Assessing Zach Smith, Keenan Evans, and Vince Edwards in the Sweet 16

March 24, 2018

by Alan Lu

Yesterday, I took the time to watch Texas Tech play against Purdue in a Sweet 16 matchup.  Purdue put up a good fight, but in the end, Texas Tech proved to be too much for them, and with Isaac Haas and Matt Haarms out, the shorthanded Boilermakers were unable to stay in this game.  As a result, the Red Raiders ended up defeating Purdue by a double-digit margin.  Here are my thoughts on how various prospects fared on this day.

Texas Tech’s 6-8 senior forward, Zach Smith had a strong showing to help lead his team to a double-digit win over Purdue, as he made impactful, high-motor plays on both ends of the court.  Smith did a great job of scoring on hustle plays.  He really excelled at throwing down emphatic dunks, and he was often able to score on rolls to the basket as well as off of offensive boards.  Smith is a very athletic player that can finish plays above the rim, as he was able to score on a tip-in, and he also scored on a magnetic jam off of a roll, and he also managed to score on a turnaround jump hook after initially rolling to the rim to get the ball midway in the paint.  Plus, he also scored on an alley-oop layup off of a cut.  Smith did also attempt a three, but he was unable to connect from downtown that time.

He also would look to move the basketball to set up scoring chances for his teammates.  Smith did commit a couple of turnovers on offense, but he also played very well on this end of the court as would often get scores around the basket.  Plus, he also did a good job of collecting rebounds when he was on the floor.  Smith would provide second chance points for his team after grabbing offensive boards, as he scored on a put back as well as on a tip in, and he also was able to help his team get several defensive boards.

Also, he showed off adequate defensive skills.  Smith was able to get his hands on a pass, as he deflected it to a teammate to help his team get a steal.  In addition, he also leapt up to block a shot off of a drive.  He also would actively contest shots to force misses.  However, sometimes he would be late on his rotations, which would cause him to commit fouls and allow scores.  On one play, he ended up getting beat off the dribble to allow a score once.

In general, Zach Smith played very well, as he excelled as an inside scorer, and he also played with great energy to help his team on both ends of the floor.  While he has struggled with injuries and inconsistent playing time this year, he has saved his best basketball for the tournament, and he could end up being a solid addition to an NBA team’s summer league roster.

Texas Tech’s 6-3 senior point guard, Keenan Evans had a good game in his team’s win over Purdue.  He would often draw free throws on strong, aggressive drives to the hoop, and he also used an overhead ball fake to score on a drive on the break.  He did struggle to make jumpers, but he did make one three, and Evans did a great job of drawing and making free throws against Purdue.

He also displayed decent playmaking skills.  He can make a variety of passes, and he can find teammates on the move to notch assists.  He did commit a couple of turnovers, though.  One was where he had the ball ripped away when using a spin move off the dribble.  On another play, he threw a pass that ended up getting tipped and intercepted by the opposing team.

In summary, Keenan Evans did a good job of getting scores for his team, and he also showed some facilitation skills to help lead his team to defeat the Boilermakers.  He is a score-first point guard that can get into the lane often to get buckets and free throws, and Evans could be a potential second round pick in the upcoming draft.

Purdue’s 6-8 senior forward, Vince Edwards had a decent showing in his team’s loss to Texas Tech.  He started off playing really well in the first half, as he was making a variety of shots early on.  He then struggled with turnovers, but overall he was still able to collect a double-double in this contest.  Edwards showed a knack for scoring on quick put backs off of offensive boards.  He did miss on a cut and also have his shot blocked in transition, but Edwards showed a good motor in trying to get scores around the basket.

He also excelled at getting scores in the post.  Edwards used an overhead ball fake to score off the glass, and he also used a shoulder fake to score on a fadeaway, turnaround jumper another time.  Also, Edwards showed a decent ability to score on drive to the hoop.  He has a fairly good first step to the hoop, and he has the agility, body control, and shooting touch to get scores off the dribble.  He did miss a couple of times, but generally he would make shots when he would have his balance.  He did take two threes, but he missed them both in this game.

He also displayed average at best playmaking skills.  Edwards is a very unselfish player that would look to make the extra pass, and he threw some good passes in this game against Texas Tech, but he also committed a lot of turnovers on offense.  When posting up, Edwards used a shoulder fake prior to throwing a pass to a cutter to set up a score.  Edwards can find teammates on the move, and he can make all sorts of passes to his teammates. 

