Analyzing Lauri Markkanen, Caleb Swanigan, and Others in the 2nd Round of the NCAA Tournament

March 18, 2017

By Alan Lu

On Saturday, there were plenty of surprises on the first day of the 2nd round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament this year.  While plenty had West Virginia beating Notre Dame, few could have expected Wisconsin to upend Villanova, who were last year’s reigning champions.  11-seeded Xavier Musketeers blew out Florida State to earn a lopsided victory, and then things became somewhat normalized after that.

To me, the most interesting games played on this day were the games between Arizona and Saint Mary’s, as well as the one between Purdue and Iowa State.  Saint Mary’s got off to a fast start due to Jock Landale’s inside scoring and rebounding skills, but Arizona slowly chipped away to win the game.

Purdue meanwhile played well for most of the game, but Iowa State went on a significant run in the second half when Caleb Swanigan was on the bench, and managed to briefly take a lead, before Purdue took it back to eventually win the game.  There were plenty of interesting observations to be had on this day, and here are my thoughts on how various prospects fared as a result.

Arizona’s 7-0 freshman forward, Lauri Markkanen had a strong showing to help lead his team to a win over Saint Mary’s.  He excelled at shooting and scoring the basketball, and he had a solid all-around game to get his team the victory.

Markkanen showed a solid ability to get scores off the dribble, as he has a good first step ot the hoop, and he also managed to draw many free throws around the basket.  Also, he excelled at scoring on put backs, as he was able to get a tip slam off of an offensive board.  He also did a good job of making jumpers, as he also made a spot up three in the corner, but he also displayed fairly average playmaking skills at best.  For the positives, he played unselfishly, almost too much so, as he looked to find the open man by making passes from the post.  However, he struggled to protect the basketball at times, which led him to commit some turnovers.

Also, Markkanen showed a gifted ability to rebound the basketball.  He was quite active at crashing the glass on both ends of the floor, as he would run down one board, and leap up to get others, as he possesses very good length, athleticism, and motor to do so.  Plus, he also played good defense.  Markkanen managed to block a shot in the post, and he would force misses in the post in the few times he was matched up on Landale.  But sometimes, he would be late to rotate, which would lead to his team to allow scores in the paint.

In general, Lauri Markkanen had another strong showing, as he helped lead his team to a win over Saint Mary’s.  He is a skilled, versatile player that can make solid contributions in lots of ways, and he will likely be a lock to be a lottery pick in 2017.

Saint Mary’s 6-11 junior center, Jock Landale played well as he kept his team in for most of the game, and he especially looked dominant early on.  He showed off strong inside scoring and rebounding skills, but he also showed off adequate athleticism and passing skills, as his strong performance against Arizona could put him in the first round conversation for the 2017 draft.

Landale showed a good ability to get scores in the post.  He has great size and strength, and he possesses the footwork and shooting touch to get numerous scores down low.  He would do so off of jump hooks and drop steps, but he struggled more when he was matched up against the more mobile Markkanen later in the game.

He also excelled at scoring on hustle plays.  Landale was quite active as a finisher in the paint, and he would get scores off of put backs.  But he did end up having his shots blocked a few times, as he did not always get lift on his shot.  Also, Landale managed to make a mid-range jumper to show his ability to stretch the defenses.

Plus, he also showed a strong ability to rebound the basketball.  Sometimes, he would tip balls to himself to get boards, other times he would snatch them away from opponents due to possessing great hands.  But defensively, he may have been average at best, as he struggled to defend quicker opponents off the dribble.  In summary, Jock Landale had a solid showing in his team’s loss to Arizona.  He played very well, and he could end up being a good find for an NBA team in either the upcoming draft or in 2018.

Early in the Purdue-Iowa State contest, it appeared that Purdue would run away with the victory, as they built a considerable lead, as they lead by as many as 19 points at one point of the game.  But Purdue decided to sit Caleb Swanigan in the second half to rest him, as they may have rested him for too long, as Iowa State then went on a huge run to come back, as they continued it even with Swanigan returning to the court.   But in the end, Purdue made enough shots on offense, and stops on defense to get a narrow victory over Iowa State.

Purdue’s sophomore big man, Caleb Swanigan put forth a very good showing in his team’s win over Iowa State, as he especially played well in the first half, and early in the second half.  But he sat for quite awhile during the middle of the second half, and he had trouble getting re-acclimated to the speed of the game, as he started forcing up tough shots in the post, which led to misses and turnovers.  But eventually, he made enough plays down the stretch to help his team get the win.

Swanigan did a very good job of making jumpers to space the floor for his team.  He really excelled at knocking down spot up threes off the catch, and he even ran back off the ball to get the ball on the wing to make a quick jumper from beyond the arc.  He also flashed the ability to make pull-up, mid-range shots.

