Thoughts on the Oregon State-Tennessee Game in the 2021 NCAA Tournament

March 19th, 2021

By Alan Lu

Today, I decided to take the time to watch Oregon State and Tennessee play in a first round game of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.  I had noticed that I had not seen many Tennessee games this year, and yet, their draft prospects are currently rated unusually high.  I felt like Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer’s draft rankings were too high across the board, given that their questionable shot selection and Johnson’s lack of an outside shot, but they are both athletic guards that are considered to be high-upside prospects, so I decided to watch them again this time around. 

Oregon State jumped on Tennessee and ended up routing them to get the victory over the Volunteers.  As for Johnson and Springer, neither of them impressed me that much, but I thought they had some good moments at times in this game.  Here are my thoughts on how various prospects performed in Oregon State’s win over Tennessee.

Oregon State’s seniors Ethan Thompson and Roman Silva both played well in their team’s first-round win over Tennessee in the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
(Photo:
Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports, via The Register-Guard)

Ethan Thompson had a decent showing in his team’s win over Tennessee.  He struggled to consistently knock down shots, but he still played a solid all-around game, as he had 13 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists to help his team get the victory. He did a decent job of scoring in the post as well as off the dribble.  Thompson was able to score on a turnaround, fadeaway jumper in the post, and he also drove in to score on a tough leaner another time.  He also managed to score on a tip-in after grabbing an offensive rebound.  Sometimes though, he would take tough, contested shots that would lead to misses. He was able to make a mid-range shot and a deep three off the catch to show his range, but Thompson struggled to make outside shots consistently in this game.

Also, he displayed satisfactory playmaking skills.  Thompson is an unselfish player that basically operates as a point forward, and he can throw solid passes off the dribble to set up numerous scores for his teammates.  On the downside, he did commit a few turnovers due to carelessness.  He threw a hasty pass that got intercepted, he dropped a pass another time, and he also dribbled around for too long that led to a shot clock violation.

Plus, Thompson did a terrific job of rebounding the basketball.  He was especially active at crashing the glass to help his team get numerous boards when he was on the floor. He also played solid defense in this game.  Thompson would actively contest jump shots to force misses, and he also successfully drew a charge when defending a drive to get a stop on a separate possession.

Overall, Ethan Thompson played well in his team’s win over Tennessee.  He played a smart, poised overall game, and he made solid team plays to help his team on both ends of the court.  Currently, he projects to be a borderline second round candidate for the upcoming draft, and if things pan out for him, he could end up developing into being a solid role player in the NBA someday.

Tennessee’s Keon Johnson has been rated as high as the lottery on some of the draft sites, and he is a very athletic guard that may possess a great deal of upside, but poor shot selection and a slow start doomed him and his team to lose to Oregon State in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.
(Photo:
Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports, via Marietta Daily Journal)

Tennessee’s freshman guard, Keon Johnson had his ups and downs in his team’s stunning loss to Oregon State.  He struggled with his jump shot early, and he missed his first 5 shots of the game.  He did showcase very good athletic gifts, and he was able to make some solid plays on both ends of the floor, but he did tend to take some bad shots on offense.  In this game, Johnson scored 14 points on 6 of 16 shooting, and he also had 6 rebounds, 3 steals, and 2 assists in his team’s losing effort.

Tennessee’s Keon Johnson was able to pick off a pass to get a steal, and he then went coast to coast to score on the break.
(Source: Twitter/@Mike_Schmitz)

Johnson generally excelled at scoring on hustle plays.  He would throw down powerful dunks off of backdoor cuts as well as off of a put back.  Late in the first half, he jumped a pass to get a steal, and he went coast to coast to score on a speedy, acrobatic underhanded layup in transition.  On the downside, he would sometimes take contested, rushed shots that would lead to misses.

He also showed an adequate ability to score off the dribble.  Johnson was able to score on a strong, high-post drive while getting an extra free throw.  However, there were two other possessions where he would go in too fast and out of control, which led him to miss awkwardly off the glass.  He also attempted to score in the post, but he ended up having his shot blocked that time.

