By Paul Casey Gotham
Gone are the days when Thanksgiving week sports viewing was limited to the NFL. The feast of college hoops on television makes one wonder if the week is more about giving thanks for the beauty of the hardwood than the gridiron. From the Paradise Jam to the Coaches vs. Cancer to the CBE Classic to the Maui Invitational and beyond, college hoops fans have a buffet of action with which to choose.
These early season tournaments offer glimpses of what is to come, but be careful putting too much stock in the results of these games. For many teams and coaches the process helps lay a foundation for broader success.
For a summary of the goings-on, you will need to read this piece by Rush The Court. While you are there, check out RTC’s Morning Five. Scroll down a little and read the piece on Bruce Pearl. Or, should I say Bruce Pearl’s wife.
Hard to ignore Duke’s handling of Kansas State. I wouldn’t have been surprised had the Wildcats taken that one. Certainly, Kyrie Irving had a coming out party. Duke didn’t too much wrong, and as we were reminded throughout the match, they are a talented group. Yes, it was chemistry that made it work last year when the Blue Devils won the title. Of course, Coach K knows a thing or two about developing cohesion with stars.
Irving wasn’t the only Duke young gun getting it done. Mason Plumlee is ready to take the reins.
A K-State and Duke meeting in March has the potential of finding its way on to the list all-time greatest games. Rest assured, the bearded-one, Jacob Pullen, would shoot better than 1-12, and the Wildcats will do better than 11-23 from the free throw line.
Speaking of struggling from the free throw line
Maryland’s Terrapins shot a woeful 14-30 from the charity stripe in their 79-70 loss to the Pittsburgh Panthers. That doesn’t include the front ends of one-and-ones missed. Sophomore forward, Jordan Williams, went 2-7 from the stripe. Gary Williams used several teaching moments which, in the short run, might have cost UM the game. But, in the long run, the Terrapins should benefit. Gary Williams pulled Jordan Williams out of the game on a couple of occasions to emphasize patient defensive play. With the 6’10” Williams on the pine, Pitt dominated the offensive glass. In all, Pitt grabbed 12 boards on the offensive end to Maryland’s 6. Overall, Pitt outrebounded the Terrapins 43-25.
The young and/or untested Terrapins should come together just in time to make a run in the tournament. Williams will improve in the post. Adrian Bowie is a point guard’s point guard. That is, he distributes the ball as his first priority. The senior is starting for the first time in his career. His teammates will learn to enjoy having him with the ball in his hands as he knows where and when to give it to them.
McGhee Ds it up
A big part of Maryland’s frustration came from dealing with Pitt’s center, Gary McGhee. The senior center dialed in the most valuable one-point performance possible. McGhee does one simple thing: he moves his feet. He has to be the most agile 6’10” guy in college hoops along with Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson. He does all the little things on the defensive end. He defends BEFORE his man catches the ball. Think about that. He moves to deny the ball. When he commits a foul, it is NOT a shooting foul. Over the long haul, that will pay diviends. Beyond that, McGhee closes the gate. He doesn’t let his man get by him on the base line. His teammates have to love that. They can get out and deny their man the ball because they know McGhee is not going to need help in the paint.
McGhee doesn’t need to score when he has teammates like Brad Wanamaker. Wanamaker is leading a bunch of veterans that are out-shining the freshmen.
Kemba, Kemba, Kemba
When UConn’s Kemba Walker poured in 42 against Vermont, fans took notice. When he followed that performance with 31 against a very good Wichita State team, people started talking. 30 points against Michigan State? That’s unheard of. Not that he was before, but Walker won’t fly under the radar for the rest of the season.
In the zone
Old Dominion won the Paradise Jam using a frustrating match-up zone. The Monarchs beat Clemson 61-60 to reach the finals, and then knocked off Xavier 67-58. Earlier this season, ODU took Georgetown down to the wire losing 62-59. Old Dominion plays Richmond, Dayton and Missouri before starting play in the Colonial Athletic. Keep your eye on the Monarchs. They beat Notre Dame in the first round of last year’s NCAA tournament and lost by eight to Baylor in a game that was tied with 6:00 remaining. ODU returns four starters from that squad.
Struggling to get separation
When Syracuse coach, Jim Boeheim, says: “Right now, we are the most over-rated team I have ever had,” he is not using coach speak. Boeheim is not just trying to motivate his guys through the media. The hall-of-fame coach is giving an honest assessment. The Orange led Northern Iowa by three at half before pulling away late on the outmanned Panthers. Two days later, Canisius forced Boeheim to call a timeout four minutes into the second half when Greg logins knocked down a 3 to pull the Griffs within four. Since then, Syracuse trailed Detroit at half and needed late free throws to beat William and Mary 63-60.
Tassels for the Griffs
The Canisius graduation story is now national news. Click here to read the article from Sports Illustrated. Props to Canisius coach, Tom Parrotta, for using education as a recruiting ship. I have the benefit of getting press credentials to cover the Griffs throughout the 2010-11 campaign. If you haven’t already, check out the Griffs victory over St. Bonaventure and their romp over Eastern Michigan.
Sitting courtside gives me the opportunity to see outstanding performances like the one by UB’s Byron Mulkey last night. Playing for the love of the game. Gotta respect it.
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