Kevin Durant gets his, but his teammates were nowhere to be found...Joakim Noah struggles for touches but finds other ways to contribute to another Florida victory...Nick Fazekas disappears for his third straight NCAA tournament. Alando Tucker disappoints... And much much more.
NCAA Tournament: Stock Watch (round of 32, Sunday games)--Stock Up
NCAA Tournament: Stock Watch (round of 32, Saturday games)--Stock Up
NCAA Tournament: Stock Watch (round of 32, Saturday)--Down/Neutral
NCAA Tournament: Stock Watch (round of 64, Friday games)--Stock Up
NCAA Tournament: Stock Watch (round of 64, Friday games)--Stock Down/Neutral
NCAA Tournament: Stock Watch (round of 64, Thursday games)--Stock Up
NCAA Tournament: Stock Watch (round of 64, Thursday games)--Stock Down/Neutral
Kevin Durant, 6-10, Freshman, SF/PF, Texas
30 points, 9 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 turnovers, 2 blocks, 11-24 FG, 2-9 3P
Rather than trying to shut down the best player in the country, USC head coach Tim Floyd instead went straight to the hand that feeds him in going after D.J. Augustin. That strategy worked flawlessly, as Durant struggled to get touches in the places hes most comfortable in, and wasnt able to take advantage of the huge size advantage he had over his defenders. Rick Barnes strategy of letting his freshmen work things out on their own didnt exactly help matters either.
Durant saw a few double-teams thrown his way here and there, but for the most part was defended straight up by 6-4 Daniel Hackett and 6-5 Nick Young. He wasnt able to get the ball in a position to exploit those matchups, though, as he was a bit passive calling for passes when the game was still within reach and did not have the benefit of a point guard who was committed and able to get him the ball. Regardless, we still got plenty of looks at the terrific perimeter game that has made him such a deadly weapon all season long, including his long-range shooting and ability to create his own shot.
On the negative side, it would have been nice to see a bit more urgency coming from his direction. He had just 4 points in the first 15 minutes, before scoring 26 over the next 25. He just wasnt selfish enough when his team needed him to be, while some of his lesser talented teammates certainly were. Defensively he looked hesitant to commit any fouls, letting USCs players score easily around the rim and not going as aggressively as weve become accustomed to after rebounds. He did draw two charges, though, an area that he is slowly becoming an expert in as a semi-flopper.
At the end of the day, this game probably wont move Durants stock in either direction. He showed up, but the rest of his team (except A.J. Abrams) didnt. Against a talented and well-coached team like USC, thats just not going to fly. What this will do, though, is give GMs a chance to keep Greg Oden etched in their minds during the advanced rounds of the tournament, while Durant will be sitting at home.
Joakim Noah, 611, PF/C, Junior, Florida
Vs Purdue: 9 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks, 3-5 FG, 3-4 FT
Purdues small lineup neutralized the effectiveness of Noahs face-up game, and Florida inexplicably could not find a way to get him the ball in position to work his hook shot in the paint, so he really did very little in terms of creating his own offense. Noahs three field goals on the game came on two cuts to the basket that he finished at the rim and on an impressive put-back where he used his length and athleticism to go over Purdues defense. Noah got the rest of his points by drawing two fouls on offensive rebounds, one of which saw him pushed to the floor where he landed directly on his tailbone in what must have been a very painful fall. Noah just grimaced and got right back up to his feet, though, after which he calmly sank two free throws.
Noah wasnt much of a factor on offense, but he made his presence known on defense and the boards, where he used his energy and athleticism to make blocks and secure rebounds that very few players could. He played excellent interior defense alongside teammate Al Horford, as the two combined to force turnovers and cause discomfort for Purdue players. Noah also made three rejections, one of which came on a weakside drive where it seemed there was no chance he could get high enough to block a floater attempt on the baseline. He did.
This definitely wasnt Noahs best game, but if Florida doesnt try to post him up in the paint and he doesnt have the mismatches to work his face-up game, theres not much more he can do than what he did in this game: working hard on defense and the boards. His draft stock isnt really hinging on his performance in this tournament, so games like this shouldnt hurt him too much, but hed probably feel a bit more secure going into draft day if he was given another primetime opportunity to show off his post-up and face-up abilities.
