Saturday, November 27, 2010

Stephen F Austin vs. University of Arts and Sciences College

In this contest, Stephen F. Austin dominated from the get-go and was able to secure a victory on their home floor.

University of Arts and Sciences (Oklahoma)

Sahlih Butts- This wing was able to get in the lane and create off the dribble. He is constantly low to the ground and therein, it is difficult to steal the ball from him when he attempts to attack the basket. Butts also hit shots from beyond the arc at a pretty consistent clip when left open. He has solid range for a guard and is able to really penetrate off the dribble. When he does this, he is a willing pass and looks to create for his teammates. On the defensive end, Butts has a low stance and was able to lock down his opponents. Butts is also a capable rebounder, even on the offensive end. Overall, Butts is a tough player who plays bigger than his height would indicate. Down the road, he could become a formidable weapon for a minor league squad.

Aaron Daniels- While this senior did not look to score much on the offensive end, he was a willing facilitator. Despite his teams' struggles against a Division 1 opponent, Daniels must look to provide experience and score in order to supplement the production of Butts.

Stephen F Austin

Jordan Glynn- Glynn is an effective, undersized post presence who was able to demonstrate a nice offensive repertoire in the paint today. He implemented a nice drop step and jump hook, which he used to keep defenses off balance. Glynn has a decent medium range jump shot and is able to back his way into the paint at the college level. On the defensive end, Glynn is able to bang with players much larger than him. Look for Glynn's efficient production to really be a determinant of how far this Stephen F Austin team can go this season.

Eddie Williams- Eddie is an undersized shooting guard who can create his own shot. In this contest, he struggled to find his range, but was able to play within himself. When Williams is not hitting three point shots or slashing to the basket, he focuses his efforts on the defensive end. Williams was able to limit Butts' and others' production.

Denzel Barnes- He is the captain of this Lumberjack squad who is a willing distributor and an excellent three point shooting option. Barnes was efficient in this contest and looked to get the ball to his young wings.

Jereal Scott- Scott was able to match Glynn's production inside and really worked to control the glass in this contest. Scott was able to box out and effectively seal his man in order to grab rebounds. He was physical posting the ball up as well, and powered his way inside.

Amos Olatayo- This freshman displayed an efficient jump shot and was able to create off the dribble. This recruit played within himself and looked for his shot within the team offensive scheme.

Brandon Cutler- The 6'8 transfer was able to dominate on the glass and utilize his skill level to score on smaller opponents. Cutler was a solid defensive presence as well, but he will need to limit his aggressiveness at times so that he can stay out of foul trouble. This is an adjustment one can expect the transfer to make over the course of the season.

D League Notes: Maine Red Claws vs. Austin Toros

-Kevin Palmer is an efficient scorer who can hit his open three point shots. He did not force the issue and scored in a variety of ways off the curl etc. Look for him as a call-up candidate this season. His handle seems to have improved a bit since his college days and he was able to get out in transition.

-Marcus Cousin has demonstrated noticeable improvements from his college days. He was the first player in this contest to reach double figures, and he has fought on the glass all night long. Not only did he dominate Gallon and Rolle on the glass, but he also stepped out and hit the medium range jumper. Looks like a call-up candidate to me.

-Paul Harris is his usual self- corralling offensive rebounds and utilizing his tremendous athleticism. He has excellent hang time and slashing instincts. One noticeable change has been Harris's work on his shooting form on free throws. While his outside shots are still flat, his form looks a little better. He still has a ways to go before he can play in the league as a shooting guard, but he is extremely explosive and is able to get by defenders.

-Michael Joiner is a valuable team player who is a willing passer and an excellent rebounder. He has a nice ability to step out and hit the jumper as well. He is a physical presence on both ends of the floor. Joiner was one of the most impressive team options because he was able to hustle to loose balls and create extra possessions for his team.

-Magnum Rolle tried to do too much in this contest. He did a poor job boxing out on the glass, and took away from his team's effort. He shot one-and-done jumpers and was unable to convert on any of them. With that said, he does still have tremendous athleticism and potential on the defensive end.

-Thomas Gardner is a pretty intelligent veteran who was able to attack the basket when his shot was not falling. He is a willing passer and team player, but needs to be more consistent shooting his jumper if he is going to receive any 10 day contracts this season. He looked to take over the game down the stretch.

-Cardell Johnson plays within himself and is a solid point guard. Defensively,he is extremely aggressive, but players are able to shoot over him due to his small size.

-Champ Oguchi could have been one of the more consistent jump shooters in this contest. He answered in this game and hit several threes down the stretch for his team. Oguchi is a strong guard who can absorb contact attacking the basket.

-Eugene Spates was extremely impressive scoring the ball inside and being aggressive. He was one of the best weapons in the post for the Red Claws.

