Believe it or not, upperclassmen play basketball too. Many are even good at the sport! The future lottery picks get all the attention, but here I’m taking a look at three under the radar players to start the season.
Talib Zanna (Sr.) – Pittsburgh
Zanna was suspended for Pitt’s season opener due to a violation of team rules, but enters his senior year as an underrated post player. Last year Zanna took on a bigger role in the offense without sacrificing much efficiency (50% from the field). He’s also been an elite offensive rebounder in his career at Pitt.
In his debut against Fresno State, Zanna scored 19 points on 10 field goal attempts in 27 minutes of action. He has a fairly odd role in Pitt’s offense. The Panthers had 34 halfcourt possessions with Zanna on the court against Fresno State. Zanna only touched the ball on exactly 50% of these possessions, but when he did he almost always shot the ball. In other words, you can count the number of passes Zanna had on one hand. Still, you can’t argue with 80% shooting and Zanna was nearly impossible to stop for the undersized Fresno State frontcourt.
Jamie Dixon should have no problems with Zanna’s lack of passes if he’s generating 1.31 points per offensive touch. Zanna showed patience in the post, a strong left hand, and a few polished moves.
Will Yeguete (Sr.) – Florida
Yeguete missed most of February last year with a knee injury, but has seen his minutes rise each year in Gainesville. The 6’8″ forward is not a big part of the Gators’ offense, but is one of the most versatile defenders in the country. Yeguete brings value to the table in the form great rotational defense and rebounding. He’s not a great shot blocker, but is constantly in passing lanes getting his hands on the ball. Yeguete can more or less guard any position on the floor and as a result is a solid pick and roll defender. He allows Florida the luxury to switch on screens without creating mismatches.
Against Wisconsin, Yuguete guarded every single player at one point or another. Wisconsin’s center Frank Kaminsky forced Patric Young to guard the perimeter right from the start. Billy Donovan was quick to pull Young and move Yuguete to the five. Yuguete also saw significant time on star Sam Dekker and willingly switched onto the smaller Wisconsin guards. Here’s the full breakdown:
With Yuguete on the floor the Gators allowed just 0.89 points per possession against Wisconsin. Without the Frenchmen, Florida allowed 1.17 points per possession. He’s not the fastest laterally, but he makes up for it with great instincts and hands.
Tyler Haws (Jr.) – BYU
BYU’s offense is awesome to watch. They hung 112 points on Stanford, including 31 for Haws. However, Haws is not even close to BYU’s only weapon. The Cougars scored 108 against Mount St. Mary’s despite Haws being out with an abdominal strain in their third game of the season Friday. Still, BYU will need a healthy Haws to make a tourney run. The 6’5″ wing doesn’t quite pass like former BYU standout Jimmer Fredette, but he can put the ball in the basket nearly as well.
Threes and layups are usually the recipe for success when it comes to efficient scoring. However, Haws relied heavily on mid-range shots in his two games this season (59 points total). Haws is a real exception among the best go-to guys so far this season.
North Dakota’s Quinton Hooker is the only other high volume and efficiency scorer with over half of his shots of the mid-range variety. Haws would likely benefit from stepping a bit farther back on his jump shots. BYU has one play in particular where Haws takes a diagonal cut off of a screen for a mid-range isolation. Dave Rose’s club is definitely best when spreading the floor and finding the open guy, but Haws is so good he deserves an isolation every so often.