The Week Ahead: What to Watch in College Basketball 2/22-2/28

The Week Ahead: What to Watch in College Basketball 2/22-2/28
Feb 22, 2010, 03:41 pm
The Week Ahead: What to Watch in College Basketball 2/22-2/28:

Kyle Nelson

Marquee Matchups:

West Virginia at Connecticut (Monday, February 22nd: 7 p.m. on ESPN)

Connecticut has won two straight games and will face 21-5 West Virginia at home in a must-win game if they wish to keep their NCAA hopes alive. The match-up to watch centers around two lottery prospects, West Virginia’s sophomore combo-forward Devin Ebanks and Connecticut’s senior combo-forward Stanley Robinson. Both players are looking to raise their draft stock with continued high-level play, but Ebanks needs a big game against an NBA-caliber performer to help his resume. Rarely do we come across a better chance to evaluate similar prospects in such a competitive setting.

Also, be sure to catch prospects such as Connecticut guards Jerome Dyson and Kemba Walker and West Virginia frontcourt-mates Da’Sean Butler, Kevin Jones, and Deniz Kilicli. While not all of those players are surefire prospects, each is worth keeping an eye on for the future.

South Florida at Villanova (Wednesday, February 24th: 9 p.m. on ESPN Full Court)

Villanova is coming off of its second straight loss and South Florida desperately needs a victory after losing three of their last four games. Most interesting, however, is a match-up between two of the Big East’s top guards, South Florida combo-guard Dominique Jones and Villanova point guard Scottie Reynolds. Both players can score in bundles, but scouts are divided on whether or not either player will be effective at the next level. Scouts will be watching closely to see who gets the upper hand and whether or not either player can be a force on the defensive end.

Tulsa at Duke (Thursday, February 25th: 7 p.m. on ESPN)

Tulsa’s 7’0 senior center Jerome Jordan is running out of opportunities to prove himself as an NBA prospect, but he has a tremendous opportunity against Duke. Duke’s incredibly deep, athletic, and versatile frontcourt will provide scouts with a good assessment of Jordan’s abilities and improvements. Against the likes of Mason and Miles Plumlee, Brian Zoubek, and Kyle Singler, Jordan will have his hands full with NBA-caliber athleticism, skill, and toughness, while Duke players will have the opportunity to do battle with one of the NCAA’s best under-the-radar big men.

Duke has the upper hand in this match-up, however, and should win easily, especially considering their powerful backcourt of Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith, who are rapidly developing into the best one-two punch in the country and are both on scouts’ radars.

Kentucky at Tennessee (Saturday, February 27th: 12 p.m. on CBS)

Unfortunately for the rest of the Southeastern Conference and the NCAA, Kentucky is beginning to show the depth and maturity that accompany championship contenders. After a loss on the road to South Carolina, the Wildcats have won six straight games, including a win at home against Tennessee, and are looking to gain momentum going into the post-season. On Saturday, Kentucky travels to Tennessee for round two.

Scouts’ focus surely will be on John Wall, and rightly so, as the freshman phenomenon has improved at a rapid rate and is easily one of the NCAA’s best point guards. Possibly more interesting, however, is the match up in the middle between Kentucky’s NBA-ready frontcourt, DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson, and Tennessee senior power forward Wayne Chism.

Chism is an inside-outside threat and has been in the NBA Draft discussion for a couple of years, but consistency and toughness issues have plagued him. He will get the chance to prove himself against two players who will likely see rotation minutes in the NBA next season in Cousins and Patterson.

Tennessee’s 6’6 sophomore shooting guard Scotty Hopson started the season strong, but has struggled with his increased role. He will have to find his shooting touch early for Tennessee to have a chance in this one, but also if he wishes to rescue his sinking draft stock. Locking down Wall and Bledsoe would not hurt, either.

Michigan at Ohio State (Saturday, February 27th: 12 p.m. on ESPN)

Though Michigan will not be a factor in the post-season and Ohio State is gradually ascending the NCAA rankings, do not miss this match up between the Big 10’s best and most versatile wings, Ohio State’s Evan Turner and Michigan’s Manny Harris. Turner has NBA-caliber size and a tantalizing skill set, but lacks a consistent perimeter jump shot. Harris, though shorter and less efficient, has similar strengths and weaknesses, and this game should provide a spectacular opportunity for both players to face off against each other in front of NBA scouts. The stakes are certainly higher for Harris, as Turner is a consensus top-five pick at this stage, but this should be a top-shelf match-up nonetheless.

The match-up between Ohio State combo-forward David Lighty and Michigan’s face-up power forward DeShawn Sims is worth a look, as well. Lighty re-emerged when Turner was injured and showed flashes of potential as a power-guard at the next level. He will have the chance to prove himself against DeShawn Sims, who entered the season with NBA aspirations, but still has a tremendous amount of work to do and must dispel his reputation for being soft.

Finally, do not miss a chance to watch Ohio State scorer and potential first round draft pick William Buford, who also stepped up in Turner’s absence, but has struggled to find his shooting touch as of late.

Cincinnati at West Virginia (Saturday, February 27th: 2 p.m. on ESPN Full Court)

West Virginia combo-forward Devin Ebanks has the opportunity to face another likely NBA-bound prospect in Cincinnati forward Lance Stephenson. Like Ebanks, there are tremendous questions surrounding Stephenson’s NBA future, primarily in terms of lacking shooting abilities and athleticism. That said, there is no denying Stephenson’s talent and scouts will be watching to see whether or not he can have a big game against one of the Big East’s top defenses. Similarly, Ebanks will have yet another chance to prove to scouts that he can produce against an NBA-caliber player, which has been a problem thus far this season.

