Observations on Day 1 of the Sweet 16, Part 1

March 28, 2019

by Alan Lu

I took the time to watch Gonzaga play against Florida State in a hard-fought, Sweet 16 basketball game that took place on March 28th.  Gonzaga was able to get off to a double-digit lead early on, and while Florida State tried valiantly to stay in the contest, they were not quite able to keep up, as Gonzaga ended up running away with the victory.  As that game concluded, I also managed to watch the latter part of the Purdue-Tennessee game that went into overtime.  Here are my thoughts on how various prospects fared, as well as how they may rate as prospects for the NBA.

Gonzaga’s 6-8 junior forward, Brandon Clarke had a fairly good game in his team’s win over Florida State.  He rebounded and defended very well on the court, and while he struggled with his jump shot and with turnovers at times, he was able to score on numerous hustle plays to help his team on offense.  He played tremendous defense against Florida State.  He did a great job of protecting the paint on the defensive end, as he would often block and alter shots off of drives, and he also blocked a mid-range shot from behind to help get stops for his team.   Clarke is an agile, athletic player that possesses very good footwork, timing, and instincts, and he also was able to poke a ball away to get a steal.

Clarke also did a great job of rebounding the basketball.  He would often leap up to get boards on both ends of the floor, and he also managed to score on a tip-in to help provide second chance points for his team.  He also excelled at scoring on hustle plays.  Clark can score on rolls to the rim, as well as in transition, and he was able to throw down a high-flying tip dunk on the break.  He also did a good job of knocking down pull-up jumpers from inside the arc.  However, he struggled more to consistently score off of drives or in the post, and he ended up missing his lone three-point attempt.

Also, he displayed fairly average at best playmaking skills.  For the positives, Clarke showed the willingness to make the extra pass, as he would sometimes find the open man to notch assists in games.  However, he also had some trouble creating plays off the dribble, as he was called for a couple of traveling calls, and he also had another turnover when looking to take the ball to the rim.  Overall, Brandon Clarke had a solid showing in his team’s win over Florida State, and he is an athletic, rangy combo forward that could project to be an elite defensive specialist in the NBA.  He was able to get 15 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 blocks to help his team get the win, and Clarke is a talented player that could potentially go in the lottery on draft day.

Gonzaga’s 6-8 junior forward, Rui Hachimura also played well in this game, as he excelled scoring on hustle plays, as well as on mid-range jumpers on offense, and he also did a good job of passing the basketball.  He has a fairly good first step to the hoop, and he would run the floor to get scores in transition.  He also managed to score on an emphatic, alley-oop dunk off of a roll to the rim.  Also, he managed to use a pump fake to draw free throws after posting up once.  However, Hachimura struggled to consistently score on half-court drives, and he also missed his lone three-point attempt after using a jab step prior to taking the shot.

Also, Hachimura showed a knack for finding open teammates to set up scoring chances for them, and he is an unselfish player that can get them the basketball.  Though he didn’t grab many rebounds, he was able to get a board on each end of the floor.  Defensively, he looked to be about average.  He was able to deflect a pass out of bounds, as he will play passing lanes, but every once in a while, he would struggle with his position defense.  In summary, Rui Hachimura did a good job of attacking the basket to garner scores, and he is an athletic, energetic forward that can score the basketball.  However, he will likely need to improve his jump shot and position defense.  Right now, he may end up being selected by an NBA team in the mid to late first round range, as he could end up being a solid role player at the next level.

Florida State’s 6-10 sophomore center, Mfiondu Kabengele had a tremendous game in the previous round against Murray State, as he has drawn significant draft buzz lately due to his blend of having good athleticism, versatile scoring skills, and defensive ability.  Against Gonzaga though, his performance in this game was fairly mediocre overall.  While he had some solid plays in this game, he did not play nearly as well as he did in the previous contest, as he had trouble guarding Rui Hachimura, and he also ran into foul trouble against Gonzaga.

Kabengele didn’t shoot the ball well overall, but he was able to score on a put back, he made a long two-point shot, and he also made a fadeaway, turnaround jumper from the baseline.  However, he struggled more to knock down jumpers, and he was unable to score on any of his three-point attempts.  He also showed an adequate ability to rebound the basketball.  He was able to leap up to get plenty of boards on both ends of the floor.

