Monday, January 26, 2015

Big East & Big XII (Through 1/26/15)

Big East:

We are over a third of the way through the conference play and things are very exciting in the Big East. 6 of the 10 teams are within two games of first place. That doesn't even include St. John’s who was looking like a NCAA team until they started 1-4 in conference. With all of these teams bunched up the battle for player of the year and first-team all-Big East are competitive and very fluid. Expect this list to change on a weekly basis. (Conference stats listed below as of 1/26)

Player of the Year:

Kris Dunn (So. - Providence) – 16.6 ppg, 8.6 apg, 7.0 rbg

Kris Dunn is the straw that stirs the drink for the 5-2 Friars. After fighting off injuries for the first two years Dunn is finally living up to the expectations he had as a top recruit. Dunn leads the league in assists, is 5th in scoring, 6th in rebounding, and contributes 2.0 steals per game, which is 2nd in Big East play. He also dominated OT, outscoring the Georgetown Hoyas by himself, in a win against the first place squad earlier in the season.

All Conference Team: 

Roosevelt Jones (Jr. – Butler) – 16.5 ppg, 6.5 rbg, 2.9 apg
Jones has done a good job returning from being red-shirt last year to lead Butler along with Kellan Dunham. He went for 28 in a last second loss to Georgetown last week. Jones is 4th in the conference in scoring, 10th in rebounding and 11th in assists for the 5-3 Bulldogs.

LaDontae Henton (Sr. - Providence) – 23.4 ppg, 6.3 rbg
Henton has been on the receiving end on a lot of the Kris Dunn assists. The highly skilled wing leads the conference in scoring pouring in over 23 a game. Henton shoots the three well making 2.6 a game in conference play. LaDontae has been a workhorse in Big East play for Ed Cooley, averaging 39.6 minutes per game.

Ryan Arcidiacono (Jr. - Villanova) – 12.0 ppg, 4.6 apg
“Arch” as he’s known to fans is one of three or four guys from Villanova deserving consideration for this spot. The guard leads the top-ten Wildcats in assists and is their second leading scoring.

Sterling Gibbs (Jr. - Seton Hall) – 17.6 ppg, 3.9 apg
Gibbs is the best player on the surprisings Pirates. He leads the team in scoring that is still breaking in two big-time freshman, Isaiah Whitehead – who will be returning from injury soon, and Angel Delgado.

On the Verge –D’vauntes Smith-Rivera (Jr. - Georgetown), D’Angelo Harrison (Sr. - St. John’s), Darrun Hilliard (Sr. – Villanova)

Freshman of the Year:

Angel Delgado (Seton Hall) – 10.4 ppg, 10.6 rbg,
Delgado has been a workhorse for the Pirates, averaging a double-double in conference play. He’s been particularly tough on the offensive glass, where he leads the conference with three per game. Seton Hall is on a three game conference losing streak, but Delgado went for 19 points and 19 rebounds against DePaul last Thursday.

On the Verge – Isaac Copeland (Georgetown) – After going scoreless in an overtime loss to Providence on January 10, Copeland has been steadily improving. Eight points in a win at DePaul, followed up by a game winning three against Butler and then 17 points and 6 rebounds against both Villanova and Marquette on 12-18 shooting.  

BIG 12:

A balanced conference with 6 ranked teams and 6 teams sporting a conference record of .500 or better. As Kansas proved this weekend in Austin, the road to the regular season goes through Lawrence until proven otherwise. Iowa State staked their claim to with a win over the Jayhawks in front of a raucous crowd, but then fell in Lubbock to a winless Texas Tech squad. The conference’s strength and balance was shown when West Virginia, Texas, and Oklahoma took turns beating each other by 20.


Buddy Heild (Jr. - Oklahoma) – 21.4 ppg, 6.1 rbg,

One of the best pure scorers in college basketball, Heild leads a potent Sooners attack and has poured in over 20 in 5 of 6 conference games. Buddy scored 27 without missing a shot from the field in a win over OSU and then followed that up with 26 points in a close loss at Kansas. The athletic wing also averages 1.4 steals per game.

All Conference Team: 

Monte Morris (So. Iowa State) – 10 ppg, 4.2 rbg, 6.3 apg

Morris has stepped right in to fill the big shoes left by the Deandre Kane, the Cyclones do everything point guard from last year. Morris leads the conference in assists with 6.3 per game while also averaging 10 points and over 4 boards per contest. He had a double-double in a big win over Kansas.

