Thoughts On The Memphis-Boise State NIT Basketball Game

March 25th, 2021

By Alan Lu

Today, I took the time to watch the Memphis Tigers play against Derrick Alston Jr. and Boise State in the NIT quarterfinals.  It was a hard-fought, defensive battle that went all the way down to the wire.  Alston was impressive early on by making strong all-around plays early in the first half, but then he took a hard spill after getting fouled on a dunk attempt off of a cut that seemed to impact the rest of the game.  After getting six quick points early on, Alston seemed to struggle to get easy offense or to score consistently after that, and Memphis was able to draw Boise State into a slugfest to get the win.  Here are my thoughts on how various prospects fared in this game.

Memphis’ sophomore guard, Boogie Ellis took the shot over Boise State’s Marcus Shaver Jr. in his team’s NIT quarterfinals win over Boise State. Memphis will play Colorado State in the NIT semifinals on Saturday, March 27th at 12pm EST on ESPN.
(Photo:
Ron Jenkins/Associated Press, via The Seattle Times)

Memphis’ 6-7 sophomore forward, D.J. Jeffries played fairly well in his team’s win over Boise State.  Though he struggled with his three-point shot, he was able to make solid plays on both ends of the floor, and he consistently made good team plays to help his team get the victory. Jeffries did a very good job of scoring in the post.  He managed to quickly turn to score on a smooth layup once, and he also used a step back move to score on a one-legged, fadeaway jumper.  He also drove to the post area and used deft footwork to score on a strong, step-through move off the glass.

He also showed that he can score on pull-up jumpers from the mid-range.  He also nearly scored on a tip-in, except his teammate had scored earlier on the play due to an opponent committing a goaltend by swatting the shot only after it hit the glass.  On the downside, Jeffries missed on a quick cut due to rushing, and he missed all of his threes from beyond the arc.

He also passed the ball well in this game.  Jeffries is a solid decision-maker that would quickly drive and kick balls to open shooters to notch assists, and he showed off solid court vision.  Plus, he also did a good job of not turning the ball over on offense. Plus, he also was able to leap up to get his fair share of rebounds, as he would help his team get defensive boards in this game.

Also, Jeffries also played fairly good defense.  He was able to block a shot off of a drive to a teammate, and he would swat shots to help his team protect the paint.  He also intercepted a pass to get a steal, and he would contest jump shots from all over the floor to force misses.  On the downside, sometimes he would commit fouls due to over-aggressiveness.  On another play, he got backed down in the post, and he ended up allowing a score that time.

In summary, D.J. Jeffries had a solid showing in his team’s win over Boise State in the NIT quarterfinals.  He is a tough, gritty forward that showed that he can comfortably score off the dribble and in the post, and he also passed the ball and defended well.   He has sometimes struggled in games this season, especially early on, but he has been playing solid basketball lately, and he could be an intriguing option for NBA teams to consider in the mid to late second round portion of the 2021 draft.

Boise State’s 6-9 senior swingman, Derrick Alston Jr. had his ups and downs in his team’s close loss to Memphis.  He played extremely well early on in the first half.  He showed that he was a very athletic, rangy defender, and he also was attacking the basket to score and get assists.  However, after taking a hard spill after getting fouled hard off of a cut, he briefly was knocked out of the game as he had a teammate shoot free throws for him before re-entering the contest.  When he came back, he wasn’t quite the same player.  He did occasionally have his moments, but he struggled with his outside shot, and he was generally too passive on offense, as he didn’t look to attack the hoop nearly as much in the second half.

He did a very good job of scoring on hustle plays.  He would often draw fouls on backdoor cuts, which would help his team get to the free throw line.  He also ran the floor to score on the break.  There were also times where he almost scored on a high-flying dunk on a drive in transition, and he nearly scored on a tip-in, except that those plays didn’t count due to fouls being called earlier on those possessions.

