CHICAGO- By the time tipoff is rolls around Wednesday night at the United Center, the 2012 McDonald's All-Americans should be ready to perform for a national television audience.
Since their arrival on Saturday they have been to banquets, done some community work, participated in three practices (one closed) and finished their game prep on Tuesday with a closed-door scrimmage. All that's left now is to play the game and we take a look at how we see the game breaking down.
The Breakdown: Thanks to Kyle Anderson the East has a very unique weapon who can play the point and cause matchup problems with his 6-foot-8 size. He's run plenty at the point during practice. When Kris Dunn runs the show the East has tended to run more, while they get more open jumpers when Tyler Lewis is on the floor. Over on the West side, it's been pretty much Kevin Ferrell and Marcus Paige running the show. The key for Paige and Ferrell is that they've both been knocking down jumpers at a high rate.
What to expect: Anderson is going to cause matchup problems and will look to back his man down and score methodically. It wouldn't be a surprise to see the West throw a physical defender at him like guard Marcus Smart. If Ferrell and Paige continue to play like they have in workouts, we would expect them to control the tempo. Each guard is a threat to hit the open shot and the performance on both sides will be majorly dependent on how hard their teammates are willing to run.
The Breakdown: As a whole, the shooting guards have been pretty quiet and haven't shot great during workouts on the East side of the ball. Rodney Purvis has focused on getting to the basket while Gary Harris has kind of been a blend guy. And they are really the only two shooting guards on the roster. For the West, Duke-bound Rasheed Sulaimon has been knocking down shots while both Marcus Smart and Archie Goodwin have been physical drivers of the basketball.
What to expect: At least through a few workouts, the West squad looks to be entering the game with an advantage at the two guard. They have one more of them than the East does and as a whole the unit has shot the ball better and been more aggressive getting to the bucket.
The Breakdown: With Kyle Anderson playing a lot at the point guard position, the East roster is without a true three man. Instead, they have a number of combo forwards who will help out on the wing in Alex Poythress, Amile Jefferson and T.J. Warren. The N.C. State-bound Warren has been an effective scorer at all levels while the Kentucky-bound Poythress has been his squad's best athlete. On the West side, they have the nation's top-ranked player Shabazz Muhammad, while combo forward Anthony Bennett will play some at the three as well. Muhammad has been Muhammad, and Bennett has been a beast finishing in transition. The West, however, will not have the services of Devonta Pollard. After taking an elbow to the head in practice Tuesday, Pollard suffered concussion type symptoms and has been advised not to play Wednesday night.
What to expect: By all indications, this is a group of guys who loves to play physical and there is a lot of size. The West probably has a little bit more overall firepower and Muhammad is the best pure wing of all of them giving him and his squad the advantage. We would expect to see the East guys trying to get some post up opportunities to take advantage of their edge in size.
The big men
The Breakdown: The performance of the East's big men through a few days of practice hasn't been overwhelming. In the group of Tony Parker, Dajuan Coleman and Shaquille Goodwin there is plenty of size and bulk, but they've not played physically or with great energy. On the West side, Grant Jerrett and Isaiah Austin haven't been a ton more physical but they've been much more skilled and aggressive offensively. Arizona-bound Brandon Ashley has looked a bit out of it at times.
What to expect: Based on what we've observed in practice, the lack of energy from the East's big men could be their ultimate downfall if things don't change. Parker, Coleman and Goodwin have a decided strength advantage and could make things really tough if they decide to play aggressively and strong around the rim. The West guys should continue to use their length and skill to find open spots to score facing the basket. Ashley is a potential X-factor in the game if he gets it rolling.