Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Blogging through Maui Part 3

In this final chapter, two of the top teams in the country face each other. This clash of titans, Notre Dame and North Carolina, resulted in some interesting matchups- namely, that of two POY candidates Tyler Hansbrough and Luke Harangody. Both of these teams return the vast majority of their squad from a year ago- and, North Carolina added some depth with an excellent freshman class.

North Carolina:

Tyler Hansbrough- North Carolina's success begins and ends with Tyler Hansbrough. He played a tremendous game on both ends of the floor. He cleaned up his own misses and was dominant on the glass. Also, he demonstrated his rarely showcased talent- the three point shot- which he converted. His hustle plays and aggressive basket attacks set the precedent for his team on the offensive end of the floor. Defensively, he was able to block shots and corral lose balls. Moreover, he fought hard for position on the block and ran hard down the floor. He is the consummate workhorse who gives 110% every time he suits up. Hansbrough was surprisingly quick coming off of his ankle sprain and seems as though he is improving his NBA draft stock. He simply needs to display more consistent range on his jumper and demonstrate versatility in terms of potential perimeter defense. Although it seems unlikely that NBA scouts will fall in love with him over night- especially after all that he has accomplished already- he is doing what he can to prove everyone wrong.

Ty Lawson- He was the most impressive player on the floor tonight. He was able to blow by his defender at half court and take it the length of the floor for an easy layup. Lawson is the fastest player in the country and this trait makes him a viable NBA candidate. He displayed excellent court vision, finding his teammates for several easy inside baskets. ND did not have an answer for his slashing game. Also, he showed a nice touch from behind the arc. On the opposite end of the floor, Lawson played hard, working through screens and playing solid position defense. He has the lateral quickness to stay with his man, but his height will be a concern at the next level.

Deon Thompson- Thompson demonstrated why he could very well be college basketball's most improved player. He was able to knock down midrange jumpers. Thompson attacked the basket and was able to finish against ND's post defense. He established great position in the post and was able to exploit the tired and sick Harangody. He utilized a nice series of drop step post moves. Moreover, Thompson was extremely effective on the defensive end, where he blocked several shots. And, he was relentless on the glass.

Notre Dame:

Luke Harangody- This was not Luke's best performance: given, he was very sick coming into the game, so this is probably not wholly indicative of his capabilities. Harangody played some nice help defense, but had trouble against the length of Thompson and Ed Davis. He struggled preventing Thompson from achieving post position. This weakness is going to be difficult to overcome if he wants to succeed as a post presence in the NBA. On the offensive end, he was his usual efficient self down low on the block. His perimeter shot was off and on throughout the game, and this really hurt his team.

Kyle McAlarney- McAlarney was able to demonstrate a multidimensional skillset. He took his man off the dribble on occasion, and he was effective passing to his teammates when slashing to the basket. Obviously, McAlarney's greatest strength is his three point shot- which was on full display tonight. Defensively, McAlarney was not particularly effective stopping North Carolina's perimeter barrage. On several instances, he was forced to stop Ty Lawson advancing to the basket; this in turn, gave the man he was guarding enough space to hit the open shot. In terms of his NBA potential, he needs to foster his midrange pullup jumper. Also, he should probably hone his point guard abilities so that he can handle running a team at the NBA level. On the defensive end, he is not very quick laterally.

Luke Zeller- This senior will probably receive some looks at Portsmouth camp. First and foremost, this big man has height. He is able to shoot from the perimeter and clean up some shots inside. However, in this contest, he was not able to stop Hansbrough, nor Deon Thompson. He worked hard to establish defensive position, however- drawing some charges.

An Intermittent look at the Preseason NIT Semifinal Part 1

In the midst of the Maui Invitational final and consolation games, the Preseason NIT semifinal was held. An improving Boston College team faced one of the best young teams in the country- Purdue. These "baby Boilermakers" as they were termed last year are a top 10 team because of their tremendous chemistry. They return virtually everyone from a year ago. BC returns their major cogs, (namely Rice) and bring in UVM transfer Joe Trapani and talented freshman Reggie Jackson. This tightly contested contest yielded several noteworthy performances.


E'Twaun Moore-This combo guard was outstanding in this contest. At 6'3 and with nice court vision, Moore is an NBA point guard. He has a very complete all around game. He can shoot from distance or from the midrange. And, he controls the tempo and is able to run plays. Moore found Hummel on several occasions after beating his man off the dribble. He is the consummate slasher who is able to get inside virtually at will. E'Twaun accomplishes this by using stop and go moves to freeze his man, before he him off the dribble. Moore is also a solid rebounder for his size- he has a natural knack on the glass.

