RTC’s 2009-10 Impact Players – Northeast Region

Posted by zhayes9 on September 2nd, 2009

impactplayersYesterday the calendar moved into September and we’re all foaming at the mouth around here to get started on the 2009-10 season preview materials, but we realize it doesn’t make much sense to start really gearing up on that until October.  Nevertheless, one feature we want to start that we’ll be publishing weekly all the way up to the start of the season is our RTC 2009-10 Impact Players series.   Each week we’re going to pick a geographic area of the country and break down the five players who we feel will have the most impact on their teams (and by the transitive property, college basketball) this season.  Our criteria is once again subjective – there are so many good players in every region of the country that it’s difficult to narrow them down to only five  in each – but we feel at the end of this exercise that we’ll have discussed nearly every player of major impact in the nation.  Just to be fair and to make this not too high-major-centric, we’re also going to pick a mid-major impact player in each region as our sixth man.  We welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments where we left players off.  The only request is that you provide an argument – why will your choice be more influential this season than those we chose?

Northeast Region (ME, NH, VT, MA, RI, CT, Upstate NY)

northeast

  • Joe Trapani – Jr, F – Boston College. Al Skinner hit the jackpot when Vermont transfer Joe Trapani elected to join the BC basketball program for the 2008-09 season after a successful debut campaign with the Catamounts, averaging 11.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game and earning America East all-rookie team honors. Trapani wanted to challenge himself at a higher level of competition, transferring to nearby Chestnut Hill where the 6’8 forward made quite an impression in his sophomore season, upping his scoring average to 13.4 ppg and rebounds to 6.6 per contest. Trapani earned a spot on this list mostly due to his all-around game; in fact, the skilled big man led the Eagles in assists in four games. His best performance may have come against Kyle Singler and Duke at home, an upset win for BC in which Trapani registered 20 points, seven rebounds and five blocks. Not many 6’8 forwards can score, rebound, dish and shoot 36% from deep. His inside-outside game reminded many of the Eagle faithful of the recently departed Jared Dudley and will be even more vital to the Eagles success in 2009-10 without leading scorer Tyrese Rice. While the rest of the roster returns, it is Trapani who must lead the way if BC wants to make a return trip to the NCAA Tournament. Rakim Sanders, Corey Raji, Biko Paris and other Eagles will contribute, but Trapani’s model of consistency and constant leadership makes him indispensable to Skinner and the BC program.
  • Arinze Onuaku – Sr, F/C – Syracuse. The Syracuse behemoth is one of the most puzzling players in all of college basketball. There are two statistics that jump out at you when analyzing Onuaku’s 2008-09 junior season with the Orange: 67% and 30%. Incredibly, that was Onuaku’s field goal and free throw percentage last year… in order. That’s right, Onuaku was an insanely efficient 178-267 from the floor, higher than Blake Griffin, Tyler Hansbrough, Luke Nevill, Patrick Patterson, DeJuan Blair or anyone in college basketball. On the flip side, his free throw shooting (37-124) was abysmal and downright embarrassing, meaning if Onuaku doesn’t improve in this area mightily over the summer and into the upcoming season, Hack-A-Onuaku will be explored greatly by Big East coaches in 2009-10. The big man MUST improve to at least 50% if he doesn’t want to greatly cost the Orange. Onuaku’s impact to Syracuse is mostly positive, though. The field goal percentage speaks for itself, along with 10.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG and a 19/12 double-double against Cole Aldrich and Kansas last season. With Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris gone to riches (just kidding for two of them), Onuaku will be relied on heavily by coach Jim Boeheim to be a reliable force in the paint by blocking shots, staying out of foul trouble, scoring with efficiency and scooping up rebound after rebound. With Blair and Thabeet departed, nobody can have as much of an impact down low at Onuaku both in the Big East conference and in the entire Northeast region.
