Roy Hibbert, 7-2, Junior, Center, Georgetown
19 points, 6 rebounds, 1 block, 6-10 FG's, 1-4 FT's in 24 min
Hibbert was a game-changing force once again, providing not only the shot blocking presence you would expect from a player of his size, but also doing an excellent job of manning up on Oden. Hibbert didn't overextend himself in attempting to block his shots, but rather played solid positional defense and limited the easy looks of his formidable opponent. He did do a good job as a weak-side shot-blocker, swatting one Oden dunk attempt and altering numerous other Buckeye attempts in the lane.
On the offensive end, we got to see just how dramatic the improvement has been over the past year. Hibbert displayed a bit of everything, whether it was the sweeping traditional hook early on, an emphatic spin move conversion on Oden midway through the second half, the 20 foot jumper, or the jump hook that kept Georgetown within striking distance as Ohio State was starting to pull away in the closing minutes. Hibbert did a great job of cutting to the basket early in the game and his teammates did a phenomenal job of finding him as he flashed to holes in the defense. This added several emphatic dunks to Hibbert's point total. It must be said once again that as slow and lumbering as he looks running up and down the court, Hibbert is surprisingly agile on the low block.
Once again, the only people that contained Hibbert didn't suit up for the opponent. For as well as he contested Ohio State at the rim, he still was whistled for ticky-tack fouls early and often. He ended up spending a large chunk of the game on the bench, and this allowed Ohio State to largely dictate tempo. Georgetown's saving grace was that Oden picked up a pair of early fouls as well, but Hibbert's fourth really put the Hoyas in a bind. Foul trouble isn't something that is going to keep Hibbert's draft stock in check, but it is partially responsible for Hibbert's less than attention-grabbing numbers in a tournament where his play was absolutely attention worthy.
All in all, nobody has improved their draft stock more than Roy Hibbert in the 2007 NCAA Tournament. Not only does the 7-footer impress with his improved skill level and feel for the game on an individual basis, but Georgetown is essentially a different team when he is on the court. There probably wasn't an individual more important to his team in March than Hibbert was to Georgetown, and that includes Oden. There is no doubting that Hibbert still has significant work to do on his game, whether it is polishing up the mechanics on his back to the basket game or continuing to improve his open court mobility, but Hibbert's performance is now impossible to ignore. He is a legit NBA center prospect, even before taking into account that he'll be one of the biggest 5-men in the league the moment he steps on the court.
Will Roy Hibbert be selected in the Top 5 of the upcoming draft? First off, he'll have to declare - and this isn't necessarily a given. Secondly, he will have to find the right team, one that emphasizes more of a half-court oriented style of play. The cards will have to fall right in terms of who gets what pick, but it now appears that Hibbert will have to get consideration from just about any slower-paced team drafting outside the Top 2.
Mike Conley Jr, 61, PG, Freshman, Ohio State
Vs Georgetown: 15 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds, 1 turnover, 1 steal, 7-12 FG
Only three minutes into the first half, Greg Oden was called for his second foul, relegating him to the bench for the next 17 minutes. Conley controlled the pace of the game for the remainder of the half, leading Ohio State to a 27-23 halftime lead without their big pivot. Conleys versatile floor game was on display in many ways, and one of the most notable was in his ability to get to the hole, which he showed off very early in the game. Conleys at his best off high screens at the top of the key, where he can get a quick first step on his man, at which point he usually goes on to have his way with the interior defense. On multiple occasions in this game Conley would weave with the basketball through the lane, going between defenders, crossing the ball over to switch hands, and using his body to shield the ball. Once at the rim, Conley can score with either hand, just as he can proficiently dribble with either, and he scored a variety of lay-ups in the game, the most impressive of which was a reverse lay-up off the glass in transition on which he exhibited tremendous body control. Conley also hit one long spot-up three-pointer in the game and a right-handed floater from about 10 feet, to go along with his assortment of lay-ups.
Conley plays in transition just as well as in the half-court, and he dished out quite a few nice transition passes in this game, some of which were finished by his teammates, and some which were not. In the half-court, Conley hit teammates for wide open spot-up threes coming off screens, for open lay-ups near the basket on drive-and-dishes, and for simple post feeds. He always keeps his head up with the ball, and his court vision is very strong, which couples well with his excellent decision-making, as evidenced by his 2.72 A:TO ratio on the season. Conleys only turnover in this game was on a failed post feed to teammate Greg Oden, where he tried to force the ball through two Georgetown defenders.