He also struggled to consistently knock down jumpers in this game.  On one good play, Johnson stepped back to make a three-point shot from beyond the arc.  On the other hand, he didn’t shoot nearly enough threes, and he missed far too many pull-up, mid-range jumpers, as he would tend to take contested, mid-range shots far too often in this match.

Also, he displayed adequate playmaking skills in this game.  For the positives, Johnson competes hard, and he can get balls to shooters on drive and kick plays to set up scoring chances for them.  He also can throw interior passes, and he also can pass out of the post.  On the downside, he also had a tendency to telegraph his passes, as he had a couple of them get intercepted, and he also dropped a pass off of a cut that led to another team turnover.

Plus, he did a good job of rebounding the basketball.  Johnson would leap up to get plenty of boards on both ends of the floor, and there was one play where he brought the ball up after getting a defensive board.  However, there was another play where he was called for committing an over the back foul when going for a defensive board another time.

In addition, Johnson also played solid defense.  He is a very active and aggressive defender that was able to make numerous plays on this side of the ball, and he seems to possess real shut-down potential as he has elite physical tools and quickness that could allow him to be a great defender at the next level.  Johnson showed a knack for poking balls away when defending opposing ball handlers to get steals, and he also quickly jumped a pass to force another turnover.  He’s a long, athletic defender that will apply heavy ball pressure, as he managed to get an opponent to commit an offensive foul, and he also helped trap an opposing ball handler on the sideline to force his man to step out another time.  He also contested three to force a miss.  On the downside, sometimes he will over-help in the paint, as he would be late to rotate back to his man, and his team ended up allowing opponents to score on three-point shots in this game.

Overall, Keon Johnson didn’t have his best game, but he seemed to play better as it progressed.  His draft stock may be a bit high right now, but he is a very athletic swingman that may be a high-upside prospect that could go in the late lottery.  He could be a solid pick for an NBA team in the mid-first round range, but Johnson will definitely need to improve his shot selection and outside shot, and he will need to play more under control on offense.  If things break his way, he could end up being a solid starter similar to current San Antonio Spurs’ point guard, Dejounte Murray in the NBA.

Santiago Vescovi also played well in his team’s stunning loss to Oregon State.  Tennessee’s sophomore guard, excelled as a shooter and scorer in this game, and he also was able to make some solid plays defensively when he was on the court. Vescovi showed a solid ability to knock down threes, and he showed that he can knock down spot-up threes from well beyond the arc.  He also used a behind-the-back dribble move to score on a crafty, reverse layup off the dribble.

He also displayed fairly average playmaking skills.  Vescovi can throw solid passes off the dribble, and he also threw a long outlet pass to get the ball to a teammate on the break.  On another play though, he lost the ball while handling it to commit his lone turnover. He also was able to get his fair share of boards to help his team on the glass.  He also played satisfactory defense in this game.  Vescovi was able to jump passes to get steals, and he also helped trap an opposing ball-handler in the backcourt to force another turnover. 

Overall, Santiago Vescovi had a fairly good showing in this game, and he was a consistent outside threat, as he would knock down shots from long distances to help his team on offense.  He will need to improve his playmaking skills and he will need to be a more assertive player on offense moving forward, but he could be a prospect to watch next season.

Oregon State’s 7-1 senior center, Roman Silva had a tremendous showing in his team’s upset win over Tennessee.  He scored 16 points on a perfect 8 of 8 from the field, and he also had 4 rebounds and 3 blocks in this game. Silva did a very good job of scoring in the post.  He would frequently score on jump hooks and drop step moves, and he also used a quick spin move to score on a layup around the basket.  He showed off very good footwork and scoring touch, and he was automatic as a scorer on the block.  He also managed to score on a couple of quick put backs after grabbing offensive rebounds. He also showed a satisfactory ability to defend in this game.  Silva excelled at blocking shots when defending in the post.  Every once in a while though, he would sometimes pick up fouls when defending around the basket.

In general, Roman Silva had a terrific game, and he had a career night has he went perfect from the field, and he scored 16 points to help his team defeat Tennessee in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.  For a center that has not played nearly enough this year, this was his by far, his strongest showing of the season.  He is a strong, high-motor center that can score and block shots.  If he can extend his shooting range and improve his passing skills, that could help him increase his odds to make it to and succeed in the NBA.  If he can continue to play well, and if things pan out for him, he could end up being a reliable role player similar to journeyman center, Aron Baynes in the association.

