Thursday, March 11, 2010

On Guard! The 11 Dribblers, Passers, and Shooters to Keep an Eye On During the Big Ten Tournament



1.
Durrell Summers (Michigan State)

With Chris Allen's status in jeopardy, the pressure is on the multi-talented Summers to step up and assert himself on the offensive end. Throughout the year, it has kind of been his M.O. to play terrific ball against the weaker teams and struggle mightily against the good ones. He averaged over 20 points per game against Northwestern, while contributing a paltry 5 per night against Purdue. His effort will need to be much more consistent in order for Sparty to make an extended run in this tourney, and then the big one next week.

(Weird Stat: In Summers' freshman season, he knocked down 50% of his shots from long range. In his sophomore year, with many more attempts, his percentage went down, but still checked in at a very respectable 38.5%. This year, when Summers was supposed to be flourishing and putting it all together, his stroke often deserted him, with his 3-point accuracy dwindling to 29.8%. Now would be a good time to start finding your stroke, sir.)


2. Michael "Juice" Thompson (Northwestern)

First off, isn't it always more fun when there is an athlete named "Juice" involved in the proceedings? Why even bother with the "Michael"?? If we have an option to call you Juice, we are taking it...no questions asked. And in addition to this 5'10" guard's sweet alias, he's also got a little game to go with it. He runs the point for the Wildcats, and is often the one taking and making big shots down the stretch. It's been a career year for the Juicer. However, with this newfound confidence, our friend has also managed to lose any semblance of a conscience when it comes to shot selection. In their season-ending heart breaker at Indiana, Thompson jacked up an eye-popping 16 shots from beyond the arc. Just two games prior, in a loss to Penn State, he hoisted another 11 threes. I'm not saying these shots are necessarily ill-advised (he's over 40% for his career), but generally you would like for your point guard to be doing a little more distributing and a little less launching. But hey, when your name is "Juice," you can pretty much do whatever the hell you want. That's just a fact of life...


3. Jeff Jordan (Illinois)

C'mon, just tell us the truth already, Jeff. You're not really Michael Jordan's son, are you? I mean, we've all seen you play, and it just doesn't seem possible.

Your dad was the greatest of all time.
You have made one basket in your last seven games.

Your dad won six NBA championships, and was named MVP in every single one.
You are a 55.8% free throw shooter for your career.

Your dad was an NCAA tournament legend, knocking down the game-winner for North Carolina to take the 1982 title.
You consider it a minor miracle if you are simply able to play more than 10 minutes in a game without committing a costly turnover or embarrassing your family.
(Most likely, both of these things will happen.)


4. Blake Hoffarber (Minnesota)

Midway through the conference season, the sharpshooter Hoffarber was absolutely killing it and providing the Gophers with a reliable long-range threat on a nightly basis. He poured in a season-high 27 in a home thrashing over Ohio State. But in the latter part of the season, the lefty Hoffarber has been a complete non-factor. He's gone five straight games without registering in double figures (he averages close to 11/game), and his playing time has been reduced in the process. For Tubby Smith's crew to have any shot of dancing come tourney time, they will need a good showing this weekend, and that means getting their funny-named sniper back in business.


5. Jeremiah Rivers (Indiana)

Another former NBA player's son (Doc Rivers) that basically manages to disappoint his father every time he steps foot on the floor. Jeremiah has been playing in college for approximately seven years (his first six were at G'town) and somehow, he is still just a junior. In his spare time, he likes to hang out with friends, take long walks on the beach, and turn the ball over as much as humanly possible. For a guy who isn't much of a playmaker to begin with, there is no excuse for him to turn the rock over as much as he does. In his time at Georgetown, he collected 65 assists while committing 64 turnovers. That's not the ratio you're lookin' for in a guard. This year, Jeremiah decided to step it up a notch. In the Hoosiers' first 8 games of the year, he notched at least 3 turnovers in every single one. In fact, Rivers appeared in all 30 games for IU this year, and defying the odds, was able to commit a turnover in all 30. What a (sick) streak!!

(Hey, at least the kid can shoot, right?? Ummm. Try this on for size. Rivers is sub-40% from the field, sub-60 from the stripe, and a sparkling zero-for-five from downtown. Yama-Hama, it's Fright Night in Bloomington!!)