He also showed a decent ability to score off the dribble.  Alston was able to score on a scoop layup off of a quick baseline drive, and he would get fouled to often get to the free throw line.  On the downside, he struggled to score on pull-up jumpers from either the mid-range or from beyond the arc.  Alston did make an open, spot-up three once, but he really struggled with his three-point shot in this game.

Plus, Alston displayed fairly average playmaking skills.  He is a tall, skilled playmaker that can smoothly pass and handle the basketball, and he can throw solid passes off the dribble to set up plenty of scoring chances for his teammates.  He also showed the potential and capacity to be able to be the team’s point forward on occasion.  On the downside, he was also a bit turnover prone in this game.  He would sometimes commit ball-handling turnovers, as he was called for traveling when trying to hoist up a pull-up three, and he had a ball ripped away from him in the high post another time.  He also didn’t always work to get open, and when his teammate had the ball late in the game with less than 30 seconds left, he didn’t work to get open, and he just stood there while he was guarded by a defender in the corner, as the play resulted in his teammate, Devonaire Doutrive to miss on a contested floater at the rim. Also, Alston did a good job of rebounding the basketball.  He would chase down balls to get boards on both ends of the floor, and sometimes he would push the ball up the court.

Adding to that, Alston also played good defense in this game.  He was able to use his length, athleticism, and timing to block a three-point shot, and he also would intercept passes to get steals.  He also was able to deflect a pass to nearly get another, and he showed a knack for catching errantly thrown passes to help his team force turnovers.  On the downside, there was one play where he got outmuscled when defending an opponent off the dribble, which led him to allow his man to score on a turnaround, mid-range jumper.

In general, Derrick Alston Jr. had a decent showing in his team’s loss to Memphis.  He played really well early on, but he seemed to fade down the stretch in crunch time.  He seemed worn out, especially after the big hit he took when he got fouled and landed hard on dunk attempt that he tried after getting the ball on a backdoor cut.  He struggled with his outside shot in this game, but he has had a very good senior season overall, and he is an athletic, versatile swingman that could be a solid pick for an NBA team in the second round in the 2021 draft, as he could be a solid role player similar to former NBA player, Dorell Wright in the association.

Memphis’ sophomore guard, Boogie Ellis played relatively well in his team’s win over Boise State.  He excelled as a scorer, especially early on, and he showed that he is a versatile scorer that did a surprising good job of scoring in the post. Ellis did a very good job of scoring in the post.  He would use spin moves to score on quick, turnaround jumpers from the block.  He also was able to score on a strong, running layup off the glass when driving to the hoop, and Ellis is a quick, strong player that can effectively score off the dribble. He also dribbled off of a screen and pulled up to make a three off the dribble, and he also made a long two another time.  On the downside, Ellis struggled to make jumpers further away from the basket, as he was inconsistent at scoring from further out.

He also was fairly turnover prone on offense.  On one good play, Ellis was able to throw an accurate entry pass to notch an assist.  However, he would tend to commit ball-handling turnovers, especially when facing significant ball pressure.  He had a ball ripped away from him, and he was called for a carrying violation another time.  On a separate play, he was called for a clear out on a drive in transition to commit an offensive foul and a turnover on that possession.

Ellis did a good job of rebounding the basketball, and he would help his team get defensive boards.  He also played satisfactory defense.  He did a good job of intercepting and deflecting passes to help his team get steals and deflections.  Sometimes, he can gamble too much defensively.   He was caught ball watching and was late to rotate back to his man, which led him to allow his man to score on an open three.  Another time, he was called for committing a reach-in foul in the backcourt due to over-aggressiveness.

Overall, Boogie Ellis had a fairly solid game in his team’s win over Boise State.  He especially excelled as a scorer in the post, and in a game that was devoid of scoring, he was able to help his team put up some offense.  He will still need to be a more consistent shooter and he will need to show that he can effectively run the point at higher levels, but he is an agile, skilled combo guard that could be a prospect to watch in the future.

