The Week That Was
Obama, Shoeless Coaches and Ivy League ballers.
Cub Scouts welcomes you on this important day as the nation and the world welcomes someone who most hope and believe will become a historical figure. The celebration is punctuated by falling just one day after honoring the greatest American-born individual, Martin Luther King Jr. With inspiration in mind, we start this week’s edition with a look at what one college coach is doing to make a difference beyond his immediate basketball world. Peace, Love and Happiness.
Headline: Take Your Shoes Off For Coach Ron Hunter
Indiana University-Purdue University of Indian (known to most as IUPUI) is a school that has made very little headlines as a basketball program; that is, until last season. In addition to producing now-Spurs reserve rookie guard George Hill as a first-round pick in last spring’s NBA Draft, Head Coach Ron Hunter did more for the world on a global sense. Last January, Coach Hunter got involved with Samaritan’s Feet, a non-profit that collects shoes for distribution to those needy across the world. In one game last January, Hunter coached from the sidelines in nothing but his bare feet, in an attempt to collect in upwards of 40,000 pairs of shoes. Triple that amount came in and suddenly the coach was overrun with emails, phone calls and most importantly, shoes. College basketball’s involvement with the program has continued to grow and this past weekend, several other coaches (including Hunter, again) followed Hunter’s lead and went shoeless for a game. With the outcry of support, leather and rubber, Hunter became an integral figure in Samaritan Feet’s fight to put shoes on the millions of barefoot children around the globe (including here in America).
There are a couple quality articles that go into further detail, so I encourage you to take the time to read more (and possibly get involved) about this great coach and what his involvement has done for this great cause: ESPN | Hoops Addict.
Upsets/Teams of the Week:
In the ever-morphing world of “The Week That Was,” another twist has been added, by honoring a couple of teams that impressed over the last seven days.
Louisville — A team that came into the week on the heels of an impressive road-win at Villanova, more than built on that momentum by beating both Notre Dame and Pittsburgh. In particular, the Cardinals won both by playing a smothering team defense; spearheaded by the gutsy individual play of senior guard, Terrence Williams. In their win over the then-undefeated Panthers, Louisville held the visitors to 30 percent shooting and overcame a 10-point deficit late in the second half.
New Mexico — The Lobos have played a relatively lopsided season filed with bad losses (Drake, VCU and UTEP) and a couple nice wins (San Diego, 33-points better than Mississippi and a double-dip over their cross-state rivals from Las Cruces). But after just one in-conference win this weekend, this team got my attention. Just one week ago, I was over-flowing in my praise for the BYU Cougars and, with one 20-point punking, the Mountain West was turned on its head, leaving no undefeated squads this early in the season. While it is never easy to take down any installment of a UNM team when they play at the Pit, the truth will be told about this team when they hit the road this week for tough games against the conference’s elite in San Diego State and Texas Christian.
Illinois — Despite not even playing an undefeated week of basketball, the Fighting Illini deserves a pat on the back. With few stars and a bevy of youngsters playing big minutes, they have exceeded all expectations (including our Online Editor, an esteemed alumnus) by racing to a 15-3 record. After a nice win over Michigan, Illinois played the Wolverines’ Spartan neighbors in East Lansing, this past Saturday. The Breslin Center is easily one of, if not, the toughest places to play in America, and Bruce Weber’s Orange Crew dictated pace, controlled the boards and held down the lead for most of the game before bowing out to the far talented Michigan State team. Kudos, Illinos.
Connecticut Women’s Team — Wow, ladies, don’t hurt ‘em! The No. 1-ranked Huskies played a beautiful game en route to a punishing 30-point defeat at the home of No. 2 North Carolina. Coach Geno’s team was paced as usual by the two-headed attack of Renee Montgomery and Maya Moore.
Scouting Corner: Guess Who?!?!
1. This kid has excellent size for a 2-guard (6-6, almost 200 pounds) but can also lead his team with the mind and handle of a point-guard. Even from the off-guard position, he makes great passes and sets up his teammates; as if he can’t help but be a playmaker. He can score from the 3-point line but it still seems that he needs to improve his overall range for the next level. This player is a smart, competitive kid that comes from a basketball family and has an older brother that just finished a great college career and is now a pro in Europe, where they both have dual-citizenship for a hoop-crazed nation.