-Lewis Clinch has a very quick first step and is unselfish with the basketball. Whether or not he has a defined NBA position remains to be seen.

-Lawrence Westbrook is a good shooter but he needs to play under control.

-Lance Thomas was still playing team basketball in this one- drawing charges and tallying rebounds.

-Tiny Gallon has a lot of potential and will probably make the NBA within the next few years. His footwork is fairly underrated for a player his size, and he is mobile considering his build. Gallon needs to continue to cut weight in order to be able to match up with some of the quicker big men of the NBA. Gallon was able to collect rebounds, but he did turn the ball over and got outplayed by Cousin.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Houston Baptist vs. Alaska Anchorage

In this close contest, the home squad at the Great Alaska Shootout got the win.

Houston Baptist

Andrew Gonzalez- This thin wing did not flash the potential that he evinced in previous contests. He shot poorly from the floor and turned the ball over primarily due to his poor ball handling. As a senior, he does not possess the muscle mass to play as a professional basketball player. He must hit the weight room so that he can assert himself physically- this will allow him to be stronger with the basketball. Despite his underdeveloped frame, Gonzalez is able to draw contact when he is not struggling with foul trouble. Despite his early season shooting, Gonzalez needs to develop physically in order to make an impact at the next level, which will probably be in a minor league somewhere.

Michael Moss- Moss is a diminutive point guard who is feisty on the defensive end. In this contest, he was effective passing the ball and was an essential part of the HBU half court press. Moss has a pretty jump shot, which he showcased in this game. He is able to get his feet set and spot up when driving to the basket. Defensively, Moss creates turnovers with his aggressiveness and anticipation. If he wishes to play beyond this year, he might be able to make a PBL roster.

Miles Dixon- This guard shot well from the floor and was able to penetrate in the lane. Dixon was also aggressive on the defensive end and was able to collect two steals against UAA. He generally played within control, but should have demanded the ball more on offense. His turnovers did hurt the team though. Look for his development over the next couple of years.

Alaska Anchorage

Brandon Walker- Walker had a standout game and was able to shoot the ball well from beyond the arc, hitting 4 out of 7 three point shots. He also controlled the tempo for most of the game, and was able to pass out of traffic. Even though this occurred most of the time, he did succumb to the solid HBU perimeter defense at times. With that said, Walker was able to limit HBU's guards and was solid on the defensive end.

Mario Gill- This guard had a solid game and was able to score inside against HBU's frontline. Gill played way taller than his 6'2 size and was able to collect 9 rebounds. Normally, he is a solid three point shooter who can fill it up from beyond the arc, but he had an off game here. Gill has solid athleticism and nice physical tools, which he uses to exploit defenses.

Taylor Rohde- Rohde got into foul trouble and was not as much of a factor as he normally is on the offensive end. However, he was able to rebound well and play within himself when his team had the ball. Rohde should improve his handle and work on asserting himself more on the offensive end. Defensively, he was not particularly effective and tended to make silly plays on the ball.

Oklahoma vs. Chaminade

In this prolific upset, the Silverswords were able to will their sixth all-time victory at the Maui Invitational. Led by diminutive point guard Steven Bennett, this Chaminade squad was ready for an inexperienced Sooners squad who struggled shooting the basketball.


Steven Bennett- Standing at a minuscule 5'6, Steven Bennett is a tiny basketball player at any level of the game. Despite his small stature, Bennett plays with just about as much heart as any player in the country. A favorite teammate and a floor general, Bennett has been proving doubters wrong his entire career. Add this contest as another notch on his belt. Bennett was able to blaze by his defenders virtually at will, and use tremendous body control to contort his body and finish. Despite the degree of difficulty on most of his inside shots, Bennett was able to score at a fairly high clip when getting in the paint. When shooting jumpers, however, Bennett's shot was somewhat flat and he failed to connect on both of his three point attempts. With that said, Bennett allowed his offense to come to him and was able to take over in the closing seconds because of the patience he displayed on the offensive end. When he was not scoring the ball, he was effective at involving his teammates- in particular, shooter Shane Hanson. Projecting his game to the next level, Bennett does not have the strength to play in the NBA. However, he may receive some looks from teams overseas to fill a role similar to that of former Bonnies guard Marques Green.

Mamadou Diarra- After transferring from USC, Diarra looks to be coming into his own with an increased role in the offense. He is a go-to threat for his Chaminade squad, as there are not too many 7 foot interior threats at the Division 2 level. In this contest, Diarra was able to seal his defenders in the paint and shoot jump hooks over them. Not only is he rebounding the basketball, but he also seems to be improving on his post footwork, which is still a work in progress. Diarra has outstanding size and length on the defensive end of the floor. NBA teams should give him an extra look at the Portsmouth Invitational next season, as he has the physical tools and developing post game to be an effective role player off the bench. He is still very raw, but an NBA team could take a flier on him.

