After practicing for three days in front of a plethora of NBA personnel, including the likes of Larry Bird, Jerry West, Danny Ainge and Pat Riley, the stage is set for the 28th annual McDonald's All American Game to tip off at 8:00 EST tonight. ESPN will broadcast the game live from the Joyce Center on the Notre Dame campus in South Bend, Ind.
The West does not have the size of the East squad, but the West does have three big men in Tyler Hansbrough, Jon Brockman and Amir Johnson who love to run the floor. According to Hansbrough, the West plans to take advantage of its overall advantage in team speed.
"We're going to run them to death," Hansbrough said.
Look for Hansbrough to have a good night, scoring on offensive rebounds and in transition.
If the practices are any indicator of things to come, expect Monta Ellis to have a spectacular night.
From the wings, look for smothering defense and electrifying passing from Julian Wright. Calvin Miles and Martell Webster should get some good looks from behind the arc if the point guards for the West involve them in the game.
The East will likely play with a three guard line up a good bit of the game to match up with the speedy West team. Do not be surprised to see Greg Paulus, Louis Williams and Eric Devendorf on the court together.
The East has spent the bulk of its practice time on getting the ball to the big men in a variety of high/low sets. Knowing the nature of all-star games, however, it will be interesting to see just how many touches the likes of Josh McRoberts, Richard Hendrix and Andrew Bynum get.
If they do not get the ball, the shot happy Louis Williams has already jokingly deflected the blame away from himself.
"I think we have a group of mature enough guards to get a couple plays in," he said. "If we don't, it's all on [Greg] Paulus. He's the point guard."
The forwards could be the x-factor for the East team. Danny Green, Gerald Green and Brandon Costner are all very good long distance shooters and have the length to shoot over defenders. Again, the question will be how many touches will they get and if they are guarded by the defensive stopper Julian Wright.
Although he is not the caliber of outside shooter that the three other forwards are, Tasmin Mitchell could have a big night just off of hustle plays. Mitchell constantly plays hard and comes up with numerous "garbage" points off loose balls, rebounds and steals.