NCAA Tournament: Stock Watch (round of 64, Friday games)--Stock Up

NCAA Tournament: Stock Watch (round of 64, Friday games)--Stock Up
Mar 17, 2007, 04:57 am
NCAA Tournament: Stock Watch (round of 64, Friday games)--Stock Down/Neutral

NCAA Tournament: Stock Watch (round of 64, Thursday games)--Stock Up

NCAA Tournament: Stock Watch (round of 64, Thursday games)--Stock Down/Neutral

[c]J.R. Reynolds and Sean Singletary combined for a spectacular performance against Albany[/c]
A look at the prospects who helped themselves the most in the second day of games at the NCAA tournament.

J.R. Reynolds, Chris Lofton and Sean Singletary started off the day right from the guards department as far as dominating offensive performances go, while Carl Landry, Joakim Noah, and Craig Bradshaw dominated the inside from the frontcourt. That and much much more in what turned out to be a phenomenal day of college basketball.

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J.R. Reynolds, 6-3, Senior, Guard, Virginia
28 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 3 turnovers, 9-13 FG, 5-6 FT, 5-7 3P


Joey Whelan

Virginia’s senior combo guard had everything going for him in the first half of Friday’s win over Albany, knocking down his first 7 shots en route to 23 points by halftime. Reynolds scored in a variety of ways, and at points looked nearly unstoppable as he almost outscored the Great Danes by himself early on.

Reynolds was on fire from outside, knocking down 4 shots from beyond the arc in the first half, to go along with a nice fade away jumper along the baseline and a soft leaner in the lane. Relying on his quickness and quick release, Reynolds made his offensive production look effortless, especially in transition where he is always a threat to score. He got to the line several times as well, relying on his ability to get in the lane and draw contact with defenders.

In the second half Reynolds showed why he is so appealing to pro scouts, as he was able to defer the scoring to his teammates and influence the game in other ways. He dished out several nice assists and played aggressive defense, helping to keep Albany in check most of the game. Of course, like any top flight scorer, when given a good look at the basket he was able to convert and score, which he did a few more times in the second half.

Having already helped himself in round one, especially to those who weren’t too familiar with his scoring prowess previously, Reynolds has a chance to really improve his draft stock with another good performance in the second round, especially if it comes against a tough Tennessee team. Reynolds was inconsistent down the stretch of the regular season, but at a time when plenty of NBA decision makers will be watching, the already appealing combo guard can really get himself noticed with a solid post-season run.

Chris Lofton, 6-2, Junior, Shooting Guard, Tennessee
25 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 turnover, 4 steals, 9-14 FG, 4-8 3P, 3-3 FT, 24 minutes


Jonathan Givony

Tennessee did their best Phoenix Suns imitation by racking up 121 points against an overmatched Long Beach State team, and the player who was clearly their catalyst in the victory was again their star Chris Lofton. He scored 25 points in 24 minutes today, and did so while barely breaking a sweat in the process.

Lofton actually started off the game slowly by his standards, not scoring a single point until 7 minutes into the game. He then went onto score 7 points in the next 42 seconds, though, making up for lost time quite easily thanks to his incredible knack for putting the ball in the basket.

Long Beach clearly made it their #1 priority to keep the ball out of his hands. They face-guarded him for almost the entire game, playing a sort of box and one defense that opened things up tremendously for his teammates. The gimmick defense didn’t seem to bother him in the least bit, though, as despite his scoring ways he’s anything but a selfish player. Once he did get going, though, there wasn’t a player in the entire country who was going to be able to keep him from putting the ball in the basket nearly whenever he pleased.

Lofton’s entire arsenal of tricks was on display in the 17 minutes that he racked up 24 points. He utilized screens beautifully and was constantly moving off the ball, catching and shooting in the blink of an eye thanks to his incredibly quick release. If crowded excessively, as he often was, he showed no problem putting the ball on the floor and either making his way all the way to the basket to finish craftily with his left hand, or pull up sharply off the dribble from long-range, all while maintaining his phenomenal shooting mechanics despite being pressured and on the move.

Defensively he actually did an excellent job almost throughout the game, putting terrific pressure on the ball and playing extremely hard even when the outcome was never in dispute. He came up with 4 steals in the process, and was outstanding in transition as he typically is, taking the ball strong all the way to the basket and either dishing off if a teammate was in better position, or finishing the play himself. He even went into the post on one occasion to beat the pesky defender that was glued to him exclusively almost the entire game, throwing a quick pump-fake at him and then spinning to the other side of the rim to finish with a reverse layup off the glass.

