Random Thoughts on Some Mid-Major Conferences
- I’ve still got St. Mary’s on the NCAA bubble. Many will discount the team after Matthew Dellavedova's departure. But Beau Leveasque and Stephen Holt aren't suddenly going to forget how to shoot. Brad Wadlow isn't going to stop being a physical force on the boards and finishing over 60 percent of his shots. This team still has talent.
- The team I think most pundits have over-rated this year is Northeastern. The Huskies were extremely lucky last year. Despite the 7th best MOV in the CAA, they won a ton of close games, including a 4-1 record in OT. Their conference title is very deceiving. With the team's leading scorer and most efficient player Joel Smith gone, a repeat conference title seems unlikely.
- One team I am buying is Weber St. Weber St. had the best margin-of-victory in the Big Sky last year. They even outscored Montana by 19 points in their three meetings. But somehow they went 1-2 against the Grizzlies and that 1-2 mark gave Montana the regular season and conference tournament title. Weber St.’s aggressive and efficient inside-outside combination of Davion Berry and Kyle Tresnak is going to make sure that doesn't happen again.
- The conference champion I expect to come out of nowhere this year is Manhattan. Manhattan somehow lost 10 games to conference foes, but only one of those games was by double digits. This team was much better than last year's conference record would indicate.
- The race for the Big West title is wide open. I have five teams projected within one game of first place in that league.
- The CUSA race should also be highly entertaining. Louisiana Tech is the only team in CUSA that returns over 70 percent of its minutes from last year. (Tech brings back 85 percent of its minutes.) And Tech's losses won't hurt the offense. The team loses its least efficient player Brandon Gibson, and the extremely passive JL Lewis. With an already solid defense and an improved offense, Louisiana Tech could be headed for the NCAA tournament. But Southern Miss is just as formidable a competitor. The newest Golden Eagle, transfer Aaron Brown, shot the ball extremely well as a sophomore at Temple. His addition could give Southern Miss the CUSA title.
- Speaking of transfers, transfer Jay Harris was the PG on a Valparaiso team that won the Horizon league title in 2012. He could be the key addition that gets Wagner an NEC conference title in 2014.
- Finally, Indiana St. PG Jake Odum has to be kicking himself that RJ Mahurin transferred out in order to play his senior year with his younger brother. Mahurin was the team's only efficient big man, and the Sycamores could have been a more realistic NCAA bubble team had Mahurin returned.
Late Breaking News
- The news that Josh Smith was eligible immediately didn’t break until after I finished my rankings. With a full season of Smith you can move the Hoyas up to 27th in my projections. But as many people have noted, because of his conditioning, it still isn’t clear how much Smith will play. The downside risk for the Hoyas remains real. However, I do think that it is a major break that Smith will be around from the start of the season. The Hoya offense is a nuanced system that depends on precise cuts and passes, and integrating Smith mid-season would have been much more difficult.
- I had already assumed Joseph Young would be eligible for Oregon so their ranking is not affected by that news. It is clear that the transfer combination of Mike Moser and Young could be one of the best inside-outside combinations in the country. But I want to offer several cautionary tales. Ryan Harrow, Trey Ziegler, and Aaric Murray were three transfers that received a ton of hype last summer, and they were all such poor fits in the new environment, they have all moved on again. We’ve seen teams bring in a bunch of transfers and live up to expectations (like Iowa St.), but we have also seen teams take in a lot of transfer and disappoint (like Missouri last year.) Transfers are high risk players, and that is why my model has such a large range for the Ducks this season.
Dan Hanner vs Ken Pomeroy
Ken Pomeroy also released his preseason rankings on Saturday. While he is rather humble about his algorithm, I think it is important to note how well his system did last season. From a modeling perspective, a more complex system is not always better.
I would argue that the real advantage of my lineup-based system is not the predictive power. The advantage is that by focusing on the lineup, my model has fewer head-scratching conclusions. For example, Ken’s team level model has Miami at 62nd this year. With basically everyone in last year’s rotation gone and Angel Rodriguez electing not to apply for a transfer waiver, that’s an extremely optimistic prediction. But that prediction is based on how well Miami did last season, not any reasonable evaluation of the current roster. The same can probably be said of Minnesota at No. 35. The Gophers had strong margin-of-victory numbers last year, so Ken’s model loves them again this season. But my model sees that the Gophers made a substantial downgrade in the front-court and added an unproven coach. My model based on the current lineup has Miami at No. 102 and Minnesota at No. 63, and I think that’s much closer to what I have seen in most expert rankings.
But while Ken’s model can cause us to scratch our heads at certain results, do not overlook his predictions. The last five seasons of data are a very strong predictor in the aggregate. (If a team had a great offense before it tends to have better facilities, higher caliber recruits, and better coaches today.) And when the results of both our models agree, those are probably the strongest predictions of all.
Sep 11, 2013 3:26 PM EDT
Today, I continue my list of players who missed all or most of last season and who will be returning this season. Listing all injured players would take a very long time. But I had a statistical rule for inclusion in this list. I took the percentage of season minutes played in 2011-12 and subtracted off the percentage of season minutes played in 2012-2013. If a player’s playing time dropped by at least 48 percent, (from 55 percent to seven percent for example), and that player projects to have an ORtg above 100 this season, I list him here.
