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MATT DRAKE: America's Best backcourt and Duke's ace in the hole


Matt Drake

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December 17, 2011

Matt DrakeIt’s year two for Ed Conroy at Tulane and you can see the progress. Conroy doesn’t have any seniors in the rotation and there is a lot of talent among the freshmen and sophomores. Josh Davis, a 6-foot-8 transfer from NC State, has made an immediate impact averaging a double-double per game. The junior tandem of Kendall Timmons and Jordan Callahan combine for 23 points a night and the backcourt has been solidified with freshman Ricky Tarrant.

The 5-foot-11 Alabama native was a big get for Conroy. Recruited by Anthony Grant at Alabama, Tarrant would have given the Crimson Tide a nice option off the bench to spell Trevor Releford. Instead he’s starting at lead guard for the Green Wave.

Conroy’s team is still relatively young and inexperienced. In a recent win over Georgia Tech the Green Wave looked both formidable and average for stretches. In their lone loss at Wofford they played average at best. But the talent is there and now it’s just a matter of consistency. Tulane is likely a year away from being really good.

Big game Saturday for the Crimson Tide. Coach Grant’s team travels to Kansas City to take on Kansas State. It should be a good measuring stick for the Tide. 6-foot-8 senior JaMychal Green’s mid-range game makes him tough to guard and Releford is so good in transition. Alabama is long and athletic and they are so good defensively with ball pressure.

They lack depth at point guard, they aren’t a great jump shooting team and, as good as he is offensively, Tony Mitchell isn’t a great defender. But despite all that I still like this team in March.

Speaking of good defensive teams; Murray State’s great start begins on the defensive end. They really guard the ball. Offensively they very athletic and they are physically very tough. The Racers shoot it well from beyond the arc. They have a superstar in 6-foot junior Isaiah Canaan and really underrated player in Ivan Aska. The 6-foot-7 senior has been an impact player since he was a freshman.

Maybe some votes for Steve Prohm for mid-season coaching honors? What a job he has done transitioning from longtime assistant to head coach after Billy Kennedy left for Texas A&M.

He probably won’t get attention for any mid-season honors, but how about some love for St. Joseph’s head coach Phil Martelli. The Hawks came up with a nice win last week over previously unbeaten Creighton. The Hawks are 7-3 with the losses coming at Seton Hall, at Iona (in OT) and at American who will challenge for the top spot in the Patriot League. Martelli has done a nice job. He also deserves points for having to endure the wrath of Seth Greenberg who torched him verbally in the “Shots from the Heart” tournament.

Let’s be honest. Greenberg was fortunate to advance.

Maybe folks were a bit quick to ticket Indiana to the NIT. Tom Crean’s team is a complete team on both ends of the floor. Freshman Cody Zeller is legit. He’ll get the Hoosiers some wins on his own. About the only thing keeping this team from making a lot of noise is another Cody Zeller. Indiana just needs a little more offensive punch.

How good has Iona’s Scott Machado played! In the Gaels one-sided win at Richmond, the senior point guard had 15 assists and just 2 turnovers. On the road! Don’t let the final score fool you. Iona dominated Richmond.

Iona is the clear favorite to win the MAAC, but don’t overlook Fairfield and Loyola MD. Both teams are playing some good basketball and are capable of doing what St. Peter’s did in last year’s MAAC tournament.

UCSB’s Orlando Johnson had 24 points and 10 rebounds in the Gaucho’s 87-80 loss at Washington. The 6-foot-5 senior could improve his free throw shooting but the rest of his game is nice. He will be a first round pick in next year’s NBA Draft.

Utah Valley’s Isiah Williams wasn’t named to the preseason Lou Henson All-America team, but he probably should have been. The 6-foot senior can score. He dropped 35 on Oakland last month.

Matt Drake is a senior writer for EMAIL MATT

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