With the conference season's just underway for most teams, this signals a midpoint of sorts in the college basketball season. And since we are a good two months in, The Can Ball Report figured it would weigh in on a few intersting things it's noticed so far. Find out what they are right here ...
Happy New Year people! It is 2011 now and there is a lot to look forward to in the coming months of the remaining basketball season. Now with the New Year a few days old, I thought I’d take a look at the first half of the NC-Double-Eh season and pick out a few things that really caught my eye, and maybe should also catch yours as well. And without further adieu, here they are ...
To put it mildly, St. Bonaventure’s Andrew Nicholson has been, to quote Kanye, a mutha****** monster. Now I had spoken to Coach Schmidt last season about Andrew and he compares him favorably to a guy he coached at Xavier named David West. When I first heard that I immediately thought, really? At the time, Nicholson was still barely 210 lbs and was slated to play the power forward or centre spot which he clearly was not physically ready for. As Coach Schmidt had remarked, Nicholson needed to get stronger so that he would not be pushed off the block so easily and so he can power through contact and get to the free throw line where he excels at. All that played out last year and he was still a 2nd Team All Atlantic 10 selection. Enter this season and Nicholson has become a different player. He’s dominating the ball for his team but only when he needs to, he’s seemed to grow a mean streak which is great and he looks physically stronger too. All that has translated to him looking like a possible NBA Draft pick. Nicholson has seven double-doubles so far this season, which is one off his total career mark going into this season, and he had a streak of five straight at one point. He’s currently averaging 22.4 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1 assists and 1.4 blocks in 37.3 minutes a game. He leads his conference in scoring and is ranked 10th nationally. He’s shooting 56% from the field and has scored 44 points in a game this season already. Now this is the cheat sheet on him right now. If you don’t already know about him I suggest you cram now and get with it.
In case you were living under a rock for the better part of the last 18 months, there was a lot of hype surrounding the incoming crop of Canadian freshmen this year. All you really needed to know was that Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson were the big names heading into this season along with some others that had been highly rated by some scouting services. But really with college freshmen you don’t really expect a whole lot because there are some factors that may work against them in their first seasons of Division 1 basketball. No matter how good or perceived good, they are they don’t always come in and make waves. That isn’t the case for a few Canuck newbies. The duo of Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph, they got all the publicity and have been just about everything as advertised they’d be but the surprises have come from an assortment of places. Melvin Ejim at Iowa State, Laurent Rivard of Harvard, Dwight Powell of Stanford, Christian Kabongo at New Mexico State and Yann Charles at Robert Morris are all freshmen and are all making very big contributions to their teams’ successes right now. Both Ejim and Rivard have, like Thompson, been bestowed conference rookie of the week honors more than once and have been major offensive forces. Kabongo and Charles have been starting the better part of the season and have been playing huge in other facets outside of scoring. Powell is coming off the bench and was until recently starting. I can’t remember a time when there were so many true freshmen making meaning impacts like these ones are and four of them are doing at the high major level.
Small College Ballers
With college basketball being what it is, people rarely hear about a school unless you’re in their immediate market or you’re an alumnus who follows the team. Being that we’re up in Canada, you can then make possibility of hearing news from these colleges somewhere in the vicinity of winning the lottery sometime. Luckily for you The Can Ball Report is here to put the flood light on some of these players and let me tell you there are a few of them. There are thirteen names that I have in mind right now and with the exception of two they are all starters (Imad Qahwash at Central Arkansas and Marc Trasolini at Santa Clara). They all play at least 20 minutes a game and collectively they are averaging 11.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists and a steal per contest (more or less). There are nine players who are shooting 45% or more from the field as well as nine shooting over 70% from the free throw line. Seven of the players are shooting over 40% from behind the three and one of them is shooting over 50% from the field and behind the arc (Nem Mitrovic from Portland). Among the players is a guy who leads Division 1 in total three pointers made so far this season (Alex Johnson at Cal-Bakersfield). Four players lead their teams in scoring (Kyle Johnson at Long Island, Tyler Murray at Wagner, Jared Mintz at Lafayette and Qahwash) while four are second on their team (Alex Johnson, Bryson Johnson at Bucknell, Diego Kapelan at McNeese State, Mitrovic and Trasolini). Yes sir, there are a lot of guys making some noise on the mid-major level for sure and believe me, this number has a very good possibility to increase by year’s end.
For a guy that had a starting position that was his to lose on a team that was poised to make a run in a conference that is one of the big five and then head on over to the NCAA Tournament in March you only can ask what happened? Devoe Joseph’s stellar play towards the end of last season including the Big Ten Conference tournament and two games into the Big Dance all but guaranteed that he was this year’s starter for Tubby Smith’s Minnesota Gophers. Well, it didn’t go according to how most of us thought. First Devoe was in the Tubby doghouse before the pre season even started and then he got suspended for what can only be construed as "off court issues". And that was the first month of the season. Once back from suspension, Joseph played well, though inconsistently, and did have an impact on the court in sporadic playing time. Now in recent developments, he has had his talk with Tubby again and it looks like he will no longer be with the team and will likely transfer out for the second semester. I’ve talked to Joseph this summer during a National Team training camp and he seemed down to earth and genuinely looking forward to heading back to Minneapolis. But like all things there are some behind the scenes things at work here that are not immediately visible and clearly it is too early to decipher what exactly has led to this decision to leave the team. All we can say is that we’re sorry that the situation is what it is and we wish Devoe all the best with what he decides to do next.