However, he generally struggled to protect the basketball when taking the ball to the rack, and he also traveled once.  He also occasionally threw inaccurate passes, and there was one instance was when he lost a basketball out of bounds as the ball slipped out of his hands when he tried to pass the ball.  Edwards did a great job of rebounding the basketball, as he would run in to get offensive boards, and he would leap up to get defensive rebounds due to possessing good motor, instincts, and athleticism to do so.

He also played solid defense.  Edwards did a very good job of contesting jumpers and shots off the dribble to force misses, and he also caught a tipped pass to help his team get a steal.   He did once give his man too much space to shoot the ball, which led his team to allow a mid-rage basket, but generally Edwards did a good job of making plays and getting stops on the defensive end.

In summary, Vince Edwards had a decent game, even though he struggled to make shots consistently and had some turnover trouble, he made a variety of shots on offense, and he also rebounded and defended well.  He is a smart, skilled player that can help a team on both ends of the court, and he could end up being a second round pick in the upcoming NBA draft.

Texas Tech’s 6-5 freshman swingman, Zhaire Smith started out slowly as he was a non-factor in the first half, but he played very well in the second half, as he ended up having a fairly good showing to help get his team a win over Purdue.  Smith rarely elected to take shots in the first half, but he was decidedly more aggressive in looking for his own shot in the second half, as he ended up doing a good job of knocking down jumpers to space the floor.  He made a corner three, and he also used a crossover to score on a pull-up, mid-range shot.  He struggled more to make mid-range jumpers though, but he was able to get scores both off the catch and dribble.

He also did a good job of scoring on hustle plays.  Smith scored on a tip in, and he also managed to score on a two-handed dunk after being left open underneath the hoop.  He did not drive to the hoop often, but when he did, it had mixed results.  Smith can draw fouls upon the opposition, as he was able to do so on a drive in transition after jumping a pass to get a steal, but he also had his shot blocked once on a half-court drive to the hoop.  He also looked to post up once, but he missed on a turnaround jumper.

He also showed off fairly good rebounding skills.  Zhaire Smith was able to grab multiple boards on both ends of the floor, and he scored once on a tip in off of an offensive rebound.  But there was one play where he committed a foul when going for an offensive board once.  Smith also displayed adequate defensive skills.  Smith was able to block a shot in transition, and he also jumped a pass to get a steal.  He also managed to contest a drive to force a miss.  However, sometimes he would be late on his rotations, which would allow opponents to get scores.  He also got beat on a ball fake move when defending in the post to allow a score another time.

In summary, Zhaire Smith started off slowly, but he ended up having a fairly good game, as he can make solid plays on both ends of the floor.  Overall, his draft stock has been rising rapidly, and he could end up being a good value pick for a team in the late first round range on draft day.

Purdue’s 6-0 junior combo guard, Carsen Edwards did a very good job of scoring the basketball, as he excelled at knocking down threes.  He would also use crafty ball handling moves to score on drives, as he has the balance and body control to score on tough shots around the basket.  He did not look to pass often though, and he struggled with his position defense, but generally his ability to make shots helped Purdue stay in this game.  Overall, Edwards is an agile scorer that could end up being a potential second round pick in the draft.

Texas Tech’s 6-6 senior swingman, Justin Gray had a terrific game as he excelled at making plays on both ends of the court to get his team a solid win over Purdue.  He showed a knack for knocking down mid-range jumpers, especially off the dribble, and he also had a penchant for scoring on tip-ins, as there was one time where he flew in to score on a tip slam.  Gray also ran the floor to score on a high-flying, two-handed, chip up dunk on the break.

Gray also did a very good job of rebounding the basketball, and he also played solid defense.  Gray managed to poke a ball away on a drive to get a steal, and he also leapt up to block a shot ferociously on a drive to a teammate.  Overall, Justin Gray had a tremendous showing in his team’s win over Purdue in the Sweet 16.  On the season, his statistics look fairly pedestrian, but Gray is one of the glue guys that Texas Tech has on their roster, as his strong play for them in this game was vital to help them get the victory.  Based on what I saw in this game, Gray could end up being a good addition to an NBA team’s summer league roster, especially if he can keep playing well in the NCAA tournament.

Texas Tech’s 6-5 senior guard, Niem Stevenson also played well to help his team get the win over Purdue.  He showed off a variety of scoring skills to help his team on offense.  He used an overhead ball fake to get a strong score in the post after backing down his man.  Stevenson also did a good job of scoring off the dribble, as he scored on a dunk off of a baseline drive, and he also drew free throws after using an overhead ball fake on a drive another time.  Plus, Stevenson was able to make a quick three off the catch.

