J.J. Hickson was frequently dominant in the low post. Unfortunately, none of the other players on the roster had played with this style of center, at least since high school (if at all). Once opponents figured out that Hickson must be stopped at all costs, triple teams soon followed. Hickson struggled at passing out of them, and the rest of the team struggled moving without the ball to take advantage of playing 4-on-2.
Well, that won’t happen this year. Hickson is with LeBron and the Cavs, and I don’t expect anyone to triple team Big Ben (who would destroy such a strategy with his passing ability anyway). Without the Hickson crutch, perhaps other guys will step up and quit watching so much. Maybe offensive flow will return. That needs to happen sooner rather than later, if the Pack wants to avoid repeating as a 12 seed in the ACCT.
Ben McCauley can be an above-average player in the ACC. We saw it in 2006-07, even if he did sort of hit the wall in February. Ben showed toughness, great offensive instincts, a solid midrange jumper, and a deceptively quick first step along the baseline. We saw some toughness last year, but very little quickness or athleticism (save for his last-second dunk to beat Wake Forest). McCauley was sick early in the year, then struggled with his role. He was never comfortable playing the 4 alongside Hickson (despite seemingly being physically ideal for such a role), and didn’t fare much better when he shifted back to the 5 when J.J. took a breather.
Like Costner, McCauley should benefit from starting over with a clean slate. Unlike Costner, his dedication and work ethic have never been in question – and he has no real competition for the starting job. When he takes a rest, some combination of Costner, Horner, and Smith will have to man the lowpost and hope for the best. The ACC is not overflowing with true centers, so hopefully mismatches will be kept to a minimum. To be all-ACC caliber, Ben needs to regain his lost step, and use improved agility to be a better rebounder (he has always struggled in this area) and defender (he has never been more than average in this area). He also needs to regain confidence in his jumper and his passing.
Who should start? Ben McCauley – the only real center on the roster. If he were to get hurt, I would expect Costner and Smith to start and jointly work the lowpost.
What should the rotation be? McCauley needs to play 30 minutes per game, especially in ACC play. If Big Ben spends too much time on the bench, I would expect Costner, Smith, and/or Horner to get into pretty serious foul trouble. However, the offense should be fine, regardless.
Position Grade: B-