Sunday, January 6, 2013

Saturday's Weekend Wrap-Up

Cincinnati vs St. John's

Sean Kilpatrick got off to a hot start this year along with the rest of the Bearcat team. However, as we head into a tougher part of the schedule, both him and the team are looking much more average. The Bearcats have been a team that takes advantage of their athleticism and defense by pressuring teams into tough shots. Now, they have been the team getting bullied on the inside.

Kilpatrick only scored 7 points against St. John's - probably the most athletic team he's faced to date. In his last three games (against New Mexico, St. John's, and Pittsburgh), his best shooting performance was his 3-8 game against Pittsburgh. I've watched each of those games and it seems his stock is deteriorating before our eyes. His 3-pt shooting is now down to 33% and that is supposed to be his calling card at the next level. His driving game isn't working either - he has to try to muscle the way to the hoop and has struggled finishing vs size. The write-up I wrote on Kilpatrick in November is looking on point. I thought I might have been a bit too tough on him after his strong December.

Rutgers vs Pittsburgh

Rutgers' pulled off the upset early on Saturday morning which was the start of 3 ranked Big East teams losing. I've been vocal about how much I like this Panther team, but getting outrebounded 31-21 just isn't their style. Talib Zanna only had 1 rebound and now there is a bit of reservation if he has actually made the jump to one of the better big men in the Big East. He has been fools gold before. He thrives in transition opportunities which won't be as rampant in conference play, but his rebounding is a bit of a mystery. I still really like his awareness on defense. He does a great job covering for Steven Adams' mistakes.

Speaking of Adams, he only had 4 rebounds in 28 minutes. This was a better game for him then the box score indicates though. He continues to make visible progress each game which makes his potential almost something tangible. He has been running the court and moving on offense with purpose. It is amazing just how fluid he is at his height. He does a great job moving from point A to point B on offense and finally looks like he knows where he is going. He's been able to catch the ball on the run and finish all in one smooth motion. He completely shut out every pick and roll attempt Rutgers tried. He is a little slow getting back to his man, which is where Zanna's ability to move comes in handy.

The one area where Adams really needs to improve in the immediate feature is his rebounding. Not his ability to rebound the ball, but his ability to hang onto it after he gets it. He is weak coming down with the ball and gets it taken away from him too many times. Adams needs to develop a mean streak. If he shows this, I'd consider drafting him in the top 5-8.

Lamar Patterson is a talented jack-of-all trade performer who I've liked dating back to high school. but it is time for him to expand himself as a player. He is a capable driver and creator and Pittsburgh desperately needs another aggressor on the perimeter. He needs to step up.

Baylor vs Texas

This game was a bit of a surprise with Texas forcing overtime as Scott Drew serving a suspension, but the Bears ended up winning 86-79.

Cory Jefferson came up huge with 25 points and 10 rebounds. His combination of size, athleticism, and energy is the perfect recipe for an early second round draft pick. He is only listed at 210lbs, but looks much bigger and certainly plays stronger than that. He got most of his points around the rim by using a combination of his aforementioned athleticism and relentlessness. He's a team player and also a very good defender. He's gone against 3 strong frontcourts in his last three games - all games that I watched - against Gonzaga, Texas, and BYU. In those 3 games, he has grabbed a total of 33 rebounds.

Those three games have also been an opportunity to see how Isaiah Austin fairs against strong frontlines and he's done as well as one could ask - tallying 52 points and 30 rebounds over that stretch. Austin gets a lot of flack for his softness, but to his credit, he doesn't shy away from contact. It just isn't his game, therefore, it isn't smart for him to try to battle down low. And it probably never will be given his physical profile. You have to accept Austin for what he is - a skilled power forward with elite coordination and nice ball skills. I think everyone agrees on the basic scouting report for Austin, but what that amounts to in the NBA is up for debate. Stretch forwards can be a dime a dozen, but just how high is Austin's potential? There haven't been many 7+ footers with his ball skills since Dirk, so there is some intrigued. Then again, finding a guy anywhere near Dirk is like hitting the lottery. NBA teams tried time and time again to hit the lottery in the 2000s with European 7 footers, each time failing.

