Jimmer Fredette has been filling it up lately and has all but taken over sporting headlines. Fredette, a senior guard at BYU out of Glen Falls, NY has been all over ESPN and the other never-ending list of sports networks and radio shows over the past week or so as fans and media alike are finally starting to pay attention to the nation’s leading scorer (27.4 ppg). Jimmer cemented his name into the homes of the common sports fan after last night’s
nationally televised (it’s an absolute joke that this game was not available for the entire country to see) game between Fredette’s one-loss BYU Cougars and the undefeated #4 San Diego State University Aztecs. All of this coverage on Fredette has brought many so-called “experts” to compare Jimmer to anyone and everyone from Stephen Curry and Scott Skiles to Mark Price and even “Pistol” Pete Maravich. But this extended coverage has also brought those same “experts” to question some of Fredette’s abilities on the court and bring up some of his presumed weaknesses that will eventually hinder his NBA draft stock. I’ve listed some of those weaknesses below, the biggest of which is Fredette’s presumed inability to defend his position, especially in the NBA. His strengths are also listed below.
Jimmer Fredette’s Strengths and Weaknesses
– Pure scorer – Defense
– Create his own shot – Size
– Ball handling – Court vision
– “in the gym” range – Finishing at the rim
– Quick release
– Free-throw shooting
– Strong frame
As you can see from the list above, Fredette possesses all of the critical offensive tools needed to succeed at the next level, such as his ability to create his own shot as well as his unlimited range. Anybody who has watched, read, or heard anything about Jimmer knows he can straight fill it up, so lets look at what his critics say is Fredette’s biggest hurdle at the NBA level, his inability to defend due to his lack of size (he’s listed at 6 ft 2 in).
First, let me say that since when has individual defensive success been a major requirement in the NBA (seriously, college players to a man play much better defense than guys in the NBA, just flip back and forth between a college basketball game and an NBA game, the defensive disparity is overwhelming). Obviously the best defensive TEAMS win championships, but seldom do those teams have individual lock-down defenders, for example the Lakers, Spurs, Celtics, etc (you can make the argument that Bruce Bowen and Ron Artest are “star defensive players,” if you want to say that holding Kobe Bryant to 28 points instead of 40 points is a job well done). So, in my opinion individual defensive standouts are a bit overrated.
Second, I refute the presumption that Fredette can not defend his position because although he lacks ideal size in terms of height (see the list of NBA players below), he does possess a strong, sturdy, muscular base or frame (6 ft 2 in, 195 lbs) which will allow him to hold his position while defending both taller and quicker players. Here are some other players of similar size and stature to Jimmer and how their supposed inability to defend has not hindered their NBA careers one bit.
Tony Parker (PG, Spurs, 6 ft 2 in, 180 lbs) – Defensive liability? Yes, but that hasn’t stopped him from leading the Spurs to 3 NBA Championships since becoming their starting PG.
Steve Nash (PG, Suns, 6 ft 3 in, 178 lbs) – Defensive liability? Yes, but that hasn’t prevented him from racking up 2 consecutive NBA MVP Awards.
Deron Williams (PG, Jazz, 6 ft 3 in, 207 lbs) – Defensive liability? No. Why? Not because he’s the fastest guy on the floor, but because he has a solid frame and he knows how to use his body to his advantage.
Raymond Felton (PG, Knicks, 6 ft 1 in, 198 lbs) – Defensive liability? No. Why? Much like Deron Williams, Felton possesses a strong frame. He can guard quicker players as well as bang with taller 2-guards without being pushed around.
All in all, I believe Fredette will have a solid career in the NBA. Do I think he’ll be a star? No. Do I think he’ll be a bust? No. I think Fredette will be a solid sixth man or third scoring option on either an up-tempo team such as the Knicks (and yes, as a Knicks fan I would love to see Jimmer playing 41 games at MSG, he would be a perfect fit in their system) or for a team with a legitimate low post threat like the Magic or Lakers. In the latter scenario, Fredette would provide the ability to create off the dribble as well as stretch the defense from the 3-point line. Nobody knows for sure what Fredette’s NBA future has in store for him, but one thing is certain. Jimmer Fredette will continue to be the story of the year in college hoops and his BYU Cougars will be a fun team to watch come tournament time.
March Madness is finally here and that means everybody and their mother are filling out tournament brackets. Unless you’re one of the rare guys who fills out just one bracket of integrity, the rest of us fill out all kinds of brackets: your favorite’s bracket to your heart bracket to your gut bracket and everything inbetween. The NCAA Tournament is second to none when it comes to sport’s playoff intensity, raw emotion, and level of play, and I cannot wait til the “Madness Begins.” Here’s my bracket predictions.
