Tag Archives: NIT Season Tip-Off

NIT Season Tip-Off Preview: UConn Huskies

DukeThe UConn Huskies (4-0) are a tough matchup for Duke (5-0). Defending against talented backcourt mates Jerome Dyson (6’3” 180) and Kemba Walker (6’1” 172) will be a huge challenge for Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith. Both Dyson and Walker were named to the All Big East Preseason Team. The Huskies are also big across the frontline with Stanley Robinson (6’9” 220), Gavin Edwards (6’9” 230), and Alex Oriakhi (6’9” 240). UConn brings speed and strength onto the court.

Depth could be an issue for the Huskies as their top five players are clocking 170 minutes of action per game. Comparatively, Duke’s top five are on the court for 147 minutes. In their 76 – 67 second round win over Hofstra, the Huskies bench contributed only four points, while Duke’s bench scored 24 points in Duke’s 101 – 59 win over the University of Charlotte.

Dyson, a senior, is averaging 20 points, 3 rebounds, and 6 assists in 36.7 minutes per game so far this season. He missed the end of last season after tearing the meniscus ligament in his right knee on February 13th against Syracuse. Dyson had started all 24 games for UConn prior to the injury.

Robinson averaged 8 points and 5.6 rebounds in 23 minutes per game over his first three seasons at Connecticut. As a senior, he is playing 36.3 mpg and averaging 16.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. With the departure of A.J. Price, Jeff Adrien, and Hasheem Thabeet, Robinson will be expected to step into a leadership role for the Huskies.

Edwards, the third senior starter, is averaging 10 points and 4 rebounds in 29.7 minutes per game so far this season. He has made 19 of 23 field goal attempts this season and scored 15 points in the win over LSU.

Walker, a sophomore, is averaging 14.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 4 assists in 33.7 minutes per game. In the win over LSU, Walker dished out 5 assists in addition to scoring 20 points.

Oriakhi, starting as a freshman, is averaging 6.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 2 blocks in 33.3 minutes per game. UConn is known for physical inside players and this freshman is heir apparent to be Coach Jim Calhoun’s next intimidator. Against LSU, he had 9 rebounds and 2 blocks.

The keys to the game will be:

1. Foul trouble could be a problem for the Huskies who play all five starters 30 or more minutes per game, while Duke goes nine deep. Therefore, the Blue Devils should attack the basket and force the Huskies to respond. This game will be a test for Duke’s bigger line-up philosophy and their inside players must respond to the physical play of UConn’s frontline.

2. Who will guard Kyle Singler? Actually, UConn is a team that should be able to match-up with Singler. Stanley Robinson will be Coach Calhoun’s first option, but it would be a tall order to expect Robinson to keep up with Singler for 35 plus minutes so Coach Calhoun will probably look to freshman Jamal Coombs-McDaniel (6’7” 210) to assist Robinson in defending Singler. It will definitely be a trial by fire experience for the freshman wingman.

3. Guard play will eventually decide who wins this game. The team which gets the best performance from its perimeter players will be the tournament champions. With UConn’s ability to match-up with Singler, starters Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith are going to have to outperform Jerome Dyson and Kemba Walker in order for Duke to leave New York undefeated. Duke freshman Andre Dawkins must be strong when he is on the court. There is no room for error in this contest.

UConn advanced to the championship game via an 81 – 55 dismantling of the LSU Tigers. Duke defeated the Arizona State Sun Devils 64 – 53 in a game which was closer than expected. The Huskies were led by Dyson and Walker with 20 points each, and Robinson contributed a double – double of 14 points and 10 rebounds. For the Blue Devils, Jon Scheyer was the leading scorer with 16 points, while Smith and Singler chipped in 14 and 13 points respectively.

Duke and UConn have played some classic games over the years and this game should be another barn burner. Coaches Krzyzewski and Calhoun are familiar with each other so both teams will come into the game prepared and ready to execute an effective game plan. This game will be a good one so all the fans need to kick back and enjoy the show. After the long off season, it is time to enjoy the ride of another college basketball season.

