Temple arrived at the Atlantic 10 as the conference's top team and left with the championship, defeating Richmond on Sunday afternoon thanks to a balanced attack and clutch free throw shooting. Despite trailing early and falling behind in the second half, Richmond stuck around admirably before falling, proving that the team will be a tough out in the NCAA Tournament.
Allen, in particular, looked incredibly tired. While he normally is passive on the floor, yesterday, he had a tremendous amount of trouble making his presence known. He struggled early on trying to get position in the post and gradually stopped seeking touches as the game continued. He passed up almost every shot that came his way and, despite the fact that he was the best big man on the floor, only took just five shots.
Fatigue clearly played a role here, but Allen's lack of aggressiveness and killer instinct is concerning. He is a very skilled big man with excellent hands, solid footwork, and a varied offensive repertoire, but rarely does he assert himself. Though he is one of the best passing big men in college basketball, he absolutely must seek offense for himself more aggressively. Not only do scouts want to see him show his skill on a more consistent basis, but also Temple needs his scoring touch in the post.
Defensively, he was a step slower, but nonetheless continues to struggle when guarding his man on the perimeter. This has been an issue all season, so yesterday's performance, while certainly worse than usual, was not an outlier. In the post, he still did a solid job of battling his man for position and boxing out on the defensive boards.
Inside of the arc, he continued to show his solid mid-range repertoire, adapting well to Richmond post defense that constantly collapsed on him as he slashed to the basket. Though his instincts are solid, he would benefit from squaring his body to the basket before shooting tremendously, as the lack of bounce in his step did not allow him to adjust his body in the air. He does not have a tremendously quick first step, but he is a very creative slasher, utilizing his body and handle to find space to score against a variety of defenses throughout this tournament. He needs to learn how to take contact, however, and earn trips to the foul line as opposed to taking off balanced attempts around the basket with a hand or two in his face.
Fernandez played long stretches of the tournament as a point guard, and at 6'4, his performance throughout was very interesting. He is a very good passer, possessing the vision and creativity to find his teammates in both transition and half-court situations. There is no doubt that he could easily transition to a more traditional pass-first point guard role at the next level. He still needs to get better at running the pick and roll, however, and with Lavoy Allen as his big man, there is much potential for success. Similarly, he does not drive-and-dish nearly enough given his passing ability and his teammate's abilities to knock down perimeter jump shots.
Defensively, he continues to use his intelligence to help compensate for his lack of length and average lateral quickness. He is not a particularly good defender at this point, but he is by no means a liability and showed good effort on this end of the court. His potential at the next level, however, does not seem to be too great and he must continue to improve on this end of the floor.
Fernandez is just a sophomore, however, and should continue to improve as he adds muscle to his frame and gains confidence. He has a serious and professional demeanor on the court and does a good job of communicating with his teammates, though there is always room for improvement in this area. His offensive play was superior, clearly deserving of the Most Outstanding Player award, and it is safe to say that, after Atlantic City, Juan Fernandez has solidified his place as a legitimate NBA prospect.
The Tournament In Review:
Top prospects Rodney Green and Aaric Murray of LaSalle never made the trip to Atlantic City and Dayton combo-forward Chris Wright and St. Bonaventure center Andrew Nicholsonbowed out in the first round. Regardless, the Tournament offered very good opportunities to see Xavier's Jordan Crawford and Temple's talented tandem of Lavoy Allen and Juan Fernandez.
Scouts from the Warriors, Celtics, Timberwolves, Nets, Suns, Trailblazers, Thunder, Heat, Lakers, Raptors, and Jazz were in attendance and witnessed an exciting tournament, but a mixed bag of prospects.
While prospects such as Crawford, Wright, and Allen confirmed that they are very talented and worthy of consideration and did not see much variation in their drat stock, the tournament signaled an arrival for Juan Fernandez, who is clearly a player to watch.
Keith Cothran, Andrew Nicholson, and Willie Reed did not stand out, however, underwhelming against solid competition.
Finally, players such as Dayton shooting guard Chris Johnson and Rhode Island combo-forward Lamonte Ulmer were physically impressive, with spectacular size and athleticism, but did too little on the court to convince that they are serious prospects.
As Selection Sunday came to a close, Temple, Richmond, and Xavier received bids, solidifying the Atlantic 10's reputation as a top mid-major conference. Those at the tournament knew this already and witnessed three days of thrilling basketball. From a scouting perspective, there were quite a few prospects of varying degrees of legitimacy on the floor, and the tournament's competitive atmosphere was ideal for evaluation.
Special thanks to the Atlantic 10 Conference and Boardwalk Hall's staff for hosting us and we look forward to next season. In the meantime, Happy March Madness!
Official 2010 Atlantic 10 Men's Basketball All-Championship Team:
Lavoy Allen, Temple, Junior, Forward
Kevin Anderson, Richmond, Junior, Guard
Jordan Crawford, Xavier, Sophomore, Guard
Juan Fernandez, Temple, Sophomore, Guard
David Gonzalves, Richmond, Senior, Guard
Most Outstanding Player: Juan Fernandez, Temple, Sophomore Guard