After a COVID shortened week, what can we glean?
We are now two weeks into what will forever be known as the “COVID season” and things are starting to get wild. Notre Dame had a couple of games cancelled this week as both the Western Michigan and Tennessee games were unable to be played. Coach Mike Brey called an audible and played an impromptu game against Detroit-Mercy on Sunday evening after tweeting out that he needed an opponent.
North Carolina State also had a couple of games cancelled this week, losing an opportunity to get a nice win against a UConn team that would have been a nice early season test for the Wolfpack.
Duke was unable to play their pre-challenge tuneup against Elon on Sunday night. However, there were games that were played and here are my Week 2 observations.
Josh Pastner doing Josh Pastner Things
It’s always a roller coaster in Atlanta. As stated in last week’s podcast, Pastner will lose games he shouldn’t be losing and win games that he has no business winning. Sunday night, the Jackets hosted and laid out a 20th ranked Kentucky team in a game that wasn’t that close.
Last week, I wrote about how Pastner has lost to a team ranked outside the Kenpom top 100 every season since arriving in Atlanta. The opposite happens frequently as well. There have been six instances when Pastner has beaten a top 20 ranked team since becoming the Jackets head coach. Each time, his team was unranked. Three times, that opponent was ranked inside the top 10.
The Yellow Jackets returned to full contact practices this week and the results were immediate. Moses Wright continued his strong play, dominating a front court that is expected to put at least three players in the league.
In the second half, Georgia Tech went with what strongly resembled a Calipari-Memphis era type lineup with four guards and Wright. Kyle Sturdivant stood out in a big way during the second half, winning the hearts and minds of the Georgia Tech faithful in regards to a post Jose Alvarado era at the point guard position.
Was I too hard on Pastner last week or the Jackets in the Power Rankings on Friday? Nope. At some point you have to establish some semblance of consistency within the program. Nebraska is not a good team, let’s see what the Jackets do on the road in the ACC/B1G Challenge.
Cause for Concern in Charlottesville?
I said on last week’s episode of the Rockin 25 that Virginia will be fine. For the most part, I believe that. However, I am starting to grow concerned with my pick of the Wahoos as the ACC regular season champs.That game against Kent State on Friday evening left a lot to be desired.
Casey Morsell has become an afterthought on this roster as Reece Beekman has stood out in the first four games of the season. Jabri Abdur Rahim has not been the impactful freshman many (myself included) predicted.
On the flip side, Sam Hauser has been good as has Jay Huff. Kihei Clark needs to get it together, which I think will happen eventually as well. Their shooting has been really good so far this season too.
Something that was discussed offline with some knowledgeable people recently, is that noone on this team is Kyle Guy. There is no DeAndre Hunter, Malcolm Brodgon, Justin Anderson or Joe Harris on this team. Sam Hauser is obviously a good player but he can’t get to the rim like some of those guys. He doesn’t manipulate screens like Guy did. He’s a great shooter, that’s his game. My point is that this Virginia team is deep, talented and well coached. However, unlike seasons past and more like last season, they are still lacking that “dude” that they had in the national title run and those dominant years prior.
Has Nate Laszewski finally arrived?
I remember when Laz was a freshman in South Bend, I was excited. Players that are 6’10 and can shoot have always been players that I enjoy. Kevin Pittsnogle, Jason Collier, Troy Murphy were always fun to watch dominate the block and then float to the perimeter and drain triples.
While Laszewski doesn’t really have that back to the basket game, he went to South Bend with the reputation as an elite shooter. Through his first two seasons, we never saw it. After shooting 33.8% his freshman season he shot just 31% as a sophomore.
Through two games this season, Laszewski is shooting 4-5 from behind the arc but also 6-12 from inside. While it is only two games and an obviously small sample size, if Laz can make that jump for the Irish than Notre Dame may not be a bottom four team in the ACC as some (myself included) anticipated.
Coming into the season, Laszewski also had a career average of 4.2 rebounds per game. Through his first two games this season he has more than doubled that production to 10.0 rebounds per game. I am not saying he’s John Mooney, but he’s doing a damn good impression early on.
- Wednesday’s game against Wisconsin will be the first time that Louisville has left the friendly confines of home this season. This is an excellent litmus test for the Cardinals and could sneakily be the best game of the ACC/B1G Challenge.
- Quincy Guerrier is off to a great start this season, especially on the offensive glass. It will be interesting to see how Syracuse plays tomorrow night against a Rutgers team ranked 32nd in that nation. The Orange have not played anyone ranked higher than 258th in their first three games this season.
- North Carolina was +18 on the glass against Texas and still lost the game. Why? 1-11 from behind the arc for the Heels. The Tar Heels are averaging just four made triples per game through their first four. The last time North Carolina averaged fewer than five triples per game was 2014-15. That year, Roy Williams went to the sweet 16.