  • Jerome Dyson – Sr, G – UConn. When Jerome Dyson knocked knees with an unidentified Syracuse player and crumpled to the floor during a routine win for the 23-1 Huskies on Feb. 11, you could almost hear the collective groan from the UConn faithful throughout the Northeast.  You see, the dirty little secret for UConn was that Dyson at 34.8% was one of the only two players on the roster (AJ Price at 40.2% was the other) who could reliably nail a three-pointer for the Huskies.  UConn was never going to be confused for a team of marksmen, but it’s no coincidence that a team who was shooting a robust 36.4% from deep on the season at the time of injury shot a horrid 29.8% from outside the rest of the way.  It was painfully obvious in the F4 loss to Michigan St. that once the Huskies got in the hole, the three-pointer – a useful offensive weapon in comeback attempts – simply wasn’t available to them (2-6 for the game).  Dyson should be back at 100% this season, as his meniscus injury is completely healed and he has a chip on his shoulder from seasons lost.  With four key contributors gone from last year’s team, Jim Calhoun will be looking at his senior guard to put the team on his back and take the lead in crunch time.   This shouldn’t be much of a problem considering Dyson’s scorer’s mentality and natural abilities.  If UConn is going to avoid a major letdown from its 31-win season, it’ll be largely due to the poise and play of the player who has always seemed just on the cusp of greatness, but due to some bad decisions mixed in with worse luck, has never quite made it there.
  • Kemba Walker – Soph, G – UConn. Kemba Walker is the latest in a long string of NYC-bred point guards who is set for stardom in the Big East.  As a freshman backing up AJ Price in 2008-09, it was easily apparent to anyone watching that Walker was the player with the quicker first step, better touch around the basket, and ultimately, brighter future.  As such, he’s a projected first rounder whenever he decides to come out for the NBA Draft.  However, perhaps typical of many Big Apple products, his outside jumper is still a work in progress (27.1% from deep last year), but he needn’t rely on 22-footers because he can get to the cup and finish with anybody of any size (52% on twos, which is phenomenal for a six-foot guard).  Walker had some ups and downs during his freshman year, but the reason he’s on our Northeast Region squad has a lot to do with his performance in the Elite Eight against Missouri where he sliced and diced the Tiger defense so effectively (23/5/5) that we should be forgiven for thinking he was the best player on the floor.  Several of our braintrust believe that he could double his offensive output this season en route to becoming an all-american playmaker for the Huskies in the mold of former point guards Chris Smith and Khalid El-Amin.  Regardless of postseason accolades, we should expect the UConn backcourt of Jerome Dyson and Kemba Walker to be one of the very best in the nation this year.
  • Ricky Harris – Sr, G – UMass. While the Minutemen may have underachieved in 2008-09, the scoring production provided by Ricky Harris on a game-by-game basis did not go unnoticed.  With point guard Chris Lowe and shot-blocking extraordinaire Tony Gaffney departed, Harris will be the centerpiece for Massachusetts in Chris Kellogg’s second year as the Minutemen head coach. Harris reached the top six in scoring in both his sophomore and junior campaigns at 18.2 ppg, so predicting a 20+ ppg senior season out of Harris is not outside the realm of possibility. He could very well challenge Dayton big man Chris Wright for A-10 POY this year and should be the #1 scoring force and premier outside shooter in the entire conference. Want more proof? This past season Harris became the 40th UMass player to accumulate 1,000 points in his college career and has scored in double-figures in 61 of his last 66 games along with 28 career contests with 20+ points. He lit up ACC foe Boston College for 35 points on 12-19 FG and 6-11 3PT in an overtime loss. While his rebounding and passing game leaves much to be desired, Harris will make or break whether the Minutemen surprise in a weaker Atlantic 10 and reach a postseason tournament this season. Now that Tyrese Rice and A.J. Price are no longer amateurs, nobody in the entire Northeast region can match his scoring potential on any given night. Harris’ ability to catch fire and will the Minutemen to victory earns him a spot on our all-Northeast squad.
  • DJ Rivera (MM) – Sr, G – Binghamton.  Our mid-major “sixth man” for this region shouldn’t be viewed as a slight of any kind.  We recognize that Rivera, the 6’4 do-anything guard from upstate New York can capably play with anyone in the Northeast region.  In fact, the player who was openly snubbed by America East coaches when it came to conference POY votes last season might just be the top mid-major player in the entire country in 2009-10.   You know the story: the nephew of Philly legend Hank Gathers, Rivera transferred from St. Joe’s after his sophomore year, received a hardship waiver from the NCAA, and proceeded to dominate the America East unlike anyone has, um, ever?  Rivera showed his clutch abilities by averaging 25/11 against league rival Vermont in two games last year, and even dropped 20/5 on 9-14 FGs against Duke in Binghamton’s first-round blowout loss to the Devils.  He’s an absolute stud, and we expect that after briefly flirting with the NBA Draft, he’ll be back with an enormous chip on his shoulder this season given the way the rest of his league treated him.  It’s our wager that  Rivera, with a substantial amount of his team returning, will make a run at a national scoring title (#5 returning scorer in the NCAA) and another trip to the NCAA Tournament to solidify his standing. 

