A Tuesday helping of hoops
Three servings today:
1. Michigan State is going to have trouble scoring this year. The Spartans don't have many offensive playmakers other than Drew Neitzel, and the junior point guard still has to prove he can score at the Big Ten level. He shot a robust 40 percent from 3-point land last year - better than Maurice Ager and Shannon Brown - but had the benefit of a lot of catch-and-shoot opportunities. Neitzel will play off the ball plenty this year, but will be asked to create in halfcourt sets and late-clock situations. MSU coach Tom Izzo is confident he can do it, and while I think Neitzel's a good bet to average 16-plus points per game, I'm not sold he can get his own shot against the top defenders in the Big Ten. I'm not sold anyone else on the team can consistently make 3-pointers, either.
Aside from Neitzel, freshman wing Raymar Morgan and junior forward Drew Naymick are the only other Spartans I can see averaging double digits this year. Morgan will be a fine player in time, but early on he'll do most of his damage on putbacks and getting to the paint. Naymick is deadly with the 15-foot jumper, but those aren't exactly easy to come by in the Big Ten.
Expect MSU to play a lot of 56-52-type games this year, but their schedule - a relatively soft non-conference slate - still sets up for 20 wins.
2. No one was surprised to see Eric Gordon pull his verbal from Illinois and commit to Indiana last week, and no one should expect anything other than a one-and-done career from Gordon with the Hoosiers.
The No. 2 player in the senior class according to Scout.com, Gordon will star for Kelvin Sampson's Hoosiers the minute he steps on campus. He's a 6-foot-3 playmaker who can score from anywhere on the court, and he told The Chicago Tribune that playing at Indiana will be a dream come true. So why did he commit to Bruce Weber's Illini in the first place? If you believe Gordon, the uncertainty surrounding former Hoosier coach Mike Davis was too much to take.
As true as that might be, Sampson is a heck of a recruiter who started working Gordon the moment he stepped on campus. That won't earn him any invites to Christmas dinner at the Webers, but it does ingratiate him to the legions of Indiana basketball fans who were skeptical of his hire. Better yet, it might help him land Gordon's AAU teammate Derrick Rose, one of the top point guards in the Class of '07.
3. If reports are true that Ohio State will be without stud freshman Greg Oden until January, the Buckeyes will have a hard time beating Wisconsin for the Big Ten title. Oden is a supreme talent - he 7-footer would have been the top pick in June's NBA draft had he been eligible - but it will take time for him and his teammates to mesh, and OSU opens conference play with a tough three-game stretch against Indiana and at Illinois and Wisconsin.
Oden will dominate once he gets into playing shape, but by that time it may be too late for Ohio State to make a run at a Big Ten title and coveted No. 1 seed.