Shane Hanson- Hanson is a three point specialist who really caught fire in this contest. At 6'6, Hanson was able to find open spots on the floor and nail shots far beyond the arc. He was also able to rebound the ball decently well on the offensive end. If Hanson can work on his defense, he may receive some looks either in lower European leagues or by American minor league squads.


Cade Davis- Davis was the lone player helping the Sooners to stay in the game. He displayed an effective three point shot which he used to keep defenses honest. Also, he did an excellent job moving without the ball, curling around screens and either pulling up or slashing to the basket. Davis is not particularly quick or athletic, but he possesses a high basketball IQ, which was on full display in this contest. Davis is fairly effective shooting off the dribble and squaring his body to the basket. His role on the Sooners is highly reminiscent of Rip Hamilton's play for the Pistons. Defensively, Davis is aggressive, but he is not particularly quick laterally. Davis should receive some looks from scouts at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament because he is a highly intelligent basketball player. However, he will not receive play-calls for him in the league, and thus may be a system player. Therein, his best bet may be to play overseas and obtain a major role on a Euroleague team.

Andrew Fitzgerald- After making improvements in his transition from freshman to sophomore, Fitzgerald struggled to really assert himself on the block in this contest, scoring most of his points off of putbacks. Fitzgerald needs to try to establish more post position. He does possess an outside jumper which he could improve upon over the next few years. Also, he is fairly athletic, but needs to be more physical inside and grab rebounds. In this contest, he got into foul trouble and was not much of a factor. It will be interesting to see how Fitzgerald improves over the next few years.

Non-BCS Standouts Part 1- UNLV vs. Tulsa

This contest was decided in the second half after the UNLV Rebels put their tremendous experience and defensive pressure on display. Not only does the majority of their backcourt remain in tact, but they also have added some height and strength inside. UNLV is a strong candidate to make the NCAA tournament again. On the other end, Tulsa is looking to rebuild after losing Jerome Jordan and Ben Uzoh to graduation.


Chase Stanback- This 6'8 UCLA transfer could be the best NBA prospect in the Mountain West conference. (along with Kawhi Leonard) He is a tall, lengthy wing who can step out and hit the perimeter jumper and also attack the basket. While he should look to improve his handle, Stanback is a handful from beyond the arc and uses this ability to keep defenses honest. In general, Stanback is a solid athlete who should be able to translate at the next level. On the defensive end, Chase is capable of defending multiple positions. He is fairly quick laterally, and can get his hands in the passing lanes. Overall, Stanback is a pretty complete player who needs to develop physically in order to handle the superior strength and athleticism of NBA opponents. If Stanback can continue his shooting from beyond the arc, he should be in consideration for the first round in this year's draft.

Derrick Jasper- Jasper is a powerful guard/forward who is capable of attacking the basket or crashing the boards for an offensive rebound and putback. Jasper is extremely aggressive inside, and is a capable three point shooting threat. Offensively, he does not have the quickest first step, but he is still able to consistently throw defenses off balance. Jasper is a hustle player who runs the floor and exerts maximum effort on the defensive end. At this stage of his career, Jasper simply needs to be more consistent on the offensive end in order to get looks at the next level. Jasper does not have a defined position, and it will be interesting to see how he measures at the Portsmouth pre-draft combine. All in all, Jasper does not have a defined position and lacks the quickness to keep defenses honest at the NBA level. However, he does have the desire and skill level to be effective if he is able to elevate his game next year. Look for him to gain experience in the D League before he receives any looks from NBA squads.

Carlos Lopez- This 6'11 freshman forward may have a future as an NBA prospect if he is able to develop physically. Lopez possesses the frame to put on a good deal of weight. Currently, he plays with tenacity and is aggressive attacking the basket. His post repertoire is not fully developed, and he needs to improve his go-to post moves. On the other end, Lopez has a great deal of potential with his size and length. He is able to play positional defense, but needs to learn how to stay out of foul trouble. Look for Lopez to be on draft radars over the next couple of years.


Steven Idlet- NBA scouts are giving this 7 footer a look because of his soft touch and physical profile. Idlet is capable of stepping out and hitting the perimeter jump shot just inside the college three point arc. If he were to audition for the NBA, he would have to extend his range. Idlet also has a nice post game that could still stand to be more effective. He must develop more counter moves and look to establish post position more aggressively. However, this will always be an area of weakness for Idlet at the next level because of his lack of lower body development. On the defensive end, Idlet is unafraid of bigger players and is a capable positional defender as well. He also has decent lateral mobility for a player his size. Despite these strengths, Idlet is still a major project because of his thin build and extremely poor rebounding ability for a player his size. If he wants to be considered by scouts, he must corral more lose balls and grab some rebounds for his team.