For Lofton there really is no such thing as a bad shot. Things got so ridiculous at one point that he just pulled up off the dribble from nearly 40 feet out, and considering the fact that we’ve seen him hit shots like this in the past (against Auburn if I’m not mistaken), the only real surprising thing was that he just barely missed.

Although he is anything but your prototypical NBA 2-guard, there is a certain feeling Lofton transmits while watching him play that makes you feel like he will find success in the NBA, much like David Wesley did for 13 very solid seasons. There will always be players out there with better size, athleticism and upside competing with him for a position in the draft, but some smart NBA team is going to identify him as a player that they can use in their system and end up being extremely happy for years to come. If he keeps playing like he did today, that could happen as early as this June.

Carl Landry, 6-7, Senior, Power Forward, Purdue
21 points, 13 rebounds, 1 block, 6-10 FG, 8-8 FT

Kristian Hohnjec

Carl Landry was the best player on the court for Purdue in their win over a more talented Arizona team. Landry has proven himself in recent weeks, having a good showing against Gren Oden and now against a potential NBA draft pick in Ivan Radenovic. Landry did a great job on the offensive glass all night by positioning himself well and showing soft hands and nimble feet while converting 2nd chance opportunities.

Landry was also perfect from the line, exhibiting good looking shooting mechanics and excellent touch. He didn’t play on the perimeter much today – taking and hitting one three-pointer, but his reliable mid-range jumper opens up his crafty post game, where he shows excellent moves going to the basket. Although he doesn’t have great size, nor is particularly explosive, Landry is able to create good looks for himself thanks to his combination of footwork, girth and ball-handling skills. He was very smart and patient finishing around the rim, utilizing pump fakes and getting his man in the air before finishing softly off the glass.

Being 6-foot-7 and not having the kind of athleticism to make up for it, Landry doesn’t usually shine on the defensive end, but he did a good job on Radenovic regardless, forcing him into some tough shots around the rim. However, he was reluctant to defend Radenovic on the perimeter, and luckily for him his matchup couldn’t get anything going today. But his perimeter defense remains a big concern regarding his possible future in the NBA.

Landry will have a great opportunity to establish himself on the national scene by going up against Al Horford and Joakim Noah in the next round. If he does well in that matchup, it would not to be out of question to see him drafted somewhere in the 2nd round. Players in that mold – for example Craig Smith and Paul Millsap-- have found a niche in the NBA lately, despite not getting much hype prior to the draft.

Craig Bradshaw, 6-10, Senior, PF, Winthrop
24 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks, 2 turnovers, 10-16 FG, 2-4 FT, 2-3 3P


Joey Whelan

Craig Bradshaw had a monster game down low in helping Winthrop knock off Notre Dame, for the Eagles’ first ever NCAA Tournament victory. The agile power forward put on quite the display of post moves to go along with his solid shooting from the outside.

Even against a Notre Dame front court with more size than he would see on a typical night in the Big South, Bradshaw was able to go to work on the block, hitting 8 of 13 shots taken from inside the paint. His repertoire for the afternoon included a beautifully soft hook shot, a dizzying array of head fakes, and a lightning quick spin move, all of which he deployed with ease against the Irish. Bradshaw is one of the more active and quick low post players in this year’s tournament, showing a real fundamental flare when he has defenders on his back.

The appeal of Bradshaw and what has made him so important to Winthrop’s success this year is his athleticism and versatility. The big man runs the floor very well, routinely beating defenders down the floor for an easy dunk. He also has the ability to step out and shoot the basketball, which he did against the Irish, knocking down two shots from behind the arc. Bradshaw’s ability to step out and move around on offense also helped to spread Notre Dame’s defense, allowing for more penetration from wing players. This versatility also extends to Bradshaw’s passing game where he has developed into an above average passer for a post player. He did a good job recognizing double teams from Notre Dame and kicking out to teammates for open looks on the perimeter.

Prior to this game, Bradshaw had fallen on many draft boards due to his underwhelming senior season, despite having the size and the ability to play power forward at the next level. With this fantastic performance though, Bradshaw may have played himself right back into the mix of the NBA draft with the increased number of scouts watching the tournament games. Bradshaw has the make up for a modern power forward in that he is polished down low and is versatile enough to step to the outside when needed. We’ll have to see in the next round if this game was just an aberration in Bradshaw’s inconsistent senior season, or whether the lightbulb has really come on for him. He is scheduled to play in Portsmouth this April, along with his teammate Torrell Martin.

