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Thursday, December 20, 2012

12/20/12 Games to Watch and a Recap of Last NIght

I didn't get a chance to recap the North Carolina State/Stanford game yesterday, so I'll do it now since it was a notable game.

Lorenzo Brown was the "good" Lorenzo Brown that we saw last year. He finally got the better of another good guard - Chasson Randle being the victim. Brown did a great job finding the hot hand early on - finding Scott Wood in position to hit 5 3-pters in the first half. After Wood cooled down, Brown looked for his own offense in the second half and finished with 24 points on 15 shots.

Brown did a nice job pushing the ball in transition. His craftiness with the ball allowed him to navigate through traffic at a controlled pace, using his size to help shield the ball, and hit an array of floaters in the lane. He also showed the Eurostep a couple of times. The eurostep, his size, his craftiness, and his touch help make him a very good scorer inside when he is aggressive.

Brown is not the only NC State player who uses to floater to score in bunches - all three of Rodney Purvis's field goals came off floaters and TJ Warren has a very good floor game as well. Purvis was key in the first half before Brown took over and was able to blow by Stanford's slowish guards at ease. I cant think of another team that uses the floater as well as the Wolfpack.

Inside, CJ Leslie really struggled in the first half. He was bullied by Dwight Powell (who scored 15 first half points) and completely out of sync offensively. He airballed a long fadeaway, turned it over on a lazy pass, and took multiple bad shots on out of control drives. In the second half, some of his wild plays started to actually fall for Leslie and he finished with 16 points. Still, its been the same story with Leslie for years. He has awful offensive possessions and then shows the flash of the spectacular. The bottom line is he doesn't have anything reliable on the offensive end. His jumper is inconsistent and his awkward, out of control drives are more style over substance. He is the next Andray Blatche.

Meanwhile, Richard Howell continues to impress. He was always the garbage man for Leslie, but has taken over - for now at least - as the Pack's leading scorer. He is still mainly a garbage man, but he's terrific at his role. Howell is so tough inside finishing through contact, has good footwork, and surprisingly quick moves to the bucket. Unlike Leslie, he has efficient ways to score. On top of that, he's a better rebounder and worlds better defensively. He's certainly the better player at this stage and Leslie's "prospect" label is wearing off. When this season is over, I wouldn't be surprised to see Howell be selected OVER Leslie in the draft.

In last night's action, there was a good chance to see three first round power forwards in Jackie Carmichael, James Michael McAdoo, and Anthony Bennett.

Carmichael was huge in a slight upset at Dayton. He does a great job moving his feet on both sides of the ball and being active. He is a big guy, but moves lightly on his feet and is surprisingly explosive. He draws charges and guards the pick and roll with expertise. Offensively, he does a great job sealing off defenders on his back, has patience in the post, and has great footwork. He has soft touch around the rim and can step out and hit the jumper. With his skillset and BBIQ, Im not sure he is even capable of a bad game. He had 25 points and 14 rebounds last night.

Illinois State actually almost lost the game even though they were up 7 with under two minutes left. In a puzzling move, Illinois State called a timeout while up 4 points with under a minute to play. At the time there was 4 seconds left in the shot clock, but Carmichael had the ball in post and looked capable of getting a good shot. Instead, the timeout was called by the coach and the turned it over try to get the ball inbounds. If you call a timeout in that situation, you better have a great inbound play in mind. That play was a possible 4 point swing and gave Dayton a chance for a game winner in the final seconds. Illinois State got lucky to hold on.

For UNLV and Anthony Bennett, they had a date with Northern Iowa and looked great early. Anthony Bennett dominated on offense early - hitting a couple of threes and looking like a guard in transition. Its amazing how well he plays in transition at his size. He had a play where he grabbed a rebound, brought it up with the defense already set, yet still was able to take it all the way into the lane for a lay-up. He made it look easy.

And while Bennett had some jaw dropping plays, he didn't take advantage of Northern Iowa's size inside. His points came on jumpers and off the dribble. The problem with Bennett is he doesn't handle physical play much. He can out-muscle guys, but when the defense pushes back, he backs down. It happened last game against UTEP and UNI followed the same plan. Bennett was quiet in the second half mainly because he couldn't get good post position.

And defensively, Bennett played terrible post defense and allowed smaller UNI players to rebound over him. His help defense has been a problem this year, but he did have 3 solid blocks in attempt to block the rim.

From the surface, this looked like another Bennett statement game and he really did have some impressive stretches - specifically in the first half. But there are still things that hold him back from being an ideal top 5 selection.

James Michael McAdoo struggled again and the North Carolina Tar Heels ended up losing to Texas. Texas was too physical for UNC and were able to hit shots from outside. Like Jackie Carmichael, McAdoo has good footwork, explodes quickly, and a good feel for the game. Unlike Carmichael, McAdoo plays soft, rushes decisions, and takes low percentage shots. McAdoo was pushed around all game and unable to mix it up inside against the Longhorns bigs. McAdoo has a nice ceiling, but he won't reach it if he doesn't show more toughness and strength. Hes making the game harder on himself.

Games to Watch Tonight

Lehigh at North Texas 8pm

The big game on tonight's schedule is North Texas vs Lehigh which tips at 8pm. By last count I saw, 54 NBA scouts had requested credentials to tonights game - easily the most scouts congregating for a single game (no tournament) this year. All the buzz is about Tony Mitchell and CJ McCollom, two low-major players who have a shot at being selected in this years lottery.

Another reason all the attention will be in Denton tonight is because there aren't many other good games. Duke, Michigan, UCF, Memphis, and Arkansas all play and are worth checking out, but none of the games offer much to see. 

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