Pierre Jackson had a somewhat erratic game, making some errant passes and playing too fast at times. But he did get to the line 15 times thanks to his combination of elite quickness and good ball handling ability. He has a tight crossover that is able to break down defenses. Jackson needs to learn to slow his game down and become more of a constant nuisance on defense, but he has himself in discussions as a second rounder.

For Texas, there has been a lot of positive things to say about them until Javan Felix's performance yesterday. The Longhorns offense has been a mess a season, lacking spacing or any kind of rhythm. Texas has always been at their best with players off all shapes and sizes who can shoot and stretch their defense. It has appeared the Rick Barnes is still trying to run the same sets with this personnel, yet without the shooters. Finally yesterday, Felix took control of the offense through the pick and roll game. He finished with 26 points and 9 assists while only handing the ball over to the defense once. The performance was as impressive as it sounds - he ran the pick and roll with poise and was able to get lots of good looks in the mid-range area. Baylor didn't defend it well, something that might have had to do with Drew being out, but Felix deserves the credit for this one.

Murray State vs SE Missouri State

Ed Daniel - Daniel's endurance was on full display, bringing his energy for 37 minutes in a game that was close post of the way. Daniel is the same kind of player as Ben Wallace or Kenneth Faried - two other small school products who come from the southeast. He's not as good, but he has a good shot at making a NBA team.

At this level, he does a great job at running down the court to establish deep low post position in the paint. He isn't a bully with his size, but does possess great quickness and determination. His post game is basic, relying on a running right handed hook shot and and vanilla arsenal of ball fakes. He hit a foul line jumper in this game. His jumpshot is more of a touch shot though - and he has good touch, but his range doesn't look promising - 10 feet and in. With Isaiah Canaan, his main role on offense is more as a screener and rebounder than a go-to threat.

Defensively, Daniel moves like a small forward and has a tremendous IQ. He brings non-stop energy and is willing to lay his body on the line at all times. He plays great help defense and puts great pride in keeping his man out of the paint (although he can get pushed around at times). Daniel has a chiseled frame that has obviously seen the weight room, much like Faried's in college, but could focus on adding more girth. He has a Faried level body and athleticism. He isn't quite the rebounder, but 11 boards in 29 minutes is not too shabby.

Daniel has improved on his numbers drastically this year and he credits it to the confidence he gained in the all-star camps he attended with Canaan over the summer. He only grabbed 5.5 boards in 24 minutes just last year. This kind of improvement on the glass is something that is unprecedented.

Isaiah Canaan was battling with an injury in this game, but got hot in the second half to bring Murray State into the lead. After a quiet first half, he ended up finishing with 28 points. Canaan doesn't need to be fully healthy to score - all he needs is enough room to get his jump shot off. And thats not a lot of room. Canaan has grown used to the opposition switching on the pick and roll and leaving him to shoot over a big man. The opposition knows Canaan prefers to shoot than drive, so the switching makes sense, but Canaan has adjusted. Next to Deshaun Thomas, he is probably the best shooter in the country when it comes to off-balanced, contested jumpers.

Lehigh vs VCU

For the second time, CJ McCollum let down scouts that flocked to see him play. The first time was when he sat out against North Texas, this time McCollom broke his foot in the first half and is now potentially out the entire regular season.

In the 15 minutes McCollom did play, he was 0-5 from the field. VCU gave him a heavy dose of the havoc defense each time he touched the ball and essentially took him out of the game even before he got hurt. Lehigh still tried to keep getting him the ball, but he was unable to find the open men under the duress of the defense. Once McCollom was forced to the bench, Lehigh actually was able to develop some rhythm since they didn't continue to look for CJ in double teams. They ended up giving VCU a game, eventually losing 59-55. 

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