We are now in September, and that means we are closing in Midnight Madness and the start of the NCAA season. The Early Preview series continues now with the Paradise Jam at the University of the
Make sure to check out the other Early Previews here, and come back next week as we wrap up the rest of the great match-ups before the Conference Seasons start.
Now on to the
Coach Anthony Grant has done a nice job putting the pieces together to help get the Crimson Tide back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006. Star Mikhail Torrance is gone, but Coach Grant does have JaMychal Green back. Green is a fantastic athlete, though he is still developing as a basketball player. He has done a good job turning himself into a post player, but to play in the NBA he will need to develop a perimeter game, or at least the ability to step out and hit a 15 foot jumper. He has great shot-blocking instincts and has the athletic ability to defend on the perimeter. He will be joined by small forward Tony Mitchell in the frontcourt. Mitchell was a heralded prospect coming to
The Tigers didn’t lose much from last season, but what they did was lose was very important. Team leader Trevor Booker is now with the Washington Wizards, and Coach Oliver Purnell is now heading up the DePaul Blue Demons. Fortunately for new coach Brad Brownell, almost every other important player from last year’s team is back. Demontez Stitt will have the opportunity to fill the scoring void left by Booker’s departure. An excellent perimeter shooter, Stitt also has the ability to get to the rim, though he needs to make better decisions on his shots. Stitt has the ability to be a good on-ball defender, though his effort needs to be more consistent. Andre Young will have the chance to move into the starting lineup this season. Extremely quick, Young has the ability to get out in transition as well as get into the lane, though his size (5’9) sometimes makes it tough for him to get a good shot off. Returning starters Tanner Smith and Jerai Grant should round out the starting 5. Grant has the chance to take a major step this season and get himself noticed by NBA scouts. Athletic, with long arms, Grant is extremely active around the rim and is an excellent offensive rebounder. This season he will need to show the ability to be a legitimate post presence, including developing a set of post moves. Defensively, he can be a pest in the lane, showing very good timing on his block attempts.
Fran McCaffery has headed out to the Midwest and will try and get the
The Bobby Gonzalez fiasco is now over and Kevin Willard will need to pick up the pieces. It’s a major task, but Willard was mentored by 2 legends, Rick Pitino and Kevin’s father, Ralph. Luckily, he has some good players to help make the transition. The man who will shoot from anywhere, Jeremy Hazell, is back, and if he learned the difference between a good shot and a bad shot, he could be a pretty good player. He has fantastic range on his jumper, but a lot of that comes from him not being strong enough to go to the rim. Don’t expect much more out of him other than scoring, as he is an average defender and not much of a ball-handler. Herb Pope, coming off a good season which ended in the worst possible way (Ejection for a cheap shot in the NIT), collapsed while playing in the off-season. He will be back and ready to go, and if you haven’t seen him play, he is something else to watch. A wide body with a soft touch, and the ability to outrebound anyone, Pope makes things tough for anyone around the lane. However, he isn’t a great defender, especially off the blocks, and he needs to develop a more varied offensive game. Jeff Robinson and Keon Lawrence are both back for their senior season, and they will be joined by Jordan Theodore and Ole Miss transfer Eniel Polynice in the guard rotation. Watch for freshman Fuquan Edwin, a
Coach Chris Mack and the Musketeers will be looking to bounce back from the heartbreaking overtime loss to Kansas State in last year’s Sweet 16, and they will need to do it without Jordan Crawford, now of the Atlanta Hawks. Luckily, there is still plenty of talent for Coach Mack to rely on, starting with Tu Holloway. Holloway is a reliable point guard who thrives on big moments. He does a great job finding holes in the defense and going hard to the rim. He’s not afraid of contact, and he is one of the best free throw shooters in the country. His decision-making is still a work in progress, but he showed improvement by the end of last year. The most important thing is that he is a natural leader and his teammates will respond to him. Kenny Frease and Jamal McLean will man the frontcourt and will try to make up for the toughness of the graduated Jason Love. Frease is a great space-eater, but he isn’t going to give you much besides a few points and boards a game. His contribution will be challenging players from getting to the rim.
Coach Blaine Taylor will look to keep the momentum going after last season’s team made it to the 2nd round of the NCAA tournament. Leading scorer Gerald Lee has moved on, but the key to ODU’s success has been a team effort, and this season will be no different. The rest of last year’s starting 5 is intact, led by forwards Kent Bazemore and Frank Hassell. Bazemore is a great perimeter defender, capable of guarding multiple positions, while being a great facilitator on offense. Hassell is a very physical player, using his body well to get position and going strong after rebounds. Guards Ben Finney and Darius James will handle back court duties, though both need to become more efficient on offense and more consistent perimeter shooters.
The 49ers will have one of the top players in this tournament in TJ Robinson, an athletic junior forward who has the ability to score in the post and does a great job going after rebounds. He still needs to add some muscle, and it would be great to see him add a consistent 15 foot jumper. Defensively, he does a great job using his athleticism to alter shots, though he doesn’t have the strength to be a legitimate post defender. Point guard Casper Ware is extremely quick, can get to the rim, and does a great job getting his teammates good looks.
The Peacocks return their Top 8 scorers and rebounders from last season, led by Wesley Jenkins, Nick Leon, and Ryan Bacon. Bacon is one to watch, almost averaging a double-double last season. UTEP transfer Blaise Ffrench is now eligible after sitting out the year and should be able to add another perimeter scoring threat.
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