2008-09 Basketball Preview: Puerto Rico Tip-Off

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After a 2-0 start in Cassell Coliseum, Virginia Tech is now in San Juan
getting ready for the O’Reilly Auto Parts Puerto Rico Tip-Off. The field is very
challenging, featuring two Top 25 teams, including last year’s national
runner-up, Memphis. Traditional basketball schools such as Missouri, Xavier and
Seton Hall are also showing up. This has the potential to be one of the best
tournaments of the season.

This tournament presents Virginia Tech with an opportunity to improve their
strength of schedule without hurting their RPI. It also give them the chance to
pick up quality RPI wins for the NCAA Selection Committee in March, if the
Hokies are still in consideration for the NCAA tournament.

However, the one thing the Hokies can’t do is lose to Fairfield in the
opening game. That would defeat the purpose of taking part in this tournament.

Tournament Bracket

Here is the tournament bracket. Note that the times listed are
local Puerto Rico times. To get the Eastern time, subtract one hour
.

(Example: Virginia Tech’s game with Fairfield on Thursday is 11 a.m.
Eastern time, not noon.)

Fairfield Stags (1-1)

Fairfield will be Virginia Tech’s opening opponent in this tournament. The
game will be at 11am on Thursday. The Stags are 1-1 on the season, with a 90-63
loss at Memphis and a 70-54 home win over Sacred Heart.

Fairfield looks to be a decent small conference team. Four starters scored in
double figures against Sacred Heart. Here is a look at their starting lineup.


Fairfield Starting Lineup

Pos

Player

Ht

Wt

Year

PPG

RPG

Assists

G

Jonathan Han

6-0

160

Sr.

14.5

2.5

14

G

Herbie Allen

5-11

170

Sr.

0

1

1

F

Warren Edney

6-5

200

So.

19

3.5

5

F

Greg Nero

6-7

215

Jr.

11.5

4.5

4

C

Anthony Johnson

6-8

215

Jr.

9.5

7

1

Senior point guard Jonathan Han is arguably the best player on the team. He was
an All-MAAC player last year, leading the conference in assists with 6.2 per
game. Han was 14th nationally in assists per game, and he is seventh all-time in
Fairfield history in assists. He also led the team in scoring, and has 119
career three-pointers.

Han has been hot this year from the outside, hitting 7-of-12 from behind the
arc. He is complemented on the perimeter by wing Warren Edney, who is averaging
19.5 points per game on the season. The Stags also have a solid frontcourt, and
eight players play double-digit minutes per game.

This is a game that Tech should win, but the Stags have the ability to give
them a battle if the Hokies play like they did against Gardner-Webb and Mount
St. Mary’s. If the Hokies beat Fairfield, they’ll play the winner of the
Missouri-Xavier game. Likewise, if they lose to Fairfield they’ll play the loser
of the Tigers and Musketeers.

Missouri Tigers (2-0)

Missouri is 2-0 on the season with blowout wins over Prairie View A&M and
Chattanooga. The Tigers are a good team with a lot of size and skill,
particularly in the post. Because of their post production thus far, this would
not be a particularly good matchup for the Hokies.

Here is a look at Missouri’s starting lineup.


Missouri Starting Lineup

Pos

Player

Ht

Wt

Year

PPG

RPG

Assists

G

J.T. Tiller

6-3

200

Jr.

4

3

6

G

Zaire Taylor

6-4

189

Jr.

2

4

9

G

Matt Lawrence

6-7

203

Sr.

9.5

2.5

2

F

DeMarre Carroll

6-8

225

Sr.

20

8.5

3

F

Leo Lyons

6-9

244

Sr.

23

8

4

The frontcourt is carrying the team through two games. Leo Lyons and DeMarre
Carroll are combining to average 43 points and 16.5 rebounds per game. Thus far
Virginia Tech only has one post player who is playing with consistency, and that
is Jeff Allen. The Hokies would have to step it up inside to knock off the
Tigers.

Carroll and Lyons will crash the offensive glass. 17 of their 33 combined
rebounds have come on the offensive end this year.

Another player to keep an eye on is freshman guard Marcus Denmon. He is
averaging 10 points per game coming off the bench. He was a top 100 player
coming out of high school who can slash and get to the basket.

