There were some outstanding team and individual performances in day one of the tournament last night, with many players showing that their stock is on the rise while others fell flat on their faces. We were watching closely all day long and would like to recap some of the best and worst performances we witnessed.
Please keep in mind that we could not watch every single game as they occured four at a time, so certain performances, good or bad, may not be talked about here. We'll certainly go back and rewatch the games we missed, though.
Andrew Bogut, Utah- 24 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks
If were just going off one half, then no one was more impressive than Bogut today. The problem is that there are two halves in a basketball game, and Bogut looked absolutely drained about mid-way through the 2nd half, as he ended up playing all 40 minutes. Regardless, he showed everything he needed to show and then some against UTEP, putting Utah on his back and carrying them to the win, despite being double teamed for most of the game without the ball, and triple-teamed with it. He played with a calmness that rubbed off on all of his teammates, directing them and literally holding their hand the whole way through, showing the experience of a player that has been in bigger situations before already, and doing everything humanly possible to come up with the win until he almost ready to collapse from exhaustion. Bogut drilled a couple of three pointers, showed off his outstanding passing skills, gobbled up any rebound that was even remotely close to him, was very active on both ends of the court, blocked a few shots, set some very nice picks, handled the ball in transition a few times, and scored at will around the basket. He looked pretty nimble most of the time for a 7 foot center, at least about as athletic as you would need your NBA center to be compared with other players at his position. Hes a rare player in the essence that he makes everyone around him better. We are already salivating at the prospect of watching him take on the Oklahoma frontcourt of Kevin Bookout and Taj Gray on Saturday. It should be an outstanding matchup.
Adam Morrison, Gonzaga-27 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds (12-19 FG)
Without Morrison, Gonzaga would be out of the tournament right now, but luckily for them he took his game to another level tonight and put his team on his back for with an outstanding individual performance. No one could guard Morrison tonight, as he scored seemingly at will whenever he wanted to, from anywhere on the floor, even hitting a 3 pointer from close to half-court with the shot clock running down. His passing skills and motor are absolutely superb. Morrison has hinted that he might give the draft a serious look this summer, and with performances like he had tonight, hed have a hard time not ending up as a lottery pick. He is much more athletic then you would guess at first sight, and can get his shot off basically whenever he pleases at the college level.
Ed McCants, UW-Milwaukee--21 pts, 5-9 3pt fgs.
McCants, and especially his shooting was absolutely huge in UW-Milwaukees upset of Alabama today. He has one of the quickest releases in all of college basketball, comparable to Michael Redd, but hes two inches shorter. He's a very intense player with a solid, but not great handle. Did a pretty good job on Ernest Shelton defensively, although he struggles against bigger, quicker players. He was right there after Shelton would come off what seemed like a million screens every possession. The only open looks Shelton got were off of Steele Or Winston's penetrations.
Sean Williams, Boston College--11 points, 7 rebounds
A very impressive performance for the athletic Ceneter from Boston College. He runs the floor amazingly well for a 6'11 freshman, and plays with a passion that most upperclassmen don't show, NCAA tournament or not. He had a very nice turnaround jumper off the glass from out of the post, and he showed pretty nice post footwork for an 18 year old kid. If he can keep improving his game, he will be a definite first round pick in the future.
Tim Begley, Penn
Today Begley showed today why he was Ivy League player of the year. He had 19 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals. He showed his deadly 3 point shooting ability by hitting 5 three pointers, but the most impressive stat he had was only one turnover. He has struggled with turnovers this year, but against an excellent defensive team was able to facilitate the entire offense and take care of the ball at the same time. The one play that summarized how he was carrying his team was when in traffic he took the ball away from three bigger Eagles, and while still in the air made a perfect down-court pass to a streaking teammate for a wide open layup. That play caught everyone off guard, and showed off his versatility, and basketball instincts/IQ. This performance may have given him enough publicity where he can now be looked at as a potential late second round pick, despite his obvious lack of athletic ability as a 6-5 combo guard. It at least gets him on the radar. His stats this year (14 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5 assists per game, 38% 3P) are solid, but no one was sure if he could do it against decent competition and his performance today against Boston College helped him out a lot in that aspect.
Ron Steele, Alabama- 16 points, 8 assists, 6-7 FG, 4-5 3P
Really impressed today, despite the loss. His shot looked much better then it did in yesterday's shoot-around, as he knocked in 4 three pointers. Still didn't show much lift on his shot. Created well for his teammates (got Winston and Shelton open looks from 3 all game long), and did a good job defensively on UW Milwaukee's PG. Still must answer questions about size, and must work on his low shot release. Bama has a lot to look forward to next year despite the loss of Shelton and Winston.
