What was in the water in Puerto Rico?
Charlotte PG Pierra Henry was having a terrible game. He was 4 of 15 from the floor, he had 3 assists and 4 turnovers, and Charlotte’s offense was sputtering. Michigan had just stormed back from a double digit deficit to take a 1 point lead. But then Henry started making plays again. He hit Ben Cherry for an open three. He knifed into the lane and got the ball to Willie Clayton for a clean inside look. Then he hit a jumper of his own. And yet Michigan would not go away. With 8 seconds left the game was tied.
At this point Charlotte’s Terrence Williams was also 2 for 8 in the game. Williams caught the ball along the baseline with time running out and Williams completely air-balled the basket. But Williams didn’t panic. He ran to the other side of the hoop, collected his own miss, and put the shot back up for the game-winner.
Somehow, for two players who were ice-cold to make the winning plays, made perfect sense. Because the tournament in Puerto Rico didn’t make any sense.
-Charlotte, the presumed 6th best team in this field, won the tournament.
-VCU, ranked in the Top 10 nationally, forced 25 turnovers in one game and 26 turnovers in another and lost both.
-Florida St., which pummeled VCU, needed a buzzer beater to beat Northeastern.
-Michigan, which was a preseason Top 15 team, needed a huge rally and OT to beat Florida St. and lost to Charlotte.
-Meanwhile, Georgetown lost to Northeastern. And then the Hoyas crushed Kansas St. and won an ugly whistle-prone game against VCU.
-UConn won the 2K Sports Classic, but won the two games by a total margin of 3 points. That is what veteran teams are expected to do early in the year. But the statistical oddities in the two wins were amazing. First UConn had just 3 turnovers against Boston College. Then Shabazz Napier put UConn on his back against Indiana. Napier was 10 of 14 in the game while the rest of his teammates were just 11 of 39. But it wasn’t just Napier’s overall stat-line, it was the timing of his shots. When Indiana went on a scoring binge late in the game, Napier answered every big shot.
-UCLA’s Travis Wear returned after his emergency appendectomy. The Bruins still haven’t faced any real tests yet on the basketball court, but the early returns suggest that Steve Alford is finding better ways to take advantage of Kyle Anderson’s passing ability. Anderson is averaging 8 assists per game through the first 5 games.
-I’ve never seen body language change more than it did for Providence against Vanderbilt. From the 16 minute mark to the 10 minute mark of the second half, Providence missed 6 lay-ups around the basket. They seemingly could not score over Vanderbilt’s tall interior players. At a timeout, the players walked to the bench with a look of disgust, like “How do we score on these guys?” But suddenly a flip switched. The offense started clicking and Providence went on a 17-0 run and ended the game on a 27-4 run in the come from behind win.
Harvard Watch Week 3
Continuing my weekly feature on an Ivy League team on the edge of the Top 25:
This week Harvard went on the road for their biggest test to date, at another near-Top 25 team Colorado. In the early going Harvard shot the ball extremely well. At one point forward Kyle Casey even made a three pointer to beat the buzzer and avoid a shot-clock violation.
Then near the 13 minute mark of the first half, we got a nice look at the highest ranked recruit in Harvard history, freshmen forward Zeno Edosomwan. Edosomwan came in, backed Colorado’s Josh Scott down off the dribble, and got a nice inside basket. But Tommy Amaker has been very cautious with Edosomwan’s minutes until he gets more experience, and Edosomwan spent most of the rest of the game on the bench.
People sometimes talk about how rare it is for Harvard to win the way they are winning, because they don’t have one transcendent star. It is one thing for a small conference school to find a Larry Bird-type player and ride him to glory. But Harvard is winning with balance. And at the end of the first half, we really saw how Harvard’s success is based on five players hustling at once.
Probably the perfect sequence came at the 5:15 mark of the first half. Harvard’s PG Siyani Chambers drove into the lane, and three point gunner Laurent Rivard followed behind him on the secondary break. Chambers kicked it back to Rivard for a wide open three at the top of the key. But the shot was off. Wesley Saunders crashed the boards and Harvard reset. Steve Moundou-Missi probed the defense for a driving angle, then Saunders probed, and then Rivard caught the ball in the corner. With Colorado playing Rivard to prevent the three, he cut baseline and the defense collapsed into the paint. Rivard then kicked the ball out to Brandyn Curry (who was back after missing the last 3 games with an injury), and Curry nailed a wide open three pointer. All five players touched the ball in this sequence and when five players are playing well together, it is beautiful basketball.
Unfortunately for the Crimson, the second half was not pretty. Colorado switched on screens on defense, Colorado’s length denied Harvard post touches, and Harvard struggled to match up with Wesley Gordon (who dominated on the offensive glass). Eventually Colorado roared back to take the lead.
Harvard’s Chambers had one unbelievable coast-to-coast basket in transition. And Moundou-Missi had a beautiful spinning post move after Tommy Amaker drew up a play out of a timeout. But for the most part, Colorado showed that as talented and experienced as Harvard is, Colorado has more athleticism. In the end Colorado was the team to pick up the quality win. Harvard now heads to Alaska for the Great Alaska Shootout.