Pac-12 Freshman Ladder: Early December Edition

Posted by Mike Lemaire on December 7th, 2016

I don’t know how long Scott Howard-Cooper has been writing his Rookie Ladder column for but it has long been one of the more underrated features in basketball writing. There is nothing complex about its structure as a traditional weekly power ranking of NBA rookies. Yet basketball fans are always drawn to the new, which is why the Rookie Ladder column exists. The appeal of rookie coverage is true in college basketball as well. You don’t see the Pac-12 handing out a “Second-Year Player of the Year” award, do you? The season is now old enough that sample sizes are starting to become meaningful. Also, I am nothing if not a ruthless (but self-aware) copycat. So here is our best imitation of Cooper’s excellent feature – the inaugural Pac-12 Freshman Ladder.

Lonzo Ball (USA Today Images)

Lonzo Ball Leads the Pac-12 Freshman Ladder (USA Today Images)

  1. Lonzo Ball, UCLA. In our top-secret algorithm that determines these rankings, winning matters, if only a little. UCLA is undefeated and that is why Ball edges past Markelle Fultz on this list for now. Bolstered by a surprising ability to knock down threes (43.5% 3FG), Ball has been one of the most efficient offensive players in college basketball (67.5% eFG) while also affecting every possession without having to score. He has turned the ball over 12 times in the last three games, but the Bruins are so lethal offensively with the freshman running the show that UCLA will live with those mistakes.
  2. Markelle Fultz, Washington. Fultz is playing a different role at Washington than Ball is at UCLA but his playmaking skills are just as advanced. Fultz’s assist rate (37.0%) and turnover rate (17.6%) compare favorably with Ball and his shot-making responsibilities and usage rate mean that he is scoring more as well. His defensive numbers (4.1% block rate and 3.4% steal rate) are also superior to his southern California counterpart. One could reasonably argue that if Fultz were running point in Westwood and the Bruins were still undefeated, he would be the clear alpha dog on this list. Read the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Welcome to the Show: Breakout Freshmen in the Former SEC East

Posted by Christian D'Andrea on November 12th, 2014

Playing in the SEC means facing off against some of the most talented freshmen in the country, week in and week out. While Kentucky rightfully gets most of the credit for bringing in a cache of five-star prospects every season, the rest of the conference has produced plenty of gems of their own. Last season, players like Vanderbilt’s Damian Jones, South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell and LSU’s Jordan Mickey all broke on to the scene and made themselves potential first round NBA Draft picks. So who will be next?

Today, we’ll break down the first-year players who are primed to have the biggest impact for their teams in 2014-15. We’ll start with the side of the conference formerly known as the SEC East.

Georgia: Yante Maten. Maten, a 6’8″, 240-lb power forward, impressed in Georgia’s closer-than-expected exhibition win over Georgia Southwestern last week. He posted a 12/10/4 pts/reb/ast line and added a pair of blocks while playing the most minutes of anyone on the roster. He’s strong in the paint and has shown capable of passing from the low blocks when called upon, but he’s not the kind of shooter that will stretch the floor or pull defenders away from the basket. If Nemanja Djurisic stays at power forward all season (rather than sliding over to the three), he seems destined for a primary role off the bench this winter. Even in that capacity, he’ll have plenty of time to prep himself for a potential starting role in 2015-16.

Yante Maten

Yante Maten Was Impressive in Georgia’s Exhibition Game Last Week

Florida: Devin Robinson. Robinson had a disappointing unofficial start to his Gators tenure in the team’s exhibition win over Barry last week. The five-star freshman made just two of his 10 shots and picked up four fouls in 17 minutes of action. Even so, big things are expected from the small forward from Virginia. Robinson has the speed and athleticism to guard three positions and the shooting range to create match-up nightmares for opposing wings. He’ll have to prove that the Barry performance was just a case of the nerves catching up to him, but he’ll have several opportunities to find playing time on a team that must replace four seniors from last year’s squad.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Assessing Coach K’s Evolving Position on One-and-Done

Posted by Brett Thompson on November 7th, 2014

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski is never one to shy away from his opinions on the state of college basketball. In fact, just last year, Coach K voiced his concerns about college basketball’s current era of the “one-and-done,” the highly touted freshmen who dominate the sport for a year before advancing to the NBA Draft mere months after arriving on campus. Krzyzewski stated just last year that he was “worried that that is always becoming a thing,” referring to the idea of elite freshmen overshadowing established upperclassmen. He has also made it clear that he is in favor of a two-year draft rule, and has backed this notion as recently as the end of October. All of this makes it surprising that the Blue Devils head coach admitted on Thursday that he fully expects his latest freshman phenom, Jahlil Okafor, to be Duke’s latest one-and-done player.

