NCAA Tournament: Stock Watch (round of 32, Saturday games)--Stock Up

NCAA Tournament: Stock Watch (round of 32, Saturday games)--Stock Up
Mar 17, 2007, 04:08 pm
A look at the prospects who helped themselves the most in the second day of games at the NCAA tournament.

Ty Lawson and Tyler Hansbrough combine for a spectacular performance against Michigan State. Ron Lewis and Mike Conley Jr. take down Xavier with some clutch play. Eric Maynor, Acie Law, Derrick Byars, Roy Hibbert, Jared Dudley, and much much more.

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

Final Update

Stock Up

Ty Lawson, 5-11, Freshman, Point Guard, North Carolina
20 points, 8 assists, 1 turnover, 5 rebounds, 6-10 FG, 3-5 3P, 5-6 FT

Jonathan Givony

While it was business as usual for Tyler Hansbrough tonight (meaning he was his usual phenomenal self), the North Carolina game gave us an opportunity to witness a breakout performance from a freshman guard that has steadily been improving all season long until he finally reached the point of eruption. Ty Lawson had an almost flawless game against the Michigan State Spartans, showing arguably the best NBA potential of any point guard we’ve seen in the tournament thus far. In other words, the most impressive performance as far as this year’s NBA draft is concerned might belong to Ty Lawson after what he did tonight.

Lawson was terrific right from the start, knocking down two 3-pointers to start off the game to go along with a layup and a couple of assists. He ran North Carolina’s half-court sets efficiently, feeding Tyler Hansbrough with excellent post-entry passes all game long, and taking matters into his own hands when things bogged down by breaking players down off the dribble and exploding into the lane for a contested layup. Simply put, no one had any chance of staying in front of him when he put his mind to it.

As usual, though, in transition was where Lawson was at his absolute best. He pushed the tempo of the game constantly from the opening tip until the final buzzer, slaloming his way through traffic and making a number of gorgeous passes to reward the teammates that managed to stay with him. One particular play that really showed off his phenomenal court vision was an incredible bounce pass (to Deon Thompson) threaded between two defenders while driving at full speed. This is the type of play that only a handful of point guards in the NBA can make when you begin to consider just how quickly his feet were moving when he threw the perfectly angled pass. Lawson showed off another wrinkle to his game that we just don’t get to experience while watching any other point guard in college—the art of igniting a fast break after a made basket. He was just a blur in transition with his incredible speed, footwork and ball-handling skills, and remarkably enough only turned the ball over once in 36 minutes despite the cutthroat pace the game was played at, not to mention just how much the ball was in his hands during that time.

Defensively, Lawson played a solid game as well, getting the tough task of defending Michigan State’s best player, Drew Neitzel, who did what he could considering the talent disparity in this game, but still finished the game shooting just 9-27 from the floor. He’s the type of in your face pressure defender who hounds his man and won’t let him out of his clamps unless a screen is set on him, something that Michigan State did repeatedly with a fair amount of success.

Throw in the fact that Lawson’s perimeter shooting has been clicking in this tournament so far (he’s 5-7 from 3-point range over two games), and we’re really beginning to talk about a guy who is quickly establishing himself as a lottery pick should he decide to come out. North Carolina will need to advance another round or two to ensure that possibility, but right now he is clearly the second best point guard prospect in this draft, with the gap between him and Acie Law closing with every 3-pointer he knocks down and round his team advances.

Tyler Hansbrough, 6-9, Sophomore, Power Forward, North Carolina
33 points, 9 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block, 10-17 FG, 13-17 FT

Jonathan Givony

The top performance of day one of the round of 32 was easily claimed by North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough. Unleashed from the shackles of the facemask that had so clearly bothered him over the last few games, Hansbrough stormed out of the gates and put together a dominant performance that confirmed what we thought and have written about him so many times over the past two years.

Hansbrough was his old scrappy self again, fighting and clawing in the paint with Michigan State’s overmatched big men and attacking relentlessly with and without the ball. He established position time after time deep in the post, and let his phenomenal strength, footwork and touch do the job in converting efficiently and getting to the free throw line 17 times. Even when it seemed like he had no chance at making a play, he somehow found a way, getting his hands on rebounds he had no business coming down with and running the floor like a man possessed in North Carolina’s high-octane offense.

He finished with 19 points in 18 minutes in the first half, and went onto grab 9 rebounds for the game, being an unstoppable force that willed his team to victory over a very well-coached team that just would not give up. Everything he did was within 12-14 feet of the basket, but with the way things worked out for him, it was hard to argue with the results. He really didn’t show us anything we hadn’t seen many times before over the past two years, but it was nice to see him translate his incredible energy over to such a demanding setting.

