Wednesday, November 16, 2011

EuroLeague First Round Week 4 Recap: CSKA-PAO, Nancy-Caja, Partizan-Real


The premier matchup of Week 4 went down to the wire with CSKA stealing a road win in OT, 78-76. Game was close, but not well-played. Rather sloppy affair with ill-advised shots and a combined 37 turnovers. PAO really hurt themselves down the stretch with plenty of bad decisions with the ball.

Wasn't Andrei Kirilenko best game on the offensive end--five TOs and a few failed finishes. But he continued to fill out the stat sheet in other ways--10 rebs, 5 blks (AK currently leads EL in rpg & bpg). Kirilenko had a big offensive rebound late and made a crucial on-ball block in OT.

As usual, AK and his forward counterpart, Vik Khryapa, combined to form a devastating help defensive tandem. Both guys roamed around the floor to snuff out or alter shots. Were a big reason PAO only shot 39.5% on 2PA. Khryapa had another strong all-around performance with 11 pts, 4 assts & 3 blks.

Nenad Krstic (13 pts/11 rebs) was solid again drawing fouls and getting on the offensive glass. Alexey Shved (10 pts) came through with some big plays late in the 4th to allow CSKA to tie the game. Shved did a nice job winding his way to the rim.

Euroleague vet Rimas Siskauskas (14 pts) started the game strong and capped off the game with a clutch 3pt. with a minute left in OT.

Dimis Diamantidis had a rather quiet game--six pts, four assts, three stls--and limited to 20 mins. before fouling out. Nick Calahtes continued his strong '11-'12 EL season with 11 pts, 6 rebs & 3 assts. Thought Calathes did a nice job getting into the lane (scored on floaters a few times) thanks to some nifty ball-handling (nice behind-the-back move).

Nancy-Caja Laboral:

Nancy pulled off a big upset by knocking off previously unbeaten Caja, 90-85, in Group A. Caja Laboral failed to close off the middle of the floor, often leaving wide range for Nancy to move through the painted area. Caja also had a hard time staying with the quicker perimeter players of Nancy. Caja let Nancy make 63% of their 2PA, 44% on 3PA. Caja was able to stick around because they pounded the offensive glass--20 off. rebs. to 24 def. rebs, for Nancy.

Next to Andrei Kirilenko, Nic Batum has been the best all-around player during the first four weeks. Nic paced Nancy with 21 pts, 9 rebs and 4 assts. Nancy loves to set up Batum off baseline screens, usually setting him up on the left block. Did a nice job scoring a few times or drawing fouls in the post.

Nicky Batts has also been handling the ball quite a bit for Nancy and has been sharp with his passes--Batum made a superb lob pass to Akin Akingbala. Batum is currently second in ppg (20.5), second in apg (6.5) and fifth in rpg (7.3). But is first in TOpg (5.0).

Batum got key support from former Clemson standout big, Akin Akingbala, who shredded the porous interior defense of Caja with 26 pts on 11-of-16. Akin finished a bunch of times on cuts, rolls or transition, but he also added a few nice post scores to the mix (faced-up then drove middle). Finished with a baby hook multiple times. Akingbala has been one of top players through four games--he's fifth in ppg (20), third in rpg (7.7 rpg) and is shooting 68%.

Caja's Mirza Teletovic (24 pts, 13 rbs, 3 assts) had been primarily seeing most of his touches in the post in the first three game, but he did damage facing up vs. Nancy. Mirza hit five 3PA either spotting up or drilling with a defender in his face in isolation. Mirza has scored at least 20 points in all four EL games and leads the EL in ppg at 22.3. Encouraging to see him improving his rebounding this year--rebounding well in ACB play.

Kevin Seraphin had another impressive game with 12 pts on 6-of-10. Scored mostly off cuts or rolls, but also threw in a terrific post move where he finished with a powerful slam off a quick spin move. Also threw down a dunk off a nice drop-step on a roll as well.

Fernando San Emeterio started the El season a little slow but he had his second strong showing in a row with 19 pts, 7 rebs, 6 assts, 8-of-12 shooting and 3-for-5 on 3PA.

