Sunday, November 11, 2007

Notes and Observations, Volume One

Here are a variety of thoughts and observations I have for the first week of the 2007-2008 college basketball season:

- College basketball really needs a first day that gets everyone excited for the season. I mean, Richmond vs. Maine? Seriously? The two teams combined to shoot 37.5% from the field and a downright horrendous 16% from behind the arc. We couldn’t find a better representative for the season’s first game?

- It’s obvious that Memphis’ Derrick Rose is one of the top players in the country right now. Although he is a freshman, he didn’t take anytime to acclimate himself to the college game, averaging 19 points in his first two games. It wasn’t his scoring that was impressive, though—it was everything else. He made passes covering three-quarters of the court, he blocked shots, he played defense, he rebounded the ball, he had put-back dunks, and he was just generally better than everyone on the court.

- It looks like Robert Dozier might be playing more to his potential this season if he continues to rebound the way he did in the first week. Even without his partner-in-crime Joey Dorsey, who was sitting with a right shoulder sprain, Dozier played well, shooting 8-for-12 in two games, and averaging a near-double double.

- A.J. Price might be the key to UConn’s offense. The offense was stagnant in its opener against Morgan State when Price didn’t look for his own shot too much, but the next night he was more aggressive offensively, scoring 24 points in a blowout win over Buffalo. He can get into the lane on most defenders, and needs to continue to attack the basket if the Huskies are going to be efficient offensively.

- Speaking of UConn, it looked like exactly the same team as last year. And, no, that’s not a good thing. The Huskies still can’t shoot from three-point range, their half-court offense is awful, and they are completely incompetent against a zone. At the other end, the big men for UConn are still overzealous shot-blockers who commit silly fouls too often. If they continue to play like they did in the first week, don’t expect much of an improvement from last season.

- The two biggest upsets of the week: Kentucky falling to Gardner-Webb and USC losing to Mercer. The similarities? Both games were not very close; the two favorites were both at home; and both GW and Mercer are in the Atlantic Sun. For Kentucky, they simply did not look good at all offensively, other than the two freshmen, Patrick Patterson and Alex Legion. Joe Crawford put up a lot of ill-advised shots; Ramel Bradley was just completely ineffective at the point; and Jodie Meeks shot far too much. They need Derrick Jasper back in a hurry to run the point. For USC, the loss wasn’t O.J. Mayo’s fault as many people would lead you to believe. It was simply the defense’s inability to stop Mercer at all. The Bears shot 69% from two-point range, and James Florence, one of the nation’s most underrated freshmen in the country last year, had 30 points. It may take USC a little longer to make up for the loss of Nick Young and Gabe Pruitt than most people thought. However, don’t write either of these teams off yet; I think UK will be in the Top 25 by year’s end, and USC will be right there as well.

- The Big Ten had an awful exhibition season. Conference favorite Michigan State fell to Grand Valley State and defending league champion Ohio State lost to Findlay. Both teams were Division-II clubs. However, I don’t put much stock into exhibition games. Coaches are still figuring out which lineups to work, and might not have a great handle on their teams at that point in the season. I still think Michigan State will win the Big Ten and make a run at the Final Four—if its bigs step up.

- Apparently Georgia Tech doesn’t have any plans on playing defense again this season. After giving up 83 points to UNC-Greensboro in a home loss on Friday, the Yellow Jackets allowed another 85 to Tennessee State on Sunday but escaped with a win. On the bright side, the newcomers for Tech played well over the weekend, and Alade Aminu was a solid inside presence, but none of that will matter if Paul Hewitt doesn’t force his team to play a semblance of defense.

- Welcome back, Kevin Dur—er, welcome to college basketball, Michael Beasley. The Kansas State freshman did his best impression of last year’s Player of the Year with a phenomenal first weekend. He opened his career with 32 points and 24 rebounds against Sacramento State and followed that up with a 30-point, 14-rebound performance against Pittsburg State. It will be interesting to see if he can keep it up once KSU plays its four-game stretch of George Mason, Oregon, Notre Dame, and California, which begins on Nov. 22.

- George Mason looks like it wants to press and run more this season based on its first game against Vermont. The Patriots constantly looked to get out and get transition points, but were not afraid to pull it out and get it inside to Will Thomas, who looks much improved from last year. He had 16 points and 17 boards against Vermont. On the other hand, Mason could not shoot the ball from the perimeter at all, hitting only 1 of 17 three-point shots.

- Why does Marquette always struggle against inferior teams in non-conference play? Last season, the Golden Eagles lost to North Dakota State and nearly fell to Idaho State, Valparaiso, and Hillsdale. This weekend, Marquette avoided another upset, this time at the hands of IUPUI. The Jaguars were up in the second half, but Marquette eventually wore them down to pull away down the stretch. Like last season, the Golden Eagles need more production from their big men.

- Oklahoma State is going to be an interesting team to watch this season. The Cowboys may not be overly successful, but any team that starts four wings and a point guard is fun to follow in my book. Point guard Byron Eaton, shooting guards Obi Muonelo and Terrel Harris, and wings Marcus Dove and James Anderson all started for Sean Sutton and OSU. It worked against Prairie View A&M, as OSU won 104-48, but it may not see the same success against Big 12 teams. Anderson, by the way, had 29 points on 11-for-15 shooting.

