CJBL Tournament - First Round Recap
- By Michael Miller, Day 161, 2021
SUMMARY - Predictably, the theme of the opening round of the CJBL tournament was: chalk. Only 5 of the higher seeds won their matchups in the opening rounds, 2 of those 5 were games between evenly matched 8/9 seeds. There were also many blowouts, as 26 of the 32 games were decided by double digits. In the end, this is a positive development because it preserves many of the primetime matchups we are hoping for between elite prospects in the later rounds.
BIGGEST UPSET/SURPRISE - None of the upsets we predicted, such as Denver or Alabama A&M, came to fruition. The highest seed to fall was Missouri-Kansas City, but even they lost to a Cal team who was battle tested after playing in one of the CJBL’s best conferences. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the challenge two #1 seeds in the first round. Belmont came roaring back in the second half and pulled within two possessions of Ohio State, but the Buckeyes held on 80-74. Meanwhile, #16 Northwestern State held a 39-38 lead over #1 seed UConn, but the Huskies held on behind PF Alexi Davydov’s 20 points and 6 assists. Both Ohio State and Connecticut survived an early scare, but they will have to play much better to reach the CJBL Final Four.
Trendon Knox - Arizona - After a stellar junior season, leading the CJBL in points per game, Knox had to be somewhat disappointed he was originally scouted as a late lottery pick. If he keeps playing like this, however, he needs to be considered at the top of the draft. Knox put on an electrifying performance in the 90-58 drubbing of #16 seed Lehigh, scoring 40 points (!) on 12 of 18 shooting (10 of 11 from 3 point mark(!)). Knox is cementing his legacy at Arizona, one amazing performance at a time.
SF Blaze Funderburk - Maryland - Despite having one of the best names in the CJBL, little was heard from Funderburk during the regular season. Against Pittsburgh, however, Blazr shined by putting up 29 points on 11 for 15 shooting (4 of 7 from 3 points), 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals in Maryland's 95-61 win over Pittsburgh. If he can play this well against a loaded Syracuse team in the second round, perhaps Blaze will get some draft buzz.
SG Marcus Dunn - Kansas - Only a freshman, Dunn was not shy in the bright lights. He played better than his fellow phenom DeAndre Stackhouse by putting up 29 points on 11 of 16 shooting and 8 assists whereas Stackhouse only put up 7 points and 8 rebounds. Nevertheless, Dunn will have to tighten up his handle during the remainder of the tournament, as his 6 turnovers are notable. On the other hand, despite Stackhouse having the better pedigree, it appears the Jayhawks will only go as far as Dunn takes them.
C/PF Juan Vazquez - Louisville - In previews, we predicted that the Cardinals might be a year or two away because of their reliance on young talent. If Vazquez keeps playing like this, however, Louisville may end up making a deep run in the tournament. Vazquez had a double-double, putting up 30 points on 14 of 17 shooting and 10 rebounds, all of which were necessary for Louisville to upend Illinois in a tight 85-83 victory. Although he is a bit undersized for the 5 position, he showed up in a big way. They will need every bit of that performance in the next round, as they matchup with #1 seed Ohio State in the second round.
PF Dedrick Mathias - Memphis - The Wildcats waxed Michigan State, 95-58, in large part due to Mathias performance, as he finished 1 rebound and 3 assists shy of a triple double (25 points, 9 assists, 7 rebounds). Mathias is no stranger to the postseason, and he has been a clutch player all season. While PG Deleon Slay, Omari Woodley and Qwan Songalia are considered to be the best pro prospects on Memphis, their tournament success will likely hinge on whether Dedrick can continue his all-around performance as the road gets tougher from here on out.
WE HARDLY KNEW YE (Pro Prospects Whose Tournament Has Ended)
SG Brevin Jones - Denver
---Frankly, we expected much more out of Jones in the tournament, let alone the opening round. Brevin's shooting was startlingly bad, as he hit only 3 out of 18 shots, although he did have 7 assists and 3 steals. Since Jones failed to show, Rutgers had little trouble with Denver and led pretty much most of the way throughout the contest, winning 80-66. With this performance, it is possible that Jones may slip into the second round.
SF Tyrone Wheeler - Southern Utah
---Although Southern Utah was a 14th seed and expected to lose, it was disappointing to see the 3rd leading scorer in the CJBL this year put up next to nothing in the tournament. Despite averaging 21.4 ppg for Southern Utah this season, Wheeler had only 10 points on 11 shots in the 103-69 loss to Georgetown. Wheeler was considered a late second round pick, but it is possible he may go undrafted after this performance.
PF/SF Jericho Cartwright - Michigan State
SF Dejuan Brooks - Michigan State
---The matchup against Memphis was one of the more anticipated in the first round, but it landed with a thud primarily due to the lack of performance by both Cartwright (10 points on 4/12 shooting) and Brooks (11 points on 4/11 shooting and 3 turnovers). The loss may be especially damaging to Brooks, as this performance could cause him to fall out of consideration for a lottery pick. Indeed, it may now be in Brooks best interest to return to school, although he will have competition because Michigan State has recruited two great frontcourt players to join the team next year.
TOP MATCHUPS FOR SECOND ROUND
Arizona vs Georgia Tech - CJBL Player of the Year Trendon Knox vs. PG/SG Jamael Singleton, the top prep scorer in high school last season in a battle of electric guards.
Kansas vs. Marquette - Battle of the Lottery Bigmen as C/PF DeAndre Stackhouse attempts to rebound from a shoddy first game performance against fellow talented big man C/PF Brandon Weir.
Ohio State vs. Louisville - Can Funderburk "blaze" past a top Ohio State team which looked vulnerable in the first round?
Cincinnati vs. Wake Forest - Anticipated top JBL pick C/PF Latrell Mason attempts to continue his strong freshman season, but faces a potent challenge from PG Bryce Cleveland and SF Devin Wallace, both potential first round picks.
Texas vs. Memphis - The Wildcats proved their potential in throttling Michigan State, but Texas is an altogether different challenge. The balanced Longhorns have vanquished most of the teams in their way, but Memphis presents an interesting challenge.