Author Archives: alleninxis

A closer look at L.J. Peak

While L.J. Peak competes in the USA Under-19 trials in Colorado Springs this week, it provides a good chance to look back at his freshman season. After a stirring debut vs St. Francis (NY) and a strong showing against Kansas, Peak never fully displayed the scoring ability many had hoped for until the last games of the season against Utah. An injured ankle, the freshman wall and an increase in competition and scouting reports all contributed to a slow offensive start to his collegiate career. However, starting every game but one – it was evident JTIII’s trust in Peak did not waver.

The most apparent reason as to why Peak was a 25 minute per game starter was his defensive ability. I would argue (and I’m not sure it can be argued against) that Peak was the 2nd best perimeter defender on the Hoyas roster, only behind a senior year Jabril Trawick.

Peak offers a near total package defensively at the off-guard position.

a) Peak can fight through screens with his strength and possesses good enough lateral athleticism to not get caught on a ball screen. The ability to do so, limits the amount of switching the defense has to do. And the pick and roll coverage Georgetown has to employ with Peak on the ball is simple – a soft show and quick recovery. Along with a strong physical frame, Peak has an ability to slither around screens.

Even here, DePaul is able to get a slightly open look – but Peak’s ability to stay close makes it a shot that you’re more than willing to concede in the college game:

Off-ball, Peak stays connected as well:

There are times where switching is a necessity and the on ball defender has to take on a bigger defender, while it didn’t happen often – Peak’s strength holds up well:

b) Peak’s ability to laterally move his feet defensively was perhaps best on the team, even better than Trawick who sometimes struggled to keep his body in front of the ball.

Even on possessions where Peak is beat slightly, he keeps his body in position where the shot has to be finished over him – and Mikael Hopkins (who will be sorely missed defensively) helps out:

c) Peak also offers a physical profile that has length to go along with his strength and athleticism as a defender. The times that Peak does get beat off the dribble or on a screen he has the ability to trail an offensive player and make a play. You even see Peak size up an opponent while trailing – almost as if he’s a defensive back in football lulling a quarterback into a false sense of security.

Here, Peak gets around two screens and still is able to recover to strip the ball – one of the better examples of his overall defense:

d) Peak has, what I assume is an instinctive trait of making sure his hands are shown on defense. It’s a very minor thing, but it is a real thing. Peak shows his hands while on the ball, trying to disrupt the vision and passing openings of his man with the ball.

e) Off-ball, Peak does a good job of staying connected to his man but not deserting responsibility as a help-defender.

This isn’t to say it’s all positive on that side of the floor- Peak was prone from time to time to make rookie mistakes. Either with personnel:

You can’t lose James Blackmon out of a 2-3 zone

Losing his man:

Or sometimes you just get caught:

All totaled, Peak’s freshman season on the defensive end was an overwhelming success. In what is generally the most difficult transition for freshman – Peak displayed the physical attributes along with the discipline and understanding to be a plus defender out of the gate. With another year in a college program – working on his strength, quickness and overall athleticism – Peak should have a goal in mind to be on the of the handful of best defenders in the Big East.

Where Peak needs to make the most strides in his sophomore year is at the offensive end. I personally felt that Peak’s body and explosiveness was not the same in the dog days of the Big East season as it appeared to be in November. Perhaps it was the ankle injury or just running out of a steam as a freshman. A summer in the gym hopefully results in a better conditioned player, improved perimeter shooting – and a better understanding of when to attack the rim. Peak has a real ability to finish through contact but at times is a bit too confident to get the ball to the rim. What worked in high school didn’t quite net the same results. As seen in the graph below – there wasn’t much to work with outside of finishing at the rim- and while 51% isn’t a terrible number for a freshman guard – it became Peak’s only way of scoring the ball and it didn’t come at an efficient rate. According to Hoop-Math, 49.8% of Peak’s shot attempts came at the rim, compared to 29% for Isaac Copeland and 21% for Paul White.

ljpeakshotchart

This is an attempt over a 7′ defender- one Peak can get to go down occasionally, but the degree of difficult is high:

It would be nice to see a mid-range game show itself as Peak’s career moves forward – this is a tough, tough shot – but he has the right idea in pulling up:

Not in a hurry:

Here Peak did something that was rare for him as a FR, finding a teammate off of his drive:

While the offense that Georgetown employs does not lend itself to guards and wings collecting many assists – Peak only having 32 on the season is a reflection of the tunnel vision he sometimes has.

If he can add the elements of a pull-up game along with more composure on his drives, everything will come a little bit easier for him on the offensive end.

But make no mistake about it, Peak’s ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim is a real asset and something the Georgetown offense has often lacked. It may be just a matter of Peak picking his spots more effectively to become a more efficient finisher at the basket.

What you hope to see more often with an added year in the weight room:

Where Peak can really shine is in the open-floor. Via Hoop-Math, Peak had an eFG% of 56.8%, a mark good enough for 3rd on the team behind seniors Trawick and Aaron Bowen. He has a long stride and wastes little motion in trying to go around defenders, even his euro-step is a powerful take. He also offers an array of release points, scoop shots and angles off the glass:

An important part of the Georgetown offense is the ability or willingness to cut hard. It’s boring and repetitive for some of the guys at times, but it must be done. Peak did a good job for the most part – better than White or DSR, worse than Copeland and Bowen – somewhere in the middle. But with his athletic ability, an uptick in hard cuts would be a welcome sight.

Peak’s 3 point shot is something that will need major improvement. I don’t mind the release and mechanics, the ball does come out as a bit of a knuckle ball – but he keeps his balance for the most part (habit of fading away at times) and shoots the ball with confidence. It is a reasonable for Peak to evolve into a 33-35% shooter from 3, up from the 25% he shot last season. If he can do that, it will be enough for opponents to honor his shooting ability and not play off of him as much as say, an Aaron Bowen or even Jabril Trawick for most of his career. A positive sign is that Peak shot the ball best from the top of the key – and that is where most of Georgetown’s 3pt attempts open up through the offense.

I’m anxious to find out if Peak makes the U-19 Team USA. I believe compared to his counterparts that he should, given a good week of practice. A summer of commitment be it with the national team or back at Georgetown is going to go a long way in turning Peak from a promising freshman to one of the more complete guards in the Big East.

I didn’t understand why Peak played quite as much as he did, especially as the season wore on, but a review of the season gave me a better understanding. He’s proved to be a very valuable defender and I can’t fault JTIII for believing that his offense would find itself again. It never totally clicked and he had his struggles – but there is a lot to work with here. He should be to one of the most complete wing defenders in the Big East and a double digit scorer nightly – two things that I believe are well within reach.

Me and LeBron – A fading adolescence.

I do not know who will win the 2015 NBA Finals. Sure, I’d pick the Warriors in 7. But I don’t know how the Cavs reconfigure their defense, or how healthy Kyrie or Klay are. I don’t know, and it’s not the end all be all. Sure, it matters to legacy, it matters to social media, talk radio, and the people who want to compare and contrast LeBron James to Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and anyone in between.