Jahlil Okafor Headlines Three ACC Players Selected to the Preseason AP All-America Team

It Appears That Jahlil Okafor Will Reside For About Nine Months in Durham

“We won’t have him long,” Krzyzewski said, implying that Okafor is more of a short-term rental than a centerpiece for years to come. This shouldn’t surprise anyone should the big man leave school — since 2007, only a single player who was named #1 on the ESPN 100 recruiting rankings stayed in school for more than one year (Harrison Barnes, North Carolina 2010-12). The freshman is going to be closely observed by NBA scouts from the second he touches the floor at Cameron Indoor Stadium, and, barring some kind of strange collapse, he is almost guaranteed a spot in next year’s NBA Draft Lottery.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Vic Law Might be the Most Important Freshman in the Big Ten

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on October 28th, 2014

Here’s a familiar scene. A heralded freshman joins a veteran-laden team. His older teammates are a bit jaded by all the hype and media attention that their younger counterpart receives, but they’re also intrigued with what the young star can do on the floor. Eventually the team is won over by all the potential embedded in their new teammate, and the season-long process of integration takes its first step. This scene usually takes place with elite freshmen and the blue-chip college programs at which they enroll, but at some level, a similar story also involves a four-star recruit in Evanston, Illinois. Vic Law is not the most talented freshman in the Big Ten this season, but he might be the most important. His ability to succeed may change the trajectory of the perennially bottom-dwelling Northwestern program, head coach Chris Collins’ career, and the future pecking order of the Big Ten.

Vic Law is the most heralded freshman at Northwestern in a long time.

Vic Law is the most heralded freshman at Northwestern in a long time.

The first thing you need to know about Law is that he doesn’t look like a typical Northwestern basketball player. The Chicago native is a 6’7”, 185 lb. string bean, but he’s remarkably athletic with a versatile game that makes him a threat from both the outside or in the mid-range. In short, he looks like a top-100 prospect. Compare him with several recent Northwestern stars such as Drew Crawford, John Shurna and Kevin Coble, and the gap in their upside becomes even more apparent. No offense to those former players, but they were successful Wildcats as much from their basketball IQ and guile than from their athleticism and talent. During former head coach Bill Carmody’s tenure, that was the formula that successfully got the Wildcats as close to making the NCAA Tournament as they had ever been. But eventually, that approach simply wasn’t able to get over the hump, and a coaching change was made.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Scintillating Battle for ACC ROY Under Way This Season

Posted by Chris Kehoe on February 14th, 2014

No offense to Ben Emelogu, Kennedy Meeks or Anthony Barber, but it was never really much of a contest to begin with. From the moment they stepped foot on their respective campuses, Duke’s Jabari Parker and Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis made it clear they were the biggest and baddest freshmen around. And from November up until present day February, it has been painfully clear that Ennis and Parker are two of the best (if not the two best) freshmen in the entire country.

Tyler Ennis shocks Pittsburgh with this 35-foot miracle. (ESPN screenshot)

Tyler Ennis shocks Pittsburgh with this 35-foot miracle. (ESPN screenshot)

