It was a strong weekend of college hoops, with #1 Indiana getting knocked off by Butler in amazing game, Florida and Arizona battling until the final seconds, and a long list of worthy performances all around the country. Here is a quick look at some of what I got to see:
Thoughts from the Weekend
– Cody Zeller did not have a great game in Indiana’s loss to Butler, but a lot of it can be blamed on Indiana’s guards’ inability to get him the ball in good spots for him to make a quick move to the basket. Zeller still needs to work on being a more physical player, especially on the defensive end and on the glass. He does a good job drawing contact on the offensive end, but he should still work on finishing through the contact. Victor Oladipo continues to be the most impressive player on the Indiana squad this year with his strong defense, both on and off the ball, and his ability to get out and finish in transition.
– Cincinnati’s Cashmere Wright and Sean Kilpatrick continue to shine as one of the country’s best backcourts. While neither was spectacular against Marshall on Saturday, they both stepped up on both ends, especially whenever Marshall would close the gap. On a side note, Marshall’s Elijah Pittman is on his way to be one of college basketball’s most exciting players. Keep an eye on him over the next year.
– Louisville’s Chane Behanan finally showed what he could do when he uses his body to clear space and goes strong at the basket. Peyton Siva did a great job keeping the Cardinals under control as they continue to chip away at Memphis’ lead, and the combination of Siva and Russ Smith forced Memphis’ Joe Jackson into 8 turnovers, a good number as the game was close.
– Otto Porter continues to show that he is one of the most versatile players in all college basketball, and more importantly, he doesn’t need to take a primary role to affect a game. With teammate Greg Whittington breaking out of his slump, Porter was able to focus on hitting the offensive glass and drawing the defense to him in the high post area.
– Kenny Boynton had a chance to show how he has improved on a major stage, and he couldn’t take advantage. He shot 2-10 from the field, though without a solid point guard on the Gators squad, many of the players aren’t getting the ball in the best spots. Erik Murphy was left wide-open on multiple pick-and-pops, but Scotty Wilbekin wouldn’t have his head up to see him. Arizona senior Solomon Hill showed what a strong leader can do for a team, almost single-handedly chipping away at Florida’s lead in the last 8 minutes. Mark Lyons was the hero, but I still think he needs to show that he can be a competent point guard to play at the next level.
– If Duke’s Mason Plumlee is considered the #1 player in the country right now, then Doug McDermott has to be right there with him. There isn’t a spot on the court where he isn’t a threat, but he also does an excellent job rebounding, and his defense continues to improve.
– Trey Burke seems to be getting better weekly. His vision is outstanding, he shows great control, is a more than capable scorer, and has shown some improvement on defense. His improvement has made everyone else around him better, especially Tim Hardaway, Jr., who has found himself not only with better scoring opportunities, but also looking for the best possible shot for the team.
– Le’Bryan Nash took advantage of the gaps caused by Central Arkansas’ pressure defense and did a great job being aggressive going to the basket, not only finishing strong, but finishing through contact.
Detroit at Syracuse
The story is Jim Boeheim’s likely 900th victory, but there will be plenty of eyes on the prospects in this game. Michael Carter-Williams continues to put up absurd numbers from the point guard position, but not given the same attention is how his size at the top of the Syracuse zone has led to a lot of easy steals and a lot of easy transition baskets. Brandon Triche has also done an excellent job defending at the top of the zone, and his ability to get penetration gives the Orange a compliment to the 3-point shooting and post dump-offs. James Southerland continues to help out Carter-Williams assist numbers by hitting shots from all over the court. CJ Fair is starting to find a good rhythm on offense, understanding where he is going to find holes to attack and being a great weak-side rebounder.
Detroit’s Ray McCallum continues to shine outside of the spotlight, and he will need to find ways to get into the middle of the Orange zone to help open up the court for his teammates. He should get plenty of good looks on offense, but he will need to step it up on the defensive end against either Cater-Williams or Triche.