Tuesday, February 06, 2007

:35 Second Shot Clock

:35 Second Shot Clock will now be brought to you on Tuesdays (because no one wants to compete with Peter King's MMQB column, even in this off season...yea, that's why). Please adjust your schedules accordingly.

Since the NBA has mandated that the kiddies have to spend at least one year in college before hopping to the draft, I wondered whether schools would welcome those kids who have made it abundantly clear that they will spend just one season hitting the books. Obviously, the schools have, but is it really the best thing for the program?

Take Texas. Kevin Durant is hands down the college player of the year. He could break his leg right now and still win that award. He is dominating college hoops like no one I can remember. Carmelo comes to mind, but more for his brilliance in the tournament. Durant is just killing people. No one has any idea how to guard him. He does whatever he wants; his versatility is disgusting. The way he plays makes me jealous that this rule wasn't always in place so we could have seen what LeBron or Dwight Howard or Amare would have done with one year of eligibility. Texas is without question a better team this year with him than without him. They win games they would never win without him and they hang around games in which they should be getting blown out - like last night at Texas A&M.

But does this help Texas in the long run. Like, next year? Durant is gone after this season, make no mistake about this. Rick Barnes wishful thinking that he'll come back for round two of classes and co-eds is just that: wishful thinking. So will his team be better next year? Texas has a terrible habit of just standing around and watching Durant (which is actually hard to fault them for; he really is incredible to watch) with the exception of freshman PG DJ Augustine. Won't this set them back next season? They just sat around and watched. How are they getting any better?

Wouldn't it be better to only sign these types of players if you have a shot to win a national title this season? If you don't have a chance to win the national title - and let's be honest, Texas doesn't; they don't guard anybody - wouldn't the school be better served pouring its time and resources into somebody who won't be as dominant as Durant right away, but will stick around for three, maybe four years and help them contend for the ultimate prize? Greg Oden at Ohio State or Brandan Wright at UNC (who is likely one and done, too, as much as it breaks my little Carolina blue heart) are the leading reasons why their teams are considered front runners to win the national title. Doesn't that make more sense than just letting some phenom showcase his skills for the L with nothing to show in return for it next fall?

Of course, everyone else on the team is getting exposed to a post season type atmosphere on a daily basis, they are seeing how to win and be in close games and they are watching greatness up close. Plus Texas is getting all kinds of television exposure that they would never get otherwise (seriously, they are on ESPN every other night; not that I'm complaining, I'm just sayin') that will only help recruiting.

So who knows, pluses and minuses, I guess.

Oh, and for what its worth, this is how you guard Durant, I think: he draws your best defender, obviously. Hopefully, that defender is a rangy, long athletic dude (not everyone has one, but still). Whoever guards him has no help responsibility. They chase him off every screen and do everything in their power not to even let him catch it. When he does catch it, you crowd the hell out of him. No shots, especially no threes.

Make him put it on the floor. He's tough off the dribble, to be sure, but I think he has a habit of driving into crowds and turning it over or putting up tough shots in traffic. He makes his share, but I'll live with him shooting contested mid range pull ups of the dribble rather than letting him shoot the three. He loves - loves - taking one or two dribbles, faking a crossover with his left hand and then pulling up for three. Its virtually unguardable if you play him straight up. Crowd him and make him go to his mid-range game. It is the lesser of like nine evils.

When he goes into the post? Double team. Immediately. No questions asked. Not sending a double-team when Kevin Durant is posting up is dumber than kicking to Devin Hester. There isn't a big man who can stop him in the post outside of Greg Oden, and even that is a stretch. I would attack him defensively, too - make him work hard on defense. Tire him out. Hey, its something. And understand he's still gonna kill you. But if it takes him 30 shots instead of 20, I think that's the best you can do.

Speaking of that Texas-Texas A&M game, Acie Law IV handed in a stellar performance. (Isn't the IV a little presumptuous? Are you sailing on a yacht sipping chardonnay and wearing a goofy Popeye hat? If the IV is some tribute to a deceased father or something, then I'm an asshole and I apologize.) He got A&M out to a huge lead, sustained that lead when foul trouble wrecked them (Durant is starting to get the D Wade treatment...look out), got everyone involved (15 dimes!) and then iced the game late. He's really something else. That said, is he the best PG in the nation? What PG would you take right now and feel most confident that he could lead you to a national title?

Well, Taurean Green already did it last year, but he wasn't really the focal point of the team, even if he did play some ballsy hoops. Drew Kneitzal has been carrying Michigan St. all season and coming up big in the clutch, even if his team has fallen short. Chris Rock has done a good job playing consistently at Wisconsin. Sean Singletary is a hell of a scorer and nearly impossible to contain of the dribble, at least from what I've seen. If you want a scoring point guard, he's your man. Mike Conley is tough at Ohio St. but he needs to get the ball into Oden more. Oden disapears at times, as hard as that may seem, and it is Conley's job to make sure that doesn't happen. Sherron Collins can ball at Kansas and Levance Fields is a gamer at Pitt in the mold of Brandan Knight and Carl Krauser. AJ Graves at Butler is good, too (even if he does look like the kid from Hook).

To me, though, it comes down to three guys. Two freshman: DJ Augustine and Tywon Lawson. Augustine is a terrific penetrator and is a good finisher, especially on the left side with his right hand. Lawson is the fastest player in college hoops, period. He is surrounded by a plethora of talent, true, but it is young talent and he has done a job with them, plus he gets better every game. If I could have anyone, though, it would be Dominic James. He's the most athletic PG in college hoops, if you ask me, and no one is stopping him from getting to the rim. Plus, he's a little older and seems like a fiery leader that his team responds to.

Last on this list? Greg Paulus. Of course. You know what the most amazing thing to me about Paulus is? That Notre Dame recruited him to play quarterback. Quarterback! How bad is he under pressure? He's missed makable game winners in Duke's last two games and he absolutely crumples when an athletic guard applies any type of pressure - bad passes, dribbling around aimlessly, kicking it off his foot, not getting Duke into it's offense. Could you imagine him in a collapsing pocket? He'd look like Troy Smith in the National Title game crossed with Grossman in the rain, except all the time. Jake Plummer would shake his head at his decision making. How the hell did someone this bad at pressure get recruited to play the toughest and most pressure-packed position in all of sports? No wonder ND sucked for so long. It is actually incredible Duke is so competitive with him at point guard.

Staying in the ACC, I hate to say I told you so, but I told you VTech was overrated. After beating Tabacco Road, they have losses to Florida St., NC State and got shellacked by Boston College. Again: they have first round upset written all over them.

More ACC: Who ya got in UNC/Duke? I'm setting the line at 15.5 and I'll take UNC. Goofy shit always happens in these games, but then I remember that Paulus will be guarding Ty Lawson. This game will resemble the layup lines before the game.

The worst part will be who's calling the game. I know Vitale has been called Dookie V, but Mike Patrick is a hundred times worse. He can't get over himself. He adores Duke. He trips and stumbles all over himself to find superlatives to describe their greatness. Some announcers secretly cheer for teams, but Patrick has no such subtlety. He is like that pathetic kid in high school who so desperately wants to hang out with the cool kids and will say and do anything just to be around him. He should listen to the rebroadcast at 3 am later that night; I think he would be stunned to hear himself.

As of right now...

Final Four: UNC, Kansas, Ohio State, Florida.

All-Americans: Kevin Durant, Greg Oden, Alondo Tucker, Tyler Hansbrough, Joakim Noah.

POY: Kevin Durant.

Coach of the Year: Kelvin Sampson, Indiana.

Read the Rest After the Jump...