Missouri plays Xavier on Thursday. That game will tip-off as soon as the
Virginia Tech-Fairfield game is over.

Xavier Musketeers (2-0)

Xavier is a perennial NCAA tournament team from the Atlantic 10 conference.
They are 2-0 thus far, with their most impressive win coming against Toledo
81-65. They aren’t a particularly flashy team, but they are good on both ends of
the court.

Through their first two games, Xavier has had a lot of balance in their
starting lineup and solid production off the bench.


Xavier Starting Lineup

Pos

Player

Ht

Wt

Year

PPG

RPG

Assists

G

Dante Jackson

6-5

205

So.

9.5

3.5

6

G

B.J. Raymond

6-6

226

Sr.

11

2.5

1

F

C.J. Anderson

6-6

225

Sr.

10.5

7

4

F

Derrick Brown

6-8

227

Jr.

9.5

4.5

3

C

Jason Love

6-9

255

Jr.

7

5

2

Xavier runs an efficient offense and they get to the free throw line a lot.
Through two games, the Musketeers have 69 free throw attempts, though they’ve
hit just 45 of them (65.9%).

Xavier is a very big team across the board. Even their starting guards stand
6-5 and 6-6. Wing guard B.J. Raymond is a very dangerous player. A valuable
contributor off the bench in his first three years, he is now in the starting
lineup. He is a dangerous outside shooter, hitting 40.5% of his three-point
attempts coming into this season.

Wing C.J. Anderson has averaged 14.2 points per game in his career. His best
year was his sophomore campaign, when he averaged 18.8 points per game at
Manhattan. He transferred to Xavier, and played his first year with the
Musketeers last season. Anderson is not a three-point threat. He has attempted
just seven career three-pointers.

The Xavier-Missouri game on Thursday could be one of the best of the
tournament.

Chattanooga Mocs (0-2)

Chattanooga has faced a difficult schedule thus far. After falling at
Tennessee 114-75, they lost at Missouri 103-75. Defense does not appear to be
the specialty of the Mocs, though they have played two high octane offensive
teams.

They’ll play another national power in their first game in Puerto Rico, when
they take on national runner-up Memphis.


Chattanooga Starting Lineup

Pos

Player

Ht

Wt

Year

PPG

RPG

Assists

G

Keyron Sheard

6-2

184

Sr.

2

2

9

G

Stephen McDowell

5-11

185

Sr.

14

2.5

0

G

Ty Patterson

6-6

182

Jr.

17

2

4

F

Khalil Hartwell

6-8

222

Sr.

6.5

9

2

F

Nicchaeus Doaks

6-7

239

Sr.

16

9.5

0


Junior college transfer wing guard Ty Patterson appears to be Chattanooga’s best
player. He is averaging 17 points per game thus far. Patterson is a good
three-point shooter who can also slash to the basket.

The Mocs also have a good post threat in Nicchaeus Doaks, who posted a
double-double against Missouri. Overall though, the Mocs aren’t a threat to win
this tournament, as they will run into a lot of trouble in their opening game
with Memphis.

Memphis Tigers (2-0)

Memphis is ranked #13 in the nation a year after playing for the National
Championship. They are 2-0 on the season, with blowout victories over Fairfield
and Umass. The Tigers are a very talented basketball team from top to bottom,
and feature one of college basketball’s top freshmen.


Memphis Starting Lineup

Pos

Player

Ht

Wt

Year

PPG

RPG

Assists

G

Willie Kemp

6-2

184

Jr.

5

1

7

G

Tyreke Evans

6-6

219

Fr.

19

5.5

7

G

Antonio Anderson

6-6

214

Sr.

13.5

6.5

12

F

Robert Dozier

6-9

220

Sr.

14

5

1

F

Shawn Taggart

6-10

238

r-Jr.

10.5

11.5

0

Freshman guard Tyreke Evans did not start the first game of the season, but he
is leading the team in scoring, averaging 19.5 points per game. He is also
averaging 5.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. He is a well-rounded player who
already has an NBA body. He was arguably the #1 recruit in the nation coming out
of high school, and he was the MVP of the McDonald’s All-American Game.

