Julius Hodge, NC State: 19 points (8-12 FG), 9 assists, 7 rebounds, 3 steals
As we mentioned in our tournament preview, no one needed to have a great tournament more than Julius Hodge. Today he stepped up to the plate in a huge way for his team, helping them come back from an early 14 point deficit to eventually come away with the win against the higher seeded Charlotte 49'ers. Hodge was a man on a mission today, slashing to the hoop with reckless abandon, doing a great job as a 6-6 PG and getting everyone involved, getting in the passing lanes to come up with steals and ignite the break, and playing the game with his trademark unmatchable intensity that refused to let his team go home in the first round. Truly an excellent performance from the senior who was expected to provide some much needed leadership for the Wolfpack, especially down the stretch. Hodge helped himself a lot today, but still questions linger about his outside shot and ability to create while being matched up with stronger and more athletic defenders, although he did a great job against Eddie Basden (one of the best defenders in the NCAA) today. Hodge's leadership (which he provided in bundles today) and ball skills will be needed if NC State is to have any chance against UConn in the next round.
Charlie Villanueva, UConn 22 points (9-13), 7 rebounds, 2 assists
Few people rank Villanueva as highly as we do at the moment, and most people bailed on him after the way he started the season. However, Villanueva will continue to slowly add people on to his bandwagon if he continues to perform the way he has lately for UConn. He was once again their #1 option today, doing a little bit of everything for the Huskies in his typical versatile fashion. He was a force inside the paint when he got the ball, knocked down a pair of treys as if they were free throws, played pretty good defense most of the time against an undersized opponent, and just continued to impress with his aggressiveness and outstanding skills. Next round's matchup with NC State will be a great chance for Villanueva to continue his superb form. They'll need his scoring in the paint in a big way, along with some solid rotations to cut off Hodge's slashing game in the paint.
Rudy Gay, UConn 17 points (7-11 FG), 4 rebounds, 3 blocks
In our preview for this team, we mentioned that UConn will need Rudy Gay to finally step up to the plate and show the world just how talented he is. They needed someone to provide a 2nd scoring punch for them and today he did that, although most of his damage (14 points) came in the first half. This is a great sign for UConn and they can only hope that their extremely talented freshman will continue to step up against NC State, because they'll really need it to compensate for a very shallow bench against tougher competition.
Marvin Williams, North Carolina 20 points (8-11 FG), 8 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks, in 23 minutes
Yet another outstanding performance from an extremely talented freshman as the battle rages on regarding who is (or will be) the better youngster of the two, Williams or Gay.
Williams made his case in spectacular fashion for the Heels off the bench today, showing that he has no problem with being the consummate role player who can do a little bit of everything for his team, even dive on the floor for a loose ball when his team is up by 30. He then reminds us just how ridiculously good he can be by snatching down a rebound on the defensive end, handling it the length of the floor before giving it up, getting it back and skying for one of the most powerful dunks we'll see all month long. He played the SF position for most of the game, doing a great job on the smaller and much quicker Rawle Marshall, and just showing everyone how superbly talented and versatile he is.
Taylor Coppenrath, Vermont 16 points (6-16 FG), 4 rebounds, 3 steals
Taylor didn't have his best game today, but the exposure he received, his matchup with Warrick and the fact that his team advanced to the second round definitely give his stock a boost. He finished with 16 points, 4 rebound, and 3 steals. Coppenrath really struggled with his midrange shot, which he usually nails with ease. When he got the ball cleanly on the block he was able to show off his good hands and ability to finish around the rim. He and Martin Klimes appeared to get fouled several times down low without getting the call which may have hurt his numbers. Still, you could tell it was hard for him to rebound against superior athletes. He did show some nice passing abilities, and hit a beautiful hook shot from the foul line to beat the shotclock in the first half. Defensively he really impressed me; he was physical with Hakim Warrick, and was able to get in his head. He also showed quick hands finishing with 3 steals. I believe this performance should put to rest some of the silly Larry Bird comparisons he has gotten from the media. He is a pure power forward whose strength is finishing around the goal. He will have to get stronger to be able to do that at the NBA level however. While he did struggle offensively much of the game, as most of the team did, he played much better defensively than I expected, helping to force Warrick into 10 turnovers. That negated any negatives from his offensive performance and should put to rest whispers that he is soft. It is hard to say whether he helped his stock or not, as many scouts still will have conflicting opinions on him. He however did increase the chances of having his name called this June.
