Jordan Brand matchups to watch
Here is a look at five matchups we are looking forward to in the Jordan Brand Classic on Saturday (ESPN2 at 8 p.m. ET).
Austin Rivers versus Bradley Beal
This rematch from the McDonald's All-American Game features two big-time scorers. Rivers can make deep 3-pointers, has a deadly middle game and the skills to create his own shot in crunch time. Coming off a stellar senior season, Beal has elevated his game outside of being just a pure shooter and has become much more efficient. Whoever defends his opponent better will have a good chance to help his team to victory.
Marquis Teague versus Myck Kabongo
The top point guards in the 2011 class go head-to-head and if you blink, there's a good chance you'll miss something because both have incredible speed with the ball in their hands. Teague has a strong body, is blessed with an abundance of straight-line speed and can be a one-man fast break. His dribble penetration is almost unstoppable at times. Kabongo always has his head up, looking for his teammates in transition. It will be interesting to see if either can keep his opponent from getting in the lane because once Teague or Kabongo get there, you are at their mercy.
Jabari Brown versus P.J. Hairston
Brown and Hairston are clones of each other in terms of having a strong, physical body and a deep 3-point shot. Hairston has continued to work on his body and rebounding and UNC fans will love how the North Carolina native will open up the floor for his teammates with his range and accuracy. Brown, who is the first signature recruit for Oregon coach Dana Altman, is coming into this game with a slight chip on his shoulder. After missing out on the McDonald's game, Brown could be dialing it up from long distance, but must remember to not give Hairston the time and space to do the same.
East bigs versus Anthony Davis
This could end up being a big block party because Anthony Davis, Khem Birch and Rakeem Christmas are the best shot-blockers not only in the Jordan Brand Classic, but overall in the Class of 2011. Davis has exceptional timing on his blocks, with the ability to keep it in play. He can even get to a shot late and get a piece of it. The No. 1 overall player in the Class of 2011 is one of the few players who can impact the game without leaving the paint, but he also has perimeter skills. Meanwhile, Birch will have something to say about protecting the rim for the East squad. He is a willing runner with athletic ability and length as he tries to beat defenders down the floor or finish drop-off passes close to the rim. Christmas has all the physical tools one could ever dream of for a post player. He must attack Davis, go into his body at the rim and keep him off the glass.
Both players are hard workers and good scorers who pride themselves on defending their opponent's best player. Gilchrist has a winner's mentality and is a force inside the arc on both ends of the floor. Pointer just never stops going and prides himself on being opportunistic. Both also finish well in transition and are determined rebounders.
Paul Biancardi, who has been a head coach and assistant on NCAA tournament teams, is the national director of basketball recruiting. He is also one the voters for the McDonald's All-American Game and Gatorade Player of the Year. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter. Mike LaPlante contributed to this piece.