Thoughts on the First Day of the 2017-18 College Basketball Season

November 11, 2017

By Alan Lu

I decided to watch two games on the first day of the new college season, as one was to watch Arizona’s freshman center, DeAndre Ayton and his team play against Northern Arizona, and the other was to see Missouri’s sensational freshman forward Michael Porter Jr. play against Iowa State. 

There was another game that played earlier but I decided to not see that one just yet.  When Texas A&M’s sophomore forward Robert Williams was suspended for the first two games of the season, I decided to skip out on catching his team play against West Virginia live, and that seemed to be a good decision, since that game resulted in ended up in a blow out.   

As for the two games that I saw, one turned out exactly as I thought it would, with Ayton and Trier playing very well to help lead Arizona to cruise to a win, but the other resulted in Porter getting hurt early on, and missing the rest of the game with a hip injury.  Here are my thoughts on how various prospects fared on this day.

The Arizona-Northern Arizona game:

This game was really to get a first glimpse to see DeAndre Ayton and Emmanuel Akot play, and to check the progress of the incumbent prospects on Arizona’s team.  I will say, I was very pleased with Arizona’s performance as they played really well as they looked like a title contending team, and they didn’t even have Rawle Alkins or Brandon Randolph.    They should be a very fun team to watch this season.

Arizona’s 7-0 freshman center, DeAndre Ayton put forth a strong performance to help lead his team to a double-digit victory.   He’s an athletic, skilled big man that can score in a variety of ways, and he also generally rebounded and defended well.  He excelled at getting scores on the move.  Ayton received nifty passes from his teammates, and he would throw down thunderous dunks around the basket, including one off of a put back.  Plus, he showed a good ability to score in the post, as he can use a drop step or a turnaround jumper to garner scores or draw fouls. 

Also, he can quickly drive to the hoop from the high post, as he has a solid first step for a player his size.  Even better, Ayton is a very good free throw shooter that does a great job of converting on his free throw shooting opportunities.  Though he didn’t make a three in this game, it is encouraging to see that he shows the willingness to stretch the defenses when he is on the floor.

Ayton seemed to display decent playmaking skills.  He is an unselfish player that passes well out of the post, as he can find open shooters to set up scoring chances for his team, and he also handles the ball well.  However, he did commit a couple of turnovers, as he had a tendency to shuffle his feet at times when he had the ball in his hands.  He also did a very good job of rebounding the basketball.  Ayton was quite active on the glass, and he was able to leap up high to come away with plenty of boards for his team. 

Plus, he showcased adequate defensive skills.  Ayton did a better job of blocking shots in the second half, and he showed the ability to defend out on the perimeter by staying with a quicker guard on a drive prior to swatting his opponent’s shot.  In addition, he will position himself well, as he will contest jumpers and shots in the post to force misses.  Also, he possesses good feet to adequately hedge out on screens before getting back to his man.

However, Ayton does not seem to be a very physical defender, as he at times would not show much resistance, and though he would contest shots, sometimes he would allow his opponents to score in the post.  Also, he was called for committing a touch foul around the basket on an opponent’s put back as he went over the back in pursuit of a rebound.  Right now, DeAndre Ayton is an offensively skilled big man that could be a top 5 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.  He played very well, and right now, he looks to be a solid prospect for the NBA.

Arizona’s 6-5 junior guard, Allonzo Trier had a tremendous showing in his team’s lopsided win over Northern Arizona.  He dominated the game offensively, and he was able to score 32 points on 10-of-13 shooting, and he also added 5 rebounds and 4 assists.  He is a smooth scorer that can really pile on points in many different ways.  He can score on patient drives to the hoop, as he possesses an adequate first step off the dribble, and he possesses very good balance, body control, and shooting touch to garner numerous scores in the paint.  Trier also excels at scoring on the move, as he can throw down an emphatic dunk on the break, and he also can quickly cut to the hoop to put himself in scoring position.

