Observing E.J. Liddell, Zed Key, and Paolo Banchero

December 2nd, 2021

By Alan Lu

I decided to take the time to watch Paolo Banchero and Duke play against E.J. Liddell and Ohio State in a game that was played on November 30th.  Banchero was expected to play well, and he seemed to turn in a decent first half.  However, he faltered in the second half, as he was riddled with poor shot selection, shooting, and defensive play.  Meanwhile, Ohio State can storming back in the game after trailing by 13 at the half, and their strong team play led by forwards Zed Key and E.J. Liddell helped them pull off a stunning comeback win.  Zed Key was dominant as a low post scorer, and Liddell’s strong all-around performance helped get Ohio State the victory.  Here are my thoughts on how Liddell, Key, Banchero, and others fared on this day.

Ohio State’s junior forward, E.J. Liddell scored 14 points, and he also had 14 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 blocks in his team’s stunning, comeback win over Duke.
(Photo:
Jay LaPrete/Associated Press, via WOSU – WOSU Public Media)

E.J. Liddell had a strong showing in his team’s terrific comeback win over Duke.  He had a very good all-around performance, and he consistently played well, especially in the second half to help his team get the victory. Liddell did a good job of scoring in the post.  He managed to score on a turnaround jumper, as he switched hands midway to score with his right hand, while drawing an extra free throw afterwards.  He also utilized a drop step move to score on a turnaround jumper with his left hand. 

He also was quite effective at scoring on put backs.  He attempted to score on a drive right to the hoop, but had his shot blocked that time. Liddell also showed the ability to knock down outside shots, but he was inconsistent in doing so.  He was able to make a smooth, pull-up jumper from around the left elbow to score in the mid-range area.  He also moved off the ball to make a deep, spot-up three off the catch.  On the downside, he struggled to consistently score in spot-up situations.

Also, Liddell displayed decent playmaking skills in this game.  He is an unselfish player that can pass out of the post as well as off the dribble to set up scores for his teammates.  He can quickly recognize double teams, and then pass out of the post to get his teammates the basketball.  He also threw a lob pass off the dribble to set up a scoring chance for a teammate at the rim.  He also is a good screen setter that would help open up driving lanes to set up additional scores for his teammates.  On the downside, he would sometimes throw inaccurate, hasty passes that would go astray.  He also had a ball that was stolen away from him on a drive another time.

Plus, Liddell did a great job of rebounding the basketball.  He would often chase down balls to get boards, and he was able to haul in numerous boards on both ends of the floor.  He also played good defense in this game.  Liddell did a great job of blocking shots to help his team protect the paint.  He also managed to make a couple of chase down blocks on drives, as he would swat them to his teammates.  He would hold his ground when defending in the post to force misses, and he also would actively contest jump shots to force misses.  He also did a great job of not biting on fakes to stay with his opponents in order to get stops for his team.  Sometimes though, he would get beat on moves to the hoop, when defending in one-on-one situations.  Every once in a while, he would be late on his rotations, which would lead him to be out of position.

Overall, E.J. Liddell played very well in his team’s win over Duke.  He is an athletic, strong combo forward whose versatility and skills have made him a one of the best players in college basketball right now.  His ability to play both out on the perimeter and in the post as well as comfortably being able to play multiple positions could make him a very valuable role player in today’s modern NBA.  He is a very underrated prospect, and he has built up a strong case to be a first round pick for the 2022 draft.

Ohio State’s sophomore forward, Zed Key scored 20 points in his team’s win over Duke, and he was dominant as a low post scorer down the stretch.
(Photo:
Jay LaPrete/Associated Press, via Ideastream)

Ohio State’s sophomore forward, Zed Key also played very well in his team’s win over Duke.  He is a strong, mobile big man that thrived as a scorer in the low post, and his tremendous ability to push back the 7-foot tall, sophomore center Mark Williams and continually score on him was very impressive in this game. Key did a very good job of scoring in the post.  He would often get deep position down low, and he would bulldoze his way to the hoop by making strong moves to often score on jump hooks.  He can score using either hand, and he also was able to score on a very powerful dunk another time.  Sometimes he wouldn’t get deep enough, which would lead him to miss on jump hooks.  Other times, he would rush his shots, which would lead to the occasional miss.  Key also attempted to score on an open, turnaround mid-range jumper, but missed that time.

