The first half of the Sweet 16 lived up to expectations tonight, with two games going down to the wire and two others displaying some outstanding basketball. Francisco Garcia
continued to show why his stock is on the rise, Joey Graham
bounced back strong and Deron Williams
showed us exactly why many consider him to be the best playmaking PG in the draft this year. Stock Up:Francisco Garcia, Louisville
23 points (8-16 FG, 5-8 3P), 3 assists, 4 turnovers, 3 blocks
Garcia officially raised his status tonight to the player that helped himself the most in this tournament so far. This guy is a cold blooded killer, and he absolutely tore Washington to shreds tonight with his shooting and pin-point passing. He has the aggressive court demeanor of a guy that absolutely refuses to lose. Every time the Huskies started making a move, he put them back to sleep with either a huge three, a gorgeous drive and dish or a monster block. I'm still not sure that he has a great first step, but even against very tough defenders in this tournament he has found ways to get his shot off and finish at the basket in very tough situations. He has the ability to rock defenders to sleep with his handle and then blow right by them when they least expect it, always with his head up looking for the open man. Garcia got off to a bit of a slow start tonight, but that's because he was making sure to get everyone around him going first before he decided to start lighting it up himself. Washington at one point decided to go to a zone, and Garcia almost single-handedly busted it apart by nailing two three pointers from well beyond NBA range, the kind that are simply impossible to guard without abandoning the concept of the zone. For good measure, maybe just to show that he can, he also slashed right into the middle of the Huskies' zone and then passed the ball out for an open three right as the defense collapsed on him. An extremely impressive performance from Garcia and certainly a tape that will be making the rounds in the next couple of months. 570APBrandon Roy, Washington
15 points (7-12 FG), 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 fouls, 23 minutes
A player who might be feeling a bit overlooked by us this season, I've heard a lot about what a terrific prospect he is, but have yet to see it really come to play in the Washington games I've seen this year. Tonight I finally got to see what others like so much about this kid, and I have to say that I was impressed, although not overwhelmed. With UW's top two scorers in foul trouble for most of the night, he really didn't have much of a choice.Salim Stoudamire, Arizona:
Roy has an NBA body and the athleticism to match it, that's pretty much indisputable, but he also showed off a nice handle and excellent slashing game to keep his team in the game tonight. He had some very nice athletic moves to work his way to the basket and finish strong at the basket, and he was being very aggressive on both ends of the court. He played some pretty good defense on Garcia at times when UW was in a man to man and still in the game, but ticky-tack fouls and some poor decisions eventually sent him to the bench with 4 fouls with four minutes to go. Roy is thinking of throwing his name into the draft and is hoping to get an invite to Chicago to show off his stuff for people like me who aren't familiar enough with his game. Even though he has the physical attributes of an NBA SG, he'll probably be told to go back to school for another year and improve his perimeter shooting if he wants to leave school as a first round pick. He's a very intriguing player, though, and definitely someone to look out for next year.
19 points (7-11 FG, 4-7 3P) 7 assists, 2 steals
571APJoey Graham. Oklahoma State
An up and down performance from Arizona's star senior ended up with a game winning basket, a place in Arizona's history books and a trip to the Elite Eight, where the Wildcats will be matching up with Illinois in what should be one of the best games we've seen all year long. Salim came out firing tonight, scoring 8 points in the first six minutes, but also picking up two fouls that sent him to the bench early on. He ended up not scoring for the next 28 minutes, but still managed to leave his mark on the game by showing off some good passing skills to set up his teammates and relieve the mostly anemic Mustafa Shakur
, maybe giving the scouts in the building some hope that he may be able to play the point one day in the league. That's the type of thing that will help Salim's stock out more than anything really, everyone knows that he is one of the best shooters in the world, but at 6-1 he'd have to show at least some kind of PG potential to work his way into the 1st round. In the last 5 minutes of the game Stoudamire started to realize the urgency of the situation and began to take over the game offensively. He scored 5 points in a 15 second span to bring his team back from a four point deficit, and then overcame some shaky ball-handling to set up a couple of nice plays with fellow senior Channing Frye
. With Arizona down by one point with 13 seconds to go, there was no doubt in who's hands the ball would end up, and Salim elevated for the game winning shot, squaring his shoulders beautifully in the air for a pull-up jump shot and knocking it down, despite having two players in his face. He's worked himself right into the mix for the late first round with his play this season so far, but still has his work cut out for himself this summer to really solidify himself there. Tonight, especially in the last five minutes where he scored 10 points, it was all about Salim, and he probably summed it up best himself: I thrive on those situations. That's what I live for, Stoudamire said. That's why I play basketball. Big time players step up in big time situations, and I see myself as one of those players.