Tennessee’s freshman guard, Jaden Springer had his ups and downs in his team’s loss to Oregon State.  He was able to make solid plays at times, but he struggled to make shots consistently in this game. Springer did a good job of scoring on hustle plays.  He ran the floor to score on an acrobatic layup on the break.  Springer also managed to score on an athletic tip-in after grabbing an offensive rebound.

He also excelled at scoring off the dribble.  He would tend to favor going to his right, and he can subtly get by defenders to score at the rim.  He also was able to go to his left, as he managed to draw free throws on a tough, fadeaway.  He also tried to score on a fadeaway jumper in the post, but missed that time.

On the downside, he struggled to knock down jumpers in this game.  He was able to make a smooth, mid-range shot, but he had a lot of difficulty in trying to knock down pull-up jumpers, especially from the mid-range.  Springer tended to take contested, mid-range shots that would tend to miss badly. Also, he displayed fairly good playmaking skills.  Springer can throw solid passes off the dribble, and he was able to find a cutter to notch an assist.  While he can sometimes play too fast and throw inaccurate passes, he did a good job of not turning the ball over on offense in this game.

Also, Springer was able to leap up to get his fair share of boards, as he was able to get rebounds on both ends of the floor.  He also played satisfactory defense in this game.  Springer would deflect passes and apply heavy ball pressure to trap opposing ball handlers to force turnovers.  He also contested a fadeaway jumper in the post to force a miss.  On the downside, he would tend to commit aggressive fouls on opposing ball handlers.  He also over-helped in the paint and was late to rotate back to his man, which led him to allow his man to score on a three-point shot.

Overall, Jaden Springer didn’t play very well overall, but he had some good moments at times in his team’s loss to Oregon State.  He will need to trust his outside shot, particularly from beyond the arc, and he will need to learn to let it fly when he has an open shot from behind the three-point line.  Springer is not quite a point guard, but he is undersized to play the two, but his ability to knock down shots and defend, combined with having fairly solid athletic gifts could make him an enticing option for NBA teams to consider in the late first to the second round range on draft day.  If things pan out for him, he could end up being a solid role player similar to Minnesota Timberwolves’ guard, Jaylen Nowell in the association.

Oregon State’s 6-5 senior guard, Zach Reichle shot the ball really well, and he showed a knack for making threes, especially from way out to put up points for his team on offense.  He can run off ball screens to knock them down, and he also can make them off the catch or dribble.  Reichle is a solid shooter that showed a knack for making threes against Tennessee, and he is a skilled marksman that could compete for a roster spot in the NBA next season.

Oregon State’s 6-3 sophomore guard, Jarod Lucas did a great job of knocking down threes in this game, and he particularly excelled at making spot-up threes off the catch, as well as when he would run off ball screens to knock them down.  He is an agile, skilled combo guard that shot the ball well, and he also used a pump fake to make a pull-up, mid-range jumper from the baseline.  He could use another year in school to hone his game, but he is a skilled offensive player that could be a potential second round pick in the 2022 draft.

Oregon State’s 6-7 junior forward, Warith Alatishe didn’t shoot the ball well, but he did pretty much everything else well aside from shooting and scoring in this game.    Though he made just 2 of 10 shots to score just 4 points, Alatishe also had 9 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, and 1 steal in this game, as he was able to show off his versatility in his team’s win over Tennessee.

Alatishe is an unselfish player that passes well out of the post, and he also is a very good rebounder.  He also defended well, as he was able to block a shot ferociously off of a drive to a teammate, and he also would jump on loose balls and poke balls away to help his team get steals and deflections.  He is an athletic, high-motor player that would make a lot of solid hustle plays, especially on the defensive end. He also was able to score on hustle plays, and he was able to score on a roll and a cut to the hoop.  On the downside, he tended to struggle to score in the post, and he also missed on a mid-range jumper another time.