Roy Hibbert, 7-2, Junior, Center, Georgetown
17 points, 12 rebounds, 1 assists, 1 turnover, 2 blocks, 6-12 FG, 5-12 FT

Jonathan Watters

Georgetown got a bit of a scare from Boston College this afternoon, but today was yet another example of why Roy Hibbert is John Thompson III’s most important player. With Hibbert passive and in foul trouble for most of the first half, Al Skinner was able to go small. The Eagles frustrated Georgetown with a zone defense and led 30-26 at the break. The second half was a completely different story, however.

Hibbert made his presence felt almost immediately at the start of the second half, collecting several offensive rebounds and forcing Skinner to scrap the small lineup. But reserve shot blocking specialist Tyrelle Blair was no match for Hibbert’s newfound activity level and awareness. Georgetown’s guards got him the ball regularly, and it was pretty much over for BC as soon as he touched it in good position. Even when he missed a handful of relatively easy looks near the basket, he was able to react quickly enough and use his immense length to get his own rebound. He displayed dazzling footwork on several post moves, with a drop step on the left block and quick reaction (for a 7-3 behemoth) step through into the lane really standing out.

Hibbert also did a nice job facilitating ball movement when the Hoya offense bogged down, making several nice passes. His feed to a cutting Patrick Ewing Jr for a contested reverse dunk should go down as one of the plays of the Tournament so far. Boston College was able to draw Hibbert away from the basket at times when their small lineup was on the court, but this is to be expected with a 7’3 big man. With Blair in the game, Hibbert was able to stay home and denied drives to the basket very effectively.

This was another game where Hibbert’s already impressive 17 point, 12 rebound, 2 block stat line just doesn’t tell the whole story. He grabbed 7 offensive rebounds in the game, and was practically playing volleyball with himself at times in the second half. Roy Hibbert’s presence almost single-handedly turned this game around for the Hoyas, and Hibbert looks more and more like a legit NBA center every time he takes the floor.

Jared Dudley, 6-7, Senior, SF/PF, Boston College
19 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 turnovers, 4 steals, 40 minutes, 8-14 FG, 1-2 3P, 2-3 FT

Jonathan Givony

Although his team came away disappointed and his college career is now over, Jared Dudley can walk away from the NCAA tournament knowing that he did everything in his power to put his team in a position to make the Sweet 16. He outplayed the much more highly regarded Jeff Green on both ends of the floor, and did a phenomenal job offensively in keeping Boston College in the game.

The ACC player of the year Dudley was matched up with his counterpart from the Big East in Jeff Green, a fellow SF/PF tweener who made a name for himself similarly with his all-around game and basketball IQ rather than with freakish athleticism and unlimited upside. Dudley played him like a 10-year veteran, frustrating him with his pesky and exaggerated flops, getting in his face to contest every shot he took, and outsmarting him time after time to free himself up for open shots. Dudley knows how to push the envelope just enough to waver between being an instigator and drawing fouls, and this threw Green off his game completely in the first 35 minutes of the game.

This was a great display of Dudley’s versatility on the offensive end. He scored a number of baskets on the catch and shoot simply by working the screens his teammates set for him, either from mid-range or behind the 3-point line, and also created his shot from the perimeter to step into a one-dribble pull-up. On one occasion he even added a spin-move from the 3-point line before elevating off the bounce to lean into his mid-range jumper, an advanced move with a high degree of difficulty. He moved off the ball intelligently all game long, never forcing the issue, always taking what the defense gave him, and exploiting the creases in Georgetown’s defense to find angles to the basket and even get Roy Hibbert into early foul trouble. When a good shot just wasn’t available for him, he had no problem making a smart pass to a backdoor cutter or to his point guard Tyrese Rice spotting up on the wing.

Defensively, Dudley did a good job as noted on Green, but also helped his team out tremendously by getting in the passing lanes for four steals. He converted two of those steals into transition baskets by himself, and had another one late in the game that should have gave him his third assist. On the glass, Dudley was his usual self. He’s not going to outquick or outjump most people, but he will grab his fair share of rebounds at any level simply because of the way he anticipates where the ball will come off the rim and time himself to get there before anyone else. He didn’t lead the ACC in rebounding at 6-7 for nothing, that’s for sure.