Midwest – #1 Kansas, #2 Ohio St., #3 Georgetown,#4 Maryland
West – #1 Syracuse, #2 Kansas St., #3 Pitt, #5 Butler
East – #1 Kentucky, #2 West Virginia, #3 New Mexico, #4 Wisconsin
South – #1 Duke, #2 Villanova, #3 Baylor, #5 Texas A&M
Midwest – #1 Kansas, #2 Ohio St.
West – #1 Syracuse, #2 Kansas St.
East – #1 Kentucky, #2 West Virginia
South – #1 Duke, #3 Baylor
Midwest – #1 Kansas
West – #2 Kansas St.
East – #1 Kentucky
South – #3 Baylor
#1 Kansas vs. #1 Kentucky
2010 NCAA Champion
Now that you’ve seen my finalized predictions, here are some teams that can mess up my bracket and many others.
Lower Seeded Sleepers
Midwest – #7 Oklahoma St., #10 Georgia Tech, #13 Houston
West – #12 UTEP, #13 Murray St.
East – #8 Texas, #12 Cornell
South – #7 Richmond, #8 California, #13 Siena
While Syracuse, Kansas, and Kentucky are battling atop the rankings, some other less talked about teams are quietly moving up and making their case for some national recognition. Teams like New Mexico, Temple, and Maryland are playing their best basketball at the right time and looking forward to making some noise in the NCAA Tournament.
#10 New Mexico (27-3) – The Mountain West leading Lobos cracked the top 10 in the latest poll, moving up two spots from #12. The Lobos have a great resume headlined by their rpi of 7 and schedule strength of 51, but their most impressive aspect of their resume is the Lobos 7-2 record against teams in the rpi top 50. New Mexico has to overcome the critics that say they play in a weak conference and played a weak out of conference schedule, but I am confident that come tournament time the Lobos of New Mexico will silence their critics.
#16 Temple (24-5) – The underappreciated Owls lead the surprise conference of the year, the A-10. Temple has been ranked since week 6 because of their more than credible body of work which consists of a rpi of 19, a strength of schedule of 69, and a 6-3 record against teams in the rpi top 50 including a win against Villanova. The Owls are led by their strong guard play with Brooks and Fernandez having a hand in a majority of the Owls points. The NCAA Tournament is all about the guards and I believe that Temple could stir some things up in March.
#23 Maryland (21-7) – The second place Terps in the ACC are finally back in the top 25 after a lengthy hietus. The Terps are back in the rankings after their double overtime win in Blacksburg in which ACC Player of the Year candidate Greivis Vasquez had 41 points to lead all scorers. The Terps are on a 5 game winning streak and have won 7 0f their last 8 overall, their only loss coming to Duke who they play Wednesday in College Park for the ACC crown. The Terps can definitely polish their resume with a win against 4th ranked Duke, but they have already pretty much locked up their NCAA Tournament bid. Maryland has a rpi of 25, a strength of schedule rank of 29, and 4 wins against the rpi top 50. As far as both the ACC and NCAA tournaments go, Maryland will go as far as Greivis Vasquez will take them.
This year’s field of 64 is on the verge of looking a lot different
from years past, primarily because many of the so-called lock teams
like UCONN and UNC have had a down year so far. Not only have some
power teams been on the decline this year, but power conferences like
the Pac-10 have also had their struggles. This has allowed conferences
like the A-10 which usually gets only 1 or 2 teams in the NCAA
Tournament the opportunity to get 3 or 4 teams in this year.
I can’t think of a more underrated, underappreciated, and overlooked conference than the A-10. Temple is the lone representative in the rankings for the A-10 conference, sitting at #21. But what the A-10 lacks in respect in the top 25 rankings, it gains in overall NCAA resume recognition. The A-10 currently ranks 6th in overall conference rpi and 7th in strength of schedule, ahead of conferences like C-USA, Mountain West, and the Pac-10. The A-10 also has 6 teams ranked in the top 45 in terms of rpi along with 6 teams ranked in the top 50 in terms of strength of schedule. To wrap up my case for the A-10 lets look at the projected NCAA tournament field as of today. According to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, the A-10 has 6 teams in the tournament. That’s tied for second most by a conference with the ACC and Big East and is more than the Big Ten, SEC, and Mountain West.
