Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Quick notes 2009-2010 cbb teams 11-20

11. Texas- The 'Horns continue to keep rolling with Rick Barnes. He brings in another amazing recruiting class, adds Florida transfer point guard Jai Lucas, and returns senior star Damion James. Justin Mason should steady the backcourt, while the progress of center Dexter Pittman should anchor the paint. Gary Johnson is perhaps a little underrated at the three-spot, and may even keep blue-chipper Jordan Hamilton on the bench. Conor Atchley's solid play & AJ Abrams' leadership will be missed, but frosh Avery Bradley is being talked about in one-and-done terms. The one weakness that I see that really keeps this squad out of the top ten is lack of interior depth. Alex Wangmene and Clint Chapman have never been able to do too much, and while Pittman has grown into a very nice player, he still can't seem to stay on the floor for starting minutes. It'll require the undersized James holding down the paint almost entirely on his own for Texas to challenge for a Final Four berth.

12. California- The Golden Bears just have a ton of talent returning, and swept Washington last season. With five returning starters, I really would have felt comfortable picking them for Pac-10 champs had they not sputtered down the stretch so badly, losing five of their seven, and all of their last three including a NCAA first-round blowout at the hands of Maryland. Jerome Randle & Patrick Christopher make one of the nation's very best backcourts, and Jamal Boykin does a nice job hitting the glass. Watch seven-footer Jordan Wilkes, the more time he's able to take away from Harper Kamp at center, the better this team is going to be. Special mention here for 6-10 recruit Bak Bak, who'll be instantly making the all-name teams.

13. Duke- The Blue Devils finally have gotten some quality height with this year's recruiting class (6-11 Mason Plumlee & 6-10 Ryan Kelly), and combined with Brian Zoubek, Lance Thomas, and Kyle Singler, Coach Kryszewski has a bit a glut up front. The problem is, with the graduation of Greg Paulus and the early losses of Gerald Henderson & Elliott Williams, the perimeter is paper-thin. Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith will have to carry a significantly heavier load this season, which is rough. Also, even with the discussions of shifting Singler and/or others to the three spot, and the coup of grabbing 6-3 Andre Dawkins a year early, I still don't see a real point guard on this roster. They'll be good, but just not at their usual Final Four level.

14. Minnesota- The Golden Gophers return all of their top players, and add a solid recruiting class that features a couple of athletic forwards. Royce White could start from day one, and Rodney Williams will provide some Corey Maggette-like depth off the bench. And Ralph Sampson and Colton Iverson were two of the better freshman bigs last season, with Al Nolen & Damian Johnson bring defensive terrors as well. The one thing I'm not sold on here is their half-court offense. Outside of Sampson, no one looked particularly effective as a scorer, and even go-to guy Lawrence Westbrook was pretty average. Also, there are some problems with turnovers, and their defensive rebounding isn't great. But, there's so much talent here that Tubby will maximize having a second five of Iverson, Williams, Paul Carter, Devron Bostick, and Devoe Joseph (not to mention Blake Hoffarber & Juco Trevor Mbakwe as his #11 & #12 guys) to the maximum effect. The Gophers are rising.

15. Brigham Young- The Cougars are looking to become the new Butler/Gonzaga, a midmajor mainstay in the minds of the ESPMSM. Losing Lee Cummard will hurt, but having Jonathan Tavenari, Jimmer Fredette, and Emery Jackson pick up the slack should work. Chris Miles fills the center spot ably, and a solid recruiting class should help boost a bench that, honestly, wasn't very good last season. If 6-8 sophomore Noah Hartsock can make the jump to starter at the four-spot, and it seems he has the rebounding, block, and FG% to do so, then frosh 6-9 Brandon Davies can come off the bench. My biggest concern is free-throw shooting, as Cummard was an excellent free-throw shooter, and with the exceptions of Fredette, Jackson, and Tavernari, this team was pretty awful. Otherwise, I think this club makes a big leap forward.