Robbie Hummel- Hummel is a tremendous shooter who can pull up from midrange, or step out and kill you from beyond the arc. He is a tremendous decision maker and rarely forces his shot. He is a team leader who is a hard worker on defense, even though his lateral footspeed needs improvement. He relies on his height to shoot over defenders and employs his length to block shots.

Boston College:

Tyrese Rice- Rice played poorly in the first half, being met with traps on virtually every attempt he made to attack the basket. He was able to distribute the ball to his teammates and showed some nice point guard instincts. Rice is a bit short and thus will have to overcome some hurdles in order to make it in the league. However, his ball handling ability is tremendous- he oftentimes splits defenders. He has NBA range on his three and is a capable shooter with a defender in his face. Defensively, Rice is a liability at the next level. He has the quickness to keep up with his man, but he is overmatched against bigger, stronger guards.

Joe Trapani- This UVM transfer is a versatile player. He can hit from the outside, but also bangs on the boards. He is able to attack the hoop, although he is not particularly explosive. He is capable of shooting over his defender, and is scrappy on the glass. Trapani is not a noteworthy defender and his lateral movement could use some work. He does not have a clear NBA position because he is not quick enough to man a guard position, and he does not have the girth to play inside. Thereby, he may have an uphill battle trying to make it in the league.

Rakim Sanders- Sanders is a bulky guard who can shoot from the outside. He is able to muscle is opponents in the post and finish around the hoop. He is explosive off the dribble, but his midrange game is a bit inconsistent. On the defensive end of the floor, Sanders has quick hands and is able to lockdown weaker opponents.

Reggie Jackson- This freshman is a capable slasher who demonstrated some quickness off the dribble. He can shoot the ball from distance as well, but did not really take many attempts. His defensive positioning could use some work, and Purdue's guards were a challenge for him.

Blogging through Maui Part 2

In this second addition, I look at the third place contest between Oregon and Texas. Texas is coming off of a tightly fought contest against Notre Dame in which they almost won on a half court buzzer beater. Oregon matched up against North Carolina and showed some positive signs. Abrams is proving that he can be effective at running the show and Oregon is looking to their young interior players for offensive output.


Damion James- The only word that can epitomize his efforts today is "beast". James was all over the court, demonstrating a quick first step which could translate at the next level, while getting all over the glass. He outrebounded taller players, utilizing tremendous positioning. His aggressive nature will make him a viable lottery pick in this coming draft. James has the potential to become a star at the next level because of his scrappy nature around the basket. Defensively, he is very aggressive and maintains positioning. It is questionable, though, whether or not he can transition completely from post to perimeter defense. He is able to slash very effectively, but he has yet to demonstrate a clear perimeter shooting touch, which is the only facet of his game limiting him at this point.

AJ Abrams- Abrams is a consummate shooter, with the ability to handle the ball and control tempo. He is electric attacking and then pulling up off the dribble. His decision making has improved because of his position change. He is one of the best three point shooters in the country and his quick release will allow him to be in NBA conversations as a second round pick. Because of his combo guard nature, NBA teams will want him to conform to the usual point guard mold. And, this year's experience running his Texas squad will do wonders for his basketball future.

Justin Mason- Mason is extremely explosive off the dribble and plays the faux-point in transition. He has nice vision and may receive some NBA looks at some point. His shooting is pretty impressive, but he is somewhat streaky in that regard. Defensively, he has nice hands and is aggressive going after the ball. His free throw shooting could use some improvement, seeing as he gets to the line a lot. It will be interesting to see how his game progresses in his starting role this year.


Tajuan Porter- At a diminutive 5'6, Porter's chances of making the NBA are doubtful. However, his role on this squad is undeniable. He is this team's leader, and he displayed a nice shooting touch this game. (although he has been pretty ineffective in that regard throughout the year) Porter made some nice passes and attempted to attack the hoop whenever he could. His post entry feeds gave Oregon big men a great shot at finishing around the basket. Defensively, he has quick hands, but is a liability because he faces a height mismatch against virtually all opponents.

Lekendric Longmire- Longmire continued his steady improvement and finished off of some nice post moves and fakes. He was able to shift his pivot on several occasions, and he finished on several of these post plays. His defense could use some improvement, but Longmire is still a work in progress. He could stand to add some girth in order to establish more position in the post, so that he is not consistently fading.

Michael Dunigan- This young big man is one of the most promising aspects of Oregon's future. He is a workhorse inside that rarely gives up on a play. He constantly has his hands on rebounds and is able to establish position. His post game could stand to add some go-to moves, but he relies on considerable bulk in order to attack the basket. Defensively, Dunigan is intimidating. He is a shot blocking presence even though he has a tendency to commit silly fouls. If he can extend his range in the next coming years, he will be a viable threat for Oregon and a serious NBA draft candidate.

