Friday, March 5, 2010

Previewing March Madness: The Top 10

With the NCAA Tournament Selection Sunday just over a week away I’m going to start taking a closer look at the project field of 64.  DirecTV's $5 sports package add-on allows you to access all the regional channels all over the country anytime that a college basketball game is on TV (They don’t do it for College Football though… L).  That means anytime Syracuse plays on MSG or Gonzaga plays on FSNNW (Fox Sports Net North West) I can watch the game.  This has led me to watch an inordinate amount of college basketball and learn a lot about the majority of the top 25 teams in the land.

Over the next two Friday’s I'm going to post some articles with information I've picked up by watching all these teams play on a consistent basis.   Today I will go through each of the current top 10 teams giving you A) the best player on the team, B) The most important player on the team, and C) Their dirty little secret.  I’ll also throw in any extra information I see fit along the way.

Next week I'll look at the rest of the top 25 and any unranked teams that are pretty-sure bets to make the tournament.

For this article I will be using the AP Top 25 as of March 3rd, 2010.  The only difference other than teams being shuffled within the top 25 between the AP and ESPN is that AP has Xavier at #25 while ESPN (tied to power conferences and big schools as they are) has Texas #25.  I’ll use the AP just so we can discuss Xavier instead of Texas (My brother-in-law is a Sooner so this plays into that as well). 

The AP Top 25 can be found here if you’d like to follow along.  As Always, please feel free to include any thoughts in the comments below.

