AAC Exhibition Impressions: Part I

Posted by Mike Lemaire on November 13th, 2014

College basketball exhibition games are no different from preseason games in any other sport. Coaches like to use the inferior opponents as a chance to test strategies on both ends of the floor and evaluate fringe candidates for the rotation through extended minutes. For these reasons and the fact that exhibition opponents are usually Division II/III or NAIA teams with almost no real size, deriving meaningful observations from these performances is usually a fruitless endeavor. These games are a nice opportunity for players to get some run against a team other than themselves, but they don’t mean a whole lot in the grander scheme of the full season. Some AAC teams choose to not even play exhibition games. We say all of this so that we can look at least somewhat self-aware when we dedicate the rest of this post to drawing meaningful conclusions from the smallest of sample sizes.

Pastner Continues to

Josh Pastner Continues to Feel the Heat in Memphis

Memphis Will be Much Better Than They Were on Wednesday. The Tigers played terribly in their overtime loss to Christian Brothers on Wednesday night, but let’s not rush to any big-picture conclusions. Head coach Josh Pastner explained afterward that he used the game to experiment with a few things; the team’s two best players – Shaq Goodwin and Austin Nichols – looked very sharp; and you better believe that Kedren Johnson won’t often shoot 1-of-4 from the field and turn the ball over six times. Still, losing to a Division II oppoent is not a very good look for a team with a bunch of question marks this season. Aside from Goodwin and Nichols, the Tigers shot just 31 percent from the field and 22 percent from downtown. Throw in 21 turnovers against an overmatched opponent and you can see why folks that closely follow this program might be worried. The bottom line is that nobody should be panicking in Memphis just yet, but the Tigers have a lot of room to improve.

UCF Freshmen B.J. Taylor and Adonys Henriquez Are Going to be Fun to Watch. After losing do-everything swingman Isaiah Sykes to graduation, one of the only things UCF fans had to look forward to this season was the debut of two of Orlando’s best recruits in recent memory. The 6’6″ Adonys Henriquez was a consensus top-100 recruit and was Florida’s 2A Player of the Year as a senior. The 6’2″ Taylor was Florida’s 8A Player of the Year and led the entire state in scoring as a senior, averaging 34.5 points per game. The duo are going to play a ton because the Golden Knights are not only inexperienced but because Taylor and Henriquez represent the future of the program. In two exhibition games, Taylor has scorched the nets for 23 and 22 points, respectively. Henriquez, on the other hand, dished out eight assists in the first exhibition game and scored 11 points in the second, with three of his baskets coming from behind the arc. The Golden Knights may not be very good this season, but that may be all the more reason to watch coach Donnie Jones give Henriquez and Taylor free rein.

The Learning Curve for UConn’s Rodney Purvis Might be Steeper Than Expected. Count me among the Purvis believers who thought the former five-star recruit would hit the ground running and become an all-conference player this season. But after UConn’s two exhibition games, it looks like Purvis may not jump of the gate as quickly as expected. While fellow backcourt newcomers Sam Cassell Jr. and Daniel Hamilton thrived in their first high-major collegiate action, Purvis looked like a player still shaking off some serious rust. He played 23 minutes in the first exhibition game and finished with seven points and four rebounds on 2-of-12 shooting from the field. He followed that up with a disappointing six point, one-rebound, five-turnover performance in the second exhibition game, earning his coach’s ire for carelessness with the ball. He will have plenty of time to get things right over the next couple of months, but the Huskies’ backcourt is already overcrowded so the margin of error is thin.

Cincinnati is Who It Has Always Been. The Bearcats didn’t exactly blow the doors off anybody with their close wins over Bellarmine and Fairmont State in the exhibition season, but they did give the impression that they will be very competitive this year. Cincinnati doesn’t have the star power it did, but the team has a good mix of useful veterans and talented newcomers and the Bearcats appear deeper than most teams in the conference. It would easier to envision a successful season if they hadn’t let Bellarmine shoot 70 percent from the floor in the first half and didn’t make just two of their 16 three-pointers against Fairmont State, but they are athletic, physical, and active defensively — just like every team Mick Cronin has ever coached at Cincy.

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