Thursday, March 21, 2013

Players to Watch: Cashmere, Christmas, C3PO, Oladipeo, Will Cherry, Will Forte, Przemek Karnowski and all that Shabazz…

This is me, and my favorite Kansas State star, Rodney McGruder. Way back in 2006.

It’s hard to keep track of college basketball players. At the most, they’ll be around for four years, but quite realistically, many of the best players are only around for one, maybe two years. Quite honestly, if you’re a hardcore fan like myself, you really appreciate the guys that are true to their school and might not necessarily be NBA legends, or NBA players at all. That little tweener level of basketball greatness makes college basketball so special. And, well, it’s nice to see some top notch NBA high rollers trickle through the tumbleweeds from time to time.

I have listed a few of my favorites to watch…

All Zerfas 2013 NCAA Tornament Team
In no particular order or makeup…

F Victor Oladipo, 6’5 Jr., Indiana

Cody Zellar scores more points. Christian Watford hits more threes. Yogi Ferrell was more recruited. Jordan Hulls is more…white. Oladipo is literally the engine that drives this Indiana regeneration. He never stops, and very rarely has an off game. I think of him as a Red Bull. He plays, wearing red, like a bull would be if it were wearing red. Somebody twisted his testicles and he runs and bucks around the court causing mayhem—steals, blocks, dunks in a hugely mobile frame. If he is coming through the lane, you’re not a pansy if you get the “F” out of the way. Toro!

C Patric Young, 6’9 Sr., Florida

Florida has one of the most talented teams in the nation. They run a barrage of do-everything wings that slash, hit threes, play defense and dominate the backcourts. They have a true “step out 4” in Erik Murphy who can post up, but is most effective stepping behind the arc and knocking down threes. But, 10.5 ppg come from the tenacious play of Young down low. He’s the grit and guts of a pretty loaded Florida team. He plays the tough defense, rebounds and creates second opportunities for himself and the rest of the offense. I think he’s the key reason Florida ranks in the Top 5 in offense AND defensive efficiency. They are the only team that can say that. Someone has to do the dirty work, and nobody is better at it than Young. He’s so much more than a ginder, but, boy, does he grind.  

F Doug McDermott, 6’8 Jr., Creighton

McDermott is a do-it-all Power Forward, coaches son, possible Player of the Year, and a hell of a model (All) American (from what I can tell.) It just seems that way as he often leaves the court arm-in-arm with his dad. Creighton leads the league in field goal shooting, netting over 50% of their shots, and it all starts, and often ends in the hands of Dougy Fresh. He shoots almost 50% three’s and 56% overall, which is unreal, considering everybody knows who’s getting the ball. I have Creighton slated to play three games this tournament, upsetting Duke and getting a shot at Michigan State. He could very easily be the face of the tournament. A face you should know. If not for you, for your daughter.

G Gary Harris, 6’4 Fr., Michigan State

Tom Izzo rarely depends on Freshman. On the championship team in 2000, Jason Richardson was the 8th man, I kid you not. This year, Harris almost led the Spartans in scoring, but without a doubt he led the Spartans in the most undocumented, yet crucial category…consistency. With his tall frame, and superior mental toughness, he’s able to shoot over defenders in a way that reminds me of Shawn Respert. It seems no amount of defense bothers his shot, but if you make him drive, he’ll make you pay there to with an array of ways to beat you around the basket. He’s as versatile as they come, and if Spartan fans expect to keep Izzo’s legacy in March, it’ll be on the back and shoulders of Harris. Who, by the way, has had nagging back and shoulder problems all year. This isn’t a figurative testament, more of a warrior testament, the guy gives it ALL for his school, and fans should appreciate that notion. He’s done everything one could ask for and much, much more. And, the tally continues…

G Shane Larkin, 5’11 So., Miami

Son of Hall of Fame Cincinnati Red Barry Larkin, Shane finds himself, as a sophomore, leading one of the most experienced teams in the country to their first legitimate March Madness run since I can remember. Everyone around him is talented in their own role player way, but he’s the pilot, circling and swaying through the lane, knocking down huge, often long three’s, and more or less carrying the team as far as he can. He has a pretty Tony Parker style floater, but what really impresses me is the fearless nature he hits the lane with. A brick wall wouldn’t slow him down, and with the efficiency he approaches the game with, he’s not going to be building one any time soon.

G David Stockton, 5’11 Jr., Gonzaga

While we’re on the lineage thing, I have to mention my favorite one to follow. He only plays 18 minutes a game and scores less than four points per contest, but I just keep waiting for him to break out. He can shoot, but he serves as mostly a distributer and backup to Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell, Jr.. It’s just a wonderful story, with his dad, John, being what put Gonzaga on the map. It would be something if Gonzaga could make some noise again, under the new Stockton regime. I’d say this year is their best chance as they earned their first ever No. 1 seed.

 F Otto Porter Jr., 6’8 So., Georgetown

I’ve always been a sucker for the do it all, kind of physical freak. Porter is your guy, perhaps the most complete player in the country, he does it all for G’Town in a serious way, that reminds me of Jeff Green (not Curb Your Enthusiasm). He’s the main part of a suffocating Georgetown defense that has no shortage of size and length to stifle one right up.