  1. Syracuse
    1. Best Player: Wesley Johnson, SF – Johnson, a transfer from Iowa State leads the team in minutes, points, rebounds, and blocks and is second on the team in steals while being a major force in that 2-3 zone.  He’s such a key to what Syracuse does because he’s extremely long (6-7) and is a good mid-range jump shooter that helps stretch the defense.  He’ll easily be one of the top-3 players picked in the upcoming NBA draft.
    2. Most Important Player: Andy Rautins, PG/SG – The beloved and overrated senior is the PG on this team.  Sure he starts at SG but he leads the team in assists, easily has the most/best court vision, and handles the ball in all the crunch time situations. 
    3. Dirty Little Secret: 3-point shooting - Over the past few years with Eric Devendorf, Gerry McNamara, and Johnny Flynn leading the way The Orange were always known as a good outside shooting team.  Well not this year, Rautins is the only good distance shooter on this team.  He’s made 81/200 (40.5%) to check in as the only player on the team shooting better than 40%.  In fact, Rautins has more than double the makes than any other player on the team since no one else has even made 40 3’s this season. 
  2. Kansas
    1. Best Player: Sharon Collins, PG – Cole Aldrich, the Morris brothers, and Xavier Henry help to make up a great starting lineup but Collins is the only PG that I trust on this team.  He makes the best decisions on the floor and allows those athletes to really show their stuff.  To quote Seth Davis: “When it’s winning time Sharon Collins comes alive.”
    2. Most Important Player: Sharon Collins, PG - Sharon recently became the all-time winning player in Kansas history and I think that’s a good way to sum up Sharon’s impact on this Jayhawk team.  He plays 33 minutes a game while no one else plays 28.  Almost 5 more minutes of court time a game shows exactly how important he is to this team.
    3. Dirty Little Secret: Free Throw Percentage – The cost of all that inside dominance from Aldrich and the Morris’s? FT shooting.  All three of them shooter under 68% (Markief currently at 58%) which helps bring the teams clip down to 69% overall.  I don’t know how Cole Aldrich learned that shooting form but that coach needs to be fired from ever teaching it again, ugh…
  3. Kentucky
    1. Best Player: John Wall, PG– the Fantastic Freshman has been as good if not better than advertised. Other than when LeBron James hit the NBA I can’t think of another player to live up to the hype as well as John Wall has.  
    2. Most Important Player: John Wall, PG – Other than rebound and block shots Wall has to do everything.  He leads the team in MPG, PPG, APG, and SPG.  He also has the ball in his hands more than anyone on the team.  Freshman PG’s have proven before that they can do this, remember Derrick Rose in 2008?
    3. Dirty Little Secret: Assist/Turnover ratio – John Wall always has the ball in his hands, except for an average of over 4 times per game he loses the ball out of his hands.  Maybe even more startling is the 3.4 TPG that Eric Bledsoe chips in while handling the ball a lot less.  Those are your two PG’s UK fans so just buckle up; it’s going to be a roller-coaster ride at times with these two.
  4. Duke
    1. Best Player: Kyle Singler, SF/PF – He’s finally playing at his natural position of SF and is flourishing.  Battling through a wrist injury earlier hurt his shooting %’s and effectiveness but he’s healed pretty well since then.  Being the best low post player, perimeter mismatch and best rebounder means Singler has to play well for the Devils to win, and he usually does.
    2. Most Important Player: Jon Scheyer, PG – Scheyer is a first year PG that touts a 3/1 AST/TO ratio that is unheard of for a lifetime PG.  By contract Sheron Collins is 1.9/1 and John Wall is 1.5/1.  Then factor in that he leads the team in MPG, PPG, STLs, 3PM, 3PT%, FT% and bottles of hair gel used.  That’s a pretty complete resume there.
    3. Dirty Little Secret: Size – As is usually the case Duke is dealing with being undersized inside.  Their most athletic big, Mason Plumlee, is still just a freshman and not ready to contribute a ton yet.  Lance Thomas is just a marginal player and Zoubek might as well have rigor mortis he’s so damn stiff.
  5. Kansas State
    1. Best Player: Denis Clemente - When you watch this team on the floor you can tell Clemente is the leader.  He’s the most unheralded PG in the country as nobody talks about him.  He leads the team in minutes, assists, AST/TO ratio and is second on the team.  He’s not an especially good shooter but he makes up for it with leadership and playmaking.
    2. Most Important Player: Jacob Pullen – What Clemente lacks in shooting prowess, Pullen helps make up for it.  He leads the team in scoring and is easily the most electric player off the dribble on the team.  Since he’s the best offensive player and he also doubles as the best perimeter defender on the team he’s going to be a busy man come tournament time.
    3. Dirty Little Secret: Inside Scoring – At one point against Kansas this week the Wildcats had 16 Offensive Rebounds but only 5 second chance points.  Jamar Samuels and Curtis Kelly has solid size and convert the chances that Clemente and Pullen set up for them but they just can’t make it happen on their own.  There will come a point in the tourney when they will be called upon to provide a good bit of scoring, we’ll have to see if it happens.
  6. Ohio State
