First Take: Caracter Returns
And the most underrated scoring machines in the country.
You’ll have to excuse my tardiness today everyone. I was asked to come speak to a group of seniors in a television and media class at my old high school. That involved an early night and an earlier morning, hence why the First Take is up later than usual. Now to last night’s action.
All five ranked teams in action last night won, though it took Mississippi overtime to hold off a strong UTEP team. This one was an absolute shootout, with the Rebels and Miners combining for 50 attempted three-pointers, but it was Ole Miss that was feeling it from deep by connecting on 12-of-26. Chris Warren – who scored a career-high 32 points – took over in overtime by scoring 11 of his team’s 19 points. This game has to announce UTEP as a player in Conference-USA and the biggest reason for that may lie with the newest member of the roster: Derrick Caracter.
If that name sounds familiar, it should. Caracter is the former troubled standout forward who spent a couple of seasons under Rick Pitino at Louisville before he was dismissed from the team. The high school prep star has resurfaced out west and showed he can still play, putting up 15 and 15 in just his second appearance since become eligible. Having a 6-9, 270-pound dominating big man like Caracter on the floor is going to make the Miners a formidable team, especially with the stellar play of Randy Culpepper, a player who has already been praised in this column for his absurd leaping ability.
Speaking of teams to watch out for in C-USA, UAB absolutely ran Cincinnati, taking the Bearcats down 64-47 behind 22 points and 15 rebounds from junior guard Elijah Millsap. The 6-6 native of Grambling, Louisiana has been a nightmare match up for opposing defenses and a monster on the glass. How many perimeter players in the country right now are averaging a double-double? Well none right now, but Millsap is pretty close at 16.4 points and 9.9 rebounds through his first ten games this season. In case you were wondering if the domination of the Bearcats was a fluke, Millsap opened his year with 22 and 11 against a Green Bay team that defeated Wisconsin.
Clemson got a near triple-double from forward Trevor Booker in a win over East Carolina and Georgia Tech led by double-doubles from Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors staved off a pesky Arkansas-Pine Bluff team. Between those three, North Carolina’s frontcourt, Kyle Singler and Solomon Alabi, the ACC is absolutely loaded with talented forwards and centers. Just wait until conference play really starts to pick up in the new year.
I took in the Wright State/Mississippi State game last night, and while I enjoyed seeing the two squads go a combine 26-61 from beyond the arc, the real highlight was the first John Riek sighting in a college uniform. Some of you may remember me talking about Riek during SLAM’s preseason rankings when I along with the rest of the world was projecting the Bulldogs as a top 25 team given the arrival of Renardo Sidney (oops). Riek – the 7-1 Sudanese native – first surfaced a couple of years ago as a cant miss high school prospect who dominated at the Lebron James Skills Academy. With a wingspan that rivals anything a commercial airline can put out there, Riek was prematurely labeled as a lottery potential kind of player. After being set back by a knee injury, the youngster spent a year at prep school and is now making his home in the SEC. Expectations for the big man have been significantly lowered for the time being and he is being groomed as a replacement in the middle for Jarvis Varnado. Still, it was great to see him on the floor, even if it was for the final minute of a game that was already in hand for Miss St.
Oklahoma State and Stanford hooked up last night and apparently this game was a part of the Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series which I was certain ended two weeks ago – who knew. James Anderson went off for the Cowboys, scoring 28, the fourth time already this season he has eclipsed the 25-point mark. I don’t know if there is a more underrated scoring machine in any major conference in the country, but the guard’s lack of notoriety is almost directly a result of OSU’s lack of success in his time there. Think about it, how many players do you know that play in a BCS conference that average 20+ a night go completely unnoticed by the national media? The only other player who can claim to be more obscure to the average fan ironically enough was the one matched up with Anderson last night in Stanford’s Landry Fields who hit right on his average of 22 points. The sad thing is we might not see either team playing in the NCAA Tournament, thought the Cowboy’s 9-1 start is certainly a promising sign.
It’s definitely a slow night for hoops action tonight, but for God’s sake if you live in the Oakland or Seattle area’s and can catch the Golden Grizzlies taking on the Redhawks, do yourself a favor and watch. Seattle’s Charles Garcia is the best pro prospect you’ve never heard of, the 6-9 junior is averaging 25 and 10 and dropped 41 points on Wofford a couple of weeks ago. I’ve already mentioned Oakland’s Keith Benson who is fresh off another huge game, dropping 23 and 18 on Green Bay this past Sunday.
If you’re like many of my friends though and have allergic reactions to mid-major hoops, check out Auburn at Florida State instead. The Tigers make up for a lack of star power with a balanced offense, featuring for players who score in double figures. The Seminoles are still looking for Solomon Alabi or Chris Singleton to step up and be a true go-to option, but for now they are getting the job done as a duo.
Enjoy the hoops everyone.