[c]Eric Maynor had his coming out party in the biggest upset of day one[/c]
A look at the prospects who helped themselves the most in the first day of games at the NCAA tournament. Sophomore Eric Maynor takes down Duke in the most exciting game of day one. Stephen Curry announced his presence to the national scene with 30 points in a loss to Maryland. Tyrese Rice showed great leadership skills in helping Boston College take down Texas Tech, and much more.
Eric Maynor, 6-2, Sophomore, Point Guard, VCU
22 points, 8 assists, 3 turnovers, 3 rebounds, 3 steals, 8-16 FG, 0-1 3P, 6-8 FT
The nation should have seen this one coming after last weekends CAA championship game. Despite losing four starters and earning just a 6 seed for the tournament, ultimate underdog George Mason appeared to be doing the unimaginable once again. The Patriots knocked off heavily favored Hofstra and whipped eventual at-large Old Dominion, and were up five with two minutes to play in the championship game against regular season champ Virginia Commonwealth. But the legend of Eric Maynor was just beginning, and Eric Maynor doesnt play for George Mason. Consecutive Maynor steals and acrobatic layup conversions knotted the game. An absurdly difficult runner in the lane put the Rams up by two, and a pair of Maynor free throws left VCU suddenly in command with 20 seconds to play.
So when Maynor drove the full length of the court and swished a pull-up jumper from 18 feet with just 1.8 seconds left on the clock to send Duke packing, the sophomore was only adding to his legacy. It may have been the shot of the tournament, but it was only one play in a game full of big plays, and only one big game in a season of big games.
Maynor absolutely dominated this one, hounding overmatched Blue Devil ball-handler Greg Paulus relentlessly and keying a full-court press that would cause 17 Duke turnovers and allow the Rams to come back from a double digit second half deficit. While Paulus did score 25 points on the night, he did most of his damage as a long range shooter he never found a way to efficiently break the VCU pressure, and finished the game with 6 turnovers.
Meanwhile, Maynor was a blur on the other end of the court. He pushed the tempo, blowing past slow-footed defenders on the perimeter and getting to the rim at will. He finished the game with 22 points on 8-16 shooting and 6-8 from the line, adding 8 assists and 3 steals against just 3 turnovers. In other words, a star is born.
As far as the NBA is concerned, there is a lot to like here. Maynor is listed at 62 and just 165 pounds, but plays much tougher than that. He takes contact well, and is able to contort his body and make shots at strange angles. He has excellent speed and body control, and appears to be an excellent floor general as well. How many point guards can boast a 3 to 1 assist to turnover ratio after their sophomore year? Maynor is a lockdown on-the-ball defender, with long arms and quick hands capable of giving almost any opposing ball-handler fits. He will have to continue to add weight and continue to gain confidence/consistency on his outside shot, but Maynor has two more years to polish up his game. As for now, were much more interested in what he can do on Saturday to top the heroics of his past two games.
Stephen Curry, 6-0, Freshman, Shooting Guard, Davidson
30 points, 4 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 assists, 4 turnovers, 9-21 FG, 5-15 3P, 7-7 FT
Curry, the nations leading scorer amongst freshman behind Kevin Durant, started the game on fire, scoring 18 points in the first half to keep his team right in the thick of things of a high-scoring, highly entertaining, fast paced game. He knocked down nearly everything he threw up in the first half, coming off screens, spotting up on the wing, pulling up off the dribble, and even getting fouled at one point on a 25-foot plus attempt. His range extends beyond the NBA 3-point line and his release is extremely quick. Its no surprise this kid led the entire country in made 3s, hes that good of a threat from behind the arc.
But it wasnt just a one-dimensional performance. Curry put the ball on the floor a little bit as well, utilizing his pump-fakes and the threat of his shot to open up driving lanes for him to fearlessly penetrate though. Hes not the quickest guy in the world, nor is he overly explosive finishing at the rim, or an amazing ball-handler, but hes smart, tough and crafty enough to know how to get where he wants to on the floor. He got to the free throw line a number of times just by putting this kind of pressure on the defense, something that really helped keep Maryland honest in the way they defended the 3-point line.
Defensively, Curry did a nice job getting in the passing lanes, showing a lot of hustle going in for steals and then doing a fantastic job once in transition to either finish plays himself or find the open man. He also crashed the glass despite his severe height and strength disadvantage, something that tells you a little about the heart this guy has.