All in all, NBA personnel should be familiar by now with what Dudley brings to the table, and what his very obvious deficiencies (athleticism, tweener size, shot creating skills, perimeter defense question marks) are. He’s not going to grow into a full-fledged power forward anytime soon or add a 40-inch vertical leap to his repertoire, but he can help himself tremendously over the next few months by shedding as much weight as he possibly can, in order to maximize his physical tools and prove that he can play small forward position at the next level. We’re not exactly sure where Dudley will be drafted, but we do have a very good feeling that he will be in the NBA for a long long time.

Eric Maynor, 6-2, Sophomore, Point Guard, VCU
14 points, 2 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals, 1 turnover, 5-14 FG, 4-4 FT, 0-1 3P

Joey Whelan

VCU came within a few points of upsetting Pitt in overtime and outdoing their upset of Duke from just a couple of nights ago, and once again Eric Maynor was there leading the charge for the Rams. This time though, it wasn’t so much Maynor’s scoring that carried his team, as much as it was his gritty defense and relentless energy.

Trailing by 19 points in the second half, it looked as though VCU was ready to fold and end their season on a sour note, after thrilling wins in their previous two games. That was when the Rams stepped up their defense, and applied the full court press which had given Duke so much trouble in their first round game. The press worked. The Rams started hounding Pitt’s ball-handlers, forcing turnovers and violations. Maynor was right in the thick of things, looking at times like a man possessed as he chased the basketball and whoever had it. So intense was Maynor throughout the entire game in fact that he picked up a technical foul early on in the first half.

Offensively, Maynor was fearless taking the ball to the basket, using his fantastic speed to blow by defenders and then contort his body while in the air to give himself a good look at the basket. His aggressiveness with the ball earned Maynor a couple of trips to the line, from which he was perfect today.

Maynor, even as a sophomore, has proven that he has a nose for making the big play. His come from behind steal late in regulation led to a game tying three, pulling VCU even with Pitt for the first time since the games opening minutes. Later in overtime, Maynor finished an acrobatic lay up that cut Pitt’s lead to 1 with less than a minute to play.

Even though his season has come to an end, Maynor has given us plenty of reasons to be excited about him for the future. He plays at a level that is beyond most sophomore point guards, and looks very comfortable with the ball in big game situations, something you cannot teach. The most exciting thing about Maynor is he still has two more years left to develop and continue to improve upon his skills.

Derrick Byars, 6-7, Guard/Forward, Senior Vanderbilt
27 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists, 5 turnovers, 9/20 FG, 5/9 3P, 4-4 FT

Jonathan Givony

Great players step up their game when their team needs them most, and that’s exactly what Derrick Byars did today in leading Vanderbilt to an upset victory in double overtime over Washington State.

Judging by the way this game started, you would never guess that Byars would eventually find his way into the stock up portion of this article. He forced the issue badly in the first half, making foolish passes for turnovers, jumping in the air with nowhere to go, being called for a palming violation, displaying shaky ball-handling skills, and even shakier shot-selection.

Byars can get very hot or cold at times from the perimeter due to the inconsistent release point/side to side motion and lack of arch he gets on his jump-shot, but in the second half, he absolutely caught fire to save the game for the Commodores. He hit four 3-pointers within a five minute stretch, and from that point on essentially willed his team to victory. He came up with a few steals, made some very tough contested shots pulling up from mid-range after having created his own shot, and then continued to will his team in overtime, scoring 5 points in the first session.

Performances like this typically stick in the minds of NBA decision makers, since it’s often the last (and sometimes the first) acquaintance they have with a player. Byars helped himself tremendously with his play today, and has a chance to continue to help himself even more next week in the Sweet 16.

Acie Law IV, 6’3, PG, Senior, Texas A&M
Vs Louisville: 26 points, 1 assist, 4 turnovers, 6-14 FG, 13-15 FT, 1-1 3PT

Joseph Treutlein

Acie Law had a strong, yet unorthodox game to lead the Aggies past Louisville in the second round of the NCAA tournament, scoring 26 points but only dishing out one assist. Louisville controlled the tempo for the vast majority of the game, using a hard full-court press to keep Texas A&M out of any semblance of rhythm on the offensive end. Their defense cut off Law’s passing lanes and forced him to create offense for himself, which he didn’t have much problem doing.

Law scored in a variety of ways in the game, showing off his ability to drive to the basket, his mid-range game, his long-range game, and his absolutely tremendous body control in all aspects of his game. Whether he’s going to the rim and drawing contact, pulling up for a jumper from 15 feet, or catching and shooting a three-pointer on the move in transition, Law does an excellent job of staying under control and keeping his shooting form consistent even while moving at very high speeds.