Impact Players NE 2

Honorable MentionTim Ambrose, Albany.  Will Harris, Albany.  Rakim Sanders, BC.  John Holland, BU.  Corey Lowe, BU.  Ryan Wittman, Cornell.  Louis Dale, Cornell.  Jeremy Lin, Harvard.  Matt Janning, Northeastern.  Sharaud Curry, Providence.  Ryan Rossiter, Siena.  Alex Franklin, Siena.  Edwin Ubiles, Siena.  Andy Rautins, Syracuse.  Wesley Johnson, Syracuse.  Stanley Robinson, UConn.  Marqus Blakely, Vermont.

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Midwest Region Game-By-Game Previews – 1st Round

Posted by zhayes9 on March 18th, 2009

MIDWEST REGION PREVIEW (by Zach Hayes)

#1 Louisville vs. #16 Morehead State

For Louisville to win: It’s pretty simple for Louisville in this 1-16 matchup: do exactly what has gotten you to the point of receiving the #1 overall seed in the tournament. They shouldn’t have much problem playing their usual lockdown defense, employing their frantic press and letting the pure athletic ability of guys like Earl Clark and Terrence Williams completely overwhelm the star-struck Eagles.

For Morehead State to win: The triumphant winners of the inaugural Play-In game, Morehead State will need a God-delivered miracle to prevail over Louisville. They hope their stud big man Kenneth Faried (13.9 PPG, 13.1 RPG) can push around Clark, Williams and Samardo Samuels enough inside where it becomes a guard-oriented shooting contest. Hope that Edgar Sosa, Preston Knowles, Andre McGee and Co. reverts back to their November shooting woes and pull off the monumental upset.

#8 Ohio State vs. #9 Siena

For Ohio State to win: The Buckeyes will need to play steady, Big Ten-like team defense on Siena’s trio of scorers and run a bunch of isolation plays down the stretch for their superstar Evan Turner (17.1 PPG, 7.0 RPG). At times Turner can penetrate and score at will; Siena simply does not have that type of talent on their roster. They also need to utilize B.J. Mullens inside due to Siena’s lack of height.

For Siena to win: The Saints have been led all season by their own Big Three- Kenny Hansbrouck, Edwin Ubiles and Alex Franklin. Receive balanced scoring out of those three like they’ve perfected all season (all average between 14.8 and 13.6 PPG) and they could surely take down the Buckeyes. The Saints will also be shorthanded inside trying to box out bodies like Dallas Lauderdale and B.J. Mullens. They’ll need Ryan Rossiter and Franklin to pound the boards constantly.

#5 Utah vs. #12 Arizona

For Utah to win: Luke Nevill outplaying Jordan Hill would be nice. Seriously, this is one of the best first-round matchups in the entire tournament. If Nevill can get Hill into foul trouble, the entire complexity of this game changes. Nic Wise and Chase Budinger love shooting it from the outside and the Utes wouldn’t mind getting into a three-point contest with Shaun Green and Lawrence Borha both over 40% from downtown.

For Arizona to win: Even though Arizona is the 12-seed, not many would refute that the Wildcats have the superior talent in this game. They can escape all of the regular season’s distractions now and out-talent the Utes. Nic Wise needs to have a quality outing for Arizona to win; when he’s hitting threes and running the offense with ease, Budinger gets open shots, Hill gets touches inside and Arizona can beat anyone.