Jamareo Davidson, Alabama- 8 points and 10 rebounds
All of his points came off of 4 dunks. He's a very, very good athlete for a legit 6'10 player. The only shots he took were the dunks (he was 4-4), so I didn't really get a chance to see his low post game in person. Did a good job defensively. Rotated well and did a solid job boxing out.
Antonio Hudson, LSU
LSU came out absolutely flat tonight, showing zero emotion and not really looking like they even cared much when they were down by 20+ points before they saved some face and cut it to ten in garbage time. Their senior, Antonio Hudson, the guy we called the X factor for LSU, had one of his worst performances of the season in at the worst time possible for the Tigers. He scored 8 points on 3-13 shooting with 1 assist, 3 rebounds and 4 turnovers. Hes going to have to go to Portsmouth now to try and make the scouts forget about his last NCAA game, in hopes of becoming a late 2nd rounder.
Nick Fazekas, Nevada- 10 points, 13 rebounds, 4 turnovers, 3 blocks, 3-14 shooting (2-7 3P).
Fazekas was downright horrendous until about 12 minutes left in the 2nd half, when he woke up and hit a couple of threes to help out his stat line a bit. He was out-muscled and pushed around by Brandon Buckman and Jason Klotz (outstanding game with 20 points, 6 rebounds) all night long, and was forced to roam to the perimeter to try and get the ball and stop the abuse. Defensively, he came up with some blocks and deflections, but he was dominated inside the paint because of his slender frame. He forced a lot of bad shots and came up empty time after time, with one airball and one shot bouncing off the shot-clock, despite his beautiful stroke from the perimeter. He may have been bothered by the face mask he was wearing, and he looked very frustrated with himself. Fazekas needs to go back to school and hell probably know that when he wakes up aching tomorrow. He needs to add another 15-20 pounds of muscle this summer before he can really seriously consider making the jump to the NBA.
Daniel Gibson, Texas- 8 points, 0 assists, 3 turnovers, 3-11 shooting.
If there is one player who killed his stock more than anyone, it was Daniel Gibson tonight. He is talking about declaring for the draft when the season is over, but he did nothing to back that up. The Longhorns only had 2 assists all night, and their PG is the chief reason behind that. He forced his guards and forwards to create their own shots all night long, because he showed absolutely no ability to create for anyone besides himself. He did not get to the line even once tonight, and forced up some horrible shots outside of the context of the offense, including the dagger with 25 seconds out of nowhere that essentially sent the Longhorns home. He showed very little in terms of PG skills, jumping in the air with no target in mind, making unforced errors, and generally being dominated by Nevadas much less heralded guards. Gibson needs another year in college, if not two or three. I'm making this judgement based on this one game alone, I really think he's been seriously overrated all year long.
Brandon Bass, LSU
Individually, Bass actually had a very nice game for himself, scoring 25 points to go along with 12 rebounds on 8-11 shooting. He showed off his entire arsenal of moves but could do nothing to stop UAB from rolling all over his team. He wants to come out this year, but his stock just isnt where it needs to be to get him into the 1st round with his size and lack of perimeter skills that would suit a 6-7 SF in the NBA.
Chris Taft, Pitt- 13 points (5-7 FG), 12 rebounds, 2 blocks (26 minutes)
Taft is out of the NCAA tournament, after Pitt was upset by UW-Milwuakee, but for once he can not be blamed for a lackluster performance. Taft was actually being aggressive today, calling for the ball, making some nice moves in the post, rebounding, playing solid defense and coming up with some nice blocked shots. The fact that he was not getting the ball despite asking for it and being in good position to score is a real indictment of Carl Krauser and his ability to effectively run a team, impressive stats or not. Taft should be OK to declare for the draft this year if he decides thats what he wants to do, although hell have his work cut out for him in proving that hes not the lazy, clueless, apathetic player we saw for most of the year.
Kennedy Winston, Alabama
Started really strong today, but faded as the game went on, as he tends to do at times. Scored 10 points in the first five or so minutes, including a deep three and a nice dunk. Had a few really nice passes throughout the game. Did a solid job defensively on whoever he was guarding, finally showing that he can actually guard someone if he puts his head to it. In the second half, he was way too passive in my opinion. He should have tried to take over with his team trailing by more then 10 points, but he tried to just let the game come to him. His outside shooting just wasnt there, and that really hurt his team. Overall, a pretty solid individual performance, but Bama should very disappointed to be out this early, and part of the blame for that falls on their star players shoulders.
Craig Smith. Boston College- 15 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists.
Craig played a pretty good game today, but not as well as his numbers reflect. Many of his rebounds came right to him and most of his assists were just from him reversing the ball and his guards knocking down open jump shots. Craig should have demanded the ball every time down the floor against the extremely weak Penn post defenders, but he chose to let the game come to him. When he wanted to, he could get any rebound he wanted based on his brute strength. In order for BC to make some noise in the tourney, Craig MUST demand the ball down low and become the go to guy that his team needs him to be.