Interrupting the Big East preview to get caught up on the latest News and Notes around college basketball as the season continues to approach. Only 20 days until Houston/Georgia Southern!
- Seth Davis has been scribing plenty lately, this time heading down south to Memphis for a discussion with coach John Calipari. I thought it was a bit puzzling Davis offered Calipari a chance to watch last year’s National Championship with him later that day (that would be like asking Dennis Eckersley if he wanted to sit down and re-watch Game 1 of the 1988 World Series), but that’s beside the point. Davis goes into some key factors for the Tigers, including the obvious: how can you replace Derrick Rose, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Joey Dorsey, and still expect to be a top-20 team? He wonders whether Willie Kemp or Tyreke Evans will run more point guard, whether Robert Dozier can progress into more of a complete offensive player after getting rejected by the NBA, and if Antonio Anderson, who quietly led C-USA in assist/turnover ratio, can emerge as the team leader.
- Sophomore shooting star Nick Calathes is now around 75% recovering from an apparent hip flexor. Coach Billy Donovan is taking it slow with Calathes in hopes of having him 100% by the season opener, which seems very realistic. Donovan has to be feeling a lot better this year than he was last October dealing with an extremely young team. Even with Mareese Speights departed, Donovan has a nice nucleus led by Calathes and Jai Lucas. He’s also in the top two for Kenny Boynton. Look for the Gators to return to the NCAA Tournament this year and Calathes to be a huge reason why.
- Some injuries to report out of Minnesota and Georgia Tech. Gophers forward Damian Johnson broke his left non-shooting hand in practice Monday and received surgery a day later. He’s expected to miss four to six weeks, so coach Tubby Smith should expect to have his valuable reserve on the court by the end of November. Johnson finished second on Minnesota with 59 steals while averaging 7.1 PPG and 4.7 RPG. In Atlanta, senior De’Andre Bell is lost for the season due to spinal stenosis, a devastating injury that forced T.J. Ford to miss an entire NBA season back in 2004. Bell started 22 games for the Jackets last year averaging 6.6 PPG and showing contributions on defense.
- Sad news out of Asheville: 7’7 behemoth Kenny George’s basketball career is over. He’ll remain in an Iowa hospital for at least another month recovering from a staph infection, the end possibly resulting in right foot amputation. His enormous stature resulting from an overactive pituitary gland, which reaches 7’9 with shoes along with the ability to dunk flat-footed, has caused George plenty of knee and foot problems over the course of his basketball career. George looks to return to Asheville in the second semester to complete his degree, but we won’t see him on the court ever again. He won Big South Defensive Player of the Year last season and finished with 12.4 PPG and 7.0 RPG.
- Top ten class of 2009 prospect Lance Stephenson was arrested earlier this month and charged with a Class B misdemeanor following a charge he groped a woman’s breast and buttocks inside the school. Stephenson, a native of Brooklyn that stars at the same high school (Lincoln) Sebastian Telfair once graced, has a long history of petty crimes and missteps, causing many prominent programs to think twice about pursuing the talented wing in fear of adding a Derrick Caracter or Nate Miles clone. Stephenson is ranked as the #1 SF by Scout.com and might be heading to St. John’s. They’ll take anyone regardless of baggage at this point.
- Speaking of Nate Miles, he has a found a home in Southern Idaho. The former Connecticut Huskie who coach Jim Calhoun called “our best offensive player” at one point this summer violated a restraining order twenty minutes after receiving said order. He was then expelled from Connecticut and will now star at the College of Southern Idaho in the second semester. Miles was planning on filing an appeal in hopes of returning to Storrs at some point, but Calhoun opted to move on. They’ll now give more playing time to the likes of Jerome Dyson and Craig Austrie, while College of Southern Idaho coach Steve Gosar has to be doing cartwheels.
- Tuned into the Midnight Madness coverage Friday night around 10 PM when I got home from a movie and was pleasantly surprised by the revolving coverage. I came away impressed by the intensity of the Gonzaga scrimmage and the dunking ability of Jeremy Pargo (already knew this). I watched Stephen Curry nail six out of six points on his last rack to defeat Brendan McKillop in an epic three-point shooting contest in Davidson (Katz has a Curry/Davidson article up on ESPN.com). ESPNU did a nice job covering each school and gave Katz, along with Adrian Branch, plenty of time to discuss upcoming games and expectations until midnight.
Some notes from various conferences regarding preseason standings/awards/predictions:
- Top four in the Big East in order: Connecticut, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame
- Villanova over Marquette for the fifth spot was surprising. Could this be the Buzz effect?
- Top three in the SEC East in order: Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky. Also happen to be the top three teams in the conference
- First team All-SEC: Calathes, T. Smith, Downey, Patterson and Oglivy. Can’t argue with that.
- Oklahoma picked over Texas to win the Big 12 was a bit surprising. Kansas tied with Baylor for third.
- Blake Griffin tabbed as preseason player of the year was an obvious selection
- Gary Parrish has his Preseason Top 26, All-Americans and Top Point/Combo Guards up. I take exception to some of his opinions: 1) Duke better than UCLA, Michigan State, Purdue and Pittsburgh, 2) Ohio State ranked #19 ahead of Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Baylor, 3) Wake Forest unranked, 4) Patrick Mills on his third team over Tyrese Rice and 5) Jrue Holiday on his third team over Jack McClinton. I’ll have my Top 50 players list and All-American teams up (along with Patrick and Tommy’s) in November.
- Site news: As you can tell, I’m entrenched in my Big East preview right now. When I’m finished (I’ll have my #6 team up tomorrow), I’m planning on writing both an SEC preview over two days and a shorter Big 12 preview, much like Tommy’s Big 10 preview in terms of length. Pat and Tommy are busy with school and football/volleyball after class, but they’ll have the ACC and Pac 10 previews done before the end of the month. Expect daily selections, weekly ACC and Big East reports, weekly game scouting reports and many other features when the season begins.