Corey Brewer, 6-9, Junior, Small Forward, Florida
17 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 turnovers, 2 steals, 4-9 FG, 1-4 3P, 8-8 FT
Brewer started off the game very much out of control, forcing his dribble and taking some bad shots from the perimeter early in the shot clock. He lacked a bit of focus in causing some careless turnovers and getting beaten off the bounce by David Teague, but was excellent as usual with his off-ball defense, playing the passing lanes and causing numerous deflections and steals.
The 2nd half was better for Brewer, settling in to more of a rhythm and using his passing skills to get his big men involved. He made a couple of huge plays that changed the flow of the game in Floridas favor, including one in particular that involved tipping a loose ball from well out of his area on defense to himself and then getting it up-court to Lee Humphrey. That resulted in an open 3-pointer in transition from Taurean Green that gave Florida a 2-point lead that they would never rescind from that point. With just under four minutes to play, Brewer again helped fend off a run from Purdue by spinning athletically into an awkward pull-up jumper from mid-range with just a few seconds left on the shot clock. He also used his athleticism to pull down 8 big rebounds, many of which came in traffic.
So while this wont go down as Brewers best game in a Florida uniform, he did, as usual, play a huge part in eventually securing a win for his team.
Sean Singletary, 511, Junior, Point Guard, Virginia
19 points, 4-14 FGs, 10-12 FTs, 6 reb, 5 ast, 6 TO
While Singletary started the game out quietly, his fellow backcourt assassin J.R. Reynolds did not. Reynolds went absolutely ballistic midway through the first half, quickly turning an early deficit into a significant Cavalier lead. And behind a large number of Reynolds conversions was a timely lead pass from Singletary. Singletary took Bruce Pearls run and gun style and shoved it back in his face, navigating through backpedaling defenses like they were standing still. And while Singletary didnt get his offense going until the second half, it was impressive to see the numerous opportunities he created for his teammates in the half-court once the game had slowed down a bit. This is something that Singletary has struggled with at times, but Tennessee never found a way to slow him down today.
As for the offense, Singletarys 19 points probably reflects his impact on this game more than the 4-14 shooting. He got around defenders at will, and did a good job of deciding when to shoot and when to pass once he did get into the lane. He got to the line 12 times over the court of the game, and these came almost exclusively on penetrations into a lane that was largely unprotected thanks to Bruce Pearls lack of a shot blocker. He really came alive late in the game, drawing fouls down the stretch and nailing a deep 3-pointer with under a minute to play that kept Virginia within striking distance.
It was his potential game-tying 3-pointer that rimmed out at the buzzer and thus ended Virginias season, but one cant help but come away from this game with the impression that Singletary has significantly improved as a floor general throughout the year. Singletary is far from assured a guaranteed contract should he decide to bypass his senior year, but is certainly in the first round mix pending his performance in the pre-draft camp and workout settings.
J.R. Reynolds, 6-2, Senior, PG/SG, Virginia
26 points, 0 assists, 3 turnovers, 1 rebound, 8-16 FG, 4-11 3P
Reynolds landed awkwardly on his ankle late in the first half, and never recovered the shooting touch or assertiveness that spearheaded Virginias mid-first half run. After pouring in 22 points in the first half, he scored just 6 on 2-6 shooting in the second. The outside jumpers stopped falling, and Tennessee eventually regained control of the game.
In the end, Reynolds has to be disappointed that he couldnt make the most of an opportunity to make what could have been an incredible mark on this years NCAA Tournament and gain a bit of momentum heading into the draft process, but the bad ankle doesnt change what he did in the first half of this game. If he can convince an NBA team that scoring explosions such as this afternoons will come a bit more frequently than they did at the NCAA level, Reynolds could have a long career ahead of him at the next level.
Chris Lofton, 6-2, Junior, Shooting Guard, Tennessee
20 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 turnover, 1 steal, 4-16 FG, 3-9 3P, 9-10 FT
Everything appeared to be going as planned in the early stages of the first half, with Lofton able to break away from J.R. Reynolds to knock down a pair of sweet-looking, contested 3-pointers. He also converted on a beautiful baseline runner midway through the first half. But Lofton would score just one field goal the rest of the way, having to work quite hard just to touch the ball against the suffocating ball denial of the physically superior Mamadi Diane. He forced several low percentage shots, including a rushed 3-point attempt with under a minute left in the first half that gave Virginia the final crack before the break.
