The Bench Warmer: Lofton’ Up Threes
Chris Lofton has the Volunteers shooting up the rankings.
Maybe he is playing with a chip on his shoulder over his exclusion from the final roster for this past summer’s Pan-Am games. Maybe he’s just being a senior leader. Whatever he’s doing, Chris Lofton is stepping up at the right time for the Tennessee Volunteers.
The 6′2″ guard from Kentucky is playing a huge role for Tennessee, leading it to a number seven ranking in the nation. Tennessee also currently only sits a half game behind Florida, the reigning national champions, in the East division of the SEC. Over his last two games, a pivotal loss to Kentucky and a key win over Georgia, Lofton has lit it up. He scored 22 and 27 points respectively, while shooting just over 50 per cent from downtown at 12-for-23. Overall, he is 16-for-31 from the field in his last two games.
Lofton is your prototypical, stretch-the-defense type of guard who has a great chance of significantly aiding an NBA team in need of an outside presence. Look for him to be a mid- to late-first round pick come draft time.
Team of the Week
Ladies and Gentleman, it’s the Connecticut Huskies! A team that had two of its guards suspended before its matchup with Indiana, one being its starter and second leading scorer, has still managed to win its last four games. Coach Jim Calhoun called his win over No. 11 Indiana this past Saturday one the most satisfying wins of his career, probably because his starting guard was handed a team imposed suspension, as well as his backup (sophomores Jerome Dyson and Doug Wiggins). At 15-5 overall and 5-3 in conference, the Huskies currently sit at third in the Big East.
They are a team who shares the spotlight, with five players averaging double figure points per game. Their best prospect might be forward Jeff Adrien, who at 6′7″ is averaging 14.1 points and 9.2 boards per game while also putting up a block per contest. Adrien could make a useful big man off the bench for any prospective NBA squad if he decides go pro after this, his junior year.
If the UConn Huskies continue their hot streak, and get their two guards back, look for them to continue to contend in the Big East and potentially make a deep tournament run.
- Tyler Hansbrough, F, UNC: Hansbrough did not let UNC’s loss to Maryland get him down. He responded to the Tar Heel’s first loss by dropping 35 points and grabbing eight boards versus the University of Miami last Wednesday. Not only did he shoot 10-of-15 from the field, but he also poured in 15-of-16 from the charity stripe, quite the feat for a big man. While Hansbrough is only a junior, don’t be surprised if he is tempted by the NBA as the next potential great big man from UNC. In my eyes, he is comparable to former Kansas Jayhawk and current Seattle Supersonic Nick Collison.
- D.J. Augustin, G, TEX: Augustin had to share the spotlight last year with super sensation Kevin Durant. But with Durant gone, the floor Augustin’s. The sophomore guard is averaging 20.7 points per game as well as dishing out nearly six assists per game. He has scored in double figures in every contest this year except one, a 100-52 blowout win over Arkansas Monticello in which he played only 21 minutes. Now that he has a chance to shine, look for him to possibly bolt for the NBA after this season.
- James Anderson, G, Oklahoma St.: The freshman from Oklahoma State has struggled in his last five contests, coincidentally all losses for his Cowboys. He has shot just 18-for-46 from the field, and only 6-of-12 from the free throw line. His struggles were capped by the Cowboys’ loss to rival Oklahoma where he scored only four points. Fortunately for Anderson, he has plenty of time left to potentially improve his draft stock either for this upcoming draft or in the future.
- Missouri Tigers: I don’t usually place a team here, but after a weekend altercation, aka fight, aka melee, the Tigers prepare for their next contest short five players due to suspension. Suspended for tonight’s contest versus Nebraska (and potentially more) are Jason Horton, Marshall Brown, Darryl Butterfield, Leo Lyons, and Shefhon Hannah. Hannah also spent the weekend in the hospital after receiving a broken jaw as a result of the altercation.
Game of the Week
Kansas vs. Kansas State, 1/30/08 8 p.m. EST
The No. 2 team in the land, Kansas, travels to Manhattan to take on in-state rival Kansas State and freshman phenom Michael Beasley. Both teams currently sit at 4-0 in the Big 12, so not only is this a rival game, but a battle for first place in the conference. The cameras will all be on Beasley, who faces his toughest test of the season.