Scottie Haralson- Haralson is another big guard in the typical Tulsa mold- similar to Hurtt and Udoh before him. He is a capable three point shooter, but is somewhat undersized. He can get in the paint and hit the runner as well. Despite these strengths, Haralson should look to be more consistent on both ends of the floor- he has a tendency to become complacent in games. He must demand the ball at times and look to shoot whenever there is an opening. Haralson may receive some NBA looks down the road, as he is only a sophomore.

Justin Hurtt- Hurtt is the unquestioned leader of his Tulsa squad who must look to run the point if he has any hopes of playing at the next level. While he is a capable shooter, Hurtt must look to facilitate for his teammates and let his offense come to him. Hurtt is extremely strong and is able to aggressively attack the basket and draw contact. He should improve upon his poor assist to turnover ratio and continue to attack the basket. Hurtt is a typical tweener who could receive an invitation to Portsmouth Camp, but this is not a guarantee unless he is able to lead Tulsa to a postseason appearance.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Minor League Fantasy Basketball Team: Elmwood Park Tree Frogs

Elmwood Park Tree Frogs

Arena: New Arena Plan because of a lack of basketball venues in area

Marketing Plan: To use promotions to the fullest to appeal to different clientele in Bergen County. Placed in a more urban town, on Route 46, our location is at the crossroad of Paterson and the more upscale residents in the Bergen County markets. In order to draw more fans, we would have to bring in promotions for different local artists who may be popular in the area to perform at halftime. We would like to attract different target markets by arranging the mini-arena so that there can be different price points for seating, such that we can attract different classes of people to the same venue. We would like to attract particular demographic audiences, so we might want to have half time shows dedicated to a particular culture- preferably either the long-standing Italian cultural presence or the growing Spanish population in the area, depending on the night.

The major objective in placing this team at its current location is to bring together crowds from both the up-scale neighborhoods of New Jersey, while also offering season tickets so that other working class families can attend. We have a broad marketing strategy, but are looking to attract niche markets whenever we cater to a specific group through our half time performers and special nights.

In the offseason, the facility would be rented out for high school sports in the Bergen County area. Further, the arena should be such that it can support more sports than basketball. Such a multi-functional arena could serve as a venue for sports clubs across the area, and top teams might travel to practice at this facility- there are quite a bit of private schools in the surrounding area to draw from. Moreover, we are looking to attract some good family fun following the exodus of the New Jersey Nets to Brooklyn, which we have identified as a market opportunity. With limited professional basketball options in the immediate area, individuals and families alike may travel to see a game if the franchise is promoted effectively enough. College basketball has yet to make a resurgence in the Tri-State area and thus, Elmwood Park would be a prime location for a community oriented minor league squad.

In terms of the style of play: we are going to have depth at every possible position and try to have notable team chemistry. That means that we are going to bring in some system players to fill late-draft roster spots. Management has experience in promoting minor league basketball in the past, and we hope that we can continue to be successful.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Texas A&M Corpus Christi vs. Texas A&M

The outcome of this contest was determined from the get-go. The Aggies pushed the pace early and were able to take advantage of the Islanders' weak transition defense. They exploited several matchups inside in transition. Early on, Justin Reynolds left the game with a hand injury.

The Islanders were able to create some turnovers and attack the basket. However, they often overdribbled into traffic, and made some poor passes. In particular, they made far too many post feeds into a sea of defenders. Also, the Islanders tended to turn the ball over way too frequently. For the Aggies, their offense came in spurts. Every time the Islanders went on a run, the Aggies would storm back into the game on points off of turnovers.

The Aggies big men outrebounded the Islanders' frontcourt in the first half. They possessed some nice set plays to free up jump shooters. They do have some weapons from beyond the arc, including Nathan Walkup and BJ Holmes who shot the ball well and were able to run around picks for open shots.

More impressive than their perimeter shooting was the athleticism of the Aggies' bigs- Middleton and Roberson. They really controlled the paint in the first half and rebounded the ball, particularly on the defensive end. They played tough defense on Bond, Reynolds, and Watt as well.

Player Evaluations


Demond Watt- Watt was one of the few bright spots on this Islanders squad. He was physical on both ends of the floor and really asserted himself in the second half. He again displayed his drop step and quick slashing moves to the basket. Watt is fairly agile and able to get around most defenders, even when he is on the baseline. He shot a higher percentage from the line in this contest, and was able to get there often thanks to his aggressive basketball instincts. Overall, Watt looks like a borderline case for the Portsmouth Invitational. He is a bit undersized, and he has not demonstrated any midrange game. If he can improve on that and not turn the ball over as he did tonight, Watt might receive some looks.

