- Written by Andrew Millbrooke
- Published on December 20, 2013
- Hits: 797
Oregon coach Dana Altman proves to be sensational hire for Ducks
While most of the attention this NCAA season has been on the terrific freshman - Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Julius Randle, plus standout seniors Doug McDermott and Russ Smith - many other players are having outstanding seasons, but are flying under the radar. Three Pac-12 point guards are playing their way into All-American consideration with their early season stellar play. Oregon’s 5’8 senior playmaker Johnathan Loyd has been a catalyst to the No. 15 Ducks early season run. Loyd has taken advantage of more playing time after the 9-game suspension to fellow point guard Dominic Artis. Loyd is averaging 11.1 points and 7.4 assists (4th nationally), while shooting 55-percent from the field, 84-percent from the line and 48-percent from the 3-pt line. In the Ducks 115-105 overtime win over Mississippi on Dec. 8, Loyd had 23 points and 15 assists, making 14 of 16 foul shots.
Oregon’s hiring of Dana Altman away from Creighton is proving to be more of a coup than most people nationally realize. Altman has proved again that he is the master of bringing in capable transfers, as voyagers Joseph Young (Houston) and Mike Moser (UNLV) are leading the Ducks in scoring this season, averaging 19.3 and 14.9 points per game respectively. It might be time to listen to Greg Crawford, CSNW college basketball insider, who has been saying for a year that Oregon basketball is probably closer to winning a national title than the Duck football team.
Arizona 6’1 junior T.J. McConnell has been a defensive bulldog and steady offensive leader for the No. 1 ranked and undefeated Wildcats. McConnell sat out a year after transferring from Duquesne, where he played very good but was under the radar for two seasons. As a sophomore for the Dukes in 2011-12, McConnell averaged 11.4 points, 5.5 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 2.8 steals per game while shooting 50-percent on field goals and 83-percent on free throws. McConnell is not forced to score as much on a loaded Arizona roster, but he is averaging a career-high 6.7 assists this season, good for 9th nationally.
Arizona State 5’10 sophomore Jahii Carson has been sensational for the Sun Devils this season, averaging 20.3 points, 5.1 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game, while shooting over 50 percent from the field and 53-percent from the 3-point line. Carson scored a career-high 40 points and dished out 7 assists as the Sun Devils defeated UNLV 86-80 on Nov. 19. Carson made 16 of 25 field goals including 2 of 3 from beyond the arc in the win. Despite his small size, Carson is moving up draft boards and is looking like a certain lottery pick in the 2014 NBA draft.
No. 11 Wichita State (10-0) 6’8 senior Cleanthony Early made an impression with his name when he was born, but he earned some high praise with his play last season as the Shockers made it all the way to the Final Four. Early is averaging career highs of 14.3 points and 6.4 rebounds this season, although he has struggled on consistency with his outside shot. Look out for the Shockers to make another run this year and pay attention to Early’s game, he will be in an NBA uniform next year.
Team to Watch
Iowa State (8-0) has impressed early, getting a signature win against in-state rival Iowa on Dec. 13. The Cyclones have been moving up the rankings at a steady pace all season and currently are ranked No. 17 in the nation. Two seniors, 6’4 DeAndre Kane (15.4 ppg., 8 reb, 5.3 ass.) along with leading scorer 6’6 senior Melvin Ejim (18 ppg., 7.8 reb, 1.4 stl), are leading the way for the Cyclones. Kane is a game changing player at both ends of the court and Ejum gets tons of easy baskets in transition. While the two senior leaders do a lot of damage, the Cyclones are loaded top to bottom. Ten Cyclones average over 9 minutes played per game and five average double figures in points. Iowa State leads the nation in scoring with 91.7 points per game and their 19.9 assists per game ranks second nationally. Watch out for the Cyclones come tourney time. A deep bench and senior leadership bode well for a deep run in March.
Freshman to Watch
Joel Embiid, 7’0, 250, Center, Kansas – Embiid is an athletic project from Cameroon, but in his first college season he already has made a major impact. In more than 20 minutes per game, Embiid is averaging 8.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.2 blocks and 1 steal. Embiid shoots a solid 64-percent from the field, but has struggled from the free throw line (55%), with foul trouble (3.7 per game) and turnovers (1.7 per game). I was not surprised to see Embiid’s name moving up the NBA draft boards.