A look at the prospects who hurt or did nothing for their stock with the way they played in round one of the tournament on Thursday. Josh McRoberts puts up career numbers in a shocking upset to VCU. Dominic James exits the tournament disappointed courtesy of Tom Izzo's Michigan State. Greg Oden takes care of business. And much much more.
Dominic James, 5-11, Sophomore, Point Guard, Marquette
18 points, 2 assists, 3 turnovers, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, 6-16 FG, 4-10 3P, 2-2 FT
Michigan State clogged up the paint and basically forced Marquette to jack up three pointers all game long, and the Golden Eagles responded by hitting only two shots from inside the arc the entire night. On the other end of the floor, Michigan State completely destroyed Marquette inside the paint, and Tom Crean did not even attempt to make any adjustments to his game plan to try and stop them. Considering all the above, the fact that James managed to score 18 of his teams 49 points was a minor accomplishment in itself. He clearly would have finished with a bit more than 2 assists if he had anyone on the wing who could knock down a wide-open jumper or a big man who could catch a simple pass off the pick and roll.
James shot-selection wasnt exactly stellar either, though. He clearly got frustrated at times and heaved up bad shots early in the shot-clock just like Tom Izzo wanted him to do. On other occasions he got too fancy with his dribble and tried to split double teams in wild fashion or drive into triple teams.
One thing that was stellar was the defense he played on Drew Neitzel. James showed his potential as a lock-down defender by not giving him an inch to breathe all night long, chasing him around screens, keeping the ball out of his hands, and forcing him into a poor performance by his standards. To Neitzels credit, he recognized the situation and let his teammates make plays for him, especially his frontcourt mates Marquise Gray and Raymar Morgan.
All in all, it would be foolish to deny that James needed a much better performance in order to boost his already faltering draft stock. With his season now over, hes got an extremely tough decision ahead of him. This scout has no doubt in his mind that hed be able to showcase his tremendous strengths much better if he had better personnel around him, but its not clear if NBA scouts feel the same way. James might very well have to return for his junior season and come back after having polished up his perimeter shooting and decision making skills.
Josh McRoberts, 6-10, Sophomore, Power Forward, Duke
22 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 turnovers, 5 blocks, 7-14 FG, 8-11 FT
McRoberts scored most of his points inside the paint tonight, whether by cutting to the basket and using his explosiveness to finish strong, putting the ball on the floor and making his way to the hoop, cleaning up offensive rebounds, or even with a surprising jump-hook shot he threw in from 10 feet out. He did a solid job on the glass, snatching down 11 rebounds, but was outmuscled inside on a couple of occasions and missed padding his stats even a little bit more when he went chasing after a block and gave up his position for the defensive rebound.
VCUs tremendous pressure defense not only affected Greg Paulus ability to manage the game, it also did an effective job keeping the ball out of McRoberts hands.
All in all McRoberts certainly did show off many of his strengths today, if only in flashes, including his phenomenal passing ability and explosiveness finishing around the basket, but this was not enough to make up for an underachieving season that is now over in shocking fashion. Just the fact that a potential lottery pick that is not projected as a defensive stopper or rebounder only now scored more than 21 points in a single game after two full seasons is a bit appalling in itself. His draft stock will likely be as volatile as anyones if hes indeed going to do as expected and enter the draft.
Greg Oden, 7-0, Freshman, Center, Ohio St
19 points, 10 rebounds, 1 block, 1 assist, 6-10 FG, 7-10 FT
In typical fashion, Oden scored with an array of thunderous dunks, powerful moves to the basket, and following his shots for second chance points. As has been the case so many times this season though, the big mans scoring was subtle (if anything Oden does can be called subtle), overshadowed by the fantastic outside shooting of his teammates. He picked up a bulk of his points just by being smart; following his shots and drawing fouls on the second chance shots. With the use of his right hand now available to him, Oden had a good day at the line.
Odens defensive numbers may not look very impressive in the box score, just one block, but as always his mere presence affected the play of his opponents. Half of the shots taken by the Blue Devils were from beyond the arc, and only 8 of their 53 field goal attempts came from inside the paint, giving Oden very few chances to alter shots.
This performance will have no affect on where Oden will be drafted in the future. Whenever he does decide to turn pro he will be the number 1 or 2 pick, depending on Kevin Durant. This was a game that he was supposed to put up solid numbers in, and he did just that. With a second round match up coming up Saturday against either Xavier or BYU, two teams with a little more size, Oden will have a chance to show off his stuff against some bigger bodies.