Law did most of his damage on the game by pulling up for floaters and jumpers inside 15 feet and by taking it all the way to the basket, as evidenced by his 15 free-throw attempts on the game, 13 of which he converted. Law’s first step is not blazingly quick, but he does a good job getting the most of his natural abilities, using a variety of fakes and dribble maneuvers to get past his man, and once he gets the first step, it’s hard to keep him away from the basket.

Law has developed a reputation for being a clutch player down the stretch of close games, and he didn’t disappoint in this one. While he didn’t hit his typical three-pointers or score on impressive drives to the rim, Law hit six crucial free throws in the last three minutes of the game, sealing the deal for his team and ensuring their advancement to the Sweet Sixteen.

Law wasn’t much of a factor on the defensive end, as he was frequently matched against Louisville’s least effective guard in order to keep him out of foul trouble in a game where many players fell victim to it.

Law projects as a mid to late lottery pick at this stage of the season, though he has the chance to move up depending on how the ping pong balls after the NBA season concludes. He currently ranks as the best point guard in this draft, and he basically has a lock on that in this class so far. If a team in need of a point guard is drafting in the top 10 and Law continues his clutch performance, leading his team deep into this tournament, he could definitely find himself being considered a bit earlier in the lottery.

Mike Conley Jr., 6-1, Freshman, Point Guard, Ohio State
21 assists, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 turnovers, 3 blocks, 2 steals, 7-15 FG, 1-3 3P, 6-6 FT

Jonathan Givony

Legacies are made in March, and Mike Conley Jr. etched himself into the memory of college basketball fans everywhere with his spectacular performance in overtime of the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament against Xavier.

Despite his lack of experience, he did an admirable job executing Thad Matta’s game plan and running Ohio State’s offense for the most part in this game. His ability to get into the paint was there whenever the Buckeyes needed it, thanks to his phenomenal quickness and outstanding ball-handling skills, combined with his smarts. Despite his coach’s preference for slowing down the game and pounding the ball inside, Conley did a nice job pushing the tempo and getting out in transition when the opportunity presented itself.

Had the game ended after the second half, this probably wouldn’t have been considered anything more than an average game for Conley. Thankfully for us, though, it didn’t, and we were treated to one of the best clutch performances we’ve seen so far as Greg Oden was glued to the bench with 5 fouls.

Conley scored Ohio State’s first seven points of overtime to take a dominating lead that Xavier was unable to recover from. He hit a huge three (despite shooting only 31% on the year), then created his own shot and finished with his off (right) hand on a layup, and then blew by Xavier’s entire defense off a missed field goal and scored another layup in transition. Just for good measure, he found Daquean Cook on the next time down the floor for a deep three that essentially iced the game.

As far as how this affects his draft stock, that is probably for his father/agent Mike Conley Sr. to decide. He was a likely first round pick before this game, and just gained a little bit more notoriety in the eyes of the few NBA GMs who had not made the rounds this year to see him (and Greg Oden), or did not pay enough attention to him. It’s essentially too early to decide whether he should consider striking while the iron is hot until we see how far Ohio State can go in this tournament.

Ron Lewis, 6’5, shooting guard, senior, Ohio State
27 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 8-13 FG, 4-5 3PT, 7-7 FT

Rodger Bohn

Ohio State would be making the trip back Interstate 71 to Columbus at the moment, had it not been for the clutch play of senior Ron Lewis. When the Buckeyes needed someone to step up and score buckets late in the game, they looked to him, not heralded freshman Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr., or Daequan Cook. The Columbus native single-handedly prolonged Ohio State’s chances in winning a national championship in regulation, allowing Conley to take the duties in the overtime session.

While Lewis did not exactly show scouts anything more then they had already seen, he played his game to it’s fullest capabilities. He used his athleticism to convert contested buckets around the rim, while also blowing by defenders off of the dribble. His steady ball-handling skills allowed him to fool opposing players off the dribble, where he used his deceptive quickness to break down the Xavier defense. Lewis shot the lights out of the ball both off of the dribble and from a stationary position, evidenced by his three point jumpshot with 1 second left in regulation. Although his mechanics may seem a bit awkward at times, he has shown that he is always a threat behind the three point line and is awfully confident in his jumper, as shown by the fact that over half of his shot attempts on the year were three pointers.

Of course Lewis has faults as a player, namely his defense and shot selection (which was not a problem today). He struggled keeping the Xavier wings in front of him at times, despite his more than decent athleticism. It is always frustrating to see a player who has all of the potential to be a consistent defender play questionable defense, and hopefully Lewis will grasp better defensive fundamentals at the next level if he hopes to have a long career. Lewis' 2 assists against XU was actually higher then his season average, giving you the picture of how one dimensional the Columbus native truly is.

