Thursday, July 21, 2011

2011 School-by-school notes

Jaw-droppingly good! Mike Davis, Mike Tisdale, Demetri McCamey all had arguments for being the top player on the team, but Jereme Richmond was simply the best in per-possession terms. Richmond's per-game production and lack of maturity didn't wow the NBA scouts, however. Without Richmond on the team, and without seniors Davis, Tisdale, McCamey, or Bill Cole in the line-up, Brandon Paul seems sure to be the featured scorer next season.
I'm concerned... The regression of Tyler Griffey, Meyers Leonard, and even DJ Richardson over the course of the season has got to concern Bruce Weber. He's got a nice-rated recruiting class and a nice transfer in point Sam Maniscalco, but I just don't see a winning team in Champaign next season. I think I'm the only one, but frosh bigs don't often immediately succeed under Weber, and returning bigs Leonard & Griffey were hovering around Ahanmisi-levels of per-possession effectiveness, so how do the Illini compete in the paint?
I can haz more PT? Obviously Brandon Paul needs the most minutes of the returnees, but despite my criticism above I would still argue that Meyers Leonard needs to be force-fed minutes. Really, unless Shaw, Egwu, and/or Djimide are way under-rated, Leonard's the only hope for the Illini to have a post-season next year.

Jaw-droppingly good! Tom Pritchard's nice bounce-back after a very disappointing sophomore campaign is really one of the best stories here. Victor Oladipo really opened some eyes with a solid freshman campaign - hanging in the area of Tim Hardaway & Josh Gasser in per-possession terms. Injuries clearly played a part of Verdell Jones and Christian Watford's reduced effectiveness, and as these two players were the hubs of IU's offense this year, when their timing was off, the Hoosiers struggled. Jordan Hulls, despite a late slump, did have a nice jump in overall efficiency despite playing crazy minutes. Still, Jones and Pritchard were the only decent high-usage players that IU had this year, and it showed.
I'm concerned... Bobby Capobianco & Derek Elston's regression was disappointing, but so was the whole team peaking mid-conference. Elston is really has to bounce back, but given Pritchard's development, there's hope. I was personally a little disappointed in Matt Roth's career becoming little more than desperation-three specialist. Will Sheehey didn't post great numbers, but there'll be PT for anyone as eagerly willing to guard anyone on the floor.
I can haz more PT? Victor Oladipo was such an obvious choice for more playing time that the Big Ten Geeks created a #FreeOladipo hashtag. And it's true, he does need to play more, as he was the best per-possession player for the Hoosiers. Tom Pritchard has bounced back nicely from a disappointing sophomore season, and should be ready shoulder decent minutes alongside incoming frosh Cody Zeller. Even if Verdell Jones and Christian Watford can end their struggles by shifting to the wing and staying healthy, and Hulls runs the point efficiently while Zeller & Pritchard hold down the paint without encountering massive foul trouble - even then Crean should still be able to find starting minutes for Oladipo.

Jaw-droppingly good! Melsahn Basabe is the surprise of the conference, but Bryce Cartwright should be mentioned, too. The fact that Fran McCaffrey was able to bring in two Big Ten-level starters over the summer should serve notice to the rest of the league- don't sleep on Iowa!
I'm concerned... Matt Gatens and Eric May have not been the improved players I expected them to be, with May in particularly regressing. Frosh Zach McCabe and Roy Devyn Marble weren't all that great, either.
I can haz more PT? Cartwright and Basabe shouldn't lose any minutes, but Devon Archie and Andrew Brommer have been nice surprises off the bench. I don't see any need for increased PT for any one player going into next season other than Archie, but he has the combo of a low free throw % and a turnover rate that tends make coaches nervous. Archie's probably the best option to help Basabe inside, but I'm guessing Brommer gets the starting nod next season.

Jaw-droppingly good! Darius Morris' improvement has been jaw-dropping indeed. He has the look of a future NBA point guard, and no Big Ten team relies so heavily on one player to create offense. Zach Novak's improved performance tailed off in the second half of the season, but I suspect that was due to the fact that the team was figuring out to best utilize stellar frosh Tim Hardaway Jr. Jordan Morgan also had a very nice frosh campaign in the middle, but his best games (like v. NU) tended to come when Morris was breaking down the defense and giving him wide-open dunks and lay-ups. It'll be interesting to see what Morgan and the rest of the Wolverines can do without Morris next season.
I'm concerned... Evan Smotrycz is currently to be the least efficient player in the rotation. Blake McLimans hasn't seen much time, but registering zeroes is never a good sign.
I can haz more PT? Clearly Hardaway's going to get more minutes, and the incoming freshmen backcourt will probably be given lots of opportunities to succeed. However, without Morris, senior Stu Douglass will have to see his already large PT load largely devoted to running the point and Novak will probably be initiating the offense. I'm not super-optimistic on the 2011-2012 Wolverines, but I wasn't last year either.