To his credit, Lofton did a better job of not forcing the issue in the second half and instead focused on getting to the basket against defenders that were overplaying his shot no matter the consequences. But Loftons lack of athleticism and body strength was readily apparent here, as the handful of times he was able to get the ball and get around his defender, Virginia was able to recover in time to block or successfully alter the shot.
This game certainly gave everyone watching a glimpse of what Lofton faces in attempting to make the jump to the next level Virginias stable of athletic perimeter defenders is quite imposing on the NCAA level, but nothing Lofton wont see on a nightly basis in the NBA. But at the same time, it is hard to criticize the soon-to-be All-American very severely, considering the way he accepted his role as a decoy and the fact that his teammates were able to pick up the slack and eventually take control of the game. And Lofton did end up playing a significant role in the win, calmly swishing six consecutive free throws to just stave off a Sean Singletary scoring wave and seal the deal on a trip to the Sweet 16 for the Volunteers.
Aaron Brooks, 6-0, Senior, PG, Oregon
22 points, 3 rebounds, 0 assists, 1 turnover, 8-15 FG, 1-1 FT, 5-9 3P
Brooks gave Winthrop fits on the perimeter with his lightning quick first step. He is one of the fastest players in the country and it is very hard to keep him from getting into the lane when he wants to, which was the case on Sunday. Brooks did a good job finishing in the paint, hitting on a couple of running one handed shots over taller players.
The most encouraging thing about Brooks performance was how he protected the basketball. His single turnover was below his average which is over two for the season, but even when his turnover numbers have been low, Brooks has had a tendency to throw some wild passes. Against Winthrop however, Brooks maintained control of the basketball for the entire game, exhibiting great accuracy with his passes.
This game shouldnt have much of an effect on Brooks stock. He shot the ball very well, and had some explosive moves to the basket, things we knew he could do on a regular basis. He played the game more like a shooting guard than a point guard, which at times has also been a tendency of his. Brooks has a chance to land himself in the NBA as a second round pick, but he really needs to improve his point guard skills if he wants to last in the league.
Randolph Morris, 6-11, Junior, C, Kentucky
22 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks, 1 steal, 3 turnovers, 4-8 FG, 14-16 FT
Defensively Morris didnt play poorly, but he didnt play well either. He fought hard on the glass, and finished right around his average with 8 rebounds. The Jayhawks only managed 7 offensive rebounds, thanks in large part to Morris blocking out very well against his opponents. Kansas did however shoot a great percentage in the paint. Morris needed to get out and contest more shots with his large frame and long reach.
A game like this wont have much of an effect on Morriss stock, although lets remember that he is a free agent and not a draft prospect after having gone undrafted back in 2005. He played aggressively and worked hard on the interior. Its certainly a positive to see Morris drawing so many fouls and going strong to the basket, however it was hard to gauge his offensive post play since he was making so many trips to the line. Morris has an NBA body, and has shown real improvement towards the end of this season. With a strong showing in his senior year, Morris could be a very interesting target in free agency as a backup center.
Alando Tucker, 6-5, Senior, Small Forward, Wisconsin
17 points, 4-11 FGs, 8-13 FTs, 1-6 3-PT, 7 rebounds, 3 Assists
One of the major forces behind Wisconsins hard-nosed identity, over the past four years at least, has been power wing Alando Tucker. Tucker did most of his damage on the interior as a freshman, routinely making plays over much taller opponents due to his physical nature and explosiveness. He has finally emerged as a legitimate wing scorer in his senior year, but it appears that he lost some of that toughness that made him such an asset to Bo Ryan in the first place. It was UNLVs Wendell White playing the role of enforcer wing, while Tucker floated around the perimeter looking for offensive opportunities and largely ignored any opportunity to crash the glass in the case of a miss.