Terrence Jones- Jones helped the Islanders stay in the game early by attacking the basket relentlessly. Not only did he display a decent handle when driving, he was also able to hit open bigs in the paint. Despite this, he turned the ball over far too often, and must work on this before he can be considered a pure point guard at the college level. Jones did not look to shoot much from the perimeter, but had a nice first step, which he exploited at every possible instance. Jones will have to improve his game in order to provide some stability for the Islanders because they turned the ball over far too frequently.

Texas A&M:

Kourtney Roberson- This freshman made an immediate impact on the floor today and could be one of the top youngsters in the Big 12. Roberson has a very strong physique and thus does not have the appearance of a typical freshman. He weighs 230 pounds, and is extremely physical inside- corralled rebounds and playing hard nosed man to man post defense. Given his strength, Roberson is able to contort his body on post ups and absorb contact inside. He was able to run with the Aggies when they pushed the tempo. Early on in his career, Roberson has the physical attributes of an NBA power forward. He needs to further develop his post game and continue to be assertive on the defensive end. But, he should receive looks from scouts almost immediately.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

An Islanders Sneak Preview: Texas A&M Corpus Christi vs. Northeastern St.

Texas A&M Corpus Christi vs. Northeastern St.

In this matchup, TAMCC was fairly effective in the first half, hitting several three pointers and shutting down most of Northeastern St.'s weapons on the offensive end. Reynolds and Bond were solid in the post and Topps was hitting on all cylinders. In the second half, however, Northeastern St. mounted a comeback led by their star Dominique Gaines. During this time, Northeastern St. players were scoring, while TAMCC players were pushing the ball inside and getting fouled. When they failed to convert on almost all of their free throws, they allowed their once 20 point lead to dwindle down to single digits. Ultimately, the Riverhawks' offensive stride was cut short, however, by Horace Bonds' solid defense and Watt's block on Gaines to effectively end the contest.

Texas A&M Corpus Christi Scouting Report

Demond Watt- Watt headlines the Islanders' returnees and should take on a leadership role in his senior season. Watt is a physical presence on the inside, who has a nice drop step and spin move. His jump hook is also fairly effective in the lane. He also tends to attack the glass with reckless abandon. Possessing a solid frame at 6'7, Watt can overpower most midmajor big men. However, it will be interesting to see how he fairs against some bigger frontlines. In the past, he has been effective because of his high post skill level and ability to hit the quick jumper in the paint. On the defensive end, Watt compensates for his lack of height by playing physically and blocking shots off help defense scenarios. Moreover, Watt can pass the ball and generally possesses a solid basketball IQ. In order to be effective at any higher level of basketball, however, Watt will have to achieve more consistency on his outside jumper and work to extend his range. Finally, his free throw shooting has been very poor despite his solid form. He must perfect this before he can play at any higher level of basketball.

Justin Reynolds- Reynolds is a bruising 6'9 interior player with an NBA ready body. He can bang with high major players and is a capable rebounder, particularly on the offensive end. In the post, he has some decent spin moves, but should improve some of his repertoire. He is able to draw fouls at a high rate, but rarely converts at the line. While is shooting form is somewhat effective, as evinced by his occasional three point makes, Reynolds has a tendency to not put enough arc on his shot. If he can improve the consistency of his perimeter shooting and make more of his free throw attempts, Reynolds could easily become a 15 point per game player. Defensively, Reynolds can be effective when he utilizes his superior size and strength. However, he does have momentary lapses where he allows an opposing big man to establish low post position. As it currently stands, while Reynolds has the physical profile of an NBA talent, he currently has some holes in his game which he needs to fix in order to be considered by a professional squad.

Garland Judkins- This Arizona transfer has made an immediate impact, particularly on the defensive end. Judkins has an extremely strong upper body and thus is able to absorb contact while attacking the basket. He is a capable midrange shooter and is crafty when getting in the lane. On the defensive end, Judkins plays hard and has been able to corral some loose balls and force turnovers. Despite this, Judkins is not particularly quick laterally and may struggle to defend some speedy guards. Overall, Judkins has made a nice impact early in the season, and it will be interesting to see how his role evolves by the end of the season.

Antonio Topps- Topps is the new point guard of this Islanders squad. He has waited his turn for three years and now is finally starting to see some minutes as a lead guard. While Topps is not an NBA prospect, he is a decent option for the Islanders because he plays unselfishly and tends to revert to Clarks' offensive sets. Early in the season, Topps has evinced an improved three point shot. He is not particularly effective off the dribble, but he can hit open jump shots. Given the loss of sharpshooter and All Southland performer Kevin Palmer, Topps is going to have to shoot the ball more frequently from beyond the arc. While Topps' experience and leadership are valuable on the offensive end, it is his defense which will be his primary contribution. Topps possesses solid lateral quickness, as he constantly faceguards opposing teams' best perimeter players. Antonio has quick hands and can get in the passing lanes when necessary. Ultimately, Topps is one of the more complete role players on this squad because he plays within himself. If he continues to improve, I see no reason why he could not play in a league like the PBL down the road.