He didn’t grab many rebounds, but he was able to get boards on both sides of the ball.  Defensively, he looked to be about average.  Key has great strength to hold his ground, and he would contest shots in the paint to force misses.  He also would look to contest shots to get stops for his team.  However, he’s not especially quick, and he had trouble defending in screen situations.  He dropped back too far when defending the opposing pick and roll ball handler, and he didn’t cut off penetration as he then committed a foul while allowing a score to his opponent.  Another time, he over-hedged, but no one got back to the roll man, as his team then gave up a dunk.  A couple of times, he would give up too much space to mid-range shooters.  He also would sometimes be too aggressive in contesting shots, which would lead him to pick up fouls.

Overall, Zed Key is a strong, physical big man that really put his strong low post scoring skills on display in his team’s win over Duke.  He may be an undersized big man, but he showed off his value by not only scoring effectively and efficiently, but also by proving that he can consistently score on much taller players around the basket.  He may need to continue to improve in the other areas of the game, but his strong inside scoring skills could enable him to be a solid second round pick for an NBA team in the 2022 draft.

Paolo Banchero had his ups and downs in his team’s stunning loss to Ohio State.  He showed off solid scoring skills early, and he also showed some passing skills at times.  In the second half, he didn’t shoot or defend well at all, and he took some questionable shots that resulted in a bad shooting game for him. Banchero showed a solid ability to score off the dribble.  He was able go to his right to score on a crafty, smooth underhanded scoop layup while drawing an extra free throw afterwards.  He also showed a good ability to draw fouls in order to get to the free throw line.  He also was active at looking to score on hustle plays, and he was able to score after getting a steal while also drawing an extra free throw.

On the downside, he didn’t shoot well at all, and he particularly struggled to knock down outside shots.  He was able to use a crossover to score on a long two off the dribble.  However, he tended to settle for taking contested, pull-up mid-range jumpers, which would often lead to misses.  He also struggled to score in the post, and he would tend to take tough, off-balanced shots too often.  He also missed on a contested layup off of a cut.  He also missed on all of his three-point shots, as he couldn’t find his shooting touch or rhythm from beyond the arc.

He also was fairly turnover prone in this game.  For the positives, Banchero showed that he can throw long, accurate passes to find teammates on the move to set up scores for his teammates.  He also can pass out of the post as well as off the dribble.  On the downside, he sometimes struggled to get his shots up, as he would be called for clearing out on a couple of possessions that would lead him to commit fouls and allow scores.  He also dropped a catchable pass that went out of bounds another time.

Also, Banchero was able to leap up to get his fair share of defensive rebounds in this game.   Though he didn’t get as many boards as was expected of him, he would tend to bring the ball up after getting rebounds for his team.  Defensively though, he struggled in this game.  For the positives, he is an active help defender that will look to help his team force turnovers.  Banchero was able to poke a ball away to get a steal.  He also was able to jump on a loose ball to help his team get another steal, and he also managed to deflect passes other times.  He also was able to close out on a three-point shooter to force a miss once. 

On the downside, he really struggled to defend in screen situations.  He was not very communicative or effective in communicating to his teammates how they should defend screens, and he would often hug his man on screens.  This would lead his teammates hanging out to dry when they would get caught and stuck on screens, as they would give up open jumpers and driving lanes.  Another time, he dropped too far back when defending a screen, and he then overcompensated by closing out too hard by fouling a three-point shooter in the act of shooting.  He also would be too aggressive in trying to go for steals as he would sometimes whiff on trying to intercept passes, which would lead him to be out of position.

Overall, Paolo Banchero didn’t play very well in this game, and he especially struggled to make plays down the stretch in his team’s loss to Ohio State.  His conditioning looks to be slightly improved as he was able to play a lot of minutes and stay in the match, and there were times where he was able to make some athletic plays late in this contest.  However, he often would either look sluggish, or overcompensate by rushing and overtly trying to force the issue in order to try to make a big play.  His inability to be effective late in games may be a bigger concern than initially thought, and if he cannot sustain his effectiveness late in games, then maybe Banchero shouldn’t be the top pick of the 2022 draft.  He’s still a very talented prospect that can shoot and score very well, and so he’d still be in line to be a consensus, top 3 pick on draft day.

