Thoughts from Last Night
– Congratulations to Jim Boeheim on his 900th win, though it was much closer than he would have liked. James Southerland picked up the slack with some timely perimeter shooting, and Michael Carter-Williams did a good job hitting his free throws to seal the game down the stretch. Carter-Williams piled up some more big assist numbers (10), though the decision making and turnovers leave a lot to be desired.
– UNLV had a tough time during their trip to El Paso, and UTEP did a great job playing physical, which really threw Anthony Bennett off his game. Bennett is tough and skilled, but he isn’t used to being the one pushed around, and I expect many more teams to adopt this philosophy against UNLV going forward. Khem Birch made his debut, and did a very good job running the floor and being active, though his lack of great skills is evident. The guards, especially Anthony Marshall and Justin Hawkins, were both impressive guarding on and off the ball, though Bennett’s lack of defensive ability is going to put more pressure on the guards and wings as the year goes on.
Stanford at North Carolina State
Johnny Dawkin’s Cardinal squad comes in winners of 3 straight. Aaron Bright is back from an ankle injury and is paired in the backcourt with sophomore Chasson Randle, giving the Cardinal a pair of guards capable of breaking down defenses. Neither has been able to find the perimeter shooting stroke that helped carry Stanford to the NIT title, but they have been getting more help for their interior players, especially junior forward Dwight Powell. Powell, a long, athletic forward, has done a very good job so far this season being aggressive when he gets the ball in the lane area. Bright and Randle will need to be aggressive to keep the Wolfpack defense shifting and getting Powell room to operate around the rim.
North Carolina State has great balance and can 8 or 9 deep, yet they have yet to find a real offensive rhythm against any other high-major opponent. Senior Richard Howell has been one of the most consistent, and effective, Wolfpack players early on this season. He does a great job using his body to clear space around the basket and he goes strong whenever he gets the ball. Juniors Lorenzo Brown and CJ Leslie have been very inconsistent so far this season. Brown has had difficulties with the lack of real structure in the offense, and it has left him in some tough situations with the ball. At his best, he uses his size well to see over the defense and uses his body to get into the lane, either to finish or distribute. Leslie is incredibly athletic, and at times, he can be very explosive. He is at his best in the open court or if given time to operate in the post. Freshmen TJ Warren and Rodney Purvis, as well as junior Scott Wood, give some versatility to the offense. Warren has found the adjustment to college game easier than Purvis and has done a good job creating his own opportunities. Freshman point guard Tyler Lewis should be used well in this game, as the Stanford guard combo will look to pressure the ball and Lewis gives the team another good ballhandler, as well as defender.
Miami (FL) at Central Florida
The Hurricanes have been playing much better since Durand Scott returned to the team. Scott sets the pace for the Hurricanes’ offense, even if he is playing off the ball and Shane Larkin is running the point. Scott is very good at using his strong body to attack the basket and he has the vision to find open teammates when the help rotates over. Larkin is not as good a decision-maker, but he has good speed and has been a solid perimeter option, especially off of Scott’s penetration or a kick-out by big man Reggie Johnson. Johnson is a huge physical presence in the paint, coming in close to 300 pounds, but he moves very well for his size, and he is capable of playing long stretches of minutes. Kenny Kadji has never really found a comfortable role on offense, preferring to play on the perimeter and shoot jumpers, but he does a good job pairing with Johnson to protect the basket area.
Johnson and Kadji will need to be at their defensive best tonight or Central Florida’s Keith Clanton will make them pay. Clanton has become a versatile post player, able to play with his back to the basket or face-up and attack. He is a strong rebounder, especially on the offensive end, and he runs the court well. He feeds well of the penetration of Isaiah Sykes, a big guard in the mold of Scott, who does a good job drawing the defense and finding open teammates, or using his body to get good shots around the basket. He needs to really work on his shooting, and he can be a liability at the free throw line. Tristan Spurlock and Kasey Wilson provide some wings with very good size and the ability to hit from the perimeter or attack the basket.
Others to Watch
Jeff Withey and Elijah Johnson, Kansas vs. Richmond – A very good Richmond team comes to Kansas and the seniors will need to set the tone for the Jayhawks on both ends of the floor. Richmond is not big, but efficient and likes to pressure the ball, but Johnson should be able to find Withey with deep position, if they stay out of a zone.
James Ennis, Long Beach State at UCLA – Long Beach State has struggled to score this season, but they should find plenty of opportunities against a UCLA team that is short-handed and defensively lazy. Ennis should be able to find some good opportunities along the baseline against the UCLA zone, though it is reliant on his guards being able to get into the middle of it.
Allen Crabbe, California vs. UC Santa Barbara – The Golden Bears are coming off of 3 straight losses, and Crabbe has shot just 18-49 over that same stretch, including a surreal 6-26 against Creighton in the last game. UCSB is young and hasn’t been very good stopping perimeter shooters. Crabbe should have a huge night to get back on track.