Friday, September 17, 2010

Most Anticipated Match-Ups For Keith Benson in 2010-11

Earlier this summer, we took a look at some teams with solid centers who would provide quality competition for Keith Benson as he enters his last season with Oakland. Now that the schedule has been released, we can point to some games where Benson will go toe-to-toe with some of the nation's better big men. These games, primarily in the non-conference schedule, are important because they provide NBA scouts with a better idea of how the redshirt senior stacks up against high-major athletes. Benson played well in similar games last season, including standout performances against Kansas' Cole Aldrich and Pittsburgh's Gary McGhee. The following list will provide some background information on a few of the paint guardians he'll have the chance to stand up against this season, ordered by game date.

Kevin Jones - 6'8"/260 and Deniz Kilicli - 6'9"/270
@ West Virginia on Saturday, November 13
Neither of these guys are true centers, but they are likely to spend some time guarding Keith Benson when Oakland visits Morgantown. Jones will be the featured player for the Mountaineers this season, filling the void left by DaSean Butler and Devin Ebanks. He's a long, athletic forward who averaged 13 and 7 as the third-option last season. Oakland doesn't really have any long forwards to match-up with him, so it's not unreasonable to expect Benson to spend some time on him. Jones is a complete player and would be a fine test for Benson. Kilicli didn't suit up for WVU until February last season, and he was largely unimpressive when he did play. This season, he looks to improve by spending more time on the court, and his first test will likely be against some combination of Benson and Will Hudson.

JaJuan Johnson - 6'10"/221
@ Purdue on Sunday, November 21
This is the match-up of the year for Benson, and the only reason it's not for Johnson is because he plays a majority of his games in the Big Ten. Johnson is coming off a summer in which he made the USA Basketball Men's Select Team, or in simpler terms, he played the part of scrimmage fodder for the NBA guys on USA Basketball. He will be playing incredibly focused this season, attempting to lead the Boilermakers to a national championship while improving his draft stock. The scouts should be out in numbers for this game as both Benson and Johnson are predicted to be second-rounders heading into the season. Their games are similar, predicated on their length and shot-blocking ability, with a growing array of post moves and a need to get stronger and showcase more of their respective mid-range games. The personnel match-ups for Oakland are unfavorable at other positions, so watch this game to see two of the nation's top senior big men square off.

Mike Tisdale - 7'1"/250
@ Illinois on Wednesday, December 8
Tisdale has improved in each of his three seasons for Illinois, ending his junior campaign with respectable averages of 12 points and 6 rebounds per game. He, like Johnson, was invited to play for the Men's Select Team which gives him valuable experience against NBA players with NBA bodies. Tisdale has always been rather frail, but according to this coach he's added 30 pounds this summer. He has a solid shooting stroke which could present match-up troubles. In the paint, however, Benson clearly has the advantage as he is more athletic and stronger. It would provide the Oakland center the opportunity to really get some work done against a high-major talent. Come December, Benson may also have to deal with freshman Meyers Leonard, a 7-foot center who comes to Illinois as one of the most touted centers in his class. (Also look out for: 6'9"/225 pound senior forward Mike Davis.)

Draymond Green 6'6"/235 and Derrick Nix 6'8"/280
Michigan State at The Palace on Saturday, December 11
It's somewhat difficult to pinpoint match-ups for Michigan State since sometimes it seems like the whole team consists of athletic forwards and Kalin Lucas. Draymond Green is the team's chief rebounder and workhorse in the paint despite his lack of height. He's physical, for sure, and will likely find himself guarded by a few different Oakland defenders, including Benson. Nix didn't do much for the Spartans last season, despite starting in a number of games. Perhaps he will come along some more this season, especially if he's in better shape. Either way, both of these guys - and the rest of the seemingly dozens of forwards on this team - will provide Benson with a chance to compete against legitimate high-major talent.

Jared Sullinger 6'8"/250 pounds
@ Ohio State on Thursday, December 23
Heading into the season, we don't know much about Jared Sullinger, the collegiate basketball player, since he's just entering his first (and likely only) year for Ohio State. With that said, he's about as highly-touted a recruit as they come. While Benson has some height on Sullinger, the young player has a big body which should be getting used to the physical play of the college game by the time December 23rd rolls around. By all acounts, the Columbus-native is as ready to make an immediate impact as any other freshman in the country. While he may not be as tall as DeMarcus Cousins, many in hoops circles are expecting him to make that kind of impact for the Buckeyes. He's already projected as a top-five pick in 2011's NBA Draft, meaning the NBA scouts will definitely be watching this game closely. Keith Benson will have the opportunity to show off his wisdom, experience, and talent over Sullinger in a game that could have a major impact on his draft standing come the end of the season. (Also look out for: 6'8"/255 pound senior forward Dallas Lauderdale.)

So there you have it, five different games where Benson will play opposite some of the nation's better big men. Credit Coach Kampe and his staff for scheduling some of these games where the Oakland center has a chance to really prove himself beyond what he did last year. There will be other games where he'll be tested, no doubt, but these should be considered the most challenging match-ups. Play great here, and Benson will continue to increase his chances of hearing his name called in next June's NBA Draft.

1 comment:

  1. Don't forget about Garrick Sherman, 6'10 center for MSU... I kid, I kid.