Another weekend of college hoops in the books, and what did we learn? Maybe Louisville isn't quite as good as we thought, and maybe Syracuse is a bit better. It's hard to know much about the Orange since they do not play an ambitious non-conference slate. I know that teams are beating down Syracuse's door to come to the Carrier Dome and share the huge gate, but I wish coach Jim Boeheim were a bit more adventurous.
This week's set of freshman features guards from Tier 1 and forwards from the smaller schools. I have profiled almost all of the major freshmen in earlier editions of the Haze, but new guys keep popping up. Let's look at seven more first-year players.
Buddy Hield, guard, Oklahoma Sooners
Hield opened the season as a reserve and moved into the starting lineup Dec. 29 and has not looked back. While he can score, he is more of an all-around contributor than a dominant player. In games that the 6-foot-3 native of the Bahamas has started, the Sooners have gone 5-1. Hield averages 9.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists. He is hitting just 33.3 percent of his 3-pointers and 40.1 percent from the field. Look for a nice upward production curve for Hield.
Shavon Shields, guard/forward, Nebraska Cornhuskers
Like Hield, Shields became a starter relatively recently. The 6-6 swingman started the last five games, and his scoring has improved in each game. Shields scored a season-high 29 points Saturday in a win over Penn State on 10-of-11 shooting from the field. While his scoring is somewhat unexpected, Shields has really helped on the boards. In his last six games, the Kansas native grabbed 7.2 rebounds. Fouls have bee an issue and he has accrued at least four fouls in all but one of his starts.
Damyean Dotson, guard, Oregon Ducks
Dotson has started since the first game of the season. He did come off the bench in the second game, but has been on the court at the opening tip ever since. The scorer from Houston has been somewhat inconsistent, but he has shown the ability to score from all over the court. In his last four games, he is 6-of-11 on 3-pointers. His two field goals against UCLA on Saturday were from long range. Dotson has scored 20 points or more twice and has provided 41 points in his last three games.
Craig Sword, guard, Mississippi State Bulldogs
The Bulldogs came into the season with many roles to fill, including a new coach. Mississippi State lost four of its first five games, including against Troy in the opener. Still, the Bulldogs keep battling and Sword, a 6-3 guard, has been scoring well. He has provided at least nine points in his last seven games and hit a career-high 18 points in the SEC opener, which was a win over South Carolina. He does most of his scoring within the arc (just 17.9 percent on 3-pointers). In his last six games, Sword has hit 50.9 percent of his field goals.
Joel King, forward, Drake Bulldogs
Drake is scuffling near the bottom of the Missouri Valley standings, but there is some reason for hope. King, a 6-9 forward from Minnesota, has made nice strides toward being a productive player. He did little in the non-conference schedule but did have 21 points in the loss to Xavier on Nov. 25. King was quiet until Jan. 2 when he had 15 in a loss to Wichita State. In his last five games, he has provided 14.2 points, 2.0 3-pointers and 5.4 rebounds. The fouls that plagued him during the early season seem to be receding. King could be a player to snag now for his enviable future.
Joel Bolomboy, forward, Weber State Wildcats
Damian Lillard put Weber State basketball on the map even though the Wildcats never played in the NCAA tournament with the star Portland Trail Blazer. The team is competing for the Big Sky championship again and has been helped along by Bolomboy, a 6-9 forward from Texas. He has cleaned the boards with 8.7 rebounds per game. Bolomboy has eight games of double-digit rebounds and two double-doubles in his last four games. He is somewhat limited by coming off the bench and foul trouble, but Bolomboy is an excellent rebounder.
Malcolm Miller, guard, Southern Jaguars
To my own detriment, I often disregard teams from the SWAC. There are only so many covers a person can consider, but it would be unwise to disregard the 6-6 Miller. The guard out of Midland, Texas, has become an excellent scorer off the bench and averages 16.9 points in 26.4 minutes. He had 15 points Saturday in the win over Alabama State to end a four-game 20-point scoring streak. Miller has sunk 25 3-pointers in his last five games and has been a force on the boards (34 rebounds in the last four games).
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