Memphis features two frontcourt players that you’ll be familiar with if you
watch March Madness. Robert Dozier and Shawn Taggart are very talented, athletic
players who are mismatches on the inside. Taggart has a big wingspan and is
averaging a double-double so far this season.

Willie Kemp and Antonio Anderson round out the Memphis starting lineup.
Anderson is an athletic wing who was MVP of the Conference USA Tournament last
year. He was also an All-CUSA Defensive Team selection. Willie Kemp is a combo
guard who is a dangerous three-point threat.

The talent and depth of this Memphis team make them the favorite to win this
tournament.

USC Trojans (2-0)

Another tournament favorite is USC, who is ranked #19 in the nation. The
Trojans are 2-0 after beating New Mexico State 73-60 last night. USC will be
challenged in their opening round game by an improved Seton Hall team.


USC Starting Lineup

Pos

Player

Ht

Wt

Year

PPG

RPG

Assists

G

Daniel Hackett

6-5

215

Jr.

10

4

10

G

Dwight Lewis

6-5

215

Jr.

17

5.5

4

F

DeMar DeRozan

6-7

220

Fr.

10.5

4.5

1

F

Taj Gibson

6-9

225

Jr.

19.5

8

3

F

Keith Wilksinson

6-10

225

Sr.

3.5

7

3

Power forward Taj Gibson has been outstanding early on for USC. He is leading
the Trojans in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots. Last season, the athletic
Gibson had 83 blocks. He was 58% from the field last season, which was also a
team-high.

Wing guard Dwight Lewis has stepped up his game this season, averaging 17
points per contest. Lewis is a decent outside shooter, but he is much better in
the mid-range game and in slashing to the basket. Through two games this year,
he has 12 free throw attempts, showing his ability to get to the basket.

Freshman forward DeMar DeRozan is another talented freshman with the
potential to make an impact in this tournament. DeRozan was a McDonald’s
All-American last year, and he’s averaging 10.5 points per game so far this
season. He was a Consensus Top 5 player nationally coming out of high school.

USC has the ability to win this tournament. However, with a Tuesday night
game in Los Angeles, a long flight to Puerto Rico, and a tough opening round
game against Seton Hall, the Trojans should be on upset alert when they tip-off
on Thursday night.

Seton Hall Pirates

Seton Hall is off to a good star this year, with an 88-61 win over St.
Francis (NY) and a 71-50 victory over Columbia. The Pirates use basically a four
guard lineup, but like most Big East teams they also have a big man in the
middle who rebounds and creates space.


Seton Hall Starting Lineup

Pos

Player

Ht

Wt

Year

PPG

RPG

Assists

G

Eugene Harvey

6-0

165

Jr.

8

5.5

12

G

Paul Gause

5-11

188

Sr.

7.5

5

11

G

Jeremy Hazell

6-5

185

So.

22

3

1

F

Robert Mitchell

6-6

180

Jr.

14.5

7.5

2

C

John Garcia

6-9

265

Sr.

11.5

11

2

Jeremy Hazell looks like a star in the making for Seton Hall. After averaging
12.8 points per game as a freshman last year, he is looking to do even bigger
things this year. So far he leads the team in scoring, averaging 22 points per
game. Hazell is shooting 53.3% from three-point range this year. He also gets to
the basket very well, with 14 free throw attempts through two games.

Seton Hall basically has two point guards in Eugene Harvey and Paul Gause.
Harvey averaged 13.3 points and 4.88 assists per game last year. He was also
third in the Big East in steals with 1.94 per game. Gause missed half of last
season with injuries, but in 2006-07 he led the Big East in steals with 3.1 per
game. The Pirates have a couple of top notch thieves in the backcourt.

Robert Mitchell and John Garcia are the other two starters. Mitchell is a
wing, but he plays the 4-spot for Seton Hall. He could draw the assignment of
guarding USC’s Taj Gibson in the Pirates’ first game. Garcia is a typical Big
East center with a wide body. He has been a very productive player through the
first two games for Seton Hall.

Seton Hall doesn’t stand much of a chance of winning this tournament since
they are on Memphis’ side of the bracket. However, they do have the chance to
catch a potentially tired USC team on Thursday.

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