Sunday, November 23, 2003

Basketball Preview

ND Men
Gone: Matt Carroll (now with Portland, more later), Dan Miller, Dan "AAARRRDDD OOOOOOVE" Lustig, and Jere "Kanka is really getting sick of the whole 'new coach's boys' crap" Macura.
Returning: Seniors Torrian Jones and Tom Timmermans; Juniors Jordan Cornette and Chris Thomas; Sophomores Rick Cornett, Torin Francis, and Chris Quinn.
New Faces: Walk on junior guard Greg Bosl, Arizona junior transfer Dennis Latimore (forward), and freshmen Russell Carter (G), Colin Falls (G), and Omari Isreal (F).

The loss of Carroll and Miller changes the way the Irish will approach scoring this year. I have faith in the two-headed point guard system, but it will probably mean more minutes for both Thomas and Quinn. Torrian Jones adds an Erika Haney-esque slasher dimension to the starting lineup, but I think he's a much better finisher than Haney. His athleticism will also help out on defense. Torin Francis will make his name known nationally in the post this year. Timmy! will not only be a fan favorite, but he'll earn his starting stripes this season. On offense, we'll have to establish Francis down low, and allow Thomas and Jones to penetrate. Then, when needed, we can kick it out to Quinn or Thomas for a deep ball.
On defense, I'm not worried at all (except for boxing out, which I've never seen from a Brey team). Thomas is NBA-ready, and Quinn has nothing to worry about. The best guard Quinn will have to face this year is probably the one he sees in practice every day. Torrian's athleticism and hustle will also work out well on defense. Down low, I don't think we have to much to worry about (besides boxing out of course). Francis, Timmermans, and Cornette (Jordan) can hold their own in the paint, and in Cornett (Rick), Isreal, and Latimore, we have more than enough wide bodies coming of the bench.
Some notes on the new guys, not that I know much about them. Latimore saw little playing time at UofA, but he looks to be a decent shooter from the field (if not from the charity stripe), and at 6'8 253, there's no reason he shouldn't be a force down low. Omari Isreal is a little thinner and coming off an ACL injury (right knee). says he might not play because of that injury, and I can't tell you if he has yet or not. Look for him to be a Jordan Cornette type when he comes back.
Russell Carter is an athletic guard who can flat out score - 30 ppg in high school. Colin Falls is expected to fill Matt Carroll's shoes, and I'm told he can shoot from range, ballhandle, and hold his own on D. Bosl is a great practice player with the court vision to be a great distributor. Maybe he's a case of "we need this guy's passing sense in Thomas's body," but that remains to be seen. Oh, he also went to St. Dominic HS.

ND Women
Gone: Alicia Ratay and Karen Swanson, giving Sax Section Leader Emeritus Nick Scarpino and Mothball little reason to attend this year.
Returning: Seniors Mo Hernandez (back from a 1 year absence), Jeneka Joyce (likewise), Le'Tania Severe, and former JuCo Anne Weese; Juniors Jackie Batteast, Terese Borton, and Katy Flecky; Sophomores Megan Duffy and Courtney LaVere.
New Faces: Forward Crystal Erwin and guards Breona Gray and Susie Powers.

Last year was tumultous for the Lady Irish, as many players left the team for personal reasons. Still, a late run landed a Sweet 16 trip. This team should do alright - they're a year older and wiser, and, as much as I hate to admit it, the Ratay loss isn't as huge as one might think, as she wasn't as effective as during the days when she was Ruth's kickout option. A year further into the triangle offense is also a major plus. Leadership will come from the seniors, and the return of Mo and Jeneka is huge, especially with Joyce's outside shooting ability and upbeat demeanor. The Women's team will also go with a two-headed point guard; Megan Duffy proved she can start, and she'll share the roll with Sever, who stepped it up as a scorer who can drive to the hole and draw a foul. Jackie Batteast's sheer talent and the deep PF/C position (even with Teresa Borton currently on the shelf) help round out this team.
Remember how I always said that Mandy Barksdale had great athletic ability and just had to learn the nuances of how to play basketball? Well, it looks like Crystal Erwin is that finished product. A 6'2 forward, she's athletic and looks to be rather polished as a basketball player. Breona Gray is an athletic guard who will see a lot of time as a defensive stopper, but supposedly also has a decent outside shot. Susie Powers has good size (5'11) for a guard, and is a great ballhandler with a solid scoring intuition.
Oh, and in case you're curious, my new favorite player is Megan Duffy. Why? She's small, but her hustle, determination, and desire, make her a great player.

Irish in the NBA
Matt Carroll: recently signed with Portland as an outside threat due to their injury bug. A major misfit when you consider that roster, but at least he finally gets to play with Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje.
Pat Garrity: The '98 grad is currently on Orlando's injured list.
Ryan Humphrey: Currently on Memphis's injured list. Ellen loves him.
Troy Murphy: A starter for Golden State (Golden isn't a state), he's currently on the injured list. I'm starting to notice a pattern here.
Monty Williams: The Whodat? award goes to this '94 grad, currently on the 76ers injured list.

NBA Preview
OK, this isn't going to be too good. I haven't followed the NBA too much recently. Up until a certain point last year, I just didn't care about the Cavs any more. It's not that I'm a bandwagon fan, but, if the players don't care, why should I? Let's look at a few select teams.
New Jersey: Should be just as good as last year. Zo isn't going to last very long, as always, but this is still one of the best teams in the East.
New York: I see some improvement in this team. Even with Dikembe's age, he's still better than what most teams have at "center." Plus, he's much more unintentionally funny. Add Sweetney and McDyess (I believe he was out all last year) down low, and they should be alright in the post. Plus, I've always belived VanHorn is a better player than everyone said he is, but that might just be from his NCAA Tourney days at Utah.
Pacers/Pistons: Along with the Nets, still the teams to beat in the East. Plus, the Pacers now have the Blue Nailed Samurai Scott Pollard in the front court.
Bulls: You've got to think that this whole "NCAA Tourney All-Stars" thing will pay off some day, especially with senior leadership from Scottie Pippen and Corie "Don't I Belong on Portland?" Bount.
Cavs: Yep, they're still the Cavs. This is not a bad team, they just need some hustle and unselfish play. Carlos Boozer is supplying the hustle, and LeBron is starting to spread the unselfish play. Plus, with a slightly deeper team, guys like Ricky Davis, Darius Miles, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas are starting to do things other than just shoot bricks. It'll take time, but this team could be decent.
Dallas: OK, repeat after me: Dirk couldn't guard a small forward in the post, he's not the answer at center to Duncan and Shaq.
Houston/Minnesota: Do they have the pieces for a playoff run? Houston might, but Minnesota might be one mid-season trade away (think center again).
San Antonio: Tim Duncan is great, but losing 6 players won't get you a repeat.
Kings: Hey, weren't they the team in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days? Dah.
Lakers: I still don't like 'em, for too many reasons to list.

In honor of Mark Price's mention in SI, I'm going outside to shoot free throws, just like I did 12 years ago. Weekend in review Tuesday night; Stanford preview Thursday.