Tuesday, March 13, 2007

First Round NCAA Tournament Predictions

While many analysts on TV are unfounded in their predictions, I will make a detailed case for every first round matchup.

Florida vs. Jackson St.
As in most 1-16 matchups, Florida will absolutely dominate this contest. Trey Johnson will produce from the perimeter, but it is going to take a miracle for Jackson St. to match Noah and Horford inside.

Arizona vs. Purdue
This is a very intriguing contest. Purdue has played well of late and Arizona has underachieved all season long. Will Zona step it up in their tournament matchup? Zona should defeat Purdue just as beat Wisconsin in last season's tournament. Lute Olsen seems to get his teams to perform their highest in the tournament. Matchup wise, I do not believe that Chris Kramer will be able to contain Mustafa Shakur. His experience and athleticism will be tough for Purdue to contain. Is Teague going to be responsible for Marcus Williams? If so, there is a huge matchup problem for Purdue. Williams has a couple of inches on Teague and superior length. He should be able to use this to his advantage on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. Radenovic should give Purdue headaches. He will bring Landry out on the perimeter, opening up the game for the guards to attack the basket. And, defensively, Radenovic is deceptively strong and may be able to thwart some of Landry's efforts. If Landry can bully Radenovic inside, it could be a long game for Arizona. That would open up the perimeter game for Teague. Overall, I think Zona will be able to contain Landry and win this contest- I expect this game to approach or go into an overtime though.

Butler vs. Old Dominion
This is everyone's upset pick. However, I believe that Butler will win this game because of their outside shooting. Butler has something to prove after nationally televised losses to both Wright St. and Southern Illinois. Everyone is calling them a bust and glorifying ODU. While ODU is more than capable of pulling the upset, one has to consider their latest matchup problems. They lost because of George Mason's tremendous shooting spurts. If Butler does not have an off night shooting the ball, I believe that their outside shooting may be too much for Dahi and co.

Maryland vs. Davidson
While some feel that Davidson is going to pull this upset out, I disagree simply because of the vast amount of talent on Maryland's squad. DJ Strawberry and co. are simply too athletic and should play the game at their pace. I do agree with those who state that this matchup will be close. Stephen Curry is quite the shooter and I do not know if Maryland will be able to contain his production without leaving a viable second option open- such as Jason Richards. Inside, Davidson is too young and does not have enough length to contend with Ibekwe and Gist.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Scouting the Southland

On this occasion, I was able to view one of my favorite midmajor squads. This Islanders team is currently leading the Southland.

Texas A&M Corpus Christi vs. Texas Arlington

TAMCC center Chris Daniels was really the only prospect of note in this contest. Overall, he did not perform up to his capabilities; therein I do not feel that one can wholly assess his potential based on this game. TAMCC rarely looked inside to Daniels and relied mostly upon the outside shooting of their second option, Josh Washington. Furthermore, Coach Arrow subbed Daniels in and out of the game in the second half- never really allowing him to get into much of a rhythm offensively. In a limited role, he did demonstrate some of his offensive tools. Daniels revealed his go-to post moves- his hook shot seemed very accurate and he had a nice array of fadeaway shots. Because of his size and length, he did a nice job on the boards. With that said, he could assert himself more on the offensive glass by working on his positioning. Also, he was very well conditioned. When he began his career, he struggled with the pace of the game and thus played a limited role. But, in this contest, Daniels had little trouble getting up and down the floor. Despite his talent, Daniels possessed some glaring holes that were evident in this contest. Even though he has considerable size and strength, Daniels rarely drove at his defender and never really attacked the basket- it seemed as though he was trying to avoid contact. Also, if he added a midrange game to his arsenal, he would be a complete package. Daniels's form on his free throws proved that he may be able to develop a shooting stroke. On the defensive end, Daniels was clearly more impressive. He was able to alter several shots and deter attempts by Arlington's guards to drive to the basket. His lateral foot speed was far quicker than one would expect. Daniels also demonstrated a shot blockers' mentality, but he was easily drawn in the air by pump-fakes. All in all, despite Daniels's poor performance on the offensive end, he is still an intriguing prospect who could have a career at the next level.

Even though Daniels receives much of the notoriety, Josh Washington was clearly the player of the game. He set a school record by hitting eight three point shots. Washington's dead-on shooting was the overwhelming reason for TAMCC's victory. Not only did he surpass the school record for three pointers in a game, but he eclipsed this mark by attempting a mere eleven shots from beyond the arc. Washington had an excellent game because he did not force the issue and as a result, his shots were in rhythm. Besides his three point accuracy, Washington indirectly opened up the game for his teammates by focusing Arlington's attention towards the perimeter. As far as NBA potential goes, teams constantly look for three point shooters- and, Washington certainly fits the bill. Despite his shooting accuracy, he is severly undersized for a shooting guard- standing at 6'3. He does not have the court vision to command the point guard duties and is best suited at the off guard; thereby, he will have a tough time finding a role in the league. He did not cut to the basket very often in this contest- which is clearly seen in his one shot attempt inside the three point line; thus, one can not fully assess this facet of his game. Defensively, he was solid- not overly impressive because of his lack of height, but his strength at two hundred pounds allowed him to physically matchup with his opponent. Overall, I believe that if Washington elevates his game in the NCAA tournament, he could be on Portsmouth scouts' radars.

The third component of this TAMCC trio is Cedric Smith. Smith thrived in the fast break offense with his considerable speed and athleticism. He employed several nice post moves and scrapped on the offensive glass to grab rebounds. Despite his excellent agility and athleticism, Smith is a classic tweener. He was forced to act as the primary big man when Daniels was out of the game. Yet, in order to have any success at the next level, he must develop some semblance of a perimeter game. On the defensive end, Smith used his jumping ability and quickness to matchup with his opponent. But, he struggled with the more physical players in half court sequences. In the NBA, he would face even stronger players who can match his athleticism; thereby, I do not feel that he is suited for the power forward. Overall, he did an excellent job defending the post. At the next level however- he is not talented enough to play an Amare role; thus, he is best fit for a career overseas or in the minors.

A player that really stood out for Arlington was Lamar Posey. While he is way too undersized to play NBA basketball, he would be a nice minor league prospect in a year. At 6'5 250 pounds, this junior uses his considerable bulk to score inside. On this occasion, he bodied up with Smith and used excellent footwork to score several inside hoops. He was really the only player for Texas Arlington who provided a consistent effort. Posey rebounded the ball very well for an undersized forward. On the defensive end, he was not a liability even when he faced the difficult task of guarding Daniels. He forced Chris to fade away from the hoop instead of attacking it directly. Overall, I felt that Posey provided a spark off the bench and he could develop into a minor league prospect with another year under his belt.