    1. Best Player: Evan Turner – As much as I love John Wall, Evan Turner is the best college basketball player in the country.  He’s a 6’7” forward with PG passing/ball handling skills, big man rebounding skills, and perimeter defensive skills to hound the other teams best player.
    2. Most Important Player: Evan Turner – Turner broke a bone in his back earlier this season and they promptly lost to Butler, Wisconsin, and Michigan.  With all due respect to those teams they wouldn’t beat OSU with Turner in the lineup.  He makes this team go by covering up for Dallas Lauderdale’s lack of rebounding, Lighty/Bufords lack of ballhandling, and John Deiblers lack of everything but 3PT shooting, it’s going to be fun watching him tear up the tournament. 
    3. Dirty Little Secret:  Rebounding/Depth – Ohio State has the best starting 5 in the Big 10 but they end there.  P.J. Hill and Jermie Simmons are both seniors but the more OSU plays them the worse it is for business.  Dallas Lauderadale is all they have inside and he’s only 6’8”.  If a team consciously keeps Turner off the boards I don’t think anyone else on this team can make up for it.
  7. Purdue
    1. Best Player: Robbie Hummel – He was the best scorer, the best shooter, the best decision maker and the worst possible injury on this team.  I loved them as a 2-seed before his injury, now I’d take ‘em as a 3 seed as long as they don’t end up in a really strong 2’s bracke (like OSU). 
    2. Most Important Player: E’Twaun MooreWithout Hummel all the scoring/ballhandling pressure falls on Moore.  He’s skilled enough to do it but he’s just not as good a decision maker.  Without Hummel he’s also the only 3PT shooter on the team.  Having Chris Kramer on the team ensures Moore won’t have to kill himself guarding the best player on the defensive side. 
    3. Dirty Little Secret: Rebounding – Without Hummel they only have Jajuan Johnson as a rebounder and he’s not that exceptional at it.  I don’t think they have the inside prowess able to withstand a team with some length.
  8. New Mexico
    1. Best Player: Darington Hobson – This guy is Evan Tuner Lite.  He leads the team in MPG, PPG, RPG, APG, while also doubling as a very solid defensive player.  I know I talked about KSU’s Clemente as not getting any publicity but Hobson gets even less.  Hobson and Head Coach Steve Alford are going to open some eyes in this tournament.
    2. Most Important Player: Darington Hobson – Let’s see: Only Wall/Turner/Collins has doubled as his team’s best and most important player and now Hobson does too.  He really is that good and at 6’7” and 205 he looks a little like Turner physically too.  Make sure you schedule some time to watch the Lobos play because Hobson is a treat.
    3. Dirty Little Secret: Inside Defense/depth – Only one player on the team averages over 1 BPG and they don’t have anyone over 6’8” on the the team.  There’s also only 5 players on the team that average over 20 minutes a game so there’s not a lot of experience throughout the roster.  Hobson had better be really good every game because they’re going down if they don’t. 
  9. Villanova
    1. Best Player: Scottie Reynolds – I love Reynolds, he’s such a good college PG and he’s a ton of fun to watch.  He shoots the ball extremely well, runs the break as well as any guard in the country, and has an uncanny knack of picking and choosing his spots on when to score as evidenced by his 0 points in a back and forth first half  and then 17 second half points to put the game away against Cincy earlier this week.
    2. Most Important Player: Mouphtaou Yarou – I’ve watched Villanova more than any team over these past 3 weeks and the one player that stands out more than Reynolds as far as importance is Yarou.  I know Antonio Pena leads the team in rebounding but at 6’8” and 235 he’s just not a huge inside force, but Yarou is 6’10”, 250LBs, and more athletic than Pena.  He’s only a true freshman so Jay Wright has to manage his minutes to maximize his effectiveness but he really does a good job of throwing his body around to make an impact inside which is something that Nova really needs
    3. Dirty Little Secret: AST/TO ratio – With as many guards as this team has I would think this wouldn’t be such a weakness.  However the problem isn’t in the number of TOs they generate, it’s in the number of assists.  Their fast breaking style of play doesn’t lend itself to racking up assists and they actually have a decent TO rate considering how they play.  However their AST/TO ratio is more telling of their 3PT made as only one player has over 60 made 3’s on the season.
  10. West Virginia
    1. Best Player: Da’Sean Butler – One of only two seniors on the entire team Butler is also the team leader in MPG, PPG, APG, FTM, 3PTM and one of the better perimeter defenders on the team.   He’s also WVU’s Mr. Big Shot as he takes and makes almost all the important shots for the Mountaineers.
    2. Most Important Player: Kevin Jones – Butler is “one of” but Jones is THE best perimeter defender on this team.  He’s also one of the biggest players and the most athletic player on the team.  Athleticism, defense, inside scoring as well as his 3PT shooting prowess make Jones an extremely important player for WVU.
    3. Dirty Little Secret: 3PT Shooting – Other than Kevin Jones and Wellington Smith nobody shoots over 34% from 3pt range.  What makes it worse is that Butler/Darryl Bryant combines to take over 8 3PT per-game which makes their percentage even more impactful.

1 comment:

  1. WOW...Great Work not getting this from ESPN