Start the campaign now. Demetrius Jackson for Player of the Year…and not just in the ACC. The likely future lottery pick put together an array of highlights that I will spread out below, which included multiple off the dribble 15-foot jump shots, two hand dunks, silly reverse layups, and my favorite, dunks over 7-footers. And that’s only Week 1.
I know he would need to average at least 20 a game and the Irish would have to be in the Top 10, at least. But to say he doesn’t have a chance would be discounting the incredible talent that he has. Although Westbrook has a couple inches on him, D-Jax has that similar explosiveness that Westbrook showed while at UCLA.
Some of the other likely contenders for POY:
Denzel Valentine – 29/12/12 against KU on Tuesday to help me win the first beer bet of the year. Won’t be his last triple-double.
Kris Dunn – He is the definition of fantasy goodness on DraftKings, but as Mike reminded me, Kyle Davis shut him down…
Jamal Murray – This dude is scary good. Kentucky may be better than they were last year.
Ben Simmons – I still have to see him play, so I can’t give an opinion yet. The highlights and stats are there though.
Kyle Wiltjer – HAHAHAHAHAHA. NO. Had Girly Gumby stayed at UK, he still may be coming off the bench. Sabonis is better.
Tyrone Wallace – Are you sick of me touting Cal yet? Wallace is the West Coast Kris Dunn, with a MUCH better supporting cast.
Regarding the Irish as a whole, I like what I see so far. Let’s get to the recaps.
Friday – ND 87 St. Francis PA 56
What happened in a nutshell: St. Francis is pretty bad, and Demetrius Jackson is very good. This one was never in doubt.
POY Watch: 27 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists in 34 minutes. What impressed me most is the development of his mid-range game that has to have NBA scouts drooling. At 6’1, he has to use his quickness and elevation to be able to create his own shot, and he looked like a machine from 15-18 feet. Oh, he did this too…at 6’1.
What you really need to know:
*In Brey’s post-game interview, he mentioned that he told Zach Auguste that there is no reason he shouldn’t lead the country in rebounding. That’s even more lofty than the POY campaign launched above after two games, but can he average 15 and 10? Of course. Off to a good start though with 14 rebounds.
*Farrell and Ryan are clearly the 6th and 7th men, and then there is everybody else. It will all depend on the matchups for how much we see Geben and Torres, as Brey will go small against teams without trees in the post.
*Ryan is a gunner (I think in a good way). Anytime you get up 8 threes in 16 minutes, you know the coach has given you the green light. He wasn’t just shooting open ones, either. There were running threes off in-bounds plays, threes with 24 seconds left on the shot clock, and 25-footers. He certainly got his money’s worth in his debut.
*The Bonz found some early foul trouble and then fouled out with about 15 minutes to go in the game. Had the same amount of points (3) and rebounds (2) combined, as he did fouls. Certainly, a night to forget.
*Beachem struggled with his shot, but it is apparent that Brey has challenged him to fill the Connaughton rebounding role. Beach aggressively went after boards in the 1st half, pulling down six, and ending with seven for the game. Hopefully this continues next week in Orlando.
*ND made 4-14 threes in the 1st half and was still up by 13. They shot a little better from deep in the 2nd half (6-15).
*Stat that caught my eye: The Irish only had 12 assists compared to 10 turnovers. Last year, they were 4th in the country with a 1.61 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Player of the Game: Demetrius Jackson
Tuesday – ND 86 Wisc-Milwaukee 78
What happened in a nutshell: If you didn’t watch the game, the score is a bit deceiving. The Irish were up by 20 with less than 7 to go, but Wisc-Milwaukee trimmed the lead due to their unconscious shooting from behind the arc (14-21). The Panthers had a 29-23 lead before Beachem and the Bonz led a 16-2 surge to end the half and put the Irish up 8.
POY Watch: 20 points, 3 rebounds, 7 assists in 39 minutes (Brey couldn’t get him out of the game because UWM would not miss). This happened…
What you really need to know:
*Brey wanted the team to look at this like an ACC game, and boy did he ever coach it like one. Only 7 players saw action in the first 39 minutes, with Farrell and Ryan the only bench players to see meaningful action.
*Speaking of Ryan, his elbow must have still been sore from Friday as he only took half the shots (5 points in 17 minutes). The kid has such a good stroke though and is going to be an excellent player. 6th man is his role for now, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him start later in the year.
*The only way Ryan would start would be if Beachem or the Bonz really struggle, or the offensive efficiency isn’t up to Brey’s standards with two bigs in the lineup. VJ looked fantastic in this one, setting career highs in points (19) and rebounds (8). I hoped he would try to take over Connaughton’s role on the glass, and at least through two games, he has been extremely aggressive chasing rebounds.
*The Bonz had what I would call an interesting game. He spent the first five minutes not at all involved in the offense, seeming to run around the perimeter aimlessly. Then Auguste picked up two fouls and the Bonz did what he does for the last ten minutes of the 1st half, helping turn a six point deficit into an eight point halftime lead with a variety of unorthodox post moves and FTs after offensive rebounds. He was quiet in the 2nd half, and for whatever reason, did not play the last seven minutes of the game. Maybe Brey wanted to get Farrell some time…
*Wolverine Zac Efron (aka Farrell and his serious chops) struggled big time. He dribbled one off his foot early and got up only one shot in 17 minutes (which he missed). I’m seriously concerned for my dad (he loves himself some Farrell) that he may not be in this rotation come the beginning of ACC play. Let’s see how he responds.
*All five starters scored 12+ points. That’ll do.
*Vasturia played as you would expect Vasturia to play: solid. As mentioned above, Auguste got in foul trouble in the 1st half, but put together a very good 2nd to end up with 17/6.
*20 assists and 5 turnovers. That’s more like it.
Player of the Game – V.J. Beachem
Next – Saturday vs. UMass-Lowell