David Lee, Florida 14 points (6-10), 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 3 blocks
While this certainly wasn't Lee's best game of the season, he showed off everything about him that scouts love. His terrific athletic ability, an assortment of post moves and the ability to finish with either hand, a nice mid-range jumper, a solid handle, he even had a solid game defensively. His air-ball from 16 feet out at the end of the game that could have done in the Gators (but ended up in Roberson's hands for a 3 point play) looked all too familiar, though, as he has consistently struggled in pressure situations and has provento be somewhat weak mentally. Regardless, his team advanced and Lee played great despite being in foul trouble. He has a huge matchup with Jason Fraser and Villanova coming up on Sunday.
Francisco Garcia, Louisville 27 points (8-20 FG, 2-8 3P, 9-9 FT), 4 assists
The NCAA tournament is when we separate the boys from the men, and there was no doubt tonight that Garcia is one of the most clutch players in the NCAA. Garcia went 7-for-7 from the foul line in the final 1:57 to help his team ice the game, and finished with 27 points to officially put his bad month behind him. He was a calming influence on his team and the game, and he stepped up his game when his team needed him most, against a VERY tough Louisiana Lafayette team led by terrific junior Tiras Wade. Garcia and Wade exchanged blows for most of the game, with neither playing very good defense, but it was Garcia who ended with the upper hand. This is good news for Garcia's draft stock, but he'll have to keep it up in the next round against Georgia Tech, where he goes up against a team full of the physical, athletic defenders that usually give him fits.
Jared Homan, Iowa State 14 points (5-14), 13 rebounds, 7 blocks, 2 steals
Homan really took advantage of playing in front of a contingent of scouts and a national audience today. With 14 points, 13 rebounds and an incredible 7 blocks, he put up his 6th double-double in his last eight games. He displayed a nice midrange jumper, and helped get Iowa State out to an early lead. The one downside of his performance is that he didn't show he can consistently score with his back to the basket. The real story was his defense, however. His presence in the middle gave the Gophers fits all day. As Minnesota is a team that likes to pound the ball in the post offensively, he threw them off their game, forcing Vincent Grier and Dan Coleman into terrible offensive games. Grier and Coleman shot 7-21, and 2-7 respectively. Perhaps the most impressive part of Homan's performance today was that he was able to step up and block shots as part of the zone while not losing track of his responsibilities to guard the opposing Center. Homan has been playing well down the stretch, and when you combine this game with his performance in an upset win over Kansas on national TV, he is showing that he would make a very nice pickup in the second round for somebody.
Curtis Stinson 18 pts, 6 reb, 4 ast
While Stinson might not be the most exposed of all draft prospects, he has expressed interest in declaring for the 2005 draft. Those who haven't seen him play yet probably came away impressed. They saw a tough as nails, New York City-style guard that plays lockdown, physical defense, and gets to the basket at will. Next up for the âClones is North Carolina and Raymond Felton, a matchup that the scouts likely be out en masse for. This is Curtis Stinson's chance to impress the nation and really bump up his stock.
T.J. Sorrentine, Vermont 17 points (5-19 FG), 6 rebounds, 2 assists
He's not a draft prospect, but TJ is one of my favorite players to watch and deserves mention at least once this season. A wizard with the ball who goes against the textbook in every aspect of his game, he had a terrible first half. It was painful watching him continue to miss long 3s, and make terrible passes right into the teeth of the Syracuse zone. However, in the second half, some of those bombs started to go in, and it energized the Vermont team as well as their fan base in attendance. What is impressive is that despite his misses, he was never shaken and continued to shoot until he was able to hit some big time shots. In the second half, he was the game's MVP, along with the little known Germain Mopa Njila, and together they carried the Catamounts on their backs. He showed stone cold confidence with the Catamounts up by one with less than a minute left in overtime, when he calmly drained a 35 foot three pointer off the dribble. On a defensive note, despite a quickness disadvantage, he was able to get inside Gerry Mcnamara's head with some very physical defense. He is certainly one of the more exciting players in college to watch, and a real winner with infectious enthusiasm and energy. However, he is too streaky and fundamentally unsound, as well as too slow to make it in the NBA. While he certainly won't be hearing his name called this June, his three pointer in overtime etched his name into the College Basketball annals forever.
