By Jon Rothstein
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THREE THINGS I LEARNED LAST WEEK
1. PERRY ELLIS WILL LEAD KANSAS IN SCORING
He’s not the first guy people mention when they talk about the Jayhawks but he doesn’t have to be. The freshman trio of Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden, and Joel Embiid may spend a lot of time in bold print, but Ellis will ultimately be Kansas’ anchor. A skilled low post player that can also step away from the basket, Ellis was huge for the Jayhawks in their win over Duke at the Champions Classic, tallying 24 points and nine rebounds.
2. THERE’S MORE THAN ONE DYNAMIC FRESHMAN ON ARIZONA
Everyone knows about Aaron Gordon, but Rondae Hollis-Jefferson deserves a seat at the table as well. The 6-7 lefty is an incredibly gifted athlete that is going to have an evolving role for the Wildcats as the season progresses. In Arizona’s win over San Diego State last Thursday, Sean Miller used Hollis-Jefferson on multiple people defensively, including Aztecs point guard Xavier Thames. The Philadelphia native has a chance to be a special player for however long he’s in the desert.
3. DEANDRE BEMBRY WILL BE THE BEST FRESHMAN IN THE ATLANTIC 10
And it may not be close. The 6-6 forward scored 20 points on Saturday night in Saint Joseph’s 83-79 loss vs. Creighton and played beyond his years each minute he was on the floor. Blessed with the versatility to play multiple positions, Bembry guarded different players defensively and even played some point forward for the Hawks, who look like they’ll be one of the better teams in the Atlantic 10. Phil Martelli has had plenty of talent throughout the past few years on Hawk Hill, but he’s never quite had a “blend” guy like Bembry.
THREE THINGS I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS WEEK
1. SMU’S TRIP TO ARKANSAS ON MONDAY
Larry Brown’s team was incredibly impressive last week in a 31-point drubbing of Rhode Island and it will be interesting to see how they perform on the road in a hostile environment. SMU point guard Nic Moore should be able to navigate through the Razorbacks’ relentless full-court pressure, but we still don’t know if the Mustangs will be able to respond once they’ve been punched in the mouth. This will be a good test for SMU, who is downright scary defensively.
2. ARIZONA STATE’S VOYAGE TO SIN CITY
The Sun Devils are averaging over 90.0 PPG to start the season and they’ll look to push the pace from the opening tip against UNLV. The Runnin Rebels were blown out last week at home against UC Santa Barbara, and will need to be at their best to have a chance against an Arizona State team that looks like a legitimate sleeper in the PAC-12. UNLV lost several key pieces from last year’s team that went to the NCAA Tournament, but still has enough talent left over to put together a solid season. Tip off is Tuesday at 10 PM ET on CBS Sports Network.
3. WATCHING VCU IN THE PUERTO RICO SHOOTOUT
The Rams are being portrayed as one of the top teams in the country and we’ll have a better idea if that’s accurate after they play a few games in Puerto Rico. VCU will open up the bracket on Thursday night against Florida State and if they win, they’ll like play Michigan Friday. The Wolverines knocked the Rams out of the NCAA Tournament last March and Shaka Smart’s crew would surely relish a rematch. The biggest thing that stands out from VCU early on? They’re a little nastier than they’ve been the past few years. With the additions of Jordan Burgess and Terrance Shannon, the Rams seem like they have more toughness and grit than they’ve shown recently. That’s a good sign for a team that hopes to be on the national radar all season long.
THIS AND THAT:
– Think Joseph Young getting cleared by the NCAA has made a difference for Oregon? Through two games, Young is averaging 30.0 PPG and 5.5 RPG. The most impressive thing so far about Young since he’s joined the Ducks? He’s had 28 free throw attempts in the team’s first two games. This team’s perimeter could be scary when Dominic Artis returns from suspension.
– I hope a lot of athletic directors got a long look at Columbia’s Kyle Smith when the Lions took Michigan State to the brink on Friday night in East Lansing. Smith was instrumental in Saint Mary’s success under Randy Bennett when he was an assistant, and also led Columbia to a double-digit win on the road last year against Villanova.
– Penn State just needs Allen Roberts to do exactly what he did against Penn on Saturday. The broad-shouldered Roberts made three three-point shots in the first half and finished with nine points, providing the type of spacing that Penn State desperately needs after Jermaine Marshall transferred to Arizona State. The better Roberts shoots the ball, the more the paint will be open for Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill to penetrate to the rim.
– Anthony Brown’s return has been beyond huge for Stanford. The 6-6 Brown, who missed last season with a hip injury is now the top perimeter defender for the Cardinal and also gives Johnny Dawkins another guy who get on the glass and rebound the ball. With Brown back in the lineup, Chasson Randle no longer has to worry about guarding the opponent’s top perimeter scorer on a regular basis.
– Big East fans need to remember the name Devin Brooks. The JUCO transfer gives Creighton an element of swagger they haven’t had and scored 16 points in the Bluejays’ 83-79 win over Saint Joseph’s on Saturday night. This could be a breakthrough player for Creighton in the Big East.
– It’s going to be real interesting to see how St. John’s coach Steve Lavin balances the minutes at center between Orlando Sanchez and Chris Obekpa. Sanchez is currently starting for the Red Storm in the pivot but Obekpa led the nation in blocked shots last season and brings a defensive presence not many teams have. In Friday night’s win over Wagner, Obekpa had eight rebounds and four blocked shots in just 16 minutes of action.
– Keep an eye on VCU freshman JeQuan Lewis. The 6-1 point guard has had several promising moments during the Rams’ first few games and brings a different burst to VCU’s back court. Look for Shaka Smart to regularly use Lewis and Briante Weber together in the Rams’ back court for defensive purposes.
– You have to give Sean Kilpatrick credit. Cincinnati’s fifth-year senior has made himself into a good enough ball handler where now Mick Cronin can regularly use him at point guard. The 6-4 Kilpatrick isn’t a true floor general by any means, but with two inexperienced point guards on the Bearcats’ roster in Ge’lawn Guyn and freshman Troy Caupain, Kilpatrick gives Cronin another option to initiate his offense.
– The preseason hype surrounding Holy Cross’ Dave Dudzinski was legit. Through three games, the 6-11 big man is averaging 20.7 PPG and 8.7 RPG for the Crusaders, who have already played Harvard and North Carolina extremely tough out of the gate.
– Looking forward to tonight’s NIT pod at Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights will take on Canisius in one game and Drexel will take on Elon in the other. The winners and losers will play tomorrow for the right to play at Madison Square Garden next week.
SET THE DVR:
MONDAY: SMU AT ARKANSAS
TUESDAY: MEMPHIS AT OKLAHOMA STATE, ARIZONA STATE AT UNLV, VANDERBILT AT BUTLER
WEDNESDAY: IOWA STATE AT BYU
THURSDAY: FLORIDA STATE VS. VCU, UCONN VS. BOSTON COLLEGE, INDIANA VS. WASHINGTON
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