Michigan State
Jaw-droppingly good! Still Draymond Green. Simply the best per-possession and per-game player in the conference, and a very, very large part of all of MSU's close wins. Kalin Lucas appears to be playing at the best of his career, and Delvon Roe is second only to Sullinger and JaJuan Johnson in the middle.
I'm concerned... Three top-ten players, and this is still a mediocre team in the conference. Along with Minnesota, this was one of the big mysteries of the conference with how an Izzo-led team that was so talented was barely able to get into the NCAA tourney. Of the players coming back next season, I'm largely concerned with Keith Appling, whose numbers weren't so bad for a freshmen off-guard, but have to improve if he's playing point guard. And Appling probably will need to be a steady presence in the backcourt as transfer Brandon Wood seems likely to step right into Kalin Lucas' scoring point role.
I can haz more PT? Granted, my system favors reserve big men, but Derrick Nix and Adriean Payne seem to be the best of that bunch. Unfortunately, Green and Roe seem to do best at the 4 and 5-spots, and not the 3 and 4. They'll be good insurance if Roe continues to have health problems, tho. Outside of that... well, the freshmen, redshirts, and transfers will have a lot of opportunity to make big impacts if they're ready.

Jaw-droppingly good! For a guy who I never expected to play, Trevor Mbakwe has been truly jaw-droppingly good. Clearly the best bet to play in the NBA, Mbakwe is a monster rebounder and giant presence inside. It's probably because he's so good in the paint (and only in the paint) that Ralph Sampson III has tried to show his versatility by taking his game outside more often... with *ahem* mixed results. Otherwise, Rodney Williams also posted above-average e per-possession numbers, but didn't really show any growth from his frosh campaign. Blake Hoffarber actually rebounded nicely from a rough transition to point guard, after the Gophers lost a top ten-type guy at the spot with Al Nolen's injury.
I'm concerned... The depth for next season is largely dependent on the freshmen and redshirts, and it's all question marks at this point. One thing is for certain, the out-of-his-depth Maverick Ahanmisi is unlikely to challenge for significant playing time again.
I can haz more PT? Blake Hoffarber's efficiency rebounded down the stretch, although the team backpedaled its way out the NCAA tournament. Austin Hollins ended up with decent stats - due largely to an impressive steal rate, but I'd still look for Tubby's talented freshmen & Juco guards to really get the first crack at starting next season. The frontcourt is very impressive, and Tubby could sneak them into the NCAA tournament again, but they'll need to get every break they didn't get last season.

Jaw-droppingly good! Juice Thompson was quite the leader this year despite shouldering insane minutes, and guards Alex Marcotullio and JerShon Cobb have been pleasant surprises as well. Davide Curletti posted the sort of numbers one expects from a reserve big man, and should help keep the paint under control even as the overall depth thins out next year.
I'm concerned... Drew Crawford has really faded from a stellar freshman performance, and Shurna has also taken a step back due to various injuries. Are the injuries a result of the insane minutes that Carmody is making Shurna play out of position? It's hard to tell at this point, as both could bounce back easily, but the two issues that concern me the most for the Wildcats in 2011-2012 are depth and point guard.
I can haz more PT? Davide Curletti, Cobb, and Marcotullio should see essentially starter's minutes next season, but it'll be hard to get by without giving either raw recruits Tre Demps and/or David Sobolewski heavy minutes at the point. If Demps is impact-ready, than NU's NCAA tourney hopes have never been higher. If recruiting rankings are accurate, the last best chance for Carmody to break the "curse" probably sails on by in 2012.