Today’s game showed everyone how special of a player Lewis has the potential to become when under control. His scoring abilities were put on stage on the national level this season, and just about everyone in the country will surely keep their eye on him for the remainder of time that Ohio State is in the tournament. Pre-Draft workouts will be crucial for him, but with a strong NCAA tournament, it would surely not be out of the question to see him drafted in the second round when it is all said and done.

Justin Cage, 6-6, Senior, Small Forward, Xavier
25 points, 6 rebounds, 1 block, 8-8 FG, 3-3 3P, 6-8 FT

Jonathan Givony

Playing the game of his life in what turned out to be the last game of his collegiate career, Justin Cage could not have done a better job leaving everything out on the court. Defended by Greg Oden because of his supposed lack of perimeter skills, Cage made the coach that recruited him to play college basketball pay by punishing him all game long from outside. Only having hit 10 3-pointers all season long on a 32% clip, he forced us to throw all the statistics out the window as he drained one flat-footer jumper after another, finishing 3-3 from outside. Once Oden learned that he needs to respect Cage by going outside to get a hand in his face, Cage took advantage to put the ball on the floor crudely but aggressively to blow by Oden easily and either finish at the hoop or draw fouls. The fact that Oden fouled out at the end of regulation was in large part due to Cage, who was decked to the ground intentionally with 11 seconds by Oden himself to draw his last foul.

Going into this game, we had Cage pegged as a candidate to play in Portsmouth, mostly due to his prowess on the defensive end. This game should be what gets him in there, although it would be foolish to assume that he just turned into an amazing 3-point shooter and offensive juggernaut overnight (and thus, a great NBA prospect) due to one phenomenal game in March.

Derrick Low, 6-1, Guard, Junior, Washington State
21 points, 2 rebounds, 0 assists, 8/16 FG, 3/9 3PFG

Washington State was able to play tough for 50 minutes thanks in part to a strong effort from junior Derrick Low. Though he has a lot to prove between now and the end of next season, he appears to have some potential for the next level.

Against Vanderbilt, Low displayed the ability to create his own shot, and hit difficult shots on the move. He knocked down both three pointers and floaters from mid-range over bigger defenders. Off the dribble, Low can change directions quickly, and his shifty nature is very hard for opposing defenses to cover. He hit many key shots for Washington State against Vanderbilt, many coming when it seemed like momentum was shifting away from the Cougars In addition to scoring and handling the ball well, he also plays tough defense, and gives a great all-around effort on the court.

Right now, Kyle Weaver handles the creating duties for Washington State, and Low acts as a scorer off the ball. This hurts his draft stock for now, because at this point he hasn’t proven that he can handle the lead guard role. Low lacks the size to play shooting guard in the NBA, so it will be important for him to return next season and attempt to distribute more effectively. If he can prove himself as a point guard, Low could put himself in a situation to make some noise when the 2008 draft rolls around.

A.J. Graves, 6-1, Junior, SG, Butler
19 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 turnovers, 7-19 FG, 1-1 FT, 4-9 3P

Joey Whelan

Graves didn’t play his absolute best game of the season, but he put together a very solid performance in helping Butler advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2003. The jack of all trades shooting guard did a little bit of everything on both ends of the floor, coming up big when his team needed him the most.

After getting off to a slow start, missing several perimeter shots, Graves started relying on his craftiness to get himself in the lane where he was able to do damage against a spread out Maryland defense. Though not the fastest or the most athletic guard by any means, Graves is very good at turning the corner on defenders thanks to his ability to use angles to his advantage. Once in the lane, he is very good at floating shots over taller players, and protecting the ball by using his body. Where he struggled was when a second defender came from behind. Graves did not show great vision for trailing defenders and had a few lay up attempts pinned by James Gist. Graves got hot from the outside in the second half; hitting a total of 4 three’s for the game. On the season, he has only been shooting 35.5% from the outside, but has shown a knack for hitting from beyond the arc in big situations.

Graves is only a junior so he has another year to develop as a player, which he very much will need. At just 6-1 he is severely undersized for the shooting guard position in the NBA, so he needs to develop his point guard skills. His isn’t very fast or athletic, so whether or not he can guard perimeter players at the next level is a major question mark with him. Despite these questions and doubts, Graves is one of those players that just seems to get things done. There is a certain confident swagger to his game, as if he is the only one who knows what he is capable of with a basketball in his hands. With a solid tournament already, and another year left to develop, Graves has a chance to get some 2nd round looks from the NBA next season if he works hard on developing his all-around game.

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