NBA Draft: Davis Delivers, Drummond Doesn’t
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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College basketball season officially got started this week with games scattered throughout Monday to Friday. On Saturday is when things really got started, with 131 games total and most of the top prospects in action.
While it was really tough to narrow things down to just a few games, it’s safe to say that most NBA scouts and talent evaluators had their eyes on the UConn vs. Columbia and Kentucky vs. Marist games as they featured the collegiate debuts of the Huskies’ Andre Drummond and the Wildcats’ Anthony Davis. The two of them are currently in a battle for the top spot in the next NBA Draft. Drummond had actually moved past Davis on a lot of boards, possibly due to the hype that came with him surprising everyone and entering college a year earlier than expected.
However, on Saturday night it was Davis who looked most deserving of the top overall pick. Davis gave the Red Foxes fits on both ends of the court, putting up 23 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and five blocks. He was 10-13 from the field while knocking down all three of his free throws. On full display was the length, athleticism and mobility that had the Kentucky faithful so excited about his arrival. He’s truly a scary prospect who is agile like a guard but truly dominating inside the paint. He really couldn’t have had a better opening game.
The opposite was the case for Drummond, as he wasn’t much more than a spectator for the Jeremy Lamb show. Lamb exploded for a career-high 30 points, including a ferocious baseline jam and 5-8 shooting from distance, while Drummond was held scoreless in 12 foul-plagued minutes. Drummond did block a shot, grab four boards and dish out a couple of assists, though. Late in the game he took a shot to the face that visibly shook him up. He’s currently playing with a face mask due to a broken nose, which he’ll have for at least six weeks and possibly the rest of the season.
Most importantly, both players’ teams came away with victories. Davis did look far more impressive, but it is just one game and anyone who has seen Drummond before, scouts included, know that he is prone to having nights like this where he just blends in rather than stands out. Consistency isn’t his strong suit yet, but it’s early and last night wasn’t really a night where they needed much from him. Although the Lions didn’t go down without a fight, the Huskies were never really in threat of losing that game. Drummond is also bound to be a bit tentative due to the broken nose and face mask that takes most players awhile to get used to.
It won’t be until the start of Big East play that Drummond really starts to go against the type of talent that is worth seriously evaluating him for. The Huskies pre-conference schedule is anything but strong, so those wanting to see Drummond up against NBA-caliber post men will have to wait until closer to the New Year.
Davis, on the other hand, will be going up against guys who could be viewed as equals or close to it as soon as Tuesday when they host Thomas Robinson and Kansas. Robinson delivered as expected in his season opener against Towson, posting up 18 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. He’ll undoubtedly be looking to take it right at Davis and Terrence Jones to prove to NBA teams he’s deserving of lottery consideration as well.
Speaking of Jones, he was fairly quiet on Saturday night. It’s impossible not to place a lot of the blame on the fact that he was involved in a car accident early that morning, something that has caused Wildcats head coach John Calipari to enforce a curfew for his players. Jones came off the bench, finishing with eight points, nine rebounds and two assists in 25 minutes of work. It’s not the start that he wanted to what is a very important sophomore year, but he’ll get better and will have plenty of opportunities to make up for a mediocre-by-his-standard performance on Saturday. Along with Kansas on Tuesday the Wildcats also have St. John’s, North Carolina and Louisville on tap before the start of SEC play.
It wouldn’t be fair to talk about the best big men in the country without mentioned Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger. As expected, Sullinger took it to Wright State, leading his team to a 73-42 victory with 19 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. He definitely look like he shed some weight as offseason reports suggested and he also looked like a much more confident shooter from outside, knocking down one of two from beyond the arc.
A bit forgotten about due to his woeful finish to the 2010-2011 season was Duke power forward Mason Plumlee. Over the weekend he did what he could to re-establish himself as a top prospect. In a nail biter against Belmont he did a bit of everything, scoring 13 points, grabbing 14 boards, handing out six assists and blocking a shot. He followed that up with 13 and eight in a much more comfortable win 96-55 victory against Presbyterian, which gave Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski his 902nd career coaching win, tied with Bobby Knight for most in Division I history. Highly-regarded freshman Austin Rivers, looked at as a potential lottery pick by many, notched double figures in both contests as well and showed the adept scoring ability that makes him a threat to explode for major points any given night.
Also warranting mention is the solid play of North Carolina’s highly-touted frontline. John Henson and Harrison Barnes looked improved and while Tyler Zeller got off to a slow start, he closed out with a nice game to help his Tar Heels get past Michigan State 67-55. James McAdoo also looked good in 17 minutes, but was hampered by foul trouble.
For those wondering where Baylor’s Perry Jones III was last night in his team’s 77-57 triumph of Texas Southern, he was serving the first game of a five-game suspension. He’ll be eligible to return on November 29th against Prairie View A&M. In his absence five-star recruit Quincy Miller scored a team-high 17 points, looking pretty good in his first game back after missing all of his senior year in high school with a torn ACL.
Florida got a big boost from some newcomers as well. Freshman Bradley Beal notched 14 points in his first game as a Gator, while Rutgers transfer Mike Rosario tied guard Kenny Boyton for a team-high 19 points in his first game. Sophomore big man Patric Yong was very solid inside, finishing with 12 points on 6-8 shooting along with 10 rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks.
Vanderbilt’s dynamic duo of Jeffery Taylor and John Jenkins didn’t do anything to hurt their stock. They made sure their Commodores didn’t miss a beat without injured center Festus Ezeli.
The biggest upset of the weekend had to be Loyola Marymount knocking off the 20th-ranked UCLA Bruins. The Bruins, despite having far more NBA talent, couldn’t cool the Lions down from deep. They shot 10-15 from distance en route to a 69-58 upset-victory that will define their season no matter how it goes from here.
All in all, it was a great opening week in college basketball, helping take some of the pain away from the continued absence of NBA basketball.
Five Games To Watch This Week: 11/15: Kentucky vs. Kansas (9 pm EST), Florida vs. Ohio State (8 pm EST), Belmont vs. Memphis (12 pm EST), Duke vs. Michigan State (7 pm EST), 11/17: St. John’s vs. Arizona (9 pm EST)
Senior NCAA and NBA analyst Yannis Koutroupis will be hosting his weekly chat at 11 am EST on Friday November 18th. Get your questions in here!