What I do know is I won’t get this again. Late summer of 2001, as a 15 year old sports obsessed teenager I discovered LeBron in a magazine article (SLAM, issue #54). It was the first national magazine article LeBron had made an appearance in, months before the Sports Illustrated cover that put him into the mainstream. Had this occurred 3 or 4 years later, I would have scoffed and sought out a negative that I could find. What has he done yet? He’s only 16. Older player X is better. But in that moment? It was what can he do? I believe your imagination slowly deteriorates – at least it has for me. Those lucky enough to imagine and create late into life are an enviable bunch to me. As a 15 year old, I still dealt with the imagination of what could be. Later in life, the reality of what can’t be has become prevalent.

photo (8)

It didn’t take much to reel me in. I like to think that at an early age I had a good understanding of basketball. And LeBron had it. I felt anyone who couldn’t see it just didn’t understand. Here he was, 6’8 200 and whatever with athleticism that was unparalleled. We’ll see that part again. We are not seeing the mind paired with it. Sure, he needed to refine his game – defense, shooting – later on a post game was needed as well. But as a baseline? There wasn’t anything else you could want. What were you missing? Because Carmelo Anthony had accomplished more in a team setting? No, those accomplishments can’t be taken for granted, but 12 years later I wonder the same thoughts when he’s compared to inferior basketball players of the past.

Perhaps other people are drawn to musicians, or artists or writers. I envy the potential of having a lifelong relationship and a following with a figure. Here, in the sports arena, there is a 15-20 year window, max. I struggle with the inevitable ending of it all. As early as the 2011 Finals and his biggest failing to date, I began to ask myself – if the run is near over, where or how can I find this again? I’m 24 at the time and worrying whether I’ll ever get this experience again in my life. Sure, I had childhood heroes (Jordan, Shaq, Griffey) but that was childhood heroship. LeBron combined what was left with that with a growing intellect and desire for knowledge. I don’t feel as if I can shake the cynicism that exists when viewing athletes to combine those two aspects again. They can’t do this and they can’t do that and they sure aren’t LeBron.

Between now and the 2011 Finals, LeBron piled on two more MVPs, two titles, and a barrel of stats dumped into his career resume. I have enjoyed every stop along the ride. I’ve long stopped telling people through the internet that they need to appreciate what they’re watching. The relationship isn’t the same, and in a way, I assume the people who have criticized him are likely long gone from having a figure to experience such a journey through. They may have had it before with Dr. J, Jordan, Bird, Magic or Kobe. And soon enough I’ll be the one nitpicking after every Andrew Wiggins misstep or Kevin Durant playoff failure. It’s just easier in this day and age to root against someone than for them.

For now? I’m still on a LeBron-high through sports that can’t be replicated in my day to day life fandom and escape from reality, aside from when Georgetown plays. It taps into my fading childhood that I get further from each passing day. Between the summer of 2001 to now, I’ve gotten my drivers license, graduated high school, graduated college, moved 1,400 miles from home (to Miami coincidentally), lost friends, gained friends, gone from Craig Esherick to John Thompson III. With LeBron, I’ve seen it all: from a culmination as the greatest player in the world (pick your date), a Game 7 shootout with the original Big 3, a string of summers that seemingly piled on top of each other until it hit rock bottom (2009, 2010, 2011), to the triumphs of 2012 and 2013. He’s met the expectations, which made this 14 year continuous ride possible in the first place. He has total mastery of his craft, which is a book unto itself on why it has been a joy to watch him play the game.

So I’ll be watching June 4th, as I have with nearly every LeBron playoff game since he started out post-season play in 2006. The result will matter, as it always has. A win is the defining moment of his career over a more powerful Warriors roster. A loss creates a damning 2-4 Finals record. You’ll find me on the internet afterwards dissecting who, what, and why it occurred. Admissions of failure, praising of greatness, condemning of teammates – it’s all in play. But the aspect that matters most for me is the emotion that these events can evoke and the fear that it fades away. For now, I have another Finals series to watch, another shot at glory. And for a couple of days the potential of what could be… the imagination of the unheard-of plays through my mind.

DSR

DSR: I think it’s fairly certain he goes undrafted and either attempts the D-League or heads overseas where he can and will have a long and successful career. There just isn’t a market for sub 6’2 guards who play at one speed (and not a quick one). DSR did not leave anything on the table with his ability, there is pleasure to take in from watching a college player max out his talent. Watching him play the first few games this past season I thought he was hunting for his shot and had the NBA on his mind – and it apparently may have stayed there – but he played for the team and transitioned into the PG position better than most could have hoped for.

DSR will be missed as a ball-handler, FT shooter and a crafty scorer who could take over for stretches against lesser talented teams. This isn’t a knock, it’s a positive when you’re struggling through a Tuesday night game in Allstate Arena and he gets 24 points in a 6 point win. (I actually wrote that outcome without looking it up or realizing Georgetown did play at DePaul on a Tuesday, won by 6 and DSR posted 25, not 24.) That’s just the type of player he is. You knew exactly what to expect. The only variable at times was his shooting, but even that had become predictable. His steadiness will be missed.

Perhaps he was in line to be the most productive and consistent guard of the III era – albeit not providing the same type of ceiling Chris Wright and Austin Freeman did. His struggles with length and size were evident later on in the year with certain match-ups (Xavier, Utah). When people asked to see a more selfish DSR, I never saw a way for him to get to that point against better competition. But all in all, a great contributor to the program and representative of the university.

Where Georgetown goes from here: JTIII and staff will have to find a guard one way or another. Be it with a late 2015 signing or more likely, a post-graduate transfer (which is also more appealing). Trey Lewis (maybe?), Damion Lee (long list), Derrick Gordon (?), Adam Smith (?), Anthony Collins (?) and others will be discussed. I can’t deny that’s it fair game to be frustrated with the staff for not having an inkling of this scenario. However, it’s my guess they had the same reaction as the fan base upon hearing of the news.

Next season’s team will be monstrous. LJ Peak is now the 2nd shortest player at 6’5, and you would assume you see a bit of Paul White at 6’8/6’9 playing in the back court. The predicament to me, would be a roster that will struggle shooting the ball – but at its size may not be best situated to run either. It’s size and skill across the board will have to make things work in the half court similar to III’s first batch of teams at Georgetown.

With DSR there was always a ceiling. I can’t imagine a SR year DSR looking much different from a JR year DSR. Physically there isn’t a lot of work left to be done. A 35inch vertical and a growth spurt isn’t a summer of work away. DSR was a constant on the floor, but I’m not sure others played off of him as much as he played off of himself. DSR on a bad team is likely DSR on a good team, as evident from 2014 to 2015.

dsr

Not a selfish player by any means, far from it – but I don’t believe others played well because of him or leaned on his facilitating (in fairness, it’s not offense that will play off of the PG often) to significantly hinder the growth of the young players with his departure.

Tre Campbell is now nearly a lock to play 75% of available minutes. LJ Peak, Paul White, Isaac Copeland and Marcus Derrickson will play a ton, featured in big, versatile lineups and we can expect Kaleb Johnson to get his feet wet early on now. Jessie Govan was always going to be plugged in immediately and while this doesn’t impact the forward and center positions in any way, it could provide continuity heading into the 2016-2017 season, one which holds a lot of promise on paper.