Joakim Noah, 6-11, Junior, PF/C, Florida
17 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 turnover, 3 blocks, 7-7 FG, 3-6 FT

Jonathan Givony

We really could have chosen any of Florida’s players to highlight in this section. Corey Brewer (21 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) for his timely 3-point shooting, excellent defense and phenomenal play in transition, Al Horford (15 points, 16 rebounds) for the yeoman’s work he did on the glass and as an efficient cog within Florida’s offense, Chris Richard (17 points, 6 rebounds, 12 minutes) for the huge lift he gave his team off the bench when they needed it most, or even Mareese Speights for the upside he flashed in garbage time. But in the end, it was Joakim Noah who gets the call once again, mostly for what he did to the game’s tempo offensively by running the floor all game long like an absolute maniac, and defensively with the way he locked down the paint and clean up nearly every rebound that was in his sight.

If anyone had wondered whether Noah’s limitless energy would show up from the opening tip of the NCAA tournament like it did last year, they didn’t have to wait long to find their answer. Noah was as hungry as we’ve seen him all year long, calling for the ball constantly on offense, cutting to the rim and using his terrific hands to catch tough passes, and springing off the floor after taking twisting his ankle badly and acting as if nothing had happened. He was all over the floor tonight, challenging shots around the rim and on the perimeter, going out of his area for rebounds, igniting the fast break constantly, and beating everyone down the floor repeatedly in transition for easy finishes.

The competition level wasn’t particularly stiff, but if he’s playing this way the entire tournament, it’s going to be downright impossible for anyone to take down the #1 overall seed Florida Gators.

Sean Singletary, 5-11, Junior, PG, Virginia
23 points, 6 rebounds, 9 assists, 1 turnover, 9-15 FG, 3-5 FT, 2-4 3P

Joey Whelan

By far the fastest player on the court Friday against Albany, Sean Singletary put together two very different halves, which added up to one absolutely dominant performance.

The talented junior put on a point guard clinic in the first half, dishing out 6 assists and weaving his way in and out of the Great Dane defense. Singletary is phenomenal at drawing extra defenders and then finding open teammates for uncontested shots thanks to his unbelievable first step and uncanny ability to change direction. With teammate J.R. Reynolds red hot early on, Singletary was more than happy to feed his senior teammate the basketball as Virginia jumped out to a big lead early.

In the second half, Singletary showed why he led the Cavaliers in scoring this season at over 18 points per game. With a barrage of drives to the basket, pull up jumpers, and a few shots from the outside, he picked up the scoring as Virginia kept Albany at bay. He is so tough to stay in front of defensively, and once he gets into the lane defenders can never be sure if he is going to dish off to a teammate or finish the play himself with an acrobatic move.

Singletary really helped himself in this game in that he protected the basketball, only turning it over once. Turnovers and wild passes have been an issue for him all season, making more mistakes than an elite point guard should. With teams always in need of talented point guards Singletary will draw plenty of interest from scouts. His height will be an issue (he is only 5-11 at best), but his quickness, athleticism, and great court vision will help him tremendously at the professional level.

Trey Johnson, 6-5, Senior, Shooting Guard, Jackson State
21 points, 5 assists, 1 turnover, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 8-21 FG, 2-6 3P, 7-7 FT

Jonathan Givony

Although the final score (113-69) would never indicate it, Jackson State actually went neck and neck with the defending national champions for the entire first half and even led for certain stretches. And while the game quickly got out of hand once the floodgates of Florida’s 3-point shooters opened up early in the 2nd half, Trey Johnson still did a pretty convincing job showing that he belonged on the same floor with the three likely lottery picks he shared it with.

Despite his team’s success, early on things didn’t look all that pretty on an individual level for Johnson. He rushed his perimeter shot badly and came away empty on most of his early attempts, but quickly got into the flow of things and began showing off his all-around skill level. The story of this game from Johnson’s perspective has to be the way he matched up athletically with Florida. Johnson showed excellent quickness creating his own shot while going both left and right, getting into the paint on a number of occasions and either setting up teammates or trying to finish the play himself, with mixed results He lacks a bit of explosiveness to finish in traffic against the type of shot-blocking threats Florida had at its disposal, but in terms of his mobility moving around on the floor, he didn’t seem to miss a step. This was very much evident in the amount of fouls he managed to draw.

On the perimeter, Johnson used a versatile arsenal of jab steps and hesitation moves to keep Corey Brewer guessing and giving him the space he needed to operate. His pull-up jumper from mid-range looked very solid, and his passing skills were on full display with the number of terrific looks he created for his teammates. These weren’t always converted into made baskets and therefore assists (although he still finished with 5), but it was a lot easier to see the backup point guard potential tonight that many see in him. Florida threw numerous traps and double teams at him in order to keep the ball out of his hands, and Johnson responded calmly by keeping his head up and all times and finding the open man .