Trier also shot the ball very well, as he made both of his threes off the catch, and he even made one from far out on the wing.  He also utilized a pump fake and a step back move to seamlessly make a pull-up, mid-range jumper.   A few times, he missed shots in traffic around the basket, as he does not possess an elite first step to the hoop, but Trier is a smart player that knows how to maneuver his way to the basket.

He also showed off fairly average playmaking skills.  He did make some good passes in this game, as one was when he drove to the hoop, and threw a nifty dump off pass to a teammate to set up a score around the basket.  Trier throws solid interior passes, as he can throw high, accurate entry passes, and he also found another teammate on a lob.   Trier also will move off the ball on offense.  But sometimes, Trier may commit turnovers, as he was called for clearing out with his arm in an attempt to drive to the hoop a few times.  Other times, he may throw an up for grabs pass in traffic, or he may not always protect the basketball when looking to make a play off the dribble.

He also was able to come away with his fair share of boards when he was on the floor.  Trier would leap up to get defensive rebounds, and he also drew free throws after getting one late in the first half.  Plus, Trier showcased fairly average defensive skills.  He was able to quickly pick off a pass to obtain a steal, and he drove it quickly up the floor to turn it into fast break points for his team.  However, sometimes he can have lapses defensively, as he got beat on a pivot move when defending a drive to allow a score, and he also committed a foul on a three-point shooter another time.

Right now, Allonzo Trier is an intriguing prospect, and he could be a national player of the year candidate in college basketball.  He is an athletic swingman that can shoot and score the basketball, and he can provide instant offense to a team.  He may need to show teams that he can be a plus-level contributor at the NBA level in the other facets of the game, but Trier has some really solid strengths that could enable him to be a good value pick in the mid first round of the upcoming draft.

Arizona’s freshman swingman, Emmanuel Akot is a very athletic basketball player that showed off solid playmaking and defensive skills.  He struggled with his jump shot in this game against Northern Arizona, but he is an intriguing prospect nonetheless.  He provided solid defense with his ability to pick off passes to obtain steals, and he would consistently contest shots to force misses.  Akot passes and handles the ball well, and he also can draw fouls and garner scores off the dribble.  If he can be a more consistent shooter, he could end up being a lottery pick in 2018.  Right now, he may be a good candidate to go in the mid to late first round range if the draft were held today.

Arizona’s 7-0 senior center, Dusan Ristic generally did a good job of scoring inside the paint when he was on the floor.  He would get scores in the post, as he would show good strength, shooting touch, and adequate footwork down low, and he also managed throw down a powerful dunk on a roll to the rim.  Plus, he would come away with some rebounds, and he also caught an errant entry pass to get a steal.

He did miss a few easy shots, and he would over-rotate at times, which would lead his team to allow scores.  But generally, Ristic played well as he scored 20 points and had 10 rebounds, and his ability to score and rebound in the paint and bang in the middle could enable him to be a potential second round pick in 2018.

The Missouri-Iowa State game:

After watching the first half, I tuned in to catch the Missouri-Iowa State game, as I was anticipating this to be one of the few times to see Michael Porter Jr. this month or in the non-conference part of the season before his team will really start getting into it against SEC teams.  But, Michael Porter Jr. ended up getting hurt two minutes into the game, and he sat out the rest of the game with a hip injury.  As for the game itself, Missouri played very well, as they were a cohesive unit that was in command the entire time.  Their point guard did a good job of facilitating on the floor, their wing players generally played a solid all-around game, their big men really controlled the paint, and Missouri played stifling defense against Iowa State.  I tuned in to see Michael Porter Jr., but came away thinking that Missouri could end up being a surprisingly good team in college basketball if they keep playing like how they did on this day.

Missouri’s 6-10 freshman forward, Michael Porter Jr. did not play much, but he showed a very good ability to rebound the basketball, and he managed to score on a quick put back.  Defensively, his effort seemed to lag at times, as he would not always spring up and down the floor.  His draft standing is not based just on this game however, and there are plenty of games to evaluate him later on.  As of right now, he still remains a strong contender to be the top pick for the 2018 NBA Draft, but it is concerning that he played just two minutes, as he could end up being one of the more injury-prone prospects in this draft class.

