Sometimes, it seems like there isn’t much to be learned from exhibition games. DI teams struggle against, and sometimes even lose to, DII opponents, but there’s not much real intelligence to be gained from such outcomes. Plenty of teams have struggled in the exhibition season only to play well thereafter.
Sometimes, however, a pre-season game is a debut, a coming-out party. For Maryland, a game against the paradoxically-named Indiana University of Pennsylvania provided just such a dramatic reveal. Mark Turgeon’s team won 73-61, but the second-year Maryland head coach was less than pleased with the effort and focus his team showed throughout the game. That includes Nick Faust, who scored 13 points but gave the ball away four times.
So who drew Turgeon’s praise? A freshman. Not behemoth Shaq Cleare, who nabbed four boards but put in no points. Turgeon told the Washington Post who really caught his attention:
“I thought we played soft in the post, both offensively and defensively. We were too nice and too friendly, except for Charles Mitchell.”
Mitchell, a 6-foot-8 freshman from Atlanta, was monstrous in his public debut. He had eight points and 15 rebounds, including seven offensive. (Seth) Allen paced the Terrapins with a game-high 16 points, added five assists and wreaked havoc on the Division II River Hawks’ offense with five steals.
Mitchell was not a big-name recruit for the Terps — Scout.com gave him just three stars, questioning his size and athleticism — but he could turn into the right guy for the team nonetheless. The Terrapins were middle of the pack in ACC rebounding, with a particular deficit on the defensive end, last season. If the undersized, moderately athletic but not-nice Mitchell proves himself to be determined to do the dirty work his team needs, he might find a fair amount of playing time.
We shall see. The Terps will get a huge test in the upcoming week, facing the young, mega-talented defending champs from Kentucky in Brooklyn.
(photo: Maryland Athletics)
Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.
Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.
After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.
Video credit: Wyoming Athletics
Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.
Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.
Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.
Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.
Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.
But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.