Partizan-Real Madrid:

Hard to call this game an upset as Partizan was playing in front of their raucous home crowd, but they definitely prevailed over a much deeper and talented Real club, 80-79. Sergio Llull's last-second chuck from the corner rimmed-off to seal the one-point victory for Partizan. Real could not keep Partizan off the FT line--28/32 on FTs to 14/17 for Real.

Partizan's frontcourt tandem of Nikola Pekovic and Milan Macvan were strong once again. Pek made a killing on the right block going over his left shoulder. Either would score with a hook or carve out deep position to score on lay-ins. Deep position got him some scores on the left block as well, including a plus-one vs. Serge Ibaka. Also added a nice put-back dunk in transition. Pek finished with 20 pts on 8-of-14, plus 7 drawn fouls--currently averaging 18 ppg in 25 mins/game. Though, his defensive rebounding continues to be subpar.

Recent Cavs draftee Macvan was great again with 16pts/12 rebs and made heady plays on both ends of the court as usual--couple crucial off. rebounds in the 4th. Macvan has been one of the top players in the EL so far--15 ppg, 7.8 rpg (2nd best), 70% shooting. All of Acie Law's (14 points, 5 assts, 3 stls) came on lay-ups either in transitions or on a couple blow-bys in the half-court.

Like in Week 3, Rudy Fernandez (13 pts) made some dubious plays (careless passes off the dribble) but tempered those poor decisions by making some tough shots, including a step-back 3pt. to give Real a two-point lead with a minute left. Rudy's biggest mistake was when he fouled Acie Law in the backcourt with the score tied at 78 under 24 secs left. Though, not sure if the coach requested that foul as this is not uncommon in Europe. Rudy also might have been frustrated he did not get the foul call on a drive attempt on the previous play (Pekovic looked like he clobbered Rudy).

Thought Sergio Llull had one of his better games this year--13 pts, 5 assts, 3 stls-- and did a good job aggressively taking the ball to the rim either in transition or in half-court. Though, Llull did miss the second of two FTs that would have tied the game at 80 with five secs left.

Serge Ibaka did not have much impact as he was limited to 13 minutes because of four fouls; had trouble handling Pekovic. For the third game in a row, sharpshooter Jaycee Carroll led Real in scoring (21 pts on 8-of-12), but he did more than his usual catch-n-shoot vs. Partizan. He mixed in some drives to rim and a couple of floaters to go along with his usual spot or off screen jumpers. Carroll leads Real in scoring at 18.5 ppg in only 21 mins/game.

Bulls draftee Nikola Mirotic (9 pts, 4 rebs) was so-so once again and mishandled the ball a few times. Ante Tomic (Jazz own rights) was a non-factor once again.


Games of the Week:

Fenerbahce Ulker vs. Bennet Cantu (Wed.):
Fenerbahce is definitely the more talented team on paper but the 3-1 Cantu team has been playing good ball. Cantu has gotten good play from their frontcourt rotation (G. Shermadini, M. Leunen, D. Marconato). Ulker hope to get another strong outing from Bojan Bogdanovic after a breakout performance in the last game.

Real Madrid vs. Efes (Thurs.): No off weeks in Group C as two very talented teams take the floor in Madrid. Both teams come into the game 2-2. Plenty of players with NBA ties either current (Rudy Fernandez, Serge Ibaka, Ersan Ilyasova) former (Tarence Kinsey, Sasha Vujacic, Sergio Rodriguez) or possible future (Sergio Llull, Nikola Mirotic, Ante Tomic). Real could really use a win at home after two close losses in a row.

Armani Milano vs. Partizan (Thurs.): Another matchup of 2-2 teams in Group C. Partizan is coming off a great win over Real and will try to knock off Milano on the road. Interesting matchup between Nikola Pekovic and Milano's Giannis Bourousis, two of the better centers in Europe. Milano definitely has the edge on the wings with Danilo Gallinari and Malik Hairston.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Euroleague First Round Week 3 Recap: Maccabi-Real; Caja-Olympiacos

In this recap post we'll focus on the best games of Week 3, Maccabi vs. Real Madrid and Caja Laboral vs. Olympiacos.

