In the NBA championships are won and lost based on defense, clutch shooting, and - most importantly - play in the post. The big guys are the ones who make the difference. Tim Duncan's Spurs. Shaq's Lakers. Yes Kobe Bryant and Tony Parker played their parts but it's the Big Fellas that really make the difference.
In college however, that's different. The most important factor in March is the guard play. Ben Gordon taking the Huskies off Emeka's back, Tyus Edny streaking up the floor, or Gerry McNamara lighting up MSG one last time. Yes the big guys play their parts but there's a role reversal in the college game.
Derrick Rose is again a spotlight guy here - I know, it's annoying, but he's so damn good. He's a fresman and a rising leader on a top-5 team. He came back from a clunker of a game to score 19 points along with 12 assists in another big Tigers win. We all know he can score and make the flashy pass but it's the little stats that show me how good he really is. He's attempting nearly 7 free throws per game, which is a great number for a freshman guard. He's scoring 17.8ppg while only taking 11 shots per game, which shows me he's not getting in the way of his teammates. He may not be a stellar defender but he's only averaging 2 fouls per game while playing good enough defense (and offense) to stay on the floor. He and Mr. Douglas-Roberts will be huge for Memphis come March.
Eric Gordon has also shown up on this here blog previously. But again, another young lead guard who's showing a lot of poise and talent early and often. He's scored 20 points in each of his 6 games with 3 30-point efforts. He's shooting 55% from the field, 84% from the line, and a slightly inflated 51% from beyond the arc. Oh and he's averaging an Allen Iverson-esque 10.3 free throw attempts per game. That's amazing for a young player. Instead of settling for jumpers, he's being aggressive and going to the basket.
Patrick Mills is a freshman point guard for St. Mary's - the other team in the league that Gonzaga is in. He's an Aussie who was the youngest player to play for their national team. He's averaging a modest 15.8 points and 5 assists per game but has a very nice 2.5/1 assist-turnover ratio, is shooting 48% from the field, and averaging 3 steals per game. While he's been a little up and down thus far, he's shown that he can single handedly beat a team - see the 37 he dropped in the win against then #11 Oregon. This St. Mary's team could ride a few hot games by Patty and steal a couple of wins in the big Dance.
There are some teams that may not have a Derrick Rose or an O.J. Mayo to rely on but whose backcourts can still throw punches. Texas and Oregon have two and three deep backcourts that will indeed be trouble for most teams they face. D.J. Augustine and A.J. Abrams average a combined 40 points per game while shooting well over 50% from the field. Augustin is dropping 7.8 dimes a game while Abrams has made 25 of 45 threes through 5 games. The Oregon Ducks rely on the trio of Bryce Taylor, Tajuan Porter, and Malik Hairston to do most of the damage for their squad. They're scoring 50 point a game and doing it on both ends of the floor. They really make Maarty Leunen's job much easier on the inside.
UConn has a backcourt that has been a little Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde at times. Jerome Dyson and A.J. Price have both shown their ability to take it to the other team as well as taking their own team out of games. If they can get more consistant, look for them to be a terror come March.
Ahh the Huskies....Good segway.
Have you seen Hasheem Thabeet? He's a 19-year old,7-3, 255lb center. As a freshman he made everyone drool over the potential of this raw athletic specimen from Tanzania. He's had a slow start to the season which has led some to lable him as a let down. He's picked it up the last three games. He's averaging 15 points 11.7 rebounds and 3 blocks - with 12/12/9 in his last game. He alone will be the defensive line which will allow those UConn guards to cheat a little out on the wings. He also looks like Wallace from The Wire.