Friar Basketball

NEPSAC’s Influence on Final Four

Mcgary

While the National semifinals produced a pair of highly-competitive games, there was added intrigue for followers of New England basketball.

How great was the impact of the New England prep scene on Saturday night?

Four of the ten starters in the Michigan/Syracuse game played in the NEPSAC. Both CJ Fair and Mitch McGary came from Brewster Academy (although their careers did not overlap – McGary spent the past two seasons there, while Fair played for their National title team of 2010), Michael Carter-Williams starred for Barrington’s St. Andrew’s, and Nik Stauskas was the MVP of St. Mark’s 2012 NEPSAC Class AA title.

Michigan’s backup point guard, Spike Albrecht of Northfield Mount Hermon, took a bit of a different route in getting to the game. While Carter-Williams was a McDonald’s All American, McGary was once the top rated power forward in his class, and Fair a top 75 recruit, prior to Michigan’s offer Albrecht’s only scholarship came from Appalachian State according to an article in the USA Today this weekend.

Michigan was the only high-major to seriously recruit him, and with the possibility of Trey Burke turning

Smith prepped at South Kent

Smith prepped at South Kent

professional last spring, John Beilen pulled the trigger, telling Albrecht’s coach John Carroll at the time of the offer: “I’m either going to be in a lot of trouble, or look like a genius,” according to USA Today.

The opener of the Final Four featured former South Kent guard Russ Smith, Louisville’s top scorer, while fans of the New England prep scene also had a chance to see the Cards’ powerful Montrezl Harrell when he and his Hargrave Military Academy teammates made their way to Connecticut for the Prep Nationals to take on the best the NEPSAC had to offer last spring.

Impact Assessment

Talk about impact.

Smith led Louisville with 21 points.

Fair was dominant in leading Syracuse back in the second half, finishing with a game-high 22 points.

Harrell had eight points and four rebounds in just 11 minutes.

After both shined earlier in the tournament, Carter-Williams and Stauskas were quiet on Saturday night, whereas Albrecht hit two monster three pointers as Michigan built a lead in the first half – making Beilen look like a genius in the process.

Then there’s McGary. Once ranked as one of the nation’s top five players in the class of 2012 by ESPN, McGary was outplayed by Nerlens Noel (albeit in a win) when Brewster took on Tilton in a nationally televised game last winter.  It didn’t take long before Twitter was flooded with thoughts of just how overrated he was. McGary had 12 rebounds on the afternoon, but his struggles to finish with Noel looming led to the onslaught online.

A year later, there is a chance that McGary could be the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament if Michigan can upend Louisville in the National Championship.  They certainly wouldn’t be there without him.

A Syracuse zone that had held opponents to under 50 points per game in the tournament (including high powered Indiana) saw Michigan score 36 in the first half, thanks largely to the passing ability of McGary who picked them apart from the middle of the zone.

The freshman finished with 10 points, 12 rebounds and six assists – the numbers all the more impressive considering the length of Syracuse and the fact that Michigan went for long stretches with a small lineup because McGary allowed them to do so by controlling the glass single-handedly.

A seven point, six rebound contributor during the regular season, McGary’s emergence is the biggest reason why a team that lost to Penn State a month ago (a game in which McGary played just 8 minutes) is a game away from a title.

Heading into the tournament his career high for points was 14.  The most rebounds he grabbed was 11. McGary bested both marks with 21 and 14 in the 3rd round against VCU, finished 25 and 14 against Jeff Withey and Kansas, and had a combined 18 boards in Michigan’s two other tournament games.

Oh, and McGary came off of the bench for large portions of his two seasons at Brewster.

That’s life in the NEPSAC.

 

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