Ten Tuesday Scribbles…Posted by zhayes9 on January 19th, 2010
RTC contributor and bracketologist Zach Hayes will deliver ten permeating thoughts every Tuesday as the season progresses.
I’m taking a bit of a detour from our normal Ten Tuesday Scribbles format this time around. Rather than list and discuss ten players/teams/developments in college basketball that caught my eye this past week, I figure this would be an opportune time to properly gauge the debate-friendly National Player of the Year race. Here’s my top ten ranking of the players I feel are most deserving of capturing this esteemed award when the season comes to a close.
10. Jacob Pullen (Kansas State)– The 2-15 FG, 0-6 3pt stinkbomb last night against Avery Bradley and Texas puts a bit of a damper on this ranking, but dropping him out of this list would be remiss given his phenomenal junior campaign to date. Pullen has put together some spectacular performances against quality opponents, including 26/5/4 against Dayton in Puerto Rico, 28/6 on 10-16 FG against UNLV in Vegas and one of the best shooting efforts of the season in a win at Alabama: 30 points on 10-15 FG, 4-4 FT and 6-9 3pt. While Pullen has encountered a bit of a shooting slump since, he’s still one of the quickest guards in the nation with one of the smoothest jump shots. Jamar Samuels and Curtis Kelly led the way last night, and backcourt mate Denis Clemente is also potent, but coach Frank Martin knows how Pullen plays will determine how far the streaking Wildcats can go this season.
9. Jimmer Fredette (BYU)- A bout with mild mononucleosis has slowed down the explosive Fredette in recent weeks, but the complimentary pieces on a super-talented BYU team have certainly picked up the slack en route to a glamorous 18-1 record. Fredette is the catalyst and offensive machine that makes Dave Rose’s offense work, utilizing 31% of BYU’s offensive possessions and scoring at a clip below 20 per contest. Fredette shoots a stellar 44% from deep, 50% from two-point range and a remarkable 91% from the charity stripe. The junior guard isn’t just an explosive scorer, though, ranking 58th in the nation in assist rate. He’s best known for one of the best individual performances of the season at Arizona on December 28. Fredette scored 49 points on 16/23 FG and 9/13 from three to go along with nine assists and seven rebounds. Mono doesn’t seem to be slowing down Fredette too dramatically, either. This past Saturday against Colorado State, Fredette scored 21 points in just 24 minutes.
8. Quincy Pondexter (Washington)– Always a player blessed with tremendous length and talent, Pondexter had been a bit of an enigma during his career at Washington, showing glimpses of stardom but unable to maintain any sort of consistency. This year, the 6’6 senior has molded into a bona fide superstar. The last five Pac-10 games are a perfect example of how important Pondexter is to the fortunes of the Huskies, even more so than sophomore point guard Isaiah Thomas. After defeating Oregon State, Washington lost their next three games in conference and Pondexter totaled just 32 points in those three contests while battling foul trouble. Washington has rebounded nicely with two blowout wins on their rocking home floor in which the lanky forward has scored 52 points on 19/31 FG and 12/12 FT. Overall though, Pondexter’s senior season has been of the consistent variety, scoring 20.3 PPG and grabbing nearly eight boards per game while shooting 56% from the floor.
7. Luke Harangody (Notre Dame)– I know we say this every year, but we really should be talking about 2008 Big East Player of the Year Luke Harangody a lot more considering he’s on pace to set a career-high (and that’s saying something) in PPG and FG%. The decorated forward is third in the nation in scoring and is truly the centerpiece of a fairly potent Irish offensive attack, ranking sixth in the nation in percentage of shots used. Harangody has nine double-doubles already this season and three games of 30+ points. Whether it’s Harangody fatigue or fresh talent bursting upon the scene, we’re not discussing Harangody on a national platform nearly as much as in previous seasons. Two things could change that: 1) the Irish reaching the NCAA Tournament and 2) when Harangody becomes the Big East’s all-time leading scorer later this season.
6. Wesley Johnson (Syracuse)– There’s no way around it: Wesley Johnson has been an absolute beast in his debut season at the Cuse. Some, including myself, questioned Jim Boeheim’s constant touting of Johnson over the summer when the coach claimed he was an all-Big East player right away. That’s why I don’t have 800 wins and he does. Johnson is a dynamic force on the court and an NBA scout’s dream. He cans a smooth mid-range jumper with regularity and has range all the way out to the perimeter (45% 3pt). Johnson can leap out of the gym, throwing balls through the net as if he were playing on a Nerf hoop. He can post up smaller wings and guards or force bigger defenders to respect his accurate outside jump shot and is the perfect lengthy player at the back end of Boeheim’s patented 2-3 zone defense. The numbers speak for themselves (17/9 and nearly 2 blocks and 2 steals per game) and Johnson is the #1 reason Syracuse has been a huge surprise (along with Pitt) in the Big East. This future lottery pick already has eight double-doubles during his breakout 2009-10 campaign.