The Pac-10 as a whole has been absolutely non-existent this year. Granted the conference did lose 9 of their top players to last year’s NBA draft, but with highly touted teams like Arizona and UCLA and above average teams like Oregon, USC, Cal, and Washington the Pac-10 has almost always recovered from one season to the next. To put into perspective how down the Pac-10 is this year lets look at the rankings. At this time last year the Pac-10 had 3 teams ranked in the top 25, this year the Pac-10 has zero. The Pac-10 also had 6 teams in the NCAA tournament last year and this year according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi the Pac-10 currently has only the automatic bid that is awarded to the team that wins the conference tournament.
Now before I come off as just another UNC hater I would liked to point out that I understand that the Tar Heels lost 4 starters to the NBA draft and obviously that’s a lot of stat stuffing and experience to replace. With that being said, the Tar Heels always bring in 5-star recruits with NBA potential and continue to roll along, but not this year. UNC freshman like Dexter Strickland, the Wear twins, and John Henson have played average basketball at best and pale in comparison to star freshman across the country like John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Xavier Henry, Avery Bradley, Derrick Favors and others. The Tar Heels and coach Roy Williams are in a downward spiral they’ve never seen before. UNC stands at next to last in the ACC with a 2-7 record in league play and a 13-11 record overall. The Tar Heels have lost 8 of their last 10 games and are currently riding a 4 game losing streak. To make matters worse, star forward/center Ed Davis has a broken wrist and will miss at least a month. Sorry UNC fans, looks like you’ll have to wait ’til next year.
When the topic of player of the year in college basketball comes up everyone immediately thinks of names such as John Wall of Kentucky, Scottie Reynolds of Villanova, Luke Harangody of Notre Dame, Evan Turner of Ohio State, Sherron Collins of Kansas, and Damion James of Texas. But many other players have made a name for themselves this year and deserve to be mentioned in the player of the year conversation. Here’s my list of the best of the rest (in no particular order).
Wesley Johnson (Syracuse) – The Junior transfer from Iowa State has made a huge impact on the 20-1 Orange who are also 7-1 in the brutal Big East. Johnson is averaging 17 ppg along with 9 rpg and is shooting 45% from the 3-point line and 56% overall. The most impressive part of Johnson’s game is that he raises his play against Big East opponents, he averages 18 ppg and 11 rpg in those contests.
Devan Downey (South Carolina) – Downey is averaging 22 ppg on the year while shooting 42% from the field to go along with 3 spg. The stat that puts Downey into the upper tier of college players is the 31 ppg he averaging in SEC play. Downey has carried a mediocre South Carolina team to a 12-8 record overall and a 3-3 record in the SEC along with a win against #1 ranked Kentucky, which was the first win against a #1 ranked team in Gamecock history. If Downey wants to be in the player of the year conversation he will need the Gamecocks to continue to win big games.
James Anderson (Oklahoma State) – Anderson has led the Cowboys to a 15-4 start to the season and 3-2 Big 12 record. He is averaging 22 ppg and 6 rpg overall and 24 ppg in Big 12 play.
Jon Scheyer (Duke) – Scheyer was overshadowed by all the hype surrounding Kyle Singler in the beginning of the season, but now that Singler hasn’t lived up to the preseason player of the year hype, Scheyer has stepped up as the leader of the Blue Devils. Scheyer has been impressive scoring the ball as he is averaging 19 ppg and shooting 38% from the 3-point line overall, but Scheyer’s most impressive statistic is his 6 apg and his 4:1 assist to turnover ratio.
Jarvis Varnado (Mississippi State) – Varnado is a defensive force who is averaging 5.3 bpg which is second in the nation and 11 rpg. Varnado can also put the ball in the basket as he is shooting 59% from the field and averaging 14 ppg. Varnado also has 10 double-doubles and 1 triple-double on the year. The triple-double came in a win against Arkansas in which Varnado had 17 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 blocks.
DeMarcus Cousins (Kentucky) – The big-time low post player from Kentucky has had a brilliant freshman season so far. Cousins is averaging 16 ppg and 10 rpg overall while shooting 55% from the field and 18 ppg and 10 rpg in SEC play. Cousins has 11 double-doubles on the year and has had a double-double in 3 of Kentucky’s 5 SEC games.
Players on the Rise
Quincy Pondexter (Washington) – 20 ppg, 8 rpg, 45% from 3-point range, 7 double-doubles, 55% shooting overall
Luke Babbitt (Nevada) – 22 ppg, 10 rpg, 41% from 3-point range, 14 double-doubles, 53% shooting overall, hasn’t scored less than 14 points in a game so far this season