While Parker started white-hot, recording countless 20+ point games in his first few weeks in a Blue Devil uniform, Ennis remained steady and consistent. Parker dominated the national POY conversation up until about December, when he ultimately handed the torch to Creighton’s Doug McDermott, who has not relinquished his grasp on the top honors since. So while it seems unlikely Jabari, or anyone else for that matter, will be able to catch McDermott, Parker still has his eyes set on ACC POY and ROY trophies in what will likely be his only season in Durham. While no one debates Parker’s next-level readiness from an offensive arsenal standpoint as well as physical makeup and his NBA-ready frame, Parker’s defense is lacking and he can be a liability at times. That gap in his game is overshadowed by the dunks, step back isolation jumpers, often gaudy rebounding numbers and solid rim protecting, but the ‘other’ side of the ball still remains an issue. It is understandable why he continues to receive what some might call backhanded praise, comparing him to Carmelo Anthony, who while a prolific scorer, is not known for his defensive prowess by any means. While Parker’s projected national-level accolades have dropped since his scorching start, Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis has been shooting up the rankings over the past few months.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

A Closer Look at the ACC’s Early Impact Freshmen

Posted by Chris Kehoe on December 11th, 2013

The ACC has struggled as a whole to live up to its self-proclaimed billing as the best basketball conference of all-time. It can’t even lay a claim to the best conference currently, as it came out with a tie in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, an event in which three of the ACC’s worst teams weren’t invited. However, the talent in the ACC is deep and it remains an exciting conference from top to bottom. Part of the reason for that is the emergence of new and exciting young players across the league, tantalizing casual fans with skills usually reserved for seasoned veterans. These ACC newcomers play various roles on their teams, some shouldering a large offensive burden while others bring a spark off the bench. Whether these players are one-and-done or around for the long haul, they represent the future of the ACC and have fan bases optimistically looking toward future conference championships and Final Four runs. While some relatively high-profile freshmen have struggled to adapt to the college game — UNC’s Isaiah Hicks and N.C. State’s Beejay Anya come to mind there are plenty of freshmen to note who are already producing. Broken down into a tiered system based on efficacy and impact, the following 13 freshmen represent the best of the ACC so far this season.

Tyler Ennis is a major reason for Syracuse's success

Tyler Ennis is a major reason for Syracuse’s success this season.

The Elite ACC ROY Candidates

1). Jabari Parker, F, Duke: Parker is not only an ACC ROY front-runner but an ACC Player of the Year favorite as well. His offensive game has been compared to Paul Pierce and Carmelo Anthony and he possesses an abundance of elite moves in isolation, ranging from the perimeter to the post. Parker carries a large burden of Duke’s offense this season and his ultimate performance will be judged largely on the Blue Devils’ success. If he can lead his team to an ACC title, he’ll probably win both awards.

2). Tyler Ennis, G, Syracuse: Ennis is a calming and consistent offensive presence for Syracuse. He rarely gets flustered and is a key member at the top of the Orange’s 2-3 zone. He has started since day one for Jim Boeheim and is a large reason why Syracuse remains undefeated and an ACC title favorite. On ESPN‘s college basketball podcast, ESPN commentator and former Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg said Syracuse would be a “borderline NCAA Tournament team without Ennis.” This shows how much of an impact the youngster has had.

On the Cusp

3). Anthony Barber, G, N.C. State: Barber is playing nearly 30 minutes and averaging 13 points per game for the Wolfpack. A lightning-quick, reed-thin guard, Barber shares the floor with diminutive point guard Tyler Lewis and has been relied on thus far for his scoring more than his distributing abilities.

4). Kennedy Meeks, F/C, UNC: Kennedy Meeks recently took home the ACC Rookie of the Week award after a pair of convincing performances versus UNC-Greensboro and a statement win at Michigan State. The big-bodied, 290-pound frontcourt player is known for his Kevin Love-like outlet passes and is an efficient interior scorer and big-time rebounder for this Tar Heels’ team.

Kennedy Meeks took home ACC Rookie of the Week honors (Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)

Kennedy Meeks took home ACC Rookie of the Week honors (Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)

5). Demetrius Jackson, G, Notre Dame: Jackson has to back up one of the best backcourt tandems in the country in Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant, but it is a testament to his abilities that Mike Brey finds 24 minutes per game for him. Jackson is the future of the Notre Dame backcourt and is having a very successful, if not understated, freshman campaign, averaging almost eight points per game with very good shooting numbers — 50 percent from three and 53.7 percent from the floor.

