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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Fox Sports - Mayo vs Rose Duel Wasn't Impressive

Mayo vs Rose Duel Wasn't Impressive
Dec 05, 2007 | 10:35AM

Madison Square Garden has been referred to as the Mecca of basketball arenas, and for sporting events in general. Unfortunately, in basketball’s holiest venue, the Knicks desecrate the sacred floor 41 times during the NBA season. Over the past several years the only real basketball being played at MSG are the frequent college games. Last night three of the most touted freshman in college basketball appeared in games featuring Michael Beasley of Kansas State, O.J. Mayo of Southern Cal, and Derrick Rose of Memphis.

Ever since the “Fab Five” took the floor for Michigan in the early 90’s, media and fans alike have been infatuated with the freshman phenoms. College coaches scour the planet for the one prized recruit that can lead their team to the Final Four. Since the NBA increased the age limit for a player to enter the draft, the current environment in college basketball is such that a hyper-talented player will use college as an extended training camp before taking his skills to the pros.

The match up between USC and Memphis had the makings of a great game featuring Mayo and Rose. The #2 ranked Tigers and the #24 Trojans didn’t display dazzling basketball; in fact, the contest was downright ugly. At one point I actually thought the Knicks had taken the floor. USC head coach Tim Floyd masterfully employed a triangle and two defense to offset the Tigers’ overall talent, depth and athleticism. USC kept the Tigers from effectively running their offense and frustrated Rose the entire game. The Tigers were able to capitalize on late miscues by the Trojans to take the victory in overtime, 62-58.

Mayo scored 20 for the Trojans while showing flashes of his talent, but wasn’t a factor late in regulation or in overtime, missing his last seven shots. Rose meanwhile, was terrible, playing tentatively the entire game, making poor decisions and turning the ball over at the most inopportune times. Both players were expected to spend one year in college before making themselves available for the NBA draft. Based on last night’s performance, both players may well need two years in college before making the jump to the NBA. Let’s not forget these are freshman, and as freshman typically do, they make mistakes. Rose made more last night than Mayo, with the biggest difference being Rose has a superior supporting cast to mask the errors. The Tigers return all but one player from a team that has made consecutive Elite Eight appearances. Mayo is but one of many freshman and sophomores comprising the USC roster that is full of tremendous potential.

In fairness to Rose and Mayo, they have been put in difficult situations, especially Mayo due in large to the Trojans lack of experience. Mayo is the marquee player the Trojans needed after losing Gabe Pruitt and Nick Young from last years NCAA Tournament team that made it to the Sweet 16 before losing to North Carolina. This year’s version of the Trojans is a more deliberate style of play, at least until the young team begins to gel and gains experience. USC has played a competitive schedule to this point, with two of their three loses coming against Kansas and Memphis. With Tim Floyd’s guidance and some extra patience, this USC team looks to cause a lot of problems for fellow Pac-10 members. Many have argued that the Pac-10 may well be the toughest basketball conference in the country this year, and I wouldn’t disagree. With UCLA, Washington State, Arizona, Stanford, and USC, the conference schedule will be a proving ground prior to the NCAA Tournament. In some respects, Mayo will actually be better served as he continues to develop while playing in a tough conference against quality players.

As for Derrick Rose, the media has over-hyped the significance of his presence on the Tigers roster. Rose isn’t the savior of the Memphis team but merely a talented piece of the puzzle. The true catalyst of this team is Chris Douglas-Roberts, a talented swing man that has a nice short range jumper and routinely drives to the basket for easy points. The Tigers have played a difficult schedule as well, with victories against Oklahoma and Connecticut in November. The schedule gets even more difficult with games against Georgetown, Arizona, Gonzaga, and Tennessee on the horizon. Conference USA will not provide the Tigers with any difficulties, and for Rose, it may serve as a detriment. The handful of tough non-conference games aside, Rose won’t get an opportunity to learn much beating up on the likes of Tulane and Marshall.

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