After an amazing 19 point performance in the first half Curry had a much more difficult time getting his shot off in the 2nd half, as he was both defended a lot closer by Marylands guards (D.J. Strawberry especially) and seemed to get winded down the stretch. He went over 12 minutes without scoring until the 6:30 mark, but then seemed to get back into the flow momentarily for 5 quick points. In the end, though, it wasnt enough for Davidson to overcome the superior depth and athleticism of the Terrapins, and Maryland advanced to the next round despite Currys coming out party.
Curry doesnt look like an immediate NBA prospect due to his lack of size and the fact that hes essentially a 6-foot shooting guard, while he isnt a great athlete to make up for that. Regardless, though, there is a place in the league for guys who can shoot like that, so if he continues to make strides in his game and improves his playmaking ability over the next few years, it wouldnt shock us to see Dells son continue in his footsteps.
Tyrese Rice, 6-0, Sophomore, Point Guard, Boston College
26 points, 8/18 FG, 8/8 FT, 4 Rebounds, 4 Assists
In the second half, Rices scoring cooled down a little bit, but he made the effort to try and get his teammates involved. In the clutch, he was able to come up big from the free throw line, making all of his attempts from the charity stripe today. He doesnt exactly blow you away with true point guard skills, but his ability to draw the defense and pass the ball is very valuable at this point, especially for a team like BC, whose offense can get really stagnant. Shot selection will need to be an area of improvement for Rice in the future, as well as his three point stroke, but Rice has solidified himself as one of the most productive points guards in college basketball right now. His scoring helped Boston College jump out to the early lead over Texas Tech while Jared Dudley struggled, and he did a good enough job in the second half of controlling the game to get his team past the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
Earl Clark, 6-9, Freshman, SF/PF, Louisville
12 points, 4 rebounds, 4 steals, 4-7 FG, 3-4 FT, 1-2 3P
Dashaun Wood, 511, PG, Senior, Wright State
Vs Pittsburgh: 13 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds, 4 steals, 4 turnovers, 4-12 FG, 2-6 3PT
Wood doesnt bring as much quickness to the table as you would expect from a small point guard, but he makes up for it with plenty of craftiness. He can get into the lane pretty well when he wants to, but is at his best when coming off a high screen to get early separation. He didnt finish all too well in the lane in this game, though he used some creativity to adjust his lay-up attempts when defenders got in his way. Woods nicest play of the game was an isolation that began about 18 feet from the basket where he smoothly went from a crossover to spin move right into a floater from about seven feet away.
Wood was at his best when he was looking to create for others, showing good passing skills in every way imaginable within a half-court set. He was hitting cutters on the baseline and through the lane, hitting shooters off curls from long and mid range, feeding the post, driving and dishing, and just making smart passes to open teammates behind the three-point arc. While he did net seven assists on the game, he probably made about 10 passes leading to wide open missed shots as well, which is evidenced by his teams poor 33% shooting on the game. Wood showing excellent court vision in making many passes right through the seams of the defense, making many of those passes while on the move.
Wood also hit a couple of threes on the game, where he is a decent shooter at .375 on the season. His form is solid and his release quick, though he pushes forward a bit on his shot. Wood turned the ball over four times on the game, mostly due to not protecting the ball on the perimeter, as opposed to making bad passes.
On the defensive end, Wood netted four steals, but showed problems when guards attempted to drive on him in isolation situations, not making quick lateral movements and letting his man drive by him.
Wood is likely headed for Europe next season, where he should be a highly sought after commodity thanks to his combination of scoring and passing abilities. He looks like a strong candidate to play at the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament, but hed have to really impress to get into NBA discussions. It would be interesting to see how his passing game will flourish with better shooters on his team, which he will hopefully get the chance to at the PIT. Theres also always the chance that after a few years in Europe he could improve his game to the point where an NBA team would take a flyer on him as a third point guard in a role similar to Darrick Martins current role on the Raptors.
Ibrahim Jaaber, 6-2, Guard, Senior, Pennsylvania
16 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 6/16 FG, 4/5 FT
Jaaber come out of the gates on fire in the second half, and actually led Penn to a lead with around 10 minutes remaining in the game. He displayed the ability to get to the hoop and finish with a good first step and body control. Off the dribble, Jaaber adjusted well to shooting on the perimeter when being contested by physical defenders. He made two shots on pick and roll drives where he was challenged by the much taller defenders on Texas A&M. He wasnt able to led Penn to the unlikely upset, but did all he could to keep his team in the game.
Jaaber was expected to be more of a scorer than anything today, so he is therefore more of a combo guard at this point. He did show good passing ability in the game, including one in traffic while handling the ball in transition. Jabber will need to go into Portsmouth and prove he can be a full time distributor as well as a good scorer in the NBA, but his more likely destination at this point appears to be Europe, where his skill-set is better suited.