5. Jon Scheyer (Duke)– What happened to experts telling me Jon Scheyer couldn’t play point guard at the college level? The 6’5 senior has turned into much more than a deadeye 3-point popper, transforming his game into the straw that stirs the drink for Duke on the offensive end of the floor. Scheyer is one of the most efficient players in the nation, ranking first in all of college basketball in A/T ratio at 4.12 and second in offensive rating among players who use 20%+ of their teams’ possessions. He’s also been remarkably consistent shooting threes over the course of his career, shooting 38-39% from deep in his sophomore, junior and senior seasons, with MPG, PPG and APG (a remarkable 3.2 per game jump from 08-09) also steadily increasing. It always seems that Scheyer makes not the extra pass but the right pass. There isn’t much flash or glitz to his game, but there’s a reason Duke is ranked #1 in offensive efficiency in mid-January. Nobody is more responsible for that number than Jon Scheyer and few players in the nation are more important to their respective team.
4. Scottie Reynolds (Villanova)– Mr. Big Shot. Ever since a November where the four-year Villanova mainstay struggled to shoot the ball, Scottie Reynolds has been on an absolute tear, leading his Wildcats to an unblemished mark atop the ultra-competitive Big East. Ever since a 7 for 18 shooting performance against Maryland in early December, Reynolds is shooting a cool 63% from the field. It’s during that stretch that Reynolds nailed a game-deciding and-1 bucket to win at Marquette, scored 30 points in the second half to lead a comeback road victory at Louisville and poured in 27 points to tame Georgetown and send Villanova to 5-0 in the Big East. Reynolds is a far cry from the chucking freshman that shot 39% from the floor three seasons ago, now scoring 19.3 PPG and shooting 51% for the Wildcats while making winning play after winning play down the stretch. Reynolds also ranks in the top-100 in both effective FG% and offensive rating, showing his efficiency has grown dramatically in four seasons on the Main Line. There’s no point guard I’d rather have leading my team into March than Scottie Reynolds (and that includes the player at #1 on this list).
3. Evan Turner (Ohio State)– I’ll just come out and say it: Evan Turner would be #1 on this list if not for a scary back injury that forced him to miss six games (Ohio State went just 3-3, no coincidence). Turner doesn’t just have the ability to put up a double-double on any night, he has the capability to post a triple-double on any night. In fact, he’s done it twice already this season and came within a few assists of doing so on two other occasions against California and Florida State. Most thought it would take a few weeks for Turner to return to old form, but this 6’7 do-everything guard/forward/center is playing the role of superhero for the Buckeyes. Turner scored 32 points on 11-21 FG and 9-10 FT, including a stretch in the second half where he scored ten straight points to give Ohio State the lead, in a monumental victory at Purdue last Tuesday. Turner can score (18.5 PPG), rebound (9.4 RPG) and dish (5.3 APG), prompting quite possibly the best perimeter defender in college basketball, Purdue’s Chris Kramer, to call him a “stud.” You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone that disagrees, Chris.
2. Damion James (Texas)– Full disclosure: I did have James at the top of this list prior to his Big Monday blunder against Kansas State. After his heroics against Texas A&M and throughout his senior season, a slight bump in the road was to be expected. James, along with Reynolds and Harangody, are the prototypes for what staying four years in school can do for a player. James averaged just 7/7 as a freshman in Austin and has since progressed into a 17/11 player who recently broke the all-time Big 12 record for rebounds. Prior to the Kansas State loss, James was one rebound short at Arkansas from posting eight consecutive double-double efforts. James hits the glass with authority, ranking 15th in the nation this season in defensive rebounding percentage and 48th in fouls drawn per 40 minutes. Willing his team to victory against A&M at home with a clutch three-pointer and a ferocious block to seal the victory were signature moments for James during a senior season where a National Player of the Year award AND a national championship are attainable goals. The same also applies for the player at the top of our list…
1. John Wall (Kentucky)– More advanced than Derrick Rose as a freshman. Better all-around game than Tyreke Evans as a freshman. The best debut season since Kevin Durant. These are just a few of the accolades being tossed at John Wall during the first half of his first and only season in the Commonwealth, one in which the point guard has impressed all competitors and observers with blazing speed, jaw-dropping athleticism and performance under pressure. There’s nothing to dislike when it comes to Wall’s game at his age. He’s shooting a fantastic 50% from the floor, 79% from the line and, despite coming to Kentucky with questions about his jumper, is draining threes at a respectable 35% clip. Wall is also averaging over two steals per game and has a 1.7 A/T ratio as a freshman, a number that matches Rose’s A/T ratio and is much better than Evans in 2008-09. You’ll only be able to watch this star at the college level for another two months, so enjoy the view now.