Arron Afflalo, 6-4, Shooting Guard, Junior, UCLA
22 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 8/15 FG, 3/3 FT
Afflalo started the game by making a fade-away jump shot off the dribble from about 17 feet, but then struggled to find the basket with his next few looks, all of which came from the outside. He scored some baskets in transition, and immediately became more comfortable with the flow of the game. In the half court, he started moving off the ball, and was able to hit the majority of his shots when he planted his feet. In transition, Afflalo made some nice finishes, including an alley-oop coming in from the left wing. He didnt do much in terms of getting the ball on the perimeter and creating a shot, but did a great job feeding off of the good ball movement.
When it comes down to it, this first round game isnt going to move Aaron Afflalos draft stock in either direction. He displayed the ability to move off the ball and hit shots, but didnt create a whole lot of his own offense. In the coming rounds of the NCAA Tournament, he will likely face a team that can put a more athletic perimeter defender, and really test what Afflalo can do. If he continues to hit shots from the perimeter at a consistent rate, it will greatly help UCLAs chances of reaching the final four.
Acie Law, 6-2, Point Guard, Senior, Texas A&M
20 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 6/15 FG, 7/8 FT
Law started the game trying to play as more of a facilitator on the offensive end of the floor. He pushed the ball in transition often, but when there was nothing there, he would pull the ball out and run the offense. He displayed good drive and kick skills in the process, and created some good looks for the other A&M perimeter players. With around 7 minutes remaining in the first half, Law led his team on a run, scoring 7 consecutive points, and scoring both on drives to the hoop and a jumper off the dribble.
In the second half, Law again started slow, and Texas A&M lost the double digit lead they had built up in the first half. He tried to go to his mid-range game during this time, and was able to get some nice looks, but they just werent falling. With around 8 minutes left in the game, Law again stepped up and took over the game. He made some spectacular finishes at the hoop, and hit a contested jumper from 12 feet while moving to the right. During this late push, Law continued to display his ability to get into the lane and dish to the open man, and after 5 minutes of strong play, Texas A&M had put the game out of reach.
Overall, Law didnt really do much to change his stock in either direction today. He displayed his craftiness off the dribble, finishing ability inside, and the impressive ability to carry his team when needed. In the coming rounds, he will need to be more assertive as a scorer early in the game, but Law has a great chance to lead Texas A&M on a big run in this tournament.
Jared Dudley, 6-7, Forward, Senior, Boston College
19 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 9/16 FG
Though Dudley has displayed the ability to step out and hit the three point shot this season, he struggled to get it going from the perimeter against the Red Raiders defense. He started the game with a strong power move down on the block, but was immediately tagged with an offensive foul. He was able to make a back to the basket move and score a couple possessions later, but generally struggled to find his touch.
In the second half, Dudley started strong, scoring on an offensive rebound tip-in, and making a beautiful pass to a cutting teammate. The perimeter game never appeared for him today, and he missed a couple of outside looks badly. His inside game was dominant however. Dudley scored a number of his points by receiving the ball in the post, where he is a threat to either face up or back his way to the basket. The combination of footwork, ball handling, power, and touch all came together for Dudley, giving him the edge any time he touched the ball in the second half.
When it comes to the NBA, Dudley will be thought of as a tweener, but he has displayed the ability to shoot the three and handle the ball this season. Though he displayed his array of skills inside today, it will be important for him to get his perimeter game going for the next round of the NCAA tournament.
Mike Conley Jr., 6-1, Freshman, Point Guard, Ohio State
4 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 turnovers, 2/5 FG, 0/1 3PT
Although Conley will not blow anyone away with his stat-line from Saturday evening's affair, he did absolutely all the Buckeyes asked of him in leading his team to victory. And while his assist totals may not reflect it, the freshman point man did a remarkable job distributing the ball, making sure that all of his scoring threats on the wings got an adequate number of touches while still finding room to get the ball to Greg Oden on the low blocks.
The Indianapolis native put his blazing quickness on display on both ends of the floor tonight. On the offensive end, he was able to explode into the paint at his own discretion. When playing defense, his lateral quickness and great ball instincts were on display for the large duration of his time on the hardwood. Mike's aforementioned ball hawking skills and ability to get in the passing lanes played a crucial part in why the Central Connecticut State starting backcourt combined for 8 turnovers in their losing effort.