Ohio State
Jaw-droppingly good! Jared Sullinger was still great even with a second-half decline. Really amazing was the high level of play displayed by Aaron Craft as a freshman point. This was an incredible freshman class when you consider that wings Lenzelle Smith and Jordan Sibert were largely disappointing and transfer Evan Ravenel and forward JD Weatherspoon didn't even play.
I'm concerned... Dallas Lauderdale regressed on efficiency, but he largely gave the team what they needed. Lenzelle Smith and Jordan Sibert got very few minutes and didn't do much in the time that they had them, which may not seem like such a big deal except that there's no developed depth for next year on the perimeter. With a great recruiting class coming in, one assumes that Matta will have a lot more depth next year, but there are a number of question marks.
I can haz more PT? DeShaun Thomas is the one guy on the team who really looks like he deserves more minutes than he gets. His three-point stroke and rebounding should play very well with Sullinger, but together they're a bit of a short frontcourt. It's likely that incoming frosh Amir Williams or transfer Evan Ravenel get the starting nod for this reason, but Matta really needs someone else to show up on the wing alongside William Buford, who looks to be the primary go-to scorer for next season.

Penn State
Jaw-droppingly good! Jeff Brooks & Talor Battle. Jeff Brooks was an amazing presence inside, and Jackson and Battle have both been at the top of the standings for their positions, and even better, Tim Frazier looks to be the star of next year's team. Talor Battle's shift to off-guard hurt his efficiency a little bit, but allowed Frazier to shine and gave PSU the spacing it needed to maximize Brooks' scoring ability. Give DeChellis credit for squeezing two point guards and two power forwards into a line-up that got the Lions into the field of 68 for the first time in years.
I'm concerned... I could carp about Andrew Jones, but the problem for new coach Pat Chambers is that there was zero depth here. Billy Oliver, Cameron Woodyard, and Jemaine Marshall are put up walk-on numbers. All three ranked in the bottom third of the conference, and returning redshirted center Sasa Borovnjak was hardly the model of per-possession efficiency in 2010, slotted between Jon Lickliter & Austin Thorton.
I can haz more PT? Tim Frazier and um, uh.... cough cough. Sasa Borovnjak and the freshmen better be ready to make an impact, 'cause when Jemaine Marshall (per-possession, the 51st-ranked returning player in the conference) is your #2 option, you know you're in trouble. New Coach Pat Chambers is going to take one on the chin next season, but luckily the first season after a big coaching change is usually a freebie. However, more ominous for PSU fans is the fact that your coach, coming off an unusually successful season, jumps at a chance to coach the Navy team. Ouch!

Jaw-droppingly good! JaJuan Johnson was outstanding as the best center in the conference - and he had some very stiff competition. E'Twuann Moore was fantastic on the wing, and guards Lewis Jackson & Ryne Smith stepped up beyond what anyone could expect. DJ Byrd also opened some eyes with his scrappy performances, but hopefully he plays less power forward next year as he caused the team some real defensive match-up problems.
I'm concerned... Painter got essentially nothing out of bench bigs Bade & Marcius, and Bade has now left the team. The paint will be occupied for Painter next season by Robbie Hummel (and his hopefully healthy knees) and sophomore Travis Carroll, with back-up from Marcius and two not particularly large freshmen.
I can haz more PT? Losing Moore (a four-year production star) and Johnson (who shined both years Hummel was out) really hurts, tho. Ryne Smith & Lewis Jackson provide one of the league's best backcourts, but questions abound. Can Hummel come back at the sort of star-level performance that everyone's accustomed to? How do Travis Carroll and the incoming freshmen bigs hold down the paint? What's with Kelsey Barlow? Will Terone Johnson improve enough to start on the wing, or will DJ Byrd & Ryne Smith have to hold those spots down? I'm curious to see how , but I just know that Painter will have another solid team next season that's once again involved in the Big Ten championship race.

Jaw-droppingly good! Jordan Taylor really locks this one up as his growth curve has been outstanding over the last several seasons. Taylor goes into his senior year as the primary reason for confidence that coach Bo Ryan has. However, Josh Gasser also deserves mention as a nice find as a freshman, and Jared Berggren's solid performance in very limited minutes should suggest that he's ready to be at least a part-time starter.
I'm concerned... Outside of Taylor, Gasser, and Berggren - who else should get more minutes? Certainly Mike Bruesewitz will, but he was not as impressive off the bench this season as I thought he would be. I really thought Ryan Evans and Rob Wilson would step up their effective production, and they really didn't.
I can haz more PT? Berggren and Bruesewitz will get more minutes, but they were really only average in per-possession terms, and Bo is going to need heavy minutes out of redshirt Evan Anderson and either of the frosh big men (most likely Jared Uthoff). Some depth on the wings would really be nice too, but either Ben Brust needs to show up or Ryan Evans needs to play every game like it's the final minute of the Purdue game.

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