NIT Season Tip-Off Preview: Arizona State Sun Devils

nitlogoDuke (4-0) will face the Arizona State Sun Devils (4-0), on Wednesday Nov. 25, in the semi-finals of the NIT Season Tip-Off, at Madison Square Garden. The Sun Devils return three starters off of last season’s 25 -10 team: senior point guard Derek Glasser, junior forward Rihards Kuksiks, and junior shooting guard Ty Abbott.

The big challenge for fourth year coach Herb Sendek will be replacing first team All American James Harden and first team All Pac-10 Jeff Pendergraph who are both now on NBA rosters. Harden and Pendergraph combined to average 34.6 points and 13.8 rebounds per game last year. That is a lot of productivity no longer available so Arizona State is a team which could struggle early this season.

Derek Glasser (6-1, 190) averaged 8.8 points with a 2.2:1 assists to turnover ratio as a junior. He does not possess blinding speed but he is a capable point guard who will execute Coach Sendek’s game plan. Significantly, in his 102 game career, he has had 19 turnover free games. Glasser was named to the 2009 Pac-10 All-Tournament team by averaging 13.7 points, shooting 45.5 percent on three-pointers, and dishing out 12 assists against four turnovers during three tournament games. Glasser has dished out 18 assists with 8 turnovers so far this season.

Rihards Kuksiks (6-6, 205) is the third best returning three-point shooter in the nation. As a sophomore, he made 44.3 percent of his shots from behind the arc. Kuksiks averaged 10.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per contest. He has started 47 games over the first two seasons of his career, including all 34 games last season. In Arizona State’s most recent outing, against San Francisco, Kuksiks scored 27 points and shot 7-13 from behind the 3-point arc.

Ty Abbott (6-3, 207) had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in the off-season and did not play in the Sun Devils opening game. However, he played in the first two games of the NIT Season Tip-Off averaging 9.5 points per game. The athletic wing started 65 of 69 games during his first two years as a Sun Devil. He averaged 7.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game last season. Abbott set an ASU freshmen record with 76 made three-point shots his first season. This season, in three games, Abbott is averaging 17.3 points per game and is 7-10 on 3-point attempts.

Additional experienced players include seniors Jerren Shipp (6-3, 220) and Eric Boateng (6-10, 245), and junior Jamelle McMillan (6-2, 180). In Arizona State’s 52 – 49 victory over TCU, in their NIT 2nd Round game, Boateng was a huge factor setting career highs with 21 points and 12 rebounds.

Coach Sendek also has six freshmen on his roster and he has demonstrated a willingness to give freshmen significant playing time in previous seasons so those freshmen are a wildcard for the Sun Devils. If one or two step up with meaningful contributions, especially one of the big men, Arizona State could develop into a solid contender.

The keys to the game will be:

1. The Blue Devils must defend the three-point arc as the Sun Devils will attempt to score in bunches from the bonusphere. Kuksiks and Abbott will be looking to take over as Arizona State’s primary scoring options, and both players like to launch shots from behind the three-point line.

2. On offense, the Blue Devils will need to execute their high-low offense so the big men can attack the basket aggressively. Duke has an advantage in experience and size and must force Arizona State to focus on post defense in order to take advantage of three-point shooters Scheyer, Singler, Smith, and Dawkins. Those four Blue Devils are shooting a combined 48.1 percent (39 – 81) from behind the 3-point line in Duke’s first four games.

3. Who guards Kyle Singler? This will be the ubiquitous question all season for Duke’s opponents. Singler is a sensational player who should be able to score from the outside and the inside from his natural small forward position. If the Sun Devils opt to play a lot of zone defense, look for the Blue Devils to attempt to shoot them out of it via a 3-point barrage.

Herb Sendek is experienced coaching against Duke from his days at the N.C. State helm so he will keep it interesting, but in the end, Duke has too much talent and experience for Arizona State to handle. Duke should advance to the Championship game without undue difficulty. Of course, in the sports world, nothing is guaranteed, which is why we play the game.