After a quiet first half, the senior came out with a full head of steam to start the second. He made several nice passes and one crucial contested three pointer that gave the Badgers the momentum, and finally appeared to be taking over like a national player of the year candidate ought to in such a situation. But as soon as the Badgers regained the lead, old Tucker weaknesses began to shine through. He rushed several 3-point shots and missed them badly, reminding us that shooting range is still a major hole in his game. With all his teammates tensing up around him, Tucker tried to put the ball on the floor and attack the basket, but couldnt create a high-quality shot for himself. Soon, the UNLV lead had ballooned back out to the comfortable margin it was at before the Wisconsin run.
In the past, Tucker wouldnt have been held to such a high standard. But he also would have made up for an off shooting night with unmatchable intensity around the rim and in the lane. This afternoon, he was more apt to watch the action fifteen feet from the basket. Perhaps it was just an off game a disappointing NCAA Tournament certainly doesnt undo everything Tucker has accomplished this year, and he still managed to put up 17 and 7. But this weekend does give scouts an up close and personal reminder of everything he had clearly worked so hard to erase from their minds. It remains to be seen just where Tucker will fall in the upcoming draft, but todays performance cant be good for those NBA decision makers who werent entirely sold on Alando Tucker having left his perimeter polish issues in the past.
Nick Fazekas, 6-11, Senior, PF/C, Memphis
20 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 turnovers, 3 blocks, 7-18 FG, 0-3 3P, 6-7 FT
Fazekas started off the game about as poorly as he could have, missing his first six shots and looking completely out of sync. Memphis head coach John Calipari rotated between throwing a big, strong and athletic bruiser in Joey Dorsey and a long, pesky and super athletic power forward in Robert Dozier at him, and Fazekas just did not know how to handle them at first.
He took a number of difficult shots on the afternoon, fading away from the basket rather than going up strong and heaving up soft one-handed attempts that just wouldnt fall for him. When he got tired of battling inside, he went out to the perimeter and tried his luck from behind the 3-point line, but to no avail, missing all three of his attempts. On the glass, he was man-handled on more than one occasion by the much more aggressive Dorsey, being pushed around and unable to hold his spot on the block against him. Defensively, he did not do much at all to stop Memphis players from slashing into the paint and scoring at the rim at will.
Fazekas finally got going on the afternoon when a teammate mercifully handed him the ball alone underneath the rim for an easy layup and his first field goal. From that point on, he got much smarter in the way he attacked Memphis defense, abandoning his back to the basket game and relying more on moving off the ball and making sharp cuts off screens and such for easy catches and finishes, as well as by leaking out on the break and scoring in transition. He scored every one of his 7 field goal attempts right underneath the basket on a layup, as you can see in the shot chart below.
Fazekas deserves credit for being smart with his off the ball movement and have the hands to catch on the move and finish under duress, but its almost impossible to imagine any situation where hell be able to do something similar in the NBA on a consistent basis.
Despite his outstanding senior year, this was a really bad way for Fazekas to end his career. Nevada barely played anyone of note all season long, so this is a game scouts will have to rely heavily on when trying to assess how his game will translate to playing against bigger, stronger and more athletic opposition. It would be foolish to judge his entire career off just a single performance, but there were already many question marks before this game, and Fazekas did nothing to answer those this afternoon.
Taurean Green, 6-1, Junior, Point Guard, Florida
14 points, 2 assists, 5 turnovers, 3-9 FG, 2-8 3P, 6-6 FT
Green didnt help matters much with his awful shot selection. He helped keep Jackson State close in the first round by heaving up some terrible attempts from behind the arc early in the shot-clock on Friday, and again seemed to make that his mission on Sunday as well. He also struggled with Purdues full-court press (as he did against JSU in the first half), turning the ball over five times and never really settling into the pass-first organizer that Florida so desperately needed him to be. The Gator big men starved for touches for the first 25-30 minutes of the game, and Green didnt show enough poise in running his half-court sets to help them take advantage of the huge size differential Florida enjoyed in this game.
