The first July Live Period came to an end on Sunday. We have writers at each of the three major events during the week, with Scott Phillips covering adidas Unrivaled, Raphielle Johnson covering the LeBron Camp and Rob Dauster at Reebok Breakout and The Showdown. Here are our week one superlatives:
PLAYER OF THE WEEK:
Ben Simmons: “Simmons has the ability to take advantage of mismatches on the offensive end of the floor due to his versatile skill set. Defend him with a smaller, quicker player and he can go into the paint to score. Use a bigger, slower man and he can perform well out on the perimeter. And his defensive ability was solid as well throughout the week in Las Vegas.”- Rapheille Johnson
Brandon Ingram: “The five-star prospect from North Carolina scored the ball in a number of ways and played with more confidence and physicality than in the past. He went right at the top small forward in the country, Jaylen Brown, and showed no fear.” – Scott Phillips
Dwayne Bacon: “There aren’t many players in the Class of 2015 that can get buckets the way that Dwayne Bacon can get buckets. The 6-foot-6, five-star wing capped off his week with a 43-point performance over a team that includes Arizona-commit Justin Simon.” – RD
PLAYER THAT LEFT US WANTING MORE:
Diamond Stone: “To be fair, this is not entirely Stone’s fault. He got sick during the first half of his first game at the camp. But for a guy that is ranked as the No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2015 by some outlets, I was disappointed that he only dominated at Reebok Camp for roughly eight minutes.” – RD
Carlton Bragg: “When you see how talented Bragg is, you just want him to stop taking the terrible shots and silly plays that occasionally plague his game. When Bragg hits his first jumper it can be a good or bad thing because Bragg either gets hot or starts settling. He has some horrific misses for a top-15 player.” – SP
Stephen Zimmerman: “I’ll preface this by stating that it can be easy for big men who don’t get the ball as often as they’d like to get frustrated in camp setting, drifting out onto the perimeter as a result. But even with Zimmerman’s ability to step out onto the perimeter at times, it was almost as if he was negating one of his biggest advantages (his height) over other big men. Maybe he’ll bounce back playing with more familiar teammates when the Oakland Soldiers take part in the Peach Jam.” – RJ
Chase Jeter: “No disrespect to Jaylen Brown –another fantastic prospect — but Jeter continues to grow into a really good post prospect with a go-to move in his right hook. Jeter’s post defense and rebounding has started to improve throughout this year, as well.” – SP
Skal Labissiere: “Stone is probably the best prospect, per se, but I think Labissiere actually has a higher ceiling than Stone. The 6-foot-11 Haitian has huge hands, long arms, range to 19 feet and a soft touch on a righty jump hook. It’s a valuable skill to be able to dunk anything and everything around the rim. But I’ve yet to see him dominate comparable competition.” – RD
Ben Simmons: “Hard to pick anyone else for this spot, although there were other quality performers in Las Vegas. Ivan Rabb, Henry Ellenson, Jayson Tatum and 2017 guard Troy Brown all had their moments. But the pick here is Simmons.” – RJ
MOST UNDERRATED PROSPECT:
Horace Spencer: “I couldn’t love Horace Spencer’s game anymore than I do. He’s big, he’s athletic, he rebounds, he defends, he plays hard, he runs the floor, and he knocked down a couple jumpers this week. He’ll produce wherever he ends up.” – RD
Deng Adel: “When you consider Adel, now a Louisville commit, has been playing basketball in America for only a year, it becomes even more impressive to see the things he’s doing. He’s a high-motor, do-it-all wing with really good athleticism.” – SP
Aaron Falzon: “Listed as 6-foot-8, 214 at the camp, Falzon has the size of a player some programs would look to pigeonhole into the four spot. But his shooting ability from anywhere on the floor makes him a “mismatch” possibility at the college level. There was even talk at the camp of him being the best shooter in the class.” – RJ
SLEEPER OUTSIDE THE RIVALS TOP 150:
Grant Riller: “Loved what I saw from the 6-foot-2 guard from Orlando. He beat people off the dribble to the rim, hit a couple threes, split the defense on ball-screens and dunked all over one of the best athletes in the class of 2015, Chris Silva. Abilene Christian and Kennesaw State are his only offers right now.” – RD
Riley Welch: “A 2016 point guard from Colorado, Welch is the son of Brooklyn Nets assistant coach John Welch and was one of the adidas camp’s leaders in assists. With only interest from San Jose State and Denver, he’s being under-recruited and should have more teams calling soon.” – SP
Dominant first half pushes No. 4 Virginia Tech into second round
East Region No. 4 Virginia Tech earned the program’s first NCAA tournament victory in 12 years Friday night, as it rode a dominant first half to a 66-52 win over No. 13 Saint Louis.
Buzz Williams’ team limited the Billikens to 18 first half points, taking a 22-point lead into the half as a result. The Hokies weren’t at their best offensively in the second half, but the work done in the first half was more than enough as Saint Louis could get no closer than nine points.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker led the way for Virginia Tech with a game-high 20 points to go along with six rebounds and three steals, with Kerry Blackshear adding 15 points and Ahmed Hill ten. The Hokies shot just 41.7 percent from the field, but a 22-for-27 night from the foul line and a 12-point edge in points from the charity stripe made up for that.
