NCAA Tournament: Stock Watch (round of 32, Sunday games)--Stock Up
NCAA Tournament: Stock Watch (round of 32, Sunday games)--Stock Down/Neutral
NCAA Tournament: Stock Watch (round of 32, Saturday games)--Stock Up
NCAA Tournament: Stock Watch (round of 32, Saturday)--Down/Neutral
NCAA Tournament: Stock Watch (round of 64, Friday games)--Stock Up
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
Greg Oden, 71, freshman, Center, Ohio State
9 points, 2-2 FG, 5-6 FT, 3 rebounds, 4 blocks, 18 minutes
This wasnt a terrible performance from Oden tonight in terms of his draft stock, even if he spent all but 18 minutes of the game on the bench in foul trouble. Oden clearly impacted the game in a way that few players ever could when on the court, changing shots and providing an unstoppable physical force in the paint on the offensive end. His game-saving block will make the highlight reels, but his mere presence kept Tennessee players from driving the lane unrestrained.
So while it is very clear that Oden didnt fill up the stat sheet or enact his will upon the opponent like he usually does due to a couple of questionable foul calls, a 7-foot freshman leading his team to the Sweet Sixteen is deserving of some slack every now and then. When he was on the court, Ohio State did a decent job of finding him, but Oden also did a great job of gaining good position. Tennessee had no answer for him around the basket, and he even made his free throws. Odens activity level, mobility, awareness and craft continue to steadily improve, and one has to wonder what he would have looked like if he hadnt sat out the entire summer with the wrist injury.
On the whole, this game isnt going to make or break Greg Odens NCAA Tournament. The block at the buzzer could end up being the moment everybody remembers when the topic of his days at Ohio State comes up, but his performance as a whole was marginalized due to the fact that the Buckeyes nearly lost this game when he was on the bench. Given the way the Buckeyes have been testing fate, chances are we will get another history-making performance and/or individual play from Oden at some point in the next two weeks.
Acie Law, 6-3, Senior, Point Guard, Texas A&M
13 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 0 turnovers, 6-17 FG, 1-3 3P
Law actually started off this game quite strong, scoring 8 points in the first half and doing a very solid job running his team despite not racking up a lot of assists. He took what this very stingy and athletic Memphis team gave him, doing a nice job of pushing the ball forward, putting pressure on the defense, and not being content with just grinding out the clock. He showed the scoring tools he has in his arsenal, whether its through pump-fakes, pull-ups from mid-range, baseline fadeaways, or just generally keeping the defense off-balance with his herky-jerky style of play.
The problems Law faced came not in terms of creating his own shot in the half-court, but rather finishing at the basket once he was in the lane. He lacks a bit of explosiveness to finish strong in traffic, and had a number of shots roll out that he usually would find a way to cajole in due to his craftiness and terrific touch. Its no secret that guards like him usually need to rely more on their mid-range game in the NBA than they do at the collegiate level, but weve seen enough from him in this area over the year to have confidence in him finding a way.
Defensively, Law did a better job than were usually accustomed to seeing, elevating his play on this side of the court as youd hope players would in such an important setting. He showed some hustle getting on the floor and in the passing lanes, coming up with a few loose balls in the process.
In the second half Law looked pretty out of sync as a whole and not anywhere near the incredible clutch performer weve grown to love in the last five minutes of games. He hit one short jumper in the lane off his own offensive rebound with approximately 3:30 to go, but other than that didnt score a single point in the last 8 minutes 48 seconds, only taking 3 shots during that stretch. One of those misses will probably haunt him for the rest of his career, a blown wide-open layup with 52 seconds to go that essentially was the difference between A&M winning or losing this game. Its incredibly uncharacteristic for him to miss like that, but at the end of the day, its hard to see how you can just forget everything hes done over the past few years just because of that one terrible moment. Well have to see what others think before we come to a final conclusion, but its our gut feeling that he will still be considered the top point guard prospect in this draft until someone else proves otherwise.
Arron Afflalo, 6-5, Shooting Guard, Junior, UCLA
17 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 turnovers, 3/12 FG, 10/10 FT, 1/5 3PFG
Afflalo struggled from the field in the same way he did in his last game against Indiana. The way he moved off the ball and used screens to free himself up led to some good looks, but his shot only hit the bottom of the net a few times throughout the night. The factor that kept this game from hurting him and his team too much was free throw shooting, where he has been automatic during the NCAA Tournament thus far. Afflalo managed to knock down all 10 of his free throw attempts, including 4 with the game on the line.