In Porter’s absence, 6-10 freshman center Jeremiah Tilmon definitely picked up the slack, as he did a very good job of scoring inside the paint, and he also seems to be an athletic big man that can grab some rebounds and protect the paint.  He showed a deft scoring touch around the basket, and he could be a potential sleeper either for this draft or in the future.

Tilmon showed off good low post scoring skills, as he has very good strength, footwork, and shooting touch around the basket.  He possesses an advanced set of moves, as not only was he able to score using a drop step move, but he quickly pivoted to score on an nifty up and under move another time.   Plus, he can often score on rolls to the rim, and he can also throw down powerful, rim rocking dunks.

He showed off decent playmaking skills for a player his size.  He did commit one bad turnover, as he was doubled in the post, and he ended up losing the ball out of bounds after being trapped by two defenders.  But Tilmon quickly adjusted, as he threw an accurate entry pass after being doubled in the post to notch an assist, and he showed more of a willingness to find the open man as the game wore on.

Tilmon did a good job of rebounding the basketball.  He came away with numerous boards when he was on the floor, and he also managed to score on a put back off of an offensive rebound.  Plus, he displayed decent defensive skills.  He was an adequate help defender for his team, as he managed to block a shot off of a drive, and he would contest shots to force misses.  Also, he would get his hands on loose balls to try to help his team come away with steals.  However, Tilmon had some trouble defending in the post, as he would occasionally give up deep position.  Other times, he would have lapses, as he gave up too much space to allow a mid-range jumper, and he committed a foul on a drive another time.

In this game, 6-10 freshman center, Jeremiah Tilmon played very well, as he provided solid scoring and rebounding skills, and he is a good athlete that possess the potential to be a plus-level rim protector at the next level if he works on the finer points of the game.  He sort of reminds me of current New York Knicks center, Kyle O’Quinn.  Tilmon had a great showing against Iowa State on this day, and he could potentially be worth a pick in the late first to the second round of the upcoming draft.

Missouri’s 6-7 junior forward, Kevin Puryear had an outstanding game, as he scored 17 points on 6-of-7 shooting, made both of his threes, and grabbed 8 rebounds in his team’s win over Iowa State.  He played well in all areas, and he could also be a sleeper for the upcoming draft.  Puryear is an athletic, skilled combination forward that can score in a variety of ways.  He is adept at scoring in the post, as he can do so on strong drop step moves, and he shot the ball well, as he made spot-up threes off the catch, as well as a mid-range jumper after turning to face the basket.   Plus, he is a crafty, high motor player that can draw fouls on defenders on strong, patient drives to the rim, as well as off of put backs.

He did show a willingness to pass the basketball, as he notched one assist by passing out of the post after being doubled to find another post player, and Puryear will at times find open shooters.  However, he committed numerous turnovers, as he would at times throw inaccurate passes.  Puryear did a very good job of rebounding the basketball.  He showed very good motor and instincts to haul in boards, as he would leap up to get numerous defensive rebounds, and he was also active on the offensive glass. 

In this game, Kevin Puryear played really well, and on this day, his game seemed to resemble a lesser athletic version of DeMarre Carroll.  Puryear is a tough, gritty forward that will really get after it on both ends of the floor, and he could end up being a 3 and D type of player in the NBA.  He will need to prove that he can make jump shots more consistently and play lock down defense against the higher end prospect.  But with his skill set, he may project to be a good value pick in the second round for 2018 or next year.

Missouri’s 6-7 senior forward, Jordan Barnett played very well in his team’s win over Iowa State.  He excelled at knocking down spot-up threes off the catch, and he also would score on hustle plays, as he would get buckets in transition, and he also threw down an emphatic dunk off of a cut.  He also played fairly good defense, as he would aggressively contest shots to force numerous misses, and he also blocked a shot off of a drive, but sometimes, he would commit a foul or allow a score on occasion.  But generally, Barnett played quite well, as he could end up being a valuable addition to an NBA team’s summer league roster, and there may be an outside chance he could be a potential second round pick if he continues to play well this season.

