Friday, March 22, 2013

Marshall Henderson: Rebel With a Cause

Assists on Henderson's FGs
All hope appeared to be lost halfway through Ole Miss' round of 64 matchup against Wisconsin. Marshall Henderson's scorching hot shooting throughout the SEC Tournament was last week's news, or so it seemed. Wisconsin stifled the 6-foot-2 guard by repeatedly forcing him into contested looks from deep.

Then, Henderson flipped the switch.

To start the game, we asked the audience to make a SnapCall: What percentage of Henderson's made FGs would be assisted? The only knock on Henderson, aside from his on-court antics, is his “me-first” demeanor. However, he is the Rebels leading scorer and they encourage him to take a high-volume of attempts without breaking the teams' offensive rhythm.

As the first half unfolded, Ole Miss fans watched their beloved #22 struggle to find his range. Wisconsin made it a point to defend him out beyond the 3-point line, even switching on hard screens to keep a hand in his face. The defensive pressure got to him, and he finished an abysmal 1-of-11 in the first 20 minutes.

However, there was a silver lining. Henderson's only made FG was a catch-and-shoot opportunity off of a pin-down screen. While a chunk of his early attempts came from rushed, off the dribble looks, Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy knew which adjustments needed to be made.

In his halftime interview, Kennedy didn't bash Henderson for his poor shooting. Instead, coach left us with a few wise words about his star guard: “He's a second half guy.”

Marshall Henderson off screens
As the teams trotted back out onto the court, the new game plan quickly unfolded. Once again, we asked, in real time, how many of Henderson's next 3 shots would come off of screens?

Over the next few possessions, the Rebels' gunner ran off numerous screens under the hoop for quick catch-and-shoot opportunities beyond the arc. Once he got two bombs to fall, it was all over. Ole Miss didn't look back.

There aren't many players in the country that can completely swing the momentum of a game in just two possessions, but that is exactly what Henderson did against the Badgers.

In the second half, the sharpshooter finished 5-of-10 from the field, including three makes from beyond the arc. The junior college transfer has scored at least 18 points in nine consecutive games, and will look to make it 10 straight on Sunday in the Round of 32.

Love him or hate him, basketball fans around the country have to respect his ability to make a key adjustment and to shoot through a slump against one of the nation's stingiest defenses.

Want to see if Henderson can continue his hot streak? Download SnapCall Sports from the iTunes App Store and play along throughout the NCAA Tournament. You never know what this guy will do next.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Upset Special: Belmont over Arizona

It's officially bracket time, folks. We imagine your delete key must be getting worn out trying to nail every upset in the field of 68, so we're going to give you a hand.

After a season in which lowly TCU took down top-seeded Kansas, nearly every Second Round matchup requires meticulous scrutiny.

Want to know what it's like be the guy that picked Norfolk State over Missouri last March? Download SnapCall Sports from the iTunes App Store to follow our tourney coverage. For now, here's a little taste for Thursday's action:

11 - Belmont over 6 - Arizona

On New Year's Eve, Arizona ranked 3rd in the nation. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Since their 14-0 start that included wins over Florida and Miami, the Wildcats have gone just 11-7. It's hard to have confidence in a team that lost to UCLA three times in the past two months.

Statistically, the Wildcats don't light up the stat sheets. No player on their roster scores over 15 points, pulls down at least 7 boards or dishes 4 assists per game. So, they must share the ball well as team, right? Think again. Arizona ranks 109th nationally with 13.8 assists per game as a team. They shoot average percentages from all over the court, rank in the middle of the pack in turnovers, and don't dominate teams on the glass.

Seed-wise, Arizona garnered respect from the selection committee based on quality wins back in December. Be wary though, early season wins are not a barometer for success in the NCAA Tournament.

On the other side, Belmont would be a threat to any team in the field, let alone the vulnerable Wildcats. The Bruins are making their 2nd straight tournament appearance, and 5th since 2006. Though they were bounced in the first round each time, this year's team possesses a shooting stroke that previous rosters could only match in their dreams.

Looking back at the numbers, Belmont ranks among the nation's leaders in a host of offensive categories. The Bruins shot 49.4% from the field this year, which was 4th best in the nation. They score over 73 points per game, and are the 15th best team, nationally, in assists per game.

However, it must be mentioned that Belmont did much of their damage in the Ohio Valley Conference which features such vaunted programs as SIU-Edwards and Jacksonville St.

With that said, the Bruins took care of business during conference play. They went 14-2 in the regular season on the way to the Ohio Valley tournament title. Seniors Ian Clark, Kerron Johnson and Trevor Noack are hungry, and will do their best to garner Belmont's first-ever tournament win.  

In summary, we'd warn you not to overlook Belmont based on their less-than-impressive strength of schedule. The Bruins may be getting sized up for the glass slipper after this weekend.

The pick: Belmont 70, Arizona 67.