In the premier matchup of Week 3, Maccabi handed Real their first loss of the Euroleague season in Tel Aviv, 88-82. This game was filled with players with ties to the NBA. Jordan Farmar (Maccabi) and Rudy Fernandez (Real) were the featured performers while Serge Ibaka also suited up for Real. Players with their rights held by NBA teams included Lior Eliyahu (Rockets) and Sofo Schortsantis (Clips) for Maccabi, and Ante Tomic (Jazz), Sergio Llull (Rockets) and Nikola Mirotic (Bulls) for Real.

Jordan Farmar used his athletic advantage to great effect vs. Real. Was able to blow by his defender multiple times to finish at the rim. Did a nice job of adjusting his shot at the basket. Farmar has done a good job finishing near the rim this season.

Besides Farmar's solid EL play, he has fared well in Maccabi's Adriatic League games. In four games, he has put up 12.5 ppg, 5.3 apg, 2.8 TOpg and 77% on FGA (38% 3PA). Isolation action has been a big part of Farmar's offensive arsenal early in this season.

Thought Sofo Schortsanitis had a big positive impact on this game, scoring around the rim (16 pts in 21 mins) or drawing fouls at will (drew eight). His nimble footwork was on display as he pulled off a few sweet moves in the post. Gave Real major problems on the block. Was the main reason Ante Tomic picked up three fouls in eight minutes. Converted two buckets in transition where he made nice catch & finished on the move, including a nifty spin move. Sofo set up two short hook shots by drop-stepping one way, then reversing direction. Big Sofo even dove on the floor a few times. Great effort overall.

Most of David Blu's 16 pts came on jumpers, either behind the arc or around the 17-18 foot range. Former Virginia Cav Devin Smith banged home some shots of his own for 15 pts. Maccabi's defense did a nice job challenging shots and forced Real deep into the shot clock multiple times (held Real to 40% overall).

Rudy Fernandez had a subpar performance as he chucked up some questionable shots, as he's wont to do sometimes. Though he had to toss up some looks because Maccabi forced Real late in the shot clock. Rudy still managed 13 pts and has played pretty well so far in the EL and Spain.

When Rudy last played in the ACB in 2008, he was one of the best in the league and so far, he has regained his standout status: 16.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.2 spg, 1.7 apg, 1.5 TOpg, 76% (2PA) and 42% (3PA) in 24 mins/game. Rudy's touches are much more frequent in Spain than back in the NBA and he seems more energized.

Recent Chicago Bull draftee Nikola Mirotic had another lackluster EL performance with only two points vs. Maccabi. Though, he did have a few quality defensive sequences against Lior Eliyahu. The multi-talented forward has looked somewhat out of sync through his first three games partly due to foul trouble. However, the young Montenegrin has been more reliable in ACB play with 10.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 54.5% (2PA) and 46% (3PA) in 21 mins/game.

Serge Ibaka airballed a few shots but did pitch in with nine points and eight rebounds in 21 minutes. All of Serge's three field goals came on put-backs--one impressive follow slam in transition.

Jaycee Carroll helped keep Real in the game with his usual dose of deft shooting--4-for-5 on 3PA. Felipe Reyes scored most of his 15 points on mid-range jumpers. While Sergio Llull had little impact in this game, former NBAer Sergio Rodriguez picked up the slack with seven points, eight assists and two steals.

No surprise that Ante Tomic was a non-factor in this game as he was physically overwhelmed by Big Sofo. Tomic has been decent scoring on rolls or cuts this season, but questions still persist about his lack of strength and agressiveness.


Caja Laboral improved to 3-0 in Group A with a 81-79 win over Olympiacos. Pablo Prigioni hit a short step-back jumper with time running out to secure the win.

Caja's starting frontline of Mirza Teletovic and Kevin Seraphin led the way and continues to be one of best PF-C combos through first three weeks of Euroleague play. Teletovic's accuracy was off (4-for-16) vs. Oly, but he still managed his third straight game of at least 20 pts, thanks to drawing fouls around the rim (11-for-13 FTA). Teletovic even added in three impressive blocks.

6-9 Teletovic is playing as well as anyone in Europe right now. Teletovic currently leads the EL in scoring at 21.7 ppg. He's carried over his strong play to the ACB, where through six games he's averaging 19.5 ppg (2nd in ACB), 8.5 rpg (2.8 off.), 52% on 2PA and 48& on 3PA in 31 mins/game.