Defensively the Hokies were outstanding in the first half, and would limit the Billikens to 37.3 percent shooting from the field and 4-for-23 from three. Travis Ford’s team, which erased halftime deficits in three of its four wins at last week’s Atlantic 10 tournament, outscored Virginia Tech 34-26 in the second half.
Javon Bess, who sparked the second half rally with some big shots, led three SLU players in double figures with 14 points, with D.J. Foreman adding 12 points and Tramaine Isabell Jr. 11.
Friday’s game also marked the return of Virginia Tech point guard Justin Robinson, who had not played since late January due to a foot injury. The senior finished the game with nine points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals, and while he didn’t shoot the ball particularly well (2-for-7 from the field) Robinson’s presence will only help the Hokies as they look to play deep into the tournament.
Chris Holtmann has been to five straight NCAA tournaments since he took over as the interim head coach at Butler during the 2014-15 season.
And after his No. 11-seed Ohio State Buckeyes outlasted No. 6-seed Iowa State, Holtmann can say that his streak remains intact: He has still never lost a game in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Kaleb Wesson scored 21 points and grabbed 11 boards, overpowering a smaller Iowa State team in the paint and carrying the Buckeyes back to the second round of the dance for the second straight season with a 62-59 win over the Cyclones. Wesson missed a front end of a one-and-one with 10 seconds left in the game, but Nick Weiler-Babb missed a wide-open three from about 23 feet that would have tied the game.
And with that, the Buckeyes will advance to take on No. 3-seed Houston for the right to play in the Sweet 16.
But the talking point coming out of this game isn’t going to be Ohio State vs. Houston, it’s going to about the future of the Iowa State head coaching position. Avery Johnson is negotiating a buyout with Alabama. Steve Prohm grew up in Georgia and is an Alabama alum. There is more than a little smoke surrounding his potential move to Tuscaloosa, and if that does happen, it opens the door for what was almost unthinkable a couple of months ago: A return to Ames for former Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg.
And that, in turn, has repercussions that will reverberate throughout the college coaching world. Because Hoiberg was fired by the Chicago Bulls earlier and has been heavily linked with a move to Nebraska to replace Tim Miles, who has not been fired or seen his season come to an end.
This will be fascinating to see get put into motion and where these coaches will land.
But what’s clear is that this process couldn’t start until Iowa State’s season came to an end.
East Region No. 9 UCF made history Friday night, picking up the program’s first-ever NCAA tournament victory as it beat No. 8 VCU by a 73-58 final score. The reward for the Knights is a shot at top overall seed Duke Sunday night, with head coach Johnny Dawkins facing his mentor for the second time in his coaching career.
UCF grabbed control of Friday’s matchup with a 19-0 run that began in the first half, with VCU going nearly eight minutes without scoring a point. Mike Rhoades’ team rallied in the second half but could get no closer than nine points before the Knights put the game away.
B.J. Taylor led three double-digit scorers with 15 points, and 7-foot-6 center Tacko Fall was the difference-maker in the front court. In addition to scoring 13 points the senior big man also accounted for 18 rebounds and five blocked shots. In addition to the blocks there were shots that Fall altered, and even a couple forced turnovers in which VCU paid the price for making rushed decisions around the basket.
Aubrey Dawkins added 14 points, with Terrell Allen and Frank Bertz scoring nine apiece. With UCF’s win the 9-seeds were 4-0 in first round matchups in this year’s tournament, and three of the wins (UCF, Washington and Oklahoma) were by 15 points or more.
Malik Crowfield led the way for the Atlantic 10 regular season champions with 11 points and De’Riante Jenkins added ten, but VCU shot just 31.1 percent from the field and 6-for-26 from three on the night. UCF used multiple defenses throughout the night, going to a zone when Fall was on the floor and man-to-man when the center was on the bench. The Knights will use a similar formula Sunday in hopes that it will slow down Duke’s talented freshman scorers.
2019 NCAA Tournament: Sunday second round tip times, announcers
The ACC sent three No. 1 seeds to the NCAA tournament, and all three of them decided that they didn’t need to show up for the first half.
Virginia trailed Gardner-Webb by as many at 14 points before going on to win by 15. Duke trailed North Dakota State deep into the first half before taking a 31-27 lead into the break, but they went on to win by 23 points.
North Carolina completed the trifecta, digging themselves a 38-31 hole and taking a five-point deficit into the break before they finally found their rhythm, running No. 16-seed Iona off the floor, 88-73.
Cam Johnson led the way with 21 points, seven boards and four assists for UNC while Nassir Little chipped in with 19 points on 9-for-13 shooting from the field. As a team, the Tar Heels grabbed 19 offensive boards.
That said, the final box score doesn’t tell the whole story.
North Carolina was bad in the first half. They couldn’t get out in transition. They gave up 10 Iona three-pointers. It was the furthest thing from a quintessential North Carolina performance, the kind of showing that will get the Tar Heels on a plane back to Chapel Hill if they play this way against Washington in the next round.
It should be easier to be ready to play when the Pac-12 champs are on the other end of the floor.