Missouri’s freshman big man, Jontay Porter had a decent showing in his team’s double digit win over Iowa State.  He is a very good passer, as he can do so off the dribble or from the post, and he can score the basketball inside and out.  Porter was able to make an open three in the corner.  He struggled to consistently knock down outside shots, but he may possess the potential to develop into being a reliable stretch big in the NBA.  He also managed to draw free throws after posting up, though he nearly had the ball ripped away from his grasp, but he did also show a tendency to commit some bad turnovers, as he would tend to commit charging fouls on offense.  One came off of a drive, another came after he received the ball on a cut as he lowered his shoulder into a defender.

However, he may need to improve his ability to rebound the basketball.  For the positives, Jontay Porter can collect boards on both ends of the floor, as he can chase down an offensive rebound, and he can tip balls to teammates to help them come away with defensive boards.  But Porter committed an over the back foul going after an offensive rebound once.  Another time, he didn’t block out, as he ended up allowing a put back score.

He also showed off decent defensive skills.  Early in the game, Porter blocked a three-point shot, but ended up stepping out of bounds as he caught the ball.  He also was able to heap on a loose ball to help his team get a steal, and he also contested a shot in the post to force a miss.  But sometimes, he can have lapses defensively.  He didn’t run the floor hard once, as his team allowed a score in transition.  Another time, he over-rotated on his opponent’s drive, and was late to rotate to a cutter, as he committed a foul and allowed a score around the basket that time.

Right now, Jontay Porter may not be a polished prospect, but he may be an interesting one, as he can be a stretch big that can block shots.  With more seasoning, he could develop into being an effective role player in the NBA.  As it stands right now, he may project to be a second round prospect for the upcoming draft.

Iowa State’s freshman point guard, Lindell Wigginton had a rough game in his team’s blowout loss to Missouri.  His first half showing was especially bad, as he had trouble scoring in traffic or off the dribble, and he would play too recklessly that would result in him committing turnovers, but he did play better in the second half.  In this game, Wigginton showed a good ability to knock down spot-up threes off the catch, but he did not take nearly enough of them.  He did show the ability to score on drives to the hoop, and he even used a spin move to draw a foul on a defender, but he struggled to consistently score off the dribble, and he ended up having his shots blocked several times.  He also had trouble making pull-up, mid-range jumpers, and his shot selection was spotty at best.

Wigginton did show the ability to leap up to get boards, though he did not grab enough rebounds.  He is an adequate athlete that can play well in short bursts, but he really had trouble consistently scoring off the dribble and he did not run the team very well.  Moving forward, he will need to play better, and he will likely have to be more of a game manager to help his team win more basketball games this year.

Iowa State’s 6-5 junior guard Nick Weiler-Babb had a solid second half showing, as he showed the ability to make threes both off the catch, dribble, as well as off of screens, and he also can make pull-up, mid-range jumpers.  Plus, he generally passed the ball well, and he also leapt up to intercept a lob pass in transition to obtain a steal.  Right now, Weiler-Babb may not be on many NBA scouts or teams’ radars, but as he could potentially be the best player on Iowa State, he could be a player to watch for the 2018-19 season.

Other Notes:

In other games on the first day of the college basketball season, Duke’s freshman big man, Marvin Bagley scored 25 points and hauled in 10 rebounds in his team’s blowout win over Elon.  With his strong showing, combined with Porter coming down with a hip injury. Bagley may be a strong contender to be a top pick candidate for the 2018 NBA Draft.

Also, UCLA’s vastly athletic, 6-7 combo forward Kris Wilkes threw down a high-flying dunk in transition, and he managed to make four three-pointers in his team’s narrow win over Georgia Tech.  With Wilkes’ athleticism and scoring skills, he could perhaps be a potential first round prospect for 2018. 

Meanwhile, Georgia Tech’s senior center, Ben Lammers kept his team in the game as he made his first 8 field goals, and he ended up scoring 24 points and collecting 10 rebounds, but his team fell just short as they played without Josh Okogie, and his team lost by three to UCLA.

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