6). Ben Emelogu, G, Virginia Tech: Much was made of Emelogu getting named a freshman captain for the Hokies, but he has validated James Johnson’s decision to the tune of 14.0 PPG for the 7-3 squad.

Productive and Will Continue to Improve

7). Davon Reed, G, Miami (FL): Reed averages 9.0 PPG in almost 29 minutes per game for a rebuilding Miami program, and he will be a key cog for the Hurricanes’ future.

8). Roddy Peters, G, Maryland: Peters has taken over some point guard duties (along with Dez Wells) since Seth Allen’s early injury, and he has risen to the occasion.

Roddy Peters has been a bright spot for a disappointing Maryland team.

Roddy Peters has been a bright spot for a disappointing Maryland team.

9). Michael Young, F, Pittsburgh: A highly-regarded recruit coming out of high school, Young has complemented the experience and maturity of Pitt’s seniors well.

10). Devin Wilson, G, Virginia Tech: This rookie guard is handling 32 minutes per game well for the inexperienced Hokies, whose true talent will be tested come conference play.

11). Jaron Blossomgame, F, Clemson: Blossomgame has shown himself to be a versatile interior force, averaging close to 5.0 RPG and PPG while blocking over a shot per contest as well.

12). Nate Britt, G, North Carolina: Britt plays 25 minutes per game and has taken on the point guard duties as Marcus Paige has become the Tar Heels’ primary perimeter scoring option with P.J. Hairston still sidelined.

13). Lennard Freeman, F, N.C. State: Freeman plays 26 minutes per game for Mark Gottfried, and the Washington, D.C., native is a huge help on the boards, averaging almost seven rebounds per contest.

Share this story

The SEC Freshman Report: A Look at the Newcomers in the West

Posted by Christian D'Andrea on January 14th, 2013

Christian D’Andrea is a SEC Microsite Contributor and an editor at Nashville Sports Hub and Anchor of Gold. You can reach him on Twitter @TrainIsland.

SEC play is underway, and the group of teams once known as the SEC West has already churned out some big surprises. The division is home to four of the five teams that are undefeated in league play so far, and while it’s early, it looks like there might be more depth to this side of the conference than analysts had thought. In just one week, the West has produced upsets like Texas A&M’s defeat of Kentucky and Ole Miss’ beatdown of Missouri.

Shavon Coleman Has Been a Nice Addition For the Tigers

Shavon Coleman Has Been a Nice Addition For the Tigers

There are still a couple of months to go before the postseason starts, but this overlooked division may help change the perception of the SEC as a top-heavy league. Though the conference certainly has a big gap between Florida and Missouri and the rest of the conference, teams like Mississippi and A&M will be the key to sending four or more programs to the NCAA Tournament. Rebuilding teams like Auburn and LSU may find their way to postseason basketball earlier than expected if they can rally towards NIT or CBI invitations.

However, these teams are going to need help from their young players to get there. The West is full of talented freshmen and junior college transfers who are having a big impact for their teams. As we did three weeks ago in the East, let’s break down who the top first-year players in the SEC West have been in 2012-13 so far.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 Team Previews: California

Posted by Connor Pelton on November 7th, 2011

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be previewing each of the Pac-12 teams as we head into the season.

California Golden Bears

Strengths.  In a league filled with teams looking to freshmen and sophomores for leadership, seniors Jorge Gutierrez and Harper Kamp will lead this team. Both of them earned all-Pac-10 honors last season as well, so the talent is definitely there. Sophomore guard Allen Crabbe is also back, meaning that California returns their top three scorers from last season. One of the Pac-12’s most improved is also back at point guard in junior Brandon Smith. Smith is an assist machine and a great manager of tempo, whether the Bears want to slow it down or speed up. Challenging him for the starting point spot will be Minnesota transfer Justin Cobbs. Cobbs is known for his solid passing ability, but he lit it up with his jumper against UC San Diego last Tuesday. Cobbs led all scorers with 17 points in the exhibition.

Gutierrez will be looked at to lead the Golden Bears this season

Weaknesses.  The Bears lose forward Markuri Sanders-Frison, meaning they will have a drop of almost two rebounds per game to their next highest returning rebounder. For a team that has aspirations of a three seed or higher in the NCAA Tournament, they certainly did not make it easy on themselves with their nonconference schedule. They will play neutral site games against Georgia and either Notre Dame or Missouri, a home game with Weber State, and road games against San Diego State and UNLV.

