by Joel Welser
Last NCAA Appearance: 2007, First Round loss to Michigan State
Coach: Tom Crean (4-4 in 4 NCAA appearances)
Dominic James, Junior, Guard
Jerel McNeal, Junior, Guard
Wesley Matthews, Junior, Guard
Lazar Hayward, Sophomore, Forward
Ousmane Barro, Senior, Forward
David Cubillan, Sophomore, Guard
Maurice Acker, Sophomore, Guard
Dan Fitzgerald, Senior, Forward
Dwight Burke, Junior, Forward
Why They Can Surprise:
Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews form a great trio of junior guards. James is a smart point guard, a great scorer and pesky defender. The one thing he has improved upon greatly as an upperclassman is keeping the turnovers down. In fact, that can be said for the entire team.
McNeal will do everything. Even if he does not score 20 points in the game, he can still grab six rebounds, dish out six assists and nab three steals. McNeal’s turnovers can still be a problem, but he is down to 2.7 turnovers per game this year from 4.1 last year. Matthews completes the trio of guards and will use his strength and speed to drive the lane and attack the glass on both ends of the floor.
Why They Can Disappoint:
For a team that has three great guards that combine for over 42 points per game, they sure are streaky shooters. None are great shooters by any means and the more they use their quickness and the less they think they can hit the long ball, the better. Even though the shooting this year from beyond the arc has not improved, the backcourt players take fewer shots this season than they did last season. If one of the three talented perimeter starters can get hot at the right time, it will open up some space for everybody else on the offensive end, but they can win games without having to chuck up a bunch of three-pointers.
Who To Watch:
The frontcourt is nowhere near as talented as the backcourt, but the group has done a good job accomplishing what the team needs them to. The undersized Lazar Hayward has really burst onto the scene as a sophomore. The 6-6 Buffalo, NY native is a dynamic scorer who can use his wide 225 pound body to battle in the paint or step outside and hit the mid-range jumper. Hayward is easily the most efficient long range shooter on the team. Senior Ousmane Barro, sharpshooter Dan Fitzgerald and tough Dwight Burke have all started at least a few games this season beside Hayward. Barro, Fitzgerald and Burke will not put up big numbers, but they do give Coach Tom Crean plenty of options.
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