Overall, Alatishe had his ups and downs, but he fared well in the non-shooting or scoring related elements of this game.  He will need to improve his jump shot, and he will need to be more selective with his scoring chances in the post, but his strong rebounding and defensive skills has made him a solid player on Oregon State’s team this year, and he could project into a defensive specialist role in the NBA.

Tennessee’s sophomore guard, Josiah Jordan-James did not shoot the ball well at all, but he rebounded and defended well in this game.  Jordan-James scored just 5 points on 2 of 10 shooting, but he did get 13 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block in his team’s losing effort. For the positives, Jordan-James showed a good ability to score in the post.  He used a pivot move to score on a fadeaway jumper from the baseline early on.  He also managed to score on an athletic tip-in, and he also ran the floor to draw free throws on the break.  On the downside, he missed on all five of his three-point attempts, and he also tended to miss on easy shots around the basket.

He also is an unselfish player that passes well from the post, and he can find teammates on the move to set up scores for them.  Jordan-James also did a terrific job of rebounding the basketball.  He also played fairly good defense.  He was able to block a shot in the post, and he also was able to poke a ball and intercept a pass to get a pair of steals.  He also was able to tie-up an opposing ball handler in the post, and he also contested a shot in the post to force a miss another time.  Sometimes though, he would sag too far off his man, as he ended up allowing an opponent to score on a three-point shot.

Overall, Jordan-James had his ups and downs, but he fared well in the non-shooting or scoring related elements of this game.  He will definitely need to improve his jump shot and scoring skills, but his versatility and team-oriented play may make him a borderline second round candidate for the upcoming draft.

Tennessee’s 6-6 senior forward, Yves Pons played poorly in his team’s loss to Oregon State.  He didn’t look to score very often, he did not make a single field goal, and he was quite foul prone in this game. For the positives, he showed the ability to score in the post.  Pons drew free throws on a turnaround jumper, and he also ran the floor to draw free throws on a turnaround layup another time.  On the downside, he also had a shot blocked in the post, as he can sometimes struggle to get a clean shot up when he does look to score. He also missed on a spot-up three on his lone three-point attempt from beyond the arc.

On the downside, he was quite turnover prone on offense.  He threw an inaccurate pass intended for a cutter that sailed out of bounds, and he also would tend to set moving screens that would lead him to commit offensive fouls and turnovers. Though he didn’t grab many rebounds, Pons was able to leap up to get a pair of defensive boards in this game. He also played adequate defense in this game.  Pons would actively defend and contest shots in the post to force misses, and he also successfully challenged a corner three another time.  He also deflected a pass out of bounds.  On the downside, he will try to block every shot, and he would tend to commit aggressive fouls in the paint.

Overall, Yves Pons did not play very well, and he did not help himself by turning in a bad showing in his team’s loss in the NCAA Tournament today.  Still, he is normally a solid defender at the collegiate level, and he could project into a 3 and D role at the next level.  He will need to improve his jump shot and offensive skills considerably, but his skill set combined with his athletic gifts and motor could help him end up competing for a roster spot in the NBA next season.

Other Notes:

Congrats to Oral Roberts for their overtime win over Ohio State in the first round.  The 15th seeded Golden Eagles had strong performances from Max Abmas, who scored 29 points and made 5 threes, as well as from Kevin Obanor, who scored 30 points, made 5 threes, and also had 11 rebounds in this game.  For Ohio State, E.J. Liddell had 23 points, 14 rebounds, and 5 assists.

Also, congrats to North Texas for their overtime win over Purdue in the first round.  North Texas’ 6-4 senior guard, Javion Hamlet scored 24 points, and he also had 12 rebounds and 5 assists, and he had 8 points and an assist in overtime.  Purdue’s 6-4 freshman guard, Jaden Ivey scored 26 points and made 4 threes in his team’s losing effort.  Purdue’s junior center, Trevion Williams had 14 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 assists for his team.

Oklahoma State’s freshman guard, Cade Cunningham struggled to make shots and ran into foul trouble in the first half, but he was able to bounce back, as his team also played very good defense to get the win over Liberty in the first round.  Cunningham scored 15 points and had 5 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 assist, and 1 block in this game.

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