Nonconference Tests.  If they can get out of the five-game stretch mentioned above with a 2-3 record, the Bears will be fine going into Pac-12 play. The neutral site games are part of the CBE Classic, which means the Bears will have a chance to prove they belong with a few of the nation’s best on a national stage. The SDSU meeting is a return game from last season, while the matchups with the Wildcats and Runnin’ Rebels are the beginning of a new series. The rest of their slate should all be easy victories, as you could make a good case that George Washington is the toughest team left on the schedule.
Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Morning Five: 01.11.10 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on January 11th, 2011

  1. News broke late Monday that a Washington player is currently under investigation for sexual assault of a sixteen-year old girl whom he allegedly met on Saturday night through Facebook.  It’s notable that the report out of Seattle cites the player as “prominent,” which is language that it would be unlikely to use if they were talking about a walk-on or other benchwarmer.  With Abdul Gaddy already on the shelf with a torn ACL and now this disconcerting news, Lorenzo Romar’s team could be on the verge of self-destruction after a strong first half of this season.
  2. Some transfer news for your Tuesday morning.  Former Minnesota guard Devoe Joseph will end up in Oregon to play for Dana Altman next season, while Nebraska forward Christian Standhardinger announced that he is transferring to La Salle.  Both of these players are difference-makers for their new programs.  Joseph was attracted to the more uptempo style of play employed by Altman, while Standhardinger will step into a starting role with plenty of playing time next season on the Main Line.
  3. Speaking of second chances, Kansas forward Mario Little has been reinstated by head coach Bill Self and will be eligible to play immediately.  Little has missed KU’s last six games as he worked through some legal issues surrounding a misdemeanor battery and other criminal charges from an incident that took place in mid-December.  Prior to his suspension, Little was averaging 6/4 in about sixteen minutes per game backing up Tyshawn Taylor and Tyrel Reed.  The rich get richer…
  4. Bill Carmody received a “multi-year extension” recently at Northwestern even though he’s been coaching in Evanston for ten-plus years now and has yet to get the Big Ten school to the NCAA Tournament.  Granted, his career record of 143-160 (.472) at the school is virtually unprecedented, but even though it now appears that the Wildcat program is moving in the right direction (back-to-back NITs in 2009 and 2010), Carmody still has more tenth and eleventh place finishes (four) than he does Big Ten finishes in the top half (one).
  5. The nation’s top 25 freshmen players, as presented to you by Basketball Prospectus.  Since it comes from that site, you know that they have the statistics to back up the choices.  The most amazing thing?  That preseason AP All-American Harrison Barnes hasn’t even performed well enough to be considered one of the top 25 frosh in the country so far — would anyone have taken that bet prior to November 1???
Share this story

After the Buzzer: The Opening Night That Isn’t

Posted by rtmsf on November 13th, 2010

College Basketball comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over the BCS and NFL
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

The Season Surrounds Us, But Where Is It?

We’re reminded of this (slightly modified) poem every year when one day we wake up and find ourselves facing an “opening” Friday night of 135 games with nearly zero hype and fanfare ahead of it.  Like the fog in Carl Sandburg’s world, the game creeps up and appears all around us rather damp and sticky, but unless you have an alt-network like ESPN-U or the Full Court package, you probably missed the whole thing.  And that’s sad.  We’re certainly not the first and we won’t be the last to belabor the point of just how badly the NCAA needs to work with its television partners so that there is a real opening night that celebrates the sport’s return.  But it’s only four days until the ESPN 24 Hours of Hoops extravaganza — why not make that the season opener each year?  We hear it every day, folks — everyone is happy that college hoops is back on their sets and in their local gyms, but nobody is pleased with the week-long trickle followed by the firehose way in which the season begins every year.

Your Watercooler Moment. Tonight’s watercooler moment is that there were a handful of teams on opening night who already have pretty bad home losses on their NCAA Tournament resumes, regardless of how they do the rest of the season.  Let’s take a closer look.