It seems that Caja's main offensive objective this season is to establish Teletovic on the block. Now that Tiago Spliiter and Stanko Barac are no longer with Caja, Teletovic's post touches have increased over the last few years. Post game is not terribly refined, but he can hit turnarounds and draw fouls.

Think Mirza could be a solid rotation NBAer and the 26-year-old Teletovic is available to any NBA team as he was never drafted. Probably doesn't have the goods to start but could be a viable floor-spreading PF off the bench. Has proven he can be a lethal shooter spotting, coming off screens or off a few quick dribbles. Similar to Peja, he can drill shots from deep with defenders right in his face.

Good enough athlete and fairly strong build where he shouldn't overwhelmed physically by NBA forwards. Would definitely have some issues defensively in the NBA, but don't think he would get torched. Mirza is currently the 3rd-best rebounder in the ACB, though this could be an aberration as he tends to a be subpar rebounder for his size.

Kevin Seraphin missed only one of his eight shots for 15 pts. The Washington Wiz was effective as the roll man either knocking down two fluid mid-range pop jumpers or finishing in traffic multiple times. Seraphin did a nice job adjusting his shot at the rim all game. Encouraging sign that Seraphin has been showing a reliable touch on his jumpers so far.

'10-11 Euroleague First-Teamer Fernando San Emeterio finally came alive with 15 points after two previous subpar games with 15 points combined. The crafty SF used his sneaky driving ability to keep Olympiacos off balance.

Olympiacos played a pretty good game on the road and tied the game on a Vassilis Spanoulis 3pt. with just under ten seconds left. But Olympicos its their chances in the long run by shooting only 16-for-23 on the FT line.

Spanoulis was a factor pushing the ball in transition and doing his usual damage scoring or getting fouled off penetration. Spanoulis finished with 19 pts, seven assists and only had one turnover.

Olympiacos got good minutes from their PFs. Undersized 4-man Kyle Hines scored most of his 14 points off of smart cuts to rim. And Daily Dime Live fave Pero Antic tossed in 14 points as well.

The lumbering Lazaros Papadopoulos did a fine job scoring off a few nifty post moves and deftly found the open man when he was doubled (found Marko Keselj on the opposite a couple times for open jumpers).


Games of Week 4:

Panathinaikos vs. CSKA (Thursday):
Two of the most talented teams meet in Athens in a possible Final Four matchup preview. Both teams come into this game 3-0 and both teams have won each of their games in Group B convincingly. Andrei Kirilenko has been an all-around terror so far and he's ably supported by the likes of Milos Teodosic, Alexey Shved, Vik Khryapa and Nenad Krstic. Reigning Euroleague MVP Dimis Diamantidis has been terrific so far and Nick Calathes has played solid ball each game as well. Tough to pick the fave in this game--CSKA has unlimited depth but PAO is playing at home.

Barcelona vs. Siena (Thursday): The other main event of Week 4. Both teams come in 3-0 and like CKSA and PAO, both teams have had very few difficulties so far in group play. Siena is really good but think Barca is probably a level above them and could see Barca winning by double-digits at home.

Efes vs. Maccabi (Thursday): No let up in Group C play as both teams go from playing one tough opponent to the next. Closely matched 2-1 teams that feature plenty of players with NBA ties. We mentioned some of Maccabi players above, while Efes features Ersan Ilyasova (playing very well), Tarence Kinsey (also playing well).

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

A Few Euroleague First Round Observations

The 24 Euroleague (EL) teams have played two of their 10 first round games so far and we wanted to take a look at some things that caught our eye over the first two weeks of play.


Picked Caja Laboral (2-0) to take Group A and they have looked solid so far. Mirza Teletovic has been one of the top EL performers so far banging down 23 pts vs. Ulker and 22 pts vs. Cantu. Mirza's flawless stroke has been on--50% overall, 6-for-13 from 3pt. range--and he also has done damage posting and iso-ing. Washington Wiz Kevin Seraphin has aided Teletovic by pitching in 10 points in both game.