Defensively, he looked to be fairly average.  For the positives, he did a good job of blocking shots, as he was able to swat on off of a drive out of bounds, as well as another time when defending in the post.  He also has the agility to apply pressure on ball handlers, and he also contested a three to force a miss.  However, he tended to struggle to defend opponents in space or off the dribble, and he also was foul prone when trying to get stops in the paint.  He also would sag off his man, which would allow him to allow opponents to score on mid-range jumpers.

In summary, Mfiondu Kabengele had some good moments in this game, but overall, he did not play nearly as well as he did against Murray State in his team’s loss to Gonzaga, but overall, Kabengele had a solid NCAA Tournament.  He’s a mobile big man that could project to be a solid rim protector at the next level, and he can score in a variety of ways.  He will need to show that he can guard quicker players and consistently generate offense against upper echelon opponents, but he is a talented player that could end up being selected in the second round of the upcoming draft.

Gonzaga’s sophomore guard, Zach Norvell Jr. had a fairly good game in his team’s win over Florida State.  He did a very good job of knocking down three-pointers to space the floor for his team on offense.  He excelled at making spot-up threes off the catch, and he also ran off of a screen to knock one down from well beyond the arc.  He also managed to draw free throws after getting the ball on a cut to the hoop.  However, he had trouble scoring off the dribble when looking to take the ball to the rim.  He also was quite turnover prone, as he had some trouble creating plays off the dribble, and he also threw a high pass that sailed out of bounds, but overall, Norvell shot the ball fairly well as he made a slew of threes down the stretch to help his team get the victory, and he is a sharpshooter that could end up being a good value pick for a team in the second round range of the upcoming draft.

Florida State’s 6-6 senior guard, Terance Mann had an uneven performance in his team’s loss to Gonzaga.  He did not shoot well from the field as he had trouble knocking down jumpers, but he fared well in the other facets of the game.  He did show an ability to score on drives in transition, and he was able to throw down an emphatic jam on the break.  He also passed the ball well, as he was able to throw an accurate lob to a roll man to set up an alley-oop dunk, and he also would kick balls out to shooters to help get them scoring chances.  Mann also rebounded and defended well against Gonzaga.  He would poke balls away and jump on loose balls to get steals, and he would actively contest shots, and he was able to make a chase down block to get a stop on the break.  On the downside, he can be too aggressive on the defensive end at times, as he would commit reach-in fouls when guarding opposing ball handlers.

Overall, Mann had some good moments against Gonzaga, but he did not play nearly as well as he did against Murray State.  He struggled to make jump shots, and he also had trouble creating his own shots consistently off the dribble.  He did show off good playmaking and defensive skills, though, but he will need to show that he can be a reliable scoring option at the next level.  Right now, Mann may be a borderline second round candidate for the upcoming draft, and if he can improve his jump shot, he could end up being a solid role player in the NBA.

Other Notes, Part I:

Gonzaga’s senior point guard, Josh Perkins played well, as he excelled at getting scores off the dribble, and he also threw solid interior passes.  He also played good defense, and he played a sound, all-around game to help his team get the victory.

Florida State’s 6-4 junior guard, Trent Forrest had a very good game in his team’s loss to Gonzaga.  He did a great job of scoring on strong drives to the basket, and he also played fairly good defense, as he was able to successfully draw a charge on a drive in transition to get a stop for his team.  Forrest is an athletic, physical combo guard that can score the basketball, and he could end up being a potential second round pick whenever he decides to enter the NBA draft.

Florida State’s 7-4 senior center, Christ Koumadje had an up and down game, as he was plagued with foul trouble for most of the way, which prevented him from logging heavy minutes against Gonzaga, but on offense, he really excelled as an inside scorer.  He would often roll to the rim to score on a plethora of dunks, and he also managed to score on a put back off of an offensive rebound. 

However, he also would get called for a three-second violation as well as an off-ball foul when trying to set up in the post.  Overall, Koumadje is a tall, athletic center that has a very good motor.  While he will need to expand his skill set offensively and play with more discipline on defense, he is an intriguing prospect that could end up competing for a roster spot in the NBA.