Click here for Part 1.
Drew Crawford, Northwestern
Northwestern is in for a long season. None of Northwestern’s returning players had an ORtg above 100 last year. And Bill Carmody was not a strong defensive coach. New head coach Chris Collins may eventually get things turned around, but things may get worse before they get better.
Thad said, in any scenario where Northwestern is relevant this year, Drew Crawford is going to play a big role. Two years ago when he was healthy Crawford made 61 threes (at a 41% clip), while also providing the size and athleticism to guard the opposing team’s best two-guard or wing. Crawford’s ORtg slumped last year when he was injured, but it was 112 when he last played a full season. Crawford and PG Dave Sobolewski will be the leaders on this year’s team.
Matt Kavanaugh, Dayton
Dayton had the 67th best margin-of-victory numbers in the country last year. And that makes their 17-14 record all the more puzzling. According to kenpom.com, they were the 11th unluckiest team in the nation. They simply could not win close games. One contributing factor was that Vee Sanford and Kevin Dillard were poor at keeping opposing guards out of the lane in crunch time.
Matt Kavanaugh was suspended for the year for violating the university’s code of conduct. And perhaps his presence in that lane would have made a difference. But Dayton’s defense was poor in 2011-2012 with Kavanaugh too. Kavanaugh shouldn’t be expected to be a savior on that side of the ball.
Rather, the bigger impact of Kavanaugh’s return should be on offense where he grabbed 16% and 15% of the offensive rebounds as a sophomore and junior.
Brian Williams, Oklahoma St.
Oklahoma St. already brings a lot of players back and adds a key JUCO recruit in Gary Gaskins. But PG Marcus Smart will enjoy having another scoring option in the lineup as well. Brian Williams is a 6’5” athlete who thrives at cutting down the lane and finishing in traffic. Williams had an incredibly low turnover rate for a player who was so aggressive at taking the ball to the basket.
Brandan Walton, North Texas
It is tempting to pick North Texas for the cellar of the Sun Belt next year. After all, the team was just 7-13 last year and that was with future NBA player Tony Mitchell on the roster. But three factors suggest the team will be competitive next season. First the team’s leading scorer Jordan Williams is back. Second, George Mason transfer Vertrail Vaughns should provide some needed perimeter shooting. And third, Brandan Walton is back after missing a year due to injury.
Erin Straughn, East Carolina
East Carolina won the College Insider Tournament last year, and you have to wonder if they could have done even better with their 6’6” wing healthy. Straughn started 72 games in his career prior to an injury last season.
Chris Evans, Sacred Heart
The Sacred Heart two-guard made huge strides as a sophomore, improving his efficiency by cutting down his turnovers and completing more assists. But injuries kept him out of the lineup last season. On a team that loses its best player, two-guard Shane Gibson, Evans return is vital.
Anthony Brown, Stanford
While Stanford’s Andy Brown was busy tearing his ACL for possibly the millionth time in his career, Stanford’s Anthony Brown’s career isn’t over. He should be fully recovered from his hip injury this season. He may not be a great outside shooter, but he is solid for his size, and as a Top 100 recruit out of high school, he still has upside. Stanford’s returning minutes may be an understatement when you consider that Brown was out for most of last year.
Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins may not have the perfect team, but he certainly has enough pieces to make the NCAA tournament this year. His job may depend on it.
Patrick Auda, Seton Hall
Auda finished 57 percent of his baskets, but he was a relatively passive offensive player. And even though his offensive stats are better, I actually think his absence was more costly to Seton Hall’s defense. The team simply ran out of big bodies as the year progressed and at 6’9”, Auda’s return should provide another option in the paint. Kevin Willard’s defense won’t be as poor as last season.
Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia
In constructing this list, I’ve tried to focus on players that had good tempo free stats two years ago before missing last season. Brogdon doesn’t really fall in that category. He shot poorly, turned the ball over, and was an offensive liability as a freshman for Virginia. But one thing Brogdon has going for him is that he is a former Top 100 recruit. His potential remains high. Even coming off an injury, his athleticism could put him over the top.
Julian Boyd, Long Island
Julian Boyd was an extremely efficient high volume scorer for Long Island. But he went down eight games into last season and his career seemed over. Luckily he was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA and his return was great news for the Blackbirds. But proving that some players are cursed with injuries, Boyd tore his ACL again last week. While Boyd’s head coach expects him back in January, I fear that timetable may be extremely optimistic. I do expect Boyd to play this year, but perhaps not in time to have the impact some had hoped.
And Long Island desperately needs Boyd back. Despite three straight NCAA trips, this year looks like a rebuilding year. Jamal Olasewere, CJ Garner, and Brandon Thompson are gone, and if Boyd doesn’t return in time for conference play, Long Island’s streak of dominating the NEC may come to an end. Other teams like Wagner have fortified their roster with key transfers this off-season and Long Island needs a healthy Boyd to reach its goals.
