Monday, March 9, 2009

Notes from the WCC tournament in Las Vegas

Just now getting a chance to go back through my notes from the WCC tournament this weekend in Las Vegas at the Orleans Arena in the Orleans Casino & Hotel. It's a great venue that seats about 7,800 fans (not including suites).

At Friday night's Loyola Marymount-San Diego game, LMU freshman Kevin Young (pictured here), a SF with great length, displayed good athleticism. He ran hard and has the ability to push the ball himself off rebounds. He also moved well without the ball against USD's zone, finding holes for uncontested dunks.

Young is skinny, but will get bigger and stronger over the summer. His weight/strength is one reason he had trouble defending post-ups and holding his defensive position. That will change as he works on his lower-body strength.

Young had a nice first half with 16 points , but was passive in the second half - 4 second half points . I thought he out-reacted USD's upfront players and finished strong in transition in the first 20 minutes of the game.

Another LMU freshman, guard Jarred DuBois had nine first-half points. He's a good offensive player, but must improve his pick n roll defense and his on ball defense.

As for the game, USD's players spent too much time complaining to the refs and lost some focus in the first half. The Toreros got off to a slow start offensively until the middle pick-and-roll with De'Jon Jackson handling and Roberto Mafra setting the pick. But once Jackson picked up two fouls late into the first half, USD lacked point guard play.

Rob Jones' development as an offensive player has slowed. But Jones showed his versatility as a defender on a few possessions in the second half when USD went to man-to-man. Jones went from defending the 4-post to defending LMU guard DuBois. I really think Jones would make a good tight end in Football.

LMU had no one to defend USD's Gyno Pomare in the low post. But Pomare doesn't seem to run hard in either transition defense or offense. It's important for him to get in better physical condition. At this point, he's not bringing much energy except when he has the ball in his hands. Because of his ability to score from the 4-post, Pomare will play beyond college, likely for low-level European league team.

Both teams played hard, but in the second half, USD played smarter basketball and out-executed the young LMU squad.

USD really missed injured point guard Brandon Johnson, who was injured in December and lost for the year. The Toreros also missed Trumaine Johnson, who was suspended and announced last month that he'd transfer from USD. Without Brandon or Trumaine, it was no surprise that USD had 20 turnovers (to LMU's nine) in the game. USD backup PG Matt Dorr had five TOs and no assists in 31 minutes.

Free-throw shooting hurt LMU, which connected on just 13-28 from the foul line (43 percent). USD won the game by six, 62-56.

In Friday's second game, Pepperdine beat USF, 93-85. Not much defense played in this game and neither team has any size inside. All guard play. Big-time uptempo with four guards on the floor for both teams for most of the game.

USF played much better down the stretch of the season after Coach Rex Walters suspended four players. Those who were left played to their roles.

Pepperdine has a couple of good young players in Mychel Thompson (whose father, Mychal, played for my Dad at U of Minnesota in the '70s and was a No. 1 NBA pick) and Keion Bell.

Thompson (6' 7") has good offensive skills. Wiry and skilled, he played multiple positions but needs to get stronger physically. He also needs to work on his defense. Thompson's brother, Klay, a freshman at at Washington State, is a better prospect at this point.

As for Bell, he's a terrific athlete and an excellent offensive rebounder for a guard. His shot release is slow.

The Waves pushed the ball on the sideline break and shot a ton of 3-balls in transition.

At the Saturday games, the teams that played the night before (Pepperdine and USD) looked tired, which shows the impact back-to-back games have on college kids. It's tough on professionals, but even tougher on young players.

USD coach Bill Grier came into the Toreros' game against Santa Clara with a 4-0 record in WCC tournament games. USD's full-court 1-2-2 trap after free throws was effective in the first half, and after made-baskets in the second half.

USD's Roberto Mafra has really improved over the course of the season, though he still must improve as a rebounder. On the subject of rebounding, USD's Pomare had no rebounds in his last game in college. Santa Clara's John Bryant totally dominated him with 27 rebounds.Bryant out rebounded entire USD team 27-20 .

USD's Rob Jones has struggled with his perimeter jump shot most of the year, but hit his shots in this game as Santa Clara backed off him. He's also had some trouble beating people off the dribble. But he really rebounds his position and boarded better than any of USD's upfront players, finishing with 10 rebounds and 20 points.

USD's middle pick-and-roll with Jackson and Mafra setting was the Toreros' most effective offense. SCU freshman Kevin Foster was impressive creating his own shot off the dribble. Of the first two nights, Foster was the best pro prospect, but was turnover prone vs traps and must improve as a point guard.

John Bryant (pictured here) had a big game against USD, but his lack of athleticsm and lack of speed will make it hard for him to make it in the pro game. He doesn't get off the ground at all on the boards, but has such great hands and is a good passer with excellent court vision. He completely dominated the glass. His numbers are unbelievable, but I don't see it continuing at the next level vs the same size players and better athletes. Bryant reminds me of former NBA player Todd MacCulloch.

Santa Clara's Calvin Johnson hit some big 3-pointers in the second half vs USD's trapping defense. The difference in this game was perimeter shooting.

SCU freshman Marc Trasolini had a great game and did a good job moving without the ball.

In the Pepperdine-Portland game, POR coach Eric Reveno did a good job subbing early to help save his guys' legs for Sunday's game. Pepperdine didn't score until six minutes into the game and had just two points in the first 10 minutes of the game. Again, the game the night before took a lot out of the Waves.