Blogging through Maui Part 1

In the first installment of this analysis, I will examine the Consolation game of the Maui Invitation basketball tournament. This year's crop lives up to the usual prestige present in this historically competitive field. In the first contest of this triple header, Alabama and St. Joes matched up in a close game. Ahmad Nivins highlighted St. Joes talented group, still recovering from the collective losses of Pat Calathes and Rob Fergusen. Alabama, on the other hand, returns Ronald Steele- who has suffered through two injury plagued seasons following his tremendous debut and second year on the college basketball scene.


Alonzo Gee- This gifted physical specimen is a more-than-capable wing weapon for the Crimson Tide. While he did not showcase his perimeter shooting ability to a large extent, he was extremely effective attacking the basket. Gee's upper body strength allows him to muscle his way to the basket against virtually any college competition. He is a tremendous offensive rebounder for his size because he supplements his tremendous physicality with a knack for box-out fundamentals. Gee has a nice lift and solid fundamentals on his perimeter shot, but he is very inconsistent from the outside. He has recognized this trend and attacked the basket when his shot is not falling. Gee is one of the best putback guys in the country- and, relying on his unique ability was Alabama's best offensive strategy throughout the second half. Defensively, Gee has quick hands, but he has to be careful with reach in fouls. His positioning and quickness will allow him to succeed on this end at the next level though.

Ronald Steele- This was certainly not a characteristic performance by Ron, so I will reserve judgment until later in the season. He has not played basketball consistently for a two year period- as such, he is not used to the game. Steele's decision making was extremely sound throughout this game, seeing as he is a very intelligent player. He never really forced the issue aside from a few curious shots. He could potentially play at the next level, assuming he can regain his first step at some point in time. Otherwise, he may have to spend a long time in the D League. In this contest in particular, Steele hit a few outside shots early on, but played within himself late in the game. He demonstrated quick hands defensively and positioned himself nicely. Hopefully, his game progresses as he grows accustomed to this high level of play.

Senario Hillman- Hillman demonstrated some tremendous explosiveness and athleticism when attacking the hoop. He got around his man with reckless abandon and finished in highlight-reele fashion. Even when he failed to complete the play, he opened up the window for Green and Gee tip ins. Defensively, he has some lateral quickness and is not afraid to sky in order to block shots. His help defense is particularly good at this stage. If Hillman can improve his outside shot, he could potentially play as a backup at the next level. Honing his three pointer will be pivotal in order to guarantee a future in the league.

JaMychal Green- Green was extremely impressive against Nivins, a chiseled veteran. Even with experience working against him, Green was able to keep several plays alive simply by relying on his length and athleticism. He cleaned up several missed shots and demonstrated very nice timing and leaping ability. Despite his raw talent, he did demonstrate some positive signs in terms of footwork. Green was able to maneuver close to the basket against some challenging post defense. Defensively, like many freshman, he has a tendency to reach and is not particularly great at preventing deep post position- as a result he is foul prone. Although he has a great deal of time to mature, Green's game will translate at the next level if he is able to establish more go-to post moves and improve his post defense.

Andrew Steele- The brother of Ronald Steele has a very quick first step and is a capable slasher. He is more physically imposing than his brother, but his outside game is extremely raw. Andrew Steele has quick hands and could become a serious threat over the course of this season.

St Joseph's:

Ahmad Nivins- Nivins was arguably the best player in this contest. He was extremely efficient from the floor, living up to his billing as one of the field goal percentage leaders in all of college basketball. Nivins displayed tremendous footwork and was able to establish deep post position. Ahmad demonstrated a nice baby hook, and was able to bank a few shots off the glass. He never really forced the action despite being the clear go-to scorer for this St. Joes team. Nivins put on a clinic inside- snatching boards left and right. Defensively, Ahmad could have some difficulty at the next level. He is a threat to block shots and is intelligent enough to draw charges. However, at 6'9, he is susceptible to tip ins and should have some difficulty against longer, more athletic NBA talents. His outside jumper looked like it could translate at the next level- thus he is pretty complete on the offensive end of the floor. If Ahmad can learn to create off the dribble, he is a surefire NBA talent.

Tasheed Carr- Carr displayed some nice jets- getting up the floor and dishing to his teammates. His outside shooting was a nice compliment to Nivins's post game. He has nice body control in transition and is a solid point guard. He helped limit Steele in the second half defensively and demonstrated some nice defensive fundamentals. Carr is a bit short to play shooting guard at the next level, but he could receive some looks at Portsmouth and maybe his vision and team leadership will afford him a role in the league.