DSR was an indispensable 6th man on a Big East Conference championship team that earned a 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. He was the best and most reliable player on a 2nd place Big East team with a 4 seed and NCAA Tournament win. He’ll be missed, next season has gone from a Top 10-15 potential team to a group that will probably float around the back end of the Top 30-35 and flirt with the bubble (safely, in my opinion). Today is a step back, and another unfortunate loss of a player declining to join a ready-made team (Jeff Green ’08, DaJuan Summers ’10, Greg Monroe ’11, Hollis Thompson ’13, Otto Porter ’14). All of those names have gone on to lead successful careers, in the NBA or elsewhere. DSR will be no different. Georgetown has gone on to replace those names and still find success – even if not at the highest level which we have all hoped for since Jeff’s departure. That doesn’t change here, either. The highest level? The program can hit that again, too. It just hinges on another player in the same situation next year. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Hoya Saxa.

50 Shades of Gray – Predictions, hopes and the 2015 Georgetown Hoyas.

My take on the Georgetown Hoyas 2014-2015. Predictions, observations and random musings:

  1. DSR isn’t the only Hoya on First Team All BE. Joshua Smith joins him.
  2. Isaac Copeland and LJ Peak both start games at some point or another during the year.
  3. Hoyas continue to wear their worst uniforms in recent memory until Nike provides some digs in the 2nd half of the year.
  4. The best closing lineup eventually becomes: DSR/Jabril/Peak/Copeland/Smith
  5. Paul White’s ball-handling becomes a real asset.
  6. The training staff still fails to carry a mirror for contact lens issues (ht/ my old friend RDF)
  7. While his time is limited, Reggie Cameron is a better than 40% three point shooter.
  8. Hoyas grab attention by knocking off Florida in Atlantis in Round 1 and Kansas at home in early December.
  9. After dropping a close one to Wisconsin, the Hoyas knock off Oklahoma for a 3rd place Atlantis finish.
  10. Defense is almost back, and the adjusted D Rating falls in between a respectable 94-95.
  11. The offense checks in at a near III era average of 111.
  12. Bradley Hayes is only used in an emergency role.
  13. Aaron Bowen sees his minutes cut from last year but still contributes in a spark plug role.
  14. With more on his plate, DSR’s efficiency takes a dip but is offset by more talent and skill in other spots.
  15. A 14-2 home record.
  16. A 5-4 true road record.
  17. A 2-1 showing in the Bahamas.
  18. A win in MSG vs Indiana.
  19. A 12-6 conference record.
  20. For a total of 22-7 (12-6)
  21. There are different ways to skin the cat.
  22. There is no such thing as a trap game.
  23. Before April, there is a new member of the 2015 class to go with Marcus Derrickson and Jessie Govan.
  24. Outside of Villanova – Xavier and Butler prove to be the most difficult matches in conference.
  25. After a Monday night win at home vs Villanova – the delusion train is at full steam.
  26. In Hoya fashion it’s followed with a loss that Saturday in Milwaukee.
  27. Due to the need for an added shooter and play-maker – LJ Peak logs the most freshman minutes.
  28. Tre Campbell only finds spot minutes, but enough promise is shown to feel good about the future of the PG position.
  29. John Caprio is not on the floor in critical moments.
  30. Any combination of Caprio, Cameron, Lubick, Bowen and Hayes does not find the floor in a critical moment.
  31. Mikael Hopkins leaves on a high note. Not due to production or an increased role – but by being a guy with a motor who does the dirty work. A long cry from when he first entered the program.
  32. The ‘back in our day’ Hoya fans still find it difficult to be enamored with the toughness of Jabril. Who accounts for at least one costly technical this season.
  33. Josh Smith shoots between 58-60% from the field.
  34. Big East Game of the Year: New Years Eve. 10PM ET @ Xavier. An upstart Xavier team vs a revenge minded Hoyas team following last year’s collapse in Cincinnati.
  35. Nate Lubick’s screening ability is missed. No, really.
  36. DSR leads a balanced scoring attack at 16.5 points per game.
  37. Hoyas get back to playing a strong 2-3 zone. And feature it as frequently as they do man-to-man in conference play.
  38. My hopes for a pressing unit centered around: Trawick/Bowen/Copeland/Hopkins.
  39. Hoyas’ achilles heel becomes the ability to handle and break pressure.
  40. Villanova and Georgetown finish 1 and 2 – and are the rightful flag carriers for the Big East. Which only sends 4 teams to the tournament. (Xavier and one of SJU/Butler/Providence)
  41. A III era record is set in terms of tempo – averaging over 67 possessions a game – besting the 2010 mark of 66.9
  42. The Jabril Trawick vs D’Angelo Harrison rivalry concludes with two Hoya wins.
  43. Bill Raftery uses the phrase “Peak Show” and it is awesome.
  44. Rotation sets in as: DSR, Trawick, Peak, Copeland, Smith, Hopkins, White and Bowen. Cameron and Campbell find small spot minutes.
  45. As it should – and as needed – Georgetown and Villanova face off Saturday night in MSG. The game last 3 hours with classic Jay Wright tactics in a close Villanova victory.
  46. Hoyas solid resume and OOC wins net the team a 4 seed.
  47. Placed in the East Regional – the Hoyas get sent back to Columbus, OH where they win their ‘pod’ and advance to the regional finals in…
  48. ……the Carrier Dome. The ride stops in the Round of 16 but the freshman + DSR return for a promising 2015-2016.
  49. Tavaras Hardy departs the staff for a head coaching job at the mid major level. Othella Harrington is promoted to a lead assistant role.
  50. We have a real season again. Saturday.

65 Random Things I’m excited to see.

Duke’s utilization of Okafor.

Kentucky – specifically Ulis pushing Andrew Harrison.

Terry Rozier and if Wayne Blackshear actually has flipped a switch.

Oubre & Alexander get the headlines. But looking forward to D. Graham.

UC Irvine and Luke Nelson.

Vince Hunter.

Rashad Vaughn, Dwayne Morgan and Goodluck O.

Keifer Sykes.

Deshaun Morman & Kevin Johnson.

Aaron Thomas as an under the radar ACC POY candidate.

Does Arizona have enough playmaking and shooting in their backcourt?

D’Angelo Russell.

Norman Powell.

How many points can Joseph Young average?

Terry Larrier.

Robert Johnson & James Blackmon.

JP Tokoto’s defense.

Hield, Cousins and Woodard.

Winston Shepard and SDSU’s team defense.

Trey Lewis and Cleveland State.

AJ English and David Laury.

Jordan Mickey & Jarrell Martin.

Landry Nnoko.

Notre Dame’s offense.

Frank Martin taking a big step forward with SC.

Caris LeVert.

Utah.

Tyrone Wallace pushing for first team Pac 12.

Georgetown’s freshman.

Tyler Haws.

A Healthy Kris Dunn.

Nebraska’s frontline and defense.

Melo Trimble.

Austin Nichols.

Monte Morris leading ISU’s offense.

Trevor Lacely, Lennard Freeman, Abudl Malik-Abu and a talented NC State team.

Colorado pushing Arizona.

