As you’re no doubt aware, we’ve had our cadre of correspondents traveling around the country to each of the eight NCAA sites over the weekend. We’ve asked the guys to produce a weekend diary of the games they witnessed including analysis, commentary and opinion concerning the sights and sounds at their venues. Our hope is that the diaries will give you insights into the games that you may not have otherwise had from watching them on television or catching the highlights package afterward. Let us know how we do…
Note: for all of the opening weekend diaries, click here.
Location: Denver, CO
Teams: Morehead State, Richmond, BYU, Gonzaga
Date: 19 March 2011
- The crowds at the Pepsi Center have been good both days, with stated attendances in the 18,000-19,000 range. The place seemed to be completely full for BYU-Gonzaga tonight, and arguably 75% of that crowd was either a BYU fan or a Jimmer Fredette fan, whichever comes first. Considering that the closest school was in fact BYU (roughly 500 miles away), and that there were no Big 12 schools in town for this weekend’s games, there’s no other way to spin it than to say that the Denver site was a resounding success.
- In the Richmond vs. Morehead State game, it was clear from the first few minutes that UR wasn’t going to let themselves get rattled by the situation of playing for a trip to the schools’ second-ever Sweet Sixteen. They acted and played like a much higher seed than a #12, while Morehead State was the team that looked considerably more shaky. Kenneth Faried said about the Richmond defense, afterward: “The whole team, we couldn’t get in a rhythm. That’s a credit to Richmond. That defense is great and it’s hard to play against if you never played against it.”
- Kenneth Faried has impressed the hell out of me in several ways this weekend. First, his motor doesn’t stop for anything. I spent one entire four-minute segment during today’s game tracking his movements, and it was fascinating to see how he reacted to the ball’s position on the floor. The only way to describe his activity underneath the basket is relentless — he never stops moving and as soon as the ball goes up he figures out a way to get as close to the rim as he can., and his second and third jumps are often just as explosive as his first. I also noticed that he sometimes tries to utilize the Dennis Rodman technique of tipping the ball away from the traffic to himself so that he can catch it under control. Second, even at only 6’8, his defensive abilities near the rim are NBA-quality. His hand-on-leather rejection of Justin Harper’s drive at the very peak of his jump was spectacular and had the crowd buzzing about it for a good while afterward. Third, his attitude is a winning one — often smiling, clapping and supporting his teammates, Faried is confident but not cocky. He has the general makeup of a player who came into his talents later in his basketball career, someone who seems to truly appreciate that he’s having the time of his life playing the game that he loves. NBA scouts are going to nitpick his size and his extremely raw offensive game, but his heart and tenacity are characteristics that cannot be taught and will end up serving some NBA team very well in the long run. The kid is a winner.
- The way Richmond is playing now, it’s somewhat hard to believe that they were on the bubble until making a run through the Atlantic 10 Tournament last weekend. The Spiders’ talent in no way approximates some mid-major #12 seed — between the speed of Kevin Anderson, the length and shooting ability of Justin Harper, the touch of Dan Geriot and the wowing athleticism of Darrius Garrett, you feel like you’re watching an ACC or SEC team more than an Atlantic 10 squad. Then when you consider that all of these players have been together for at least three seasons, you can understand why they’re peaking so well right now. Not many teams even in those leagues have two 6’9 or 6’10 players like Harper and Geriot who have the ability to make long mid-range jumpers (and in Harper’s case, threes). These kinds of players, inasmuch as they exist, usually end up at places like Maryland or Texas or Florida, not Richmond. Of course the Spiders will have their hands full with Kansas next weekend, but if Boston U. can play with KU for more than a half, there’s no reason to believe that these guys cannot.
- I love that Dan Geriot had a great Third Round game tonight, with 13/7 and showing a real confidence in his shot from the mid-range (and even knocking down a three in the second half to essentially put the game away). If you’re unaware, Geriot was a rising superstar after his sophomore season (averaging 14/6), but a summer ACL injury in 2008 robbed him of some of the already-marginal athleticism that he had, and he had to sit out the entire 2008-09 season. His redshirt junior year was a struggle, as his numbers fell across the board, and only this year has he been able to find a groove as a sweet-passing center less reliant on scoring than on picking spots to complement his talented colleagues. These are the stories that make college basketball great.