16. Dayton-
The Flyers are the A-10 team to watch. Ryan Wright and Chris Lowery are a powerful inside-outside combo, and sophomore forward Chris Johnson should step right into the starting spot vacated by the graduated Charles Little. The sole freshman, 6-9 Matt Kavanaugh, will see some minutes at center, but overall, the returning depth and experience of a team that beat West Virginia in the first round of the NCAA tourney last season is the story. Notably, this team isn't great at shooting the ball, ranking below average at the line as well as inside and outside of the arc. But consistently winning the turnover battle and hitting the offensive glass makes up the difference. Swingman Marcus Johnson should get more shots, as he doesn't turn it over and shoots well from the field.

17. Siena- Losing Kenny Hasbrouck will hurt, no doubt, but the Saints have a great shot at the Sweet Sixteen, I think. Clarence Jackson should step right into Hasbrouck's shoes and should be able to pick up a lot of the slack. Jackson doesn't pass as well as Hasbrouck or notch as nice of a steal rate, but he would appear to be a slightly more effective scorer. Ron Moore is solid at point as Ryan Rossiter is in the paint, and forwards Alex Franklin and Edwin Ublies likely should and will be featured in the offense a little more. Freshman 6-8 Oderah Anosike & 6-0 Jonathan Breeden will help off the bench. Otherwise, there's not a lot of depth, but coach Fran McCaffrey tends to ride his starters hard anyway. However, benchrider 6-5 sophomore Owen Wignot did hit 40% of his threes last year, and might see some more minutes as a result.

18. Tulsa- Finally, a team other than Memphis should walk away with the Conference-USA crown. 7-0 Jerome Jordan will be the focus of most of the media attention, as well NBA scouts, and rightfully so. Ben Uzoh (assists & steals) and Justin Hurtt (shooting) do some good things from the backcourt, but overall, the returnees not-named-Jordan aren't very impressive. Glenn Andrews should probably not shoot as much as he does, and forward Bishop Wheatley shoots just fine, but doesn't contribute a lot else. 6-1 recruit Donte Medder is probably Tulsa's point guard of the future, and 6-6 Bryson Pope could contribute this season, too. And who knows? To my eyes they both will have considerable opportunities to earn starting spots by the end of season.

19. Michigan- John Beilein, in just his third year, is challenging Bo Ryan and Tom Izzo for the best Big Ten coach. His work at WVU suggests a marked improvement is to be expected, and that's coming on the heels on a very surprising NCAA berth. Four starters return, including standouts Manny Harris & DeShawn Sims. Harris gets the ink, but Sims is the real key to this team. He plays center (probably too much) and his outside shooting and passing make this offense run. A solid recruiting class led by guards Darius Morris and Matt Vogrich shores up the bench, and it's not unreasonable to expect sophomores Stu Douglass and Zack Novak's games to mature. My numbers have long said the Zack Gibson should get more minutes, but both his free-throw and three-point percentages took a dive last season. We'll see what happens his senior year, but either way, the Wolverines won't be sweating Selection Sunday.

20. South Carolina-
This team is not highly rated by most pundits, and it's easy to see why as they lost in the first round of the NIT last year. But they lost to Davidson, who frankly should've been in the NCAA's, and I thought the Gamecocks had an argument for the Big Dance too. They won at Baylor, and tied for second in the SEC standings, and did better in per-possession terms than much-bally-hooed-for-this-season Mississippi State. I think the Gamecocks'll be considerably better this year as they return almost everyone, excepting guards Zam Frederick and former walk-on Branden Conrad, who were by far the team's worst shooters inside the arc. Top 100 recruit 6-4 Lakeem Jackson should help recover some of the Frederick's production on the wing, but Devan Downey and Dominique Archie will produce more, too. Downey in particular has been an underrated star performer. Mike Holmes is very capable in the post, but he really needs some help. I think Sam Muldrow should be able to provide much more of that than he has so far, but 6-9 Juco Jhondre Jefferson and 6-8 junior Austin Steed should to provide more depth. 6-7 swingman Evan Baniulis might be pressed into the starting line-up as a combo-forward starter with Archie, which may be the most likely scenario.


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