Kourtney Roberson.

If Butler gets back to their roots. Being annoyingly good.

Daniel Mullings.

Isaiah Whitehead, Angel Delgado & Desi Rodriguez.

Myles Mack’s last go-round.

EC Matthews, Jordan Hare, Biruta & URI.

Temple bouncing back with Cummings, Decosey and Bond.

Toledo.

Ousmane Drame.

Auburn and Bruce Pearl.

Marquis Wright.

Reid Travis.

Marcus Foster & Wesley Iwundu.

Cam Ridley.

Ron Baker & Fred VanVleet.

Can Gonzaga finally break through?

Daniel Hamilton.

Markus Kennedy.

Purdue getting back to basics.

Jordan Woodard.

Penn State’s improvement.

Miami transfers + JaQuan Newton.

Cameron Payne.

Villanova’s Top 6.

Detrick Mostella.

The Good and Bad of Josh Smith

As has been reported by HoyaReport.com, Josh Smith a UCLA transfer is visiting Georgetown this weekend – while rumors have spread the past few weeks about him possibly becoming a Hoya, this certainly points in that direction with a pre-Christmas visit and Smith looking to enroll next semester. If it happens, it’s a roll of the dice by John Thompson III to get involved with Smith, who most say is a very solid young man – he just struggles with his weight and conditioning. The UCLA program of recent years raises enough eyebrows to make you wonder if his career can be salvaged and maybe not only salvaged but eventually flourish again like so many had thought it would coming out of Kentwood High School in Washington. I have no idea if the UCLA program was too enabling or if Smith, and only Smith – is responsible for his struggles. I do know that if JTIII is interested (a calculated man by all accounts) he seems something that can be worked with, both on and off the court.

Smith is a legit 6’10 and I’m guessing his weight has fluctuated for the past 4 years from anywhere from 300lbs to close to 370lbs. What Georgetown or any program can do with Smith’s demons remains to be seen but there will need to be drastic improvements in that area to get the most out of him on the court, particularly on the defensive end. On offense, even out of shape Smith offers a unique skill set and physicality that is rare in college basketball. His ability to gain low post position and utilize good feet with soft hands and a soft touch is hard to find. On top of that, everything that can be seen as far as how he reads the game seems above average. His struggles are almost always attached to being out of shape. He is fatigued easily, gets out of position on defense and at some point you can argue whether or not it is someone giving full (or even close to it) effort on the floor.

I believe as most others would, that Smith looked his best (weight and game wise) during his freshman season when he posted 10.9 points per and 6.3 rebounds in just 21.7 minutes on 55.5% shooting. During that season he had individual games of: 17 and 13 at Kansas, 15 and 8 vs BYU, 19 and 8 vs St. John’s, 17 and 4 vs Arizona, 12 and 16 at Washington and a combined two game effort of 30 points and 9 rebounds against Michigan State and Florida in the NCAA Tournament. The year was a mixed bag, but the good outweighed the bad. His sophomore year came and Smith appeared to actually have gained weight and it was a struggle all season. The return game vs Kansas saw Smith foul out in 13 minutes and score 1 point. The only stand out performance came in a return trip home to Washington in which he posted 24 points and 9 rebounds. The sophomore numbers dipped to 9.9 points and 4.9 rebounds and his time on the floor decreased as the Wear Twins became better options. Yes, the Wear Twins. Junior year came and went quickly, as Smith still somehow trending upwards in weight – left the team after six games.

So, what now? Well, it’s again easy to see why JTIII has interest as Smith possesses skills and strength on the low-block that can be of value.

First, we’ll take a look at the good, in particular his ability to carve out space – which I’d argue that Georgetown has not had a player do all that well since Sweetney. Roy, bless his heart was never clearing people out, nor was Greg. They won with height and skill on the block, Smith wins with strength:

Next, some examples of Smith’s ability to pass out of double teams – these are the good examples, however he also has had a problem turning the ball over in these spots. I’d attribute that again to just being out of shape and fatigued on the floor. His instincts of sensing a double and passing out of it are usually correct, the execution can vary. How his passing relates to the high post is anyone’s guess, but I don’t think you would see a black hole with the ball on the block.

Here’s a look at some plays he finishes, Smith has soft hands and is good finishing around the rim – when in shape. Beating a dead horse, but that is really the key. If he can elevate, he’ll score. If not, you see what happens in the second video – struggles to get a shot up but does stick with it.

The above was the good, on defense it’s another story. Smith isn’t quick and really struggles against defending the pick and roll:

He’s not quick enough to hedge hard, and if has to compensate by giving more room- it’s still bad news:

He also can take a bad angle:

And this is what becomes really frustrating, 2nd half of game and Michigan just picks on him. This is where it looks like he stops playing:

This is poor team defense where I can’t fault Smith entirely, but he still isn’t quick enough to react in time:

Here, Smith has the right idea – he just can’t execute well enough and recover:

And I can’t tell you what happened here:

You could live with this, also to note he did look quicker laterally his freshman season:

His attention to detail, effort, conditioning and weight all play a part. It’s ultimately going to be up to him to become committed to the game again and in turn, to the defensive side of the ball.

I think you can sum things up by this last one, Smith carves out space for an offensive rebound and put back – but head down to the other end and he gives it right back:

In the end, I really do believe there is something to work with here, especially with a year off and I’m sure the staff would make it mandatory for Josh to spend his summer in DC. Talented low-block scorers in college right now are so rare that Georgetown potentially having one would be a major asset. His rebounding is also a big positive, particularly on the offensive end where in the III era Georgetown does not get many second chances in most years. How Smith works into the ‘Georgetown’ offense would be interesting as very rarely in his time at UCLA did he ever even enter the high post. Who adjusts to who? Other questions such as where does a spring scholarship come from (Is Adams already a medical hardship?) or is Smith on track to graduate in ’14 (do we only get 1/2 a year out of him if things go really well, or can we cut this thing short if it goes poorly)? – can all be answered in time. For now, I absolutely think it’s a shot worth taking.

Trey Burke And the Dismantling of West Virginia

The evolution of Trey Burke has spawned from unheralded point guard out of Ohio to surprise freshman in the Big 10 to now, All American – and what should be early consideration for POY honors. Burke entered his name into the 2012 NBA Draft until ultimately deciding to return to school. The decision looks a wise one as Burke continues to up his game and now with a continued understanding of the point guard position coupled with improved strength and quickness, Burke looks like a 1st round lock. If any NBA scouts were in attendance this past Saturday night in Brooklyn, they surely came away impressed.

Burke had his way with any and all West Virginia guards from Juwan Staten to Jabarie Hinds to Gary Browne. Burke’s ability has helped lead Michigan to an 11-0 start and very real Final 4 aspirations. Nik Stauskas and Tim Hardaway along with Glen Robinson III have helped matters but it’s Burke that is the driving force and improving their games while simplifying them at the same time. Stauskas can live off of drive and kicks, Hardaway’s floor game has improved but has the luxury of concentrating on and doing what he does best – score.