The two main concerns surrounding Afflalo were on full display against the Panthers. He lacks an explosive first step, which totally limits his game as a slasher, and he wasnt able to create any scoring attempts by driving to the hoop. To compound the problem, Afflalos sub-par athleticism limits his game even more when hes presented with an opportunity to finish at the hoop. Most of his free throw attempts were created by touch fouls that generated bonus opportunities, rather than Afflalo going out of his way to initiate contact.
Defensively, Afflalo possesses great fundamentals despite his limitations athletically. He understands the proper positioning to limit his matchup off the dribble, and is generally in the right spot to close out on an open shooter. The biggest limitation for Afflalo in this area comes when he is screened off by the offensive player, as he struggles to fight through the contact.
Arron Afflalo certainly has performed better in the NCAA Tournament this season compared to last year, but he hasnt been as good as weve seen him at times over the course of the Pac-10. A standout performance against an athletic Kansas team that is full of NBA prospects would go a long way for the junior guard in the eyes of the decision makers who will judge his fate at the next level.
Darren Collison, 6-1 Sophomore, PG, UCLA
12 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 3 turnovers, 3-6 FG, 6-6 FT, 0-1 3P
Offensively, Collison did what he does best: rely on his quickness to get his points. The speedy point guard knocked down two beautiful pull up jumpers from mid-range during the first half in helping UCLA to an early lead. He has one of the best pull up shots in the nation thanks to his solid shooting from the field, and his ability to stop on a dime whenever he pleases. This created real problems for Pittsburgh defenders who were never sure to play tight and take away the jump shot, or play off of him to take away the drive. Despite his threat as a scorer, Collison only attempted 6 field goals, deferring most of the scoring duties to the wealth of talent surrounding him.
Collison, as has been the case all season, was at his best when he wasnt shooting the basketball. He was very smart in using his screens to get free from defenders, and had no problem getting into the lane when he wanted to. In the lane is where he is at his most dangerous because of his ability to draw defenders and kick to open teammates. If not for a few missed jumpers, his assist total would have been higher. Collison was also fantastic in the transition game, executing some very nice bounce passes to streaking teammates. Again though, not all of these plays were converted into points, something that will not show up in the box score.
Defensively, Collison was at his best, providing full court ball pressure that disrupted the Panthers offense. He is one of the top on ball defenders in the country, and he showed why, often forcing Pittsburghs perimeter players well beyond the three point line when they had the ball. Collison does a great job staying in front of his man, and his relentless pressure forced several turnovers tonight, in addition to the steal he had.
This wasnt an off the charts performance for Collison, but just another efficient outing from UCLAs most steady weapon. With so much upside its not impossible to think that Collison would enter the draft this year, but the sophomore is still yet to make any firm statements on that issue, beyond the fact that he is on pace to graduate following his junior year. If Collison steps up his scoring a little more next year, and continues to play tough defense and distribute the ball well, he could very well hear his name called in the 2008 lottery.
Joseph Jones, 6-9, Power Forward/Center, Junior, Texas A&M
14 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 7/11 FG, 0/1 FT
Early on in the game, Jones displayed good potential on the offensive end. He posted up from about 15 feet away from the basket, and hit two turnaround jumpers over the bigger and more physical Joey Dorsey. From the post, footwork appears to be a big strength for him, as is the soft touch on his jump-shot. Jones also hit two hook shots on the low block, with one of them coming during a key possession late in the game.
Against Dorsey, Jones struggled when it came to defense and rebounding. He fights for position well, and most of the rebounding fundamentals seem to come naturally to him. The problem here is that Jones lacked the lower body strength to push Dorsey away from the basket. Another problem that limits him as a rebounder is the fact that he doesnt jump after he gains position. This weakness really stood out towards the end of the game, when Memphis was able to pull down 3 offensive rebounds that eventually led to the go-ahead free throws.
Jones seems to lack some effort at times, and has only looked good in about 1 out of every 5 games for Texas A&M this season. He will certainly need to return to College Station for his senior season, and emphasize playing with a better motor on both ends of the floor. Joseph Jones has some tools that could end up landing him a job in the NBA, but further progress in other areas will be necessary before we see somebody who can certainly project to next level.