He also showed decent playmaking skills.  Stevenson threw a lob pass to a roll man to set up a scoring chance for a teammate.  However, he also committed a traveling violation on a drive on a separate offensive possession.  He also showed off above average defensive skills.  Stevenson managed to draw a charge when defending a baseline drive once.  But on another play, he ended up getting beat off the dribble to allow a score.

In general, Stevenson is an athletic, skilled basketball player that has played well in his role for Texas Tech.  He may not put up gaudy numbers for his team, but he is a versatile offensive player, as he could perhaps end up on an NBA summer league roster this year or sometime down the road.

For Purdue’s 5-10 senior guard P.J. Thompson, it was a mixed bag.  He made pull-up threes to show his range and shooting skills, and he generally excelled at getting scores off the dribble.  He also showed an adequate ability to throw interior passes, and he can find teammates on the move to set up scores for them.  However, Thompson also was a bit turnover prone in this game, as this was generally due to carelessness.

Thompson did a good job of collecting offensive rebounds, as he would make good hustle plays to do so.  He also managed to rip a ball away from an opponent on a drive to get a steal.  Overall, Thompson did a good job of making shots when he would elect to hoist them up, and he would also make hustle plays to help get his team rebounds and some steals.  He did struggle with some turnovers, though.  Still, he had a decent game in his team’s loss to Texas Tech, and he could be a candidate to make a summer league roster either this year or sometime down the road.

Texas Tech’s 6-11 senior center, Tommy Hamilton did not play much, but he made some good plays in this game against Purdue.  Hamilton showed some range and shooting skills, as he was able to make an open three off the catch.  He also played unselfishly, as he would usually move the basketball to notch assists on offense.   Plus, he also managed to successfully contest an opponent’s shot off of a cut to force a miss.

Though Hamilton did not play often, he excelled as a ball mover on offense, and he showed that he can stretch the floor with his three-point shooting skills.  With his skill set, he could end up being a good candidate for the G-League or overseas, as he may possess an intriguing skill set despite not really having seen regular playing time this year.

Other Notes, Part I:

I also was able to see some of the Duke-Syracuse game.  Both teams played zone defenses, and so it was very hard to evaluate their skills as it relates to the NBA, as neither team played man-to-man.  It was a very competitive game, but Duke was able to hold off Syracuse to advance to the Elite 8.

Duke’s 6-11 freshman big man, Marvin Bagley III played very well, as he did a great job of finishing plays around the basket to get scores on offense.  He would often throw down thunderous dunks, and he also excelled at drawing free throws.  He excelled at scoring on high-post drives, and he was also active as a finisher around the basket.  Plus, he also would make passes out of the post to set up scores for his teammates.  Bagley did a great job of collecting offensive rebounds, though he did not get nearly as many defensive boards in this game.

Wendell Carter Jr. excelled at drawing free throws in this game, and he was able to throw down a nifty alley-oop dunk to help his team on offense.  He also excelled as a passer out of the post, and he also rebounded the ball very well.

Grayson Allen excelled at passing the basketball in this game, and he would throw good interior passes, as he can throw lob passes to set up dunks and scores for his teammates.  He struggled to make shots consistently, but he was able to make some jumpers on offense, and his ability to pass the ball helped Duke against Syracuse.

Tyus Battle played very well on offense, as he did a great job of shooting and scoring the basketball, and he also excelled as a ball mover to help his team.  Battle showed a knack for scoring on floaters off the dribble, and he also used a spin move to do so once while drawing an extra free throw on the play.  Plus, he did a very good job of making spot-up threes.  Also, he is an unselfish player that will look to find the open man, and he also threw a good interior pass off of a drive on the break to set up a score.

Other Notes, Part II:

I did not see the Kansas-Clemson game, but I was aware that Kansas had a big lead initially, and then the Clemson Tigers came storming back before the Kansas Jayhawks were able to hold them off to get an 80-76 victory in the Sweet 16.

For Kansas, Malik NewmanUdoka AzubuikeLagerald Vick, and Devonte’ Graham all played very well, as the four players combined for 60 of the team’s 80 points, as well as 31 of the team’s 38 rebounds, and 10 of the team’s 14 assists.

For Clemson, 6-3 senior guard Gabe DeVoe had the best game out of any player on their team, as he scored 31 points, made 3 threes, and had 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 steals in his team’s loss to Kansas.  Overall, Devoe had a really good NCAA tournament, as he scored at least 20 or more points in all three games that he played in, and he averaged 25.0 points per game in that time span.