Gonzaga’s 6-10 junior big man, Killian Tillie was healthy enough to play in this game.  While he didn’t really stand out, he was able to make a spot-up three, and he also swatted a shot out of bounds.  Even though he didn’t really seem to do much on offense, he played fairly good defense, and his presence and shooting ability allowed Gonzaga to open up the floor offensively.  Right now, he may be a second round prospect for the upcoming draft.

Florida State’s senior guard, P.J. Savoy also had an uneven performance in his team’s loss to Gonzaga.  Just like the previous game against Murray State, Savoy played well early, as he made a couple of deep threes, and then he started missing three-point shots as he took them in bulk.  He also had some turnovers, as he had some trouble passing and handling the basketball.  Overall, he may not have had a great season on paper, but he is a skilled spot-up shooter that can make threes off the catch, even if he can only do so in limited volume.  Right now, he will likely need to be a more consistent shooter and improve in the other facets of his game, but Savoy may have the skills to carve out a career in the G-League or overseas.

Other Notes, Part II:

I was able to catch the tail end of the Purdue-Tennessee game, as I tuned it to watch it late in the second half, and also managed to see the overtime portion of this contest.  This was a thrilling, back and forth contest that went all the way down to the wire, but Purdue was able to make enough plays to edge out Tennessee to advance to the Elite Eight, as the Boilermakers will square off against Virginia on Saturday.

Carsen Edwards is an agile, skilled scorer that can get buckets in a number of ways.  He can run off screens to score on mid-range shots, as well as to get buckets off the dribble and off of cuts.  He also drew three free throws after attempting a long-range shot in the corner, as he was able to send the game into overtime.  Overall, Edwards has had a tremendous tournament, as he’s averaged 32.3 points in three NCAA Tournament games this year, and he is a gifted score first, combo guard that could potentially end up being a first round pick in the upcoming draft.

Purdue’s 6-6 senior guard, Ryan Cline played very well, as he did a tremendous job of knocking down shots to help his team on offense.  He made a slew of deep threes, he used a step back move to score on a pull-up three-point shot, and he also can run off of screens to knock down shots from beyond the arc.  On the downside, he had some trouble guarding quicker players on defense, and he ended up fouling out late in the game.  Overall though, Cline had a great game as he made 7 threes and scored 27 points in Purdue’s overtime win over Tennessee, and he is a smart, skilled player that could end up being a shooting specialist in the NBA.

Tennessee’s senior swingman, Admiral Schofield played fairly well in his team’s loss to Purdue.  He struggled in the first half, but he fared better on offense as the game wore on.  He did a good job of making spot-up threes, and he also would barrel in to score off of drives as well as in the post.  He was able to use a crossover move to score on a dunk off of a drive in transition.

Adding to that, he would throw good interior passes off the dribble to set up scores for his teammates due to possessing solid court vision.  On the downside, Schofield had trouble staying in front of his man, and he would tend to be late on his rotations, as he would tend to allow opponents to score on jumpers as well as off the dribble.  Overall, Schofield is an above average athlete whose main skill lies in his ability to shoot the basketball.  While there may be concerns about his ability to create his own shot and whether if he can guard quicker players at the next level, Schofield is a very good shooter that could be a good find for a team in the second round range on draft day.

Grant Williams didn’t seem to play much down the stretch, as he was often in foul trouble, and he ended up fouling on.  He did score on a multitude of dunks around the basket, and he also managed to draw free throws off of a drive to the basket.   He also managed to swat a shot out of bounds due to possessing good timing.  On the downside, he struggled to knock down jumpers and being in foul trouble prevented him from playing heavy minutes late in this contest.  Right now, Williams is a productive player that may be in between forward positions, and there may be questions about how well he could adjust to playing out on the perimeter at the next level, but he could end up being a likely second round pick on draft day.

Purdue’s 7-3 sophomore center, Matt Haarms played well in overtime.  He excelled at scoring on rolls to the rim, and he also managed to use a spin move to draw free throws in the post.  He would sometimes commit fouls, but overall, he is an energetic, mobile big man that had a good game in his team’s win against Tennessee, and he could be a prospect to keep an eye on in the future.