Wendell Moore had a decent showing in his team’s loss to Ohio State.  He showed off versatile skills when he was on the floor, but he also struggled with his outside shot and defense at times in this game. Moore showed a solid ability to score off the dribble.  He can use subtle dribble moves to get past his man, and he would score on strong drives to the hoop.  He was also was able to score on a switch of hands layup, and he has good speed, strength, and body control to regularly score around the basket.  He also did a good job of scoring on hustle plays.  Moore was able to sprint down court to score on a high-flying dunk.  He also managed to score on a put back.  On the downside, he also had his shot blocked once on a drive in transition. Also, Moore was able to dribble left off of a screen to score on a pull-up, mid-range jumper.  On the downside, he struggled to consistently knock down pull-up jumpers, and he would tend to take tough, off-balanced jumpers that would lead to misses.  He also missed on both of his three-point shots.

Plus, Moore displayed good playmaking skills.  He is an unselfish player that generally throw crisp, accurate passes off the dribble, and he would consistently find open shooters to set up scores for them.  He also would throw good passes to set up scores for teammates on the break due to possessing the patience and court vision to do so.  He did throw one long, inaccurate outlet pass that sailed out of bounds once.

In addition, Moore did a very good job of rebounding the basketball.  He has ha keen nose for the ball, and he was able to haul in multiple boards on both ends of the floor. He also played solid defense in this game. He was able to run in to intercept a pass to a get a steal, and he also would jump on loose balls to help his team get other steals.  He also would poke balls away and deflect passes to get steals and deflections, and he also contested a deep three to force a miss once.  However, sometimes he would be too aggressive and physical when defending opposing ball handlers, and it would lead him to commit touch fouls.  Another time, he gave up too much space to a shooter, which led him to allow a corner three to his man.

Overall, Wendell Moore played well in his team’s loss to Ohio State.  He showed off his versatility by making solid plays on both ends of the floor.  He will still need to improve his outside shot, but his ability to score, facilitate, and defend could make him a solid first round pick in the 2022 draft.

Mark Williams had his ups and downs in his team’s loss to Ohio State.  He is a tall, athletic center that can finish plays above the rim, and he can also block shots to help shore up his team’s interior defense.  On the downside, he ran into foul trouble, and as a result, he had trouble defending Zed Key in the post down the stretch.

Williams generally excelled at scoring on hustle plays.  He especially thrived as a scorer on rolls to the rim, and he also scored in transition.  He was able to score on a powerful dunk, and he also caught lob to score off of a roll another time.  He missed on a put back once, as he overshot it and didn’t show enough shooting touch on that occasion.  He also struggled to consistently score in the post, as he would take tough, contested shots that would lead to misses. He also displayed adequate playmaking skills.  He set good screens for his teammates, which would open up jump shots and driving lanes to help them score on offense.  He did commit one turnover, though.  On one play, he telegraphed a pass out of the post that ended up getting intercepted.

He also did a good job of rebounding the basketball.  He was quite active at crashing the glass, and he was able to haul in multiple boards on both ends of the floor.  On the downside, he also committed a couple of over the back fouls when going for offensive boards in this game, although those calls that went against him did seem to be sort of questionable.

Defensively, Williams looked to be fairly average.  For the positives, he is a tall, athletic big man that did a good job of blocking shots, especially early on to help his team protect the paint.  He has good length and timing, and he is an instinctive player that thrives when he can defend aggressively.  He also would deflect passes, and for a good portion of this game, he would hold his ground and using his length to contest shots in the post to force misses.

On the downside, Williams struggled to defend in the post down the stretch, and that was a result of having to guard the strong and powerful Zed Key, along with running into foul trouble in the second half.  He would often give up deep position, and foul trouble would take away his aggressiveness, so he would allow scores down low.  Sometimes, he would be too aggressive in making plays on the ball, which would lead him to end up out of position.  He also would sometimes struggle to defend screens, and he also would not always effectively communicate to his teammates how they should defend them.  He also would sometimes struggle to guard out on the perimeter, as he would have trouble defending opponents off the dribble, and he also would sag too far back other times to allow open jump shots.

Overall, Mark Williams didn’t have his best game, but he was able to have some good moments at times in his team’s loss to Ohio State.  He will need to expand his skill set on offense, and he will also need to try to stay out of foul trouble in games.  Still, he is a very tall, athletic center whose solid interior play could make him an intriguing option for NBA teams in the first round of the 2022 draft.

