Saturday Quick Shots

Saturday Quick Shots
Jan 21, 2007, 03:37 am
First Things First…

A big shout out to Texas and Oklahoma State, for reminding us all why college hoops is so great. To be honest, it had been a while since the sport had given us a game like this. I would go back to the 2005 Maui, when Gonzaga-Michigan State went 3-OT’s, and before that the West Virginia-Wake Forest marathon the previous March. Much has already been written about this game, but I do have a few thoughts to add:

- Byron Eaton’s shot could have been dismissed as simple luck, but it really did change the game. Texas had taken a 7-point lead, but Eaton’s miracle shot clock beater took the wind out of their sails. The Cowboys didn’t immediately jump to the lead, but did hold Texas to just one field goal over the next seven minutes. By the time Texas got back on track, this was a completely different game.

- Texas was behind the eight ball virtually the entire stretch run. The young Longhorns didn’t lead the final 13 minutes of regulation and after an early advantage in the 1st OT, once again were either behind or tied until Durant’s free throw with 10 seconds to play in the 3rd OT. Texas was down 5 with 50 seconds to play in regulation, needed two baskets in the final 30 seconds of the 1st OT, and again faced 5 point deficits in the 2nd and 3rd OT’s. Wow.

- For all the talk of Kevin Durant’s excellence in this one, it wasn’t a great game for the freshman. Marcus Dove wasn’t locking him down, but he was doing a great job of denying the freshman the ball and forcing him to take difficult shots. Durant was clearly frustrated shortly before Dove picked up his 4th foul, and Durant would score 21 of his 37 points after Dove fouled out with 6 minutes to play in regulation. The fact that Durant managed to foul out a defender like Dove is only a testament to his greatness on the college level, but the junior certainly gets high marks for slowing down yet another elite-level scorer. As for Durant and his 37, it is scary to think that this was probably the best individual defense he will face all season.

Big Things for Mays in June?

- From an NBA perspective, it is impossible to ignore what James Mays is doing on a nightly basis at Clemson. Contrary to what has been reported by some, Mays actually has lost a game in his Tiger career (he is a junior, not a sophomore). But while his personal 28-game winning streak was snapped last weekend, Mays was electric in defeat. He went nuts on the Maryland frontcourt for 22 and 15, and was really the only Tiger to give the visiting Tar Heels any cause for concern on Wednesday evening. Mays again led the way in today’s blowout win over Boston College, going for 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists. Mays is quickly erasing the “raw, unskilled athlete” tag, showing the ability to knock down the outside jumper and the ability to create for his teammates on the move. Now that the junior is showing such excellent feel out there, it is hard not to see him playing in the NBA in the next two seasons.

Wilson Chandler - Big Time Upside

Yes, Wilson Chandler has a few rough edges. He is still painfully inconsistent, and oftentimes appears more focused on what he can do as an individual than what he can do to help his team win. At the same time, the sophomore looks a bit more polished every time I see him. Today he was just about the only Blue Demon to show up, and he displayed just about everything an NBA SF prospect needs to display. While he missed a pair of crucial tip-in attempts late in the game, Chandler still made his mark on this game around the basket. He also created his own shot very nicely going to the basket and continues to display much-improved touch from the perimeter. Chandler’s 2007 draft stock is unclear and he might not stick around long enough to emerge as a legitimate lottery candidate, but you can bet that if he does, he will. He really does have NBA star upside.

Stanley Robinson – The Unsung Freshman?

For all that has been written about this year’s freshman crop, it is hard to believe Connecticut freshman SF Stanley Robinson continues to fly under the radar. As far as the NBA goes, there is little not to like about the Alabama native. Robinson checks in at 6’9, runs the floor like a gazelle, shoots it well, and competes ferociously around the basket. After recently earning a spot in the starting rotation, he had his breakout performance on the national stage this afternoon against Indiana, scoring 21 points in a variety of ways and grabbing 9 rebounds. After watching the athletic display Robinson put on this afternoon, it is easy to see the freshman trading in his Husky jersey for an NBA one as early as next year. Wings this tall, athletic and skilled just don’t last very long at the NCAA level.

Pac-10 Risers…

Two Pac-10 teams ought to be the biggest risers in Monday’s new polls. USC got a huge win earlier in the week over Arizona, and have picked up on Tim Floyd’s defensive techniques startlingly fast. It bears repeating that this is a team fully capable of winning the Pac-10. The Trojans have beaten Oregon on the road and Arizona at home, and really should have taken down UCLA as well. USC is still relatively young and has literally no winning experience, but light bulb has clearly come on. Nick Young, who torched Arizona for 30 earlier in the week and scored 18 in today’s win over Arizona State, is as good as anybody in the conference.

Of course, another team with a legitimate shot at winning the conference title is Tony Bennett’s Washington State Cougars. The visiting Huskies didn’t have Spencer Hawes this afternoon, but the 75-47 final score is pretty much all that needs to be said at this point. The Cougars are as big a story as their PNW counterparts to the south, but continue to receive much less fanfare for their accomplishments. If any individual deserves a bit of press, it has to be junior Kyle Weaver. The 6’5 combo guard is averaging 15 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists over his last four games, including a monster 14 point, 13 rebound, 10 assist, 6 steal triple double effort in the last second loss at Stanford. Weaver keys Washington State’s lockdown halfcourt defense, is deadly creating his own shot in the midrange, and even contributes as a shot blocker. If Weaver can add some range on his jumper, he could have a bright future in front of him.

Point Guard Showdown Disappoints…

A lot of things were expected of tonight’s UNC-Georgia Tech showdown in which six of the country’s top 30 or so prospects took the court, but a defensive struggle wasn’t one of them. The Heels dominated this one from start to finish, but not by scoring at will. Georgia Tech couldn’t do anything in the halfcourt offense, Javaris Crittenton finishing the first half with 0 points, 0 assists and 5 turnovers and North Carolina didn’t need to do much on the offensive end to win. Of course, Tywon Lawson wasn’t much better. The game takes on a higher level of electricity every time he touches the ball, but tonight this usually resulted in a turnover. Both Lawson and Crittenton are likely future NBA starters, but tonight showed that the point guard position is rarely a quick learn.

It is also worth mentioning how much tougher Crittenton and Thaddeus Young have it in attempting to lead a team in the ACC, as opposed to the UNC freshmen who get to play more complementary roles. Brandan Wright had a relatively quiet night, but didn’t need to produce for his team to win. He ended up making several big plays in the second half, despite being held to single digits for the first time this season. Young finished with 22 points, but he really didn’t seem to impact the game the way the stats would indicate.

Much has been made about Tyler Hansbrough’s decline in play, which is fairly obvious despite similar averages to last year. Teams have certainly done their homework, with defenders no longer biting on the first pump fake and getting physical before he gets into a scoring move rather than during the move itself. Hansbrough hasn’t completely adjusted, but is still probably the premier player in the ACC. Tonight he took quite the beating from the Georgia Tech front line and got to the stripe 15 times despite numerous moments when the referees swallowed their whistles in regards to physical contact in the paint.

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