Horace Bond- Bond is a versatile player who is capable of playing multiple positions. In this contest, Perry Clark inserted him in a lineup alongside bigs Demond Watt and Justin Reynolds and he was effective on both ends of the floor. More specifically, his defensive prowess allows him to guard anyone, from a 2 to 5. Such a versatile, experienced presence is exactly what the Islanders are in dire need of. On the offensive end, Bond likes to slip under the basket for layups either through screens or on baseline cuts. Bond attempted to perfect his three point shot over the summer, but this area still remains a work in progress. However, you will see him occasionally step out and hit the open three if he is uncontested.

Jawan Nelson- He is a lumbering post presence that tends to overpower people inside. Nelson can be effective on the glass at times, and is a solid option off the bench. Look for him to take on a major role for the Islanders after the departures of most of their frontline a year from now.

Northeastern St. Scouting Report

Dominique Gaines- Gaines is one of the more explosive guards in Division 2 basketball. He has excellent body control and is able to alter his shot in mid air. Because of these abilities, Gaines is an excellent slasher. The lefty is able to stop and go, and can hit the pull up jump shot- something that is missing for most players at the college level. Gaines' offensive repertoire is very advanced for a division 2 player. He plays within himself and is a willing passer. Despite being only 6'2, Gaines may be able to play either the shooting or point guard positions. If he wants to increase his pro prospects, he will have to bring the ball down the floor more often and look to penetrate and pass to his teammates. Gaines is fairly athletic and thus is an exceptional rebounder for his size. All in all, Gaines is a player that may receive some looks at Portsmouth Camp this
year because of his lightning fast first step and his developed offensive game.

Antoine Branch- This lightning bug point guard is apt at attacking the basket. He has a quick first step, which he uses to exploit opponents off the dribble. Branch is also an excellent shooter when he can find a rhythm on the move. He is capable of making some difficult shots against hard nosed defenders. Branch can play a role as a specialist behind the arc. He is capable of hitting the long ball on the move. He must improve in his role as a facilitator, despite the fact that his Northeastern St. team relies heavily on perimeter play and does not have a player on their roster that is taller than 6'7.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Big East Season Preview

1. Pittsburgh- At the top of this list, you have to rank the Pittsburgh Panthers amongst the top ten teams in the nation. Their team defense and overall chemistry on this end were remarkable a season ago. In order to be in top form, Ashton Gibbs will have to continue his productive shooting and improve as a facilitator. Further, the early season playing time that Travon Woodall received a year ago should allow him to shoulder much of the point guard responsibilities. Gibbs will see some looks as the lead guard as well. Also returning in the backcourt are senior wings Brad Wanamaker and Gilbert Brown. Look for Gary McGhee to lock down opposing bigs, and Dante Taylor to develop into a solid post option.

2. Villanova- This team's season starts and stops with its point guard play. Maalik Wayns and Corey Fisher look to really push the tempo and dominate slashing to the basket. Fisher has improved most aspects of his game including his jump shot. Wayns has bulked up over the summer in order to better absorb contact in the lane. Look for both to compete for all Big East awards. Also returning for Villanova is senior Corey Stokes, who can fill it up from beyond the arc. Look for Stokes to pound the ball inside more frequently this season. Athletic sophomore wing Dominic Cheek has also begun to fill out his frame, and should be a much more dynamic slashing presence. On the interior, Antonio Pena brings his usual post production. Rounding out the starting lineup is Mouphtaou Yarou, who will build on his productivity late last season. Wildcards Isaiah Armwood and James Bell should be impact players off the bench. This team clearly possesses the most upside in the Big East. The development of Fisher and Wayns should guarantee a top 4 spot in this conference. But, the development of Yarou as a viable NBA prospect should determine how far in the tournament this team goes.

3. Syracuse- While this team lost a lot in Rautins, Wes Johnson, and Onuaku, they bring in two of the top freshman recruits in the Big East- Dion Waiters and big man Fab Melo. Look for Fab to be in contention for freshman of the year, with his developing post game and huge frame. Couple this new big man with rugged senior Rick Jackson, and you have all the pieces for a successful Big East run. The Syracuse backcourt is extremely talented as well, and possesses a lot more depth. Backcourt mates Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche return for another shot at a Big East title. And, you can expect Brandon Triche to undergo a notable transformation this year following a promising freshman campaign. Despite these solid supporting parts, look for wings Dion Waiters and Kris Joseph to provide the most significant contribution for this team. Joseph will look to shoot the ball more efficiently, and Waiters will look to attack the basket with reckless abandon. All in all, the development of their wings and freshman big man Melo will determine how high this team finishes in the Big East.

