Thoughts on the First Four Games

March 15, 2018

by Alan Lu

This week, I was able to watch a couple of games in the First Four, as I saw St. Bonaventure play against UCLA, as well as Syracuse defeat Arizona State in the following day.  So far, Oshae Brissett seems to have made the biggest impression out of any prospect that has played so far in the NCAA Tournament, as he ended up scoring 23 points, collected 12 rebounds, and he made 3 threes to help get his team a narrow victory over Arizona State.

The St. Bonaventure vs. UCLA Game

UCLA’s 6-7 freshman forward, Kris Wilkes played very well in his team’s loss to St. Bonaventure, as he showed off solid offensive skills.  He excelled at knocking down spot-up threes off the catch, as he has a quick release that enables him to easily get his shot off, and he can make threes in transition.  He also showed a knack for drawing fouls upon the opposition on strong drives to the hoop, and he also has a pump fake move that can draw defenders in the air.

He also showed off good passing skills, as he showed a knack for throwing solid interior passes, and he can especially hit the cutter to set up scoring chances for his teammates.   Defensively, he did not seem to make many noteworthy plays, he did manage to get a steal, but he also once committed a blocking foul when defending in the backcourt.

In general, Kris Wilkes had a solid showing in this game, as he excelled as a scorer and facilitator when he was on the floor.  He’s an athletic, skilled basketball player that can help his team on offense, and he could end up being a good value pick in the late first to the second round range if he were to put his name as a candidate to be selected in the upcoming NBA draft.

St. Bonaventure’s 6-3 senior guard, Matt Mobley had a decent game to help lead his team to a win over UCLA in the First Four.  Though he struggled at times to make shots consistently, he excelled at knocking down pull-up jumpers from all over the court to show off his shooting skills.  He also showed a decent ability to get scores off the dribble, but sometimes he would struggle to finish plays in traffic, especially when he would have his shots contested by taller defenders.

Mobley played unselfishly, as he would make the extra pass to set up scores for his teammates.  He also excelled as a rebounder, as he would crash the glass to haul in numerous boards for his team.  He also played decent defense, as he would pick off passes to get steals, and he would contest shots to force misses, but sometimes he would be late on his rotations, and he also would be prone to committing reach-in fouls at times.

In summary, Matt Mobley showed off a diverse skill set, and he is a versatile scorer that also can play solid defense when he is on the floor.  He has not been getting nearly as much draft buzz as his higher profile teammate, Jaylen Adams, but Mobley is an athletic combo guard that could end up on an NBA summer league team’s roster this year.

UCLA’s 6-1 junior guard, Aaron Holiday did not have a great game, even though he shot the ball well and excelled as a scorer, he really struggled with turnovers, as he ended up committing 10 of them on offense, as his inability to play mistake-free basketball on that day proved to be costly for the Bruins, as he and his team were stifled by St. Bonaventure’s strong defense down the stretch.

Holiday did a good job of making spot-up threes off the catch, and he has a quick release that enables him to get his shot off.  Plus, he also did a good job of getting scores off the dribble, as he is a patient player that can use moves to get past his man, though it also seemed that he would get away with a clear out a few times to get scores and free throws on drives to the basket.

However, his tendency to push off when driving the ball to the basket did prove costly for him and his team down the stretch, as he had a tendency to commit charging fouls off the dribble, and he ended up fouling out late in the game.  Holiday does not possess an elite first step as he can struggle to consistently get all the way to the basket, and sometimes he would throw hasty passes, lose balls in traffic, or commit silly turnovers on drives to the hoop.

Holiday did pass the ball well when he was patient and focused, as he can throw long outlet passes to his teammates on the break to set up scoring chances, and he also threw a lob pass to set up a score for a teammate out in transition.  Also, he did a decent job of rebounding the basketball, as he was active at helping his team on the boards.  Holiday would look to contest jumpers to force misses, but sometimes he would commit fouls due to over-aggressiveness.

In summary, Aaron Holiday had his ups and downs, he scored 20 points to show off his ability to make shots, but he also committed 10 turnovers, as he struggled to make consistently make decisions on offense.  This was not the best showing for Holiday, but if he can learn from this, he could end up bouncing back in the future, as he may project into a backup role in the NBA.

St. Bonaventure’s 6-1 senior point guard, Jaylen Adams struggled for most of the way, but he was able to make a clutch pull-up, long two to put his team up 60-58 late in the game, as that proved to be the go-ahead basket to help the Bonnies down the stretch.  Adams also managed to draw free throws after getting the ball on a curl cut, and he drove from the high post to draw a foul upon his opponent once.  He had trouble knocking down threes in this game however, and he also had trouble scoring on drives to the basket, especially when they would be tightly contested, but he did show off adequate playmaking skills, as Adams is a good passer that sees the floor well, and he would threw fancy behind the back passes off the dribble to set up scoring chances for his teammates.