Burke’s numbers currently look like this:

18 points per, 7 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 53.5% FG shooting, 38.3% from 3 and 75.7 FT%. Burke has a usage rate of 26%, a turnover to assist ratio of 3.3 to 1, and by result Michigan as a team is shooting 51% from the floor, 57.5% from 2PT and 40% from 3 with only a turnover rate of 15.9 (17th nationally – and Burke only has 6 turnovers in his last 6 games.). Add it all up and Michigan is the 5th most efficient offense so far this season.

The ability to play in the pick and roll is mandatory for any PG with the NBA in their sights and Burke does it as well as anyone. He has great pace to his game and is never in a hurry. With his increased explosiveness this season Burke also is proving to be deadly creating his own shot when things break down.

Burke is currently a good shooter, not quite yet great – but certainly good enough that you can’t go under a screen:

Ideally, you’d like to force Burke left and even here – where West Virginia hedges hard and seems to have Burke trapped – there is no panic and Burke’s ability to keep his dribble alive along with his court vision makes the play:

Burke’s ability to break people down was on display Saturday night as well:

He has really been able to blend his scoring and facilitating together nicely this season. His ability to get to where he wants on the floor is impressive this season and is leading to improved efficiency, this is a play I’m not sure he could finish last year:

One of the last things you want to do this season is pressure Michigan in the back court or look to play in a transition game. They have multiple ball handlers and will look to attack:

Burke also is showing no problem calling his own number and rejecting a screen if he sees fit. His ability to attack as a scorer makes Michigan so difficult to cover with Stauskas and an improved shooting Hardaway spacing the floor:

Back to the pace of his game, he’s playing at a speed that’s comfortable for him and uncomfortable for anyone guarding him.

Burke was special on Saturday night – perhaps the best game anyone has played this year, so this is above the norm. But the signs he is showing this year is that of a player who was already really good that has made a significant leap.

Mikael, Nate and Stuff.

A lot has been made of Mikael Hopkins role in the Georgetown offense this year. The past week his time on the floor and impact was lessened by foul trouble and how aggressive he was. It seemed to me that someone may have had a talk with him about picking his spots – and it being okay to defer. Not that it was a direct result of it, but Georgetown did have their two best offensive performances since they played Indiana.

In fairness to Mikael, the only other centers that JTIII has had have either been; a) 1st Round NBA Draft picks or b) Seniors.

To see how Mikael stacks up so far against SR year Roy, Henry and Julian and SO year Greg :

Centers

Mikael is an adequate scorer at this point in his career. His back to the basket leaves something to be desired but it’s decent for a sophomore, he just struggles to finish which is reflected in his 38% shooting. Helping matters so far is his ability to get fouled and get to the line as his FT Rate is by far the highest out of the group. Mikael’s criticism thus far comes from the amount that the ball is in his hands as a decision maker. Julian Vaughn’s assist % was the lowest of the bunch before Mikael, but Julian also had by far the lowest usage rate. Right now Mikael is the play maker out of the high post Julian was (not much) but also is trying to make plays at the rate of Henry Sims and Greg Monroe. It’d help if the rebounding numbers went up as well, but with Whittington crashing the boards this year along with Otto and Nate – it’s not a dire need. The concern going forward has to be how much he forces the issue. If he can defer at pick his spots with the one on one coverage that he’ll be the benefit of, he can put together a solid season. We saw more of that the past two games, it also helps the Hoyas that there is capable replacement if Mikael falters. It’s not Moses Ayegba (yet) but rather Nate Lubick.

lubick

It’s difficult to interpret these numbers because Nate still does spend most of his time at the 4 spot. However he has shifted over to the 5 at times and there has to be at least some thought of Nate being capable of running the offense. If you play Nate at the 5 as the hub of the offense, it is likely that we see more assists coming out of the high post. If the 5 spot is going to turn the ball over, some thinking has to be given to at least having a play maker be the culprit. Do you lose rebounding by moving everyone up a spot? Maybe, but I don’t think it’s asking for much trouble (to note, Jabril has a higher def reb % than Mikael). Where it would most likely put this group at a disadvantage is the use of zone defense which Georgetown is playing at a high level again this year. You essentially move Greg to the back line and insert Jabril to the top of the zone at the SG spot.

Also, here are the chart numbers with an inclusion of 2005 Jeff Green when he played a lot of ‘5’:

centerss

So, there is something to go off of with the Starks/Trawick/Whittington/Porter/Lubick group : The 2005 and even the 2006 team.  The most often used lineup with that 2005 group was: Wallace/Cook/Owens/Bowman/Green. Rayshawn Reed actually played slightly more minutes than Roy Hibbert. Only a 7 man rotation with the Top 5 all averaging 25 or more minutes with a natural college PF taking on more of a center role. Defensively that team only allowed 41.5% shooting, in the end it was a team that couldn’t score easy baskets and played at the slowest pace of all III teams as the offense was being put into place. Had they found easier offense, it was a team that likely wouldn’t have collapsed down the stretch and made an (astonishing) NCAA appearance.

None of this is to say Mikael needs to hit the bench or playing Nate at the 5 is a viable option long term. The Big East isn’t small. Between Syracuse’s front court and Cooley, Dieng, Teague, Adams and Gardner/Otule – there are a lot players Mikael will have to be on the floor to go against. But, there is another option that doesn’t rely on Moses or BJ Hayes taking on a role they aren’t quite ready for. A case certainly can be made that Jabril is one of the 5 best players on this team and I’ll have to wait until HoyaProspectus runs their lineup stats this season but I’m interested to see where the Starks/Trawick/Whittington/Porter/Lubick group falls in. Otto at the 4 also seemed to net the best offensive production last year (http://www.hoyaprospectus.com/2012/03/lineup-stats-for-all-conf-games.html) – it allows him to hit the offensive boards more aggressively, something this team really is lacking and makes him a greater threat in the mid range – where he excels.

My points in all this:

  • Mikael is a sophomore handling a role which demands a lot from him and he may not be that player needed yet. But, he certainly is more advanced than sophomore (or junior) year Henry was. He can get there in time.
  • Putting Jabril on the floor with the Top 4 should be a gain on offense. And while Jabril is one of the better defenders on the team, how much does his inclusion hurt the zone defense that is employed so often?
  • Everything we’ve seen from Nate this year says he could/can handle more responsibility and the floor may open up with better spacing. The length that would remain on the floor makes up for moving Greg, Otto and Nate up a spot.

I’m cherry picking the first example I saw, but here’s an example of the spacing with a Nate/Mikael combo vs Nate playing the 5..

Mikael sets a high ball screen and while Nate doesn’t flare out as quickly as he should – the defense doesn’t respect him at that spot on the floor, a driving lane is quickly shut off for Markel and from there the offense had to re-start:

mikael1

mikael2

Here is the same thing, a high ball screen and again no action off of it due to Nate’s defender being allowed to help off:

mikael11

mikael22

Now, here is an example I found of the Markel/Jabril/Greg/Otto/Nate grouping with Nate setting a high ball screen for Greg, which he rejects due to an opening:

nate3

nate4

nate5

Everyone had to be accounted for – Jabril, Markel and Otto. The Western Carolina defender did a poor job of showing too early but he likely thought that he had help behind him if Greg rejected the screen. Greg did so due to having an open lane with his teammates pulling the defense away. The result was a missed dunk but an open look at an easy basket.

