Photo: Kevin Rivoli/AP
Thoughts From Last Night
– Congrats to Jim Boeheim on win number 903, and moving to #2 on the all-time wins list. Brandon Triche took advantage of a lackluster Rutgers squad with timely perimeter shooting and great anticipation at the top of the zone defense leading to turnovers and easy baskets.
– Neither Doug McDermott nor Jackie Carmichael had outstanding games in the Creighton-Illinois State matchup, but both showed a lot of the skills that will make them NBA players one day. McDermott has an incredible understanding of the game, and he knows how to best work every situation to his advantage. Carmichael is similar in a lot of ways, knowing how to exploit matchups to his benefit, but last night the shots just weren’t falling.
– Ryan Kelly provided a lift to a Duke team that was struggling with an aggressive Davidson squad. Kelly used his size and shooting ability well to get good looks at the basket, and he did an excellent job as a weak-side help defender against the Davidson cutters.
– Russ Smith blitzed an undermanned Providence team that often likes to play at a quick pace. Yes, Providence’s defense is poor, but Smith and Peyton Siva did a great job exploiting the holes and making it count.
– Ryan Harrow looked the most comfortable he has all year as the Kentucky point guard, finding holes in the Eastern Michigan zone, hitting the open shot when he had it, and playing tough on-ball defense.
– Colton Iverson continued his strong post play and helped will Colorado State to a tough win against a physical UTEP team.
Colorado at Arizona
Colorado has bounced back with 3 straight wins after their complete dismantling against Kansas. The team is led by the backcourt duo of Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker. While neither is a true point guard, Dinwiddie does a decent job using his size (6’5) to see over the defense and to hit cutters or perimeter shooters off of penetration. Until the Kansas game, Dinwiddie had been doing a great job getting to the free throw line, but he is capable of also hitting the spot-up 3. Booker is also a decent perimeter shooter, but he prefers to slash to the basket for short jumpers and floaters, and get out in transition. Andre Roberson has yet to really develop on the offensive end, but he is a tremendous rebounder and is efficient around the basket. Roberson’s athleticism should allow him great opportunities against Arizona’s big, but young, frontcourt. Freshman big man Josh Scott continues to impress, and will become a major force in the paint once he develops more fluid footwork and strength on both ends of the floor.
Arizona was last seen on Christmas night eking out a one-point win over San Diego State to get to 12-0 on the season. Mark Lyons continues to give the Wildcats scoring from the point guard position, if little else, and he certainly gives the young team leadership in key spots. Solomon Hill has been up and down early in the season, but his ability to score from a variety of spots on the floor, as well as guard multiple positions, allows Coach Sean Miller some flexibility in his lineups. Nick Johnson has shown some improvement in his sophomore year, and you can see where he is starting to combine skill with his athleticism. He is an excellent finisher in transition, though he needs to become a more consistent threat in the half-court offense. The 3 freshman big men – Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley, and Grant Jerrett – will have their hands full with Roberson and Scott tonight, and Arizona will need to keep Dinwiddie and Booker out of the lane to avoid big man foul trouble early. Jerrett has shown to be the most versatile early on, but Ashley’s athleticism should afford him more opportunities during the Pac-12 season.
California at UCLA
At 8-4, California has been less than impressive early on this season, and it starts with the inconsistent play of Justin Cobbs and Allen Crabbe. Cobbs has done a good job getting past his man and hitting the mid-range jumper of taking it to the basket, but his decision making has ranged from bad to awful. He has played some solid defense this season, though he can have some bad lapses. Crabbe has been forcing his jumper, though he has seemed to get his touch back the last few games. He should find plenty of open spots against UCLA’s zone tonight, and if they go man, there isn’t anyone on the team who can defend him, so he needs to take it to the basket. The frontcourt of David Kravish and Richard Solomon, along with Robert Thurman, will need to do a much better job on the defensive glass against a UCLA team that will look to crash the boards at most opportunities.
UCLA has started to find success since they have gone to a zone defense and push the ball all game offense. Jordan Adams continues to be the most consistent offensive threat, though he isn’t getting the same quality looks he did early on in the season. Travis Wear has done a strong job on both ends of the floor, and along with his brother David Wear, provide the team with a duo who will do the dirty work for a team of prima donnas. Larry Drew II has done a good job making the right decisions with the ball early on this season, and he is just one of the players who the zone defense helps covers up their defensive deficiencies. Shabazz Muhammad is a scorer, there is no denying it, but that’s really all he offers. His shot selection is still poor, he doesn’t see the floor well, and he is a below-average defender. I am starting to feel for Kyle Anderson who skills are just not being used with this team at all, though it doesn’t help that he can’t hit an open jumper.
Others to Watch
Trey Burke, Michigan at Northwestern– Northwestern is not near the top of the Big 10, but they do play good defense and are very good at slowing the tempo of the game. This is the type of game where Burke can show his maturity as a point guard, adjusting to the pace, and pushing the tempo at the right times. His ability to get into the lane will be key in breaking down a tight Wildcats’ defense.
Shane Gibson, Sacred Heart vs. Long Island – Gibson has seen his production drop early this season as defenses send 2 or 3 guys at him to stop him from getting to the basket. This shouldn’t be an issue against a LIU team has had trouble stopping almost anyone. Gibson could be in for a career night in a fast-paced game.
Tony Mitchell, North Texas vs. Troy – It’s a new year and here’s hoping that Mitchell gets on track somehow. I understand he commands a lot of attention from the opposition, but at times it doesn’t even seem like he’s trying. NBA teams have noticed, but there is still time to turn things around.