Memphis’ 6-5 sophomore guard, Lester Quinones played very well in his team’s win over Boise State.  He was very efficient as a shooter and scorer in this game, and he also rebounded the ball really well.  He excelled at making quick, corner threes to provide floor spacing for his team on offense.  He also showed a knack for scoring and drawing fouls on strong put backs after leaping up to get tough offensive rebounds. As a playmaker, he wasn’t too noticeable, but he was called for traveling once when trying to post up.  Quinones did a great job of rebounding the basketball, and he was able to haul in multiple boards on both ends of the floor due to possessing good strength, motor, and instincts.

Overall, Quinones is a tough, high-motor swingman that excelled at making shots and at rebounding the basketball in this game, even though he didn’t get many offensive touches in this game.  He may be one of the more underrated players on his college team, and he is a glue guy that could project into a 3 and D role in the NBA someday.

Memphis’ 6-9 junior forward, DeAndre Williams had a decent showing in his team’s win over Boise State.  He made some solid plays on both ends of the floor, and he is an athletic point forward that also showed some good defensive skills in this game.

Williams didn’t make shots consistently, but he was able to do a little bit of everything in this game.  He ran in to score on an athletic tip slam after leaping up to get an offensive rebound, he made an open three-point shot off the catch, and he also scored on a turnaround, pull-up mid-range jumper from the right elbow.  On the downside, he often would tend to miss shots off the dribble, especially when he would try to take it all the way to the hoop, as he would tend to take tough, difficult shots that would lead to misses.

He also displayed fairly average playmaking skills in this game.  He is a tall, agile ball handler that can drive and kick balls to teammates and throw entry passes to get assists.  On the downside, he was also fairly turnover prone.  He threw an inaccurate pass on the break that was dropped out of bounds.  He also committed a charging foul when posting up another time. He did a fairly good job of rebounding the basketball, and he was able to leap up to get multiple boards on both ends of the floor.  Williams also played good defense, as he would frequently intercept passes to get steals, and he also contested a three to force a miss.

Overall, DeAndre Williams had his ups and downs, but he showed some promising skills, and he is a 6-9, athletic point forward that showed some defensive versatility.  He could be a player to watch in the NIT, and he could move up draft boards, especially if his team keeps playing well in this tournament.  Right now, he will need to be a more consistent shooter and he will need to improve his scoring skills, but for the time being, he may project to be a borderline second round candidate in the 2021 draft.

Boise State’s junior forward, Emmanuel Akot had his ups and downs in his team’s loss to Memphis.  Unfortunately, he was quite foul prone, especially early on, but there were stretches where he was hitting big shots from all over the floor, as his team needed him to stay on the floor to stay in this game.

Akot did a good job of knocking down threes, and he excelled at making spot-up threes off the catch.  He also showed a knack for scoring on smooth, turnaround fadeaway jumpers in the post due to possessing solid footwork, strength, and shooting touch.  On the downside, he struggled to knock down pull-up jumpers, which would hurt his shooting percentages.

He displayed adequate playmaking skills in this game.  Akot is a tall, point forward that plays unselfishly, and he would throw solid passes off the dribble and in the post to notch assists.  He has solid court vision, and he also can pass out of double teams.  Sometimes though, he would struggle to get separation when handling the ball, as he was called for a clear-out foul when bringing the ball up once, and he also set a moving screen right after passing the ball on a dribble handoff another time.  He also threw a bad pass that got intercepted on another possession. He was able to chip in to get his fair share of defensive boards when he was on the floor.  He also played satisfactory defense in this game.  Akot was able to contest mid-range shots to force misses.  He also drew a charge when defending in the post another time.

Overall, Akot had some trouble with fouls and turnovers, but there were stretches where he was one of the more reliable scorers and playmakers on offense.  That could prove to be promising for him heading into next season, as they may need to count on him and rely on him for offense.  Next season could be a make or break year for his draft stock, and he could be a prospect to watch in 2022.

