Fantasy College Basketball Game of the Week: On Overtime and Anthony Bennett
After weeks and weeks of staying up late on Saturdays and regretting it, I finally had the opportunity to hit the hay early last night. I would like to report that I followed through on my plan and am a clearer and better rested person on this Sunday, but it didn't happen. I noticed that the Louisville-Notre Dame game was heading to overtime after Jerian Grant's heroics, so I got sucked in. I would also like to report that I started rooting for either the Irish or the Cardinals and stuck with that team. That didn't happen either. I wanted to go to sleep, so whichever team scored the first basket in each overtime period would become my favorite. I was relieved when Notre Dame finally won and went straight to a dreamless sleep.
The main thing I learned from the game is that Russ Smith likely can't be the top scorer on a championship caliber team. He is a very talented player, but he simply plays too out of control and makes a ton of bad decision. This was most apparent in the fourth overtime. The Cardinals had a two-point lead with 30 seconds remaining. Louisville was able to get out on the fast break. Rather than pulling the ball out and taking time off the clock, Smith attacked the basket and ending up missing a layup. Bad decisions aren't decisions that do not work out, which seems to be what most talking heads would say. Bad decisions are decisions that work out poorly for the team whether the player succeeds or fails. When Smith attacked the basket, even if he makes the layup, the Irish would still have had plenty of time to mount a comeback. A layup is a high percentage shot, but the Cardinals should have played to the clock and taken their chances at the free throw line even though they were just 30-of-48 (62.5 percent) for the game. Smith went 13-of-16 on freebies, but just 4-of-19 from the field. All in all, it was a great game and I am sort of glad that I stayed up to watch (only sort of because I could have used the extra hour of sleep).
I woke up early anyway to watch UNLV-New Mexico. I know I wrote about the Lobos a few weeks ago when they lost to San Diego State (their only loss in conference prior to Saturday). Rather than try to give a sense of the entire game, I decided to focus on Anthony Bennett, the star freshman forward for the Runnin' Rebels. While he has often been compared to Larry Johnson, the player that Bennett reminded me of most was Terrence Jones, the two-year Kentucky star who was drafted by the Rockets and is currently playing in the NBDL. While this might seem like a slam on Bennett, I think Jones can be a viable player if and when he plays on a team without three players who play the same position on his team. The Rockets have Chandler Parsons, Marcus Morris, and Pat Patterson. Jones proved he could be part of a winning team last year. Like Jones, Bennett clearly has a full toolbox. He can hit 3-pointers, finish with power (he had three monster dunks if you like that kind of thing), and is an active defender.
Despite his wealth of skills, I don't think Bennett projects as an NBA star. While he has a good motor, he was outmaneuvered/out-muscled for a number of rebounds. He was willing to set picks, but it was mostly so that he could get himself open for the pick-and-pop. The 6-8 forward did not follow through on his picks. This was just one game, but based on this game and his recent numbers against conference opponents, I think Bennett is a late lottery pick and would serve as a decent but not great starter in the NBA, based on his current skills.