Get inside March Madness with SI.com's Luke Winn in the Tourney Blog, a daily journal of college basketball commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
3/09/2007 04:11:00 PM
Is Wright Ready To Pounce?
Don't be surprised if Wright emerges as the top freshman in the tournament.
Kevin C. Cox/WireImage.com
TAMPA, Fla. -- It does not take much to outscheme Florida State, a haphazard team full of highly touted recruits that is only occasionally cohesive. It does take a lot, however, to make the Seminoles look athletically inferior -- and yet North Carolina freshman Brandan Wright was able to do that on multiple occasions Friday in the second round of the ACC tournament.
The two most spectacular Wright Moments occurred during the second half of the Tar Heels' 73-58 win. The first came at the 12:06 mark, when Wright used his 7-foot-4 wingspan to pin an Uche Echefu layup attempt on the backboard, then had the presence of mind to tip the ball to teammate Reyshaun Terry, who converted that gift into a resounding righty dunk on a 1-on-none fastbreak. The second occurred nearly three minutes later, when Wright was running the break with backup point guard Quentin Thomas, who threw an underhanded alley-oop that wasn't so much of a pass as it was a plea to be credited with a turnover. The ball was thrown wide of the backboard on the left side, and there was one Seminole, guard Jerel Allen, between Wright and the rim.
For the 6-9 Wright, this did not pose the slightest of problems. He leapt, caught the ball midway up the backboard with his left hand, and redirected it into the rim to put the Heels up 59-40.
"I got bug-eyed watching that," said UNC guard Bobby Frasor, who was looking on from the bench. "With any other guy, that's a turnover, but Brandan saves plays. Coach [Roy Williams] was saying that it was a risky pass [by Thomas], but if you have Brandan there, why not try a risky pass since he can save you?"
Wright, who finished with 11 points and three blocks, is not the face of UNC (that's currently masked man Tyler Hansbrough), nor is he their sparkplug (that's freshman point Tywon Lawson) or their most skilled scorer (that's super-smooth rookie Wayne Ellington). In the Tar Heels' inside game, Wright is the beautiful complement to Hansborough's more-publicized brawn.
Wright is hardly the most hyped freshman in the country, either; those honors go to Texas' Kevin Durant and Ohio State's Greg Oden. But whereas Durant has the ability to take over games on the offensive end, and Oden changes games defensively, Wright's impact is felt on both ends of the floor. And since I have a feeling that the Tar Heels (26-6, 11-5 ACC) will be standing longer in March than the Longhorns or Buckeyes, I wonder if Wright will actually be the freshman who has the most effect on the NCAA tournament.
The stars that end up defining the dance are rarely the same players who claim the spotlight during the regular season. Last year we endured four months of J.J. Redick and Adam Morrison ("RedMo," if you recall) and then the NCAA tournament turned out to be all about man-children like Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas . Wright's unbelievable athleticism -- "He has such long arms that he probably negated 8-10 points," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said -- puts him in the same category, or even beyond, that of Noah or Thomas. UNC's big lefty is not operating under the radar, seeing that he's already projected as the No. 3 pick in the next NBA Draft, but he hasn't asserted himself consistently enough to be considered a true star in college.
Hamilton called Wright an "X-factor" on Friday, after Wright held first-team All-ACC performer Al Thornton to just 12 points, and forced Thornton to foul out with 6:48 remaining in the game. "[Wright] fits well with Roy [Williams'] defensive philosophy -- all the over-playing and pressuring," Hamilton said. "He makes up for a lot of the mistakes they make."
The freshman on clean-up duty for UNC is capable of playing a bigger role than X-factor in the NCAA tournament. In three weeks' time, the Year of Durant, Oden, Nick Fazekas and Alando Tucker will probably have ceded center stage to a new wave of stars. Wright could very well be among them.
Are you serious that Wright can impact both sides of the floor and Durant can't? All he did was lead the Big 12 in rebounds and blocks. I guess he can't impact a game on the defensive end quite like Wright though.
Luke, Oden, Durant and Wright have all had impact as frosh. But (and let's see what happens in the madness)I think when the All Freshman teams are named, you have to consider the Jayhawks' Sherron Collins AND Darrell Arthur who play in a system with 10 players averaging 10 minutes or more. Durant would be my overall pick for frosh AND player of the year--he's simply amazing. Too bad for Texas tho...."one and done"
SI left Aaron Brooks from Oregon off of the All America team. That is GARBAGE. He single handedly led the Ducks to at least 7 victories. He lead the Pac 10 in scoring, and his team just destoyed Arizona.
blocked shots and steals don't always equal being a good defender. Durant can be beaten off the dribble and in the post. He's a heck of an offensive player and could be a very good defensive player, but the same things that cause mismatches on offense (his height and shooting ability) also make him a liability on defense. He can score over a 6'4" shooting guard, but he often can't keep up with the same guy on the other end.
As a Tar Heel it saddens me to admit that Brandan is gone after this year unless he wants that #1 slot in 08's draft. I don't think he's on the same level as Durant and I don't think you was trying to say that Durant is not a force on the defensive end, Wright is more an interior player which means he affects alot of things that happen in the paint and around the basket. As for the Brandon Costner comment, he's not a true freshman!
Who is Tajuan Porter, im a huge bball fan and i have NEVER heard of Tajuan Porter. If he wanted recognition he should play for a team that isnt headlined by Aaron Brooks, who i agree should me at least be a 3rd team all american.
Another freshmen who should get some respect is Maryland's Greivis Vasquez. He got robbed of the ACC All-Freshmen Team because the media decided that the Dookie Jon Scheyer should be on there without deserving at all. Apparently, being a terrible defender, shooting 40% from the floor and 31% from 3 point range when you're supposed to be a shooting specialist means you're a great player. Vasquez was one of the biggest reasons for Maryland's resurgence this year. The kid is a little loco, but he's got everything you want in a player. He could end up being one of the X-Factors in the NCAA's. If Maryland makes a run, you can bet Greivis had a lot to do with it.
there's an NC State post coming in a minute, guys. Calm down.
And as for Durant, I love him on offense, but even the Texas coaches will tell you that he's a long ways away from reaching his potential on D. He gets crazy reboudning and block stats because he's so long, but he shouldn't be considered an All-American defender right now.