  • Wake Forest.  Stetson chalked its first win over an ACC opponent in nearly thirty-five years by taking advantage of the Deacs’ weakness on the boards (+11) and the obvious adjustment of having a new sheriff in town (Jeff Bzdelik).  We knew Wake would struggle, but this is beyond expectations.
  • Tulsa.  Tulsa is not an easy team to beat in their house, but Appalachian State and its brand-new young coach, Jason Capel, pulled off the feat tonight behind 35/4 from Omar Carter.  There was some heat given over App’s hire of the 30-year old Capel, but after one game it looks like a grand slam, huh?
  • UTEP.  Tim Floyd’s first game in El Paso didn’t go so well as his star guard Randy Culpepper shot poorly (6-15) and Pacific picked up a very nice RPI booster win for the Big West over CUSA.
  • Auburn.  Nobody expects much from the Tigers this year (or, ever), but losing to UNC-Asheville in the christening of your new building isn’t the best way to start a hoops renaissance.  We have a feeling that Tony Barbee is going to rue the day he ever ventured onto the Plains of Alabama.
  • St. Louis. Rick Majerus’ Billikens sans its two knuckleheads dropped a home game to Austin Peay, 64-62, they type of game that SLU would have never lost had Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed still been on the team.  Even if Mitchell returns to the team in January as expected, St. Louis could be too far behind the eight-ball at that point to catch up.

Tonight’s Quick Hits…

  • Class of 2010. It was a very solid first night for the rookie class in college basketball tonight, with many players stepping right into productive roles from the opening tip.  More details on this below.
  • Temple. Despite not being able to hit anything from outside, the Owls manhandled Seton Hall on the glass and held the Pirates to 30% shooting in a good intrasectional matchup between A-10 and Big East.
  • Tu Holloway’s Second Half.  Holloway scored 20 of his 25 points in the second half when it appeared that XU was going to drop its opener to Western Michigan.  The Muskies have really struggled so far this year (losing an exhibition last week), but we have faith in Chris Mack that he’ll figure it out.
  • Brad Tinsley. The junior guard recorded Vandy’s first-ever triple-double tonight with 11/10/10 assts and 3 stls.
  • Morgan State.  Todd Bozeman’s team went west and eked out a win against a game Loyola Marymount squad that many believe can contend with Gonzaga and St. Mary’s this year in the WCC.  Great RPI win for the Bears.
  • Alex Oriakhi.  UConn will need its talented post to have a bunch more nights like tonight (11/18) if the Huskies hope to get back into the NCAAs this year.
  • John Henson.  The 6’10 sophomore resembled a young Tayshaun Prince in UNC’s win over Lipscomb tonight, going for a near triple-double with 10/16/7 blks.
  • Markieff Morris.  Forget his more-hyped brother — Markieff blew up the stat sheet with 14/15/5 assts/4 stls/2 blks in a dominating KU win.
  • Georgetown Backcourt.  Chris Wright, Austin Freeman and Jason Clark combined for 54 of the Hoyas’ 62 points in a really nice road win at ODU.  Georgetown is really going to struggle inside, though, as they were -11 on the boards and looked lost inside without Greg Monroe.
  • Keith Benson.  The Oakland center and legitimate pro prospect put up nice numbers against the bruising front line of West Virginia (21/15/2 blks), but his team simply wasn’t competitive (tough night for the Summit).
  • Kalin Lucas’ Return. Lucas showed no signs of his nasty Achilles injury from March as he dropped 18/3/6 assts in 26 minutes of action against EMU.
  • John Shurna.  The Northwestern big man dropped 31/9/3 assts in the first game of the latest NW attempt to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time.  Gotta win games like these, though (and they did).
  • UMass Comeback.  The Minutemen came back from 21 points down at the half versus Rider to win comfortably by ten, 77-67.  Anthony Gurley had 31/4 in the winning effort which featured the student section exiting en masse at halftime.  Guess they shoulda stuck around?
  • Brandon Bowdry.  The talented Eastern Michigan forward exposed a soft spot in the Michigan State defense with a 32/15 effort that still ended in a loss.

… and Misses.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story