Overall, Adams did not play too well against UCLA, but he was able to make clutch plays down the stretch to help his team get the win.  He struggled to make jumpers, which was a bit surprising since he is also the same player that scored 44 points and made 10 threes to help his team get a win over the Saint Louis Billikens this season.  Adams may not possess elite physical tools, but he is a crafty scorer that can be a solid facilitator when he looks to set the table.  Right now, he’ll need to play better in the following games, but he is an intriguing prospect that could be a potential second round pick in 2018.

The best game that any player had in the contest between St. Bonaventure and UCLA actually was from St. Bonaventure’s 6-5 junior swingman, Courtney Stockard.  Stockard excelled at scoring on strong drives to the hoop, and he even managed to score on a switch of hands layup in transition once, and he also used a ball fake to score off the glass another time.  Stockard also drew free throws off of a cut, and he also can make spot-up threes.  Stockard also would intercept passes to get steals, but sometimes he would struggle to defend opponents off the dribble, as he had a tendency to commit fouls defensively.

In general, Courtney Stockard played very well as he excelled as a scorer, and he also made some good defensive plays to help lead his team to a solid win over UCLA.  Right now, Stockard may be flying under the radar as a draft prospect, but he could be an interesting player to watch in the future, as he could be a potential second round pick in 2019.

UCLA’s freshman point guard, Jaylen Hands did not make much of an impression in this game, but he excelled at grabbing defensive rebounds, and he also threw a long outlet pass in transition to set up a scoring chances for his team.  He did not shoot the ball well, and he also was occasionally inaccurate with his passes, but he could be an interesting player to watch next season.

UCLA’s 7-0 senior center, Thomas Welsh did not play very well overall, but he did a great job of rebounding the basketball, as he would often come away with defensive boards.  However, he would often pass up three-point shots, but he also would miss them the few times he would take them, and he also did not look to post up.  Welsh also struggled with his position defense, as he had trouble guarding quicker players in this game.  Right now, he may be a candidate to make an NBA team’s summer league roster, but he did not play well in his team’s loss to St. Bonaventure.

UCLA’s 6-3 sophomore guard, Prince Ali had a fairly good showing, as he showed diverse scoring skills, and he would make high motor plays on both ends of the floor.  Ali made a pump fake to make a corner three, and he showed off an adequate ability to knock down jumpers.  He also excelled at scoring on hustle plays, as he was able to score on a tip in, off of a cut, and he also ran the floor to catch a long outlet pass to score on the break once.

He also played fairly good defense, as he managed to recover to block a shot off of a drive.  But sometimes, he would be inaccurate with his passing on offense, which would occasionally lead him to commit some turnovers.  In general, Prince Ali played fairly well, as he made some good plays on both ends of the floor, and he could be an interesting player to watch next season, especially if he ends up getting a bigger role on offense.

The Syracuse vs. Arizona State Game

Syracuse’s 6-8 freshman forward, Oshae Brissett played very well, as he excelled as a shooter, scorer, and rebounder to help get his team a close win over Arizona State.  He showed off versatile scoring skills, and he was able to make big plays down the stretch to get his team the victory in the First Four, as his team will face TCU in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.  Brissett did a very good job of knocking down jumpers to space the floor for his team.  He can make spot-up threes off the catch, and he can run off screens to get open to get the ball.  Plus, he also showed a knack for knocking down pull-up jumpers from inside the arc.

He also excelled at scoring on hustle plays.  On one offensive possession, Brissett managed to score a layup off of a nifty cut to the basket, and he was able to draw an extra free throw that time.  He also did a good job of posting up, as he was able to catch a tough entry pass, and he went up strong to draw free throws once.  Also, he displayed a decent ability to score on drives to the basket, as he was able to draw free throws after using a Euro-step move in traffic.  But sometimes he ended up missing as he would not always play under control, and he would at times take the ball into traffic.

Plus, Brissett did a very good job of rebounding the basketball, as he would frequently leap up to haul in boards on both ends of the floor.  On defense, he did manage to get a steal, but he did struggle to defend opponents off the dribble, as sometimes he would occasionally not be in the right spots, which would allow opponents to get scores.  In general, Oshae Brissett played very well, as he turned in a strong showing to help lead his team to a close win over Arizona State.  He consistently played well when he was on the floor, and he could end up getting picked by an NBA team in the late first to the second round range in the upcoming draft.

