Wall gets all the pub, but KU frosh Henry is just as impressive (cont.)
Other Hoop Thoughts
Georgetown sophomore center Greg Monroe has had his share of doubters since he was in high school, but I have never been one of them. He had 24 points and 15 boards against Butler, and all I heard (especially from my friends at draftexpress.com) were questions about why he doesn't do that every game. People always seem to want more from Monroe, but he is what he is. He will never be a high-motor guy. At the end of the day, he is a probable lottery pick who will have a long and lucrative NBA career. If that's a disappointment, a lot of players would be happy with that tag.
I know a lot of Purdue fans are counting down the days until sophomore point guard Lewis Jackson returns from foot surgery, but coach Matt Painter told me this weekend that it's still possible Jackson could be done for the season. Jackson is due to be reexamined by his doctor next week, so we should know more then, but it's not overstating things that Purdue's Final Four prospects could hang in the balance.
I spoke with Jim Calhoun after UConn's loss to Kentucky about Ater Majok, the 6-11 freshman who will become eligible for the Huskies' game against Central Florida on Dec. 20. Sounds like Majok will definitely help but he is not a savior. He'll bolster UConn's frontline defense and allow Stanley Robinson to play small forward, but there are only so many minutes to be had, especially with Gavin Edwards playing so well.
When teams are down by three or four points with under 30 seconds to play, I think they go for the three-pointer way too often. Even when there are only 10 to 15 seconds left, I think it's better to drive to the rim for the quick two points (and quickly foul on the ensuing possession) because defenses will usually let you do that, as they don't want to give up the three. It's just a smarter way to stretch the game.
Wall may hold the keys to Kentucky's offense, but Patrick Patterson is the engine. When the Cats are running their half-court offense, Patterson needs to spend more time playing in the post with his back to the basket and less time facing up from 18 feet.
The thing I love about Tom Crean's rebuilding job at Indiana is that he is being patient (and the school is letting him be patient) so he can do it the right way. No quick fixes, no cutting corners, no mass influx of juco transfers with sketchy backgrounds. Crean got rid of a lot of deadweight when he first got to Bloomington, which set the timetable back even further. Hoosier fans need to realize it will be at least another two or three years before this is one of the elite programs in America, but by bringing in talented youngsters like freshman guard Maurice Creek, who had a career-high 30 points in Saturday's loss to Kentucky and looks like a four-year player, Crean is laying a foundation for long-term success. These things take time, but if they're done right it's worth the wait.
Syracuse's Andy Rautins is second in the nation in steals with a 3.75 game. Just so you know.
When is the last time a player from a major conference finished the season as a single-digit free throw shooter? Through 10 games, Michigan State freshman forward Derrick Nix is 2 for 23 from the line. That's 8.7 percent.
I've said it before and I'll say it lots more: No guard in the country is better at getting to the foul line than Villanova's Scottie Reynolds. He took a season-high 14 foul shots (making 12) in Nova's win over Saint Joseph's last Wednesday. That's five more free throws than Dan Werner, who starts at forward for Florida, has taken all season.
Having said that (thank you, Larry David), if I had asked you before the Temple-Villanova game Sunday night who was going to be the best guard on the floor, I'm guessing you would not have answered Juan Fernandez. The Owls' 6-4 sophomore was terrific, finishing with a career-high 33 points on 7-for-9 shooting from three-point range. I could see the Atlantic 10 getting four teams into the NCAA tournament: Dayton, Xavier, Temple and Richmond.
Lance Stephenson's crossover is so good, it hurts my ankles just to watch it.
Memphis guard Elliott Williams has been remarkably consistent this season. In all eight of the Tigers' games, he has scored between 19 and 23 points. I still say Williams, and not Tulsa's Jerome Jordan, will be Conference USA's POY.
Brendan F. Quinn reported in Basketball Times Online this week that Herb Sendek, who is all of 46 years old, has more former assistants working as Division I head coaches than anyone else in college hoops. Who'da thunk it?
I hope you all are not sleeping on Omar Samhan. The 6-11 senior center is averaging 19.9 points, 11.9 rebounds and one block for Saint Mary's, which won at Oregon on Saturday to improve to 7-1. Samhan has had five games where he grabbed 15 or more boards.
It's odd that Butler sophomore center Matt Howard has fouled out in six of the Bulldogs' first 10 games when he was DQ'd just three times all of last season.
One more tidbit on Kansas: Cole Aldrich has not been scoring much (he's averaging 12 points a game, down from 14.9 last year), but Self told me that should change once junior guard Brady Morningstar returns this week from suspension following his drunk driving arrest. "Brady's a ball mover. He can really feed the post," Self said. "Watch Cole's points go up when he comes back."
Xavier guard Jordan Crawford is one of those players who will shoot his team in and out of a lot of games. It took him 16 shots to score 16 points in the Musketeers' double-overtime win over Cincy Sunday night. He has also attempted 15 more three-pointers than foul shots this season.
Roy Williams will never be confused for a Zen master, but even by his standards it was rather extreme to ask security to remove a Presbyterian fan from the Dean Dome Saturday night just because the guy shouted "Deon, don't miss it!" as Deon Thompson was attempting a free throw. The real question is, why does a coach even have the authority even to remove a fan in the first place?
Quincy Pondexter is having a solid year for Washington, and it's great that he brings a lot of energy and confidence to a game. But he also woofs too much and pounds his chest for making pedestrian plays. Considering the Huskies have lost the only two tough games on their schedule (at Texas Tech and vs. Georgetown in Anaheim), perhaps Mr. Pondexter should let his actions speak for themselves for the foreseeable future.
John Wall's success masks the fact that overall, this is a pretty mediocre freshman class. You get past Wall, Henry, Stephenson, Derrick Favors, Kenny Boynton, Elias Harris (who is not your typical freshman at 20 years old) and the guys at Texas, and the pickings are pretty slim.
The problem the teams in the Pac-10 are going to have is that they won't be able to improve their RPI rankings after league play begins because of their poor showings in nonconference games. The over/under for NCAA bids from this league is two.
I'm a little perplexed that Michigan senior forward DeShawn Sims seems to have regressed from last season. His scoring average is down slightly to 14.6 points per game from 15.4 as a junior, but his field goal percentage has plummeted from 50.5 to 42.9 percent. John Beilein's offense is predicated on making three-pointers while giving up rebounds, but that is a hard formula for success on the road. Hence Michigan's 16-point loss at Utah, when they shot 7-for-22 from behind the arc and got outrebounded by 13.
Derrick Caracter had two points and three fouls in 12 minutes in his season debut during UTEP's loss at home to New Mexico State Sunday night. There are some people who have high expectations for Caracter, but I'm not one of them. I still remember interviewing him for the first time the summer before his freshman year of high school. When I asked Caracter if he wanted to play in the NBA, he told me he did not. He wanted to be a veterinarian.
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