Looks like there are quite a few interesting games this week as teams get rolling into their out of conference schedules. Tuesday VCU played a really good Toledo team in a game that saw the Rams pull away late behind Briante Weber’s 18 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 9 steals, and 0 turnovers; UR played ODU tough inn their annual meeting but wound up a little short in a 57-63 defeat; and UMass already got a nice win against Manhattan as the Minutemen continue their BRUTAL non-conference schedule. If you didn’t get a chance to see the dunk that sent that game into overtime, you need to check it out. It was SICK! Wednesday St. Joe’s heads out to the Pacific Northwest to take on Gonzaga in a game that I wish they were playing with last year’s roster. That would seriously be one hell of a game! Thursday you have GMU facing WVU in a game that Mason fans wish they were playing with the 2006 roster and Dayton plays Texas A&M in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. I think Dayton could roll the Johnny Footballs in this one. Also, I’m not counting the Rhode Island vs. Nebraska game since that game is on Saturday.
All of those games are definitely worth watching (OK, most of them), but I see the game of the work week being the match-up between GW and UVA on Friday night at the JPJ in Charlottesville, VA. This game has the potential to be a really tight contest between two solid squads. Coach Tony Bennet has taken UVA from a team that was battling on a regular basis to stay out of the basement of the ACC to a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament last season. Coach Mike Lonergan has brought George Washington back to prominence after a lengthy absence from most of the nation’s radar. Both teams have distinct styles and play and have an innate ability to make life difficult for their opponents on the offensive end of the floor. UVA runs the “Bennet Family Pack Line Defense” and George Washington plays a really tough 1-3-1 match-up zone( that sometimes becomes a 2-1-2 depending upon their lineup.) Both styles of play are difficult to prepare for regardless of who you have on your roster. I really like how both of these coaches operate and seem to get the most out of their respective teams. Here are just a couple of things I’ll be looking for on Friday night:
1. Kevin Larsen vs. Darion Atkins & Mike Tobey
Larsen is a 6-10 and 250 pound Dane who can play as mean as he looks at times. Not to say he plays dirty or anything close to it because he doesn’t. He just looks like a guy who could seriously mess you, me, and half my block up if he wanted to go there. I pray that he never wants to go there. He is a double-double waiting to happen and is a much better passer than most people realize. GW has had some success in the past running some isolation stuff for him on the low block but he doesn’t need to have set plays run for him to have a profound impact upon the game. Atkins and Tobey are 6-8 and 6-11 respectively but play completely different games. Atkins, who was really developing into a nice player for UVA until injuries curtailed his growth, is a plus athlete and nice shot blocker and rebounder. Tobey is nowhere near as strong as Atkins but can score from 17 ft out with a really smooth jumper. This might wind up being a pretty even battle but it will be worth watching closely, especially if Larsen picks up a couple of early fouls.
2. Justin Anderson
This kid fascinates me. He is a freakish athlete and provides an incredible amount of energy/enthusiasm for his team. He kind of plays like a little kid who just wants to run and jump and compete for everything every second he is on the court. His on the ball defense is really impressive and his athleticism allows for him to guard any position on the court. I remember UVA playing him at center on defense his freshman year when they were in the NIT and was blown away with how effective he was at blocking shots and rebounding over guys who were taller, bigger, and most likely four years older. Friday he will be matched up quite a bit with one of my favorite players in the A-1o, Patricio Garino( or as I like to call him, the Manu Light.) The Argentinian can score the ball in a variety of ways and is really a point forward at times for the Colonials. He doesn’t have Anderson’s athleticism but who does? Garino does have a great feel for the game and he, much like Anderson, makes his teammates better with his unselfishness and team-first attitude.
3. Country Joe vs. Cali Cool
What in the hell am I talking about you ask? Fair question. I get that quite a bit. Joe McDonald isn’t called Country Joe but for some stupid reason I really want him to go with it as a nickname. London Perrantes is called Cali Cool and/or Cali SWAGG by his coach and some teammates and that nickname really does fit. I mean Joe McDonald does go to school in D.C. and if he ever does decide to get heavily involved in the Anti-War movement we all know what to call him, but I digress. Perrantes is a smooth player who never seems rattled or as if the moment is too big for him to handle. He was a freshman point guard on a team that was a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. That doesn’t happen a lot to teams outside of the Bluegrass State. McDonald isn’t nearly as smooth as Perrantes but he is very tough and completely fearless out on the court. He plays a more physical kind of game with dare I say an “old school” feel to it. I think both of these guys will be asked to make shots as each team will be looking to limit Savage and Brogdon as much as possible. There is a chance that both UVA and GW sag off McDonald and Perrantes as both defenses look to provide extra help on the two terrific guards. If this scenario does occur, the point guard who winds up making the most of his open looks might be the one who leads his team to a win. Perrantes is a significantly better shooter from behind the arc but Country Joe is a really clutch player and more than capable of making shots when given space.
I think this game has the potential to be a really good one. I didn’t mention much about Malcolm Brogdon or Kethan Savage because they don’t need me to. Their play speaks for itself. I also didn’t mention Yuta Watanabe and for that I should be punished. This gift from Tokyo is a glorious 6-8 forward, who is listed at 2o0 pounds but that is only if he wears 30 pound shoes, with a nice jumper but an even nicer name. Say it a couple of times to yourself and then take a stroll to the top of hill or better yet a mountain if you have access and scream it! YUTA WATANABE!!!!!!! It just feels good. It feels right. Alright, I’m done now. I hope this game is awesome.