broke it down nicely. Ill start by saying that CovCath probably comes in as a 12-15 point favorite. What ive seen of them, they look like a machine. Apollo could come out and play its absolute best and still come up empty vs a team this talented. I think there is a decent chance this team makes a run at a state title, and im looking forward to seeing them in person.
Now, onto my Eagles. As Eagle3 said, do not let their record fool you, they are better than that. This team has lost 11 games by 4 points or less this year and played a pretty solid schedule. They did knock off McCraken County in front of a massive crowd earlier in the season. They also had a layup rim off at the buzzer to beat Warren Central to start the season. They were very impressive in their 2 wins over Owensboro as well. So while on paper you may think they are the weakest team in the Sweet 16, they do have some potential. Honestly, up until about a month ago, this was a team full of attitudes and egos. They didn't seem to have a real leader. As they went into the postseason, it seemed like they were a sure one and done vs Owensboro but something just clicked with them. Since then, they haven't slowed down. They are shooting it at a rate that may be hard to maintain. Guess we'll see.
As for the team, lets break em down. James Graham has been the biggest difference for this team over the past 2 weeks. He is a 6-7 shot blocking machine with a soft touch. He is also a late bloomer. He was a guard up until about 2 years ago when he hit a massive growth spurt and you can see that in his game from time to time. He dominated the middle in this area, but I expect his assignment vs CovCath to much much tougher playing a bigger guy. I will be interested to see him vs someone that big. He is prone to foul trouble and vs a bigger guy, that's probably my biggest concern.
Hayden Shelton has been a stud in the postseason as well. Hes averaged around 20 a game over the past 2 weeks. Hes a pure shooting guard who can handle the ball pretty well at times. Hes been absolutely locked in lately. He opened the game with 3 straight 3 pointers in the regional title game and it really set the tone. His game gets opened up by sharpshooter Nathan Boyle. Guy is one of the best 3 point shooters ive seen at Apollo. He has the quickest release ive seen for sure. Teams around this area respect him so much, that they have been leaving Shelton open and hes been reaping the benefits. If you look at Boyle's stat sheet in region and think hes disappeared, you should watch the games. He opens a lot up for this offense.
Alex Gray is the garbage man. Whatever the team asks him to do, he does it. He is a sneaky good rebounder, standing about 6-2. Tough tough kid. He was a key defender through the tourney and when the chips were down in the regional title game, he took over, scoring 9 4th quarter points. He can also bring the ball up in a pinch and he can shoot the 3. Very well rounded guy, who is a vocal leader on the floor.
The PG is Angel Saldana. He came over from Puerto Rico after the earthquake. Great story and a great young man. He is as quick as any PG ive seen all season, but like Eagle3 said, he does have a tendency to play out of control from time to time. He also has a tendency to turn the ball over. Sometimes he is the press breaker and sometimes his play just breaks the team. The way he responds will be a key to see if Apollo can compete vs the best.
As for the bench.....they don't go there much. Sophomore Malik Wilson has given some prime minutes on the defensive end. Very undersized but plays a lot taller than he is. Not much offensive prowess but can come in and spell someone with very effective defense. Cory Wilson is the other guy off the bench. He's a senior and can give some effective minutes when focused. Sometimes he gets caught trying to do to much, but I thought he played real big when Graham got into foul trouble vs Ohio County.
To answer a few more questions from @colonel-fan
, yes I do believe Apollo will continue the box and one. Of course me not being as familiar with CovCath, I could be wrong. Apollo just seems to be very comfortable in that defense and the triangle and 2. And another yes....this Apollo team is probably more talented overall than the 2006 team, but that team sure was special. The improbable run this team is on, reminds me a lot of that team. The PG of that team now sits on the bench for Apollo as an assistant coach. 1-5, this team is more talented but the do lack a real star like Tyler Brown was.
Rupp Arena does strange things to teams sometimes. If Apollo can continue to shoot it as well as they have been, anything is possible. Obviously it just looks like a tough matchup for me. Apollo is playing with house money though. They were suppose to be eliminated 2 weeks ago, yet here they are. They surely have a lot of confidence, but its going to take a supreme effort to even make this a game.