Defensively, Johnson had a difficult time contesting the shots of the much taller Corey Brewer, and therefore gave up a fair share of open looks on the perimeter. This was never considered his strong point, but he certainly did put in a good effort this time, attempting to draw a charge on one occasion, and getting dirty on the floor for a loose ball that he managed to keep in bounds despite being attacked simultaneously by two Gators.

This was the last game of Johnson’s career, and therefore clearly the last time he’ll have to deal with such a huge disparity in talent as there was between Jackson State and Florida tonight. Despite wanting to do a little too much early on and letting that affect his shot selection, he fared about as well as you can expect considering the circumstances. We’ll figure out pretty soon just how much this affects his draft stock.

Torrell Martin, 6-5, Senior, SG, Winthrop
20 points, 11 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block, 1 turnover, 8-18 FG, 2-4 FT, 2-7 3P

Joey Whelan

Torrell Martin played one of his best games of the season, in what was the biggest game of the year for Winthrop. He combined his soft touch around the basket and solid pull up jump shot to put together an attention grabbing offensive performance. Throw in a season high 11 rebounds, and Martin definitely did his best to catch the attention of scouts in the building on Friday.

In the early going, Martin picked up points by making strong cuts around the basket and driving to the rim hard. He is 6-5 at best, but elevates very well allowing him to shoot over taller players. His fantastic athleticism also allowed him to weave through defenses and hit acrobatic shots that many other players probably wouldn’t be able to. He struggled from the perimeter, only hitting 2-7 shots from the outside, but has been a solid shooter from behind the arc, connecting on 39% of three point field goals this year.

Rebounding is a strong point of Martin’s game, as he pulls down over 5 rebounds per game, a good number for a wing player. He has long arms and is quick getting off the floor which allows him to win many balls that he probably shouldn’t. Having a player who can crash from the wing like Martin does helped Winthrop tremendously against the Irish who have a tough front court.

Martin is a player still rising and trying to play himself into the draft picture. He’s undersized for the shooting guard position, and doesn’t have very good ball-handling skills, but is athletic and has a very nice perimeter game. With a second round match up looming against a very good Oregon team, he as the chance to put together another solid performance in hopes of getting himself some more attention from scouts.

Chris Daniels, 6-11, Junior, Center, Texas A&M Corpus Christi
17 points, 8 rebounds, 4 blocks, 6/13 FG, 5/6 FT

Mike Schmidt

Daniels did a good job showing off his skills on the offensive end early on the game. He stepped out and hit a mid-range jumper, something he would duplicate twice more over the course of the game. In the post, he seems to lack footwork and counter moves at this point in time, but he did hit a few jump hooks with his back to the basket. Daniels holds his position well in the post, but doesn’t fight hard enough to get that post position. A few times during the game, he was able to dunk the ball easily after pinning his man down, but other times they couldn’t get him the ball because he lacked position.

Defensively, Daniels displayed good potential as a shot blocker, something he really wasn’t known for in the Southland Conference. He only averaged 1.5 blocks per game on the season, which is low considering that he only went up against 1 center during the conference season that could match his size. Against Wisconsin, he used his length well to disrupt the paint, and timed a number of his shot-blocks perfectly coming from the weak side. Physically, he has the length to be a good shot blocker, and he possesses a decent vertical leap as well. He must take better advantage of these physical attributes as well when it comes to rebounding, where his numbers are fairly underwhelming.

To take his game to the next level and solidify himself as a prospect, Daniels must become better with his footwork and touch on the low block. His effort on the court has been questioned at times this season, but his effort seemed consistent throughout against Wisconsin. Though he is listed at 7 feet tall, it was observed by one of the broadcasters that he looked an inch shorter than Jason Chappell, who is listed at 6’10.” He is a good, but not great athlete, and has a nice frame, although he could certainly use some work on his conditioning to help him reach his full athletic potential.

Technically, Daniels is a senior, but he will have a year of college eligibility left. He sat his freshman season as a ’non-qualifier’ but he was given the chance to have a 5th season thanks to the progress he made towards a degree. Daniels is likely to test his stock at this point, but will need a strong performance at the pre-draft camp in order to give himself a good shot at working his way up draft boards this season. Otherwise, another season at A&M Corpus Christie would go a long way for the talented, but raw 7-footer.

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