Syracuse’s 6-6 sophopmore swingman, Tyus Battle turned in a rather uneven performance overall, but he was able to make clutch plays when they counted, as he was able to make a pull-up three late in the game to help get his team the lead, as that ended up being the go-ahead basket as Syracuse never trailed after that.  Battle excelled at knocking down jumpers against Arizona State, and he did a very good job of knocking down pull-up threes from beyond the arc.  He also showed a decent ability to score on drives to the basket, as he can score on floaters, but he had more trouble finishing plays around the basket in traffic, as he lacks an elite first step to the hoop, and he seemed to struggle more when he would look to go all the way to the rim to score the basketball.

He also displayed average at best playmaking skills in this game.  For the positives, Battle did a good job of throwing interior passes off the dribble to set up scoring chances for his teammates, and on one occasion, he threw an accurate lob pass to set up an alley-oop dunk for Pascal Chukwu.  But he was also quite turnover prone, as he tended to commit charging fouls on drives to the basket, and Battle also lost the ball when attempting to score in the paint another time due to recklessness.

Though he did not get many rebounds in this game, Battle was able to haul in a board on each of the floor.  Defensively, he looked to be average at best.  He was able to nearly intercept a pass as he deflected the ball that still ended up going to an opponent.  However, sometimes he would be late on his rotations, as his team ended up allowing opponents to score on three-point baskets.  In summary, Tyus Battle had his ups and downs, but he made plays when they counted the most, and he shot the ball well enough to help Syracuse get the win over Arizona State.  He’s struggled more in recent weeks, but he is a talented swingman that can get buckets, and he could be a good value pick for an NBA team somewhere in the second round on draft day.

Arizona State’s 6-1 senior point guard, Tra Holder also had an uneven showing in his final collegiate game, as he started off playing very well by knocking down plenty of jumpers early on, but then he struggled with turnovers and with his position defense as the contest wore on.  Holder did a good job of knocking down threes to effectively space the floor for his team.  He has a lot of range on his shot, and he can make outside shots both off the catch and dribble.  He also used a jab step to knock down a pull-up three from way out once, but Holder had trouble connecting on long-range jumpers late in the game, as he had a tendency to hoist up shots from well beyond the arc.

He struggled more to score off the dribble when he would look to score inside the arc.  His best two-point basket was when he weaved through traffic around screens to score on a patient drive to the hoop.  But Holder often had trouble scoring off the dribble when he did not take threes, as he would struggle more to finish plays in the paint, as he does not possess elite physical tools, and the length and activity of his opponents made it difficult for Holder to make two-point baskets.

He also displayed average at best playmaking skills against Syracuse.  Holder would play well when he would play with his patience, as he would throw an assortment of passes to set up scoring chances for his team.  But he also had a penchant for committing turnovers, as he would be inaccurate on some of his passes, and he also traveled when handling the ball due to carelessness.

Also, Holder did a very good job of rebounding the basketball, as he was active at crashing the glass on both ends of the floor.  He also played fairly average defense.  Holder was active in contesting jumpers to force misses.  But sometimes, he would give up too much space, which would allow his man to get scores off the dribble.  Other times, Holder’s lack of size would hurt his ability to contest shots, as opponents were able to make shots over him.

Overall, Tra Holder did not have a great game, as he especially struggled in the second half, but he did play well in the first half as well as early in the second half, as he is a deceptively quick playmaker that can knock down shots from all over the floor.  However, he is undersized to play the point, and he does not possess elite physical tolls, as that may limit his upside for the next level.  Right now, he may have a game that may be similar to Indiana Pacers’ former point guard A.J. Price, as Holder may be a borderline second round candidate for the upcoming draft.

Arizona State’s senior guards, Kodi Justice and Shannon Evans II did a  good job of knocking down spot-up threes off the catch to space the floor for their team.  Justice also excelled at getting scores off the dribble when taking it to the basket, as he is a patient player that has a crafty pump fake.  Justice also passed the ball well, and he played adequate defense, as he would contest jumpers to force misses, and he also managed to get a loose ball to obtain a steal. 

Evans passed the ball well and showed a knack for drawing charges when opponents would drive it at him, but he struggled more to make long-range jumpers late in the game.  Overall, both of them played fairly well, and they could end up on NBA summer league rosters this year or sometime down the road.

Syracuse’s 6-5 junior guard, Frank Howard struggled to make shots consistently, but he did play solid defense, as he would contest threes to force misses, and he also managed to swat a shot off of a drive to showcase his leaping skills and timing on one play.