Marcus Campbell, Mississippi State 8 pts, 4 reb, 4 blk
While it's hard to seriously consider Marcus Campbell an NBA prospect, one couldn't notice how he affected the game tonight against Stanford. Campbell is inconsistent, mentally weak, a poor athlete, and very behind skill-wise, but he might just be the largest player in the tourney. His presence was an immediate boost in the MSU defensive attack, and one of the main reasons the Bulldogs were able to fight back after falling behind early. Matt Haryasz is no slouch defender in the post, and he had no answer Campbell when he got the ball on the blocks. He will need a serious attitude adjustment and a patient trainer with a lot of time on his hands, but I could see Marcus Campbell catching on with a team as a 12th man, space filler type at some point in the future.
Lawrence Roberts, Mississippi State 23 pts, 14 reb
Roberts is a what-you-see is what-you-get kind of a big man, and the Bulldogs got a typical workmanlike performance out of their star tonight. Like usual, Roberts didn't dominate, but made short work of Stanford's defense when they slipped up in their double team efforts. Roberts has nice strength, great fundamental post moves, and decent touch around the basket. Unfortunately, he doesn't project as much in the NBA, given his lack of size and inability to move his game out on the perimeter. Roberts will get to show what he can do against Shelden Williams and Duke on Sunday. If he comes up with another 20/10 type performance, then his stock will truly begin to move up in the 2nd round.
Matt Haryasz, Stanford 14 pts (5-17 FG), 9 reb
Haryasz was one of the nation's hotter big men coming into the tourney, and while the overall body of work wasn't there tonight, Haryasz certainly displayed the skills that make him an intriguing 2006 draft prospect. At 6'11, Haryasz has a beautiful 20 foot jumper that forces defenders to come out and guard him. He hit a few tonight, and also converted on a couple of nice slashing moves where he slipped in between defenders and found the net. Haryasz's lack of strength was clearly evident tonight against Roberts and Campbell, though he certainly has the frame to add some bulk. If he can hit the weight room in the offseason and build on this season's strong finish, Haryasz will be a guy who gets a lot of draft hype in 2006.
Jarrett Jack, Georgia Tech 20 pts, 6 reb, 6 ast
In spite of criticism he's received from several draft pundits recently, Jarrett Jack is one of the hottest players in the nation. After playing through injury and putting in a heroic effort in the ACC tourney championship, Jack came back strong in putting away a feisty George Washington team. He continues to show that he in fact can run a team, and can shoot the ball more than well enough. Tonight he hit a nice off the dribble fadeaway in the lane, and showed more of the body control that helps him get shots off in traffic. I will say it again â Jarrett Jack is a top tier PG prospect, and he continues to prove it on a nightly basis. When is everybody else going to jump on board?
Hakim Warrick, Syracuse 21 points (8-17 FG), 12 rebounds, 10 turnovers
Warrick had a triple-double tonight, but not the kind you'll hear anyone brag about. He definitely left everything he had on the floor tonight, scoring 21 points with 12 rebounds and fighting for loose balls every step of the way. However he appeared rattled against a physical UVM front line and made mistakes he never usually would. He got off to a nice start, showing a midrange jumper and scoring on the blocks. As the game wore on, and he took more of a pounding he kept making more and more mistakes. He kept spinning right into the second man of a double team, seemingly unaware of where he was on the floor. He finished with an astonishing 10 turnovers in all, including an offensive foul at the end of regulation and a couple of costly miscues in overtime. He got his points and rebounds, but the fact that he had to struggle so much to get them against an America East frontline probably hurts his draft stock.
Gerry Mcnamara, Syracuse 11 points (4-18 FG, 1-9 3P), 3 assists, 3 steals, 2 turnovers
Gerry Mcnamara had hoped to brush aside a fairly putrid regular season with a rebound performance in the tourney, but that didn't happen against Vermont. He couldn't get anything going all night long, throwing up bricks all game. There really isn't much more you can do to describe his scoring effort as he went 4-18 from the floor. Mcnamara also made several bad passes, and committed the biggest turnover of the game down the stretch when he dribbled the ball off his foot as he crossed halfcourt, resulting in a backcourt violation. G-Mac had a chance to become a second round prospect for next year with a strong tournament showing. Instead, he had a choke-job of monumental proportions, and only reinforced what an inconsistent player he is. Mcnamara is red hot one game, ice cold the next, and often looks out of control. His PG skills are basically non-existent and when his shot isn't falling he doesn't even look like a decent prospect for Europe.