Plus, he also showed a fairly good ability to score on hustle plays.  Swanigan has a very good motor, as he managed to get the ball on a cut, and scored after using a pump fake move.  Another time, he drew free throws off of a put back.  But he did have his shot blocked once around the basket, as an opponent flew in to swat his shot on that occasion.

But he struggled more to consistently score in the post.  Some of his scores were impressive though, as he did utilize a drop step to score on a thunderous dunk, and he also managed to score on a nifty up and under move another time.  But Swanigan tended to miss on jump hooks, and he really had trouble getting quick scores in traffic late in the contest.

He also displayed solid playmaking skills.  Swanigan threw solid interior passes as he plays well when he lets the game come to him, and he can display very good patience and court vision when he plays calmly.  He can throw a long, accurate outlet pass, and he also can often hit cutters.  But late in the game, he had the ball ripped away from him in the post several times, which led him to commit several turnovers due to struggling to protect the basketball and not passing out of double teams, as he would overtly force the issue down the stretch.  Also, Swanigan possesses a great ability to rebound the basketball.  He is a high motor player that will crash the glass to haul in boards on both ends of the floor, as he will leap up to get rebounds, and he will also tap balls and dive on the ground to try to get others.

He also displayed adequate defensive skills in this game.  Early on, he was guarding Solomon Young, a player that normally does not look to shoot the basketball that often.  Swanigan showed good length, athleticism, and instincts for most of this contest, as he blocked a shot on a drive, and forced numerous misses off of drives as well as in the post.  Late in the game, he even poked a ball away from Morris to get a key steal for his team.

But in the second half, he also struggled to defend his drives when he was matched up against quicker players, most notably he had trouble guarding Burton in the second half.  Swanigan at times would struggle to move his feet, which would lead him to allow scores and to commit a foul as a result.

Regardless, Caleb Swanigan put forth a very solid performance in this game, as he helped lead his team to a victory over Iowa State.  He played well for much of this contest, as his versatile scoring skills, solid passing ability, terrific rebounding skills, combined with having adequate athleticism and great motor could make him a solid pick for an NBA team in the first round of the upcoming draft.

Iowa State’s senior guard, Deonte Burton had a strong showing, as he played very well in the second half of this game against Purdue.  He struggled to find his jump shot in the first half, but he really started scoring consistently as he managed to get into a groove as the game wore on.  Burton showed a gifted ability to garner scores off the dribble.  He has a solid first step, as he has some nifty ball handling moves, as he can use a spin move and a crossover to create separation between himself and his defender.  Also, Burton can really accelerate to get scores at the rim, as he managed to do so by throwing down a thunderous dunk on a strong drive to the hoop.  Plus he also managed to score on an acrobatic reverse layup on a drive in transition.  But at times, he can miss shots due to not always playing under control.

Also, he showed a good ability to knock down jumpers to space the floor for his team.  Burton displayed the ability to make threes off the catch and dribble, and he also managed to use a quick jab step to make a pull-up, mid-range shot.   But he struggled to score in the post, as he tended to miss on contested turnaround jumpers when he would elect to hoist up shots from the block.

He also showed a willingness to help out on the boards.  Though he did not get many of them, he did manage to leap up to haul in a defensive rebound, as he had his fair share of boards on that end of the floor.  He also played solid defense.  Burton leapt up really high on one occasion to block a shot inside the paint.  In general, Deonte Burton had a solid game in his team’s loss to Purdue.  He may be a vastly underrated prospect, as he could be a very good find for a team in the NBA next season.

Purdue’s junior forward, Vince Edwards also had a solid showing in his team’s win over Iowa State.  He excelled at attacking the basket to garner scores, as he really excelled at scoring off of cuts and strong put backs, as he managed to throw down a dunk off of a backdoor cut once.  He also showed an adequate ability to score in the post as well as off the dribble, as well as the ability to make jumpers, though he struggled to make threes consistently.

Edwards also passed the ball well and collected many rebounds in this game.  He also played solid defense, as he would use his length, athleticism, and timing to contest shots in order to force misses.  In general, Vince Edwards played very well, and he could be a sleeper prospect for the 2017 NBA Draft.

Iowa State’s senior point guard, Monte Morris quietly had a good game in a loss to Purdue.  He struggled early on, and had some key lapses at the end though, but for a good portion of this contest, he consistently made tough shots, and made good passes to keep his team in it for most of the way.

Morris showed a gifted ability to get scores off the dribble.  He has very good speed and quickness as he has a solid first step, and he can accelerate to get numerous scores and free throws for his team.  However, he struggled to consistently knock down jumpers, as he would make some pull-up jumpers, but he also tended to miss them in bulk on occasion.