Defensively, Conley did a good job in straight-up man-to-man defense, denying the Georgetown guards from any penetration against him, but he had some trouble with high screens. The team had some miscommunication problems with the screens early in the second half when Greg Oden was re-inserted into the game, and Conley was caught in the vicinity multiple times on an open three-pointer and open cuts to the basket coming off the screens, though its hard to exclusively place the fault on him for those possessions.
With Conleys excellent tournament run, and his team now one game away from winning the National Championship, its becoming more and more realistic that he could declare for this years draft. He has most of the tools one could want from an NBA point guard, and if he can improve on his shooting range and consistency from behind the three-point arc, could be a complete point guard at the next level in time, as he already possesses the court savvy coaches desire from floor leaders. Conley should rank as one of the top two or three point guards in this draft, along with Texas A&M Senior Acie Law and fellow freshman from UNC Tywon Lawson, should he decide to declare as well. Itd be very tough to see Conley falling very far in the first round should he declare, and the lottery wouldnt be out of the picture either.
Corey Brewer, 6-9, Junior, Small Forward, Florida
19 points, 2 rebounds, 2 blocks, 5-7 FG's, 5-6 FT's, 4-5 3-PT
The Gators started out cold like seemingly always have this season, not connecting from the floor until the 12:35 mark of the first half. It was Brewer that would eventually break the ice, slashing to the basket for an acrobatic layup and knocking down three first half 3-pointers to keep Florida in the game while their defense slowly wore UCLA down. Some of these shots came while pulling up off the dribble, an area that Brewer has struggled in for much of his career thus far. Four early free throws made 15 absolutely huge first half points. Without his perimeter accuracy, the Gators would have found themselves down at halftime and this game could have turned out very differently for the defending champs.
It is fairly obvious that whoever drafts Brewer this spring will be getting a ready-to-contribute defender, but performances like tonight remind us that the wiry swingman has the potential to develop into a capable offensive player at the NBA level as well. Corey Brewer appears to be heading toward a late lottery to mid first round selection in the upcoming draft.
Al Horford, 6-10, Junior, Power Forward, Florida
9 points, 17 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 turnovers, 2-3 FG, 5-9 FT
With UCLA doubling Floridas post players heavily and essentially forcing the Gators to beat them from outside, a great offensive night from Al Horford wasnt going to be in the cards. Regardless, he did everything in his power to help his team come away with the victory, controlling the glass alongside Joakim Noah, and absolutely destroying anyone he was asked to match up with on the defensive end.
Florida hedged UCLAs endless array of ball-screens sharply, and Horford once again did a terrific job getting out on the perimeter impeccably and then recovering beautifully back onto his man. He showed outstanding timing both challenging shots defensively and going up after rebounds, using his body and strength perfectly to throw his weight around in the post, and essentially dominating UCLAs frontcourt in basically every aspect of the game.
Offensively there were, as noted, not all that many touches to go around, but when he did get looks, Horford didnt have any problem swinging the ball around the perimeter or making beautiful interior passes to Joakim Noah or Chris Richard. On one rare occasion where a double team did not come, Horford backed down Alfred Aboya slowly and steadily before turning to his left shoulder and throwing in a nice looking jump-hook.
Horford now has a great opportunity to put the finishing touches on what has been a fantastic NCAA tournament performance on Monday with a good showing against Greg Oden.
Chris Richard, 6-8, Senior, PF/C, Florida
16 points, 4 rebounds, 7-7 FG, 21 minutes
Richard didnt do anything all that flashy, scoring on 7 baskets all right at the hoop. Some came on offensive rebounds, and some where the result of establishing position deep inside the paint and receiving a terrific pass from either Noah or Horford.
Richard is a strong, physical big man with decent athleticism and plenty of tenacity to get the job done inside. While his starting big men have gotten most of the accolades, Richard has played a huge role in his teams success over the past two years, and legitimately could have started for nearly any team in America if he werent playing behind two likely top-5 draft picks.
Hell get a chance to show his stuff in Portsmouth in just a few days, so well have a better opportunity to evaluate him.