F Rodney McGruder, 6’4 Sr., Kansas State

He probably belongs in the “All-Name” team (see below), for being close to Will Forte’s character that’s SO FUN to say over and over again at the bar. Seriously, your friends will love you if you shout this. All the time. Obnoxiously. Its bell curve of humor is directly parallel to that of the movie. Ha. Anyway, he’s also a testament to the way kids can improve in their time in college. As a freshman, he was a defensive sub, playing small chunks of the game, scoring very little. For the last two years, he’s been the face of a program, knocking down three’s, scoring 15 points a game, on the cusp of making some serious noise. His midrange game reminds you of a more fluid Richard Hamilton, perhaps he can channel that kind of late game heroics to add to his legacy. They have a new coach, and they’re right in the mix again, thankfully, for a team guy like…McGruuuuuuuuuuder!!!

G Briante Weber, 6’3 Jr., VCU

Shaka Smart is like the indie-rock Tom Izzo. He’s built a nice little program at Virginia Commonwealth University, with a niche that reaps big rewards in March. His trademark full court “reeking havoc” defense pressurizes opposing teams souls into the court, shellacs over them and then polishes the remains with a fluffy sheepskin mitt, 10 college athletes at a time. Seriously, it’s a psychotic Red Bull experiment, gone completely mad. March Mad, my friends. The intensity is contagious. Weber was in the Top 10 in the nation in steals (almost three a game!), which is MAD, considering he comes off the bench and only plays 20 minutes a game. He’s one of the main reasons I like VCU to get back to the Final Four this year, as a No. 5 seed.

Quick Hitters

G Aaron Craft, Ohio StateLike releasing a dog off a chain and he’s chasing YOU. Hounds opposing teams into flustered mistakes. Recently developed a shooting stroke, though, two of this three 20 point games this year were against Michigan State. It’s so helpful to me that he didn’t have it in the Michigan games. So, I kind of hate him and his rosy cheeks.

G Seth Curry, Duke – Another lineage play. His father was a great NBA shooter Dell Curry. His brother, Stephen, was a March Madness maven a few years ago with Davidson and now with Golden State remains one of the NBA’s premiere budding stars. Seth’s game is similar and fun to watch. He loves to shoot, and shoot it well.

G Will Cherry, Montana – Reminds me a great deal of Chris Paul. Not a great shooter, but is feisty on defense and can hurt you a number of ways. Mainly running through the lane or creating possessions with pressure D. Montana is one of the nations best three-point shooting teams as well as one of the best at getting to the foul line. That drive and dish mentality starts with Cherry.

G Mark Lyons, Arizona – Transfer from Xavier that loves to shoot. Like a kid figuring out the buttons in Double Dribble. With Mark Lyons, the “B” button is clearly broken. He’s the kind of guy that can make a name for himself under the Madness lights, for his ability sling without regard for civilization. He’s in the parking lot right now, open.

G Korie Lucious, Iowa State – He stirred up some chemistry issues at Michigan State and bolted town (well, was probably shipped away). I could hate him, but in my entire life of watching NCAA basketball as a Michigan State fan, I have one buzzer beating memory (in our favor), and it was that Maryland game. Oh, that was a great day, and for that, I will always be a Lucious fan. I’d love to see him have a wonderful tournament.

G Nate Wolters, South Dakota – Has a chance to send Michigan packing a second year in a row. What he lacks in athletic prowess, he makes up for with intelligence, spacing, charm and just a simple ability to make it happen. He gives the Jackrabbits a chance against a fairly dynamic Michigan team.

The All-Name Team

G Spencer Dinwiddie, Colorado – Sounds like suspenders, glasses and a protractor. He’ll cost you 20 points a game and a possible upset or two.

F Grandy Glaze, St. Louis – The extra bit of juice Yankee Outfielder Curtis Granderson puts on his swing.

F Jordair Jett, St. Louis – A name that needs no pontification.

G Avery Dingman, Creighton – More like dingbat. TWO POINTS, DING!

G Travis Trice, Michigan State – Real name, no gimmicks. Not from Detroit.

F Shabazz Muhummad, UCLA – My favorite boardwalk magician. He’ll make the Pacific Ocean disappear. Sometimes, that’s what it looks like he’s shooting basketballs into.

C Moses Ayegba, G’Town – Quick, what do G’Town fans shout when he turns the ball over?

F Kareem Jamar, Montana – So close.

G Will Cherry, Montana – What will he do when the other team has the ball? Tie his shoe? Fake a hammy injury? Lay low?

G Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State – Mark is…intelligent. Mark is…sharp. Mark is…quick. What is Mark again? He IS one of the premiere freshman in college basketball.

C Phillip Jurick, Oklahoma State – Sounds like your typical run of the mill bastard!

C Cheikh Mbodj, Cincinnati – Can I buy an apostrophe, Alex?

F Titus Rubles, Cincinnati – Building a house…of...ummm….BRICKS!?

G Cashmere Wright, Cincinnati – What’s the fabric of your life?

G Ge’Lawn Guyn, Cincinnati – His family moves next door in the sequel to Gran Torino.

F Arsalan Kazemi, Oregon – He takes the ball fearlessly to the rack with no intention of scoring.

C Przemek Karnowski, Gonzaga – John Stockton’s personal 7-foot butcher.

G Malcom Armstead, Wichita State – Bobby Knight’s favorite player.

G Tekele Cotton, Wichita State – Sounds like a high flyer. It’s because his clothes are so light.

C Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse – Apparently the town WAS that way…

G Vander Blue, Marquette – Sounds like a fake Wisconsin blues legend.

G Achraf Yacoubou, Villanova – Ow. Now. Brown. Yacoubou.

C Mouphtaou Yarou, Villanova – Say that name with a frown, and I’ll give you $20.

G Je’lon Hornbeak, Oklahoma – His family breeds narwhals and pelicans together.   

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