Over the last 12 ½ minutes, though, Green seemed to recover and played a major role in getting his team over the hump. He knocked down back to back 3-pointers in a 35 second sequence from 13:10 to 12:35 left to go in the 2nd half, and from that point on, did a much better job as the distributor that weve all come to know over the past two years. He got the ball inside the Al Horford and Joakim Noah in particular, and the Gators eventually managed to keep Purdue at bay. The mission of advancing another round was accomplished eventually, and that at the end of the day is really all that matters. Florida will now play Butler in Sweet 16, and they will need Green at his best to avoid another nerve-wracking game.
D.J. Augustin, 5-11, Freshman, Point Guard, Texas
6 points, 5 assists, 6 turnovers, 5 fouls, 1-8 FG, 0-4 3P, 4-4 FT
We could go into great detail about the decisions he took today with the ball in his hands, but wed rather just chalk it off to the inexperience of a freshman and wait to see how he bounces back next season. Its pretty clear that the last game of the terrific season he had should postpone any thoughts he might have had of declaring for the draft this year, as he still obviously has a long ways to go.
Zabian Dowdell, 6-3, Senior, PG/SG, Virginia Tech
7 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 1 steal, 3-9 FG, 0-1 3P
With that being said, this season was largely positive for a suddenly dangerous Virginia Tech squad and for Zabian Dowdell. Dowdell posted career highs in nearly every statistical category, and for most of the season provided exactly what Seth Greenberg had been lacking since the move to the ACC a legitimate go-to scorer. His performance in the win at Chapel Hill was as spectacular an individual showing as any all season, and Dowdell appeared to be peaking at the right time. With a positive showing in the NCAA Tournament, a significant rise in draft stock appeared very possible.
Unfortunately, it just wasnt meant to be for Dowdell and the Hokies. It must be said that the NCAA stacked the deck against Dowdell from day one, matching Virginia Tech up against two of the stingiest half-court defenses in the country. It would have been hard for any individual scorer on any of the teams in that pod to put on a good show for the scouts, and Dowdell couldnt overcome the odds like he and the Hokies did in Chapel Hill. His immense one-on-one scoring ability was stifled by the suffocating half-court defenses of Illinois and Southern Illinois, and the half-court nature of the games limited his ability to attack the rim in the open court. Dowdell struggled to get high-percentage looks and didnt convert well on the occasional midrange foray he was able to make.
So Dowdells Virginia Tech career ends on a bittersweet note. He, along with fellow senior Jamon Gordon, is undoubtedly one of the most important players in the history of the program. Greenberg brings in a banner recruiting class this fall, and while it is unlikely we will be seeing the Hokies in the Tournament a year from now, there is no doubt that the Virginia Tech program is in much better shape than it was upon its entrance into the ACC. But now Dowdell must likely prove himself all over again, fighting it out in the trenches of the Pre-Draft camp but given his physical nature and explosiveness, we wouldnt be surprised to see him win over a few believers over the course of the process.
Craig Bradshaw, 6-10, Senior, PF/C, Winthrop
10 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block, 4 turnovers, 3-6 FG, 3-4 FT, 1-3 3P
Bradshaw, a player who is used to getting double digit field goal attempts, only shot the ball 6 times thanks to great defense from the Ducks. Whenever the ball would go in low to him on the block, Oregon would send down a second player to hound him. This added pressure resulted in several turnovers, a couple of traveling violations, and one blocked shot. Unable to get any good looks in the post, Bradshaw tried stepping out a few times, only to be met with more pressure from Oregon, whose speed was simply too much for him to handle. He was able to knock down one three pointer, but missed two other forced shots from beyond the arc.
Defensively, Bradshaw did not provide much of a presence in the lane for the Eagles. The majority of Oregons shots were from the perimeter, but when they did opt to drive, there was usually a clear path to the basket as Bradshaw did a poor job rotating over to provide help defense. As a versatile big man providing help defense on speedy drivers is something that Bradshaw is expected to provide, and he wasnt able to.
This game was more characteristic of what weve been used to seeing from Bradshaw, who has had an underachieving senior year. This game was a good opportunity to build on the momentum he picked up in round one of the NCAA Tournament, but instead he came crashing back down. This isnt to say that Bradshaw should be discounted as a future pro, he has the tools and versatility to be considered as a second round pick, but he will need solid showings at Portsmouth and the pre-draft camp first.