Teams  from Michigan to the Knicks and the Miami Heat have found success lately playing a multi-dimensional 4 man and stretching the floor with skill. It’s too much of Nate Lubick to ask for him to play the 5 spot on defense for extended periods, but I think this lineup can help give a boost to the Georgetown offense this season in stretches.

Weekend Thoughts

Might as well start with the marquee match up between Florida and Arizona. The game went how I thought it would for 37 1/2 minutes. The 2 1/2 minutes it didn’t? Last minute and a half of the first half and last minute of the 2nd half. What happened in those two and a half minutes is really beyond explanation – Arizona outscored Florida 15-0. What we saw from most of the night is Florida is a grown man team who has the right mix of top level guys with excellent role players mixed in. It seems like everyone on that team knows exactly what is expected of one another. The loss has to be deflating due to; a) Obviously, giving the game away. b) Mike Rosario and Scottie Wilbekin played fantastic and hit shots. On the other hand, maybe they should be encouraged by being in that position with a dreadful performance from Kenny Boynton on the road? Arizona is about what you expect – Lyons (love him or hate him) does bring a toughness and ability to find his own shot. Solomon Hill is solid in all aspects and the trio of freshman bigs are ahead of schedule. All that could have been asked of the front line was to battle and they did so (also helping matters was moving Hill over to the 4 spot later on). In the end, they stole a significant win to go on their resume. Those were two Elite 8 quality clubs getting after it. (And I don’t want to gloss over Arizona winning the game but Sean Miller said himself he wasn’t sure whether or not to feel guilty.)

While Rick Pitino’s protege let one get away, the teacher took one back in Memphis. Louisville rallied from an early 16 point hole to eventually put away Memphis. John Wooden once had a quote (I can’t find it) about switching defenses that essentially said, switching defenses is the result of not having any defense. Needless to say, that seems a little dated. Pitino’s teams of late have been thriving on giving different looks to opposing offenses. They give the traditional match-up press look that we’re accustom to seeing with  Pitino and then they can drop back into their match-up zone or man to man defense. To note here is the center often takes on the most responsibility in the half-court match up zone with the reliance on communication. Louisville currently is without Gorgui Dieng and is still playing at a high level defensively – holding Memphis to 53 points over the last 30 minutes in an up-tempo game. The level of play is only set to increase when he returns.

I don’t know how you stop Doug McDermott. I don’t think you can. To go along with his insane shooting from 3 (27-51), he seals defenders in the post as well as anyone and has great ability in the mid-range. He doesn’t defend much (at all) and it still isn’t stopping him from being one of the best players in the country. Cal didn’t stand much of a chance on Saturday night and a positive sign for Creighton is how well they defended, limiting Allen Crabbe to 6-26 shooting. On Cal, it’s become increasingly frustrating to watch a team with some good to great college players (Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, Harper Kamp, Jorge Guiterrez, Crabbe, Justin Cobbs) just not have the help on thin rosters. Mike Montgomery does a fine job with what he has and Cal isn’t the easiest place to recruit to, but an extra player or two on some of these teams would lead to more success against top teams. As seen here, Cal is just too reliant on the back court duo of Cobbs and Crabbe:

cal

It’s interesting that Myles Mack and Fuquan Edwin are the best players from the now defunct Patterson Catholic program and not Kyle Anderson. Mack has emerged as the best guard and player in the Rutgers program while Edwin keeps trending upward for Seton Hall:

fu

I’m not sure how many players have ever utilized a redshirt season like Kelly Olynyk. I don’t know the amount of muscle Olynyk has put on, but it’s substantial and is leading to a player who looks like he has an NBA future. He’s now averaging 15 points and 6.6 rebounds in only 25 minutes of play.

Speaking of Gonzaga, they have to be at the top of the ‘Catholic 7′ wish list with Butler. I’ve long ago stopped trying to figure out how Butler does it. I believe Indiana is overrated this season but to win that game in OT with the players left on the floor? Impressive. Also, not to discredit Brad Steven’s genius – but we all could have figured out to isolate Jordan Hulls on the last play.

I know Chris Fouch is out for the year but I can’t explain Drexel. Frantz Massenat and Damion Lee can’t get you better than a 3-7 start?

Villanova has made big strides in 3 weeks time. They’re still a bottom feeder in the Big East but after their start, to rebound with wins @ Penn, vs St Joe’s and vs Delaware is a good sign for their young core. Somebody got the message to Arcidiacono to pass the ball and not heave 30 footers and that helps.

On lessened roles, it seems Mikael Hopkins is at least starting to defer more for Georgetown. It has resulted in two positive steps forward for the Georgetown offense, which in my estimation looked it’s best since Brooklyn on Saturday. It certainly helped that Greg Whittington broke out of his slump. If Whittington can find his stroke, then this can improve:
3pt

Marcus Paige vs Mike Gesell is probably something Iowa fans will debate for a while. The two have been linked together as they faced off in High School and Paige was courted by Iowa until UNC landed him. Iowa was able to land a very nice consolation prize in Gesell – now it appears as if Iowa may have won that trade off. Gesell is playing off the ball some but looks like a steady four year college PG and eventual All Big 10 player. It’s not to say Paige has performed poorly or won’t be a strong player in his own right but Gesell looks to be physically stronger and more advanced right now nearly across the board. Iowa also picked up a nice neutral court win vs Northern Iowa. The Hawkeyes are positioning themselves to be in the hunt for an NCAA bid as the year progresses.

gesell

I happened to catch some of A&M and Oklahoma and it’s still creepy how lifeless the A&M sideline is under Billy Kennedy, I don’t know what gives. OU fans should be excited about the future back court of Je’lon Hornbeak and Buddy Hield.

I had Purdue penciled in to finish 2nd to last in the Big 10 (pre- Tim Frazier injury). I questioned if I wasn’t giving Matt Painter enough respect. Well, they might finish 10th now but that’s it. The talent level among the upperclassmen is atrocious and the FR are not impact players.

Alabama was literally minutes away from a 7-0 start with a huge road win @ Cincinnati. Instead, they couldn’t close the door and now have followed that with a bad home loss vs Dayton and embarrassing trip to VCU. The silver lining has to be a strong performance from Devonta Pollard (finally).

When’s the last time you’ve seen a coach play a Box and 1 exclusively for a whole game? Tim Cluess (of all people) did it vs Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and somehow it worked. Iona has had some tough losses and likely was due for a close win. Not the most impressive day on the job for Mark Fox whose team had the ball in a tie game with the shot clock off and took a shot – with 17 seconds left.

South Dakota St and Nate Wolters fetch a lot of buzz but I’d put North Dakota St in the memory bank for March. Just a hunch.

After watching them twice now, I just don’t see Belmont being a threat this year to be Cinderella. Last years team seems like the better group. No shame in getting blown out in Phog Allen but also didn’t come away that impressed with the Bruins vs Middle Tennessee St. They struggle with physicality and length, it makes it very difficult to get the looks that they want on offense. Ben McLemore stole the show on the KU side of things and he looks more impressive each day.