2. Last year, this guy was “thrown to the wolves” as a freshman and came out squeaky clean. Despite his extremely young team’s failure to even qualify for the NCAA Tournament, none of the blame could be lumped onto this player. For his troubles, he led his (BCS-affiliated) conference in assists as a freshman and has already upped his production in even fewer minutes this year.
3. I think this kid is going to be a great professional player but he still needs some seasoning and another couple years of the all-important “weight-room/cafeteria” before he enters the draft. He did put on 10 additional pounds during this past summer, but increased strength and continued work on range are still the most glaring issues. If he decides to make the jump this year, he is worth a pick probably in the second-round, but if he is able to play three complete seasons of college ball, he will be sure-fire first-rounder by then.
This week’s honor goes to a guy that plies his trade in the same conference that Cub Scouts’ matriculated, the Ivy League. NBA player progeny have long been a part of college rosters and this year is no different (hello, Steph Curry). The eternally iced-over campus of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., has one of the nation’s most lethal, in junior guard Ryan Wittman. The son of former NBA guard and recently axed Timberwolves Head Randy Wittman, Ryan has been torching the eastern seaboard since he first headed west from his Minneapolis hometown.
The engine that runs the defending Ivy champs, Wittman is a 20-point scorer after two seasons of 15 ppg averages. The 6-6, 210-pound guard is arguably (alongside the other aforementioned, Curry kid) the most lethal sharp-shooter around and despite dropping a bit in percentage this year, Wittman is still a career 43 percent long-range shooter. He has already broken the 1200-point barrier and has paced his Big Red squad to an 11-6 record as they are again the favorites to get the league’s sole tournament bid.
Games This Week: (As usual, all games are listed as ET)
Not much going on here but a pretty decent (and suddenly important) BIG 10 game in the land of football. The Michigan Wolverines travel to the current home of our former editor-in-chief, Ryan Jones, for a match-up with the ever-improving Nittany Lions of Penn State (14-5 on the season). The game gets cracking at 7 p.m. on the Big Ten Network. Those not in the know need to check out Penn State’s Talor Battle, a 5-11 sophomore point guard that has made a huge step in his individual development this year, averaging 19 ppg, 6 rpg and 5 apg.
Both of the ESPN networks have 7 p.m. games worth checking out. ESPN2 has the nation’s only undefeated team when Wake Forest hosts Virginia Tech while ESPN has another solid Big East match-up when Villanova travels north to New England to take on the UConn Huskies. Immediately following, North Carolina takes on Clemson in a big early-season ACC match-up.
The Mountain West has a great problem as the conference has two great late-night tilts to choose for airing. UNLV traveling to Provo to meet the BYU Cougars just might a long way to determining the regular season title and would seem to be the natural choice, but the network is going with our boys from Albuquerque. New Mexico’s game with San Diego State tips at 10:30.
Despite their disappointing loss on Sunday on the north side of Chicago to Northwestern, the Minnesota Golden Gophers have a huge game starting at 7 on the Big Ten Network when Purdue comes to town. The Boilers were forced to start their Big Ten campaign a bit beaten up but seem to be getting healthy again. Robbie Hummel is back for Purdue and those with some collegiate nostalgia will look for the Minnesota freshman Ralph Sampson III, the son of the former University of Virginia great and the ONLY three-time national Player of the Year, of the same name.
Today’s games are surely not up to par with last Saturday’s bonanza, but there are still a couple games worthy of your attention.
– CBS has a historically great game with Memphis traveling across state to take on their rivals from Rocky Top for a 3:30 tip. Remember the great late-season game last year between Memphis and Tennessee, involving the nation’s top-ranked teams.
– If you have “The U,” you need to check out a great Big 12 match-up, which starts at 4 p.m., when the Baylor Bears face Blake Griffin and the Oklahoma Sooners.
– Later that night, ESPN has a 7 p.m. game with Connecticut facing a tough road game in South Bend against Notre Dame. Although, the Fighting Irish have lost more games this year than was expected, they are awfully tough at home, so don’t expect the Huskies to come in and dictate play.
ESPN has their Big Monday doubleheader that culminates with a 9 p.m. Sooner-State Bedlam game when the OU travels to Stillwater to take on the up-and-coming Cowboys of Okie State. New OSU boss Travis Ford has his “’Boys” playing an up-tempo style of play led by the sweet-shooting sophomore, James Anderson.
Many new additions have been added to my scouting site, so please take a second to check out some of the potentially draft-worthy players from around the college game.
I hope you enjoyed the inauguration!
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