Greg Oden, the 7-foot sophomore center for the Spiece Indy Heat was named the MVP of the Tournament of Champions as he led his team past the New Orleans Jazz 67-63 in the finals. Spiece was so dominant during the playoffs that it defeated 4 of its last 5 opponents by 20 points or more.
Big Men Clash: Oden vs. Blatche
For the most part, Blatche wasn't going to score on Oden at the basket. The former Syracuse Henninger standout reacted to the inside lockdown and made the mistake of heading to the perimeter. As we've said before, he's best inside when he's a power forward at this stage and when he moved outside the result was frustrating missed jumpers and turnovers.
Conversely, the calm Oden never panicked and in the spirit of former Boston Celtic great Robert Parish, methodically went about his business and kept his cool. He flushed a tip dunk; reverse dunked in traffic or made a free throw line jumper. 18 points and 9 boards later, Spiece was able to pull away for the win. Blatche didn't have a horrible game but his 10 points and 7 rebounds came on an afternoon when he shot just 4-for-12 from the field.
Greg Paulus, PG, SRAP: He's not the flashiest or the most exciting point guard in the class. He's not the fastest or the strongest. Paulus simply plays within himself, competes on every possession and wins basketball games. His feathery outside touch is there for the big shots and few in the class manage a game like him.
Tasmin Mitchell, F, New Orleans Jazz: Like everyone else who faced Spiece, Mitchell took a loss. However, Mitchell continued what has become a history of winning and playing well consistently. He wasn't spectacular this weekend but he took his team to the finals with a little help from a nice supporting cast.
Nate Minnoy, SF, Illinois Fire: There is a place in college basketball for this young man; it'll be up to him to pick the right spot. In a Sunday playoff loss to the NY Panthers, Minnoy was incredible. He went for 35 points on 12-for-17 from the field and 8-for-8 from the line. He's a wide bodied wing who competes and loves to play the game.
Josh McRoberts, PF, Spiece: We dropped McRoberts in our latest rankings because his offense seemed to stagnate. Little did we know he'd been playing most of the spring with back pain. All weekend long he was aggressive on offense, displayed a variety of ways to score and in our mind reclaimed his spot in the Top 20. Props to the young man for improving his game. Plus, he needed stiches around his elbow after the semifinal game but waited until after the championship.
DeAndre Thomas, C, Illinois Fire: When guys improve we try to give credit where it's due and now it's time to write about Thomas. If he gets serious about his size (6-8, 300+) he's got a future somewhere. He's nimble, has touch and is aggressive.
Mean Streets Team: With Jerel McNeal on the bench for most of the game after injuring his knee Mean Streets wasn't supposed to beat the D-I Greyhounds in the finals of the Select Division. Plus, guard Brandon Ewing was out with an injury as well. In typical Mean Streets fashion (just like they've played all spring long) the squad rallied, fought hard and won. Forward Donnell Lyons stepped up and guided his team home.
Willie Walker (Illinois Wolves) & Tory Jackson (Mich. Hurricanes): A pair of talented sophomore point guards hooked up in a 16-year old playoff contest. The two Midwesterners are almost a study in contrast. Walker, a sweet shooter with poise and pace ala Illinois' Deron Williams, is a high-major prospect. So is Jackson, a speedster ala Dee Brown of the Illini, was goes fast and plays aggressively. Both can score, both can shoot and hopefully we'll get to see them matchup again in the coming years.
Eric Gordon, SG, Spiece: On a loaded team sometimes guys can get lost. However, anyone who watched the Indy Heat's playoff run on Sunday came away understanding just how good he is. Gordon drilled 3s and provided another legit scoring threat for this team. Write his name down, memorize it and know this: he's a big, big timer in his class.
O.J. Mayo, SG, D-I Greyhounds: His team lost in the finals of their division but in its defense, they were a bunch of youngsters "playing up" a level in competition and couldn't match Mean Streets intensity. Still, Mayo showed the Dean Dome contingent that he's a gifted scorer and his passing skills have improved as well. He's smooth and was one of the top scorers here.