The Week That Was
Coach Yow, more Gonzaga, and Duke or UConn?
The weather may be getting colder where you live, but the college basketball season is just getting warm. All teams are now knee-deep in conference play and the lay of the land is becoming a little more certain. A team like Wake Forest is showing why they are considerably better than one like, Clemson. Oklahoma showed us that they are far superior to the Big 12’s second-tier by pounding Baylor. Louisville is trying to show us something, that’s for sure. Before we get into the splendor and excitement of what we saw and what is on the horizon, we must stop and pay our respects.
Headline: Great coach, better person
This phrase is an expression that is often thrown around after the passing of someone that was admired, but in the case of North Carolina State Head Women’s Coach Kay Yow, it is truly fitting. Saturday saw the passing of the woman who spent 34 years at the helm in Raleigh, all while enduring a 22-year battle with breast cancer. Listening to the testimonies of individuals like Pat Summit, Dick Vitale, and even the historically curmudgeon, Geno Auriemma, had me in tears on several occasions over my college hoops filed weekend.
Coach Yow was an amazing teacher of the game and worked across the hall from legendary men’s coach Jim Valvano. The cause of the V Foundation (one of the nation’s most successful foundations) was a natural one for Yow to contribute to (alongside the likes of Vitale and Jim’s brother Bob) once Valvano passed away due to cancer in 1993.
There are many great pieces on the internet about Coach Yow, so I invite your to browse for one, specifically those penned by those that knew her personally. The pink jerseys and ribbons that have been noticeable in the past few days invoke much love and memories, as many of us have been touched by the disease in some fashion.
I implore you to get involved; participate in your local Susan Komen Race for the Cure; or just give some loot. I have personally seen the progression of what this cause can do for people. Without getting too personal, my mother mother-in-law and aunt are all multiple-year breast cancer survivors, and the Race for the Cure is an event with which I have been involved for almost a decade. When my mother-in-law was diagnosed in the mid-nineties, the treatments and recovery were borderline archaic. Almost a decade later, when my own mom started chemotherapy things were much different. Most importantly, the process was far less physically taxing on the patient. To the point, that the whole endeavor got my mom out on the trail and walking, a lot. A few months ago, she proudly finished her second three-day/60 mile walk in San Diego. As a son, a son-in-law, a nephew, a loving and devoted husband, and the father of a daughter (plus another girl coming in June) this is a cause very important to me and the “ladies” in my life.
One love to Kay Yow. She will be missed.
Teams of the Week: “The Team of January” not ignored
Since Louisville has won six straight, they will be given the aforementioned title, and I will respect what they have accomplished this past month. There is still plenty of ball to be played and, remember, this team was a bit helter-skelter early in the year, losing some games they shouldn’t have (I.e. against Western Kentucky or at home to UNLV, who was without their best player, Wink Adams). Earl Clark still shoots too much for too little production, but he has been clutch late in games, so he’s got to get some love for that!
UConn — The Huskies also have a very impressive past month of work, but the last seven days have included wins over Seton Hall (who just dumped Georgetown on Sunday), Villanova and Notre Dame on the road, breaking the Irish’s then-nation-leading home winning streak.
Duke — I have felt for some time that the Blue Devils were rounding into pretty sharp form and with just one game they have vaulted into my candidate as “the best team in the nation right now” (I won’t “rank” them, as you know). The Maryland Terrapins have always given Duke trouble, and for Coach K’s boys to put a 40+-point beatdown on a pretty “game” Maryland side was almost unbelievable. It also helps that their two best players (Gerald Henderson and Kyle Singler) are currently playing better than they ever have before. Henderson is getting a lot of the run for his improved play, but Singler is just straight balling. He doesn’t, but should, get mention for National Player of the Year.
Gonzaga/Saint Mary’s — Nothing that impressive for either this past week, but this tandem is here mainly as a ploy to beg your viewership for their West Coast Conference battle late this Thursday night (11 p.m., ESPN2). The match-up is the perfect chance to see sophomore Aussie speed-burner Patty Mills, who has been great again this year in leading his team to the nation’s current longest winning streak of 15 straight. If you pay attention to those rankings, by the way, the WCC is the only “non-BCS” league with two ranked teams.
Honorable mention: Memphis, UNLV, Kentucky and Xavier
Scouting Corner: Guess who?
This player is an athletic wing who is aggressive around the hoop and has an improving perimeter game. Although he plays much bigger than his size (6-6, 215) would suggest and his strength shouldn’t be underestimated, this guy is still a bit slight and will most likely have to move to the off-guard position at the next level.
Over his college career, this senior has become a much more capable scorer from the outside and he has always been able to find ways to put up points from the block. The perimeter game has taken on a larger role over his last two seasons, but he has still been able to remain a high field-goal percentage shooter. As usual, he likes to mix it up and grab rebounds which can lead to frequent trips to the free-throw line.