Boise State’s 6-10 Serbian big man, Mladen Armus played fairly well in his team’s loss to Memphis.  He especially was effective as a low post scorer, as he showed subtly good agility, as well as solid footwork, strength, and scoring touch to consistently score on the block.  He would quick spin moves to get around his defenders to score inside, and he also used a quick ball fake to drive the ball to the rim to score another time.  Plus, he also ran the floor and threw down a dunk on the break.

Overall, Armus managed to lead all scorers with 12 points on 5 of 6 shooting in this game, and he excelled at scoring in the post in his team’s loss to Memphis.  Though he may only be an average athlete, he did a good job of scoring when he would get the ball on the block.  He didn’t get the ball nearly enough, but he showed some promising skills, as he could be due for a solid senior season next year.

Boise State’s 6-2 redshirt junior guard, Marcus Shaver Jr. had his ups and downs, but he showed a knack for making threes and rebounding the ball in his team’s loss to Memphis.  He showed that he can comfortably make threes from way out, as well as off the dribble.  He struggled more to score from inside the arc, and he tended to miss shots in traffic.  Overalll, he will need to improve his scoring and playmaking skills, but he is an agile combo guard that can shoot the basketball, and he will likely be a key contributor for his team next season as a fifth-year senior if he decides to stay at Boise State for one more year.

Memphis’ 6-7 sophomore forward, Landers Nolley II did not shoot the ball well at all, as he struggled in his team’s win over Boise State in this game.  He scored 8 points on just 3 of 12 shooting,  and while he was active at crashing the glass to help his team get rebounds, he was also quite turnover prone when he was on the court. Nolley showed an adequate ability to score on mid-range jumpers.  He can run off the ball to get open, and he was able to score on a mid-range floater and on a quick, turnaround mid-range jumper.  He did seem to settle for taking too many contested, pull-up jumpers from the mid-range, which would hurt his shooting percentages.  He also struggled to consistently score off the dribble, and he also missed badly when looking to score in the post another time, as he shot a ball that went over the backboard.

He was able to quickly run off the ball to make a quick, spot-up three, and on that play, Nolley showed flashes of the solid shooting skills when running off of off-ball motion plays back when he was at Virginia Tech.  However, Nolley struggled to consistently knock down threes in this game, and he even air-balled a wide-open, spot-up three once, as he missed it wide left.

He also showcased average at best playmaking skills in this game.  On one play, Nolley was able to push the ball quickly up the court after grabbing a defensive rebound, and he showed some handles before passing the ball off that time.  On the downside, he tended to be inaccurate with his passes, as he air-mailed a pass that sailed out of bounds, and he also threw another that got intercepted.

Also, he did a decent job of rebounding the basketball.  He was active at crashing the boards, and he was able to get a clutch defensive rebound late in this game.  On the downside, he was called for committing an over the back foul when trying to tip a ball on an offensive rebounding attempt.  Nolley played satisfactory defense, and he was able to intercept a pass to get a steal.

Overall, Landers Nolley II did not have his best game, and it was disappointing that he struggled so much on offense, even though his team ended up getting the win over Boise State.  Nolley is a talented shooter, and he’s shown the ability to run off ball screens to knock down three-pointers, but he has been inconsistent over the course of his two seasons in college basketball.  He may need to stay in school for another season, but if he declares for the NBA draft, he likely would be a borderline second round candidate.  If things break his way, Nolley could project to be an effective role player similar to former journeyman forward, Kyle Singler in the NBA.

For Memphis’ freshman center, Moussa Cisse, if he was looking to boost his draft stock, his lackluster performance in this game probably won’t help him do that, even though his team did get the win over Boise State.  He was held scoreless in this game, and he missed all five of his free throws, as he has really struggled with his free throw shooting this season.

Cisse started the game, and he showed a solid ability to draw fouls on hustle plays.  He would roll hard to the hoop and get fouled to get free throws.  He also drew free throws on a strong put back.  He also showed the ability to score in the post, as he drew a non-shooting foul on a quick, right-handed high-post drive.  However, he’s an absolutely atrocious free throw shooter, and his five missed free throws now makes him a 30% free throw shooter this year.