Devin Williams (West Virginia) – 13.5 ppg, 9.3 rbg

The big man who does the dirty work for Coach Huggin’s squad has really stepped his game up this year. The bruiser has his best game last week against Iowa State when he had 14 points and ripped down 15 boards for the surprising Mountaineers.

Georges Niang (Jr. - Iowa State) – 12.5 ppg, 5.2 rbg, 2.8 apg

Mr. Consistency, Niang is been very reliable and had his best game of the conference season against Kansas, leading the Cyclones with 15 points, 5 boards, and 5 assists. The stretch-4, Niang is also averaging two made 3's per game.

Myles Turner (Texas) – 10.8 ppg, 7 rpg, 3 blocks (Freshman of the Year)

The imposing freshman center with three point range just keeps getting better. He had an impressive game against Oklahoma St. with 18 points and 5 blocks while also going 4-4 from three. He struggled to get touches on the offensive end in a home loss to Kansas, but he still recorded 5 blocks before fouling out.  

On the Verge – Kelly Oubre (Fr. - Kansas), Marcus Foster (So. - Kansas State), Le’Bryan Nash (Sr. Oklahoma State) 

Follow Dan Russo on twitter at DanRusso13

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Harry Giles & Ivan Rabb Match-up

Two five-star big men faced off in one of the first big individual match-ups of the holiday weekend at the Bass Pro Shops Tournament of Champions semi-final on Friday night. Harry Giles, a five-star prospect in the junior class and a potential top draft pick in 2017 faced off against senior Ivan Rabb, who is currently the No. 7 ranked player in the class of 2015. Giles helped lead his Wesleyan Christian (NC) team to a 59-49 victory over Bishop O’ Dowd (CA).

The 6’10” Giles finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds while the 6’10” Rabb ended the game with 14 points and 13 rebounds. While both players finished with a double-double neither was overly dominant and both players were quiet for long stretches. The two teams started off the game in a zone and slowly moved to more man-to-man in the later part of the second quarter.

Harry Giles – 14 points, 11 rebounds, 6-14 FG’s, 0-1 3PT, 2-2 FT’s
Harry Giles started with a smooth looking jump shot from just inside the three-point line, but then went scoreless the rest of the quarter with two missed dunks. In the second quarter Kwe Parker found Giles for a two hand dunk before he put together a nice baseline spin move converting with a left handed lay-up. Moving to the second half, Giles’ first basket came off a beautiful set play that resulted in a lob. He also added in another dunk and a tip-in for his 14 points.

The stat line is nice and Giles’ team got a win (thanks in part to the play of Brandon Childress), but it wasn’t a typical dominant game for Giles. He missed four dunks during the course of the game and disappeared at times as well in O’Dowd’s zone defense. He did record several blocks and also created several deflections when matched-up with Rabb on the defensive side.

Harry Giles Shot Chart
Ivan Rabb, 14 points, 13 rebounds, 5-14 FG’s, 4-4 FT’s
Rabb recorded his first field goal when time expired at the end of the first quarter and added in two tip-ins in the first half. He showed off his ambidextrous skills in the second half hitting a left-handed shot over Giles in addition to a left handed lay-up. Rabb started to move outside the post as the game progressed and he did hit a 15 foot jump shot, but also missed two pull-up jump shots just outside of the right free throw line.  Throughout the course of the game, Rabb got to face off with Giles on the offensive end while he only guarded Giles a few times on the defensive side. In his one-on-one battles he scored straight-up on Giles one time and got to the free throw line another. Rabb did create space when facing up on Giles for jump-shots on three occasions, but wasn’t able to convert.

Ivan Rabb Shot Chart
Overall: Draw

The stat lines for Giles and Rabb were fairly similar and while Giles got the win, this match-up ends in a draw. Rabb got more chances to play against Giles on offense, but Giles was also impressive creating deflections on the fast break as well as the post. Both players have the ability to score inside and out, but Giles gets the edge on aggressiveness. He moves more fluidly than Rabb on the court and also plays a bit stronger. Both players are deserving of their top ten status, but it is the junior Harry Giles that has the higher upside. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

ACC Conference Preview: Tier 1

ACC play kicked off on December 6 with North Carolina State defeating Wake Forest by a 13 point margin. While both N.C. State and Notre Dame sit atop the conference standings with one win a piece the real conference play begins today with a six game slate. In the past two years, the ACC champion not only struggled during November and December but the two teams were not given any consideration in the pre-season. In 2012, Miami dominated the league going 15-3 and last year Virginia did the same going 16-2. Will a surprise team emerge this year? Probably not, but with the addition of Louisville there will be a plethora of interesting match-ups.