#4 Wake Forest vs. #13 Cleveland State

For Wake Forest to win: The Demon Deacons need to avoid underestimating a clearly inferior opponent. As with losses to Georgia Tech, NC State and Virginia Tech, the young Deacons have played down to their competition. The Vikings went into the Carrier Dome and won this season when Syracuse did the same thing. Hopefully Jeff Teague and James Johnson come out right away with a fire in their collective bellies.

For Cleveland State to win: One thing Wake Forest does not do well at all is make threes. Their entire offensive game is generated by penetration and mid-range jump shooting. Coach Gary Waters should pop in the game film from Wake’s latest loss to Maryland and examine how the Terps chopped up the inconsistent Deacon defense. Cedric Jackson is the perfect point guard to lead the way.

#6 West Virginia vs. #11 Dayton

For West Virginia to win: The Mountaineers simply need to play like they did last weekend in the Big East tournament. Set screens to free deadeye shooter Alex Ruoff, let DaSean Butler work his multi-faceted offensive game, continue to witness Devin Ebanks mature into an elite scorer and rebounder and hope Darryl Bryant keeps distributing like a senior.

For Dayton to win: It’s going to be awfully difficult as West Virginia seems to be picking up steam lately and you know Bob Huggins will have them prepared and intense. Not only will stars Chris Wright and Marcus Johnson need to play outstanding games, but their deep bench must contribute offensively. It’s all about keeping West Virginia off the boards and hoping Ruoff has a bad day from the outside. If that happens, the Mountaineers can look very confused offensively.

#3 Kansas vs. #14 North Dakota State

For Kansas to win: Ben Woodside is not only the Bison’ top scorer, he’s the engine behind their incredibly efficient and unselfish offensive game plan. He’s quite a task for Sherron Collins in the first game of the tournament. If Collins can shut down Woodside on the defensive end, North Dakota State should have trouble scoring with the Morris twins, Cole Aldrich and others blocking shots inside. This young Jayhawk team will live and die with the play of their junior leader Collins.

For North Dakota State to win: They need to play some semblance of tough defense. We all know the Bison can score points in bunches and have some prolific offensive options, but the only way the Bison will be fitted for Cinderella’s slipper is if they can contain slashers Collins and Tyshawn Taylor and bang bodies with the Morris twins and Aldrich. If they fall behind early, it is imperative they stick with their offense that’s gotten them this far instead of panicking.

#7 Boston College vs. #10 Southern California

For Boston College to win: The Eagles can sometimes look really crappy on defense. The Trojans have so many weapons, BC needs to play inspired defense to win this game. The most arduous task will be to contain Taj Gibson inside with Joe Trapani and Josh Southern. Gibson has an NBA-body and tremendous scoring potential. Trapani and Southern must play defense inside similar to their effort in Chapel Hill when they knocked off the Tar Heels.

For Southern California to win: Stud freshman DeMar DeRozan played like a possessed man during the Pac-10 tournament and USC finally came together to play up to their potential. If DeRozan outplays Rakim Sanders and explodes to the rim with ease, the entire USC offense improves drastically. Defending Tyrese Rice will also clearly be imperative. Should Daniel Hackett hold Rice, the Trojans will win.

#2 Michigan State vs. #15 Robert Morris

For Michigan State to win: The Spartans clearly have enough talent to win this 2-15 game easily. If only a couple of their many weapons are flowing offensively, they should be fine. Izzo’s boys are also in the top ten in defense and rebounding. Overwhelm the Colonials with the talent of Lucas, Morgan, Suton, Summers and they’ll prevail by 20+.

For Robert Morris to win: For the Colonials to pull another Duke-Belmont 2-15 scare, they’ll need to play their usually efficient offensive game. Their entire team shoots 48% from the floor and Jeremy Chappell is especially remarkable- 16.9 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 47% FG, 85% FT, 41% 3PT, 2.5 SPG as one of the most unheralded all-around players in the nation. If Chappell has a monster performance and Michigan State can’t get into any flow offensively, the Colonials have a shot.

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