26 points (9-19 FG, 3-5 3P), 8 rebounds
Deron Williams, Illinois
Not the most emphatic display we could have asked for from an NBA wing player in the making, but Graham did what he needed to do tonight and went down swinging in a tough loss to Arizona. He was definitely a lot more aggressive tonight than he has been in the tournament so far, putting up 19 shots and making 9 of them, but unfortunately it just wasn't enough to get the Pokes over the hump. There was no doubt from the very start that Graham wasn't going to settle for single digit scoring, as he came out looking to take his team on his back, taking a lot of shots early but only starting the game 1-6 from the field. The first half wasn't really one to remember in terms of showing off his wing skills. Most of his points came from posting up his man in the paint, scoring off offensive rebounds and getting to the line. The 2nd half was a lot more impressive, though, as he nailed three flat-footed three pointers that Arizona dared him to take by leaving him wide open, used his strength (rather than his ball-handling) to create his own shot against the much slower 6-10 Ivan Radenovic
and was assertive with his trademark mid-range jumper. One particular move showed why many feel he has as big of an upside as any wing player in this draft. Graham took the ball the ball strong on the perimeter against the flat footed Radenovic, palmed the ball and skied through the air and then finished beautifully off the glass on his way down using his strength. Graham refused to be denied at the end of the game as well, and scored what could have been the game winning basket with a borderline offensive foul bullying his way to the hoop. Unfortunately Salim Stoudamire
refused to let his team lose and came right back for the win, and Graham's emotions got the best of him as he was led off the court. He showed a lot of heart tonight and should be proud of the way he played and bounced back out of his mini-slump.
21 points (8-12 FG), 8 assists
572APHassan Adams, Arizona
It's probably about time Deron Williams
was mentioned in one of these tournament recaps, and with the way he played tonight, it's basically impossible not to. Williams solidified himself as the top playmaking PG in this draft with the way he played tonight, tearing apart Milwaukee's defense in effortless fashion, showing off some incredible court vision and running his team with the poise of a ten year pro. What really stood out tonight, though, was the way he managed to combine his incredible passing ability with his scoring efforts, something that we knew he could do but he hasn't always shown because of how unselfish he is. He scored from all over the court tonight; from behind the arc, pulling up from mid-range off the dribble, and getting into the lane and scoring at the basket. He did it in the context of the offense as well, as he always does in his unselfish way, and in a timely fashion exactly when Illinois needed it the most. He also held his own quite well on the defensive end, playing some excellent defense on UW-Milwaukee's best scorer Ed McCants, basically holding him scoreless until the game was firmly in Illinois' grasp. Williams will need another outstanding game on both ends of the court on Saturday when he matches up with either Salim Stoudamire
or Hassan Adams
in a game that is looking like a potential classic.
19 points (8-12 FG, 3-4 3P), 10 rebounds, 2 blocks
Another excellent performance from the junior tonight, Adams stepped up his game for the Cats when Stoudamire and Frye were being a bit passive. He did a good all-around job in most facets of the game, embracing his task as Arizona's most important role player and playing it to perfection. Whether it was passing, rebounding, hitting 3's or playing terrific defense both man to man and on rotations, Adams was there when Arizona needed him the most. Two terrific back to back blocks to force a 24 second shot clock violation showed off just how amazing and intimidating of a leaper he can be, but it was his all around hustle and spirit that really kept the Wildcats in the game tonight. In terms of the NBA he still has a ways to go, but it's great to see him making the strides he has recently. Adams has very little in-between game, no mid-range game and weak ball-handling skills, and while his outside shot was falling for him tonight it's definitely not one of his strengths, but Adams may have earned himself a spot in Chicago should he decide to test the waters without an agent like he's been planning on doing all year long. Stock NeutralNate Robinson, Washington
8 points (1-7 FG), 3 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 4 fouls, 26 minutes
Nate was in and out of the game for most of the night, picking up some cheap fouls and eventually sitting down with 3 fouls with 9 minutes to go in the first half. His foul trouble severely limited his aggressiveness, and without his trademark tenacity and fire, he's just not the same player. When he was on the court he wasn't in it mentally, presumably unable to turn that fire on and off at will in such a frustrating game for the Huskies. His shot wasn't falling for him either, but we've seen enough of Robinson this year to know just how good of a player he is, and this game probably doesn't hurt his stock that much if at all.573APStock DownTre Simmons. Washington
10 points (3-6 FG), 4 fouls, 19 minutes
This was not a great way for Washington's sharp shooting senior to go out, being limited to only 19 minutes because of foul trouble, which plagued most of Washington's starting lineup. When he was in the game he was alternated between the PG and SG positions and had difficulty making his presence felt. He seems to lack outstanding athletic ability, and it will probably be his outside shot that will get him in the league if he indeed makes it. His defense tonight was a bit questionable as well. He was asked to guard Garcia at times and had trouble keeping up with him.