NCAA Spotlight on the Men: Drmic leads the nation in scoring (for one day) (11-Nov-13)

Damian Arsenis takes a quick look back over the past week in NCAA division 1 hoops action and calls out all the highs and lows of the Aussies in action.

Just briefly...

The 2013/14 college basketball season opened over the weekend, and there was plenty of action involving the Australian contingent.

As featured on The Pick and Roll throughout the past week, Matt Hancock and Lamar took on the might of Jackson Aldridge and Butler and came up short. Whilst Hancock saw limited action Aldridge impressed in 13 minutes, scoring 9 points with 2 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal with no turnovers in helping his team to a commanding 89-58 victory at home in front of nearly 10,000 fans.

Saint Mary's College opened their season with a 83-70 win over Louisiana Tech, but unlike previous years it was a vastly different looking team this time around with no Aussie in the starting lineup. Dane Pineau made his debut in coming off the bench and was scoreless in 4 minutes, whilst center Matt Hodgson 3 points and 1 block in 5 minutes. With the departures of Matthew Dellavedova (Cleveland, NBA) and Mitchell Young (Cairns, NBL) who both graduated, and Jorden Page leaving the program early, the Gael's may find it difficult to recapture the attention of the Australian basketball community especially considering the number of quality teams featuring talented Aussies this season.

With nearly half their roster featuring Australians, Nicholls State opened the season with a difficult 54-76 loss to Auburn. The stand-out Aussie was by far Queenslander freshman Cade Towers who scored 8 points to go with 5 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal in his college debut. It was a tough game offensively for Nicholls State, with no Colonel scoring more than 9 points and shooting just 33.9% from the floor. It is a young team and will find it hard to kee up with the stronger college programs this season.

Freshman big man Mangok Mathiang also deserves a mention who is playing for the reigning national champions and current #3 ranked Louisville. Mathiang showed some positive signs in being just 3 points shy of a double-double on debut as Lousiville won 70-48 win over Charleston. Whilst the Cardinals were a little shaky in shooting poorly, one could argue that Mathiang was their rock in coming off the bench. He finished with a nice line of 7 points, 10 rebounds and 1 block with no turnovers in 23 minutes. After his encouraging performance, Mathiang may well have played his way into the regular rotation on what is a very strong team vying to go back-to-back in season 2013/14.

Finally I could not leave out the big man returning from a knee reconstruction; Angus Brandt. Brandt was a little rusty in the first half but bounced back in the second to score 13 points with 7 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 block in 32 minutes. However Brandt's output was not enough as the Beavers dropped their season opener at home against Coppin State. It was not a good outcome for Oregon State who play in the highly regarded Pac-12; losing to a minnow out of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference at home was not a great outcome and will place some pressure on the Coach the team ahead of their next game against Portland.

Performance of the week

You just could not go past Anthony Drmic's career-high equalling 34 point outburst against Texas-Arlington in leading Boise State to an impressive 116-87 win (recap and full video replay). Drmic was able to find a balance between attacking the rim and hitting from range, evidenced by making 5/6 from the free throw line, but also in connecting on 5/11 triples for the night. His 34 point effort was the highest scoring output by a Bronco in a season opening game on record and backed up why he was named to The Pick and Roll pre-season All-Aussie team!

Drmic dunking in traffic against LSU - Courtesy Boise State Athletics

Drmic, who is widely tipped to be a contender for the All-Mountain West First Team for 2013/14, was on fire right from the start in racking up 10 points within the first 5 minutes before ending the half with a game-leading 19. Just for good measure, Drmic also pulled down 6 rebounds alongside 2 assists and 1 block with no turnovers that were all jam-packed into just 27 minutes on court. After day one of college hoops action, Drmic was leading the entire NCAA in scoring (and was still third at the time of publishing) in what is likely to be the first time ever an Australian has managed this before.

"All credit to my team for getting me open and opportunities to score," Drmic stated after the game. "Hopefully my work over the summer on my overall scoring with help me to contribute and help my team win games. Nick (Duncan) also did well. He plays veteran-like for a freshmen and he will be key for us this year."

Fellow Aussie and starter Igor Hadziomerovic fired home 9 points on 3/5 shooting (3/3 FT) to go with 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal of his own in just 17 minutes. Freshman Aussie forward Nick Duncan enjoyed his first taste of college hoops by recording 4 points and 1 rebound in 20 minutes worth of experience.

With Drmic at the forefront with Hadziomerovic and Duncan by his side, Boise State is a team to look out for as they aim to challenge for the Mountain West title on their way back to he NCAA tournament.

Honourable Mentions

Cameron Bairstow lived up to this selection to The Pick and Roll pre-season All-Aussie team by racking up a double-double in scoring a game and new career-high 22 points in New Mexico's impressive win over Alabama A&M (recap including link to video). Bairstow was unstoppable in hitting 9/10 from the field (including some nice dunks) to go with 11 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks. Fellow Aussie team-mate Hugh Greenwood who also impressed with 5 points with 4 assists had this to say about Bairstow after the game, "Cam's going be doing this on a consistent basis. He brings it every single day in practice, so to see him transfer it into a game scenario is a credit to the work he puts in."

Both Sam Rowley and Peter Hooley were instrumental in leading Albany to a hard-fought 74-62 win over Siena (recap including link to video). The elder Rowley showed his debutant brother Michael Rowley (2 points) how things are done and was 1 rebound shy of a double-double. He scored 17 points on 6/9 shooting whilst Hooley compiled 17 points of his own that included 10/10 from the charity stripe. Sam had this to say after the game, "It was great to start the season with a come from behind win against our cross town rivals. I was happy to contribute to the win and especially proud of Pete (Hooley) and our other teammates for lasting through a poor first half but regrouping for the second which led to the win."

And lastly I could not leave out the reigning Big Sky Freshman of the Year Venky Jois who almost single-handedly guided Eastern Washington to a season opening 87-58 win over Pacific University (recap including link to video). After a slow start in which the Eagles trailed their Division III opponents by 15 points at the main break, Jois was instrumental in the second half in accumulating 16 points and 8 rebounds. Jois was involved in everything, ending with a double-double that consisted of a game-high 21 points (10/13 FG) and 11 rebounds with 5 assists, 3 steals, 3 blocks and 2 turnovers in 31 minutes. Eagles Coach Jim Hayford has this to say of Jois' performance after the game, "I am never surprised when Venky gets a double-double.” That is the expectation he has for himself. That is going to need to be a regular event for us to be the kind of team we need to be for the amount of minutes he plays.”

Team of the week

The #23 ranked New Mexico Lobos get my nod for the weekly gong this week narrowly over their Mountain West rivals Boise State . New Mexico lived up to their pre-season billing as a top-25 team by man-handling Alabama A&M in securing a 88-52 win. Last season the Lobos were a team that played good defence and a half court game. However with a new Coach at the helm, they have a new up-tempo offence that had the team playing loose that saw both Hugh Greenwood and Cameron Bairstow benefit.

Bairstow at the line - Courtesy of New Mexico Athletics

The Lobos are a team that is on the rise and will not only be looking to defend their Mountain West crown, but also make a deep run into the NCAA tournament. Definitely a team to watch especially given the outstanding performances by their Aussie dynamic duo who both hail from the Australian Institute of Sport.

Who was your Aussie player or team of the past week? Did anyone get missed that should have received a mention? Share your opinion by posting a reply.