4. Marquette- This ranking may come as a surprise to some due to the loss of do-it-all forward Lazar Hayward, who is now with the TWolves. However, the return of sharpshooting guards Darius Johnson-Odom and Jimmy Butler means that Marquette's three point onslaughts will continue to plague Big East opponents. Johnson-Odom should experience an increased role in the offense, and Dwight Buycks may also receive more touches. Promising freshman Vander Blue's development will really be the X factor for this team at the point guard position. His ability to distribute the ball and mature as a Big East guard will determine how far this Golden Eagles squad can go. Also key to this team's success will be the improved Marquette frontcourt, which features Joseph Fulce, Erik Williams, and newcomers Jamail Jones and Jae Crowder. Their ability to rebound the basketball is going to be critical following the loss of Hayward.

5. West Virginia- At the number five slot, there is somewhat of a drop-off in terms of quality. While this team does return the vast majority of its core, they did lose their two best players. The losses of Butler and Ebanks relegate this team to a lower position in the Big East standings. Despite this, WVU returns their two experienced point guards for another year- Joe Mazzula and Darryl Bryant. Throw in improved star big man Kevin Jones and a fine supporting cast and you have another top 5 Big East team. Look for the success of this squad to depend on the health at the point guard position, and the improvements offensively on the wing. Jonnie West and Dalton Pepper should see adequate minutes, and thereby must put points on the board. Sharpshooter Casey Mitchell must play consistent defense, or Huggins will continue to sit him regardless of his offensive prowess. Look for freshman guard Noah Cottrill to see some minutes off the bench. In the frontcourt, Deniz Kilicli should improve his offensive output. His increased production alongside star big man Kevin Jones would once again give WVU one of the most formidable frontcourts in the Big East.

6. Seton Hall- After suffering major setbacks in Big East play a year ago, the Pirates return the vast majority of their talent. Standout big man Herb Pope should once again average a double double with this year's thinner frontcourt. Expect him to have an impact on both ends and really demonstrate that he is an all Big East talent. Following SHU's coaching change, look for Jeremy Hazell to play a little bit more under control, but continue to score in spurts. His heroics will determine how far this team can go once again. Also, Seton Hall's point guard responsibilities will be shared by veteran transfer Keon Lawrence and improving Jordan Theodore. Jamel Jackson and newcomer Fuquan Edwin will make their presences felt off the bench. Finally, transfer Eniel Polynice will see a good deal of floor time, and should serve as another offensive weapon. And, look for chiseled, undersized forward Jeff Robinson to continue to hit midrange shots and attack the glass. This Seton Hall team is the same squad as from a year ago. Look for them to initially struggle with the coaching change, but to adapt come the Big East season.

7. St. John's- The Johnies return virtually everyone with the exception of Norm Roberts and oft-injured Anthony Mason Jr., who was recently competing at an NBA training camp. The heart and soul of this team rests with standout DJ Kennedy who should vie for all Big East awards by season's end. This experienced squad returns nine quality seniors, who should all see some action at one point or another. Diminutive point guard Malik Boothe is the floor general, who will do a solid job of distributing the ball to wings Kennedy, Paris Horne and Quincy Roberts. At the forward spots, Justin Brownlee and a healthy Justin Burrell should score in the paint and be a factor on the glass. Sean Evans and Dele Coker will also see time inside at the center position. Evans' shot selection and defense will determine how the Johnies fair against opponents with a strong frontcourt. If he plays poorly on this end, however, Lavin may opt to sacrifice offense for defense and put Coker in the game. If this team can remain healthy and buy into coach Lavin's system, they should be headed back to the NCAA tournament.

8. Georgetown- While this Georgetown team looks the same at its guard slots, it is going to miss NBA forward Greg Monroe, who was clearly their most valuable player. Given their collapse in the tournament a season ago and their off season during Greg Monroe's freshman campaign, I think that it is fair to assume that the Hoyas are a bubble team come March. Chris Wright, Jason Clark, and Austin Freeman make up one of the most versatile backcourts in the Big East. In the frontcourt, the development of Hollis Thompson is going to be the most critical for Georgetown's success this year. If Henry Sims and Julian Vaughn can provide some offense inside, this team may exceed expectations.