Tier 1 Teams:

The Blue Devils enter ACC play undefeated with neutral court victories over Michigan State, Temple, Stanford, and Connecticut to go with a road win over Wisconsin. Last year Jabari Parker led the Blue Devils while finishing runner-up in the ACC POY voting. This year Jahlil Okafor, is the front runner for national player of the year averaging 18.8 points and 8.8 rebounds a game.

? Mark: The bench
Duke’s freshmen trio has surpassed expectations, but will their legs get heavy in March? Right now, Coach K only trusts three players off his bench and only junior Rasheed Sulaimon can be counted on consistently.

Toughest Test:
At Louisville (1/17), At Virginia (1/31)
Playing in front of the Cameron Crazies, Duke has gone undefeated at home the past two years. It looks like they could go three in a row with their toughest match-up coming against UNC on Feb. 18.


Top Wins: at Maryland, at VCU

What a year for the Cavaliers. After winning the ACC regular season title (16-2) and the ACC tournament title, the Cavs are sitting pretty with an undefeated record. This time last year they entered ACC play after a 35 point dismantling in Knoxville, but used their home-court and overall experience to capture an unexpected title. Everyone expected Malcolm Brogdon to excel this year, but junior Justin Anderson has captured the headlines with his 60% shooting from behind the arc and junior Anthony Gill might be the least talked about star in the nation considering he sits in 3rd place for Ken Pomeroy’s player of the year.

? Mark: Daunting 3 game stretch
While Duke’s home court advantage is widely publicized, the Wahoo’s also have not lost a conference game in the past two years at the John Paul Jones arena. This year they face a daunting three game stretch with games against Duke (home), UNC (Away), and Louisville (Home). If they make it through this stretch UVA could be looking at a repeat and another number one seed.

Toughest Test:
Not including the three game stretch above, UVA starts its ACC play with Miami (1/3) and also heads to South Bend on 1/10. Last year, UVA beat the Irish by 15, but this is not last year’s Notre Dame squad.


Top Wins: Indiana (N), Ohio State (H)

The Cardinals basketball team should open up conference play like their football team did, with a win. Rick Pitino’s squad jumps up a level of play from the American conference and gets two games with UNC, but just one with both Duke and UVA. They only lost one game out of conference, but played a relatively weak slate. Point guard Chris Jones has been a source of criticism for fans given his play of late, but Terry Rozier and Wayne Blackshear will need to continue to step up and provide help to Montrezl Harrell.

? Mark: Go-to scorer
Terry Rozier is the team’s leading scorer at 17.1 points per game, but will he be the one to take the place of Russ Smith when it comes time for clutch baskets?

Toughest Test:
At Miami (2/3), At Virginia (2/7)
After welcoming UNC to the Yum! Center on Saturday, January 31, the Cardinals go down to Miami for a weekday road game and then head up to Charlottesville. Could the Miami game be a letdown / sandwich game?

All ACC Team:
Jahlil Okafor (Duke)
Montrezl Harrell (Louisville)
Jerian Grant (Notre Dame)
Marcus Paige (UNC)
Anthony Gill (Virginia)

All Freshmen Team:
Jahlil Okafor (Duke)
Tyus Jones (Duke)
Justise Winslow (Duke)
Donte Grantham (Clemson)

Xavier Rathan-Mayes (FSU)

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Jalek Felton - UNC

10 years ago Raymond Felton was leading the Tar Heel fast break for the 2005 National Champions. Almost 10 years later, another Felton is on his way to Chapel Hill. Five-star sophomore Jalek Felton and Raymond’s nephew, made public his decision to follow in the family foot-steps to Chapel Hill. Despite being three years away from setting foot on the Dean Dome floor, the Felton commitment provided a ray of light to the UNC fan base.

While Raymond was a pure point guard, his nephew Jalek is currently known as a combo guard although he possesses some of the best passing skills in the high school game. At 6’3”, Felton is currently ranked No. 6 in the sophomore class by and was named to the MaxPreps All-Freshman Second Team last year after averaging 21.9 points per game for Mullins (S.C.) High. This year, Jalek has boosted his scoring numbers and recently scored 51 points in the famed Beach Ball Classic.

In the last week of the 2013 July recruiting period, UNC head coach Roy Williams veered away from his primary targets in the 2013 and 2014 classes to take in a few viewings of Felton, despite the fact that he had just finished the eighth grade.  Felton later attended the 2013 “Late Night With Roy” with friend and fellow UNC target Harry Giles. After countless visits to the Dean Dome this past summer to play and watch pick-up, Felton received the one scholarship he coveted in mid-November and committed just over a month later.