Some concerns that a very talented Fenerbahce Ulker squad has started 0-2, but keep in mind those losses came to Caja and Olympiacos. Recent NJ Net Bojan Bogdanovic has been a disappointment so far only scoring a total of two points through two games. Though it is hard for Bojan to get consistent touches with Roko Ukic, Curtis Jerrells and Emir Preldzic sharing ball-handling duties. Thabo Sefolosha had a very strong showing for Ulker vs. Olympiacos with 17 pts & 12 rebs.

Olympiacos got tripped up by an underrated Bilbao team on the road in the first week but they picked up a big win vs. Ulker (81-74) last week. Vassilis Spanoulis' aggressive playmaking (22 pts, 7 assts) was the key for Oly. Spanoulis did damage off of ball screens and combo forward Georgios Printezis (21 pts/7 rebs) hurt Ulker on cutting action (Mavs own Printezis' rights).


CSKA and Panathinaikos (PAO) have been taking care of business through the first few weeks. Both teams have ably utilized their deep rosters to overwhelm their opponents.

Andrei Kirilenko's all-around game has been on display over the first two weeks--tore up Zalgiris with 17 pts, 15 rebs, 5 asts, 4 blks--while Nenad Krstic (double figures both games) has added some scoring in the post. Milos Teodosic and Alexey Shved have pitched in with sharp playmaking.

Not only do they have multiple scoring options, CSKA has plenty of gifted passers. Right now they've have assisted on 47 of their 64 field goals (73%).

Reigning EL MVP Dimis Diamantidis has been in fine form on both ends of the floor--put up 17 pts, 7 assts & 3 stls vs. Unicaja, 8 assts & 3 stls vs. Zagreb. Besides Dimis, PAO has gotten nice input from Romain Sato, Nick Calathes (12 pts in both games), Saras Jasikevicius an Steven Smith.

After a quiet game vs. PAO, Joel Freeland was superb vs. Zalgiris with 21 pts (10-of-17) and 12 rebs. Joel used some nice post moves to score vs. Robertas Javtokas (a tough interior defender). We mentioned before the mobile British big is NBA-ready and would make a fine reserve for the Blazers right now. Joel's inside-out game is similar to LaMarcus Aldridge's game and he could play alongside LaMarcus when needed.

Zalgiris' rough start (0-2) has already led to a coaching change and they might be in danger of falling to 0-3 as they face PAO on Friday. Ty Lawson has struggled to make a big impact so far, but Sonny Weems has been Zalgiris' top scoring option. Not surprisingly, Zalgiris has gotten very little scoring input from their frontline and the rumored pursuit of Chris Kaman (if lockout persists) makes a lot of sense.


Real Madrid is coming off a nice win (85-78) over a good Milano team last week and has shown they have a ton of options inside and out.

Rudy Fernandez (17 pts vs. Milano, 19 pts vs. Spirou) has been back to his hyperactive self making plays off ball screens, isos, cuts and in transition. Rudy has been knocking down his jumpers and been very active.

Real has had good success running Rudy and Jaycee Carroll off screens. While guards Sergio Llull (Rockets own rights) and Martynas Pocius have also made solid contributions on the perimeter. To add to their embarrassment of riches, Real just added Serge Ibaka to an already talented frontcourt.

Efes suffered a terrible loss at home last week to an inferior Spirou club, 80-79. This could be a very costly loss as Efes does not have much room for error in this tough group.

Efes' SF Tarence Kinsey has been effective in both games (a total of 32 pts), usually relying on his jumper off of spot-ups or screens. Efes' other forward Ersan Ilyasova had a terrific all-around game vs. Spirou (21pts/6 rbs/2 stls/2 blks) which followed another solid game vs. Partizan (10 pts/4 rbs/4 stls/3 asts). Like Kinsey, Ersan's jumper has been his main weapon of choice.

Milano (1-1) lost to Real last week but were able to knock off Maccabi in the first week. Danilo Galinari has managed to reach double figures in both games (12 vs. Real, 23 vs. Mac) and as usual, has found a way to get to the rim leading to 23 trips to FT line over two games. Milano has gotten good minutes from their other SF, Malik Hairston, who had 25 pts vs. Mac and 18 vs. Real.

