College Basketball Today: Reece Beekman Boosting Draft Stock
Reece Beekman keeps improving for the Cavs. (Matt Riley/Virginia Athletics)
Sadly, another one left us this week when former Wisconsin guard Walt McGrory lost his battle with bone cancer; Houston sophomore guard Terrance Arceneaux is done for the season thanks to an Achilles tear that necessitated surgery; and Providence surprisingly continues to have Marquette’s number. Here’s some other stories we’re following on campus courts…
Virginia’s Defense Cracks
The Virginia Cavaliers have earned their No. 22 ranking based on a superb defense, but that stellar D was overwhelmed by Memphis on Tuesday.
Heading into the matchup, the Cavs were only surrendering 53.3 points per game, good for second-best in the country, but the 23rd-ranked Tigers dropped 77 on 46.4 per cent shooting for an easy 23-point win.
Virginia fell to 9-2 and saw its five-game win streak snapped despite another strong game from senior guard Reece Beekman. After scoring a career-best 21 on Saturday, he poured in another 13 on 5-for-8 shooting (2-for-3 from downtown) with five boards.
Beekman has gotten better every season at Virginia, although his three-point shooting has regressed in 2023-24, making that fine showing on Tuesday a welcome sight. He’s looking like an All-American candidate and has proven to be a very efficient — and athletic (see video below) — offensive producer.
Beekman is probably just on the outside of the top 60 for the NBA draft, so a big finish to his collegiate career will likely push him into the late second round.
Bears Seeking Bounce Back Effort
Perhaps the most interesting matchup on Wednesday’s slate has the Baylor Bears taking on Duke at Madison Square Garden. Despite being the 10th-ranked team in the country, the Bears find themselves 2.5-point underdogs against the 21st-ranked Blue Devils as per odds at FanDuel.
Baylor won its first nine games, but is coming off a shocking 24-point loss to unranked Michigan State, so can ill afford another effort like that, especially against a Duke squad that’s bounced back since dropping two straight at the end of November/beginning of December.
If they’re going to win this game, the Bears need a better showing from freshman guard Ja’Kobe Walter. He managed just nine points while missing his only three-point attempt on Saturday. Given that Walter is Baylor’s leading scorer and usually an effective deep threat, his performance last game was disappointing.
This Day One starter plays big minutes for the Bears and he’s done a great job of getting to and converting from the line. Walter brings a range of skills to the table, including being able to shoot while on the move, while defending against similar players. Many believe he’ll go first overall in 2024 draft because of his great frame (6’5″, 195) and shooting prowess.
Dolphins’ Diversified Attack
The Jacksonville Dolphins have been spinning their wheels lately (2-2 after winning their first December game to improve to 6-2), yet still rank second in the ASUN at 8-4 heading into conference play.
Unfortunately, of the two non-conference games to go, the first is Thursday night against the top team in the country, Purdue. So expect a blood bath in that one.
Okay, so Jacksonville currently may only be ranked 267th in the country, but that doesn’t mean there’s not talent worth scouting on this squad. In fact, three Dolphins average at least 12.3 points, led by sophomore guard Robert McCray V.
McCray has struggled recently, failing to top 12 points in three of the last four games after some massive efforts earlier this season. Overall, he’s been hitting a lot more treys while also stepping up defensively (1.5 steals per game).
The Wake Forest transfer excels at driving to the rim and while he’s not projected to be drafted next year, he’s still a prospect worth tracking.
RotoRob Tune of the Day
Earlier this year, we lost one of rock’s greatest guitarists in Jeff Beck, who got his start in 1964. Five months before Led Zeppelin made Willie Dixon‘s classic “You Shook Me” famous, the Jeff Beck Group recorded it, releasing it on Truth, his debut solo album from 1968. The tune also appeared on the superb compilation Somethin’ Else Again!