By Vin Parise
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Just got back from five days in San Juan for the 5 Hour Energy Puerto Rico Tip-Off. It was a big time field loaded with talented teams– Alabama, Colorado, Iona, Maryland, Purdue, Temple, Western Michigan and Wichita State. Here’s what you need to know from San Juan…
Bama “D” - Last season Alabama led the nation in steals and Anthony Grant’s entire starting lineup ranked in the top 10 in steals per game in the SEC. And this season, the defense in the full and half court looks just as good. There can’t be a better defensive team in the SEC than Bama. Purdue scored nearly 180 points in the first two games of the tournament – they scored 56 vs Bama as the Crimson Tide won the tournament championship.
Big Year for The Gaels - Iona basketball under Tim Cluess right now is for real. The Gaels lost to Purdue on a last second shot, beat up on Western Michigan and blew out Maryland by 26 to leave San Juan 2-1. The Gaels have terrific guard play with MoMo Jones, Scott Machado and Kyle Smyth – and an inside presence with MAAC preseason player of the year Mike Glover.
Future Bright in Wichita - Gregg Marshall has had success every place he’s coached. He made Winthrop relevant in the college hoops world and is doing the same at Wichita State. His teams have terrific size, defend hard and share the ball. And the Shockers lost by 4 in their final game to a very good Temple team in overtime. Marshall told me that this year’s recruiting class is the best he’s ever been a part of in his coaching career.
Patience for Terps - Maryland basketball is a long, long way from the Gary Williams era. Mark Turgeon has a major rebuilding job ahead of him. There is some good young talent on the roster but not enough help to compete as Maryland has to often play walk-ons during the games. Sophomore Terrell Stoglin can be a scoring machine at times but it’s a major drop off after that. Not to take anything away from how well Iona played, but I can’t imagine this team playing North Carolina and Duke this season when ACC play arrives.
Robbie’s Return - Robbie Hummel is officially back and healthy as ever. From the moment Hummel scored 24 vs Iona in the opening game, including the game winning 3 pointer – it was evident he was feeling his oats from past seasons. He’s such a tough matchup because guys 6’8 are just not supposed to do what he does on the perimeter. Some Purdue coaches feel he’s better than ever right now because of how much stronger he got in the upper body during rehab.
Beam Me Up Scottie - Scott Machado is simply playing like one of the best point guards in the nation right now. His 41 assists in the three games is a Puerto Rico Tip-Off record. Also while in San Juan, Machado became the all time assist leader in Iona history, breaking a 26 year record. This MAAC preseason 1st team candidate is prime for a stellar senior season.
Owl Attack - Temple at times can be inconsistent offensively. I’ts clear they still have some kinks to work out when they have the basketball but look out when they don’t have the ball. If I’m in the A-10, I ‘m cringing when I see Temple on the schedule. Fran Dunphy’s defensive schemes are unreal. They get deflections, they take you out of your offensive comfort zones and they make it so hard to score points.
Home of the Pina Colada - I’m not a huge frozen drink guy, but if you’re ever in San Juan, Puerto Rico – you have to take the short cab ride into Old San Juan – the birthplace of the Pina Colada. The best you’ll ever taste.
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