Nikola Pekovic (11/8 vs. Maccabi, 21/6 vs. Efes) has been a productive force around the basket in first two games drawing fouls (16-for-18 on FT line) at will. However, Pek's physicality has been a negative on the defensive end where he can't stay out of foul trouble--limited to roughly 20 minutes in both games. Cavs draftee Milan Macvan has been solid next to Pek with 14 pts in both games. Macvan's typical heady all-around game has been on display and he has been knocking down his jumpers.


No surprise Barcelona is having few problems dominating in the weakest group. Barca beat Prokom by 27 and Union Olimpija by 22 last week. Expect Barca to finish the first round with double-digit point differential and only the games vs. Siena should be interesting.

Barca has gotten nice contributions from multiple players (JC Navarro, Pete Mickael, Chuck Eidson, Fran Vazquez). Ricky Rubio's replacement, Marcelo Huertas, has fit in seamlessly, scoring in double figures and dishing at least five assists in both games. Erazem Lorbek (Spurs hold rights) was quiet in Barca's first game, but had his refined skill set working last week connecting on his jumpers and a few short hooks for 20 pts on 7-of-9.

Like Barca, Siena (2-0) should have little difficulty over the next eight games (besides vs. Barca) and a spot in the Top 16 is highly likely. Bo McCalebb continues his assault (either in the open court or half-court) on opposing Euro competition, tossing up 17 points in both games. Bo was a perfect 8-for-8 on FGA vs. Union Olimpija and scored a bunch in transition. Siena just added more offensive firepower next to Bo in the form of Igor Rakocevic, one of the best pure scorers in Europe.

Galatasaray, Unics and Union Olimpija are playing for the last two Top 16 spots. Unics got an key victory on the road over Galatasaray last week that could go a long way to securing a Top 16 berth. Unics were led by two veteran American guards, Henry Domercant (16 pts) and Lynn Greer (12 pts).


Games of the Week:

Caja Laboral vs. Olympiacos (Wednesday):
Two of the top teams in Group A meet on Caja's home turf. Caja's frontcourt has played well so far while Olympiacos needs their centers to step up.

Real Madrid vs. Maccabi (Thursday): A Group C battle between Final Four-caliber teams. Two teams with a ton of perimeter talent, but would give Real the edge because their frontline has more depth and length.

Armani Milano vs. Efes (Thursday): Another good Group C game between two closely-matched teams. Both teams are similar in that they have talented rosters that have not played together much; a lot of new faces on both teams. A lot of talent at the forward position in this game: Milano has Galinari, Hairston, A. Fotsis, Efes has Ilyasova, Kinsey, Dusko Savanovic.

NCAA Basketball Viewing Guide for the NBA Draft Fan

It's a sad day for NBA fans, as this should be the opening day of the 2011-12 NBA season. Instead, we stare into the abyss, and a nation of NBA fans must turn its lonely eyes to college basketball. Fortunately, our consolation prize is that it's an exceptional year for NBA draftniks to follow NCAA hoops.

First, several key players returned to school, creating a pool of 10-12 high-quality draft prospects (though I'm still a bit skeptical about just how high the ceiling of the top players is - I see some potential All-Stars rather than potential superstars as of now).

But what's particularly streamlined for draft fans this season is that so many top prospects are consolidated on so few teams. In looking at a consensus of prospect rankings combining's Chad Ford and DraftExpress's Jonathan Givony, 16 of the Top 20 prospects can be found in just six programs.

Here's a breakdown of those Big 6 schools and their prospects - these are the main teams we'll be focused on this season (rankings by Ford/Givony in parens):

North Carolina (4): Harrison Barnes (2/3), James McAdoo (5/8), John Henson (14/13), Tyler Zeller (20/18)
Kentucky (4): Anthony Davis (1/1), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (10/9), Terrence Jones (12/15), Marcus Teague (14/24)
Connecticut (2): Andre Drummond (3/2), Jeremy Lamb (17/17)
Baylor (2): Perry Jones (6/5), Quincy Miller (8/7)
Florida (2): Bradley Beal (4/11), Patric Young (13/10)
Duke (2): Austin Rivers (11/12), Mason Plumlee (19/19)

Additionally, here are the four other teams/players to round out the Top 20 prospects:

Ohio State (1): Jared Sullinger (7/4)
Kansas (1): Thomas Robinson (9/6)
Texas (1): Myck Kabongo (16/16)
Memphis (1): Adonis Thomas (18/14)

These are the ten teams we focused on in building our viewer's guide, though I must say that I gave Memphis pretty low priority after watching Thomas play so terribly in shooting just 3-24 from the floor in the three main postseason high-school all-star games (McDonald's All-American Game, Nike Hoop Summit, Jordan Brand Classic).