Joey Graham, Oklahoma State 7 points (1-4 FG), 2 rebounds, 4 turnovers, 4 fouls, 18 minutes
The main reason Oklahoma State struggled against Southeastern Louisiana in what should have been a relatively easy game for them was that their star senior apparentlhy forgot to wake up for the game. His coach had this to say about his performance: I've never seen him play as poorly as he did today," Sutton said. "Sometimes he can disappear on you." Sutton has criticized Graham in the past, saying that his personality is the only thing holding him back from dominating, but nothing like that. Graham was not available for most of the end of the game after he picked up fourth foul with 7 minutes to go. When he was on the floor, he looked lethargic and apathetic. Foul trouble has been a constant problem for Graham in his senior season, and if Oklahoma State has any hope of getting anywhere in this tournament, they will need their senior on the floor. He got very passive today and that's a real concern for the Pokes. Luckily for them, fellow senior Ivan McFarlin showed up in a big way, with 18 points and 9 rebounds on the day. There are too many excellent wing players declaring and moving up in this draft for Graham to start faltering now, and he needs to wake up starting on Sunday.
Anthony Roberson, Florida 11 points (3-15 FG, 0-8 3P), 3 assists, 1 turnover
Roberson has played poorly over the last two weeks or so of the season, and that doesn't bode well for his draft prospects. The fact that the Gators are winning certainly helps keep things in perspective, but that's despite the way Roberson has played, not because of it. Florida's offense looked horrible in the ten minutes that Ohio erased a 20 point lead at the end of the second half, and he struggled miserably with his outside shot, as he has in each of the last 3 games. With that said, Roberson came up big at the end of the game, as he often has, scoring the last 5 points for the victorious Gators. For Florida to have any shot at beating Villanova in the next round, they will need Roberson at his absolute best. The way it looks right now, especially with the impending age limit, Roberson might be better off returning for another year. He is not a lock to get drafted at all and GM's might think they have a good enough handle of his game to pass on inviting him to Chicago.
Jonathan Givony and Jonathan Watters
What a way for Keith Langford, Aaron Miles and especially Wayne Simien to end their NCAA career. Simien had the chance to be this year's Christian Laettner, with a shot at the buzzer that was almost identical to the shot that elminated Kentucky from the tournament almost 15 years ago, but he came up short and the Jayhawks are going home early. They were upset by an incredibly determined #14 seed Bucknell team, led by five scholarship players, Northern Iowa's band, and the German big man Chris McNaughton, who hit the gamewinning shot. Aaron Miles was simply nonexistent in this one, and failed to come through in the clutch yet again. He finished with 4 points and 4 assists on 0-5 shooting. Simien was the one Jayhawk to show up for this one, with 24 points and 10 rebounds, though his teammates didn't give him the ball nearly enough. There's no excuse for a player as dominant as Simien to only get 14 shots. Langford hit free throws down the stretch but was still getting his legs back after an injury, finishing with 6 points on 1-7 shooting in 26 minutes. He hasn't improved as expected since breaking out as a sophomore, and it wouldn't be a shock to see him go undrafted.
Vincent Grier, Minnesota 14 points (7-21 FG), 9 rebounds, 4 steals
Minnesota's star swingman relies on a game of slashing to the basket, and scoring down on the blocks. With Jared Homan owning the paint Grier was forced into taking jumpshots all day and his inconsistent jump-shooting ability was exposed. Whether spotting up from three point line, midrange, or shooting of the dribble Grier displayed an ugly line drive shot. While he has games where he gets things going from outside, it simply wasn't his night. Grier was also frustrated by the quick hands of Tasheed Carr, and Curtis Stinson turning the ball over 4 times. While he did show his defensive abilities and toughness with 4 steals and 9 rebounds, what sticks out is his truly dreadful offensive performance. This was the first chance for many to see him play in a big game, and he fell flat on his face.
Paul Davis 14 points, 6 reb
Another day, another listless performance for the Michigan State big man. While Davis is blessed with the tools of an All-American, he seems to struggle at making the simple plays, and is rarely in a game mentally. Tonight Davis once again showed flashes of offensive excellence, but was hampered by foul trouble, an inability to get the ball in the post, and defensive inconsistency. Davis always seems to have a scowl on his face, and really gets down on himself. His demeanor begs the question, does he really enjoy playing the game? While Davis and the Spartans managed to survive for another day, Tom Izzo needs more out of his Center.