With the academic scandal hanging over the UNC program like a black cloud, there is no doubt that recruiting has taken a hit recently. The Tar Heels have struck out on the majority of their top targets in 2015 and only have three-star forward Luke Maye locked up. They are heavily involved with numerous five-star recruits in 2016, but for Tar Heel fans it is at least nice to know that they have locked up one of the most talented guards in the 2017 class.

Right now, Jalek is an athletic combo guard that can finish above the rim and also hit from well beyond the three point line. While he can score, Felton can also make plays for teammates. During October, Felton was invited to the USA Developmental Camp in Colorado Springs and impressed with his natural passing ability. With two and a half years left to develop there is no doubt that Jalek should be able to follow in his uncle’s footsteps and contribute from Day 1. He might even be able to get his jersey next to Raymond’s in the rafters.

·         -Size and athleticism
·         -Scoring ability, lots of backspin on his outside shot
·         -Ball-handling and passing ability

Improvement Areas:
·         -Killer instinct – Felton can sometimes play too passive and not take advantage of his scoring ability
·         -Outside shot – Good range and spin, but shoots a set-shot from three with a wind-up motion

·         -Turnovers – Can sometimes get too fancy with passes and needs to tighten up moves in the half-court set

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

City of Palms - Finals

In the 42nd City of Palms, the teams and players put on a show throughout the six day event. Future NBA players were in almost every game and the championship game was a reflection on the competitiveness of the games throughout the week. It can’t get much better than a close championship game featuring the top two seniors in the country.

Wheeler (GA) 72 Montverde Academy (FL) 65

In a close and hard fought championship game featuring the two top players in the senior class, Wheeler won their first City of Palms championship and prevented Montverde from winning their third in a row. In a game billed for its star power, Ben Simmons and Jaylen Brown definitely lived up to the billing. Despite fouling out, Brown finished with 25 points and 12 rebounds. With the game tied with 2:25 to go, Brown made a ridiculous steal of an attempted entry pass to Simmons and got fouled going coast to coast. He made both free throws to give Wheeler a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. On the next possession Simmons had a lay-up go in and out and that was all she wrote for Montverde. Ben Simmons finished with 28 points and 11 rebounds and both players combined to miss only 10 shots total. 

While Brown and Simmons were the lead actors, senior guard Shembari Phillips won the best supporting actor. He came up with big plays time and time again and ended the night with 20 points while going 9-13 from the floor. Phillips scored crucial baskets in the fourth quarter and was one of the most under-rated performers of the tournament. 

Top Performers:

Jaylen Brown, 6’7”, SF, 2015, Wheeler (GA)

The Stanley Johnson clone was in attack mode from the get go and began the game with three and-one’s. The first came as he posted up a smaller defender and the other two were the result of powerful drives to the hoop. In the first half, Brown put together a 17 point, seven rebound performance. He wasn’t as dominant in the second half, but came up with key plays that sealed the win. As noted above, Brown forced a turnover and turned it into two points from the free throw line. After that Brown dished out an assist to put his team up five before fouling out. With the win, Brown was named tournament MVP after averaging 24 points and 10 rebounds.

1st Half: 5-8 FG's, 2-2 3PT, 5-7 FT's - 17 points, 7 rebounds 

2nd Half: 1-2 FG's, 6-6 FT's - 8 points, 5 rebounds plus key steal with tie game

Ben Simmons, 6’8”, SF, 2015, Montverde (FL)
Simmons did not start out as aggressive as Brown, but he caught up in the 3rd quarter where he scored nine points on 4-5 shooting. For the game, Simmons was 11-17 and used his versatility to finish around the hoop. With Montverde down two, Simmons had a lay-up go in and out which effectively sealed the game for Wheeler. He continuously attacked the defense with his strong ball-handling skills and despite the loss he put together a tremendous performance.
Harry Giles, 6’10”, PF, 2016, Wesleyan Christian (NC)
A man amongst boys, even when one of them is a year older and committed to Louisville. Yesterday, Giles had a dominant first quarter, but hung around the perimeter too much. Today he took just three shots outside of the paint including a 12 foot left handed hook that he used to begin his dominant night. Throughout the game, Giles was throwing down monster dunks down low and over powering any defender in his way. He also added a right hand hook and a short jumper in the lane in addition to a vicious one hand tip dunk. For the game, Giles finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds on 12-20 shooting while staking his claim as the top player in the junior class.
                                12/22 (6-12) played outside                 12/23 (12-20) dominated inside