[Please note that I have written scouting reports on several top players in the high school classes of 2010 (sophomores) and 2011 (freshmen) after watching them in person at the Nike Hoop Summit, and on television on various other occasions.]

To this list, I'm adding the following teams for further consideration:

Vanderbilt: The Commodores have players ranked 21 (Festus Ezeli), 26 (Jeff Turner) and 37 (John Jenkins) by Givony.

Washington/Arizona/UCLA: A little Pac-10 representation to round things out, with a few schools who have a handful of talented prospects who fell short of the top 20.

While Washington's Tony Wroten is currently ranked just 27 (Ford)/53 (Givony), I believe this is a reflection of his mercurial nature. Maybe I'm a Seattle homer, but I believe he has more talent than higher-rated PGs like Teague and Kabongo, and will shoot ahead of them into the lottery if he keeps his head on straight. The Huskies also have a solid prospect on the wing in Terrence Ross (ranked 23/35).

Ford has said Arizona freshman Josiah Turner (ranked 26/25) "may be the most explosive point guard in the country when it comes to creating his own shot off the dribble." Meanwhile, UCLA sophomore Joshua Smith (ranked 24/22) is a skilled big man whom Givony has tabbed at no. 5 a year out in his 2013 Mock Draft.

Syracuse/Pittsburgh/Villanova: Connecticut big man Andre Drummond, a candidate for the no. 1 pick, needs some competition, given UConn's thin non-conference schedule. More on his opposition in the guide below.


OK, with all that preamble behind us, here we go, with your 2011-12 NCAA Basketball Viewing Guide for the NBA Draft Fan, featuring 25ish games to focus on for maximum prospect impact over the course of the college hoops season, in chronological order:

Nov. 15: Kentucky vs. Kansas (at New York), ESPN
A nice early look at Big Blue's annual crop of blue-chip recruits, this year headed by expected lottery picks Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist.

Nov. 15: Florida at Ohio State, ESPN2
Three potential lottery picks in Jared Sullinger, Bradley Beal and Patric Young. Sullinger and Young square off inside, while Beal matches up with Buckeye senior William Buford, a possible second-rounder.

Nov. 22/23: Maui Invitational (Tentative: Duke-Memphis/Kansas-UCLA), ESPN
Of course, the two prospective semifinal matchups are dependent upon those teams winning their quarterfinal games, but any combination of those four teams in the semis or the tournament final should yield a matchup with multiple first-round prospects.

Nov. 29: Duke at Ohio State, ESPN
If you want to see Jared Sullinger in meaningful matchups prior to March Madness, catch him early, for the Big Ten is once again a wasteland for top basketball prospects. No other Big Ten player cracks the Top 40 in either Ford's or Givony's list, continuing a pathetic trend for the conference. The conference's only Top 20 picks since 2008 are Evan Turner and Eric Gordon; Gordon is only non-Buckeye to crack the Top 20 since 2005. Several individual schools and mid-major conferences have a better record than the Big Ten in recent years. Like we said, catch Sullinger early, or you might as well wait until March Madness.

If this were 1996, we'd have the font blinking and in a different color for this one. Clear the decks for Dec. 3 because this is without question the Game of the Year - a must-see matchup even if the NBA season opens on this day. It's almost hard to comprehend how many prospects will be on the floor in this meeting of the preseason no. 1 and no. 2 teams. Anthony Davis and Harrison Barnes are both strongly in the running for the no. 1 pick, with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and James McAdoo both having a longshot chance as well.