I’ve talked before about Syracuse’s think back court. Just how thin? Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams rank #1 and #2 nationally in average plus/minus (+25 and +24.6). Granted, it’s an extremely small sample – but a look at just how crucial those two are to stay healthy and out of foul trouble this season. It also is likely when MCW’s ‘incident’ this past week did not lead to a suspension against an upstart Canisius team.

Trey Burke is silly good. I mean, there isn’t much else to say. His blend of scoring and facilitating at the PG position is tops in the country right now. Also credit to John Beilein, I’ve never been much of a fan but that’s starting to change – no longer is he employing much (if any) of his trademark 1-3-1 zone and his players attack on offense and the reliance on the 3 ball has come down this year. I realize this started to become the case last year as well, I’m just a little late arriving. Seeing is believing. Not to say they’ll win it all or even be a Final 4 team – but it kind of feels like there is a little ’97 or ’98 Arizona to this Michigan team in the back court:

chart_1 (1)

chart_1 (2)

Kyle Wiltjer off the bench now? It might do some good for UK putting Poythress in the 4 spot and provide more offense by getting a third guard on the floor more often. Harrow had 12 points and 0 turnovers. Baby steps. While he’s certainly raw shooting the ball or operating with his back to the basket it is worth mentioning Nerlens Noel is averaging 2.1 assists, 9 rebounds, 2.8 steals and 3.9 blocks.

Skylar Spencer was on my watch list for unheralded freshman. He’s carved his way into the rotation for a strong San Diego St team and while his numbers are modest (3.3 and 4.0 rebounds with 1.3 blocks in 14.9 minutes) I’m excited to see he and Winston Shepard develop in that freshman class. We know the SDSU staff can develop talent.

To go along with Anthony Ireland at Loyola Marymount, Evan Roquemore needs more attention coming from the West Coast. Kevin Foster scores more and Marc Tarsolini is a big story off of his injury for Santa Clara but Roquemore is reason as any for a strong start. The junior guard is 14, 7 and 3 with a shooting line of 53/44/83.

Rearranging The Big East, This Year (Vol. 2)

Picking up where I left off:

7. Marquette

First off, I don’t think I overrated anyone’s impact in this conference more than Trent Lockett’s. It’s not only that he hasn’t been an impact guy, if anything he’s impacted Marquette negatively while on the floor. Maybe you need to be wired a little differently to play for Buzz, I don’t know. But Lockett is struggling and without Todd Mayo this year that makes Marquette a far less formidable team than I had pegged this season. Lockett was 13, 6 and 2 at Arizona State on 49% shooting. This year he’s 8, 4 and 2 on 40%.

To help offset that, Vander Blue has made real progress on the offensive end. Blue along with Davante Gardner (the oddest player in CBB) have become the go to scorers for Marquette along with small doses from Junior Cadougan and Jamil Wilson. Blue has gone for 21, 18 and 17 against Butler, Florida and Wisconsin while shooting 50% or above in each of those games.

The offense probably is what it will be without many shooting threats. The concern for now has to be that Marquette is not defending to the level they did last year, now allowing 46% on 2PT shots. With capable defenders there is room for growth on that end.

Over the next 3 weeks: A trip to Wisconsin-Green Bay and a home date with LSU could make for a competitive game or two. Marquette opens the BE slate with Uconn at home. Due to how hard they play, there’s a high floor here but the ceiling is not quite what I thought it could be sans Mayo and Lockett’s struggles. I’m not sure what on the current roster can change that and push this team into the top end of the conference.

How to beat them: Match their energy, at least for 75% of the game. Marquette will have a stretch or two each game where they look phenomenal. But they have their lulls and you just have to stick with it – they’ll let you back in. I also would show them a lot of zone this season. The only Coach/Team they faced so far that utilizes zone well was Florida – and that ended up 82-49.

8. Uconn

What has to be encouraging for Uconn is that they’re performing well without getting much from Omar Calhoun (my pre-season pick for ROY). His early struggles have been mitigated due to the fact that Shabazz Napier is playing at an All-American level without feeling the need to be Kemba Walker 2.0. Napier can still get a little trigger happy but has been much more selective this season. Helping matters is Ryan Boatright allowing Napier to play off the ball much more this season.

DeAndre Daniels improvement while embracing being an undersized 4 man certainly has helped and Uconn has to be encouraged by Enosch Wolf showing signs of life in his SO season.

But the upside of this team is still limited and the reliance on the guards may take its toll. RJ Evans is providing flashbacks to Khalid El-Amin for the wrong reasons and Tyler Olander is in a little over his head. Nothing statistically stands out. It’s a very poor rebounding team (expected), above average defensively (nice surprise) and struggling to make shots (somewhat disappointing). One thing Kevin Ollie is making sure of: These kids play hard. Jim Calhoun would have a team every once in a while that just packed it in, I don’t get that sense with Ollie and this group.

Over the next 3 weeks: Only three games, one of which is a ‘name game’ vs Washington. From there, not the easiest 5 game BE start: @ Marquette, vs DePaul, @ ND, vs Louisville and @ Pitt.

How to beat them: Pound the boards and get the ball inside. NC State eventually wore them down by doing so. Defensively, I’d throw a good amount of zone at them – turn Daniels or Olander into a decision maker.

9. Seton Hall

You could make a case for St. John’s here or even Providence playing with 0 bench players or have the belief USF will get things going (I don’t). I’ll go with Seton Hall, since they have the best player of the bunch: Fuquan Edwin.

Edwin is currently posting a line of: 18.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 2.8 steals per game while shooting 54% from the field and 18-33 (54%) from 3. Yet nobody ever talks about him. I’m at fault myself for only squeezing him into an All Big East 3rd team pre-season. I haven’t seen a player with his hands on defense in a while, he is a ball hawk in every sense.

Patrik Auda was lost for the season and is a tough loss for SHU but the supporting cast of Gene Teague, Brandon Mobley, Tom Maayan, Aaron Cosby, Kyle Smyth and Brian Oliver isn’t terrible.

Seton Hall is proving to have nice balance. Ranking 7th in the league in points per poss and 6th in points allowed per.

Over the next 3 weeks: Nothing of importance until the opener at DePaul. From an individual stand point, I’d like to see Brandon Mobley get it going a little bit and Brian Oliver certainly has to be better.

How to beat them: Pressure the guards. Maayan is a freshman and doing an admirable job but Seton Hall is 13th in the league in TO rate. Additionally, with Auda out – Teague is the only Pirate player with real size on the interior. Getting him in foul trouble would pose a problem.

10. St. John’s

Interesting team the Johnnies are and for the good of the true Big East, it’d be nice to see the core parts stick together for a few years. The St. John’s staff may evaluate talent about as well as any team in the league right now. Completely under the radar kids such as Christian Jones, Phil Greene and Felix Balamou look to be capable BE rotation guys. To go along with that the kids they put two feet in with (Mo Harkless, Jakarr Sampson, Chris Obekpa) trend towards NBA caliber players.

Sampson has zero perimeter skill but his length and athleticism might be unmatched in the league and is impacting games with his natural gifts. Obekpa might already be the nations best shot blocker as a freshman. D’Angelo Harrison is likely the bellwether for this group. If he’s on, SJU will be a tough out. If not, SJU will not score many points.

