Five things to watch for at Thursday’s Beach Ball

Five things to watch for at Thursday’s Beach Ball Classic:

* Now that the first-round winners have been separated from the consolation bracket, fans can expect to see closer games than the first two days of the tournament.

Through the first 10 games, only one has been decided by fewer than double figures. Six of those 10 games saw margins of victory by 20 or more points.

But what the first two days of the Beach Ball lacked in drama it more than made up for in dazzling displays of athleticism. Tuesday’s 40-point performance by Gaffney’s L.J. Peak was followed by Jahlil Okafor’s 36-point outing and Lone Peak’s (Utah) Nick Emery dropped 37 points on Wednesday.

* Despite being outscored by Peak and Okafor in first-round games, the talk of the tournament has been Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) senior Shabazz Muhammad, who also happens to be the talk of the nation.

Muhammad scored 24 points in limited playing time Tuesday because the Gaels were blowing out Rye (N.Y.). Still, the 6-foot-6 swingman wowed the crowd while he was on the floor, capped by a leaping breakaway slam that brought down the house.

* One easy way to judge the talent level of a tournament is by the big-name college coaches who attend. If that’s the case, thenm this year’s Beach Ball doesn’t get much bigger.

North Carolina head coach Roy Williams was on hand Wednesday to check out some of the talent that is on display at this year’s Beach Ball. While most years see several assistants from top programs, appearances by coaches like Williams proves there’s some top unsigned talent on the court.

Muhammad still hasn’t committed to a college program so some of the top coaches in the country are expected to visit the Beach Ball in the coming days.

* Every Beach Ball seems to have one team that the home crowd rallies behind. Not necessarily the most talented team or the most hyped team, but the underdog team that shows the most hustle and toughness.

The early candidate for the honor this year is Scott County (Ky.), which gave nationally ranked Prestonwood Christian (Texas) a run for its money on Wednesday before falling 64-53.

Scott County features a small three-guard lineup – all at 6-2 or shorter – including Quin Richardson, who took an elbow to the chin that opened up an ugly gash. He returned to the game a shirt time later sporting a large bandage on his chin. The trio combined to score 38 of Scott County’s 53 points.

The Cardinals were tied 23-all at halftime with Prestonwood, which is coming off a championship-winning trip to the City of Palms Classic. Scott County faces Lexington (S.C.) at noon.

* Beach Ball fans can catch three nationally ranked teams in a three-game period on Thursday night, according to ESPN Rise’s latest Fab 50 rankings.

At 5:15 p.m., No. 17-ranked Bishop Gorman takes on Lakota East (Ohio), followed by No. 5 Prestonwood Christian (Texas) vs. Whitney Young (Chicago) at 7 p.m., and No. 31 St. Augustine (New Orleans) vs.  Lone Peak (Utah) at 8:45 p.m.
Photo by Digital Magic Photo

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