Trevor Keels didn’t play very well in his team’s loss to Ohio State.  He struggled to shoot or score the basketball, and he also had struggled to defend at times in this game. Keels showed an adequate ability to score off the dribble.  He is a powerful, athletic guard that has a solid first step, and he can use subtle dribble moves to score around the basket.  He also will absorb the contact, which will enable him to draw fouls to get to the free throw line.  He had a tendency to take tough, contested shots, and sometimes he would settle for taking awkward floaters and leaners that would result in misses.  He also did not shoot the ball well from the outside.  He tended to miss on a couple of pull-up jumpers from the mid-range.  Keels was able to make an open, spot-up three off the catch, but he was unable to consistently knock down threes from beyond the arc.

He also displayed decent playmaking skills on offense.  Keels can throw sharp interior passes to find teammates on the move to set up scores for them, and he also can passes well off the dribble.  He can make swift drive and kick passes to find open shooters.  He did commit a couple of ball-handling turnovers, though.  Heh ad a ball poked away as he lost the ball off of a drive.  When handling the ball another time, he tried to rush his moves, and he was called for a traveling violation.

Also, Keels was able to haul in boards on both ends of the floor to help chip in on the glass.  He also looked to be average at best defensively.  For the positives, he is a strong, athletic defender that will look to help his team force turnovers.  He would get his hands on passes to get steals and deflections.  Keels also managed to swipe a ball away when defending a drive to get a steal early on.  He also defended an opposing ball handler physically, and he was able to force his man to commit an inadvertent ball-handling turnover as his opponent lost it out of bounds.

On the downside, sometimes he would struggle to get around screens, and he would be late to rotate or close out on shooters, which would lead him to allow scores.  He would sometimes sag too far off of shooters.  Other times, he would cheat too far off his man, and his team would be in scramble situations if opponents effectively pass out of double teams.

Overall, Trevor Keels didn’t have his best game, but he is an athletic lead guard that is at his best when he plays aggressively.  He generally thrives as a scorer off the dribble, but he will need to improve his outside shot, as that will open things up for him on offense.  Currently, he projects to go in the mid to late first round range for the 2022 draft.

Ohio State’s 6-2, fifth-year senior point guard, Cedric Russell played very well off the bench to help his team get a stunning win over Duke.  He especially excelled at making plays in the second half, as thrived as a sharpshooter and rebounder on the court.  Russell was able to dribble off of a screen to make an open pull-up three, and he also showed a knack for making open, spot-up threes off the catch. He also did an adequate job of scoring off the dribble.  Russell was able to drive hard to the hoop to draw free throws once.  On another play though, he ended up missing on a tough, rushed fall-away layup.

Russell did a great job of rebounding the basketball, and he also showed that he can leap up high to get tough boards in traffic.  He also managed to successfully draw a charge on Paolo Banchero when defending in the high post.  Overall, Russell is an agile, skilled combo guard that can shoot, score, and defend, and he could be an integral role player for Ohio State this season, especially if he can continue to get minutes and be effective in games this year.

Ohio State’s 6-5 freshman guard, Malaki Branham had a decent showing in his team’s win over Duke.  He did a good job of dribbling to his right to score on pull-up, mid-range jumpers.  He also managed to go left on a drive, as he was able to score on a quick, crafty reverse layup.  He gets good elevation on his shot, and he especially showed a good feel for scoring from the mid-range.

Branham was a bit turnover prone on offense.  He was able to dribble to the high post, and he then found a cutter to set up a scoring chance for him, due to making a solid time pass, as well as making a good read and exhibiting good patience to do so.  However, when handling the ball, he would sometimes lose the ball, especially when facing ball pressure or running into inadvertent contact, which would lead him to commit turnovers.

Also, Branham was able to leap up to get a pair of defensive rebounds to chip in on the glass.  Defensively though, he struggled in this game.  Late in this match, he was able to contest a three to force a miss.  Often times though, he struggled to defend quicker opponents off the dribble, and he also would sometimes take bad angles that would lead him to commit fouls and allow scores.

Overall, Malaki Branham is an agile, skilled combo guard that showed some shooting and scoring skills in this game.  He will need to extend his shooting range and develop a reliable three-point shot, but he could be a player to keep tabs on down the road.

Duke’s freshman forward, A.J. Griffin didn’t play much, but he missed on a contested long two off the dribble in this game.  He played sparingly, and he was not a huge factor in his team’s loss to Ohio State on this day.

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