He also showed off good playmaking skills.  He showed off solid passing skills and court vision, as he would get the ball to his teammates to set up many scores for them.  But he did commit more turnovers than usual, and late in the game, he dribbled around for too long, allowing a defender to poke a ball away from him, as Morris lost the ball on that occasion.

Morris did show adequate rebounding and defensive skills, as he was active at collecting boards, and he showed quick hands to get steals.  In general, Monte Morris had a fairly solid game, and he could be a good pick for an NBA team in the late first to the second round portion of the upcoming draft.

Iowa State’s senior guard, Matt Thomas played very well early on against Purdue, especially in the first half.  The Cyclones relied on him for offense, and he really excelled at shooting and scoring the basketball in the early going.  Thomas showed a great ability to knock down threes and mid-range jumpers, as he can do so off the catch or dribble.  He also managed to score on a baseline fadeaway jumper from the post, and he also scored off of a cut as well as a patient drive.  But he did not look to shoot as much in the second half, as he was a bit passive on offense late in the game.

He also showed off good playmaking skills.  He showcased a deft ability to make accurate passes, as he would tend to make the right reads on offense.  He also rebounded fairly well, as he helped out on the glass to get his team boards on both ends of the floor.  But defensively, he struggled to guard his man at times, as he would occasionally give up too much space to allow his man to score on jumpers.  In general, Matt Thomas had a solid showing, as he played well in a loss to Purdue.  He may be quite an underrated prospect, and he end up could being a good find for an NBA team.

Purdue’s junior center Isaac Haas also played well in his team’s win over Iowa State.  He especially excelled as an inside scorer, as he showed solid strength and mobility to throw down dunks at the rim, and he excelled as a finisher around the basket.

Also, he has very good hands to catch tough passes in the post, and he showed a good ability to score on the block.  On one play, he managed to make a touch catch, and he pivoted to score on a jump hook, and he then drew an additional free throw afterwards.  Plus, Haas also showed an adequate ability to score on the move, as he managed to do so off of a cut once.  However, he did end up having his shot rejected off of a roll once.  However, he did not grab many rebounds when he was on the floor, and he struggled to defend when he was on the court.  He would give up scores when defending the post, and he also would be foul prone at times.

In summary, Isaac Haas had a good showing in Purdue’s victory over Iowa State.  He has great size and perhaps better than advertised athleticism, and he excelled as a scorer in the paint in this game.  He may need to rebound and defend better at the next level, but right now, he may project to be a second round prospect for the upcoming draft.

Other Notes:

I did not see much of the game in which Wisconsin upset Villanova, nor Xavier’s win over Florida State, but I will give much congratulations to those two ball clubs for their second round wins in this tournament.

Nigel Hayes had a solid showing in Wisconsin’s win, as he had 19 points and 8 rebounds.  From the highlights, he excelled as a scorer off the dribble, in the post, and also showed the ability to pass and make mid-range shots.  In my opinion, he likely helped his draft stock quite a bit, as he has been underrated all year long.

Also for Wisconsin, Bronson Koenig showed a strong ability to shoot the basketball, as he can make many pull-up jumpers, and he also can make spot-up threes off the catch.  Ethan Happ also played well, as he showed the ability to score in the post, and score off of quick drives from the high post, as he may be an underrated big man prospect for the NBA.

Also, Trevon Bluiett shot the ball really well, as he ended up scoring 29 points for Xavier, as he too has been an underrated prospect that has flown under the radar.  If he goes to the draft, he could be a good find for an NBA team.  If he stays in school, he is bound to have a strong senior season.

For Florida State, it has been perplexing that they have struggled to get freshman big man, Jonathan Isaac the basketball on offense consistently after his tremendous showing in his first game against Notre Dame this season.  It has been noted that his draft stock has taken a slight hit as a result, as NBA teams and scouts may now be starting to question Isaac’s ability to consistently create his own shot or assert himself on offense.

Some of the fault can be on Florida State’s random distribution of minutes as they have a deep rotation, and they seem to make an endless number of substitutions, regardless of how well their players have been playing.  But another could be due to Florida State not having a true point guard, as the guards play with a significant score-first mindset, and they can be baited by other teams to try to outscore them, which could lead to Isaac getting shut out of the offense.

Isaac still had a fairly good game, as he was efficient in scoring the basketball with the few touches he received, and he rebounded well, though he did foul out of the game against Xavier.  But it’s frustrating that a talented team such as Florida State can struggle mightily to consistently involve their best player on offense.  Most likely, Isaac will probably declare for the upcoming draft, as he should do so if the situation with his current team may not get any better.

Overall, Saturday presented an interesting set of games that ended with some surprising outcomes.  As a result, plenty of brackets that were filled out were likely busted, if they were not before.  Among the games I saw, Lauri Markkanen, Caleb Swanigan, Jock Landale, and Deonte Burton were among players that played the best, and their teams will be advancing to the Sweet 16 that will be played later this month.

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