Amric Fields, TCU
TCU was clearly going to be under-manned in their first year in the Big 12. But losing Amric Fields three games into the season made things even tougher.
Yet Fields return is a bit of a mixed bag. While Fields ability to finish around the rim and high ORtg will be prized, he was actually a very poor rebounder for his size. And he posted those poor rebounding numbers in the MWC in 2012. Getting rebounds in the Big 12 could be even tougher.
Chris Fouch, Drexel
Drexel seemed like they might be the CAA favorite last year. But then Fouch’s injury threw the team into a tailspin. It seems crazy to say that a team that finished 9-9 in the CAA last year and returns just 66% of its minutes might be the CAA favorite, but I think they might be. Drexel was extremely unlucky in close games last year. They were much better than their 9-9 record would indicate. And with Fouch back in the fold, their top three players are extremely formidable. PG Frantz Massenat, SG Chris Fouch, and F Damion Lee all project as efficient high volume scorers for the Dragons. Meanwhile, the presence of six players 6’7” or taller on the roster means that Drexel has plenty of options upfront to compliment these scorers. Drexel’s window to win a CAA title may have shrunk a little with last year’s disappointing performance, but it isn’t over.
Andre Dawkins, Duke
Dawkins left Duke last year for personal reasons, but his redshirt seemed very strategic to me. The truth was that Duke couldn’t afford to play both Dawkins and Seth Curry together. Both lacked the quickness to match-up against opposing guards defensively. Almost every team has one slow-footed shooter on the court. And you could hide Curry or Dawkins defensively by putting him on that player. But hiding two players at once was difficult. (And as we saw during the 2011-2012 season when Duke had its worst defensive season in the last ten years, hiding three slow-footed guards was almost impossible.) Had Dawkins stayed with the team last year, I believe his minutes would have been severely limited.
But now with Seth Curry graduating, Dawkins fills in a vital role. He is the experienced sharp-shooting two-guard this year. And even if he isn’t an elite defender, with players like Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon, and Tyler Thornton in the lineup, he doesn’t have to be.
May 19, 2013
With Andrew Wiggins joining Kansas, the Jayhawks should stay at the Top of the Big 12. But the projection for West Virginia, Kansas St., and Oklahoma is entirely different from last season.
Feb 26, 2013
In this edition, we take the teams in the Top 16 of the Pomeroy Rankings and figure out how often they look beatable on the basketball court.
Feb 12, 2013
While there are certainly no elite college teams this season, there are a host of teams that can reach the Final Four. In this edition, we outline the various tiers.
Jan 14, 2013
On LeBryan Nash, Davante Gardner, Elston Turner, Rontei Clarke, Wisconsin/Illinois, and every minute of two games between real Final Four contenders (Minnesota/Indiana and Duke/NC State).
Dec 03, 2012
On Nerlens Noel, Isaiah Austin, Kyle Anderson and the rest of the freshman class as they play such prominent roles to begin the 12-13 NCAA season.
Nov 23, 2012
Weíve seen Kobe Bryant and LeBron James play thousands of basketball games; at this point, we have a pretty good idea of what they are all about. So while the level of play in the NBA is much higher, you never know what you are going to get in the NCAA.
Aug 22, 2012
Nothing in college basketball is guaranteed, as evidenced by LeBryan Nash, Cameron Clark, Doneal Mack and Malcolm Grant.
Mar 09, 2012
While personnel determine scheme in the NBA, college basketball coaches recruit players that fit their schemes.
Feb 13, 2012
Thomas Robinson, J'Covan Brown, Meyers Leonard, Jamaal Franklin and Trae Golden are amongst the Top-20 Breakout Players in college basketball.
Jan 23, 2012
On a great weekend of college basketball that saw Florida State beat Duke at Cameron, Syracuse get their first loss, Kansas stave off Texas, as well as the reasoning why we must look at match-ups and reevaluations.
Jan 16, 2012
The theme heading into this weekend was that there were not many must-see games. But with college basketball, the sheer volume of games ensures there will always be a few surprises.
Jan 02, 2012
Separating the BCS schools into tiers named after John Wooden, Dean Smith, Gene Keady, Rollie Massimino, John Chaney, Kelvin Sampson, Tim Welsh, Pat Knight and Sidney Lowe, how does everyone stand?
Dec 26, 2011
Duke, Kentucky, UCLA, Texas, Kansas, North Carolina, UConn, Florida and Arizona each begin the 11-12 NBA season with 10 or more players on NBA rosters.
Nov 10, 2011
There are many ways to build a winning program. John Calipariís focus on younger players may be the best way to get elite recruits, but it isnít the only way to build a winning program.
Nov 05, 2011
Don't wait until March to start printing out college basketball brackets. With the Preseason NIT, Maui Invitational, Puerto Rico Tipoff and other excellent tournaments, you can start the madness in November.
Oct 14, 2011
The value of transfers to BCS schools, plus why Baylor could have a top-10 team (if Bill Self was their coach instead of Scott Drew).
Sep 28, 2011
Butler and George Mason have proven it is possible to reach the Final Four without Top-100 recruits, but Florida's success without Top-10 players in 2006 and 2007 may give us the most realistic scenario of success.
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