The Takeaway: What Did Teams Learn from the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic
Michigan State won as expected, though after an easy win against Virginia Tech, Oklahoma made a big 2nd half run to make the Championship Game exciting before the Spartans emerged the winner in a foul-laden game.
Here are some observations on the four Coaches vs. Cancer Classic teams:
Two win with his team scoring a combined 183 points and when it was all done Tom Izzo could focus on one thing. The way the game is being called now is bad for the game. After a win in the championship against Oklahoma where 48 combined fouls were called and 66 free throws were taken, Izzo made sure that all his players did was drive to the hoop and wait for the foul call. Keith Appling used his ability to get to the basket to score 27 points. The breakout player for the Spartans in Brooklyn was junior forward Branden Dawson who is becoming very comfortable handling business at the 4 spot. In the two games, Dawson had 30 points and 20 rebounds, and his ability to handle that role come Big 10 season will be big for the Spartans going forward. After going for 29 points and 10 rebounds in the semifinals against Virginia Tech, Adreian Payne was plagued by foul trouble against Oklahoma. With the depth behind him in the middle fairly thin right now, Payne needs to learn from this and avoid it in the future. Gary Harris continues to put up strong numbers, though when his jumper isn’t falling, he needs to be more proactive in attacking the basket.
Though the tournament ended with a loss in the championship game to Michigan State, Oklahoma may have come away with a go-to scorer. Cameron Clark showed a ton of confidence in the two games, scoring a combined 52 points to go with 16 rebounds. Clark is capable of using his body well to get to the basket and finish through contact, but if you give him space, he will knock down the jumper. The sophomore guard trio of Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins, and Je’lon Hornbeak are still showing the inconsistencies of their freshmen seasons, and Hield needs to work on becoming a more consistent perimeter shooter. Freshman point guard Jordan Woodard is one to watch develop over the next few years. He has a great knack for finding open players and can be a very good defender. With a lack of big men, Gonzaga transfer Ryan Spangler needs to be much tougher around the basket area on both ends of the floor.
The talent level seems to be on the rise for the Pirates, but it has been the seniors who have been showing well. Fuquan Edwin is already known as a high-level perimeter defender, but he has become much more confident knocking down perimeter shots and it is going to make NBA teams take notice. Center Gene Teague is undersized, but he uses his wide body well to create space and has become a very effective rebounder. Guard Brian Oliver and Sterling Gibbs are high-volume shooters, but they need to look to get to the basket more, especially when their shots aren’t falling. Freshman guard Jaren Sina overcame a rough game against Oklahoma to be a major contributor down the stretch for the Pirates with his deep shooting ability. The Pirates’ biggest concern, other than great size, is that there are too many guards who want to be scorers and not enough distributors. Looking for isolation plays won’t do well over the long term.
The loss of Erick Green to graduation was going to be a tough adjustment, but the Hokies have found some consistent scoring in a couple of places. Senior forward Jarrell Eddie averaged 21 points in the 2 games, though he went from 10 rebounds to 1 over the same 2 games. Sophomore guard Adam Smith and freshman guard Ben Emelogu are both capable of big scoring nights and they are very savvy players for their age. The Hokies need to get more production from junior forward CJ Barksdale around the basket. Freshman point guard Devin Wilson is doing a very good job getting his teammates good looks and should just get better as he gains experience.