Julian Wright, 69, SF/PF, Sophomore, Kansas
7 points, 3-7 fgs, 1-4 fts, 4 rebounds
As for the lottery pick moments, even in a game like tonights where Wright plays soft, quiet and somewhat lethargic, it was hard to miss the most obvious NBA prospect on the court. The mid-range jumper he canned in the first half shows serious potential - Wright is a much better midrange shooter than most give him credit for. There were other flashes of a midrange game as well, and those trademark flashes to the basket, in which he can cover a scary amount of ground in a very short time.
But Wright had very little impact on this game overall, playing just about as scared as his guard teammates most of the way. He could muster just 4 rebounds in 28 minutes, and certainly didnt add the physical presence that Kansas needed from somebody in the frontcourt the entire game. Several moments showed potential cause for concern. One would be a Wright-led 1-on-3 fast break, in which he originally made the right decision to slow up, but then pressed the issue when the Saluki defense appeared reluctant to stop the ball, and threw up a soft, air-ball floater instead of going up strong and using his considerable athleticism and length to maneuver his way to the basket. The second came late in the game, when he had the chance to bring down a crucial rebound and had the ball ripped out of his hands by the more aggressive Southern Illinois player.
In the end, Wright isnt judged by the occasional performance like this. We all know he is a perimeter player trying to fill in as a 4-man at Kansas, and that the level of back to the basket toughness and intensity that could help his team out so much now wont always be required of him at the next level. Players as long as Wright usually benefit from the extra space on the NBA court, and it is hard to see the sophomore not develop into a very productive NBA player someday. But if the 2007 draft is on the table, Wright would be wise to put forth a bit more consistent effort from here until the Jayhawks NCAA Tournament comes to an end whenever and however that may be.
Aaron Gray, 70, Center, Senior, Pittsburgh
Vs UCLA: 10 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks, 5-11 FG
Gray had some good plays on the offensive end in this game, though some of them were easy lay-ups around the basket that didnt require much more than him being in position. He showed off a nice drop-step move and a nice up-and-under on two separate occasions, though he wasnt able to convert on the drop-step. The rest of Grays offensive highlights came in the passing game, where he kicked the ball out of the post very well and also did a good job passing from the high to low post and hitting cutters out of the low post. He made a good handful of impressive passes in the game, but only one was converted to credit him for the assist.
Gray didnt have a stellar game on the defensive end, often getting picked on in pick-and-roll and high screen scenarios, which he should expect a lot more of in the NBA. His post defense wasnt much better, as he doesnt seem to try to use his size to his advantage, often just letting defenders back him down at will. Gray gets in good position and keeps his hands up in the post, but with a player of his size, youd like to see some more physicality, as opposed to being pushed around by Lorenzo Mata. Gray had two blocks in the game, one in man-to-man defense on the perimeter and the other against a cutter under the basket. Grays not much of a shot-blocker, though, as evidenced by his 1.7 per game on the season. Oftentimes hes slow to rotate over and the team seems to lack any intimidation factor in the middle on defense. On the boards, Gray occasionally seems to stand back and watch, when he should be putting his monster, seven-foot body to work right amidst all the action.
Gray currently projects as a potential first rounder in the upcoming draft, and hes not the type of player youd expect to be a workout warrior. There are many doubts surrounding the style of Grays game and how it will translate to the NBA, though he could do himself well to continue working on his touch around the basket, and to start playing with a more relentless motor and with more physicality around the basket on both ends of the court. Gray may have to attend the Orlando pre-draft camp at the end of May, which would be a good opportunity for him to put to rest some of the doubts surrounding his game.
Joey Dorsey, 6-9, Power Forward/Center, Junior, Memphis
8 points, 4 rebounds, 1 block, 4/6 FG, 5 PF
The easy thing to notice about Dorsey from the start of the game was his physical play in the post. During the many hard-fought battles for position down low, the junior big man held his ground while keeping the A&M big men away from the basket. Though he only blocked 1 shot during the game, Dorsey disrupted many more inside, making it difficult for the opposing guards to finish at the basket. He displayed good positioning when helping out away from his man, but this limited his minutes due to eventual foul trouble. Dorsey fouled out with 1:50 to play, when he was a step late on a Josh Carter drive.
Despite ranking as the 9th leading rebounder in the nation, Dorsey struggled in this area today, actually picked up a few fouls on over the back calls. He has great size, length, strength, and athleticism that help him as a rebounder, but he must learn to control his body when fighting for offensive rebounds in the future.