6.
Trevon Hughes (Wisconsin)

The 6-footer from Queens has improved in each of his four seasons in Madison, and now looks to lead the smokin'-hot Badgers to their second tournament championship in the last three years. In Wiscy's trio of wins to finish off the season, they trounced Indiana by 32, Iowa by 27, and Illinois (in Champaign) by 15, due in no small part to the vast contributions of Trevon Hughes. When this guy and Jason Bohannon are both hitting shots, Bo Ryan's club becomes almost unbeatable. Even if you hate the Badgers (as many Spartan and Wolverine fans do), you have to respect any player that plays with as much passion as Hughes. In their finale against Illinois, despite being saddled with foul trouble all day long, the little guy scored 14 points and hauled down 11 rebounds in just 22 minutes of play. Eleven boards in 22 minutes...for a 6-foot guard?? I haven't seen a stat line like that since 1985 when feisty Scotty Howard was "wolfing out" for the Beacontown High Beavers. Moving on...


7. Talor Battle (Penn State)

Talk about a lack of a supporting cast. Battle spent the majority of the year torching opposing defenses while his teammates looked on and...well, yea, they pretty much just looked on. Even with some spirited efforts down the stretch, the Nittany Lions still won just 3 of 18 conference games. Battle is really the only guy worth mentioning on this squad, and it makes me miss the days when the Nittanys were semi-relevant in the hoops world with the Crispin brothers bombing away from 35 feet with regularity. I know those guys weren't twins, but they sure seemed like it. Chances are, if you can correctly identify which Crispin is which (Jon or Joe) just by looking at their faces, you are either
A) the boys' mother, or
B) someone that had a bit of a gambling problem from 1999-2001.


8. Chris Kramer (Purdue)

I can't stand this guy. Hate his incessant flopping (yeah, I said it). Hate his broken jump shot (28% from 3). Hate the way every single announcer feels the need to laud this guy's effort and toughness as if he is the first basketball player ever to exhibit any passion or energy during a game. My brother Sam loves the guy, and for the life of me, I can't figure out why. Kramer is like a mini college version of Anderson Varej√£o. That's fun to root for?? Why don't you just go ahead and cheer for the Yankees, the Celtics, and unbuttered popcorn while you're at it?

(Prediction: Purdue will not get to the final of this tournament. Assuming they get by Juice or Jeremiah in Round 2, I see the Boilers bowing out to Sparty quietly in the semis. Robbie Hummel just meant too much to this team. His loss cannot be underestimated.)


9. Jon Diebler (Ohio State)

Everyone remembers that Florida team from a few years ago that cruised to back-to-back championships under William Donovan. They had future NBA'ers like Joakim Noah, Al Horford, and Corey Brewer. But more often than not, it was little Lee Humphrey taking his position outside the arc and hitting big shot after big shot to keep his team advancing in the bracket. He wasn't a superstar and he never got a ton of headlines, but his role was critical, and they likely don't win either championship without him. Well, if Ohio State plans on reaching that same apex of the college basketball world, they will need a similar performance from their Lee Humphrey...Mr. Jon Diebler. The Buckeye guard runs hot and cold, though. In the final game of the season, he banged home 7 triples in 14 tries. But in the two contests prior, he had connected on just 3 of 17 from long range. This team has all the components. Evan Turner, the do-it-all superstar. William Buford and David Lighty, the supporting actors. And appropriately-named Dallas Lauderdale holding down the fort inside. But it might be the streaky Diebler that decides just how far this team can go.


10. Darius Morris (Michigan)

John Beilein has taken the reigns off Morris down the stretch, pushing the freshman point guard's minutes into the 30s and letting him dictate the tempo of the game. It hasn't exactly translated into W's in the standings, but this team is so lacking in athleticism from the backcourt that Beilein has had no other choice but to throw the kid into the fire. Morris still has many obvious holes in his game (7 for 37 from downtown...yikes), but with the yearlong struggles of guys like Stu Douglass and Laval Lucas-Perry, it only makes sense to let Morris run the team, make the occasional highlight play in the open court, and go on generally looking like the black version of former Tigers hurler Don Mossi. (Look him up if you have to...these guys were definitely born with the same set of alien-ears.)


11. Devan Bawinkel (Iowa)

A hero to gunners everywhere that fear the paint and adore the long line.

83 Shots Attempted this Season.
Every single one taken from beyond the arc.

One more two-less game and history will be made.

I can't wait...


Drop a comment on Summers, Juice, or Bawinkel...or reach me by E-mail at highsockslegend@gmail.com

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