In the post, Cincinnati center Yancy Gates has always been on the periphery of the NBA Draft discussion, but continues to lack the consistency and maturity that scouts ask from projected role players. Against West Virginia’s frontcourt, Gates will have the opportunity to use his size and length to his advantage and should look to assert himself in the post.

Kansas at Oklahoma State (Saturday, February 27th: 4 p.m. on CBS)

There are a plethora of NBA prospects on Kansas’s roster from big men Cole Aldrich and Marcus Morris to guards Tyshawn Taylor and Sherron Collins. All are well worth watching and certainly candidates to hear their names called in the future. In this game, however, the spotlight will shine on two wing players with NBA futures and very similar strengths and weaknesses.

6’6 Kansas freshman Xavier Henry starred as a lights-out perimeter shooter on his way into the lottery at the beginning of the season. He has come back to earth in recent weeks with claims that he is one-dimensional and not athletic enough to star at the next level. Coming off of a strong performance at Colorado, Henry will look to dispel scouts’ doubts against James Anderson and Oklahoma State.

Anderson has been a legitimate prospect since his freshman year, but has emerged this season as one of the nation’s top shooting guards and offensive threats to the tune of 22.8 points per game on 47% shooting. His limited ball handling abilities, however, have scouts questioning his ability to be anything more than a shooting specialist at the next level. Against Henry, he will have the chance to prove himself against a legitimate NBA prospect at the same position.

Clemson at Florida State (Sunday, February 28th: 5:30 p.m. on FSN)

Clemson and Florida State have both had underwhelming seasons thus far, but with the post-season in sight, this is a must-win for both teams. In terms of match-ups, however, watch the post for two of the ACC’s best. Florida State combo-forward Chris Singleton is a prolific perimeter shooter with questionable toughness, but undeniably elite athleticism and potential. He will see minutes against Clemson power forward Trevor Booker, who has comparable size and athleticism, but is an aggressive defender. Scouts will be watching to see if Singleton can find his offense against a formidable defensive presence.

Booker has continued to show toughness and versatility, both of which scouts want to see from undersized big men at the next level. Against Singleton, he can show his defensive versatility and step out onto the perimeter to guard the talented jump shooter. With the post-season around the corner, Booker must continue to play hard to solidify his spot in first round of the 2010 NBA Draft.

Two freshmen are worth watching, as well. Florida State’s Michael Snaer is an athletic and versatile 6’5 shooting guard who has started to see more touches and has emerged as a valuable contributor on both sides of the ball. Clemson wing Noel Johnson is not nearly as far along as Snaer in terms of his role and development, but at 6’6 with athleticism and perimeter shooting ability and potential down the road, he is worth a look.

Under The Radar:

Brigham Young at San Diego State (Wednesday, February 24th: 9 p.m. on CBS College Sports)

While Brigham Young looks to be a lock for the NCAA Tournament, San Diego State’s future is less certain.

Keep an eye on Brigham Young’s sweet-shooting point guard Jimmer Fredette, who has continued to impress this season and is currently averaging 21.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 5.0 assists. In addition, he is shooting a blistering 49% from beyond the arc. Scouts have questions about his athleticism and defensive ability at the next level and against the Aztecs he will have to continue to play hard to prove that he can play in the NBA.

Similarly, do not miss the opportunity to see San Diego State’s Kawhi Leonard, a versatile and athletic freshman 6’6 combo-forward who leads San Diego State in scoring and rebounding. He will almost surely enter the NBA Draft discussion next season, especially if his perimeter shot starts falling.

Siena at Rider (Friday, February 26th: 7 p.m. on ESPNU)

After a disastrous performance on national television in Siena’s loss to Butler, Edwin Ubiles is running out of opportunities to differentiate himself as an NBA prospect. One positive development, however, was his assertiveness and expanded offensive repertoire. The 6’6 athletic combo-forward will have another chance to prove himself on national television, this time against Ryan Thompson and Rider.

Expected to have a big season as the top option for the Broncos, Thompson has floundered, despite posting solid numbers. Though he shows solid intangibles and size for an NBA roleplayer, questions about his athleticism and perimeter shooting ability have relegated him to the periphery of the NBA Draft conversation. Against Ubiles, a quality athlete and defender, Thompson has the chance to show scouts he is worth a look in June, as he is still a very good basketball player.

Also, watch out for Rider’s sophomore combo-forward Novar Gadson, a streaky shooter with size and a developing skill set.

New Mexico at Brigham Young (Saturday, February 27th: 4 p.m. on Versus)

While Fredette is the most notable NBA prospect in this match-up, the streaking New Mexico Lobos have some star power of their own in junior combo-forward Darington Hobson. Though his lack of athleticism presents a significant question mark regarding his NBA future, his perimeter shooting touch and passing ability separate him from most similar players at this level. He will have the chance to face off against an NBA-caliber shooter and sometimes-prospect, Brigham Young’s 6’6 wing Jonathan Tavernari.

Tavernari has above average size and strength for an NBA wing, but his miserable shot selection and selfishness on the offensive end have plagued him throughout his career and limited his potential significantly.

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