9. Notre Dame- This Notre Dame team is very similar to the Harangody-less squad that went on a pivotal run at the end of the season to secure an NCAA tournament bid. They feature an improved super senior in Tim Abromitis, sharp shooter/point guard Ben Hansbrough, and a healthy Scott Martin. These three will shoulder the majority of the offensive output this year. Newcomer Jerian Grant should also see some time off the bench. On the interior, Carleton Scott and Tyrone Nash will have to play solid defense against some of the bigger post threats in the Big East conference. All in all, their successes on the defensive end coupled with Hansbrough's point guard play will determine how high Notre Dame can reach in the standings.

10. Cincinnati- The Bearcats are clearly the most unpredictable team in the Big East conference. While they lost their steady, go-to point guard and their star freshman from a year ago, they also return the vast majority of their team. Inside bruiser Yancy Gates is going to have to play more consistently this time round if the Bearcats are going to have a sniff at the NCAA tournament. Point guard Cashmere Wright is going to have to distribute the ball effectively and take over some scoring duties as well. Shooting guards Larry Davis and Dion Dixon should provide an effective scoring punch on the wings. And, Rashad Bishop will have to double his scoring output and improve his shooting efficiency for the Bearcats to be successful. Given, their ranking only stands if defensive standout Rashad Bishop is eligible to play. In the frontcourt, Gates will have to consistently put points on the board and Ibrahima Thomas will have to continue to hit jumpers and collect rebounds. Cincinnati added some muscle inside with freshman forwards Justin Jackson and Kelvin Gaines. It is my suspicion that this year's version of the Bearcats will evince greater team chemistry on both ends of the floor because they will be able to share the ball more and will not have such a heavy reliance on iso plays for Vaughn and Stephenson. Look for them to improve as the season carries on. They could either surprise everyone and make the tournament or sink to the bottom of the standings. It all depends on whether or not certain players can step up and carry this team on offense.

11. Connecticut- This year's biggest disappointment is going to be the UConn Huskies. Despite the chemistry issues Jerome Dyson brought to this team, his scoring output was needed for the Huskies' success. Now with his and Stanley Robinson's departure, Kemba Walker is the sole standout remaining. Walker should be one of the most dynamic players in the Big East this season, and his team is going to heavily rely on his ability to penetrate and dish. Look for freshman Jeremy Lamb to see significant time and contribute offensively. Also, look for Alex Oriakhi to improve considerably from a year ago, particularly in the post. Despite these other options, UConn places too much responsibility in the hands of Walker. While he should have a breakout season, this team's youth and lack of depth should contribute to their downfall. Finally, their team's postseason ban should at least partially inhibit their motivation in games.

12. Louisville- This Louisville squad has the best chance to prove me wrong of all the teams ranked. They should be solid defensively, especially on the perimeter. However, the losses of Jerry Smith, point guard Edgar Sosa, and star big man Samardo Samuels will probably be too much for this team to overcome. Expect Jared Swopshire and Peyton Silva to both have breakout seasons on the offensive end. And, experienced guard Preston Knowles should continue to fill it up from beyond the arc. However, the biggest question marks remain for their interior players- Terrance Jennings and Rakeem Buckles. If either of them can increase their offensive output and play solid interior defense, Lousville will exceed expectations.

13. South Florida- This South Florida team features solid interior play from forwards Jarrid Famous and Gus Gilchrist. Together they form one of the best front lines in the Big East. Despite this strength, South Florida lacks experience at the guard spots. The loss of Dominique Jones cannot be understated for a team that once firmly sat on the bubble a year ago. Look for freshman LaVonte Dority, Ohio St. transfer Anthony Crater, and JUCO transfers Shedrick Haynes and wing Hugh Robertson to try to fill this void.

14. Providence- This young Providence team does possess some talent. Freshman guard Gerard Coleman should contend for freshman of the year honors. He will be relied upon heavily on both ends of the floor to provide an immediate impact. Sophomore guard Vincent Council should see some time at the point guard slot. And, wing Marshon Brooks will be asked to do a little bit of everything- to score and rebound the ball for this undersized Providence squad. Overall, the dismissal of Jamine Peterson is going to be too difficult to overcome, especially in this transition season.

15. Rutgers- Mike Coburn remains the one permanent fixture amid the wave of transfers that Rutgers has experienced over the past four years. His steady play alongside guard James Beatty should help Rutgers to survive its non conference schedule. Despite Coburn's longevity, Dane Miller is an all Big East talent who will be the fact of Rutgers basketball in upcoming seasons. If sophomore Austin Johnson and freshman Gilvydas Biruta can control the paint and provide some offensive input, the future of Rutgers basketball will be bright.

16. Depaul- This team is far and away the worst squad the Big East has to offer. Guards Jeremiah Kelly, Mike Stovall, Tony Freeland, and Brandon Young should all make an impact, but come conference time, this team should not win a game.