Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Best Kept Secret in NCAA Basketball

I know there are a lot of players in college basketball. I know that ESPN probably isn’t going to devote a ton of discussion to the Wildcats just because I want them to do so. I even know the Big Ten Network has 10 other teams (plus discussion on expansion) to take up time. However, I think NCAA fans and experts alike are missing the boat on not talking more (or in many cases at all) about Michael “Juice” Thompson. In fact, I think Juice is the best kept secret in NCAA Basketball. I don’t want this whole post to about stats, because honestly some of what Juice does can’t be measured, but I’ve got a few stats below which I think help make my point.

37.3 minutes per game. This is what Juice averages and that number is a tad low based on recent blowout wins over North Carolina A&T, North Florida, and Central Connecticut. In games where NU needed to play 40 minutes to win (N.C. State, Norte Dame, Iowa State, and Stanford) Juice played 39 or 40 minutes. A lot of star players play a lot, but very few play as much as Juice.

16.7 points per game. This number leads the Wildcats. It is an increase of almost seven points from last season. This shows Juice has been willing to take on a much needed scoring role after the graduation of Craig Moore and the loss of Kevin Coble. That’s exactly what a leader should do.

42.5% and 80.4%. Those are Juice’s shooting percentage from three point land and the free throw line. Juice isn’t just sitting behind the arc and firing threes. He’s made 31 three pointers, but has 56 overall field goals. He also has made 41-of-51 free throws. Those aren’t just at the end of the game either. Many have come when Juice attacks the basket and gets fouled. Proving how versatile Juice can be in how he scores.

42 assists and 15 turnovers. Juice takes care of the ball as well as anybody around. He rarely turns the ball over (just barely over 1 a game) and has an amazing understanding of the Princeton Offense which allows him to help position the many young guys he is often on the court with.

Aside from those numbers, as I watch Juice Thompson I can see he is the leader of NU’s team. When the ‘Cats have had moments of struggle Juice always seems to be relaxed and is the guy who keeps his teammates relaxed. His performance against Tennessee State might have been the most important of NU’s season. If Juice hadn’t stepped up and carried NU to victory I suspect NU wouldn’t be anywhere near 10-1.

The bottom line is that Juice Thompson is a multi-talented player who can be both a ball control pass-first point guard and a leading scorer. He can shot, he can defend, and he can lead his team to victory. Those skills put him into a relatively small group of players, many of who are often recognized by the media and fans, however, Juice isn’t. Hopefully, that’ll change soon. Until, Juice remains the NCAA’s best kept secret.


Chanyang said...

I'll be driving down to the Big Ten opener with a buddy, at Assembly Hall and will be rooting for the 'Cats! Anyone else?

Nomaan said...

I'll be there as well with two Illinois fans and a NU grad. Can't wait for the game, especially since we're ranked!