Freshmen Could Provide More Duke Scoring

Shelden Williams and J.J. Redick are two of the five best players in the country. But Duke is going to need to find offense from more sources in order to keep defenses from ganging up on the John R. Wooden Award candidates. Freshman Josh McRoberts seems on the verge of becoming that extra scoring threat.

An argument could be made that Connecticut or Texas, and not Duke, should be the top-ranked team in the country right now.

The Huskies, minus their point guard (Marcus Williams), knocked off Arkansas, Arizona and Gonzaga – the latter two Top 10-quality teams – on successive days during the EA Sports/Maui Invitational, while the Longhorns beat West Virginia and Iowa on consecutive nights in Kansas City during the Guardians' Classic.

Doing that, those making the "Connecticut or Texas should be No. 1" argument could suggest, was every bit as impressive – if not more so – than was the Blue Devils beating Drexel and Memphis in New York City for the NIT Season Tip-Off.

Duke is reliant on two players – albeit, both All-Americas – in Shelden Williams and J.J. Redick as its prime offensive threats right now. The Huskies and Longhorns, on the other hand, have more players they can turn to in order to provide a better offensive balance.

That should eventually change for Mike Krzyzewski's crew, though. Freshman Josh McRoberts played much more assertively in the post against Memphis and he's capable of becoming a consistent 12-to-15 point per game scorer.

And Greg Paulus, as he gets more comfortable running the Duke offense, should free-up senior Sean Dockery to be more of a scorer.

One source for scoring that may have to be tapped more extensively in the absence of sophomore wing DeMarcus Nelson (sidelined with an ankle fracture) is freshman Martynas Pocius, who appears to have a nice blend of "shooter" and "driver" in his offensive repertoire.

The Blue Devils' No. 1 ranking will be on the line when the team faces Indiana in Bloomington Wednesday night as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

BOUNCING AROUND THE COUNTRY:

*The Oregon Ducks have operated under the radar – West Coast and national – during their 4-0 start. The most impressive of those victories (84-62 over a Pacific program that has won its NCAA Tournament openers in the past two seasons) sounds more impressive than it is, since the Tigers returned only one starter.

But a victory by Ernie Kent's team in Nashville Wednesday night against likewise 4-0 Vanderbilt should get everyone's attention. That's going to be tough to come by, though, because the Commodores – fresh off a seven-point victory at Georgetown on Saturday – are the most underrated team in the SEC. Kevin Stallings has himself two solid sophomores in Shane Foster and DeMarre Carroll.

*In a season when the Mountain West Conference race borders on the "wide open", Colorado State is establishing itself quickly as a team that's a viable candidate to win the thing.

The Rams improved to 5-0 with their 77-67 win over Auburn in Ft. Collins Monday night. And Jason Smith, a 7-0 sophomore from Greeley, Colo., continues to play like the best big man that no from outside the realm of the MWC has heard of. He went for 21 points, 13 rebounds and two blocked shots against the Tigers.

NBA talent evaluators have reason to spend a lot of time in Colorado this season, with 6-11 Yemi Nicholson of the University of Denver on their radar since his strong performances in pickup games while serving as a counselor at the adidas Superstar Camp in Suwanee, Ga., in July.

Nicholson had 22 points, 17 rebounds and four blocked shots during his team's 64-58 loss to Colorado State Saturday night.

*Granted, their shooters are going to be facing a lot more pressure against the Oklahoma Sooners Saturday in Philadelphia than they did Sunday in an 84-47 win over Lehigh.

But the Villanova jump shooters still put on a marvelous display of marksmanship in that 37-point romp. The Wildcats were 17 of 33 on 3-point attempts, with Allan Ray (8 of 16), Randy Foye (5 of 8) and Mike Nardi (4 of 6), doing the bulk of the casting. Those guys would make up a heck of a team to beat in a 3-on-3 tournament, wouldn't they?

*Nick Fazekas received the bulk of the national pre-season hype for the Nevada Wolf Pack, which improved to 3-0 with a win at UNLV Saturday night and have climbed to No. 14 in the Scout.com Top 25.

But a player who figures to draw just as much defensive attention from Kansas coach Bill Self Thursday is sophomore guard Marcellus Kemp.

The 6-3 Kemp, sidelined last season after tearing an ACL in July of 2004, is averaging 21.0 and 4.0 rebounds per game. He dropped 24 on UNLV.

Coach Mark Fox is getting 18.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game out of the 6-11 Fazekas and strong inside play from power forward Mo Charlo (14.0 points and 7.7 rebounds per game).

Fox's team will more national exposure when it faces UCLA in Anaheim, Calif., during the Dec. 10 John R. Wooden Classic.

An April inductee into the USBWA Hall of Fame, Frank Burlison is Scout.com's national basketball expert and is also a columnist for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at frank.burlison@presstelegram.com. Read more of Burlison's pieces at www.FrankHoops.com


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