By Jon Rothstein
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THREE THINGS I LEARNED LAST WEEK
1. SHABAZZ NAPIER’S STAR WILL ONLY CONTINUE TO GROW
I said after I saw UConn practice in October that Napier was the best guard in college basketball. And after the first few weeks of the season, it’s hard to waver from that proclamation. The talented senior gets better each time he takes the floor and doesn’t have to score for the Huskies to win. As the season progresses, more and more of America will make a point to watch Napier, who is quickly becoming must see TV. Though six games, Napier is averaging 16.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 6.0 assists, and 1.5 steals per contest. He’s also shooting 62.5% from three-point range and 50.8% from the field.
2. FLORIDA STATE WILL BE HEARD FROM IN THE ACC
The Seminoles have a non story nationally after they lost out on Andrew Wiggins but Leonard Hamilton’s team made some noise in Puerto Rico over the weekend. Florida State pounded VCU and lost a tough game to a very good Michigan team in over time. In all the preseason buzz associated with the ACC, no one has talked about the Seminoles. That’s not the case anymore. Florida State has veteran guards and a quality big man in Okaro White. This team will be in the mix for an NCAA bid.
3. INDIANA WILL BE A NUISANCE TO PLAY A MONTH FROM NOW
The Hoosiers played UConn down to the wire in the 2K Sports Classic finals on Friday night at Madison Square Garden and didn’t get any production from talented freshman Noah Vonleh who battled foul trouble throughout the entire game. Yogi Ferrell has become an elite point guard and Will Sheehey looks more than capable of being a double-figure scorer on a regular basis. The key for the Hoosiers could be getting regular production out of Jeremy Hollowell, a sophomore who’s yet to show he can be a consistent threat on both sides of the floor.
THREE THINGS I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS WEEK
1. OKLAHOMA STATE’S GAME AT SOUTH FLORIDA ON MONDAY
Is this a trap game for the Cowboys? Travis Ford’s squad was terrific last week in a rout of Memphis and will have another huge national stage when they take part in the Old Spice Classic over Thanksgiving weekend. But what about Monday night’s game with the Bulls? South Florida has quietly flown under the radar in the preseason and this is their chance to make a national statement. Stan Heath’s team will have a real opportunity to make some waves when they take on the Cowboys in Tampa.
2. MARQUETTE’S TRIP TO THE DESERT
Buzz Williams’ team continues to struggle offensively and now they’re going to try and slow down Jahii Carson when they visit Tempe tonight to play Arizona State. Good luck with that. Carson torched UNLV last week for 40 points and has the ability to explode each time he takes the floor. Marquette is still rock solid defensively and will need to keep the score as low as possible against the Sun Devils, who look like a legitimate sleeper in the Pac-12 under Herb Sendek.
3. THE PRESEASON NIT
Arizona against tough-minded Drexel and Duke versus Alabama on Thanksgiving eve at Madison Square Garden? Sounds delicious. The Wildcats have been mightily impressive early but Bruiser Flint’s Dragons are always a feisty underdog and won’t go down without a fight. The Blue Devils meanwhile, may have their limited rim protection tested against an Alabama team that’s playing multiple guards at a time and constantly attacking the rim. The winners and losers of this event will play on Friday at the World’s Most Famous Arena.
THIS AND THAT:
– Think Manhattan missed George Beamon last year? In four games, the 6-5 shooting guard is averaging 27.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game while shooting 48% from the field and 41.7% from three-point range. The Jaspers are 3-1 and host Fordham on Tuesday.
– Early season tournaments are avenues for certain teams to come forward and make a statement. One thing I learned after watching college hoops this past week? Conference-USA has two very solid teams in UAB and Charlotte.
– Central Michigan transfer Austin McBroom is having an impact for Saint Louis. The 5-9 guard is averaging 8.8 PPG and shooting 36.8% from three-point range. The undefeated Billikens play Wisconsin Tuesday night on CBS Sports Network as part of the Cancun Challenge. Tip off is set for 8:30 PM ET.
– We’ll know after the next few days if Stanford has the chops to be a contender in the Pac-12 and compete for a bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Cardinal play Houston tonight in the Legends Classic at the Barclays Center and then face the winner/loser of Pitt/Texas Tech tomorrow in Brooklyn.
– Iowa freshman Peter Jok has shown good promise early. The 6-6 Jok is averaging 9.4 PPG so far for the Hawkeyes while making 37.5% of his threes. Iowa will play Xavier in the first round of the Battle For Atlantis Tournament this week in the Bahamas.
– Iona was mightily impressive in its 89-73 win over George Mason on Saturday and things won’t get any easier in the near future for the Patriots. Paul Hewitt’s team is about to begin an arduous stretch starting tomorrow night at Princeton. After that, George Mason hosts Rhode Island and South Florida back-to-back, then plays Oklahoma on a neutral floor, followed by a date with Iowa State in the opening road of the Diamondhead Classic in Hawaii.
– Illinois is getting good mileage out of Illinois State transfer Jon Ekey. The 6-7 fifth-year senior is averaging 10.6 PPG and 7.2 RPG for John Groce’s team, who will play at UNLV on Tuesday night on CBS Sports Network. Ekey is also shooting 48% from three-point range.
– Is there a point guard in college basketball that takes care of the ball better than Pitt’s James Robinson? In the Panthers’ first four games, Robinson has handed out 18 assists and only committed four turnovers.
– Lonnie Jackson’s return from a hamstring injury has made Boston College a better team. The Eagles are 2-1 with Jackson in the lineup and have much better spacing and balance with the 6-4 junior on the floor. Jackson had 10 points and seven rebounds in Boston College’s 89-78 win over Washington on Friday at Madison Square Garden. If Steve Donahue’s team gets some momentum going in December, they could be a very tough out in the ACC. The Eagles are currently 2-4 overall.
– Remember the name Delon Wright. The JUCO transfer is affecting the game in all sorts of ways for Utah. The 6-5 Wright is averaging 13.6 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 5.0 assists for the Utes in the team’s first five games.
SET THE DVR:
MONDAY: OKLAHOMA STATE AT SOUTH FLORIDA, DAYTON VS. GONZAGA, MARQUETTE AT ARIZONA STATE, MINNESOTA VS. SYRACUSE
TUESDAY: WISCONSIN VS. SAINT LOUIS, ILLINOIS AT UNLV,
WEDNESDAY: DREXEL VS. ARIZONA, ALABAMA VS. DUKE,
THURSDAY: OKLAHOMA STATE VS. PURDUE, LSU VS. SAINT JOSEPH’S, ARIZONA STATE VS. CREIGHTON, IOWA VS. XAVIER
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