Sunday, November 21, 2010

Postgame Shootaround: Tournament Edition

As the in-season tournaments heat up, we'll share some insights from the 2K Sports Classic and Puerto Rico Tip-Off as we prepare for the next round highlighted by the Great Alaska Shootout and Maui Invitational.
  • The Big East already has a rookie of the year frontrunner.
The name at the top of that list is Pitt forward Talib Zanna. In our recap of the Panthers' season-opening win over Rhode Island, we mentioned how everyone held the redshirt freshman in high regard before even playing a game; and after an ankle injury sidelined him last year, Zanna is making up for lost time and cementing himself as the long-awaited replacement for DeJuan Blair in the process.
  • Texas may not be a crazy pick to win the Big 12.
That's because the Longhorns are more talented than they let on, with freshmen Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson maturing far beyond their years. The loss of Damion James and Dexter Pittman will only be felt stronger as the season progresses, but Rick Barnes clearly has a lot to look forward to based on his performance at Madison Square Garden, especially from swingman Jordan Hamilton.
  • Demetri McCamey made the right decision to stay in school.
That is unless you're a Big Ten school other than Illinois, as McCamey has raised the bar in his senior season. Under his floor leadership, Bruce Weber has his most talented team in Champaign since 2005, when Deron Williams and Dee Brown quarterbacked the Illini into the national championship game. Big Ten fans (and college basketball fans in general) will be eagerly anticipating Illinois squaring off against Michigan State to see McCamey match up against All-American Kalin Lucas.
  • Maryland is a work in progress.
Gary Williams knew losing Greivis Vasquez would be hard to overcome heading into the 2010-11 campaign, but the Terps showed flashes of veteran brilliance against both Pitt and Illinois. However, Jordan Williams can't do it all himself. The 6-10 sophomore is playing like a young Blake Griffin (he looks a little like him too) when he doesn't get into foul trouble, and the whole team is deadly with their willingness to take open mid-range shots.
  • Don't expect the world from Harrison Barnes.
Just because the freshman superstar didn't make a shot against Minnesota doesn't mean Chapel Hill needs to be up in arms, but of course the Carolina fans have a different perception of reality. Barnes will develop at his own pace, and already he has demonstrated the ability to make the players around him better, with sophomore John Henson the primary example, averaging a double-double every game.
  • Is West Virginia better than last year?
The answer to that question may very well be yes, as Bob Huggins has managed to retool the Mountaineers and turn them into a solid all-around unit despite losing his two leading scorers. One name to keep an eye on this season will be Casey Mitchell. Not one of Huggins' preferred options last season, Mitchell made the coach rethink his strategy with 31 points against Vanderbilt, including the game-winning 3-pointer in the final seconds.

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