ATB: NPOY Race Getting Crowded With Jimmer, Nolan, Sullinger All Crushing…

Posted by rtmsf on January 6th, 2011

The Lede.  It was an eventful night across the college basketball landscape, from Tennessee’s beatdown to Jimmer’s blow-up and the general sense that Duke might never lose a game again.  There were undefeated teams staying undefeated and there were disappointing teams staying disappointing.  Let’s flesh it out.

Fredette Was Unconscious at Times Tonight (LV Sun/J. Bowen)

Your Watercooler MomentMust-See Jimmer.  Was it when Jimmer Fredette pulled up from 28 feet the first time or the second time?  Was it when Memphis missed its second 1-on-5 fast break or the third time against Tennessee?  Since we’re feeling charitable tonight, we’ll go with Jimmer.  Thanks to CBS College Sports for allowing the nation to see BYU’s game at UNLV tonight, because otherwise, Fredette’s superb 39-point performance would have just ended up as another box score line without any real context for how ridiculously hot this guy can get.  Here’s a brief synopsis: at the five-minute mark of the first half, Fredette had five points and was 2-8 from the floor.  Not coincidentally, BYU was down eight points and looking shaky in a rocking Thomas & Mack Center.  Then: 3-ball, 3-ball, 3-ball, 3-ball.  All before halftime, as BYU took a three-point lead into the break.  Fredette hit three more in the second half and Jackson Emery added six more himself as the Cougars tormented UNLV from the perimeter with ball-fakes leading to open jumpers and pull-ups off the delayed break.  When Dave Rose’s team is hitting bombs like they were tonight (14-28), they appear unbeatable; of course, that’s not always the case, but Fredette is approaching that JJ Redick/Adam Morrison level of explosiveness where his games are nearly must-watch theater just in case you miss something special.

Tonight’s Quick Hits...

  • Heir Jordan.  UCF moved to a perfect 14-0 after defeating Marshall tonight, as the younger progeny of MJ (Marcus) seems to have really found his confidence.  He blew up for his second consecutive game of 26 points (plus six rebounds and five assists), and it’s clear that the sophomore guard is asserting control over this team.  He is looking to attack the basket relentlessly, and although he doesn’t have the athleticism or size of his pops, he’s showing an ability to get into the paint, create scoring opportunities and draw fouls (6.5 per game).  We’re starting to wonder if he isn’t just scratching the surface of his talent.
  • Forget Singler — We Should Be Talking Nolan Smith For NPOY.  Kyle Singler is still a fantastic player (he passed the 2,000-point mark at Duke tonight), but his teammate Nolan Smith is killing it right now and frankly deserves to be in the NPOY discussion at this point in the year.  In his last five games, the senior guard is averaging 26 PPG and knocking down over 60% of his twos and threes.  On the season, he’s at 20/5/6 APG and it’s hard to believe that we all thought Duke might struggle somewhat without Kyrie Irving around to run the Blue Devil offense.  Obviously, ACC defenses are familiar with how to play Smith after three previous seasons defending him, but we have to give it up for the guy.  He’s only getting better and better.
  • Bruce Pearl With His Back Against the Wall.  It never fails.  EVERY time the Vol coach looks like he’s down and out in Knoxville, his team comes out and plays like a top ten team.  We’ll get to Josh Pastner’s band of buffoons below (seriously, someone ranked them?), but in the last game before Pearl’s SEC-imposed suspension, his team ran, shot, blocked and dunked all over intrastate rival Memphis tonight.  The twenty-point margin was a gift, honestly, as UT spent most of the game up thirty points or more.  That this same Tennessee team lost to Charlotte, Oakland and Charleston shows that the only problem with Pearl’s team is between the temples — when they are focused and ready to play, they’re as talented as all but a few teams in America.  Oh, and PS… his quote that he told his team they shouldn’t get too excited over beating a CUSA team… priceless.
  • Bo Ryan’s System.  Year after year, game after game, player after player… Bo Ryan’s teams look the same every season, but the coach gets his players to produce offensively in unexpected ways while still playing their trademark velcro defense.  Jon Leuer putting up All-American numbers on the inside (19/7) was expected, but Jordan Taylor’s ascent from sophomore role player to junior star (16/4/5 APG) has been a pleasant surprise and the primary reason the Badgers will once again be heard from in the Big Ten and national picture.  Wisconsin beat Michigan 66-50 tonight behind Taylor’s 20/8/3 assts and Leuer’s 17/8.
  • Charles Jenkins.  Hofstra’s superstar guard dropped 32/5/8 assts tonight in a key CAA home win over rival George Mason to move to 3-0 in the early going of the conference race.  Several teams in the league were projected to finish ahead of the Pride in the CAA this season — notably VCU, ODU and Drexel in addition to Mason — but nobody else in the league has a game-changer like Jenkins.  The senior guard is averaging 24/4/4 APG on the season while converting at a ridiculous 59% from the field and 50% from three, and his efficiency rating (according to Basketball State) is second in the nation behind only Morehead State’s versatile Kenneth Faried.
  • Richmond’s Other Arachnid.  We all know about A-10 POY Kevin Anderson, but UR’s big man Justin Harper has had a phenomenal season and he did it again tonight against Charlotte with 27/3 on 9-12 shooting (4-5 from deep).  The senior has upped his scoring average by nearly six points per game and is shooting the ball at a 56% clips this year, including a scorching 53% from outside the arc.  Richmond has struggled at times this season with consistency — beating Purdue but losing to Bucknell, for example — but if they can get in sync by March, there are few mid-majors in the country that have such an offensively powerful duo as Anderson and Harper.

…and Misses.

  • Memphis’ Craptastic Visit to Knoxville.  Other than a brief run at the beginning of the second half (a wink lasts longer), the Tigers showed no resolve, guts, pride or interest in competing with Tennessee tonight.  There have been numerous well-documented problems with Josh Pastner’s players over the last few months, but we’re starting to wonder if being an uber-recruiter at such a young age is necessarily a good thing.  What we saw out of the Tigers tonight signified a complete lack of respect for Pastner and his coaching staff.  One-on-five forays to the rim; an absolute lack of interest in playing defense on anybody in orange; a seeming belief that there are more points given for style than for substance.  Conference USA is not a very good league, but it’s deeper this year than it has been in the recent past, and if Memphis doesn’t start playing more like a team, they could potentially face a second straight season of the Not Invited Tournament.  How that would play with all these high-profile recruits on board will be interesting.
  • Does Anyone Want to Claim #2 in the ACC? With Boston College’s defeat at the hands of Harvard tonight for the third straight season, we’re starting to think that Duke will run the table in the ACC and ten other teams will go 8-8 (Wake, of course, would be 0-16).  It’s not that Tommy Amaker’s Crimson is a bad team, but BC clearly has more talent and this represents yet another unimpressive slip-up by an ACC school in the non-conference slate.  Right now North Carolina appears to be the second-best team in this league, and despite what Seth Davis says, the Heels just aren’t that good.
  • 34 Points? Really, Northeastern — you could only manage 34 total points in tonight’s loss against Old Dominion?  We realize that both teams are slower than molasses in how they run their offenses, but the Wildcats’ previous season low was in a win over Utah State.

Tweet of the Night.  Couldn’t agree more, Gary.  Couldn’t agree more.

rtmsf (3954 Posts)

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