Of course, you have the eight total Top 20 guys listed up on top, including six guys tabbed as 2012 lottery picks by Ford. Consider that Carolina also has Kendall Marshall (34/36), who could easily play his way into the first round, plus freshman P.J. Hairston and sophomore Reggie Bullock, both pegged for the 2013 first round by Givony, and even Dexter Strickland cracks the top 100 in Givony's rankings (90). Meanwhile, in addition to its four potential 2012 lottery picks, Kentucky also has Doron Lamb (43/64) and another McDonald's All-American in freshman Kyle Wiltjer. This game could really include as many as 10-12 first-round picks - and maybe eight lottery picks - down the road if everything breaks right. Don't miss it.

Dec. 7: Arizona at Florida, ESPN2
A pair of explosive freshmen backcourt players in Beal and Turner.

Dec. 10: Ohio State at Kansas, ESPN
A good matchup of power forwards in Sullinger and Thomas Robinson of Kansas.

Dec. 10: Washington vs. Duke (at New York), CBS
Good matchup on the perimeter, as Wroten, Ross and Abdul Gaddy test their skills against the likes of Rivers, Seth Curry and Quinn Cook.

Dec. 21: Texas at North Carolina, ESPN2
Surprisingly, I had trouble finding many relevant games for Carolina. Other than two vs. Duke, Kentucky and this, nada. No other ACC teams are in the preseason Top 25s, and N.C. State's C.J. Leslie (31/31) is the conference's only Top 50 prospect outside of UNC/Duke.

Jan. 16: Baylor at Kansas, ESPN
Jan. 28: Texas at Baylor, CBS
Baylor has two prospects with as much upside as anyone in Jones and Miller. Should be a fun team to watch if they can even come close to putting it all together.

Jan. 28: Washington at Arizona, ESPN
Matchup of freshmen backcourt burners in Wroten and Turner. The rematch in Seattle is on Feb. 18 on FSN.

Feb. 7: Florida at Kentucky, ESPN
Conceivably as many as six 2012 lottery picks in this one.

Feb. 8: Kansas at Baylor, ESPN
Feb. 8: Duke at North Carolina, ESPN
Not a bad Wednesday night doubleheader. If you get off to a slow start on the season, don't fret, you have a chance to see literally half the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft in these three games on Feb. 7 and 8.

Feb. 11: Connecticut at Syracuse, ESPN
Finally, an appearance by Andre Drummond, a possible no. 1 overall pick. UConn's non-conference schedule is paper-thin, and it's tough to even find a Big East opponent that's relevant for scouting purposes until here. But the Orange are ranked no. 5 in the preseason, and have a pair of former McDonald's All-American bigs to throw at Drummond in freshman Rakeem Christmas (64/UR) and sophomore Fab Melo (93/UR), who was a disappointment as a frosh.

Feb. 11: Kentucky at Vanderbilt, ESPN
ESPN College GameDay comes to Nashville for this one.

Feb. 20: Connecticut at Villanova, ESPN
Feb. 20: Baylor at Texas, ESPN
Tasty Big Monday double-dip. Drummond faces Nova big Mouphtaou Yarou (37/28), while speedy Texas PG Kabongo goes up-and-down with Baylor in what should be an entertaining one.

Feb. 25: Vanderbilt at Kentucky, CBS
Rematch at Rupp; Vandy is ranked no. 7 in preseason polls, while Kentucky is no. 2.

Feb. 25: Syracuse at Connecticut, ESPN
Rematch at Gampel with ESPN College GameDay in Storrs.

Mar. 3: Pittsburgh at Connecticut, ESPN
These UConn games have been a little bit of a reach, but we had to get Drummond some exposure, as a possible no. 1 pick. In this one, he goes up against Canadian frosh Khem Birch, rated 54 by Ford, and placed at 19 in the 2013 draft by Givony. For what it's worth, I thought Birch looked pretty impressive as a bouncy presence in the McDonald's and Jordan Brand games (averaged 15 points, 8.5 rebounds, 5.5 blocks in the two games).

Mar. 3: North Carolina at Duke, ESPN
The best rivalry in the sport goes back to Cameron, chock full of prospects.

Mar. 4: Kentucky at Florida, CBS
One last rematch filled with potential lottery picks before Championship Week and March Madness get under way.

Good lord, I hope we get some NBA action well before here, but if not, there you go, your makeshift Plan B basketball schedule is set. Fill it in with some Euroleague and some Spanish ACB online, and hopefully we've at least created a tourniquet for your lockout-induced wounds.