He did show some adequate playmaking skills.  Cisse is an unselfish player that will pass out of the post, and he was able to pass out of a double team to find an open shooter to net an assist.   On the downside, he also committed an offensive foul off the ball when jostling for low-post position another time. He did a decent job of rebounding the basketball, and he showed that he can box out his opponents to draw fouls, and that he can get strong rebounds when he is on the floor.

Defensively, he looked to be about average at best.  For the positives, he is a capable low post defender.  He was able to guard a low post player to force his man to commit a traveling violation.  Another time when defending down low, he held his ground and contested the shot to force a miss.  However, he generally struggled to defend in space.  He rotated to commit a foul off of a cut early on.  He also sagged too far off of a shooter to allow an opponent to score on a three-point shot.  Another time, he got beat off the dribble to allow a score at the rim.

Overall, Moussa Cisse did not play well at all in his team’s win over Boise State.  He’s an athletic center whose shot blocking prowess could get him looks in the late second round by NBA teams, but he does not appear to be anywhere close to ready for the league yet.  He will need to be a much more skilled player offensively, and he will need to start by improving his free throw shooting and shooting stroke on offense.  He has shown the ability to roll to the rim, but that was quickly negated when he would get fouled and then proceed to not make any of his free throws. 

He may need to stay in school for at least another season.  On the other hand, in a favorable scenario, if Cisse can continue to hone his game and progress as an overall player, he could project into a rim protector role and be a viable role player similar to former journeyman center, Jelani McCoy in the NBA.

Other Notes:

Mississippi State edged out Richmond in the NIT quarterfinals as they won, 68-67. D.J. Stewart scored 22 points, he made 2 threes, and he also had 5 assists, and 2 steals in this game. Even more impressive he drew and made all 10 of his free throws, as he basically lived at the foul line in that game. Mississippi State’s 6-3 sophomore guard, Iverson Molinar scored 18 points on 7 of 10 shooting, and he made 2 threes against Richmond.

For Richmond, 5-9 senior guard, Jacob Gilyard scored 22 points, he made 5 threes, and he also had 6 assists and 4 steals in his team’s losing effort. Mississippi State will play against Louisiana Tech in the NIT semifinals.

Colorado State defeated NC State, 65-61, and they will play against Memphis in the NIT semifinals. Colorado State’s 6-0 sophomore point guard, Isaiah Stevens scored 18 points, he made 2 threes, and he also had 4 assists and 2 steals in this game. Colorado State’s 6-5 sophomore forward, David Roddy had 16 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 assists in this game.

For NC State, 6-11 sophomore center, Manny Bates scored 13 points, and he had 6 rebounds and 2 blocks. 6-7 junior forward, Jericole Hellems scored 15 points, but on 6 of 16 shooting, and he had 5 assists and 4 rebounds in this game. 6-10 senior forward, D.J. Funderburk scored 13 points on 6 of 7 shooting, he made a three-point shot, and he also collected 9 rebounds in his team’s losing effort.

In the final game of the night, Louisiana Tech defeated Western Kentucky, 72-65. For Louisiana Tech, 6-4 senior guard, Kalob Ledoux scored 20 points, he made an impressive 6 three-pointers, and he also hauled in 6 rebounds in this game. Also, 6-7 freshman forward, Kenneth Lofton Jr. had 11 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks in this game. Louisiana Tech’s 6-6 sophomore swingman, Isaiah Crawford had 9 points and 6 assists in this game.

For Western Kentucky, 6-11 junior center, Charles Bassey scored 15 points, and he also had 16 rebounds, and 3 blocks in his team’s losing effort. 6-2 senior guard, Taveion Hollingsworth scored 13 points on 4 of 12 shooting, and he also had 5 rebounds and 4 assists in his team’s loss to Louisiana Tech. Louisiana Tech will play Mississippi State in their next game.

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