While Conley was outstanding running the Ohio State squad, questions still remain about his ability to consistently score, more notably from beyond 10 feet. He did nothing Saturday to show scouts that these issues were no longer a concern, missing on his lone jump-shot attempt for the game. Either way, Conley did nothing to hurt his draft stock and proved to everyone in attendance and who watched the game throughout the country that his outstanding leadership skills can not always be measured in the stat sheet.
Brook Lopez, 7-0, Freshman, Center, Stanford
18 points, 7 rebounds, 0 assists, 3 turnovers, 8-15 FG, 2-4 FT
Once the pressure was off and there was really nothing left to play for, Lopez started showing the talent that has gotten many people (prematurely?) excited about his upside. He his a pretty right handed jump-hook from about 6 feet out, stroked a mid-range and turn-around jumper, dunked back an offensive rebound, and came up with a big one-handed tomahawk jam after putting the ball on the floor. He had 14 points in the 2nd half, but it was all for naught, as no one on Louisville was taking things seriously anymore and Rick Pitino even got to clear his bench with 5 minutes left in the game.
Lopez has repeatedly stated that hes in no rush to leave for the NBA after his freshman season, and after this bitter defeat, thats probably a good thing. Hes got outstanding upside but still has plenty of things he can work on, including his footwork, balance, strength and defensive ability. Were looking forward to seeing how he bounces back in his sophomore year.
Robin Lopez, 7-0, Freshman, Center, Stanford
3 points, 4 rebounds, 1 block, 5 fouls, 1-4 FG, 2-4 FT in 12 minutes
From the tip, Lopez struggled defensively against the stronger Louisville front line. He routinely gave up incredibly low post position, putting himself in situations where he virtually had no choice but to commit a foul. The talented freshman relied far too much on his shot blocking ability rather than actually playing positional defense, a trait that will have to change as he gains more strength and experience.
While it has never been a question that Robin will be staying in school for another season (at least), his final game of his freshman season will surely keep him around the Pac-10 for another year. He has all of the raw tools to become a productive center in the NBA one day, but it is clear that he needs a considerable amount of polish before that happens. Hopefully for his sake, he is able to get more touches on the low blocks next season to show scouts he can score, as opposed to the five or so shots per game he received this season at Stanford.
Jarrius Jackson, 6-1, Guard, Texas Tech, Senior
10 points, 4/14 FG, 3 rebounds, 1 assist
In the first half of the game, Jackson did make a nice three pointer off the dribble to get his first basket, but he followed it up with a couple misses from mid-range. As the game went on, his frustration grew, and his shot selection seemed to get progressively worse. He started forcing up contested three point jumpers off the dribble, and turned the ball over a few times while trying to get to the basket. Inside, he was also unable to finish effectively, as he struggled to get his shot off against some of Boston Colleges taller front court players.
Performances like this arent what Jackson needed to prove that he can play in the NBA. One game doesnt make or a break a 4-year senior like this, but he needed help going into this game that he just wont get now. He has the ability to create his shot, however, and could possibly secure a place in the NBA as a shooting specialist, ala Allan Ray. Jacksons scoring and leadership has helped Texas Tech during numerous times this season, but was nowhere to be found today. From here, Jackson must decide if he wants to play at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament or not, something that he appears to sorely need considering how little hes managed to help his stock over the past few months.
Caleb Green, 6-8, Senior, Power Forward, Oral Roberts
13 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 5 turnovers, 4-16 FG, 5-9 FT
Green, who had already posted impressive numbers this season against Kansas and Arkansas, wasnt a factor in the first half, scoring just 5 points on 2-8 shooting. The Cougars frustrated the senior by sending a constant wave of double teams at him every time he was fed the ball in the post. A few times he did find open teammates, picking up a few assists, but as a player used to scoring at will, Green forced a lot of tough shots.
Things improved slightly in the second half as Green was left alone in single coverage situations more often, but he never got his shots to drop. Several of his shots were blocked by the stellar defensive combination of Ivory Clark and Aaron Baynes, who never let Green get a good look at the basket. A few times he tried stepping out and driving to the basket, picking up a few trips to the foul line in the process, but he insisted on trying to score from the block.
Rebounding, usually a strength for Green, was also not visible during the course of the game. Despite pulling down 8 rebounds, just one off his average, he was pushed around physically under the boards all game by Washington St.s front court players.
For Green, a player who was probably a late second round pick at best, this was a huge chance to solidify his chances of playing at the next level. After having such a sub-par performance, especially against a Washington St. team not known for its dominant interior play, Green will have to really impress the scouts at Portsmouth and private workouts if he wants to hear his name called on draft day.