SJU currently ranks 9th in the league in points per poss. A number they could live with this season. Defensively, they’ve struggled and have so the past 2 seasons, even with Mike Dunlap before he departed to the NBA. I’m not sure what the fix on defense is, they’re playing more man to man this year and extending pressure but still poor results. Even with such a shot blocker like Obekpa on the back line.

Over the next 3 weeks: 2 cucpcakes until the opener at Villanova. I’m not sure why so many teams are taking a Christmas/New Years two week break from games – but they are. May make for a rough watch of the first batch of conference games.

How to beat them: Zone or man, you can slow SJU down so long as you stay within distance of Harrison. He’s attempted 59 threes compared to the 48 the rest of the team has taken (13-48).

11. Providence

There’s reason for optimism now for Providence, so – I’ll give them the nod here. Vincent Council, Kris Dunn and Sidiki Johnson are all expected back for the Big East season.

In the mean time, Providence has somehow willed their way to 7-2 with 6 scholarship players (and Bryce Cotton has been banged up to boot). Ed Cooley has PC defending at a high level (23rd nationally in points allowed per poss.) There are seemingly only 4 kids allowed to shoot the basketball between Cotton, Henton, Fortune and Batts so offensive struggles are to be expected. Even if Dunn and Council have some rust to knock off in their first few games back, they’re at least a threat on the floor.

Over the next 3 weeks: Johnson and Dunn are scheduled to return vs Colgate which is followed up by a trip to Boston College and a home date with Brown. From there, they’re the lucky winners that get to start @ Louisville.

How to beat them: It will be interesting to see how the new parts work their way in. My guess is a 3 guard lineup to pair with Henton/Batts and Fortune moves to the bench. Council and Dunn will be able to break people down off the dribble so zone isn’t a bad move this BE season. Defensively, the interior defense is weak – so don’t settle.

12. USF

USF is still playing dreadfully slow and letting Anthony Collins try to make something happen. The problem is, the team lost a lot of size from last season and the defense has slipped along with the rebounding. The defense is still solid, but not the good to great defense that they employed last year.

The best improvement on offense is they are protecting the ball better. Their turnover rate is 16.6%, down from 21% last year.

This has always been a team with limited upside this year to me, unless Victor Rudd made a big jump. So far, that has not been the case as he still can’t shoot (8-26 from 3).

Over the next 3 weeks: Youngstown St, Bowling Green, George Mason and @ UCF isn’t exactly a group of pushovers. Not great, but not awful by any stretch. That group of games should give us a better feel of what USF can be before they take on Syracuse to open.

How to beat them: You can’t let Collins feel comfortable. I personally like the idea of pressuring him or putting a longer, athletic defender on him. You also don’t want to get in a game in the 50’s with USF – so I’d try to control tempo and create more possessions.

13. Villanova

Really splitting hairs at this point. But at least Villanova is starting to move in a positive direction after knocking off St. Joseph’s this week. Ryan Arcidiacono has started to scale back his shot attempts, and Villanova mucks it up just enough to stay in games. Also, if you haven’t caught ‘Nova this year – you’ll notice an even more insufferable Jay Wright. He’s working the referees like no other this year.

I still think there’s an All Big East caliber offensive player inside of Jayvaughn Pinkston, but I’m not sure we’ll ever see it. Some okay parts make up the rest of the rotation but with the minutes and responsibility on his plate this year – Arcidiacono will determine their fate by and large.

Statistically, they’re 15th (15th is now last without West Virginia) in the league in points per poss and 14th in points allowed per poss. Mucking it up is their best bet at this point. They extend games – draw fouls, commit fouls – it won’t get them very far, but right now there’s not many other options.

Over the next 3 weeks: 3 games left, headlined by Delaware. They just need to get better, in all facets. Tuesday night was a good step in the right direction.

How to beat them: Run your stuff, don’t settle. Put Arcidiacono and Yarou/Sutton in pick and roll situations. Defensively, just try not to lose James Bell as a spot up shooter and keep Pinkston contained.

14. Rutgers

Myles Mack is making a pretty strong FR to SO year leap, which is much needed for Rutgers. Mack is currently averaging 14.8 points on 57% and 46% from 3 (12-26). Eli Carter is leading Rutgers in scoring but has not been nearly as efficient.

Dane Miller once held a lot of potential as a FR in the Big East. Now, he’s finishing out his career as an average BE role player. To go along with that, there just isn’t much help for the back court. Wally Judge hasn’t made a big impact yet and the loss of Biruta last spring to Rhode Island appears significant inside.

Rutgers is currently last in the Big East in points allowed per poss. but a respectable offensive output so far, 7th in points per.

Over the next 3 weeks: UAB and Rider could/should be competitive games. Rutgers opens with a trip to the Carrier Dome. Somebody has to step up to help Mack/Carter and the defense needs to improve.

How to beat them: Just be patient. Ole Miss is far from disciplined but they continued to stick with things eventually wore down Rutgers inside and Rutgers could not get stops in their most high profile game to date. You have to guard the perimeter well and cut off driving lanes, they are not going to score points through a low-post scorer.

15. DePaul

I’m really not sure that DePaul is the worst team in this league. Actually, I’m almost sure they won’t be – but until they prove otherwise, I have to stick them here. They were competitive with Wichita St, won @ Auburn, beat Fairfield, won @ Arizona State and overall have played decently. Statistically, they currently are 13th among BE teams in points per poss but a nice improvement to 8th (and 49th nationally) in points allowed per poss.

The roster has more experience this year as Cleveland Melvin, Brandon Young, Moses Morgan and Donovan Kirk are all JR’s. Melvin and Young have both improved their play – evidenced by a PER of 16.4 for Melvin and 16.0 for Young. An improvement from 13.4 and 12.7 last season.

DePaul still can’t shoot (30%) from 3, but there are signs of an improving program.

Over the next 3 weeks: Three more games they should win until they open BE play vs Seton Hall. This is another team that needs another scoring option. Jamee Crockett had 13 the other night in a win – his second game back from injury – and is likely the guy who is needed to step up.

How to beat them: It’s not as simple as just showing up anymore. Handle the pressure and look to attack to score. Play zone and keep Melvin off of the glass.

Since I’m re-shuffling the standings – here’s a redo at some awards:

POY: Otto Porter. No need to change this. Otto’s been pretty darn good despite being sidelined for a game (and 30 or so minutes) with a concussion. Michael Carter-Williams and Sean Kilpatrick figure to be in the thick of this race. Darkhorse: Fuquan Edewin.

COY: Rick Pitino. Keeping the same choice here. I still expect Louisville to be firing on all cylinders come February/March.

Freshman of The Year: It’s a weak FR group in the Big East this season. I picked Omar Calhoun and still feel okay about that, but the smart money might now be on Jakarr Sampson.

1st Team All Big East:

G: Russ Smith

G: Sean Kilpatrick

G : Michael Carter-Williams

F: Otto Porter

C: Jack Cooley

Honorable mention: Bryce Cotton, Shabazz Napier, Jack Cooley, Fuquan Edwin.

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