This player’s most enticing skill, however, might be his potential ability on the defensive end. He is very long and could some day become a defensive stopper at the next level. His ball-handling is one area of concern, though, which might make the transition to off-guard a bit more challenging.
I’ll admit that I like this guy and respect the four years of teaching he received under his relatively young coach, but I am not sold on him being worthy of a first-round pick. While I have the utmost faith that he could find a role (mostly defensive, and situational scoring) with an NBA team, I think this guy is more of an early-second-round selection.
Who is this person?
Player Alert: The ATL’s Finest
In the spotlight this week is Georgia Tech’s Gani Lawal, a player we mentioned in this space in the past. Last year, he appeared on my radar as a young player that got solid production in limited minutes (I.e. VCU’s Larry Sanders who looked pretty good this past weekend on ESPN2 in a big win for the Rams over conference rival, George Mason.) In just 17 minutes, the then-freshmen averaged 7 points and almost 4 rebounds while shooting 57 percent from the floor. This year, the Atlanta-area native has been given some rope (PT) to work with and he is delivering for an underachieving Yellow Jacket team. Lawal is using his long, 6-8, 215-pound frame to not only be one of the most intimidating defensive forces, but also to become the only ACC player averaging a double-double at 16 and 10.5.
His height does not scream NBA power forward (although his outside shot does) but he still has time to develop his bulk (weight room/cafeteria) and his perimeter game, as well. The free-throw line is another area of concern, which is unfortunate considering how active he is around the hoop (which can often lead to trips to the charity stripe). Head Coach Paul Hewitt has a nice little nucleus with Lawal, Alade Aminu (another ATLien and older brother of Wake’s Al-Farouq) and freshman point stud Iman Shumpert, but unfortunately the rest of the team is a bit of a “Ramblin’ Wreck.” If Lawal and Shumpert can stick around Atlanta in a collegiate sense for another year or two, wins will follow, so will professional contracts.
**On a side note, I must give some additional love to Georgetown’s Greg Monroe. Despite his team’s recent struggles (three in a row) he continues to impress Cub Scouts. He was doing it almost on his own in the second half against Seton Hall, and his game is just so advanced and most importantly, under control. Monroe is also a lot bigger than I thought and he looks physically imposing against “similarly-sized” opponents.
Games This Week: (All games ET)
There are a couple good games worth checking out. If you haven’t seen Jodie Meeks or Patrick Patterson yet this year, they will be on full display at 7 p.m. on ESPN when Kentucky travels to Oxford to take on the Ole Miss Rebels.
The Mountain has a great late night Beehive State battle when BYU takes the short jaunt up I-15 to the SLC to face the Utah Utes. That game tips at 10 p.m.
There is a pretty good double-header on the Big Ten Network starting at 7 p.m., but the real headliner starts at the same time over on ESPN, with Duke on the road facing Wake Forest. This game will tell us a lot about both teams. I am curious to see if Duke can win a big game outside the friendly confines of Cameron Indoor.
Big 12 fans can check out Kansas in Lincoln to take on an underrated Nebraska team at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2.
9 p.m. on the Big Ten Network is the start of things as Illinois has a big conference game at the Barn in Minneapolis. (MYLES, can we get a game report from that building? I would guess it’s got a bit more atmosphere than that place in which the T-Wolves play, Target Center?)
The game of the week, however, gets crackin’ late in Spokane as Patty Mills and the Saint Mary’s Gaels, take on their WCC nemesis from Gonzaga. Take a quick re-read of my feature of the ‘Zags to get clued in on who(m) to look for. My boy from Colorado, Matt Bouldin has been balling out of control lately, putting in several straight solid all-around performances. Not surprisingly, after being losers of four of five, the Zags have ripped off six straight.
Surprise, a dope Big East game! Noon on ESPN has the Irish of Notre Dame on the road to face the Pitt Panthers.
More love for the Zags and the WCC! The disappointing San Diego Torreos (who have lost several games despite returning the majority of the team that took down UConn in the NCAA’s first-round last year) make their own trip to the inland Pacific Northwest to battle Gonzaga at 6 p.m. on the Deuce.
At 9 p.m., Florda has a big SEC tilt with the Volunteers of Tennessee, fresh off a heartbreaker against cross-state rival, Memphis.
Be a proud citizen of this planet and watch the Super Bowl.
There is a great Big Monday doubleheader starting at 7 p.m. on ESPN, with UConn in Bluegrass Country to take on Louisville. That monumental Big East clash is followed by a great Big 12 game with Baylor in Lawrence to take on the Jayhawks of Kansas. KU’s junior guard Sherron Collins has been amazing this year and is worth a viewing for those who forgot about this Chicago-native.
Enjoy the games!
Check Cub Buenning’s scouting website for weekly player reports.