Friday, November 16, 2012

Slow Start for Covington, but No Need to Panic

One of the most under the radar matchups yesterday was Robert Covington against Rodney Williams. Covington has been a favorite of mine and I was disappointed to check the box score this morning and see that he only scored 10 points on 4-11 shooting before fouling out in 22 minutes. Was one of my sleeper prospects exposed as a guy just beating up on weak competition thanks to mismatches?

I got through the first half of the game and felt much better about the outcome. Rodney Williams matched up on Covington the entire half and played great defense, but an even bigger factor was Tennessee State's guard play. They struggled to get the ball into the halfcourt against the Golden Gopher's press and through up ill-advised shots at any chance they got. They seemingly never got Tennessee State set in their offense.

Covington showed little frustration throughout the process of being blown out though, showing solid leadership skills. He came up with a nice steal in the first half and fed a teammate for a lay-up on the break, only to have him go up weak and end up being blocked. Covington was able to score a few times - stepping out for a 3 on a pick and pop, and showing off a nice drop step spin move from about 10 feet from the rim. He actually finished the first half with 7 points on 3-5 shooting before going 1-6 in the second half once the game was already decided.

In a game like this, Covington was unable to take pressure off the guards and bring the ball up himself because he isn't that kind of player. His ball handling skills are good enough for him to drive in a straight line or set up a mid-range jumpshot, but he gets in trouble when he tries to create plays in isolation situations. He didn't have any room for error against Rodney Williams, who played tight defense on him all half.

Tennessee State is 0-3 on the year and the guards look to be at fault. Covington's stat line will suffer because of this, but once the guards find equal competition in conference play, Covington should start to pick up play. This isn't because he can't play against top level competition, moreso that the rest of his team isn't up for that challenge.

As for Minnesota, they look like a top 25 team. Their defense should be one of the top in the country. Rodney Williams, Andre and Austin Hollins, and Trevor Mbawke make up a great core of players who all defend. Williams has been great since moving to power forward and could be a poster child for the NCAA on reasons to stay in school for all 4 years. He has learned so much in that time, going from a low IQ player, to a fluid player who knows where to be on defense and how to move without the ball.

Austin Hollins has always impressed me and its about time I zero in on him as a legit prospect. Andre isn't a bad point guard either. Mbakwe only played 10 minutes off the bench and picked up 4 fouls, but expect him to return close to form this year. 

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