- Pittsburgh doesn’t look they are going to miss a beat from the past few seasons despite the losses of Aaron Gray, Levon Kendall, and Antonio Graves. The main reason for that is the arrival of freshman big man DeJuan Blair. He averaged almost 16 points and 10 rebounds in his first three games on the Panthers, and is going to be tough to stop down low. Additionally, Sam Young might be finally coming into his own, putting up about 19 and 9 over the weekend.

- Cincinnati is nowhere near a Big East Tournament team right now. The Bearcats started 1-2, with disappointing losses to Belmont and Bowling Green and a two-point win over Western Carolina. I thought they had a chance to be a deep sleeper in the conference, but horrendous shooting from behind the arc and inconsistent play at both ends are clearly holding them back.

- Whatever happened to Richard Roby? The Colorado senior averaged 17 points per game two years ago and was slated to get drafted that May; however, he returned to school and hasn’t been the same since. His shooting percentages were way down last year, and he is struggling again this year. He went 0-for-3 against New Mexico this weekend, scoring only one point in 33 minutes in the Buffaloes’ loss. It will take some time getting used to the new offense Jeff Bzdelik runs, but 0-for-3 and one point is a bad start.

- The most surprising post production of the weekend may have come from Georgia. With the loss of Takais Brown, the Bulldogs were woefully inexperienced up front, but the trio of Rashaad Singleton, Jeremy Jacob, and Chris Jacobs combined to put up 43 points, 23 rebounds, 10 blocks and shot 20-for-28 from the field. Oh, and none of the three played more than 21 minutes.

- Here’s the difference between Temple and Tennessee—other than the 80-63 margin the two teams had on Friday: Temple’s two best players, Dionte Christmas and Mark Tyndale, combined to shoot 7-26 from the field and the Owls were lost offensively as a result. On the other hand, Tennessee’s best player, Chris Lofton, was only 1-8 from the field and did not hit a three-pointer. It didn’t matter, though, as the Volunteers still put up 80 points.

- Overshadowed by the debuts of his fellow freshmen, UCLA’s Kevin Love did his best not to be forgotten, scoring 22 points and grabbing 13 rebounds, not to mention 3 assists, a block, and no turnovers. He is going to be a major factor in the national title race this year.

- One of the most underrated freshmen duos over the weekend belonged to Boston College’s Biko Paris and Rakim Sanders. In the absence of Tyrese Rice, Paris played all 40 minutes and scoring 19 points, grabbed 4 rebounds and dished out 5 assists, while Sanders put up 22 points and 6 boards. They could combine for a solid perimeter trio once Rice returns.

- It doesn't look like Wisconsin is going to miss too much of a beat despite the loss of Alando Tucker and Kammron Taylor from last year's team. Of course, getting 24 points and 13 rebounds from perennial underachiever Brian Butch and 25 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 6 steals from sophomore point guard Trevon Hughes helps. If those two continue to consistently produce, forward Marcus Landry and guard Michael Flowers begin to assume a bigger scoring role offensively, and the role players do all the little things, the Badgers will be a major contender in the Big Ten.

- N.J.I.T. scored 28 points the entire game against Manhattan on Saturday. They shot a horrifying 16.7% from the field and 9.1% from behind the arc. I’m not even sure what to add to that performance, other than no starter made more than one field goal and they combined to shoot 5-for-30 from the field.

- Tajuan Porter must like his move to the point guard spot to replace All-America Aaron Brooks for Oregon. He scored 17 points and had 9 assists in the opener, followed by 28 points and 3 assists on Sunday against Pacific. If he can provide consistent lead guard play, the Ducks can be a very, very good team.

- Vanderbilt’s Andrew Ogilvy did nothing to lessen the hype surrounding his arrival after dominating Austin Peay to the tune of 18 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks. Ogilvy was one of the most talked-about players this summer after he dominated in Australia and at the World Championships, but was only rated a three-star recruit by most services.

- This certainly isn’t the same Nevada. Mainly, Marcelus Kemp has to miss Nick Fazekas and Ramon Sessions when he is out there. He took 22 shots today in their loss to UCF, scoring 19 points after knocking down only one-of-eight threes. One or two players are really going to have to step up if the Wolf Pack are going to return to the Big Dance.

- The more I look at Gonzaga, the more I like them. The Bulldogs are deep and talented, and have a variety of options to choose from depending on the match-ups. Jeremy Pargo is extremely quick at the point; Matt Bouldin is solid all-around; Micah Downs can score; and freshman Austin Daye is a 6-10 match-up nightmare who can do anything on the court. And this is all without one of the best big men in the country, Josh Heytvelt, who is out with an injury. Daye, a highly-touted freshman, had 20 points and 10 rebounds on Sunday.


  1. Welcome back to college basketball, Robert Vaden! 26 points on 8 of 13 shooting from behind the 3 point arc!

  2. Marquette isn't that great of a team. The hype they get is unbelievable and it actually sickens me. They have the three good guards and that's about it.

    So overrated.

  3. Great overview.

    For the record, Ogilvy was impressive in his debut, but he played a team who was drastically undersized. The guy is going to be shut down against bigger competition.