Offensively, Dorsey doesnt have great touch or footwork at this point in time. This was highlighted when A&M started sending guards down to double the post, and he struggled to get a shot away near the basket. Many of Dorseys points come from offensive rebounds, but he does have the ability to score by occasionally backing down his man on the block. Luckily for all of us, but especially for his sake, Dorsey did not get to the free throw line even once, sparing us the gruesomeness of his shooting mechanics and career high 47% average from the charity stripe.
Joey Dorsey has all the tools to become a solid role-player at the next level, but he must learn to play through foul trouble to maximize his potential. As a junior, we could see the Tigers big man test his stock this year, but he would be best served by returning to school with a focusing on improving on his overall polish.
Mario Chalmers, 6-2, Sophomore, Point Guard, Kansas
9 points, 0 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 4 turnovers, 2-6 FG, 5-8 FT, 0-1 3P
Chalmers did a solid jump breaking his man down off the dribble and using his superior speed to get into the lane, something he has excelled at all season. That was where the solid play ended though. The sophomore has had a tendency at points this season to throw up wild shots in the paint, playing out of control basketball. This Jekyll side of Chalmers game was on display tonight, and the speedster missed a couple of very good looks around the basket. This inconsistency in his game has been an issue at points this year, and is something he needs to improve on immediately for the sake of Kansass title hopes this year.
Turnovers, which plagued the entire Jayhawk team, were a problem for Chalmers in particular, committing 4 during his 27 minutes of play. The Saluki defense did a fantastic job hounding the Kansas backcourt, and Chalmers in particular seemed to feel the pressure. At many points during the second half he looked like he was barely hanging on to the basketball, and was more than happy to give it off to a teammate. Chalmers is such a talented player, it can be easy to forget sometimes that he is only a sophomore and he is still gaining valuable postseason experience with this run through the NCAA Tournament.
Usually a great catalyst on the offensive end, Chalmers struggled to get the Kansas offense clicking, in part because his teammates struggled as well, but also because of his own struggles. He is a great drive and kick player, weaving his way into the lane against slower defenders, but he again struggled with turnovers and wild shots, which left him at a sub-par 3 assists on the night.
Up until this game, Chalmers had been playing extremely well, stepping up his scoring and assist averages from the regular season in the first two rounds of the tournament. He shot very well from the outside, going 6-9 in two games, and suddenly stopped shooting the long ball, going 0 for 1 against Southern Illinois. Chalmers took a step back with his performance in the Sweet 16, but was lucky in that Kansas advanced, and now he has a chance to erase this game from memory with a good showing in the Elite Eight. After struggling against the stingy defense of Southern Illinois, and a match up awaiting with UCLA, things will not get any easier for Chalmers, though.
There are real improvements that need to be made in Chalmers game before he can move on to the NBA, particularly in his consistency and his confidence in late game situations. Only a sophomore though, he still has time to fix these weaknesses. With the likely chance that Brandon Rush and Julian Wright will leave after this season, Chalmers will be looked upon to lead Kansas next year. If he continues to grow as a player there is no reason to think that he wont be at least a first round pick in the 2008 draft.
Daequan Cook, 65, Sophomore, SG, Ohio State
Vs. Tennessee: 4 points, 1 assist, 1 turnover, 2-4 FG in 8 minutes
The Daequan Cook that we have seen since mid-January doesnt even resemble the player that we saw through Ohio States first 16 games. Early in the year, we saw a shooting guard prospect with prototypical size and a killer mentality who honestly felt like he could score on anyone in the country, and that he did leading the team in scoring throughout that timespan. Since then however, we have seen a shell of a player with no confidence and a complete lack of aggression on the offensive end, despite his immense talents on the offensive end. Against the Volunteers we saw flashes of his offensive prowess with his beautiful left handed pass to Matt Terwillinger inside and his explosive first step on a scoring drive to the rim. Aside from that, we just saw a player standing around on the offensive end and serving as a liability on the defensive end.
Given the silky smooth and complete offensive game that Cook possesses, one would expect him to snap out of the funk that hes been in sooner or later. It is a bit disconcerting though that his poor play has lasted for 20 games, and he still has not been able to regain the form that he had early in the year. It has been widely known throughout the basketball community that Daequan and his camp were looking to bolt to the NBA after one season if possible and while that looked like quite the possibility early in the season, it would certainly not be the wisest decision for him now, unless he is able to revert back to the outstanding wing prospect that we saw early in the year for the remainder of Ohio States tournament run.